14 Apr 2020

Covid-19: PM unveils new support for students on NZ's 'deadliest day to date'

4:33 pm on 14 April 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed many students will be able to borrow $1000 more on their student loan to tide them over until firmer decisions about tertiary education are made.

The increase to the student loan amount available is part of a wider support package for tertiary students who may be struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Watch the PM's latest media conference here:

  • 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

Ardern opened her media conference this afternoon by saying the four deaths announced today were a "sad and sobering reminder" that New Zealand needed to stay the course.

"It's also a reminder of how much worse the spread and death toll would be had we not taken the action we have taken to break the chain of infection."

Her briefing followed news another four people have died from Covid-19 in New Zealand in the past 24 hours, the country's highest number of deaths in a day so far.

The deaths, revealed during the update by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, bring the total to nine deaths in New Zealand from the coronavirus.

Ardern said while the country was over the peak, that was not the same thing as being out of the woods.

"Now is not the time to let up. We must not squander the good work everyone has put in over the last 20 days."

She said there had been 1452 breaches of the level 4 rules, and police had made 169 prosecutions.

Package to support students

Under the new support package for tertiary students announced today, full-time students will be able to borrow up to $2000, up from the current $1000, for course related costs.

The government will continue support payments for students unable to study on-line for up to eight weeks.

It will also change the rules so no-one will be disadvantaged if they have to abandon their study this year because of Covid-19, for example under the fees free scheme.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the government wanted to give students as much certainty as possible.

"So that they can continue to be engaged in their education and will be supported adequately until such time that tertiary education providers can put in place alternative ways of delivering teaching and learning."

The package means students who cannot access their courses on-line will continue to receive their student loan payments as normal throughout the four-week lockdown period, and for up to four weeks afterwards.

"This flexibility is already available for student living allowances," Hipkins said.

Domestic students enrolled in full-time tertiary study can access these supports from tomorrow.

The total cost of the package is $133 million; Hipkins said the money for the student loan changes would come from the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund and the fees related changes can be met from existing budgets.

The government was also working on second package "to prepare the system for significant growth in participation in key strategic areas as greater numbers of New Zealanders are expected to look to retrain and some industries need bigger workforces," the minister said.

See all RNZ coverage of Covid-19

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the latest Treasury forecasts showed the government was right to go hard and go early in the fight against Covid-19.

"They continue to show that the best protection for the economy is to continue to fight the virus."

Robertson said he will talk about the next steps to support businesses tomorrow, which will include plans on how to use the tax system to support small businesses.

Regarding the 200 job losses at NZME, Ardern said the government was looking at bringing in a response to that "very shortly."

"We will be moving quite quickly. We have been in contact with the large media outlets around what we're working on."

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