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Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament. (Photo: Mark Mitchell/Getty Images)
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament. (Photo: Mark Mitchell/Getty Images)

SocietyMay 2, 2020

Covid-19 live updates, May 2: Six new cases; one further death

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament. (Photo: Mark Mitchell/Getty Images)
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament. (Photo: Mark Mitchell/Getty Images)

For all The Spinoff’s latest coverage of Covid-19 see here. Read Siouxsie Wiles’s work here. New Zealand is currently in alert level three – read The Spinoff’s giant explainer about what that means here. For official government advice, see here.

The Spinoff’s coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak is funded by The Spinoff Members. To support this work, join The Spinoff Members here.

6.15pm: The day in sum

There were two new confirmed cases of Covid-19 to report and four new probable cases.

George Hollings, a Rosewood resident who had been transferred to Burwood Hospital, has died. There have now been 20 deaths from Covid-19 in New Zealand.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency approval for the drug remdesivir to treat Covid-19 patients.

Winston Peters, appearing on Newshub Nation, said it’s possible for New Zealand to have a “shared border” with Australia in the not-too-distant future.

A $20 million fund was announced by the government to help tertiary students access digital devices and the internet to continue studies disrupted by Covid-19.

National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith called the government’s interest-free loan scheme for small- and medium-sized businesses “half-baked”.

Transport minister Phil Twyford announced that 56 extra weekly cargo flights are now running as part of the government’s  International Air Freight Capacity scheme.

Checkpoints run by Taranaki iwi reported that more than 50% of inter-regional travellers stopped were in breach of level three travel restrictions.

A joint statement by G20 trade and investment leaders outlined how those countries will maintain global supply chains, and ensure the flow of goods, services and people between them.

National Geographic reported that New Zealanders commonly refer to prime minister Jacinda Ardern as ‘Jaz’.

6.00pm: On The Spinoff today

Auckland artist Cushla Donaldson on work that embraces the social and physical in new ways.

Need an antidote to perfectly lit influencers and lockdown sourdough spam? May we suggest refreshingly real food ‘grammer, Nici Wickes.

Wellington-based musician Matt Mulholland’s new album is the culmination of 10 years of memories, YouTube, and jazz school.

Musician and keen adventure, Nick Atkinson searches for Samuel Butler’s fictional utopia, Erewhon.

We review the new iPhone SE.

Amberleigh Jack on her mother’s final days in lockdown.

The Spinoff is showcasing seven films from the 48Hours film-making competition (this year’s entries were all done under lockdown). Today’s pick, Container, is from none other than former Spinoff writer, Mad Chapman and her director brother Kenneth.

5.45pm: G20 trade leaders issue joint statement

A joint statement by G20 trade and investment leaders from Australia, Canada, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand was announced today that outlines how those countries will maintain global supply chains, and ensure the flow of goods, services and people between them.

Measures will include reducing processing times at customs, adding additional crew and aircrafts to cargo operations, restricting tariffs on essential goods such as food and medical supplies, and ensuring health and safety standards for cross-border essential business travel.

Last week New Zealand’s minister for trade and export growth, David Parker, co-authored a piece for the NZ Herald with Simon Birmingham, Elizabeth Truss and Chan Chun Sing (the trade ministers for Australia, UK and Singapore, respectively), on the role of international trade in the Covid-19 crisis.

“Just as the shared calamity of World War II compelled nations to negotiate the settlement at Bretton Woods, so too should the Covid-19 outbreak once again lead us to deepen our commitment to shared rules for the governance of global trade and investment,” it read.

5.20pm: Inside the Rosewood cluster

The NZ Herald has published its investigation into the Rosewood cluster – the rest home and hospital in Christchurch that has now suffered 11 Covid-19 related deaths.

The story by Kurt Bayer looks at how the virus entered the facility and why there was a two-delay between the first case being confirmed and someone from Christchurch DHB arriving at the site (currently the subject of a review by the Ministry of Health).

Read the full story here at the NZ Herald (no paywall)

3.15pm: Covid-19 charted for May 2

The downward trend continues with the Ministry of Health reporting 202 active cases and a total of 1,263 recovered cases – an increase of 11 since yesterday. Check out the rest of today’s charts, graphics and data visualisations by Chris McDowall here.

3.00pm: More praise for ‘Jaz’ Ardern

At the start of the week a Bloomberg column generated a burst of outrage and distraction by asserting, among other things, that locked down New Zealanders were apprehended by police if out of the house for more than an hour, and had to queue for an hour to get into the supermarket, where gloves and masks were obligatory for all customers (the article has since been corrected).

It’s now starting to look as though New Zealanders might just be lying to foreign journalists for fun.

A new article in the National Geographic (not to be confused with our homegrown, unimpeachable New Zealand Geographic) joins the chorus of offshore media praising the response here, with the headline, “New Zealand has ‘effectively eliminated’ coronavirus. Here’s what they did right.”

The big revelation, however, is this: “The sudden austerity could have been a cause for panic. But each day, the 39-year-old Ardern, or ‘Jaz’ as she’s popularly known, made clear, concise statements about the situation to the nation, bolstered by a team of scientists and health professionals.”

It’s the latest in a tradition of foreign journalists getting, we can only assumed, pranked by locals. Back in 2012, the British Conservative politician and writer Daniel Hannan wrote effusively in the Daily Telegraph of “my new Anglosphere hero”, none other than John Key. “His countrymen,” Hannan wrote, “admire his modesty, affectionately calling him ‘Low Key’.”

As others have noted, just wait till the international media hear about the longstanding ban on gardening.

2.30pm: Taranaki checkpoints revealing level three breaches

The eight Taranaki iwi running checkpoints at the rohe’s northern and southern borders say they stopped 3,000 passenger vehicles in their first three days of operation.

A media release from the collective says that 55% were motorists travelling from outside of the region, some having travelled from as far away as Northland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and the South Island. Freedom campers, people returning home after long weekends and one couple who wanted to “see the mountain” and go for a “tiki tour” were among those in breach of level three travel restrictions.

“The majority of motorists travelling inter-regionally are coming from Auckland and Waikato in the north and Wellington and Manawatū in the south, places we know have some of the highest rates of Covid-19 cases in the country. There is no mechanism to track these travellers and to check if they have potentially been exposed to Covid-19, and this is a real concern for the iwi of Taranaki and wider community,” said North Taranaki iwi spokesperson Liana Poutu.

The checkpoints at Urenui and Pātea are manned by volunteers with the support of NZ Police, with a mobile Police patrol at the eastern entrance to Taranaki along the Forgotten World Highway. They were initiated by iwi leaders in the area to protect vulnerable and remote communities, where community testing rates for Covid-19 so far have been low.

When police commissioner Andrew Coster appeared before the Epidemic Response Committee meeting on Thursday, opposition leader Simon Bridges challenged the legality of the checkpoints, saying: “There’s no scenario – this is law school 101 – in which a Kiwi is acting anything but unlawfully by stopping another Kiwi on a road in New Zealand.”

Coster repeatedly told Bridges and other MPs that many checkpoints operating across the country are legal because police are present and operating them.

1.20pm: Six new cases of Covid-19; one death

Today there are two new confirmed cases of Covid-19 to report and four new probable cases. Five of today’s cases can be traced to a known source. One case is still being investigated. This is the 14th consecutive day of single-digit increases.

The total of confirmed and probable cases is now 1,485.

Sadly, today we are reporting the death of a Rosewood resident who had been transferred to Burwood Hospital. George Hollings was in his 80s, and his family have asked for his name to be shared.

His family says that George will be remembered as a real Kiwi bloke, a rough diamond, who loved his deer stalking.

They also paid tribute to the hospital staff that cared for George in a statement: “We can’t speak highly enough of the care Dad received. You’ve clearly chosen the best, most compassionate staff to work at Burwood.”

George was considered to be a probable case of Covid-19, and he also had underlying health conditions. He passed away early this morning.

There have now been 20 deaths from Covid-19 in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s total number of confirmed cases is 1,134. This is the number reported to the World Health Organization and in many instances this is the number reported publicly by other countries.

There were 5,691 tests completed yesterday, with a combined total to date of 145,589.

Of the cases, 1,263 are reported as recovered, or 85% of all confirmed and probable cases – an increase of 11 on yesterday, which means today there are only 202 active cases of Covid-19.

There are five people in hospital, none in ICU.

There are still 16 significant clusters, no change from yesterday. Three clusters are now considered closed as there is no longer transmission of the virus associated with the cluster. A Covid-19 cluster is considered be closed after a total of 28 consecutive days – or two incubation periods for the virus – since its most recent report date of a reported case.

The three closed clusters are the Wellington wedding cluster (closed 25 April) and the two clusters linked with group travel to the United States – one in Wellington and the other in Auckland – closed today.

In the days since New Zealand went into alert level four, the new cases each day have numbered as follows: 78, 85, 83, 63, 76, 58, 61, 89, 71, 82, 89, 67, 54, 50, 29, 44, 29, 18, 19, 17, 20, 15, 8, 13, 9, 9, 5, 6, 3, 5, 5, 9, 5, 3, 2, 3, 3, and today 6.

12.40pm: Molloy’s motley mates planning a party

Salty Auckland restauranteur Leo Molloy is planning a party for 100 of his “best friends” at his viaduct bar, Headquarters, NZ Herald reports.

The bash is set for May 15, provided the country moves to alert level two on May 11, and Molloy is working with police and the liquor licensing agency to make sure his guests comply with regulations. PDAs are strictly banned: “Pashing is for young people with throbbing hormones who are determined to share their DNA. I’d like to think the average age on the guest list is 45+ and most of us can moderate our behaviour and wait ’til we get home,” Molloy said.

With that image in mind, according to the NZ Herald here’s who will not be allowed to bump uglies on the Headquarters dance floor: “Auckland MP Nikki Kaye, former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry and Destiny Church’s Brian and Hannah Tamaki, National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett, Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere, band members from True Bliss and former MP Hone Harawira.”

Read Duncan Greive’s warts ‘n’ all profile of Leo Molloy on The Spinoff

12.00pm: International cargo flights to increase

Transport Minister Phil Twyford has announced that 56 weekly cargo flights have been added as part of an International Air Freight Capacity scheme, with more to be announced. Twyford says there is a huge demand for air freight, at a time when capacity is limited.

“The $330 million scheme is short-term and market-led. Funding is provided to guarantee cargo on key routes under agreements with the carriers. Carriers then offer that capacity directly to freight customers on commercial terms,” he says.

The first successful applicants are Air New Zealand, China Airlines, Emirates, Freightways Express, Qantas and Tasman Cargo.

11.30am: No live media briefing today

There won’t be an All of Government Covid-19 media conference today or tomorrow, instead the Ministry of Health will be releasing today’s case numbers via media release at 1pm. We’ll post that update as soon as it’s available.

11.00am: Government criticised for “half-baked” loan scheme

National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith has hit out at the government’s interest-free loan scheme for small- and medium-sized businesses designed to provide them with immediate cashflow. Criticised as being “half-baked and without costings”, Goldsmith said they had been given “no estimate of how much it would cost, but in theory, it could run to many billions of dollars”.

“National’s view is that rather than offering cheap loans to all sorts of companies, with loose criteria, the government should be getting cash to those businesses that desperately need it,” he said. “For example, to firms suffering a 60% drop in revenue for two successive months because of the lockdown.”

“Truly desperate small businesses need cash not more debt, however cheap.”

10.30am: Support for tertiary students to learn online

A $20 million fund has been announced by the government to help eligible tertiary students access digital devices and the internet to continue their study disrupted by Covid-19.

“The government wants to make sure that students in need can access support for distance learning so they can continue their studies. We moved swiftly to help cover extra costs, by increasing the student loan amount available for course-related costs for full-time students from $1,000 to $2,000, on a temporary basis,” said education minister Chris Hipkins.

“Now we have set up a fund that tertiary education organisations can access including Wānanga, the NZIST and its subsidiaries, universities, transitional industry training organisations and private training establishments.

“Tertiary providers are best placed to work with their learners to identify those who are most in need during this time. Learners should contact their tertiary provider to discuss what kind of support they require,” he said.

A recent survey by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) showed at least 11,150 students didn’t have the right devices to engage in distance learning and at least 11,350 students didn’t have access to broadband internet at home.

10.10am: Winston Peters says trans-Tasman bubble could be “economic lifeline”

Today on Newshub Nation, foreign minister Winston Peters spoke further on the possibility of a trans-Tasman bubble with Australia, which he said could create an “economic lifeline” and a mutually beneficial tourist market for both countries.

“Because we are doing so well against Covid-19, it is possible for us in a mutual sense to have a shared border,” he said. “When it comes to tourism, 55% of the tourists coming to New Zealand have been Australians, and we are Australia’s second-biggest tourist numbers going to Australia.”

“For so many of our businesses, particularly small businesses, Australia is a big market and vice versa for Australia.”

While he said he had been looking at the arrangement with his Australian counterparts, borders would need to secure against Covid-19 in each country for any plans to go ahead.

Peters also mentioned the possibility of expanding the bubble to the Cook Islands and Samoa as well as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. He was, however, reluctant to include New Zealand’s largest trading partner in a possible bubble despite relatively few daily cases in China. Citing the recent fluctuations in cases and China being the origin of the pandemic, he said: “I do not think that we are capable at this point in time given our size of contemplating such an arrangement.”

With respect to New Zealand’s trade with China, Peters said previous administrations had made a terrible mistake and had “put all their eggs in one basket,” and the market needed to be broadened in order to reduce further economic exposure.

9.00am: US approves drug for emergency Covid-19 treatment

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency approval for the drug remdesivir to treat Covid-19 patients. Developed by Gilead Sciences, the company announced it would donate 1.5 million vials of the drug, with distribution to hospitals beginning on Monday.

Initially developed as a treatment for Ebola, remdesivir is an antiviral and works by attacking an enzyme that a virus needs in order to replicate inside our cells. Dr Anthony Fauci from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said its trial showed there was “a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery”, cutting the duration of coronavirus symptoms from 15 to 11 days.

However, a trial in China found remdesivir to be ineffective, although the trial was also cut short after it was unable to recruit enough patients due to the steep decline in cases in China.

8.15am: India’s contact tracing app made mandatory for millions

Aarogya Setu (Hindi for “a bridge to health”) started as a voluntary contact tracing app in India. Since launching three weeks ago, more than 75 million people had installed the app on their smartphones. Now the government has made the app mandatory for all office workers, both private and public, affecting millions of people in the world’s most populous country.

Like most contact tracing apps, Aarogya Setu uses Bluetooth and location data to keep track of citizens’ whereabouts, sparking a debate around privacy, especially in a country that doesn’t actually have a federal privacy law. There have also been concerning reports that the government had asked smartphone makers to preinstall the app on devices and that Indians may soon need to have the app to board public transport and take flights.

Among India’s 1.3 billion people, there are currently more than 35,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 deaths, although many believe the numbers are far higher than what’s being reported. India’s lockdown – which began in March and was set to conclude next week – has now been extended for another two weeks as cases continue to go up.

7.40am: WHO defends its response after attacks from Trump

The World Health Organisation says it “didn’t waste time” responding to the Covid-19 outbreak. Its director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus defended the organisation’s approach which declared Covid-19 a public health emergency on January 30. He said doing so gave “enough time for the rest of the world to respond”, adding that the WHO was already looking into the virus before then which involved a visit to China to learn more about the Covid-19 virus at its origin. At the time, there were less than 100 cases outside China and no deaths.

In April, US president Donald Trump said the WHO “really blew” its response and accused it of bias towards China. He also accused it of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the threat and announced he would halt US funding for the WHO, the organisation’s largest single donor.

6.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

There were three new confirmed cases of Covid-19 recorded in New Zealand yesterday, and no further deaths

This brought the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 1,479. 85% of these cases are now recorded as recovered

Finance minister Grant Robertson announced a new interest-free loan scheme of up to $100,000 for small businesses

A leaked internal poll conducted for Labour during level four showed Labour surging at 55% with National languishing under 30%

Victoria University backtracked on its unpopular decision to charge students accommodation fees for rooms they were unable to occupy under lockdown

Several fast food restaurants around the country were forced to close after running out of food, while staff at others raised concerns that safe physical distancing measures were not being observed

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates

Keep going!