Police Commissioner urges Kiwis to not get carried away during level 3

coronavirus 28/04/2020

Despite police receiving around 60,000 complaints for lockdown breaches, Commissioner Andrew Coster says all up Kiwis did "exceptionally well" during level 4 of the nationwide lockdown.

As of 11:59pm on Monday night, the country shifted to level 3, meaning thousands of New Zealanders will on Tuesday head off to work for the first time in over a month. 

Initially set to end late last week, the Government decided to extend level 4 for a further five days to make sure the gains won over the previous four weeks were not lost heading into Anzac weekend.

Police had around 600 checkpoints throughout the country over the long weekend, Coster said, with about 800 people found to be breaching the rules.

About 10 percent of those cases were prosecuted, he said.

"It's a tiny proportion of the total population who has been dealt with for breaching," Coster told The AM Show on Tuesday. "We're really pleased with how people have gone. Obviously [it's] really clear now's not a time to let up, we've still got to be quite disciplined in level 3."

A police hotline where members of the public could report breaches received around 60,000 calls during level 4, Coster said, adding that not all cases turned out to be actual breaches. 

"We have worked very hard to follow them up in a prioritised way, recognising that many breaches happen at a moment in time and there's not much to be done following a breach if the behaviour has stopped."

Although the country was now at a lower alert level, Coster said the rules were not "looser", but rather "there's more permission in level 3 - particularly in terms of accessing businesses and in terms of recreation".

It's not an opportunity to reconnect socially and do a lot of the things that many of us are still hanging out to do - it still needs restraint.

As of Tuesday, not only businesses that are considered "essential" are allowed to open but also those deemed "safe". That includes online retailers and cafes and restaurants that can operate takeaway services without face-to-face transactions.

People can also extend their bubbles slightly to include close family members who they don't live with.

"The bigger change we see under this level is the opportunity of accessing a greater range of businesses, but even then social distancing is going to be really important," Coster said.

He said police would continue to enforce the rules in much the same way as they had been under level 4, first by educating people and then taking stricter measures if necessary.

"We are going to be focused on the things that we can really impact which would be gatherings in public places and travel outside of what's permitted, which particularly has a cross-regional aspect to it. But it is a high-trust mode, we need people to do the right thing because it remains the right thing to do."

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the virus was "currently" eliminated from our shores but we couldn't let our guard down.

"There is no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand, Ardern said. "We have won that battle. But we must remain vigilant if we are to keep it that way." 

One death and five new cases were reported on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1122. There are a further 347 probable cases with 19 deaths recorded so far.

The current alert level is set to be assessed by Cabinet in two weeks, with Coster urging Kiwis to take a "commonsense approach" during level 3.

I believe New Zealanders have done exceptionally well to understand what's being asked of them.