Eight new cases, two new deaths

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There are eight new confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand and two more people have died, bringing the coronavirus death toll into double digits.

Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay gave an update this afternoon with Minister of Finance Grant Robertson.

The death toll from coronavirus is now 11.

One of the new deaths occurred in Waikato Hospital – a man in 90s who died yesterday.

He was admitted on Saturday night “very unwell”. His infection was linked to the Matamata cluster.

A woman in her 80s died in Burwood Hospital and was among the group moved from Rosewood rest home, one of New Zealand’s clusters. Seven people from Rosewood have now died. Five other cases who remain stable in hospital.

The total number of confirmed and probable cases of the virus in New Zealand is now at 1409.

There are 816 cases which have recovered from the virus which was up by 46 in the last 24 hours.

There are 14 people in hospital and three of those are in intensive care, she said.

Of those three, two of them are in a critical condition, she said.

There are 16 clusters of the virus, the number remains unchanged from yesterday.

Yesterday, 4241 tests were processed.

Teams in Queenstown, Waikato and Canterbury will be doing targeted testing to get more information about community transmission.

Half of yesterday’s 343 tests from the supermarket in Queenstown have been processed and to date they were all negative for the virus, she said.

A further 250 will be tested at a supermarket in Waikato.

We all need to continue to play our part to break the chain of transmission and stay home and safe lives, McElnay said.

New level 3 details revealed

Cabinet will decide on Monday when to drop to alert level 3.

Information about what it will look like, released yesterday by the Prime Minister, was not an invitation to adopt the measures yet, Robertson said.

When asked about whether the Government was considering staying at level 4, he said there was more work to be done.

The rules state that people should work from home if possible, people can expand their bubbles “a small amount” and only regional travel is permitted.

Schools will be open for younger children up to and including year 10 but attendance was voluntary.

Robertson revealed that schools will have at least a week after the announcement of level 4 being lifted before they would open so they could prepare.

Teachers have hit out saying they weren’t consulted and do not want to be treated as babysitters. Robertson said they were consulting with those “on the chalk face”.

When asked if he saw teachers as babysitters, he said: “We absolutely still want children to learn.”

Some parents may not be able to keep their children learning at home.

“This is about making sure their children continue to get education as well.”

Robertson said the creation of bubbles within schools would help manage Covid-19 by having physical distancing.

On 20 children attending an early childhood centre, McElnay said they were working through advice and was working with the sector.

Robertson also revealed an “error” had been made about hunting being banned under level 3. It wasn’t banned and the Government was working on what the risks were and a decision was yet to be made.

Level 3 is not “markedly different” from alert level 4, Robertson said. It just allowed more businesses to open and “is not a return to pre-Covid days” and we were still a long way from that.

“There is more mahi to do.”

For people wanting to move to their holiday homes at level 3, that’s not permitted. People could move home, one way once.

On which sports could resume and when, at level 3 there was no scope for sports. At level 2 there was more work to establish what was possible.

On the NRL’s plans to cross the Tasman later this month, Robertson said he hadn’t been involved in any discussions but the start date sounded “very ambitious” to him.

Robertson said being in single digits in terms of the new cases announced was encouraging but there was more work to do, for example with contact tracing.

Those processes needed to be in place before moving down an alert level.

Wage subsidies

He reminded New Zealanders that Treasury’s scenarios showed staying at alert level 4 and 3 longer was better than having to move back into lockdown later on.

He said 9.9 billion paid through the wage subsidy scheme. On the complaints about fraud from the scheme, he said they were being investigated and he’d be “very, very disappointed” if businesses were found to have taken advantage of the scheme.

Asked whether the Government was considering a specific hospitality package, Robertson said there would be more support for businesses and they were working with different sectors.

On the International Monetary Fund forecasting an economic bounce back by 2021, Robertson said all of the projections were happening without a lot of data but that was clearly something “we’d all like to see”.

Level 3 allowed parts of the economy to get going and Robertson said in that, he’d hope there were Government projects he’d like to see get going and there were a number of projects which had been identified.

Community testing

Teams in Queenstown, Waikato and Canterbury will be doing targeted testing to get more information about community transmission.

At a supermarket in Queenstown yesterday, 343 people were tested. Half of the tests had been processed and all of those were negative. A further 250 will be tested at a supermarket in Waikato.

People randomly tested in the community are asked to have a test performed and it was voluntary.

We all need to continue to play our part to break the chain of transmission and stay home and safe lives, McElnay said.

The Government’s Covid-19 technical advisory group had advised “hotspots” where there were higher number of cases should be targeted. Those areas were Auckland, Waikato, Canterbury and Queenstown.

They chose supermarkets because workers came into contact with a lot of people.

Robertson said one of the main things they were concerned about was breaking the chain of transmission and random testing would help inform that, alongside thorough contact tracing.

He said a “covid card” was one of the many options the Government was considering.

Two weeks for level 3?

Robertson indicated to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking this morning that level 3 might last only two weeks.

“We’ve used blocks of two weeks because that’s the way that the virus gestates, and so, two week blocks, four week blocks give us a sense of controlling the virus.

“That’s why we said four weeks of level four and similarly we use those kind of blocks because that’s what fits with the advice we have about how the virus gestates.”

He rejected suggestions Australia had done a better job balancing health impacts and the economy, saying New Zealand’s actions had worked well for this country.

“New Zealanders have done a remarkable job of supporting this lockdown… there is still some way to go in completing that job. Clearly we have to keep bringing people with us. It’s why we are getting information out there about level 3, before we have even made the decision about moving there.”

He also rejected an assertion that the hospitality industry had been consigned to carnage. Eateries could operate under level 3 if they met public health guidelines, particularly in regards to physical distancing and contactless services.

If they could not provide services under the level 3 rules, they could prepare for level 2 where they would be allowed to have dine-in customers again.

NZ Herald