Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a four-level Covid-19 alert system and asked people to stop non-essential travel within New Zealand.

Ardern said all people over 70 or who have compromised immunity should stay at home as much as possible and advised against any non-essential travel within New Zealand.

Addressing the nation at midday, she said she wanted to give New Zealanders “certainty and clarity” about the risks of Covid-19.

“I understand that all of this rapid change creates anxiety, and uncertainty. Especially when it means changing how we live. That’s why today I am going to set out for you as clearly as possible, what you can expect as we continue to fight the virus together.”

Another 13 cases were confirmed today, bringing the total number in the country to 53. Announcing the new cases, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the Ministry of Health could not rule out the risk that there was community transmission in two cases.

Ardern said the vast majority of people who got the virus would experience mild symptoms, but some would need more care – and that’s why it was so important to “slow it down”.

Ardern announced an alert system with four levels.

The first was when it was here, but contained. That meant New Zealand needed to prepare – introduce border measures, contact tracing and cancel mass gatherings. These had been activated.

The second was where the disease was contained, but the risk was increasing. At this stage work needed to be done to reduce contact with each other, including further border restrictions, cancelling unnecessary travel and encouraging people to work remotely when possible.

At level three it was becoming increasingly difficult to contain. Public venues and non-essential businesses would close.

Level four meant there was sustained transmission, which meant people would need to eliminate contact with each other altogether. Essential services would still operate, but people would need to stay home if they could.

“It’s important to note, that at every alert level supermarkets and essential services, like access to pharmaceuticals will continue. Shop normally. If we do that, our supermarkets will have time to restock their shelves.”

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