New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that over the next 48 hours the country will move to its highest coronavirus alert level and shut down all nonessential services and schools in an attempt to slow the spread of the new virus.

Ardern said the alert level is being raised in response to the confirmation of community transmission of the virus in New Zealand, which has currently recorded 102 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

"If community transmission takes off in New Zealand, the number of cases will double every five days. If that happens unchecked, our health system will be inundated, and thousands of New Zealanders will die," she said in the capital Wellington.

Under the new restrictions, supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open and public transport will be available for people undertaking essential services and transport of freight only.

Ardern said the restrictions will be in place for four weeks.

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