Ms Ardern warned that if community transmission takes off, the number of cases will double every five days.
“If that happens unchecked, our health system will be inundated and tens of thousands of New Zealanders will die,” she said.
“There is no easy way to say that, but it is the reality that we have seen overseas and the possibility that we may face here.”
She said supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies, service stations and access to essential banking services will be available in the country at “every alert level”.
“If you do not have immediate needs, do not go to the supermarket. It will be there for you today. It will be there for you tomorrow. And the day after that. We must give time for supermarkets to restock their shelves.”
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