16 Mar 2020

Covid-19: Key details and developments to know from today

7:43 pm on 16 March 2020

As Covid-19 spreads around the world, it can be daunting keeping up with the information. For RNZ, our responsibility is to give you verified, up to the minute, trustworthy information to help you make decisions about your lives and your health. We'll also be asking questions of officials and decision makers about how they're responding to the virus. Our aim is to keep you informed.

There were no new confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19 coronavirus in New Zealand on Monday as the country's efforts to tackle the spread of the virus kicked into another gear.

No caption

Photo: RNZ

Here, we bring you a summary of the day's Covid-19 news so you can stay informed about major developments.

Travel restrictions

The day began with tough new travel restrictions kicking in at 1am in an effort to curb the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Every traveller who landed in New Zealand will now be met by a health official at the airport with instructions on how to manage two weeks in isolation.

The travel restrictions now in place have been welcomed by microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles.

Dr Wiles said they were "exactly what we need right now".

"What we need is everybody to come together and stop nitpicking and worrying, because if you are worried about how these measures are going to impact our economy and stuff, you are not looking at what is happening overseas."

She said the tipping point would be if there was transmission within the community. She said New Zealanders needed to expect months and months of a change in the way they lived and worked.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

Buying time critical

And the man who led New Zealand's response to the last global pandemic said buying time was critical to how Covid-19 would impact on New Zealand.

Dr Mark Jacobs was the director general of health during the 2009 swine flu epidemic in which 49 people in New Zealand died and more than 1100 were hospitalised.

The pandemic plan used at the time is the basis of the Ministry of Health's plan for the Covid-19 coronavirus.

School closure plans discussed

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has been discussing closure plans with schools.

In its bulletin to principals today, the ministry said its staff would call today and tomorrow to ask principals about their school's ability to teach children online if they were asked to close.

The message said ministry staff would ask principals if their teachers would be able to provide online learning, how many students did not have their own devices, and how many did not have a home internet connection.

Ministry staff were also meeting today with school leaders to discuss the response to Covid-19.

Tourism industry battling

The tourism industry warned it was in survival mode, with businesses already feeling the effects of the latest travel restrictions looking ahead to the government's support package.

The industry said tens of thousands of jobs could be on the line over the coronavirus.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts told RNZ's Morning Report international visitors would normally be spending $350 million a week.

"We are looking at that going down to zero within a few days," he said.

On the topic of job losses, Air NZ is likely to cut its workforce by 30 percent - meaning up to 3500 employees could potentially lose their jobs.

PM outlines latest measures

In her post-Cabinet media conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed a number of new steps being taken.

Cabinet had agreed today that gatherings of 500 or more people in New Zealand would now not go ahead.

"This applies to non-essential events such as festivals, fairs, sporting, religious and cultural events," Ardern said. There would be further information on rules around gatherings later in the week.

In addition, Ardern said Cabinet had given approval for temporary visa holders for those entering into New Zealand to be liable for detention and deportation if they did not comply with instructions from a medical officer of health relating to a quantifiable or infectious disease.

She added that preliminary Treasury advice was that the economic impact of Covid-19 could be greater than Global Financial Crisis.

Ardern also said she will no longer travel to Vietnam in April for the ASEAN meeting.

Medicine, vaccine supply disruptions likely

Drug buying agency Pharmac warned further disruptions to medicine supplies were inevitable, as measures were taken to restrict the spread of Covid-19.

Pharmac's director of operations Lisa Williams told Checkpoint: "It's inevitable there are going to be disruptions to supply, whether or not that's due to manufacturing being reduced overseas, or because of supply chains," Williams said.

"But the buffer that we have in New Zealand of product will help us manage those."

Fears local sports clubs may fold

Sports events and competitions across the globe are either being cancelled or going ahead in empty stadiums to avoid mass gatherings, and New Zealand sports are being hit, too.

Sports management expert and senior AUT lecturer Richard Wright said the business of sport was being thrown into disarray, from sponsors who rely on fans in the stands to clubs that rely on memberships.

Wright said smaller clubs couldn't plan for such an unprecedented situation and some may be forced to close.

"It is likely, the key thing is we don't know how long it is going to last. If it keeps going for months, then yes I can see it's very likely some sports organisations won't be able to survive this."

Carbon emissions drop

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lead author Professor Alistair Woodward said global emissions were dropping - for now.

But it was likely a temporary drop, he said.

The drop in emissions was most evident in China. Figures from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air show emissions have dropped by 25 percent.

Just how much New Zealand's emissions will be cut remains to be seen, but Climate Change Minister James Shaw said it would be what happened when the economies grind back into gear that would matter the most.

"Any effect is only going to be temporary, so we need to stay focused on permanent solutions."

He stressed that New Zealand needed to focus on cutting emissions in ways that weren't connected to economic slowdowns.

How to run a country in a pandemic

The House took a look at how the country would run if we had a domestic lock-down and couldn't get to Wellington to do their job.

For a blow-by-blow summary of how the day's coronavirus news played out, including further details and news from around the world, look back over RNZ's blog.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs