New Zealand's Covid-19 coronavirus alert level has risen to level three, and after 48 hours it will go to level four.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said "We are facing the potential for devastating impacts from this virus... but we do have a small window to get ahead of it".
"Now is the time to put our plans into action.
"The situation here is moving at pace and so must we. Prepare as a nation to go into self-isolation."
The 48 hour period was so people could "get their lives in order".
Level four is put in place with a risk of sustained level of virus transmission. Contact between people is largely eliminated, the public urged to stay at home. Essential services will remain in place.
Ms Ardern said if community transmission was to take off in the country, the number of cases will be expected to "double every five days."
"If that happens unchecked, our health system will be inundated, and tens of thousands New Zealanders will die.
"These decisions will place the most significant restriction on New Zealanders' movements in modern history."
Essential services will still continue.
Ms Ardern said Cabinet “did not take this decision lightly”.
"But, this is our best chance to slow the virus and to save lives."
"This is the right thing to do, we will save lives by taking these measures."
When asked if she was afraid, Ms Ardern said "no, because we have a plan, we have a window we are utilising that some countries did not".
"I am not afraid. I am asking New Zealanders to come with us what will be an extraordinary period of time."
"None of us can do this alone."
"We have a window of opportunity. We can stop the spread by staying at home and reducing contact. Now is the time to act."
Schools will be shut altogether from midnight Wednesday.
New Zealand will be in level four for a period of four weeks minimum.
"It will all come down to the level of compliance," Ms Ardern said.
Level three alert system means that travel in areas with clusters or community transmission is limited, affected educational facilities closed, alternative ways of working required and some non-essential businesses should close and non acute services and procedures in hospitals deferred and healthcare staff reprioritised.
- People instructed to stay at home
- Educational facilities closed
- Businesses closed except for essential services (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics) and lifeline utilities
- Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities
- Travel severely limited
- Major reprioritisation of healthcare services
It comes after the Ministry of Health confirmed 36 new confirmed cases today, bringing the total number to 102. Two of the cases are still being investigated as suspected community transmission.
From tomorrow, the immediate rise to level three means "non-essential businesses must close, all events and gatherings must be cancelled, schools will only open for children of essential workers - they will close completely when we move to Level 4," Ms Ardern said.
"Workplaces must implement alternative working with everyone who can to work from home, no discretionary domestic air travel between regions, public transport for people undertaking essential services and transport of freight only."
Over the weekend, the Prime Minister announced a four tier alert system, and as of midday Saturday New Zealand sat at level two.
Level one is where the virus is contained.
Level two is Covid-19 contained but the risks are growing as more cases arise. Unnecessary travel should be contained and more travel restrictions are put in place.
Level three is Covid-19 is a heightened risk that the disease is not contained.
Level four is in place at sustained levels of transmission. Contact between people is eliminated altogether, the public urged to stay at home. Essential services will remain in place.