7 May 2020

Covid-19: Developments in New Zealand on 7 May

7:01 pm on 7 May 2020

Among today's developments, the prime minister unveiled details around the much anticipated level 2, an exemption from border restrictions for international students may be on the cards, and support for sports has been a big focus.

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.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during the Covid-19 update and media conference on 7 May, 2020.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during the Covid-19 update and media conference on 7 May, 2020. Photo: Pool / NZME

The Ministry of Health has reported just one new confirmed case of Covid-19 today, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 1489. Meanwhile, 89 percent of those cases - or 1332 people - have now recovered.

The latest case was a household contact of a confirmed case linked to the Matamata cluster.

Waikato District Health Board said it was considering testing asymptomatic contacts of recent cases linked to the Matamata cluster who have never been tested, but it was not able to offer voluntary testing.

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The Redoubt Bar in Matamata that has been linked to one of the clusters of Covid-19 in the country. Photo: Google Maps

Two people are in hospital but there are no patients in Intensive Care Units, and the death toll remains at 21.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said a review of 32 exemption cases to leave mandatory isolation early on compassionate grounds had now been completed.

The review found that all of the decisions were made correctly, however, some would have had a different outcome if assessed against the new criteria.

Dr Bloomfield said the ministry had published an updated review on mass masking, which would be referred to the technical advisory group.

The key finding in the review continued to say evidence on masking of the public on a mass scale was inconclusive - with both risks and benefits.

Read more on mass masking here.

Meanwhile, a new Covid-19 screening survey for rest home residents has been launched, expecting to trigger more testing of new, returning or discharged residents.

Details of alert level 2 revealed

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed how the country and businesses will operate under alert level 2.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Covid-19 media conference on 7 May, 2020.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Covid-19 media conference on 7 May, 2020. Photo: Pool / NZME

Cabinet will make the decision on Monday if the country will exit alert level 3.

However, Ardern warned that the country may not immediately emerge from this level to the next but instead could take a phased approach to reach a lower level.

She said it was unlikely that every single case of the virus had been identified which was why we all need to stay on guard, and the "hunt to find any burning embers of the virus" will continue.

"It doesn't mean the war is over," Ardern said in regards to the expected decision next week.

"Level 2 is our safer normal, not a return to business as usual ... We think of ourselves as half way down [Mt] Everest, I think it's clear that no-one wants to hike back up that peak. The descent is known to be even more dangerous."

Under alert level 2, people will also no longer need to stick to their bubbles, but Ardern urged people to hang on to the same principles and keep numbers small with limited physical contact.

When meeting with people outside your bubble, "keep your germs to yourself", Dr Bloomfield advised.

In regards to hongi, Dr Bloomfield said the relevant iwis will issue level 2 advice on that. Meanwhile, Eastern Bay of Plenty iwi Te Whānau ā Apanui has not ruled out continued community checkpoints under level 2.

All forms of education will be able to re-open with hygiene measures.

Crowds or gatherings will be limited to a 100 people maximum, both indoors and outdoors.

Domestic travel will be allowed, and retail stores, hospitality and hairdressers can re-open with public health measures in place.

Each business will have to work out their own plans to mitigate risks appropriate to their setting, but maintaing hygiene was non-negotiable, she said.

A Berlin hairdresser cuts the hair of a regular customer in his salon, while a notice on the mirror indicates that hygiene rules must be observed.

Hairdressers in Germany have also implemented use of PPE after easing of restrictions. Photo: Jörg Carstensen / DPA / AFP

Hairdressers and beauticians will need to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, considering the workers' proximity to customers.

Restaurants and bars can only open if they follow the three main rules - seating (all those entering should be seated), separation (physical distancing must continue to be observed between tables) and single server for each table.

Water activities and professional sports will be able to resume, although there will be no stadium crowds due to the gathering limit rule.

The Attorney-General is looking into how the rules at level 2 will be enforced, Ardern said.

Read more on what you need to know about level 2 here.

Exemption for international students on the line

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins is flagging the possibility of allowing international students back into New Zealand before the border reopens.

Young students wear face masks in the arrivals hall at Hong Kong's international airport on January 22, 2020.

Young students wear face masks in the arrivals hall at Hong Kong's international airport on January 22, 2020. Photo: Anthony Wallace / AFP

In Ardern's announcement today of level 2 details, she said the borders would remain shut to all but returning Kiwis and managed isolation would continue.

However, Hipkins later said an exemption for international students was something the government was "working through with the sector".

"It is possible that we'll be able to put a quarantine arrangements in place for international students coming into New Zealand that sees them quarantining for two weeks, that way we know that when they come into wider New Zealand society they are Covid free."

He said unlike tourists who were coming for just short stay, international students would usually be here for a year or more.

"And so the two weeks of quarantine that they may need to do, that they would need to do at the beginning of their arrival isn't as much of a barrier as it is for tourism.

"So it's quite possible we'll be able to work with international education providers to manage quarantine at the beginning of, say, a year's worth of study so that they can come into New Zealand."

There was "work to do to make that happen", Hipkins said.

Vaccine and ventilator projects receive govt funding

The government has begun allocating $25 million to create products and services that will aid in the fight against Covid-19.

Housing Minister Megan Woods

Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Megan Woods. Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

So far the Covid-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund has put money towards a new kind of ventilator, a thermal camera screening device, and early vaccine research.

Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Megan Woods said the funding would go towards ideas and projects that will reach fruition in six to 12 months.

She said there was also "some tracking stuff" that was part of the funding, including those on small scale like workplace tracking.

Sports relief package announced, and leaders address concerns to Epidemic Response Committee

A $25 million sport relief package was unveiled today, primarily aimed at local and regional sport and recreation groups struggling due to Covid-19.

Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Phoenix Karaka, Katrina Rore, Grace Kara, Samantha Winders and Jane Watson, during the ANZ Premiership netball launch.

Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, Phoenix Karaka, Katrina Rore, Grace Kara, Samantha Winders and Jane Watson, during the ANZ Premiership netball launch. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Sports clubs and regional bodies will be able to apply to a $15 million community fund, while $6 million has been set aside in business support for national sports organisations.

There's also $3 million allocated to promote play, active recreation and sport for those who are less active, disabled or live in high deprivation areas.

The package is not funded out of new money but rather a re-prioritising of projects and Sport NZ cash reserves.

However, KiwiSport, a government funded programme to get more schoolchildren into sport, will miss out on $4 million as rules around mass gatherings have meant most its programmes have been unable to go ahead.

Netball New Zealand's and Warriors' bosses this morning addressed the impacts of Covid-19 in each of their groups and highlighted the challenges of funding to the Epidemic Response Committee.

ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie joined the committee with a comprehensive framework - based on overseas research and pre-existing guidelines for physical activity - on how gyms could work under level 2.

While he said he wanted to work with the government to make it implement it, he noted that he had limited contact from MBIE, Sport New Zealand and the Ministry of Health during the lockdown.

Sport Fishing Council president Bob Gutsell told the committee he had asked that boats be allowed out, but was told by the Sport and Recreation Minister earlier this week that would not happen because of concerns around boaties welfare, and the risk of coming into contact with other people on their journey.

Gustell said he wanted the government to reconsider the rules around fishing from a boat under level 2 or if level 3 was extended.

Read more on the reactions of professional sports organisations to the level 2 announcement.

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