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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard


COVID-19—Greater Wellington Region Alert Level Change

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister for COVID-19 Response): I wish to make a ministerial statement. Just over an hour ago, Cabinet met and decided, out of an abundance of caution, to move to alert level 2 in the Greater Wellington region, which includes the Wairarapa and the Kāpiti Coast, from 6 p.m. tonight to 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. The rest of New Zealand remains at COVID-19 alert level 1. This follows the positive COVID-19 test for the traveller from Sydney who was in Wellington over the weekend. These settings will be reviewed by Cabinet again on Sunday.

This is the first time that we have moved up to alert level 2 to manage the potential risk of COVID-19 in the community. This is not a lockdown. If we all contribute and follow the health behaviours at alert level 2, we can break any potential transmission. I would reiterate that these are precautionary measures that will remain in place while we contact trace and test all of those who we need to. First and foremost, we want to ensure that New Zealanders are not unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19. We have always had a plan for a situation like this. Our contact tracers are currently working at pace, and they have been since we were first notified of this case last night.

The positive case, who is back in Sydney, was being spoken to until well after most people here in New Zealand had already gone to bed, and again early this morning. The person’s four close contacts in New Zealand were notified last night, they were put into self-isolation, and they were tested first thing this morning. Two of those results have come back; they were negative. I was advised on the way to the House that the remaining two have also come back and they have also been negative. Locations of interest were identified, published and updated as more information has come to light throughout the day. We continue to work closely with the case and close contacts to ensure that we’ve got all of the information we need for a swift response.

The decision follows the pause in quarantine-free travel with New South Wales. The decision to do that was made at around 5 o’clock last night. To be clear: that decision was taken before we were notified of the current positive case from the person who had been in Wellington. We’ve taken a deliberately cautious approach to pausing travel when there is community transmission in Australia, and that continues. Where cases cannot be linked to the border, or there are unanswered questions as to their origin, we will consider a pause. That is what we have done again in this case.

A reminder about what alert level 2 means for Wellington. It means that gatherings of more than 100 people should not take place. We know that gatherings pose the biggest risk of spread—this includes weddings, birthdays, funerals, tangi, and church services. Social distancing measures should be observed: 2 metres in public places and in retail stores, like supermarkets and clothes shops, and at least 1 metre in most other places, such as workplaces, cafes, restaurants, and gyms. The wearing of face masks remains compulsory on all public transport, and I also encourage people to wear them when they are waiting for public transport or are in taxis and ride-share services. I’d also encourage people to wear a face covering in any situation where physical distancing is not possible. Businesses can open but they need to follow public health rules, including ensuring physical distancing, record keeping, and the cap of 100 people. Schools and early childhood services also stay open at alert level 2. Hospitality venues must apply the three S’s: seated, separated, and single server.

The message remains: if you are sick, please stay home; don’t go to work or school and don’t socialise. If you’ve got symptoms of a cold or flu, or aches and pains, call your doctor or Healthline and ask about being tested. Please keep track of where you have been at all times. This is a reminder of the importance of our COVID Tracer App and maintaining accurate records of one’s movements. While travel is not restricted under alert level 2, people should be encouraged, and are encouraged, to take their behaviours and take their alert level with them when they are outside of the Wellington region—so, for example, if someone was in Wellington over the weekend and they are now in Christchurch, please do not attend large gatherings. This will help for us all to keep each other safe.