PM update: Leave scheme for essential workers

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Essential workers who take leave from their jobs to comply with public health guidelines can now access a leave scheme to ensure they continue to receive income.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the scheme is available from next Monday.

The scheme supports any front line workers, who are vulnerable, can remain at home.

Ardern said there had been $4.5 billion paid out to 750,000 people through the wage subsidy scheme.

Close to 115,000 of those were self-employed.

She said there were 13,300 applications just yesterday.

This morning, Bauer media – which published North and South, the ListenerWoman’s Day and other magazines, announced it was closing.

Ardern said she was “gutted” to see Bauer media close its doors.

But she said the company refused the wage subsidy.

“The wage subsidy could and should have made a difference to those staff.”

She said the Government wanted to see the company continue to operate, maybe with more of an online presence.

What will end the lockdown?

Ardern said there are “multiple factors” which will contribute to New Zealand going back down to level three, or lower.

This includes how many clusters there are, and what the level of community transmission is.

‘Expect a call from the police’

Ardern said the Government is relying on every New Zealander to self-isolate.

“There is a level of faith we have to have with everyone,” she said, in response to a question as to why people are not being quarantine at the border.

She said there was a level of reliance on all New Zealanders to follow the rules.

But she pointed out that anyone who is symptomatic is quarantined – “not put in a hotel, quarantined”.

The Government will be checking on people arriving in New Zealand – if they don’t respond, they can expect a call in from the Police, Ardern said.

She said the “large numbers” of New Zealanders coming home is starting to trail away.

Ardern stressed that the monitoring system, announced by Police Commissioner Mike Bush, was voluntary – the Government can’t make people use it, she said.

The Police would be knocking on the door of those who opt not to be a part of the voluntary system.

However, she said most people have opted in.

New WhatsApp Covid-19 channel

A Government WhatsApp channel has been launched to help make information more easily accessible and shareable in the fight against Covid-19.

Function includes:
• Latest updates and news
• Latest case information
• COVID-19 symptoms
• What financial support is available
• Things people need to do to unite against Covid-19

Ardern said since so many Kiwis already have WhatsApp, the Government didn’t consider building its own app.

Ardern will also be asked about the Government’s Covid-19 efforts, after Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said this afternoon New Zealand was not yet “flattening the curve”.

He confirmed there are 89 new cases of coronavirus in New Zealand – the most recorded in a single day so far.

Bloomfield said it will be another week before the nationwide lockdown will have observable effects on the numbers.

The 89 new cases of Covid-19 are made up of 76 confirmed cases and 13 probable cases. It brings the total to 797 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Just 1% of cases are considered to be community transmission – but Bloomfield expects that number to rise.

Seventeen per cent of cases are still being investigated. Bloomfield says many of those are expected to be community transmission.

NZ Herald