COVID-19: Epidemic notice and Orders

Information on the Epidemic notice and Orders issued by the Government to manage specific matters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last updated: 14 April 2021

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COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 was passed as standalone legislation to provide a different legal framework for responding to COVID-19. The Act allows the Minister of Health (or the Director-General of Health in specified circumstances) to make orders under section 11 to give effect to the public health response to COVID-19 in New Zealand.

COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order 2021

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order 2021 came into force at 11.59 pm on 14 February 2021.The Order outlines the Alert Level 3 restrictions in place in Auckland and Alert Level 2 restrictions in place for the rest of New Zealand. The Order also describes the boundary between alert level 3 and alert level 2 areas, and restricts who is allowed to travel between those areas.

COVID-19 Public Health Response (Election and Referendums) Order 2020

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Election and Referendums) Order 2020 came into force at 11.59 pm on 2 October 2020. The Order sets out the public health requirements for delivering the General Election and referendums in a COVID-19 environment.

Authorisations of Enforcement Officers under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020

The Director-General may authorise suitably qualified and trained individuals to carry out any functions and powers as enforcement officers under section 18 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020. The Director-General has currently authorised three classes of persons as enforcement officers. Those classes of people are:

  1. WorkSafe inspectors
  2. Aviation Security officers
  3. Customs officers
  4. members of the Armed Forces
  5. COVID-19 Enforcement Officers (Maritime Border).

The authorisations describe the class of people that are authorised as enforcement officers, the powers (available under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act) that they may exercise, and the functions which they may carry out:

Epidemic Notice

On Monday 23 March, the Prime Minister issued an Epidemic Notice under section 5 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006. This was based on advice received from the Director-General of Health in response to the increasingly complex and far-reaching response to COVID-19.

On 23 December 2020, the Prime Minister renewed the Epidemic Notice pursuant to section 7 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006.

What is an Epidemic Notice?

This Government has chosen to go hard and go early in the response to COVID-19 for public health reasons. The package of measures introduced since 14 March have helped New Zealand take a precautionary approach to managing COVID-19.

An Epidemic Notice is a public policy tool to help Government agencies respond swiftly and effectively in a rapidly evolving situation. An epidemic notice enables the use of a number of ‘special powers’ in legislation.

In particular, it will allow for the extension of people currently in New Zealand on temporary visas that will expire between 1 April 2020 and the end of the Epidemic Notice. See the section below for more details.

More special powers may be used as the situation progresses and this page will be updated when they are.

Duration of the Epidemic Notice

The Notice lasts for three months from 23 December 2020 unless the Government chooses to lift it earlier.

The Notice can be extended again if required.

Border Orders

COVID-19 Public Health Response (COVID-19 Testing) Order 2020

A new health order cames into force at 11.59 pm 14 August requiring those who work at Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities, at Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga, to be tested for COVID-19 by Monday 11.59 pm 17 August. 

An amendment to the Order was put in place on 17 August, to:

  • specify more precisely that only higher-risk workers at Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga are required to be tested
  • extend the deadline for testing affected workers by three days, to Thursday 11.59 pm, 20 August
  • extend the time period of exemption from further testing if a test has already been done from 12 pm 12 August to 12 am 12 August 2020.

Testing is part of our rapid response to detect any cases and contain the outbreak of COVID-19, and to protect the health of workers, their families and whānau and the broader community.

The purpose of this amendment was that we focus testing those at ports who are considered to be higher risk first, and by doing so quickly detect any cases. 

It’s important that we use legal measures such as this with discretion and in proportion to the risk level. This Order applied to those people where it was considered there was greater risk, but noting that it was still important that all those who work at the border and who are not affected by this order get a test and this remained voluntary. 

This Order has now been revoked and has been replaced by the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order 2020.

COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order 2020

The purpose of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order 2020 is to prevent, and limit the risk of, the outbreak or spread of COVID-19 by requiring testing and medical examination of certain higher risk border workers: those who work in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, as well as workers at ports and airports at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.

There have been subsequent Amendments to the original (Required Testing) Order.

Maritime Border Order

The original Maritime Border Order 2020 came into effect at 11.59pm on Tuesday 30 June 2020.

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Maritime Border) Order (No 2) 2020 is in effect from 11.59pm on Sunday 6 September. This replaces the previous Order, that governs persons who arrive in New Zealand by sea.

The Order continues the prohibition on foreign ships in New Zealand, with a range of exceptions. Exceptions include fishing ships, cargo ships and those that have been granted permission if there is a humanitarian reason or a compelling need for the ship to be delivered to a NZ business.

It requires most arrivals by sea to have quarantined or isolated on board their ship for at least 14 days since the last port of call or since it last took crew, and requires every person on board the ship to meet the low-risk indicators (including a negative COVID-19 test) before any person may enter the New Zealand community.

In addition, if a person wishes to depart a vessel, they require the approval of a Medical Officer of Health, and all other persons on board must also meet the low-risk indicators before the person may disembark.  If persons arriving by sea cannot appropriately isolate or quarantine on board their ship, they will be transferred to a MIQ facility. It outlines the rules for safe crew changes and introduces infringement offences under the COVID-19 Act.

Air Border Order

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border) Order (No 2) 2020 is in effect from 11.59pm on Sunday 6 September and replaces the previous Order.

The Air Border Order (No 2) 2020 still requires all arrivals to New Zealand by air to undergo medical examination and/or testing for COVID-19 on arrival and commence isolation or quarantine as soon as practicable after arrival.

It requires people arriving at the air border to maintain physical distancing and wear PPE as directed in the airport.  It contains provision for certain arrivals to be excluded from these requirements. The Minister of Health has the discretion to exempt people or classes of people from any requirements that are imposed by the Air Border order.

Health Act Orders

There have been several orders produced under the Health Act 1956 for New Zealand’s COVID-19 response. These have now been revoked or replaced by orders made under COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

For further information about the previous Orders see Parliamentary Counsel Office COVID-19 legislation.

Section 70

To underscore the importance of individuals following the advice they have been given by the public health units or the national contact tracing team, a Section 70 of the Health Act 1956 can be issued.   

A Section 70 order enables an authorised Medical Officer of Health to require those in the order to meet public health requirements to undergo testing and to isolate until they receive their result. It also enables those affected to be visited immediately at homes or at work by Auckland public health officials. Any time a person receives a direction from a medical officer of health they must comply with it. 

5 March 2021 – Section 70 issued 

On Friday 5 March 2021 a Section 70 order was issued. 

This applies to the following people: 

  • Any person who attended the City Fitness Gym at Hunters Plaza, at 217 Great South Road, Papatoetoe, in Auckland on 20 February 2021 between 11.15am and 1.45pm, or 26 February 2021 between 3.25pm and 4.30pm. 
  • Any other person who has already been contacted by Auckland Regional Public Health Service and advised they are a close plus, close or casual plus contact during this outbreak and who is still required to isolate and/or be tested, to continue to comply with the following instructions regarding isolation and testing they have been given by the relevant public health unit. 

These people are required to do three things:

  1. To isolate at their usual home;
  2. To report for and undergo medical testing for COVID-19 at a time and place to be specified by a medical officer of health; and
  3. Except as required in order to undergo testing as directed, to remain isolated until they receive further direction from a medical officer of health.

 Public health officials will also discuss with these people the support available to help them meet these requirements. 

Managed Isolation and Quarantine Order

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Isolation and Quarantine) Order 2020, is a new Order that governs the legal requirements for people while they are in a managed isolation and quarantine facility (MIQF). 

It sets out that all persons in MIQF must be there for at least 14 days and meet the low-risk indicators (e.g. have a negative COVID-19 test) before they can leave.

The Order clearly sets out what is taken into account for a special authorisation to leave isolation or quarantine early. This includes a risk-based approach which the Chief Executive of MBIE can use if authorising early exit for an exceptional reason.

It allows for a caregiver of a vulnerable person to enter a MIQF to provide care.

It incorporates (and revokes) the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Security of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Facilities) Order 2020, which restricts entry to MIQ facilities and sets out a risk assessment for those who do unlawfully enter.

As the Chief Executive of MBIE is now responsible for the operation of MIQ facilities, the amendments provide further clarity around when decisions should be made based on advice from a health professional or Medical Officer of Health versus when decisions may be operational in nature.

Temporary visa holders

The New Zealand Government has issued an epidemic management notice and further strengthened travel restrictions, closing our border to almost all travellers from 23:59 on Thursday 19 March 2020 (New Zealand time).

Travellers with a temporary (work, student, visitor, interim and limited) visa expiring before 1 April 2020 who are unable to leave New Zealand must apply online for a new visa. An interim visa will be issued.

Travellers with a temporary visa due to expire between 1 April and 9 July 2020 will have their visas extended to late September. Confirmation of extensions will be emailed to all visa holders.

For further information, please see the New Zealand Immigration website.

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