WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday (Mar 14) that everyone entering the country from midnight Sunday must self isolate for 14 days in an effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
People from small South Pacific island countries, which currently have no reported cases, will be exempted, Ardern said in a news conference. New Zealand has a large South Pacific islander population.
All cruise ships will also be told not to come to New Zealand until Jun 30, she said.
Ardern said these were "far-reaching and unprecedented" measures to tackle a global pandemic. New Zealand has six confirmed cases and has not recorded any deaths.
"But the scale of how many cases we get and how fast we get them is something we should do as much as we can to slow," she told reporters. "We must go hard and we must go early."
Ardern said the self-quarantine order would be reviewed after 16 days.
"There's no doubt this will have a significant impact on New Zealand's economy but our priority is to ensure we reduce the impacts of COVID-19 as much as we can," she said.
New Zealand has also cancelled a national remembrance service to mark Sunday's first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks because of coronavirus fears.
"This is a pragmatic decision. We're very saddened to cancel, but in remembering such a terrible tragedy, we shouldn't create the risk of further harm being done," Ardern said in an earlier announcement.
Ardern said more general restrictions on public gatherings would be imposed but details had not yet been finalised.
Air New Zealand said it was reviewing the impact of the measures announced Saturday "and will adjust its capacity accordingly". The flag carrier has already scrapped its earnings guidance amid plummeting demand.