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Auckland to level 3 tonight, rest of country at level 2: New Zealand PM

Auckland will move to Covid-19 alert level 3 from 11.59 tonight for three days.

The rest of New Zealand will be at level 2, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced tonight. Those alert levels will be reviewed in 24 hours.

Three days should allow the Government to get more information and get more testing done, Ardern said.She said this was the “right thing to do.” It would also help see if there was any community transmission.

Three community cases were announced earlier today. The new cases – a mother, father and daughter from South Auckland’s Papatoetoe – are considered “new and active”.

Ardern tonight said the Government is asking Aucklanders to “stay home”. That will help stop the spread, she said.

People should work from home where possible, she said. That means children are being asked to stay home from school.

Cabinet was responding with a “cautious approach” to today’s Covid-19 news, she said.

Ardern said “we need to act with a high degree of caution” and “go hard and early”.

Supermarkets and petrol stations will remain open so there was “no need to rush out to get any essential items.”

Public venues, such as pools and playgrounds, will be closed. Gatherings in Auckland are now reduced to 10 people.

“If you can, postponement is the best thing at this point,” she said.

Ardern confirmed police would be setting up roadblocks at the Auckland “border” – they will be in place by tomorrow morning.

Ardern said only people who are retuning home should be going into Auckland. She said there is an exemption regime.Anyone prone to Covid-19 are encouraged to take additional precautions

For the rest of New Zealand, schools remain open.Cabinet will be meeting around midday tomorrow, with an update at roughly 4pm. Cabinet would be looking to build a bigger picture before an alert-changing decision could be made.

Ardern urged people to turn on the bluetooth function on their phone and “keep scanning”. There will be wide ranging testing of people who are symptomatic, she said. But she said there was no need for people who did not have symptoms don’t need to go get tested.

She said she doesn’t want people to “clog up the system.”

“I’m asking New Zealanders to continue to be strong and to be kind.” She said we all have this feeling of “not again”.

Ardern said: “We are going to be okay.”

She said New Zealanders had enjoyed more freedoms than anywhere else in the world.

Ardern and Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield fronted a 7pm press conference.

Cabinet met this evening to talk about the three new cases.

The podiums Ardern and Bloomfield stand at have been moved two metres apart from one another.

The PM, health officials and other ministers used to do this when New Zealand was at higher alert levels.

Officials are in the process of figuring out if the family – who are moving to the Jet Park MIQ facility – has infected anyone else.

Bloomfield said more genomic testing from the three cases will be released tonight.

Bloomfield said officials were “working under the assumption” that the new cases were one of the new variants – such as the South African or UK strains.

He said exposure through the mother’s workplace was the “most likely” way she got Covid.

“You will have less regret if you move early and hard,” she said.

She said today was an example of how “tricky Covid-19 has been.” He said he would “assume” that the mother would have been wearing PPE when she was doing the laundry.

Ardern said the woman was meant to be tested every two weeks – that means they would have been tested on February 1, but they were on annual leave at the time.

This is something the Government is looking into, she said.

Ardern said it was up to employers to ensure a regular testing cycle is maintained. Ardern said her expectation was that people keep up their testing rotation.

There is an “extensive list” of locations of interest, Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield asked anyone who was at the same place as the infected family members should self-isolate and talk to Health Line. Bloomfield said it’s important that everyone in NZ plays their part right now.

“Keep up the hard work,” he said.

The Pak’nSave store in Manukau will remain open, despite the visit by one of the Covid-infected people. Photo / Peter Meecham

Ardern said very soon in Cabinet’s meeting, Ministers turned to “practicality”.

“We don’t take that lightly,” she said on the economic cost of the lockdown.

“We learn from everything,” Ardern said, when it comes to the virus.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins – at a press conference at 1.30pm today – said there had been a lot of work around these cases around the last 24 hours.

“We are going hard and early.”

Bloomfield said this afternoon officials were collecting more detailed information and “we will make that available as soon as we have it”.

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