23 May 2020

Covid-19: What happened around NZ and the world on 22 May

6:10 am on 23 May 2020

Simon Bridges' dumping as leader overshadowed all else in the country today. Commentators believe he has been a victim of Covid-19, as he often adopted a negative tone that caused a backlash among voters.

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Photo: Supplied / 123RF / Real Journeys / 123RF

He was also overshadowed by the blanket media coverage given to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as she deftly handled the pandemic crisis.

Bridges went into the emergency caucus meeting at midday saying he was confident of retaining his job. However, two abysmal polls this week appeared to have sealed his fate.

They showed that not only did voters overwhelmingly favour Ardern as leader, but support for National had also dipped to as low as 29 percent - its worst showing in 17 years.

New leader Todd Muller, meanwhile, is relatively unknown outside the regions and will need to act fast with the election just four months away.

"We should all be proud of what we have achieved together. Covid-19 has hurt us. My absolute focus as the National Party leader will be New Zealand's economic recovery," he said at his first media briefing as party leader.

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Simon Bridges, right, has been rolled by relative unknown Todd Muller. Photo: Supplied / Getty Images

First new Covid-19 case in five days

One new confirmed case of Covid-19 was announced after four days with none.

The case is linked to the St Margaret's cluster in Auckland and is a household contact of an earlier case.

Today's case means the country's total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is 1154. The combined total of confirmed and probable cases is 1504.

Meanwhile, the NZ Covid Tracer app has recorded 293,000 registrations.

More than 40,000 take up benefits

Finance Minister Grant Robertson speaks to media during a press conference on Covid-19 at Parliament on May 22, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Grant Robertson Photo: Pool / Getty Images / Hagen Hopkins

There are now 43,000 more people on the Jobseeker Support benefit, since 20 March, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said while providing an economic update.

More than 1600 were granted the Jobseeker Support benefit last week.

And $10.9 billion has been paid out so far from the government's wage subsidy scheme for businesses.

Robertson said the take up of the small business cashflow scheme has been strong with 49,360 applications received. He said $824m has been distributed under the scheme already.

He also said he is seeing increased economic activity in level 2 although activity is down 11 percent on the same period last year.

Retail sales volumes for the first quarter of the year had their largest fall in eight years, falling a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent, excluding the effect of price moves. Sales had been flat in the previous quarter.

SI tourism business signals redundancies

One of the country's biggest tourism companies is considering a significant number of redundancies.

Wayfare has begun consulting its staff about proposed changes across its businesses including Real Journeys, Go Orange and the International Antarctic Centre.

They employ between 1000 to 1500 staff.

Council feeling the pinch

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

Phil Goff Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Auckland Council could be more than half a billion dollars worse off as a result of the coronavirus.

The council gets almost two-thirds of its money from concerts, leisure centres, Ports of Auckland, Auckland Airport shares, parking and public transport fares.

Mayor Phil Goff said new analysis showed income from those sources had dried up because of Covid-19.

Goff said the council would need to reduce its spending on the services it provided.

Wearable Arts cuts staff

The company behind the World of Wearable Arts has laid off two-thirds of its staff, and its museum space will be shut for at least the next year.

This year's competition and awards show was cancelled in March due to the spread of Covid-19.

The company's chief executive, David Tingey, said the cancellation of the show and the closure of the museum in Nelson have dried up its income streams.

He said the only way of surviving is to immediately reduce costs, so the staff of 30 will be reduced to 10.

Tingey said the museum will be mothballed for at least 12 to 18 months, before its viability will be assessed.

Prominent retailer goes into receivership

The retail chain Smiths City has been placed into receivership to allow a quick sale to the private investment company Polar Capital.

The sale needed only shareholder approval, but the board has opted for receivership to avoid a time-consuming vote.

It has apologised for doing so, but said delay risked jeopardising the sale.

Smiths City is closing seven stores as part of the deal, with about 100 staff losing their jobs.

It signalled in March that the Covid-19 pandemic was having a significant impact on the business.

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Photo: Google Maps

PM's comments on four-day work week picked up worldwide

International media have jumped on the suggestion by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that four-day work weeks are one possible option workplaces could consider as part of economic recovery.

Ardern made the remarks in Rotorua earlier this week, as a way to encourage more domestic tourism.

BBC business reporter Justin Harper said the idea was among flexible working arrangements being considered worldwide, along with signals from Twitter and Facebook bosses that more employees will now be allowed to work remotely.

CNN noted the idea has already been trialled successfully by a number of New Zealand government agencies and companies.

The Guardian, ABC and CBS were among other outlets to report Ardern's comments.

Jobless total in US closes on 40 million

A further 2.4 million Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, despite hopes that easing lockdown restrictions would help restart the US economy.

The new filings brought the total since mid-March to roughly 38.6 million - almost a quarter of the workforce.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned this week that the US risked "permanent damage" if the lockdowns continued.

All 50 states in the US have started to reopen but it is not clear whether simply easing restrictions will prompt activity to rebound.

US President Donald Trump (L) speaks during a tour at the Ford Rawsonville Plant, that has been converted to making personal protection and medical equipment, in Ypsilanti, Michigan on May 21, 2020.

US President Donald Trump once again opts not to wear a face mask, during a factory tour in Michigan. Photo: AFP

US president Donald Trump further fanned controversy today by taking off his mask while visiting a Ford factory in Michigan.

Reporters at the factory have said Trump told them he took the protective covering off because he "didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it", and he was about to make a speech.


China remembers its Covid dead

China's parliamentary session, the National People's Congress, has started with a moment of silence for the victims of the coronavirus outbreak.

The weeklong session in Beijing is taking place after a two-month delay caused by the pandemic.

Almost 3000 delegates attended the opening of the session in the Great Hall of the People, where premier Li Keqiang is set to outline the government's economic strategies for the year.

China has abandoned a GDP target for first time in decades amid the "great uncertainty" of the virus.

The third session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) opens at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, May 22, 2020.

The third session of the 13th National People's Congress opens at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo: AFP / Xinhua / Shen Hong

- Reuters

Massive tax reveue fall in Germany

Tax revenues of the German government and the 16 federal states declined by 23.5 percent in April from a year earlier to around 39 billion euros ($NZ69b) due to the coronavirus pandemic, the finance ministry's monthly report shows.

Europe's largest economy is facing its most severe recession since World War II as measures to prevent the disease have hampered public life and business.

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