20 May 2020

Covid-19: What happened in NZ and around the world on 20 May

8:11 pm on 20 May 2020

Simon Bridges' leadership is under threat, more than 2000 jobs will be axed by two of NZ's biggest employers, a tracing app made traction - and another day of no new cases.

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From top left: a new contact tracing app, Fletcher Building CEO Ross Taylor, Air New Zealand aircraft and Colonel Tom Moore from the UK. Photo: RNZ / Supplied Air New Zealand / AFP

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in the country today and by early afternoon 92,000 people had downloaded the Health Ministry's contact tracing app on its first official day of release.

Bay of Plenty MP wants to be party leader

Simon Bridges has not fared well during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a disastrous poll this week showing only 4.5 percent want him to be prime minister and the National Party's support has fallen to 30 percent.

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Todd Muller, left, has his eyes on Simon Bridges' job. Photo: Supplied / Getty Images

Bridges threw down the gauntlet this morning, saying he was confident he had the numbers to win a leadership vote which was later confirmed for Friday.

Shortly after 4pm, MP Todd Muller sent an email to colleagues signalling his intent to challenge for the party leadership.

The email went on to say that a majority of the caucus did not believe Bridges could win the 19 September election.

One well placed MP - a Bridges supporter - told RNZ it was a "line call" on who would win the vote.

Senior MP Judith Collins and former leadership contender said she would not be mounting a challenge.

Major job losses

The day began with Fletcher Building announcing it would slash about 1000 jobs in New Zealand as it moves to reduce staffing by 10 percent.

The company said the Covid-19 crisis was likely to have a significant impact on its business in New Zealand and Australia, with about 500 jobs to be cut across the Tasman.

In New Zealand more than 400 operating sites were closed during the level 4 lockdown and the group's New Zealand businesses were trading at 80 percent of forecast May revenues.

Chief executive Ross Taylor said the news would be hard for staff to hear.

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Chief executive Ross Taylor says Covid-19 is having a major impact on Fletcher Building's performance. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Meanwhile, more than 1300 cabin crew workers for Air New Zealand have been told their jobs are being cut, E tū union announced this afternoon.

E tū said cabin crew were told yesterday how many job losses they faced.

Of the long and mid haul crew, 950 are being made redundant, as well as 300 domestic crew in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and just under 100 across the regions.

On Monday, the airline announced 300 engineering and maintenance jobs will go.

One cabin crew member, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were "absolutely devastated by the news". The union said the process was being rushed and heavy-handed.

Another zero day

New Zealand has recorded a third consecutive day without a new Covid-19 case, director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield announced at the Beehive.

The number of confirmed cases remains at 1153, and the combined total of confirmed and probable cases is 1503.

There are 35 active cases with one person in hospital.

App ready to use

The government's new Covid-19 contact tracing app is now available.

Dr Bloomfield said the NZ Covid Tracer app would be helpful for getting the country towards alert level 1, but not critical.

He said the number of cases was still the biggest factor.

The app's main function is a QR code reader to identify when people visit venues like cafes, with the information stored for up to 28 days.

A bluetooth option was also expected to be ready next month.

Size of gatherings may increase

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Cabinet would on Monday consider increasing the limit of 10 people at gatherings.

Ardern said Covid-19 was still in the community.

"One case can become 90, and it would only take a few cases of those for us to go back into lockdown."

She said the data suggested the approach taken was the right one.

Global cases of infection edge towards 5 million

There are almost five million cases of coronavirus globally, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, with 4,897,567 confirmed.

World Bank president David Malpass warned up to 60 million people will be pushed into "extreme poverty" by the coronavirus.

He said the bank expected global economic growth to shrink by 5 percent this year as nations dealt with the pandemic and 100 countries - home to 70 percent of the world's population - had already been granted emergency finance.

Australia reduces restrictions

Australian officials announced a raft of plans today to speed up the resumption of public life to boost the ailing economy amid a diplomatic spat with major trading partner China.

The government is also talking with Australian universities about allowing the return of some international students, a sector that contributes more than $A30 billion ($NZ32.1b) to domestic coffers.

New South Wales will allow people to resume recreational travel from next month, effectively reopening tourist regions on its southern coast that were badly damaged by huge bushfires before the epidemic.

Passengers depart from the diverted Qantas plane.

Qantas is defending its decision not to leave middle seats unfilled, in the interests of social distancing. Photo: Supplied

South Australia state said it planned to move more quickly to phase two, allowing more people to enjoy eating and drinking in restaurants and bars.

Meanwhile, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce has defended his company's decision to not abide by social-distancing restrictions on flights. The airline will not leave middle seats unfilled, saying it would lead to skyriocketing airfares.

Brazil hits record Covid-19 daily death toll

Brazil has recorded its highest daily death toll yet with 1179 over the past 24 hours. Overall, the virus has now been linked to almost 18,000 fatalities in the country.

In terms of infections, Brazil now has the world's third-highest number with 271,885 confirmed cases. Over the past 24 hours alone, there were 17,408 new positive tests and observers say the country's peak is not expected until June.

'National treasure' set to be knighted

Colonel Tom Moore, who became a national hero in Britain after raising 33 million pounds ($NZ66m) for the National Health Service in the run-up to his 100th birthday, is to be knighted.

Moore becomes "Sir Tom" after a special nomination from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The World War II veteran raised the world record sum by painstakingly completing 100 laps of his garden with the aid of a walking frame.

"Colonel Tom's fantastic fundraising broke records, inspired the whole country and provided us all with a beacon of light through the fog of coronavirus," Johnson said. "He's a true national treasure."

- Reuters / BBC

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