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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference (Photo: Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference (Photo: Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)

PoliticsApril 19, 2020

Jacinda Ardern: How cabinet will decide whether to move to level three

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference (Photo: Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference (Photo: Hagen Hopkins – Pool/Getty Images)

Cabinet meets at 10.30am tomorrow to determine if and when New Zealand will move out of alert level four. This afternoon Jacinda Ardern outlined the criteria for that decision. This is what she said.

Read more about announcements at today’s media briefing here

As I have no doubt everybody in New Zealand is acutely aware, cabinet meets tomorrow to discuss our current Covid alert level four and to determine whether to extend it beyond the current deadline which is midnight on Wednesday.

Before I go over how we as a group of ministers will make that decision, I want to acknowledge that we have been successful to date in rolling out our plan because we’ve had a plan and we’ve stuck to it and we’ve done it together. We have stayed home, we have saved lives and we are breaking the chain of transmission.

The numbers back this up with the data coming through from Google location tracking showing a huge drop in traffic in our cities as well as far fewer visits to places like beaches and parks. I know it hasn’t been easy but it has been working. No matter the outcome of cabinet’s deliberations tomorrow, it is important to remember that this is going to be a long term project for us all. A move to alert level three, whenever it comes, is not a return to pre-Covid-19 life for any of us.

What eventually changes at alert level three is that more of the economy is able to come back online, but our social lives, sadly, will not. If we move too quickly in that area we undo the good work we have done collectively over some very long days, indeed.

With that in mind, cabinet will meet at 10.30am tomorrow. We’ve given it an earlier time frame so that we do have time for those deliberations, and then we will be sharing the decision that’s been made with all of you at 4pm the same day. Dr Bloomfield will be joining me for that announcement given the strong role that health plays in the decision making and the deliberations that ministers will be a part of tomorrow.

There are several things that ministers will consider, and these were criteria that were discussed by ministers some time ago.

That criteria include

1. That the director-general of health is satisfied that there is sufficient data from a range of sources, including testing and surveillance, that public health experts, statisticians and modellers can have reasonable certainty that undetected community transmission is unlikely.

2. There is sufficient, rigorous and rapid case identification and contact tracing with surge capacity available in the case of an outbreak.

3. Our self-isolation, quarantine and border measures are robust and adhered to.

4. Finally, there is capacity in the health system more generally, including in the workforce, ICU capacity and the availability of PPE for those for whom it is recommended.

Alongside that we will look at the evidence of the effects of the measures on the economy and on society more broadly: Public attitudes towards the measures and the extent to which people and businesses understand, accept and are overall complying with them and the ability to operationalise restrictions, including satisfactory detailed implementation planning by our all of government team and government agencies.

That essentially is all of the information, data and analysis that we will provide in determining New Zealand’s next move.

I share this with you because we have been open and transparent throughout the fight against Covid-19 and I personally believe really strongly that it is only fair since we are all in this together, that we need to keep working together for success, and that means sharing with everyone the factors we will be taking into consideration and the data we use.

Every day when we come down and share what we know about our testing and positive cases, how they relate to clusters, that’s information that I receive only a few hours before the public receives it and that’s because this is a mission we’re all on together, and that is why we’ve been transparent in sharing all of that information as we’ve gone along.

Ardern was asked directly about two of those four points above in the subsequent press conference.

Asked, “Are our quarantine measures and border controls sufficient for a move to level three”, Ardern said: “Yes absolutely, they’re very, very rigorous.”

She was also asked about the health system point. Could it cope?

“Yes … The huge effort of all new Zealanders has meant that our health system absolutely has been able to cope.”

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