17 Mar 2020

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

7:57 pm on 17 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 four new confirmed cases of Covid-19 coronavirus in New Zealand today as the country's efforts to tackle the spread of the virus escalated.

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

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Photo: RNZ

New cases

There were earlier announced to be three new cases - all male -of the Covid-19 coronavirus in New Zealand, all of whom are returned travellers, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed today. Two of the new cases are in Wellington and one is in Dunedin.

But just before 8pm, the Ministry of Health confirmed another case, the Dunedin man's son. The boy's high school, Logan Park, will now close for two days.

It brings the total confirmed cases to 12.

The man in Dunedin is in his 40s and began to show symptoms five days after returning from Germany. Two of his family members also have Covid-19 symptoms and are in self isolation.

The Wellington cases were a man in his 30s and his father in his 70s who had recently returned from the United States and neither of them require hospital care. There were about 500 Covid-19 tests conducted today.

A traveller who arrived in Christchurch yesterday was unwilling to self-isolate and is scheduled to be deported. Two travellers are also in custody after failure to self-isolate.

$12.1 billion rescue package

Businesses will receive the lion's share of a $12.1bn economic rescue package as New Zealand responds to the Covid-19 crisis.

Beneficiaries and superannuitants will also get a cash bonus with a permanent increase to main benefit rates and a one-off doubling of the Winter Energy Payment this year.

Senior ministers announced the stimulus economic package at Parliament today, saying it will take effect immediately.

The biggest boost is $5.1bn towards wage subsidies for affected businesses in all sectors and regions, which kicks in today.

Beneficiaries will also get a permanent increase of $25 a week in the hand, and the Winter Energy Payment, which beneficiaries and superannuitants receive, will be doubled this year.

Together that will cost $2.8bn, while another $2.8bn is being invested in business tax changes to free up cashflow.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the package was about "cashflow and confidence''.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Mayor self-isolates

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick at her home self isolating amid the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick at her home. Photo: Rotorua Daily Post / Stephen Parker via LDR

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick has gone into voluntary self-isolation at her home in Kawaha Point after she went to Canberra last week for the Australian Kapa Haka competition, which she attended with Minister for Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta and Australian High Commissioner Annette King.

She has voluntarily self-isolated - enforced isolation for travellers kicked in on Monday - and is not showing symptoms.

Mahuta has also gone into self-isolation and was asymptomatic.

Music industry shocked

A new website dedicated to measuring the impacts of Covid-19 on Australian and New Zealand live music, I Lost My Gig, reports $25 million was lost in a span of 24 hours and 84,000 jobs impacted as a direct result of cancelled events in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

MusicHelps general manager Peter Dickens said the situation had really hit home for the music industry over the weekend.

"I think a a lot of the industry is really kind of stunned and looking around at the moment and working out how to make sense of all of this."

There's very little room for people in the music industry to absorb shocks, he said.

Care homes access restricted

Photo of elderly man on wheelchair and his private carer

Residents' movements outside facilities are also restricted to urgent outings. Photo: 123RF

All Radius Care facilities around the country are restricting visitors' access to help protect the rest home chain's elderly residents from Covid-19.

In a letter to families, chief executive Brien Cree said the organisation was taking this precaution to keep loved ones safe and healthy and limit the spread of coronavirus.

"In response to the risks facing the people in our care, Radius Care will limit visits from anyone who is not a staff member or resident of its 22 facilities across New Zealand from today," he said.

Principals' concern over absentees

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Principals are frustrated that parents are refusing to send their children to school for fear of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

They say families are over-reacting because there is no community transmission of the virus.

Principals' Federation president Perry Rush said he had been told of four cases of families deciding to keep their children home.

He said children should go to school and people should not panic one another.

"The virus is being successfully managed at the moment. It's not being spread person-to-person and I would just encourage parents to be thinking carefully about the importance of continuing to see their child go to school. Attendance every day that a school is open is really vital," he said.

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

Tourists to be deported

Health Minister David Clark says tourists flouting the self-isolation requirements are being sought by police.

During her post-Cabinet press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said any tourists that enter New Zealand after 16 March and don't quarantine would be deported. Dr Clark reiterated Ardern's comments on Morning Report.

"We absolutely are interested in any information on anybody that is looking to flout the arrangements that are in place and we will deport them.

"We make no apology, people who are not going to abide by the way we are doing things are not welcome in New Zealand," he said.

Two travellers from South East Asia are in custody after failing to comply with self-isolation requirements and are facing possible deportation.

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