Ardern: Call out COVID rulebreakers

Jacinda Ardern says she understands New Zealanders' frustrations over the latest COVID-19 breaches.
Jacinda Ardern says she understands New Zealanders' frustrations over the latest COVID-19 breaches.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has a new twist on her "Be Kind" mantra, now urging Kiwis to call out COVID rule breakers, but with kindness.

Anger is mounting within Auckland at the city's latest lockdown; the fourth during the pandemic and the second in a month.

Ms Ardern's government ordered the snap lockdown late on Saturday night in response to lingering cases from the Valentine's Day outbreak.

ASB Bank estimates the lockdown, scheduled for seven days, will cost New Zealand's economy roughly $NZ240 million ($A225 million).

It has already cost thousands of Kiwis their Sundays, trapped in lengthy queues to move in and out of city borders as police re-establish checkpoints.

It has also cancelled regular schooling and re-arranged or cancelled many events, including Auckland Pride and Australian cricket and netball tours of New Zealand.

But most anger is being directed towards a handful of unnamed Aucklanders who broke with orders to isolate before testing positive to the deadly virus.

"Someone said to me 'I'm in the seven stages of grief and I'm lingering on anger'. I totally get that," Ms Ardern told Radio NZ on Monday.

Ms Ardern, famous for her leadership pledge to maintain "relentless positivity", made no attempt to hide her frustration at the situation.

"It is not appropriate and it is not okay, for members of the team of five million to let the rest of us down," she said.

Still, there is confusion as to whether the infected Aucklanders understood the rules.

Newshub reports one of the Kiwis to test positive - who went to work at an Auckland KFC before learning their test result - wasn't told the rules.

That woman has asked for an apology from the PM.

The tense situation has led many - including the opposition - to call for stronger enforcement of isolation, and punishments for rule-breakers.

On that point, Ms Ardern is deferring to police to use their powers as appropriate, rather than jumping on the bandwagon.

However, she has summoned New Zealanders to have hard conversations with each other if they see wrongdoing.

"That means calling a family member or work colleague out for not following the rules," she said.

"Do it with kindness, but do it."

Health authorities announced no new cases of the deadly virus in the community on Monday.

While that is good news, it does not mean that Auckland's outbreak is contained.

As contact tracers are only just swinging into action around the new cases' closest contacts, they are yet to identify, test or process many of the people at most risk.

Australian Associated Press