Jacinda Ardern (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

PoliticsMarch 19, 2020

Jacinda Ardern closes the border to foreign nationals: ‘At no time in NZ’s history has a power like this been used’

Jacinda Ardern (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Jacinda Ardern has announced the unprecedented step of closing New Zealand’s borders to foreign nationals. Here’s what she said. 

Cabinet met this afternoon to assess the rapidly evolving situation relating to Covid-19 and made further decisions to protect New Zealanders from the virus. While there remains no evidence of community outbreak in New Zealand to date, there continue to be significant outbreaks in other countries, and that poses a very serious risk to the rest of the world, including to New Zealand.

All of the cases of Covid-19 identified in New Zealand to date relate to people travelling here and bringing the virus with them. While the majority have been returning New Zealanders, that has not always been the case. Therefore we need to continue to make further decisions and further restrictions to limit the risk of people bringing the virus into New Zealand.

From 11.59pm tonight [applied according to boarding time], we will close our border to any non-residents and citizens attempting to travel here. This will stop tourists or temporary visa holders including students or temporary workers from coming to or entering New Zealand. New Zealand citizens and permanent residents will be able to return, and of course that includes the children and partners of citizens and permanent residents.

These changes will also apply to the Pacific. They had previously been exempted. With the first case of Covid-19 in the Pacific now recorded, it’s clear we need to take even stronger measures to protect our Pacific family, too.

A small number of exemptions will remain for the Pacific, particularly around those who may need to travel here for humanitarian reasons. There will also be exemptions for key workers in the health sector.

Protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19 is our number one priority. To do that we need to slow it down. Self-isolation is key to our success. All of the evidence to date is that returning New Zealanders understand the requirement for self-isolation, and the spot checks have demonstrated that. But I’ve been increasingly concerned that visitors to New Zealand have not necessarily adequately self-isolated for 14 days or are choosing not to. And that is an unacceptable risk that we must end.

With each day there are new developments in the global situation. New Zealand has sought to stay ahead of the curve, and make decisions prior to other countries, and we do so again.

The government understands that this decision will have further impacts on our economy.

But by focusing on people’s health, we also help our economy. A country in lockdown, devastated by Covid-19, hurts our people, and it also hurts our jobs. But we can continue to support businesses to weather the storm created by the virus. That is why we have put in place New Zealand’s most significant peacetime response package, and we’ll support Kiwi jobs and the domestic economy from Covid-19.

I want to acknowledge that at no time in New Zealand’s history has a power like this been used. I recognise how extraordinary it is. But we have to make decisions in the best interests of the health of those who live here, whether they be young or old, whether they are newly arrived or permanent.

If we slow down Covid-19, if we break it into small waves of cases, rather than the overwhelming number experienced in other countries, that is how we help our jobs and economies too.

One final point I wish to make. This applies to people, not products.

Those who continue to staff flights that are transporting freight, or who continue to navigate the sea freight that comes into New Zealand, will still be able to travel here.

Our shelves will be stocked. There is no reason to panic buy. Have a plan and prepare, but do so knowing that our supermarkets will continue to have food on their shelves if you give them the time to restock them.

Keep going!