Aotearoa New Zealand government communication during the 2020 lockdown

25 May 2021, updated 6 October 2021

Aotearoa New Zealand’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is considered one of the best in the world. A major component of the government response was the communication of public health measures. In this paper, we approach Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s daily press briefings with the Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield as a case study of government communication during a public health crisis.

A reflexive thematic analysis leads us to identify three key themes:

  1. Open, honest and straightforward communication
  2. Distinctive and motivational language
  3. Expressions of care

Situating our findings in the fields of crisis communication, science communication and psychology, we argue that the messages presented in the 2020 daily briefings supported the New Zealand Government’s COVID-19 elimination strategy through building trust with the audience and framing the ‘lockdown’ as an urgent, collective and meaningful cause, mobilising New Zealanders to support public health measures.