Kiwis begin life in lockdown ‘bubbles’

By AAP Newswire

New Zealanders have woken to an eerie calmness that will be their new normal for the next month.

There are fewer cars on the road, a vastly reduced number of trains, buses and planes running to their schedules, and almost no one on the footpaths.

Save for a few people in and outside supermarkets and pharmacies, all keeping the recommended distance of two metres apart, there is quiet.

Under order from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Kiwis are in an enforced lockdown as the government aims to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Not that New Zealand has hit a crisis point yet, or that hospitals are groaning with COVID-19 infected patients.

On Thursday, Kiwi health officials confirmed another batch of 78 cases of the virus, taking the country's overall tally to 283.

Of those, 27 have recovered, just seven people currently require hospitalisation, with none requiring treatment in intensive care units.

Unlike Australia, New Zealand is heading into a major clampdown ahead of any loss of life.

Schools, universities and non-essential businesses - including restaurants and hairdressers - have been ordered shut, and their workers sent home.

Ms Ardern said despite the clampdown, more Kiwis would catch the virus in the coming weeks.

"The numbers will go up. The modelling suggests we may have several thousand cases. That could be within a 10 to 12 day period," she said.

"But if we all follow the rules we should then see a difference being made."

Kiwis have been asked to keep any physical contact to within their household and any nearby close family members - their partners or children only - during the lockdown.

Additionally, Kiwis that live alone can nominate one person to spend time with, to ensure a degree of closeness to those most isolated.

Personal groupings are being referred to as your "bubble".

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said maintaining the integrity of your bubble is the most important factor.

"You are in a bubble ... and you need to stay in your bubble and if you get out of your bubble you're going to pop that bubble and that's going to put us all at risk," she told Radio NZ.

"People are the weak points.

"Hand-washing is so, so important. We can go outside, keep it to essential trips and stay two metres away from people ... we need to wash our hands as soon as we get back in the house."

Civil Defence Emergency Management Director Sarah Stuart-Black said she understood many would be anxious, but urged New Zealanders to settle into a new groove.

"Just take a bit of a breath," she said.

"We're talking about hanging out at home. You've still got a TV and you've got the water out of the tap and you've got the things in your cupboard.

"We can work through this step by step."