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New Zealand’s prime minister is warning Kiwis to “go home” as the country prepares to fight the coronavirus outbreak by rolling out the “most significant restrictions on New Zealanders’ movements in modern history.”
Jacinda Ardern’s stark message comes as New Zealand currently is dealing with 102 cases of the virus, according to statistics from Johns Hopkins University.
The measures set to go in effect Wednesday mirror those already in place in other countries around the world: essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies can remain open, but nearly everything else must close and residents are advised to stay indoors.
“I say to all New Zealanders: the government will do all it can to protect you,” Ardern was quoted by The Guardian as saying Monday in an address to the nation. “Now I’m asking you to do everything you can to protect all of us. Kiwis – go home.”
A man unpacks his shopping cart at a supermarket in central Christchurch, New Zealand, on Monday. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country would be going into full lockdown for about four weeks starting Wednesday. (AP)
She added the near-lockdown will last for a month and will be enforced by police officers and the military.
“These measures will place the most significant restrictions on New Zealanders’ movements in modern history, this is not a decision taken lightly but it is our best chance to slow the virus and save lives,” Ardern said.
The Guardian says phone lines were jammed in New Zealand on Monday and there were reports of panic buying in supermarkets and liquor stores following Ardern’s address.
She had urged New Zealanders to “get your neighbor’s phone number, set up a community group chat, get your gear to work from home, cancel social gatherings of any size or shape” and “prepare to walk around the block while keeping a two-meter distance between you.”
“The worst-case scenario is simply intolerable, it would represent the greatest loss of New Zealanders’ lives in our history and I will not take that chance,” she said.