16 May 2020

Covid-19: What happened in New Zealand and around the world on 16 May

6:59 pm on 16 May 2020

It's the first weekend at level 2 since New Zealand moved into lockdown in late March.

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Photo: RNZ / AFP

Today, the Health Ministry reported no new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours and no additional deaths.

In a statement released this afternoon, the Ministry of Health said the total number of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand remained at 1498, of which 1148 were confirmed.

The Ministry said 1428 people had recovered from the coronavirus, an increase of seven on yesterday. The number of recovered people made up 95 percent of all confirmed and probable cases.

Three people are receiving hospital care for Covid-19, in Auckland, Middlemore and Waikato hospitals. None of them are in intensive care.

Since moving to level 2, many malls, restaurants, cafes and cinemas have reopened, as New Zealanders burst their bubbles to catch up with friends and families.

While restrictions on movement, activity and socialising have eased, there are still many rules to adhere to when out and about.

People should continue to keep 2 metres from people they don't know when out in public and in shops, and 1 metre in workplaces, gyms, libraries and cinemas.

Gatherings, including weddings and parties, are limited to 10 people, while up to 50 people are allowed at funerals and tangihanga if strict public health measures are in place.

Sports are allowed, subject to conditions on gatherings.

The restrictions on gatherings will be reviewed on 25 May.

Christchurch police impressed

Christchurch police say they're pleased with how people in the city have responded to level 2 and have urged residents to "keep it up".

Christchurch Metro Area Prevention Manager Inspector Leairne Dow said police in the Canterbury district had conducted 43 reassurance checks at essential facilities, such as supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations and conducted 35 dedicated prevention patrols since Thursday.

There were no major incidents to note, she said in a statement.

"Most calls to police in relation to mass gatherings turned out to be small groups - fewer than 10 - socialising within the required restrictions.

"Police staff, including our Alcohol Harm Prevention Team, have found licensed premises were working well under the updated alert level, and were pleased to see people adhering to the rules around mass gatherings."

She urged people to keep it up over the weekend.

Many planning NZ holidays

There is a glimmer of hope at the end of the tourism tunnel.

A survey out today showed that more than one million New Zealanders planned to take a domestic holiday in the next seven to 12 months, as Covid-19 alert levels allowed.

Horizon Research said 17 percent of respondents planned to travel alone, while 59 percent said they would travel with their partner or spouse.

Spokesman Graeme Colman said there was a clear favourite holiday spot.

"The number one destination is Queenstown/Wanaka, so that's encouraging news for a town that's incredibly reliant on tourism. The other popular areas are the Nelson/Tasman areas and the Bay of Islands."

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Wanaka features in many New Zealanders' holiday plans. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Germany in recession

Europe's biggest economy, Germany, has gone into recession, shrinking by 2.2 percent in the first quarter of the year.

It was the country's biggest slump since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

Meanwhile, China, where the coronavirus pandemic began, is showing signs of economic recovery.

Official figures show its industrial output grew by nearly 4 percent last month.

It had suffered record falls earlier in the year.

Factories had been reopening across the country as lockdown measures were gradually eased.

15 May 2020, Saxony, Dresden: Fireworks light up the evening sky in front of the Frauenkirche. The occasion is the nationwide opening of catering establishments during the Corona crisis. Photo:

A fireworks display is held in the German city of Dresden to mark the re-opening of cafes and restaurants. Photo: AFP

Deaths fall in France

France's newly reported coronavirus deaths are falling fast as the country continues to unwind its lockdown.

The country's health ministry reported 104 new fatalities on Friday compared to 351 the day before.

The total death toll in France so far was 27,529, still the fourth-highest in the world, after those of the United States, Britain and Italy, and just ahead of Spain.

Health officials have drawn attention to the case of a nine-year-old boy who died a week ago after developing a syndrome akin to Kawasaki disease after being in contact with Covid-19.

This new life-threatening inflammatory syndrome associated with the virus has affected hundreds of children in Europe and killed two so far this year.

Brazil's health minister resigns

Brazil confirmed 15,305 new cases of the novel coronavirus today, a record for a 24-hour period, as well as 824 related deaths, according to data from the Health Ministry.

Brazil has registered 218,223 confirmed coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and 14,817 deaths.

It was also reported that the country's health minister had resigned after less than one month in the job.

Nelson Teich had criticised a decree issued by President Jair Bolsonaro allowing gyms and beauty parlours to reopen, but gave no reason for his resignation at a press conference.

His predecessor was sacked after disagreeing with Bolsonaro, who continued to oppose lockdown measures.

He has downplayed the virus as "a little flu" and has said the spread of Covid-19 is inevitable, attracting global criticism.

Brazil has recently surged past Germany and France in terms of its coronavirus caseload.

Brazil's outgoing Health Minister Nelson Teich speaks during a press conference at Planalto Palace in Brasilia, on May 15, 2020.

Nelson Teich has stepped down as Brazil's Health Minister. Photo: AFP

Concerns for refugee settlement

Aid workers in Bangladesh are trying to stop the coronavirus spreading through the world's largest refugee settlement.

They are installing isolation centres and hand washing stations for the 850,000 Rohingya in densely populated camps.

The aid workers have warned of a potential humanitarian disaster if there was a significant outbreak in the camps.

United States opening up

In the United States, less populated areas of New York, Virginia and Maryland took their first steps towards lifting lockdowns.

Construction and manufacturing facilities in five out of 10 New York state regions were given the green light to restart operations, although New York City, the country's most populous city, remained under strict limits.

Coronavirus hospitalisations in New York declined to 6394, a third of the level at the peak one month ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The number of new coronavirus deaths in the state was 132 yesterday, the lowest daily total since March 25, he told a news briefing.

Cuomo said New York would join the nearby states of New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware in partially reopening beaches for the Memorial Day holiday weekend on May 23-25.

Pockets of Virginia and Maryland were allowing an array of businesses to reopen, in contrast to the region's biggest cities - Washington, DC, and Baltimore - which extended their stay-at-home orders for fear of a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths.

President Donald Trump has also promised the US will reopen "vaccine or no vaccine", as he announced an objective to deliver a coronavirus jab by year end.

He likened the vaccine project, dubbed "Operation Warp Speed", to the World War II effort to produce the world's first nuclear weapons.

But Trump made clear that even without a vaccine, Americans must begin to return to their lives as normal.

Many experts doubt that a coronavirus jab can be developed within a year.

RNZ / Reuters

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