The country has seen its infection rate fall since imposing a full-scale lockdown on March 26, with fewer than 60 new cases recorded over the last three days.
Despite the huge decrease in new cases of infections, New Zealand recorded its deadliest day to date on Tuesday.
Three people from the Rosewood Rest Home and Hospital in Christchurch died and one man in his 70s died in Wellington, taking the national death toll to nine.
Ms Ardern described it as a ‘sad and sobering reminder of the need to stay the course’.
New Zealand appears to be over the worst of its coronavirus outbreak but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (pictured) says she’s hesitant to lift the strict lockdown measures
The country has seen its infection rate fall since going into strict lockdown nearly three weeks ago, with fewer than 20 new cases recorded each day over the past three days
‘Over the weekend and today, I have seen some commentary that is not unexpected that reflects our success today in stamping out the virus as reason enough to take our foot off the pedal. It is not,’ Ms Ardern said on Tuesday.
‘As the Director-General said, we are successfully ‘over the peak’ – but that is not the same thing as being out of the woods.’
A decision on whether to extend the nationwide shutdown and state of national emergency will be made on April 20.
If the level four lockdown continues, hundreds of thousands of people will remain out of work, as only essential services, including supermarkets and hospitals, are open.
Adelaide Road in Wellington, New Zealand is left empty during lockdown for the COVID-19 lockdown
People practice social distancing while entering a supermarket in Wellington, New Zealand on April 11
‘Just remember, one case can lead to a massive outbreak. What matters is not just the numbers but what they tell us,’ Ms Ardern told Newstalk ZB.
‘If we have cases where we don’t know where they came from, we have to make sure there’s no iceberg underneath.’
The New Zealand government has been focused on minimising job losses, and is preparing further fiscal stimulus to assist with that aim.
The government has provided support and stimulus to the bill of around $NZ22 billion ($A21 billion) to date.
That has included boosts to spending on wage subsidies and welfare payments, providing tax subsidies, and injections into the health system.
The Treasury modelling suggests that with a further $NZ20 billion ($A19 billion) of targeted fiscal support, NZ’s unemployment figure could peak at 8.5 per cent in the June quarter of this year, then fall back to 5.5 per cent next year.
The official unemployment rate prior to the pandemic arriving in New Zealand was 4.0 per cent.
‘We are working towards making sure we keep unemployment as low as possible,’ finance minister Grant Robertson said.
‘We now want … to establish more economic activity, have people coming back into work and at the same time, work on those recovery plans that start to redeploy people to different industries, retrain people.’
The best-case forecast relies on New Zealand loosening the screws of its severe lockdown next week, before spending another month at a Level 3 alert.
That scenario relies on borders being closed to foreign visitors ‘for up to 12 months’.
New Zealand COVID-19 alert levels
Level 1: Prepare
Border entry measures to minimise risk of importing COVID-19 cases applied
Stringent self-isolation and quarantine
Intensive testing for COVID-19
Physical distancing encouraged
Mass gatherings over 500 cancelled
Stay home if you’re sick, report flu-like symptoms
Wash and dry hands, cough into elbow, don’t touch your face
Level 3: Restrict
Travel in areas with clusters or community transmission limited
Affected educational facilities closed
Mass gatherings cancelled
Public venues closed (e.g. libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks)
Alternative ways of working required and some non-essential businesses should close
Non face-to-face primary care consultations
Non acute (elective) services and procedures in hospitals deferred and healthcare staff reprioritised
Level 2: Reduce
Entry border measures maximised
Further restrictions on mass gatherings
Physical distancing on public transport Limit non-essential travel around New Zealand
Employers start alternative ways of working if possible
Business continuity plans activated
High-risk people advised to remain at home (e.g. those over 70 or those with other existing medical conditions)
Level 4: Eliminate
People instructed to stay at home
Educational facilities closed
Businesses closed except for essential services (e.g. supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics) and lifeline utilities
Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities
Travel severely limited
Major reprioritisation of healthcare services
Police stop vehicles to heading north on state highway one at Warkworth on April 09, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand