31 Mar 2020

Covid-19 developments in New Zealand for 31 March

8:36 pm on 31 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.

The State of National Emergency has been extended for another seven days as the national Covid-19 lockdown continues and cases increase.

Collage for Covid wrap 31 March

Photo: RNZ

The State of National Emergency is different to the lockdown - that's still in effect for four weeks.

There were 58 new confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, with 74 people now recovered.

There have now been a total of 647 cases in New Zealand.

Today, the number of significant Covid-19 clusters in New Zealand has increased, up to 14 from eight yesterday.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said: "Most of these clusters have a link to someone or several people who have travelled overseas recently... Public health staff quickly follow up confirmed cases as soon as they are identified. They also work to contain clusters and prevent the disease spreading any further."

Those clusters under investigation are:

  • Marist College, Auckland
  • World Hereford Conference, Queenstown
  • Redoubt Bar, Matamata
  • Group travel to US, Wellington
  • Assisi Rest home, Hamilton
  • Wedding, Wellington
  • Air Force rugby team US visit, Blenheim
  • Living Earth, Christchurch
  • Wedding, Bluff
  • Marlborough Alzheimers, Marlborough
  • Hutt City cluster 1, Hutt City
  • Colorado ski-boat builder, Auckland
  • Spectrum care, Auckland
  • Hutt City cluster 2, Hutt City

The MOH defines a cluster as "a group of COVID-19 cases who are linked together because they have been in the same place together".

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Police may get tough on public spaces

Police Commissioner Mike Bush expressed surprise and concern yesterday about the volumes of people trekking to Wellington's Oriental Parade for exercise, and he was reinforcing pleas to stay local.

He told Morning Report there were plans to increase police presence at Oriental Bay if crowds continued to gather.

"There were so many people ... you've got to use your common sense."

Police have not ruled out taking a tougher approach to clear out city hotspots.

Modelling suggests thousands could die

More than 14,000 New Zealanders could die and tens of thousands more could be hospitalised if the country fails in its efforts to stamp out Covid-19, according to new research.

The Otago University projections paint a bleak picture, but are more optimistic than other modelling by the University of Auckland's Te Pūnaha Matatini.

That report concluded that, left unchecked, the virus would infect 89 percent of the population and kill up to 80,000 people.

First Epidemic Response Committee meeting

Top health officials fronted this morning as the Epidemic Response Committee held its first public meeting via video conference.

The committee was set up to ensure the government's response to Covid-19 is still scrutinised while Parliament is adjourned. Read an explainer on the 'most watched committee' here.

Members of the wider government team dealing with the coronavirus response fielded questions from the committee this morning, and you can read what they had to say.

The realities of dealing with the virus

As the virus and lockdown continues, all sorts of issues have arisen - and in some cases dealt with.

For example, thousands of fertility treatments have been cancelled or postponed because the services are not considered essential. That's devastated at least one IVF patient.

On the health side of things, workers looking after people who are disabled are sewing their own face masks to keep themselves safe from Covid-19, and Pharmac will ease restrictions on at least nine cancer drugs.

Meanwhile, supermarkets will be able to employ immigrants without valid work visas under new emergency rules, but uncertainty remains for immigrants who lose their jobs.

WINZ benefits will be paid as usual and the Australian government has included New Zealanders there in its JobKeeper subsidy scheme.

In good news, Fonterra is saying it is in good financial heart and expects to remain so during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the latest ANZ monthly business confidence survey has plunged to record lows.

There was also a dramatic spending drop in first days of the Covid-19 lockdown.

There have been many, many developments today. Despite the majority of the nation being at home, the situation continues to change. You can find out what's taken place here or on other sections of the RNZ website.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs