New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced her country should prepare for self-isolation amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday, premier Andern also raised the nationwide alert by one level to alert level three effective immediately, while after 48 hours New Zealand will move to its highest level of alert.
"The trajectory is very clear: Act now or risk the virus taking hold as it has elsewhere. We currently have 102 cases, but so did Italy once, now the virus has overwhelmed their health system and hundreds of people are dying every day", Ardern said.
Level three in New Zealand requires all public venues and non-essential businesses to close. Level four is applied when there is sustained transmission – essential services continue, but people are asked to stay at home except for emergency circumstances, schools close, public transport systems stop, and rationing of supplies is introduced.
Andern said the government had decided to keep supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies, service stations, and essential banking services running normally so that citizens know these services are there and avoid leaving home for non-immediate needs.
"We must give time for supermarkets to restock their shelves - there will be enough for everyone if we shop normally", she said. Ardern warned about these decisions to place "the most significant restrictions on New Zealanders' movements in modern history".
If the virus spread continues unimpeded, the number of coronavirus cases will double every five days, according to the prime minister. More than half of the confirmed cases in New Zealand were imported, the ministry of health noted, meaning they were identified in arrivals from other countries.
Globally, the coronavirus toll has exceeded 292,000, with more than 12,700 fatalities registered so far, according to the latest situation update by the World Health Organisation (WHO).