Coronavirus: New Zealand site to report lockdown rule-breakers crashes

Citizens ‘passionate and determined’ about making their neighbours comply, says police commissioner

Adam Forrest
Monday 30 March 2020 13:15
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A new police website encouraging New Zealanders to report neighbours they suspect of breaking lockdown rules during the coronavirus outbreak has crashed because of the volume of complaints.

Police said around 4,200 claims were made during the first 24 hours after the service went live on Sunday, amid reports of parties, rugby games and people out playing frisbee.

Mike Bush, New Zealand’s police commissioner, said it showed citizens were “passionate” about everyone complying with the nationwide restrictions.

“The vast majority of Kiwis or people inside New Zealand are complying brilliantly ... they know that to stay home saves lives,” said Mr Bush.

“At the same time, those people who are complying are very passionate to ensure that others comply.”

Under strict lockdown rules, everyone in New Zealand is required to stay at home, except to exercise, go to supermarkets and pharmacies, or go to work in essential services – with all non-essential businesses and schools closed.

The police website is back up again after crashing on Monday. Around 1,000 of the first day’s reports were reportedly related to businesses allegedly flouting lockdown rules, while the rest were about individuals.

The website was set up after more than 2,000 people called a national hotline last week to complain about alleged violations.

Police have so far arrested three people for “persistent breaches” of the rules, according to The New Zealand Herald.

On Saturday, police were called to backpackers’ party involving up to 60 people in the resort town of Queenstown.

Mr Bush said at a press conference that the revellers had decided upon “very poor advice” that they could follow social distancing measures together “in one bubble”.

The police commissioner said it “mass gathering” and the backpackers had been told by officers to break up into much smaller groups.

Given its New Zealand’s large tourist industry, backpackers’ accommodation has been deemed an essential service and can remain open so long as strict rules are followed. Common areas have been shut and contact is to be maintained “only with people staying in the same room”.

The police commissioner said it was “not okay” for tourists to continue to travel the country in camper vans, and warned them to “stay where you are”.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been doing news conferences via Facebook for more than 30 minutes a day, sometimes taking queries as she livestreams from bed in a sweater.

New Zealand’s tally of 589 coronavirus infections, and one death, is smaller than other countries, such as its larger neighbour Australia, which has 4,200 cases and 17 deaths.

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