WELLINGTON: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appealed to the New Zealanders to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, as the country has been preparing for a complete blockade since Thursday (March 26) to beat the spread of the virus.
COVID-19 cases passed the New Zealand 100 mark this week as the government imposed self-isolation for all, with absolutely unnecessary services, schools and offices to close for a month. The action takes effect from Wednesday midnight.
Infections are lower in New Zealand than in many other nations, but the Ardern government wants to move quickly to stop the spread. He was one of the first to force all arriving travelers to self-isolate and to ban indoor and outdoor meetings.
READ: New Zealand closes the border with all foreigners to curb the spread of the coronavirus
Ardern said in an interview with the TVNZ television station that the blockade offers the country about 5 million people a good chance of defeating the virus.
“Yes, we can … we have a window and we have used it,” said Ardern on TVNZ.
“But I’m asking all New Zealanders, this plan will only work if you help us. You may feel resilient and well, but it’s not just about you. It affects everyone around you,” he said.
“If we do it all together, then we can do it.”
New Zealand has 102 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the coronavirus-associated disease, with two cases of local transmission so far with others related to travel abroad. There were no deaths.
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On Tuesday morning, New Zealanders were emptying their offices in preparation for work from home, university students moved out of the hostels and cafes were seen emptying stocks in anticipation of the blockade.
Domestic airports and other regional transportation services were suffocated when people rushed home to return before the blockade took effect. Air New Zealand has accelerated its domestic flights to meet demand.
In the capital Wellington, ferry services from New Zealand’s North Island to the South Island were congested as people showed up without tickets to take the ferry home.
“The Picton police are providing traffic management support in the city’s ferry terminals due to heavy congestion,” police said in a statement.
According to media reports, supermarkets were still crowded when people stacked food and other basic necessities despite government assurances that the country would be well-stocked.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand also claimed to have sufficient liquidity to meet demand.
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