Week That Was: COVID-19 Alert Level 4

The COVID-19 situation in New Zealand is moving fast - and to avoid what we've seen overseas - the Government's response must be to move fast too. We're committed to keeping New Zealanders safe and well-informed every step of the way.

We know that COVID-19 has been a cause of anxiety for many New Zealanders. That's why the Government have strived to provide calm, clear and consistent communication throughout this time, including daily press conference updates from the Prime Minister.

Stay home, save lives. That's the simple message New Zealanders are heeding this week as we head into the first days of an official four-week lockdown.

Last Saturday, the Prime Minister spoke directly to New Zealanders to announce the four COVID-19 Alert Levels and to let the nation know we were at Level 2 - Reduce. Since that announcement was made, New Zealand has moved into Alert Level 4 - Eliminate, as the Government has continued to move quickly to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to keep New Zealanders updated and prepared.

See below for a summary of the key COVID-19 announcements, updates and developments over the past week.

Monday 23 March

At the beginning of the week, the Prime Minister made the announcement that New Zealand was to transition immediately to Level 3 - Restrict, and to prepare to move to Alert Level 4 - Eliminate, by midnight Wednesday. This meant a nationwide lockdown for four weeks - something not seen before in New Zealand's history.

The best approach is to go hard and go early to combat the spread of COVID-19. These are major measures, but they are necessary to give us the best chance in our fight against the spread of the virus.  

We know that things will get worse before they get better. In the short term, case numbers will rise, but that doesn't mean that the self-isolation measures aren't working.

Now is our window of opportunity to break the chain and stop COVID-19. We can stop the spread most effectively by staying at home and reducing contact with others and breaking the chain of transmission.

Tuesday 24 March

The day after the lockdown was announced, the Government published further guidance on what essential services would still be operational. This included a full list of essential services which can be seen here.

It's important to note that essential businesses and those that support them will continue to provide the essentials for everyone in New Zealand. This means supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies, service stations and access to essential banking services are available throughout New Zealand at every alert level. Food, healthcare, energy, internet, waste collection and financial support will be accessible throughout the self-isolation period.

During the lockdown, if you are not part of essential services, you must stay home and stop interactions with those outside your household. Every person still at work, or interacting with others, increases the risk of the virus spreading exponentially and means we will be in lockdown for longer. That is why all businesses are now closed other than those absolutely essential for the orderly maintenance of life. All bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must have now closed.

Also on Tuesday, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced that the Government, Reserve Bank and retail banks have agreed on a six-month mortgage principal and interest payment holiday for affected individuals and SMEs. Further details will be announced by banks.

Wednesday 25 March

On Wednesday, we announced an immediate rent increase freeze and more protection for tenants. This is in addition to the initial $12.1b economic package announced last week. 

Also on Wednesday, before the nationwide lockdown came into effect, the Prime Minister held a Facebook Live where she answered numerous questions from New Zealanders.

Some of the most common questions coming in about living in lockdown were concerning the rules around leaving the house. The Prime Ministers advice was that New Zealanders should act like they already have COVID-19, and use that to drive their decision-making. That means minimising travel by only making essential trips. You're allowed to leave the house to go for a run, walk or cycle, but keep your distance from others and stay local. You may use a private vehicle to get food or medicine.

Thursday 26 March

On Thursday, the Prime Minister made an important announcement for Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and community groups. At COVID-19 Alert Level 4, a range of social services provided by our NGOs and community groups remain open and continue to support New Zealanders to stay well during our fight to break the chain of transmission of the virus, which will save lives.

The Prime Minister also shared a photo of her home office at Premier House, alongside some key messages encouraging people to stay home and minimise your trips. 

Our investment supports services that ensure people have access to the food and other goods they need to survive, provide a place for people to live, support disabled people to maintain critical wellbeing, and keep families safe from harm and offer crisis support.

Friday 27 March

As of Friday at 1pm, New Zealand reported 368 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 37 people now classified as recovered. It bears repeating: we know case numbers will go up and things will look like they’re getting worse before they get better. By staying at home and reducing contact with others, we give ourselves the best chance to break the chain and stop COVID-19. 

As we enter the second week of lockdown, we'll continue to share updates and developments of the Government's response to COVID-19.

Visit for the latest information on the COVID-19 coronavirus, including the alert levels, health, travel, education, business and community issues. 

Head here for information on our Government's economic response – from wage subsidies to rent freezes to mortgage holidays.

COVID-19: If you are concerned about coronavirus or feeling unwell, phone Healthline’s free dedicated COVID-19 number at 0800 358 5453 (or +64 9 358 5453 for international SIMS), for health advice. Find out more at