State of national emergency declared

A state of national emergency has been declared to grant the Government more powers to fight the spread of Covid-19.

The number of cases in the country rose by 50 to 205 on Wednesday, more than doubling from two days earlier. The vast majority of these cases are linked to overseas travel or other confirmed cases, but four are considered community transmission and "a number of cases we are investigating are also suspected to be community transmission," the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.

Sarah Stuart-Black, the Director-General of Civil Defence Emergency Management, told reporters the state of national emergency was declared at 12.21pm.

"The state of national emergency has been declared because of the unprecedented nature of this global pandemic and to ensure the Government has all the powers it needs to slow the spread of Covid-19 and reduce its impact," she said.

"This allows me [...] to direct and coordinate personnel, material and other resources to ensure they can be made available. It also provides access to powers that would not normally be available but would be needed to support the delivery and timely response to Covid-19. We expect the Civil Defence Emergency Management powers to be used when necessary to slow the spread of Covid-19, reduce its impact and manage the consequences."

"Some examples are: Powers of requisition to manage wider consequences, for example, providing for the conservation and supply of fuel and other essential supplies; closing of roads; stopping people doing activities that may contribute to the emergency; excluding people from places; prohibiting or regulating traffic."

"This declaration of a state of national emergency ensures that we have all of the legislative means possible, all of the enforcement powers, all of the tools that we need at our disposal to combat the spread of Covid-19."

There were 50 new cases reported on Wednesday. Bloomfield said 22 people had recovered from Covid-19 so far. A majority of the cases so far have been connected to overseas travel, other confirmed cases or a cluster of cases associated with a particular place or event.

One of these clusters was the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown, which ran from March 9 to 13. The other is Marist College in Auckland, which has been connected to five cases of Covid-19. All students and staff from the college, which has been closed all week, are in self-isolation. A number of staff who have begun displaying symptoms are also being tested.

Read more of Newsroom's Covid-19 coverage here. 

Covid-19 is transmitted like the flu. The Ministry of Health recommends that all New Zealanders wash their hands frequently and refrain from touching their face in order to protect themselves and others. Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have been to any countries or territories of concern or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19.

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