15 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Coronavirus developments in New Zealand on 15 April

9:32 pm on 15 April 2020

Today marked several milestones on the road to the new normal: more recoveries than active cases, school restarting, and top officials and ministers taking a pay cut.

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Photo: RNZ

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.

Another 20 cases of Covid-19 today brought New Zealand's total to 1386, with no new deaths.

The day marks a milestone with more people having recovered from the coronavirus than are known to be still infected, i.e. more than half of New Zealand's total cases have recovered.

However, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield warned New Zealand was "still not out of the woods" and it did not mean any Health Ministry efforts against the virus would be downgraded.

  • 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

Health and aged care in the spotlight

After yesterday's news of four more deaths, with six of the country's nine deaths from Covid-19 so far linked to a Christchurch rest home, the Chief Ombudsman plans to fast-track an inspection of aged care facilities.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield at a media briefing at Parliament about the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield Photo: Pool / NZME

Canterbury DHB's chief executive David Meates this morning defended the Rosewood home, saying the care they had been provided was "exemplary".

"I think it's an issue in terms of these are very complex, vulnerable, high level dementia unit residents and they require special people to work in there at any time," he said.

"When you have a virus like this it is particularly challenging to isolate them and to separate them to prevent further spread."

The largest cluster of Covid-19 cases is now one related to an aged care facility in Auckland, Dr Bloomfield said today.

He said 115 of the cases in New Zealand were health care workers, but less than five were confirmed to have been infected by a patient they were caring for.

Indeed, people are being urged to still make use of health services, with concerns that lives could be lost through people failing to seek treatment for non-Covid-19 conditions during the pandemic.

Help for Whanganui District Health Board with supply of PPE came from what some may consider an unexpected quarter, with Auckland's UFC mixed martial arts world champion Israel Adesanya paying for 10,000 masks and 1000 face shields.

DHBs also apologised "for the misunderstanding" today after the Prime Minister made clear to them that "casual" staff who had their hours cut should still be paid.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump has moved to cut the country's funding of the World Health Organisation.

US President Donald Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 13, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Photo: AFP

Trump said the WHO should have had more specialists in China earlier to contain the outbreak, and said the world was given much false information about mortality and the organisation "must be held accountable".

The US has more than 614,000 infections from Covid-19, with more than 2200 new deaths on Tuesday alone bringing the US toll above 28,300, more than any other country on both counts.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark told RNZ's Checkpoint Trump's decision was "foolish".

Getting back up to speed

The "new normal" continues to settle in, with the first day of classes for thousands of New Zealand children, but without the classrooms.

Oskar Graham-Smith connects up with his class from Rawhiti School in Christchurch this morning for learning at home during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Oskar Graham-Smith connects up with his class from Rawhiti School in Christchurch this morning for learning at home during the Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Photo / Rachel Graham

Teachers and pupils had just two weeks of school holidays to prepare for the mass switch to remote lockdown-learning today and those who spoke to RNZ said it had gone well.

On the economic front, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said that when the lockdown was lowered to alert level 3, the emphasis would move from allowing only "essential" economic activity to "safe" economic activity.

In his speech to Business New Zealand today, he said guidance would be released tomorrow giving more detail on the medium term for businesses and workers heading out of lockdown.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson

Finance Minister Grant Robertson Photo: Pool / NZME

In a show of solidarity with those affected by the virus, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she, government ministers and heads of departments would take a six-month 20 percent pay cut.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges and the State Services Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner are all taking the same cuts, and ACT leader David Seymour was drafting legislation to extend the cut to all MPs - something the Prime Minister did not have authority to do alone.

Meanwhile, the media was the topic of the day at the Epidemic Response Committee, with Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi and various media bosses called on to discuss the impacts on broadcasters and publishers.

They said it was clear that while Covid-19 had exacerbated the problems media organisations were facing, the industry's woes were not wholly caused by the virus.

In the government's daily media briefing, Ardern said support for commercial media struggling due to Covid-19 would be done in two stages, with the first - likely within the coming week - to focus on what companies needed immediately to get through the crisis.

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