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New Zealand Moves Into Self Isolation, Closes Cinemas

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, South
Kerstin Langenberger/imageBROKER/Shutterstock

Film and TV guilds, regional bodies and representatives of leading companies in New Zealand have joined forces to set up a coronavirus crisis center.

The move comes the same day as the government put the entire country into lockdown for four weeks and New Zealand cinemas close for an indefinite period.

The Screen Sector COVID-19 Action Group and its new online information hub are intended to help steer film and TV industry workers through the impact of the coronavirus crisis. The country has only 102 confirmed cases of the virus to date, with only 2 of them believed to have come from local transmission, but mounting travel restrictions have forced the shut down of major international productions including the “Avatar” sequels and Amazon’s “Lord of the Rings” TV series.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the whole country should move into self-isolation mode. She raised a stage 3 alert, and said that the country would move to a stage 4 alert within 48 hours after essential services have had time to adjust.

All bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries and other places where people gather together, are to be closed. “These decisions will place the most significant restriction on New Zealanders’ movements in modern history. Gatherings, indoors or out, and of any shape or size, must be cancelled, ” Ardern said. Essential services including supermarkets, banks, local doctors, pharmacies, fuel stations and couriers can stay open.

“While the indeterminate hiatus of a number of large international line productions has already resulted in job losses, many essential New Zealand productions continue to strive to keep cast and crew safe at work, whilst ensuring their productions remain operational,” the action group wrote, ahead of Ardern’s Monday announcement. The groups’ members include the Weta group companies, Main Reactor, the New Zealand Writers Guild, Film Auckland, and the Screen Production & Development Association.

“The local screen industry eco-system right now is very fragile, and the Screen Sector COVID-19 Action Group recognises the importance of keeping domestic productions operational where possible, or ready to gear back up as quickly as possible should an increase in New Zealand’s COVID-19 Alert level necessitate work stoppages.

A “key priority for the Screen Sector COVID-19 Action Group during this initial phase of the COVID-19 crisis is working closely with key stakeholders, including funding bodies and financiers, to explore the various ways in which the domestic screen production industry can be supported in order to continue working safely during these uncertain times. (The Action Group) will also be looking at funding mechanisms and networks to facilitate training and development opportunities for affected businesses as well as individual crew members, performers, writers and directors,” it said.

These unprecedented times call for calm and proactive decision-making in order to protect the local screen sector and to ensure that when recovery happens – and it will – the industry is ready to operate at maximum capacity again for our domestic productions and so that international line productions can return as soon as it is viable.

In neigboring Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday announced similar tough measures. Australian cinemas, which had remained partially open, were ordered closed from noon Monday.

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