Asia-Pacific

Jacinda Ardern wants New Zealanders to keep a diary to help with coronavirus contact tracing

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a press conference Source: AAP

After more than a week of low COVID-19 new cases, New Zealand looks likely to announce a lockdown overhaul on Monday.

One day out from a decision on whether to relax New Zealand's coronavirus clampdown, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has asked Kiwis to keep a diary of their daily movements.

Ms Ardern believes the homespun idea could help the country's contact-tracers with their work.

"I would ask New Zealanders to think about doing that. Just keeping a quick note of where you've been, and who you've been with," Ms Ardern said.

"It will not only help them, it will help us.

"If you imagine, even asking someone six days later to account every movement over a period of time, it's an incredibly hard task.

"So I would ask New Zealanders to have new practises, new things that they do at the end of the day.

"The better that we are able to do ... the sooner we can move down the alert levels and the sooner life feels more normal."

A family packs its shopping into their car in a supermarket in central Christchurch, New Zealand
A family packs its shopping into their car in a supermarket in central Christchurch, New Zealand
AAP

On Monday, the Cabinet will meet to decide whether to end four weeks of level four restrictions and downscale to a level three lockdown, which mirrors many of Australia's restrictions.

That will include re-opening schools, allowing more businesses - including the construction and forestry industries - to get back to work and let restaurants operate for delivery orders only.

It will also allow Kiwis to extend their bubbles of people with which they have personal contact, which presents a challenge for contact tracing.

Contact tracing is the process where health officials track down people that have been in contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19, asking them to self-isolate and get tested.

Just as in Australia, officials are hoping to use a tracking app to assist the process, along with diary entries.

On Sunday, health officials announced just nine new cases across the country, the eighth straight day in which new cases have been no higher than 20.

The country's death toll stands at 12, after the death of a man in Invercargill last Tuesday was confirmed to be linked to COVID-19.

In keeping with the country's health-first approach, Ms Ardern announced four criteria that would decide whether the country would relax its restrictions - with none related to the economy.

The first is the satisfaction of health professionals that undetected community transmission is unlikely.

The second is strong contact tracing capacity, the third is the strength of border controls and the the fourth is the health system's ability to stand up.

"Our focus has been to protect the health of New Zealanders," Ms Ardern said, while acknowledging the hurt in the business community.

"The best thing for the economy has been to stop the virus.

"But I do what to say thank you to a very special group ... small business owners and operators.

"Nobody underestimates how hard this situation is for all of you."

The New Zealand government has paid out more than $NZ9 billion ($A$8.8 billion) in wage subsidies to businesses, representing more than 1.5 million people, to date.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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