NZ's new Covid outbreak plan

A role for the military


In the case of a regional lockdown, based on the country’s large Civil Defence regions, police would first attempt to create hard checkpoints along regional boundaries. With very few exceptions, no one would be allowed to cross. Cabinet documents warn that it is likely the checkpoints would need to be manned by soldiers. There’s also the possibility of using automated license plate readers on rural roads and in cities to aid the police in finding scofflaws.


The government has drawn up maps of where checkpoints would need to be created between regions and has concluded 84 road crossings across the country that would need to be staffed. At most it would take about 1,260 soldiers and police to staff them all. In a note to cabinet, the police minister warned that “hard 24/7 controls in any numbers would alter New Zealanders perception of government control.”


If only a few cases are detected, the government is prepared to remove individual New Zealanders from the community and put them into managed isolation facilities. The prime minister said this would help reduce the risk of transmission to their families. In cabinet documents, there was also discussion that this would help eliminate the risk of people breaking from self-isolation after testing positive.


Calling this the “stamp it out approach”, Ardern said people need to continue keeping diaries or using the government’s tracking app. They also need to keep washing their hands. She said people need to ask themselves this question every time they go out: “If I come into contact with covid today, how will I know, and how will others know?”


The contact app failure


It’s been an ongoing struggle to get New Zealanders to use the Covid-19 tracking app. Usage figures show the stark reality: almost no one is using it. Only a few thousand scans are registered daily, instead of millions from each visit to a coffee shop, store or supermarket. If community spread were to occur, the data from the app would be instrumental to minimising lockdowns.


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