22 Apr 2020

Covid 19: What happened in New Zealand on 22 April

6:57 pm on 22 April 2020

Six new cases of Covid-19 and a further death were revealed today, data showed most New Zealanders continue to abide by level 4 restrictions, and a district health board says damp and unchanged PPE was likely to blame for staff outbreak.

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Photo: RNZ / AFP

At today's media briefing, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the six new cases - all confirmed cases - were related to travel or connected to existing clusters.

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.

Dr Bloomfield said the latest death was a woman in her 80s, who was a resident of the Rosewood rest home and had underlying health conditions. It brings the total death toll to 14.

The new cases today bring the combined total of confirmed and probable cases to 1451. Dr Bloomfield said 1036 people have recovered from the coronavirus, with 401 case still active.

He said 11 people are in hospital, two of those are in ICU. The patients are in a stable condition.

A record number of tests were carried out yesterday - 5289 - bringing the total number of tests to 94,467.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 2403 people are in government-provided facilities. The number in quarantine is 97, with the remainder in isolation.

*See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Kiwis abide lockdown rules - mostly

Global data collected by Google shows most New Zealanders are continuing to abide by level 4 restrictions, despite an increase in lockdown breaches and convictions.

Google is releasing the anonymised data, collected through location history on people's mobile phones, every week during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest update, containing data through to 11 April, showed there had been no significant change in the average number of trips New Zealanders were making to supermarkets, parks, workplaces and other regular haunts.

However, police say nearly 4000 people have breached the lockdown restrictions, many in the days before the prime minister announced the change next week to alert level 3.

As the country entered the final week of alert level 4, there were increased reports of people stepping out of their bubbles, congregating in public areas and not obeying physical distancing rules.

As at 6pm yesterday, there have been 4128 breaches of the CDEM and Health Acts, 433 prosecutions, 3580 official warnings and 115 youth referrals.

The number of breaches stood at 2729 on 18 April and the quickly rising numbers show police are now often recording hundreds of breaches per day.

'PPE breach' blamed for workers catching Covid-19

Canterbury District Health Board says damp and unchanged personal protective equipment (PPE) was likely to blame for three of its healthcare workers getting Covid-19.

Health workers take part in ICU training for Covid-19 at Hutt Hospital.

Health workers take part in ICU training for Covid-19 at Hutt Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The staff tested positive for the virus last week, after caring for the coronavirus patients from Rosewood Rest Home and Hospital, and helping move some of them to Burwood Hospital in Christchurch.

Technical experts from the health board had been investigating how the staff became unwell, and today the health board said a "PPE breach" was the most likely scenario.

Incident controller Dr Sue Nightingale said on 6 April when the patients were transferred, some staff were unable to change PPE as frequently as recommended.

At that time, RNZ understands staff only had access to paper masks, rather than the full-filter N95 masks. The health board moved to provide them with those masks, and visors more than a week later on 15 April.

The health board says staff caring for Rosewood residents now change their PPE at least every two hours, and a buddy system has been introduced to ensure they use PPE correctly.

Queenstown renters struggle with costs

Queenstown residents are urging landlords to consider mortgage holidays as tenants face high rents with limited income.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council has adopted a rent relief policy for its tenants and some landlords are offering reduced rent.

But local social services said many are still struggling. This is despite the town's many Airbnb properties currently sitting empty.

Queenstown tourism worker Joshua told RNZ it's not uncommon for rent in the resort town to be roughly half a worker's salary.

He said many people have limited to no income as a result of Covid-19 and can't afford to pay rent.

Meanwhile, Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult is backing calls to extend the jobseeker benefit to migrants during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Salvation Army, Citizens Advice Bureau and the Queenstown and Wānaka Chambers of Commerce have lobbied the Government to extend the benefit to migrants on essential skills, working holiday and student visas.

Boult said the benefit will keep migrant workers' heads above water.

The district's Emergency Operations Centre has received more than 7000 requests for welfare assistance.

Thirty Air NZ staff test positive for Covid-19

Air New Zealand today confirmed that, in total, 30 employees have tested positive for Covid-19.

32178804 - melbourne australia - september 13, 2014: air new zealand check in counter at melbourne airport

Photo: 123rf.com

Checkpoint yesterday reported the airline was keeping secret the number of its staff infected with Covid-19 amid allegations it is not doing enough to keep its workers safe.

The airline's crews who fly internationally continue to be exempt from the strict 14-day quarantine rules for people returning to New Zealand from overseas - with the exception of Los Angeles flights.

On Monday, the airline confirmed crew members had been forced to self-isolate after some staff allegedly disregarded physical distancing rules during a layover in Vancouver.

Documents obtained by Checkpoint showed increasing unease and fear among flight crew staff about the exemption from isolation or quarantine, and the risk it poses to colleagues and the public.

Casual council staff go unpaid during lockdown

Longterm casual council staff - many of whom work at pools, museums, and libraries - are going without pay during the lockdown.

While they are on casual contracts, many had been working the same number of weekly hours for years. A similar situation in DHBs prompted an intervention from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said such staff should be paid.

Councils don't rely on central government for funding but the State Services Commission has issued advice which suggests council workers on long-term casual arrangements with regular hours should continue to be paid. This is also in line with legal opinion.

A Local Government New Zealand spokesman told RNZ it had not been approached by councils for advice about pay for casual staff.

Zero international arrivals to NZ

Today marks the first time in decades that no international passengers will arrive in New Zealand.

The only planned international flight from Tonga to Auckland was cancelled.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts told RNZ it was a symbolic day.

"We've talked about international visitation falling to zero, well now it has precisely done that," Roberts said.

"Tourism is going to be the last industry to recover from this crisis, and we know that recovery is a three to five year recovery horizon.

"It will be the longest recovery for any sector in the country. We've clearly hit the bottom today so the only way is up, it can only get better from here."

Hundreds of passengers were expected to arrive tomorrow, he said.

There were still some domestic passengers today, with Air New Zealand confirming 175 passengers were booked to fly domestically using the airline on 14 flights.

PM rejects small business comments

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has distanced herself from comments made by two of her MPs about small business owners, saying she disagrees with them.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Photo: NZME

Both Employment Minister Willie Jackson and Labour MP Deborah Russell have come under fire for their respective opinions at the Epidemic Response Committee yesterday.

When asking a question of Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Russell suggested businesses in financial strife after only a few weeks in lockdown perhaps lacked strength as a business in the first place.

And in response to a question from National's Finance spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, Jackson downplayed the impact of the lockdown on small businesses.

When asked about the comments today, Ardern said she did not share these opinions.

No plans to re-test those with Covid-19

The Health Ministry today said it has no plans to routinely re-test people for Covid-19 after they have recovered from the virus.

Scores of people in China and South Korea have tested positive for a second time for the virus, even after recovering from it once.

Health professionals and the Health Ministry have said this may be a result of vestiges of the original infection hanging around, not a new infection.

While it had no plans to routinely re-test people, if someone were to test positive after they had recovered, they would need to self-isolate again, the ministry said.

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