'There will be no tolerance' - Covid-19 lockdown rules will be enforced, says PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned New Zealanders enforcement will be used as the country heads into lockdown to tackle the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus. 

She told Parliament of the "tools of last resort" of an Epidemic Notice and State of Emergency issued as an additional 47 cases and three probable cases of coronavirus were confirmed today. 

"Both of which provide us the powers for Government to move the country to Alert Level 4.

"These moves will be enforced, and we will be the enforcer," Ms Ardern said. 

Level 4 is put in place with a risk of sustained level of virus transmission. Contact between people is largely eliminated with the public urged to stay at home. Essential services will remain in place.

Ms Ardern issued an Epidemic Notice yesterday which gives additional powers to sectors such as local government, immigration and social services – "crucial services that now need flexibility to operate due to the effects of an epidemic in our country". 

It will automatically extend temporary visas to late September, allow emergency benefits to be given to people who would not usually be entitled and gives more flexibility for benefits. 

A State of Emergency was also declared today by Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare, lasting seven days before it is extended for another seven, or cut short if needed. 

The emergency powers it gives Civil Defence and Emergency Management groups include closing or restrict access to roads or public places, requisition of equipment, materials and assistance and evacuating premises. 

"From midnight tonight, we bunker down for four weeks to try and stop the virus in its tracks, to break the chain," Ms Ardern said. 

"Make no mistake this will get worse before it gets better. No other country in the world has moved to these measures with no deaths and so few infections. 

"But we have no time to waste. We could have waited...but, every hour we wait, is one more person, two more people, three more people, exposed to Covid-19.

"That is why we did not wait."

She said New Zealand had a window of opportunity to "break the chain and save lives".  

"That is why we must take this period of self-isolation deadly seriously". 

Ms Ardern said every person who still interacted with others outside their small group increased the risk of the virus spreading, increasing the lockdown time. 

"There will be no tolerance for that. We will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers if needed."

Parliament saw only few Ministers, senior National MPs including leader Simon Bridges and deputy Paula Bennett and some Wellington-based MPs in attendance today. 

Mr Bridges told Parliament that "we are, where we are and we're all in this together".

"There's no National, no Labour, no ACT, no Green Party or no New Zealand First - Just New Zealanders."

NZ First MP Tracey Martin spoke of a family member who died of the Spanish flu that ripped through New Zealand in 1918. 

"These are the stories we don't want other families to pass on. Together we are stronger."

Green leader James Shaw said any delay in action "would be deadly". 

"Declaring a national emergency is the necessary next step to keep New Zealanders safe."

ACT's David Seymour welcomed the Government's moves, "when the stakes are high, they are literally life and death".