The declaration came into effect at 12.21pm and yesterday an Epidemic Notice was issued, which came into effect just
Both measures provide powers for Government to move the country to Alert Level 4 at 11.59 tonight. It is the second time
a state of national emergency has been declared, the first was on 23 February 2011 following the Christchurch
The SMC asked experts to comment on the new measures.Professor Andrew Geddis, Faculty of Law, University of Otago, comments:
"With the declaration of a state of emergency and issue of an epidemic notice, New Zealand's Government has taken on
powers that haven't been seen since the 1951 Waterfront dispute.
"The police (and the army, if needed to support the police) are empowered to order any person to stop any activity that
contributes to the current emergency - essentially, spreading COVID-19 in the community. Government ministers may set
aside virtually any legislative provision that becomes impracticable to apply while the epidemic is in force.
"These give the state extraordinary reach into our lives, and transfer extraordinary power to the executive branch. They
are a marker of just how severe the threat that this virus poses to us all."
No conflict of interest.Louise Delany, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Public Health, University of Otago, comments:
"Powers under New Zealand’s emergency legislation have been invoked and, as of 25 March 2020, are in force. This has not
required new legislation: the existence of the several statutes that make up our legislative framework were already in
"What is new is that powers under this framework can now be used, following processes for invoking emergency law having
been followed and conditions for emergency law met. These processes and conditions are spelt out in the relevant
The Health Act 1965
"This Act has routine powers which may apply to infectious diseases if they are specified as such under the Health Act -
as well as emergency powers. Covid-19 is legally an infectious disease, as of 30 January 2020. Given Covid-19’s
recognition as an ‘infectious’ disease, health practitioners and laboratories are required to notify suspected cases to
a Medical Officer of Health.
"The Health Act also has specific provisions relating to emergencies, although it does not use the term ‘emergency
powers’. Instead it employs the term ‘special powers’ (which means more or less the same thing as emergency powers) for
Medical Officers of Health under sections 70 and 71.
"These special powers include: requiring people to be isolated, quarantined or disinfected; requiring people to report
or submit to medical examination; requiring people to remain where they are, isolated/quarantined, until medically
examined and are free from infectious disease, requisitioning equipment such as vehicles, and use land or building.
"The Health Act was also amended as of 11 March 2020 to specify Covid-19 as a quarantinable disease. This enables
provisions in Part 4 of the Health Act (relating to quarantine at the border) to apply."
The Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006
"This Act is relatively new, and was developed following a re-evaluation of New Zealand’s emergency management framework
following concerns about the implications of any outbreak of infectious disease. (The disease which had prompted this
consideration was the outbreak of avian influenza, though this did not turn out to be significant for New Zealand).
"The Act only applies to a disease which is a ‘quarantinable disease’, as specified in the Health Act. As noted,
Covid-19 is now, as of 11 March 2020, a quarantinable diseases.
"The purposes of the Epidemic Preparedness Act are to enable Government agencies to try to prevent the outbreak of
epidemics in NZ; respond to epidemics; respond to possible consequences of epidemics (occurring here or overseas) and to
ensure that certain activities normally undertaken by people and agencies interacting with Government agencies can
continue to happen during an epidemic; and to enable some statutory requirements to be relaxed if not able to be
complied with, or complied with fully.
"Provisions relating to the 'epidemic notice' enable the Prime Minister to issue an epidemic notice only if the
Director-General of Health so recommends. The Prime Minister must also have the agreement of the Minister of Health.
"The Prime Minister must be satisfied that the effects of an outbreak of stated quarantinable disease are likely to
disrupt (or continue to disrupt) essential government and business activity in NZ (or parts of NZ), although the
outbreak can be overseas or in NZ.
"An epidemic notice lasts for three months maximum, but is renewable and also modifiable. Under the Act, Parliament must
meet soon after an Epidemic Notice has been made.
"The Act automatically enables the use of special powers (section 70 and 71, noted above) under the Health Act."
No conflict of interest.