17 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Coronavirus developments in New Zealand on 17 April

7:36 pm on 17 April 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 eight new Covid-19 cases identified in New Zealand on Friday, along with two more deaths.

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay speaking at the briefing for a Covid-19 daily update on 17 April, 2020.

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay speaking at the briefing for a Covid-19 daily update on 17 April, 2020. Photo: Pool / NZME

New Zealand's death toll from Covid-19 is now 11. The total number of cases in New Zealand is now 1409.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

The two deaths were a man in his 90s connected to the Matamata cluster and a woman in her 80s who was a resident at the Rosewood rest home. The total number of deaths at the Rosewood rest home is now seven.

Of the eight new cases, two are confirmed and six probable.

It's the first time the combined number of confirmed and probable cases were in single figures since mid March.

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said 816 reported cases have recovered, an increase of 46.

She said 14 people are in hospital with Covid-19. Three are in ICU, two remain in a critical condition.

4241 test were processed yesterday, with 74,401 total tests.

The number of clusters remains the same at 16.

At the daily briefing, Finance minister Grant Robertson offered his condolences to the families of the two deceased who were not able to be with them when they died.

He reminded New Zealand that just because the level 3 lockdown guidelines were announced yesterday, it did not mean the public could start behaving like the country was in level 3.

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson speaking at the briefing for a Covid-19 daily update on 17 April, 2020.

Finance minister Grant Robertson. Photo: Pool / NZME

Robertson said Cabinet had not made its decision yet on what level New Zealand will be in once the four weeks is up, as it is was still waiting on more data before making its decision.

"This is a long game - a marathon, not a short sprint."

He said the Wage Subsidy Scheme had paid out $9.9 billion since it was set up on 17 March.

Wage subsidy complaints soar, including employer fraud

While the payouts for the wage subsidy scheme nears $10bn, the number of official complaints about it have skyrocketed, with 800 being laid in the space of just nine days.

Of those, the Labour Inspectorate says nine involve fraud, a number it expects to grow in the coming weeks.

A worker, who has asked not to be identified, says she was originally told by her employer she would be kept on and given the wage subsidy.

But a few days later the story changed and she was told she would instead need to use up her annual leave.

Read the full story here.

One of several checkpoints along the East Coast's State Highway 35 to stop people travelling during the covid-19 outbreak

One of several checkpoints along the East Coast's State Highway 35 to stop people travelling during the covid-19 outbreak Photo: supplied

Covid-19 deadlier for Māori, Pasifika - modelling predicts

Covid-19 could be twice as deadly for Māori communities if the virus spreads in New Zealand - and the risk is even higher for older Māori and Pasifika, new research has found.

The modelling, published today by a group of New Zealand researchers, also found that high death rates were likely to kick in at a lower age - with Māori in their 60s at more risk than Pākehā in their 80s.

The researchers said the rates they calculated showed restrictions should not be one-size-fits-all and that officials should work with local communities to protect at-risk groups.

They estimated the death rate for Māori would be between 1.15 and 1.66 percent - compared to an overall estimated death rate in New Zealand of 0.81 percent.

The research also showed an increased risk for Pasifika populations if underlying conditions were more important than age.

The differences for Māori and Pasifika were even more dramatic in older age groups.

The estimated death rate for people in their 60s and 70s was 7.9 percent for Māori and 5.5 percent for Pasifika, compared to an overall rate of 2.8 percent.

For those 80 and older, it was 13.9 percent for Māori - one in seven people - and 11.8 percent for Pasifika - one in nine people - compared to 6.8 percent overall.

Read the full story here.

Christchurch's mobile testing station for Covid-19 coronavirus at Pak n Save on Moorhouse Ave.

Christchurch's mobile testing station for Covid-19 coronavirus at Pak n Save on Moorhouse Ave. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Random testing to give insight into Covid-19 spread

Last minute - sometimes random - testing is being done in a handful of areas as the Ministry of Health looks to fill gaps in its Covid-19 data.

Epidemiologists advising the Ministry of Health asked for more testing in Queenstown, parts of Waikato, Auckland and Canterbury.

Waikato has 106 active cases, 71 of them around Matamata, while Waitemata (the north and west of Auckland) had 105.

Hundreds of shoppers were swabbed in Queenstown yesterday in the first major drive to test people without symptoms. The town has had a relatively high rate of Covid-19, and was home to one of the early clusters - the World Hereford Conference.

Today, a mobile testing station for Covid-19 coronavirus was set up at the Pak n Save on Moorhouse Ave in Christchurch.

In Auckland, two more mobile clinics were due to be launched this week - in west and north Auckland.

A decision was yet to be made about whether there would be random or sentinel testing.

Read the full story here.

Kiwi researchers lead clinical drug trials to tackle Covid-19

New Zealand researchers are doing their part in leading major clinical trials to test drugs for the prevention and treatment of Covid-19.

The three trials are being led by the Medical Research Institute with almost $1 million of funding from the state-run Health Research Council of New Zealand.

The first trial will test 16 drugs, including hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and steroids, on thousands of patients in intensive care with Covid-19-related pneumonia, across 15 countries.

In the second trial, the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine will be given to 70 people with the virus in Wellington and Auckland who do not require hospital treatment.

The volunteer patients will be required to document their symptoms for 28 days.

Researchers are looking to see if it prevents the virus from spreading to their lungs and other organs.

This clinical trial will begin if there is an increase in the rate of Covid-19 infections in the country later in the year.

Read the full story here.

Promoters target October for resumption of concerts

Ticket holders for live events indefinitely postponed due to Covid-19 are frustrated that they can't get a refund.

The Commerce Commission has issued guidelines after fielding complaints and queries about live shows.

But promoters say they don't have to offer refunds until a postponed event has a new date and possibly a new venue.

With so many unknowns around the future of live events, it may take a while before this happens - or a decision is made to cancel.

The president of the New Zealand Promoters' Association Brent Eccles told Morning Report if a show is postponed, the promoter's intention is to stage it on another date but with international artists there was the complication of when borders would be reopened.

Once new dates were announced, fans would be able to ask for refunds, however, Eccles urged people to remember they bought their tickets in the hope of seeing an artist, so they should work with promoters who wanted to deliver.

There would be an immediate refund for cancellations.

Read the full story here.

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