Updated essential information ahead of COVID-19 lockdown

Publish Date
Tuesday, 24 March 2020, 5:39PM
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KEY POINTS
• NZ is in coronavirus lockdown for next four weeks after PM lifts alert status.
• Our coronavirus alert level will move up to 3 immediately and to 4 within 48 hours.
• Alert Level 4 will take effect from 11.59pm on Wednesday.
• Schools, childcare centres and universities are now closed.
• All non-essential businesses or services must shut in the next 48 hours.
• Kiwis should stay at home unless visiting an essential service, PM says.
• This will save tens of thousands of lives.

The country is set to go into lockdown for four weeks beginning midnight tomorrow.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lifted the country's emergency alert level to 3 yesterday, with forewarning of it moving to level 4, effective midnight Wednesday.

The call was made after a jump in new cases of 36 people, bringing the total to 102 overall. Two of those - one in Wairarapa and one in Auckland - are being regarded as community transmission because it's unclear where the source came from.

What will remain open during the lockdown?

As Ardern is continuing to stress that supermarkets, service stations, pharmacies, court staff, banks, GPs, couriers, waste removal and internet services will remain open as they're deemed an 'essential service' to keep the country running.

Accommodation providers, building and construction related to essential services, businesses involved in the supply, delivery, distribution and sale of food, beverages and other key consumer goods (but not take-away shops), healthcare providers including hospitals, morturaries, food and beverage production - including fruit picking - vets, researchers involved in Covid-19 related response, taxis and ride shares and welfare services.

Public transport will only be open to those working in essential services, for medical reasons, or to move essential goods – including ferry services between the North and South Island.

However, services such as hairdressing will be closed as it is not classed as 'essential'.

What are essential businesses?

Accommodation:

• Any entity that provides accommodation services for essential workers, isolation/quarantine, and emergency housing

Border:

• Customs New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand and the Ministry for Primary Industries

Building and construction:

• Any entity involved in building and construction related to essential services and critical infrastructure

• Any entity involved in building and construction required immediately to maintain human health and safety at home or work

• Any entity that performs or is involved in building and resource consenting necessary for the above purposes

Courts, tribunals and the justice system:

• Courts of New Zealand and tribunals

• Critical Crown entities (eg Electoral Commission)

Fast-moving consumer goods:

• Any entity involved in the supply, delivery, distribution and sale of food, beverage and other key consumer goods essential for maintaining the wellbeing of people, but not takeaway shops

Education:
At level 3 only:

• Any person employed or contracted as teaching, nursery and childcare staff, including specialist education professionals and others who provide support (eg to disabled children)

• Any person employed by or contracted to an educational facility

• Any entity supplying educational facilities or educational materials (eg printers)

Financial services:

• Banks, insurers and other financial institutions, including any entity that contracts or provides services to them (eg secure money delivery services)

• Securities registries

• NZX

Health:

• District Health Boards (and all of their facilities), Pharmac, New Zealand Blood Service, Health Promotion Agency, Health Quality and Safety Commission

• Any person employed or contracted as a doctor, nurse, midwife, pharmacist, paramedic, medical laboratory scientists, kaiāwhina workers, social workers, aged care and community workers, and caregivers more generally

• Hospitals, primary care clinics, pharmacies, medical laboratories, care facilities (eg rest homes)

• Any entity providing ambulance services

• Any entity producing health sector equipment, medicines and PPE

• Any entity involved with the deceased/tūpāpaku (eg funeral homes, crematories, cemeteries)

Local and national government:

• Any entity involved in COVID-19 response, enforcement, planning or logistics or that has civil defence/emergency management functions (including any entity that supplies services for these purposes)

• Key public services

Primary industries, including food and beverage production and processing:

• Any entity involved in the packaging, production and processing of food and beverage products, whether for domestic consumption or export

• Any entity involved in relevant support services, such as food safety and verification, inspection or associated laboratory services, food safety and biosecurity functions

• Any entity providing veterinary services

• Any entity whose closure would jeopardise the maintenance of animal health or welfare standards (including the short-term survival of a species)

Public safety and national security:

• The Department of Corrections, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Police, New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, Government Communications Security Bureau

• Courts of New Zealand

• Any person employed or contracted in a public safety or national security role

Science:

• ESR, GNS, GeoNet, NIWA, MetService

• Any entity (including research organisations) involved in COVID-19 response

• Any entity (including research organisations) involved in hazard monitoring and resilience

• Any entity (including research organisations) involved in diagnostics for essential services like biosecurity, public health

• Laboratories and Physical Containment level 3 (PC3) facilities that could provide essential services and products that could be used to respond to COVID-19

• Other significant research facilities including animal facilities, clinical trials and infrastructure that requires constant attention (eg samples, collections and storage facilities) that are important to New Zealand

Social services:

• Those entities, including non-government organisations, that provide welfare and social services to meet immediate needs, to be specified jointly by the Ministry of Social Development and Oranga Tamariki

Transport and logistics:

• Ministry of Transport, New Zealand Customs, New Zealand Transport Agency, Civil Aviation Authority (including Aviation Security Service), Maritime New Zealand (including the Rescue Coordination Centre), Airways NZ, MetService, KiwiRail (including Interislander), and any entity which is contracted by these entities

• Any entity that provides, or is contracted to an entity that provides, logistics services, including New Zealand Post and courier services

• Any entity providing, or is contracted by an entity that provides, transport services to the Ministry of Health, a District Health Board, a Medical Officer of Health, or a Controller (as defined in section 4 of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002)

• Any entity which provides services related to the maintenance and ongoing operation of critical infrastructure (eg roads, rail, ports, airports)

• Any entity which operates or is contracted by an entity listed in Schedule 1 of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002, an aerodrome, a passenger and/or freight aviation service, a passenger and/or freight shipping service, a road freight service, a rail freight service, a vehicle recovery service; or a public transport service (under contract with a Regional Council)

• Any small passenger service vehicle driver (who holds the relevant licence)

• Any entity providing services to keep vehicles operational for essential work purposes (eg vehicle testing, mechanics, tyre services)

Utilities and communications, including supply chains:

• Any entity involved in the production, supply, sale distribution or disposal of electricity, gas, water, waste water (eg sanitation), waste (eg rubbish collection), fuel, telecommunication services, and any entity that is contracted by these entities

• News (including news production) and broadcast media

• Internet service providers

• Any entity that provides maintenance and repair services for utilities and communications, including supply chains

• Any entity supplying services to an essential workplaces that are required for the safe operation of that workplace (eg cleaning, security services)

Can I go for a walk during the lockdown?

While the Prime Minister is reminding people they can go and get fresh air at a local park, and throw a ball around with the kids, she is urging people not to go near any playground equipment.

The Department of Conservation has shut all of its visitor centres and cancelled all hut and campsite bookings. It includes all Great Walks bookings for the rest of the season up to 30 June 2020. People will get a full refund.

It also includes the closing of popular tourist spots including Cape Reinga.It is currently advising day trips only, but the Herald has asked DoC whether all of its treks and walks will be closed.

What will happen if I flout the lockdown?

There will be both a military and police presence during the four-week lockdown, ensuring people adhere to the Government's conditions. They would be there to enforce but Ardern hoped the public wouldn't be scared by their presence.

What about my rent or mortgage payments?

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has been talking to banks to ensure that nobody will lose their home due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The relief on mortgage holders would have a flow-on effect to the approximate 1.5 million renters around the country.

Robertson yesterday announced a "freeze" on both rent increases and no-cause terminations of rental agreements "during this difficult time".

Will the four-week lockdown fix the coronavirus outbreak?

Ardern told media today the number of cases will get worse in the next fortnight before it gets better.

Can I isolate myself in a campervan and drive around the country during lockdown?

No. The NZ Motor Campervan Association today announced that in light of the imminent level 4 alert, it is closing all of its parks.

Those currently in an NZMCA park are being urged to make their way home and states there are "no exceptions".

Auckland Council has also announced all their campgrounds are closing while Environment Canterbury has confirmed it will also close NZMCA campgrounds within 48 hours.

What if I'm still stuck overseas and trying to get home?

Ardern today told TVNZ that there would a further announcement to help stranded Kiwis get home.

"I'm not done with our borders yet," she said.

Is there anywhere in New Zealand without any Covid-19 cases?

Yes. Ardern told The AM Show neither the West Coast or East Coast had so far reported any cases. She noted both areas were quite isolated.

Has anyone died of Covid-19 yet in New Zealand?

No. Of the 102 cases only five are currently in hospital but none require intensive care treatment.

However, officials had doubled the country's capacity in its intensive and high dependency units to 500 beds.

People are swamping supermarkets - how much have they spent?

Good question. Paymark figures released today show spending at food and liquor stores, including supermarkets, skyrocketed compared to the same Monday last year.

Spending was up 157 per cent, reaching $111 million.

That was nearly as high as Christmas Eve shoppers in 2019 when $117 million was spent.

Pharmacy spending was up 122 per cent yesterday on the year before, however accommodation providers and restaurants, cafes and bars were not fearing as well, going down 59 per cent and 44 per cent respectively.

For the week ending Sunday, total spending through Paymark was $1.3 billion, up 7.5 per cent. The biggest percentages again coming from food and liquor shops (+51.8 per cent) and pharmacies (+81.0 per cent).

 

 

 

WHAT LEVEL 3 MEANS

Level 3 means limited travel in areas with clusters of Covid-19 cases, affected educational facilities closed, mass gatherings cancelled, public venues closed (such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks), some non-essential businesses closed, and non face-to-face primary care consultations, with non-elective services and procedures in hospitals deferred.

Level 4 means people instructed to stay at home, schools and universities closed, as well as non-essential businesses, major reprioritisation of health services, and severely limited travel.

"All indoor and outdoor events cannot proceed. In short, we are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way we have seen other countries do. Staying at home is essential."

That would give the health system a chance to cope, she said.

WHAT LEVEL 4 MEANS

While in alert level 4, Ardern said contact tracing would continue and testing would go on "at pace" to find out where cases are.

If we flush out cases we already have, and slow down transmission, areas could move out of level 4, she said.

Community transmission had a lag time, and these measures would be in place for at least four weeks, she said.

She repeated that pharmacy products will still be available, and supermarkets would stay open.

SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES CLOSED

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said tertiary institutions would close as soon as possible.

Funding for educational institutes would continue.

All schools and ECE centres would close from midnight Wednesday.

Hipkins said schools and ECEs should send any vulnerable workers sent home immediately.

They would be open for 48 hours so that essential workers did not have to make sudden arrangements for childcare.

He said the key focus was on winding down schools, ECEs and universities, and scaling up online learning was being looked at.

Dealing with equity issues, such as variations in access to broadband, was also being looked at.

Parents of children with learning disabilities should talk to their schools, he said.

NEW ECONOMIC RESCUE PACKAGE

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said that Cabinet decided to do more to cushion the impact of Covid-19.

The wage subsidy would have no cap, so all businesses will be eligible.

Businesses less than a year old were now also eligible, as were self-employed people, registered charities, NGOs, and incorporated societies.

The cost would now be $9.3b, up from $5.1b.

He said rents would also be frozen.

The Government had also agreed in principle to guarantee lending to businesses to help their survival. Details were being finalised.

"We are also making urgent preparations for further income support for all workers as we move into alert 4."

He asked workers and firms to talk to each other, to talk to banks, and to make a plan. He said all workers would keep making an income in this period

"We are all in this together."

Robertson said the wage subsidy changes had no financial cap, and was available for 12 weeks - but it would be reviewed and could be extended.

He said all options were still on the table when asked about further increases to benefit payments. "What we've done today is cushion the blow ... but we can't save every job and we can't save every business."

ENFORCEMENT OF CORONAVIRUS RULES

Ardern asked people not to self-police the measures. "People are afraid and they are anxious, We will play the role of enforcer."

Enforcement would be through police, she said.

Ardern said the military could work with police to enforce the measures.

She would issue an epidemic notice which, under the 1956 Health Act, gives the necessary powers. A Civil Defence emergency would also be declared, she said.

She would issue an epidemic notice which, under the 1956 Health Act, gives the necessary powers. A Civil Defence emergency would also be declared, she said.

ARDERN BASED IN WELLINGTON

Ardern said she would remain based in Wellington, and her contact with others would be "very limited".

"I will only really be present here in this building and the building where I live."

Other Ministers have been told to work from home, she said.

She said she had contacted National leader Simon Bridges, who expressed support for the measures announced today.

Parliament was working through how it would continue to work under alert level 4.

"There will still be accountability and we will be enabling the Opposition to play that role," she said, but those details were still being worked through.

Ardern ruled out a "grand coalition" that would include the Opposition in decision-making. She said there were still no plans at this stage to move the September 19 election.

Hipkins, who is also Leader of the House, said that a small number of MPs would come to Parliament tomorrow, and MPs would be asked not to come to Parliament unless it was vital.

All parliamentary business before select committees would be suspended.

Parliament would adjourn and there was no fixed date for when it will be resumed.

CALLS FROM EXPERTS

This morning the Teaching Council and former chief science advisor to the PM Sir Peter Gluckman added their voices to concerns about whether level 2 was too low.

National Party leader Simon Bridges this morning asked all National's MPs and candidates to put campaigning on hold, offered the party's resources to assist the Government, and called for the alert level to be moved to level 4.

Last week the Government released its $12.1 billion package, the first phase of its economic rescue package.

Business NZ and the New Zealand Initiative this morning called for the Government to go further with economic support, noting the Australian Government had put the equivalent of 9 percent of Australian GDP towards its economic rescue package.

Robertson's package last week was equal to 4 per cent of New Zealand's GDP. He has previously said the Government was considering how to relieve the economic fallout for medium to large businesses.

The package included $5.1b in wage subsidies for Covid-19 affected businesses, $2.8b for increased welfare payments and the doubling of the Winter Energy Payment, $2.8 billion in business tax changes to free up cashflow and $500m for more health resources.

Almost half of the cash will be spent on a wage subsidy package for all Covid-19-impacted businesses - but the payment is only for up to 20 employees and tops out at $150,000.

The National Party has called for the $150,000 cap to be lifted, but has not said where the cap, if any, should be.

The Flight Centre has just announced it will cut 250 jobs, while Air NZ is cutting a third of its workforce despite a $900m Government bailout.

Ardern put the country on alert level two on Saturday, but since then has come under pressure to move it higher to keep the spread of Covid-19 to a minimum.

What is the situation around the world?

Italy, Iran and the United States reported soaring new death tolls as the coronavirus pandemic marched relentlessly across the globe Sunday, prompting a scramble in hard-hit regions to set up more hospital beds and replenish the dwindling medical supplies needed to keep health workers safe.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte went on live TV to announce that he was tightening the country's lockdown and shutting down all production facilities except those providing essential goods and services.

"We are facing the most serious crisis that the country has experienced since World War II," Conte told Italians during a broadcast at midnight.

As bodies piled up in Italian hospitals, morgues and churches, and as medical workers pleaded for more help, there was no sign that Italy was yet taming its arc of contagion. Italy now has 53,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 4,825 deaths — more than all of China, where the virus first emerged late last year.

The US government's top infectious disease expert said he remains hopeful the US is not on the same trajectory as Italy in the coronavirus struggle.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS' "Face the Nation" the stringent measures being put in place in the US, including travel restrictions, the closing of schools and many businesses and other social distancing, will go "a long way."

New York City's mayor told people at the epicentre of the US pandemic that it's only going to get worse.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that his city is in desperate need of ventilators and other medical supplies and staff, and lambasted the White House as non-responsive. He said he had asked "repeatedly" for the US military to mobilize, and had heard nothing back.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expects Congress and the White House to reach full agreement later Sunday on an economic stimulus package that could approach $2 trillion to address the coronavirus crisis, including $3000 checks to families and other aid to last the next 10 weeks.

Several US states have ordered residents to stay indoors. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the government was "literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies".

Health care workers from Oklahoma City to Minneapolis sought donations of protective equipment. Staff at a Detroit hospital began creating homemade face masks for workers.

Nationwide, there were at least 26,747 cases and 374 deaths as the US overtook Germany as the country with the fourth-highest number of cases. At least 38 people tested positive at New York City's Rikers Island jail complex — more than half of the inmates. Another inmate became the first in the US to test positive in a federal jail.

During his weekly Sunday blessing, Pope Francis urged all Christians to join in reciting the "Our Father" prayer on Wednesday at noon. "To the virus pandemic, we want to respond with the universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness," the pope said.

Francis, who began streaming his audiences online earlier this month due to virus concerns, said he would also lead a global blessing to an empty St. Peter's Square on Friday. The "Urbi et Orbi," blessing is normally reserved for Christmas Day and Easter.

In Britain, staff at some hospitals have complained about shortages of ventilators and protective equipment like face masks, safety glasses, gloves and protective suits.

Almost 4,000 medical workers signed a letter to the Sunday Times warning that doctors and nurses in the National Health Service would die if they did not receive better equipment and said they felt like "cannon fodder".

"NHS staff are putting their lives on the line every day they turn up to work. The reality is that many of us will get sick. Doctors are all too aware of the possibility that they will lose colleagues, as has happened in outbreaks around the world," the letter said.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that hospitals would receive new stocks of protective equipment by Sunday afternoon. The government has also ordered thousands of ventilators and has struck a deal with private hospitals to use thousands of beds and 20,000 medical staff to treat coronavirus patients.

Iran's supreme leader refused US assistance Sunday to fight the virus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that it could be made by America. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments came as Iran faces crushing U.S. sanctions over its nuclear actions. Iran says it has 1,685 deaths and 21,638 confirmed cases of the virus — a toll that experts from the World Health Organisation say is almost certainly under-reported.

Worldwide, more than 316,000 people have been infected and nearly 13,600 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 150 countries now have confirmed cases, and deaths have been reported in more than 30 American states.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Some 93,800 people have recovered, mostly in China.

The Chinese city of Wuhan — where the global pandemic was first detected and the first city to be locked down — went a fourth consecutive day on Sunday without reporting any new or suspected cases. Wuhan must go 14 straight days without a new case in order for draconian travel restrictions to be lifted, but a special train brought in more than 1,000 car factory employees for the first time since the outbreak.

Parks and other public gathering places were reopening in China as people return to work and businesses resumed. However, the country has placed increasing restrictions on those coming from overseas.

All arrivals to Beijing from abroad must be quarantine themselves for two weeks in a hotel at their own expense. And beginning Monday, flights into the capital will be diverted to airports in other cities, where passengers will have to pass a health inspection.

China's first recent case of community infection was reported Sunday in the southern province of Guangzhou, reportedly caught from a Turkish arrival.

Borders kept closing and airlines kept slashing flights. The long-haul airline Emirates — a major East-West carrier — said it will suspend all passenger flights beginning Wednesday over the outbreak.

After recording its first two deaths, Singapore said it will fully shut its borders beginning Tuesday. All short-term visitors will be barred while returning locals will face a 14-day quarantine. Sri Lanka blocked all passenger flights and ships from entering.

Australia became the latest country to close all bars, clubs, cinemas, casinos, sporting and religious venues, while restaurants and cafes were restricted to takeout service only. Schools remained open.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the rules were implemented because people disregarded social distancing requirements and will be in place for at least six months.

In Spain, Europe's hardest-hit country after Italy, intensive care units in some areas were close to their limits even before Sunday's new tally of 28,572 infections and 1,720 deaths.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said he wants to extend the national state of emergency that includes strict measures to combat the coronavirus, meaning the countrywide lockdown will last at least one month.

Fernando Simón, Director of Spain's Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies, said that over 3,400 health workers have been infected, more than 10% of the total. "This is a statistic that concerns us," he said.

Dr. German Peces-Barba, a lung specialist at Fundación Jiménez Díaz hospital in Madrid, said he expected the situation to get worse.

"We can't just repeat the slogans that we will get through this together," Peces-Barba said. "But from inside the hospital the situation is such that if it lasts much longer we won't be able to resist."

What are the travel restrictions?

New Zealand's borders are closed to everyone but citizens and residents.

New Zealand citizens and permanent residents will be able to return, and that includes the children and partners of citizens and permanent residents.

All travellers will have to self-isolate on their arrival in New Zealand.

All cruise ships are banned from New Zealand until June 30. It does not apply to cargo ships. The decision would be reviewed after that date.

Strict new border exit measures for people travelling to the Pacific have also been put in place:

  • People who have travelled outside of New Zealand in the past 14 days are not permitted to travel to the Pacific islands.
  • No travel to the Pacific for close or casual contacts of a confirmed case.
  • No travel for anyone who is symptomatic.
  • Health assessment including temperature checks will be done.

Ardern also encouraged New Zealanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas.

For Kiwis already overseas, those needing consular assistance were asked to contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"This decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest-ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world," Ardern said.

Restrictions also prevent foreign nationals travelling from or transiting through mainland China or Iran from entering New Zealand.

The Government has also issued a stern warning for people with health conditions to reconsider overseas cruises.

People who become sick within a month of travelling overseas are encouraged to seek medical advice and phone Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or a doctor. It is important to mention recent travel history and any known contact with someone with a confirmed case of Covid-19.

What about getting home after travelling if I have to self-isolate?

You may need to use public transport, including by plane, train or bus. The official advice is to try and avoid it during rush hour.

Where possible, sit in a window seat in a row by yourself. If you are unwell you should seek advice from Healthline before you travel.

Make sure to use hand sanitiser regularly. If you need to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth or nose, or you can cough and sneeze into your sleeve.

Do I need to stock up at the supermarket?

The day New Zealand's first case of coronavirus was confirmed, shoppers descended on supermarkets in Auckland stocking up on items like toilet paper, face masks, hand sanitiser and non-perishable foods.

But Ardern said: "No one needs to conduct a run on their supermarket".

"It's worth remembering that we've had travel restrictions on China for over a month, and those supply routes continue."

Shoppers fearful of quarantine measures have been stocking up on supplies to last out a week or two of isolation.

Alex Russell, School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University said: "People are scared, and they're bunkering down. They're buying what they need and one of the items is toilet paper.

"I think we're noticing the toilet paper more than the other things because toilet paper packs are big items that take up a lot of shelf space. Seeing a small product sold out at the supermarket [such as hand sanitiser] is not that unusual, and it's only a small hole in the shelf that is often temporarily filled with nearby products."

Where did coronavirus come from?

It was first reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The live animal market, the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, is suspected as the original source but has not been confirmed.

What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

The symptoms often start in the back of the throat with a sore throat and a dry cough.

Other symptoms — fever, shortness of breath, body aches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhoea — can signal any number of illnesses, from flu to strep to the common cold.

How do you catch it?

The virus is spread through droplets transmitted into the air from coughing or sneezing, which people nearby can take in through their nose, mouth or eyes.

The viral particles in these droplets travel quickly to the back of your nasal passages and to the mucous membranes in the back of your throat, attaching to a particular receptor in cells, beginning there.

What can I do to prevent it?

Good hygiene, regularly washing and thoroughly drying your hands, and other simple steps can help stop the spread, the Ministry of Health says.

These include avoiding close contact with people with cold or flu-like illnesses and covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing.

Washing hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap and drying them thoroughly, before eating or handling food, after using the toilet, after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children's noses, or after caring for sick people can help prevent spreading the disease.

How do you treat it?

There is no specific treatment for coronavirus, but medical care can treat most of the symptoms.

This could involve prescribing antiviral medication used to treat influenza or antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections.

Researchers in many countries are working on developing a vaccine.

Do face masks help?

The World Health Organisation has endorsed face masks as a precautionary measure to avoid contracting coronavirus.

Colleen Kraft, an infectious disease expert for the Emory University Hospital, said that the masks can be effective in combating the two most common ways of contracting a virus in an interview with the Washington Post.

"The mask not only protects you from droplets. It also protects you from bringing your hand, which may have the virus on it, to your mucus membranes such as your nose and your mouth."

However, the masks are only effective under certain circumstances. If not changed regularly they can become useless, and far less effective when not used with other hygiene precautions.

Meanwhile, infectious diseases expert Dr Siouxsie Wiles told the Herald that culturally in countries like China, people wear masks not to prevent infection, but when they have a cold – to stop spreading it.

"It's not very good at blocking viruses coming in. People don't wear them properly, they don't make a good fit around [your face]. If you have a gap, you're breathing stuff in.

"There are other masks that we would use in the lab for when we're doing dangerous stuff and they are very different."

What is a pandemic?

Rebecca S.B. Fischer, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Texas A&M University says three important words are being mixed up: outbreak, epidemic and pandemic.

Simply put, the difference between these three scenarios of disease spread is a matter of scale.

An outbreak is small, but unusual. An epidemic is bigger and spreading. A pandemic is international and out of control.

What else is the New Zealand Government doing to manage the situation?

The Ministry of Health's Pandemic Influenza Technical Advisory Group (the PITAG) brings together 11 of the country's foremost experts on public health and infectious disease.

Now meeting daily, the group has advised the ministry on crucial decisions such as travel bans.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said New Zealand was in a "keep it out, stamp it out, slow it down" phase.

Authorities are also looking very closely at other countries that had managed to control the outbreak - such as Taiwan and Singapore - to see what they're doing right.

Tools like school shutdowns that would normally be used later in a pandemic could be used "preemptively" to help stamp out or slow the spread of Covid-19.

How should I explain coronavirus to kids?

Scientist Michelle Dickinson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have released a video aiming to explain the outbreak and how to keep safe in a clear and simple way.

Dickinson said a key message was that most people recovered from the coronavirus and that New Zealand could contain it.

She said that children under 15 appear to be showing immunity to the virus.

The video includes a guide to the virus' symptoms and what to keep an eye out for.

 

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.