Dr Ashley Bloomfied, director general of health (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Covid-19 live updates, April 21: One death, five new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand

For all The Spinoff’s latest coverage of Covid-19 see here. Read Siouxsie Wiles’s work hereNew Zealand is currently in alert level four. The country is shut down, apart from essential services. For updated 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.

7.10pm: The day in sum

There has been another death related to Covid-19. A woman in her 70s passed away in Auckland.

There were five new cases of Covid-19, two confirmed and three probable.

A New Zealand man passed away in Peru while waiting for the chartered mercy flight to bring him home. He was found to have Covid-19 after his death.

US oil prices have turned negative for the first time in history.

Donald Trump announced that he would be suspending all immigration to the US.

Scientists are calling on the government to provide more funding to develop a homegrown vaccine for Covid-19.

Both the minister for small business Stuart Nash, and the minister for employment, Willie Jackson appeared before the Epidemic Response Committee.

The Serious Fraud Office announced the timetable for its investigation into donations made to the New Zealand First Foundation.

An independent review of the Ministry of Health’s management of personal protective equipment required for the Covid-19 response was announced by the auditor-general’s office.

A whistle blower has claimed Air NZ is obscuring the number of their staff who have Covid-19 because it will embarrass the company.

6.50pm: On The Spinoff today

Siouxsie Wiles explains how widespread Covid-19 is in people with no symptoms.

The Spinoff’s deputy ed Catherine McGregor writes about her love for the language app, Duolingo.

This helpful explainer looks at how the sharemarket can be be rising while employment continues to plummet.

Poet Ashleigh Young on celery soup and the power of KFC.

A midwife on the impact of Coivd-19 on pregnant people.

Sam Brooks reviews the debut episode of Paul Henry’s new show, where the first guest was, unexpectedly, Michael Hill, jeweller.

6.00pm: Air NZ obscuring Covid-19 cases

A whistleblower has provided details to RNZ’s Checkpoint about the handling of Air NZ’s Covid-19 response and why it might be obscuring the number of staff and crew who have Covid-19.

Checkpoint’s Lisa Owen said that RNZ has repeatedly asked both Air NZ and Dr Ashley Bloomfield at the daily media update, how many Air NZ employees have the virus. Owen says they have been repeatedly ignored and Air NZ continues to refuse to give comment.

The whistleblower provided details of two letters containing concerns that were sent to Air NZ senior management. One letter references a flight carrying three passengers in different sections that had the virus and a subsequent four crew that contracted it. Those staff members went on to attend meetings as well continue working.

The current MoH guidelines say that Air NZ air crew are exempt from the two-week stand down between different flights as long as they appear healthy. But the letter notes these protocols are minimum guidelines, and Air NZ had sufficient surplus crew to accommodate a 14-day stand down period.

“We urge you to implement the recommended 14-day stand down between duties,” one letter read.

Another March letter from union reps expressed dismay that there were six Air NZ staff that had tested positive for Covid-19 and urged the airline to introduce a hard 14-day separation between duties.

The response from the airline to the whistleblower, dated March 28, said that under alert level four, crew had to self-isolate between jobs, but otherwise the advice from their medical health officers would stand and staff could continue to board flights as long at they appeared well.

Minutes from a health and safety meeting reveal that staff were likely being exposed while on layovers and that layover compliance was probably not being met. When asked in the meeting if he could reveal the number of crew and pilots with Covid-19 and those in hospital, Air NZ’s chief medical officer, Dr John Chalkley, refused citing employee privacy.

An Air NZ employee told Checkpoint: “It is clear that the numbers of crew infected have become embarrassing for the Air NZ brand. Air NZ continually maintains our job is low risk, yet we can’t independently asses that assurance without knowing the rate at which our colleagues have been infected.”

3.55pm: Bloomfield holding Facebook Live Q&A

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield and education secretary Iona Holsted are currently hosting a Facebook Live Q&A – you can tune in here. So far, naturally, there are a lot of questions about the partial reopening of schools next week, and this time not so many about onions.

2.45pm: Trump to suspend all immigration

The US president has just announced that he will sign an executive order to halt all immigration to the United States, to combat Covid-19 and “protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens”. He did so, of course, on Twitter.

According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, the US currently has more cases than any other country. Its death toll stands at 42,295.

2.25pm: Magazines set to publish again

Great news for the beleaguered magazine industry – under level three magazines will be able to publish once more. The Magazine Publishers Association pushed back hard on the government’s decision not to designate magazines, the only supermarket product not allowed on shelves under alert level four, an essential service. The association was also disappointed not to be asked to appear during the media session of the Epidemic Response Committee.

The welcome news comes just over two weeks after Bauer Media NZ, the publisher of long-standing titles like The Listener and New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, announced its closure, taking a huge bite out of what is already a dwindling industry.

Under the government’s guidelines for business, magazines will be able to be printed, distributed and posted. It’s still recommended staff work from home where possible, but photographers and reporting staff may travel.

1.45pm: New graphs

Here’s the latest Chris McDowall plotting of the new, active and recovered cases. Plus, a bonus chart of the plummeting cold/flu symptoms that Bloomfield mentioned, via the flu-tracking website info.flutracking.net.

1.00pm: One death, five new cases of Covid-19

There are five new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has announced.

That includes two confirmed and three probable cases. It takes the combined total of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand to 1,445.

Sadly, a woman in her 70s passed away yesterday. She was one of six residents from a Te Atatū care home, St Margaret’s, who had been transferred to hospital.

Twelve people with Covid-19 remain in hospital. Three are in the ICU, with one each in Middlemore, North Shore, and Dunedin hospitals. None are in a critical condition.

There are still 16 significant clusters of Covid-19 around the country and four more cases have been linked to the existing clusters, including three of those reported today. There are now 1,006 people who have recovered, an increase of 32 on yesterday. Yesterday, 3,203 tests were processed around the country, bringing the total processed to 89,503.

Community testing continues this week in Te Tairāwhiti, Taranaki and Northland.

When asked if people would be able to visit their dying loved ones in hospitals and aged care facilities under alert level three, Bloomfield said they were still working through the guidance, but there was currently compassionate grounds for people to visit dying loved ones and he was keen to extend this.

Education minister Chris Hipkins was on hand to answer questions about reopening schools under alert level three. Schools are set to reopen on April 29 for the children of those who need to go back to work. They can be accessed this week for any cleaning or maintenance and for a special teacher-only day on April 28 to prepare.

“Under alert level three, most children and young people will be continuing distance learning,” he said. “Early learning centres and schools will be physically open for students up to year 10, for the families that need that. Children who can stay home, should stay home.

“Education for years 11 to 13 will continue remotely. For tertiary education, moving to alert level three means remote learning will continue. Where that’s not possible, some facilities may reopen with strict physical distancing rules in place.”

Hipkins cautioned that it may take some schools and early learning centres longer than a week to prepare, and said the ministry will work with any that are struggling.

The ministry has spent the last week engaging with sector groups to work through practical issues, including the Early Childhood Education advisory group, principals’ associations and other key leaders, Hipkins said, and more detailed advice would be released over the next week.

“At-risk students and staff, including those who are over the age of 70, should also stay home and they will be supported to do so,” Hipkins said. Residential and special schools will not reopen in the early period of alert level three, but teachers and staff would continue to support these students.

On the topic of student interaction at schools, Hipkins said it was possible to ensure that children were within the same group each day and that proposed approach was to keep them and teachers safe. “To be clear, it is safe from a public health perspective to have a group of children working together,” he said, adding that parents also needed to support his by keeping children home when they can and definitely keeping them home when they are sick. He restated the director general of health’s position that there is currently no widespread, undetected community transmission in New Zealand. “The chance of it coming though the door or the gate in the first place is low.”

6,700 internet routers will be distributed to households, the minister said. Those doing NCEA in decile one to three schools will be prioritised. 10,000 devices have been distributed to students, including more than 1,250 laptops, and an additional 4,500 are to follow. For those who don’t have access to digital devices, so far 80,000 packs of learning materials have been dispatched in English and 10,000 in te reo Māori.

Hipkins also said that parliament would resume next week, with a cap on the number of MPs, who would observe distancing requirements, and as few staff as possible. He said they would be “endeavouring to get ministers involved in the Covid response to parliament … so they can answer questions in the house”. That means, for example, the deputy prime minister, Winston Peters, and the health minister, David Clark, will be returning from their homes at the northern and southern ends of the country.

As of 10am this morning there were 2,038 returned travellers in managed isolation or quarantine In New Zealand, Hipkins said. 1,952 of those were in managed isolation while 86 were in quarantine.

12.45pm: Today’s briefing

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield and education minister Chris Hipkins will be live from the Beehive for today’s media briefing at 1pm. Updates to follow, of course, and you can watch it here:

12.00pm: MSD investigating dodgy wage subsidy recipients

Over 500 organisations and employers have refunded their wage subsidy payments after reassessing their projected finances, the Ministry of Social Development has estimated. MSD deputy chief executive Viv Rickard told the Epidemic Response Committee it was currently looking into another 86 cases where the wage subsidy may have been wrongfully claimed. These figures came after Act leader David Seymour asked employment minister Willie Jackson if the government had plans to prosecute anybody found to have claimed (and been paid) the wage subsidy when they shouldn’t have. Rickard said the MSD hadn’t got to that stage with any of its investigations yet. Jackson was reluctant to guarantee Seymour any prosecutions, acknowledging that the desperate circumstances of Covid-19 needed to be taken into account.

11.45am: Death of NZer in Peru linked to Covid-19

A 49-year-old New Zealand man has died in Peru after contracting Covid-19, the NZ Herald reports. Edward Storey was in the middle of hiking the Inca Trail when the Peruvian government announced its lockdown in mid-March, and had been staying in a rented apartment in Cusco while awaiting the government chartered flight to repatriate New Zealanders in Peru, his family told the Herald. But he never boarded the flight, and was found dead in his apartment on April 17th after family contacted Internal Affairs and Interpol. Tests done then had since returned positive for Covid-19.

11.30am: Employment minister highlights economic impacts on Māori

Next up at the Epidemic Response Committee is employment minister Willie Jackson, who has spoken of the need to address the disproportion economic impacts on Māori from Covid-19. “At the worse the scenario … if this thing blew out you just double what the Māori unemployment rates could be. That’s totally unacceptable. So we have to put meaningful resourcing and funding back into those regions.” He talked about the $100m redeployment fund which was designed to provide short-term support for displaced workers and the need for iwi to come together and invest as partners in employment development opportunities.

11.15am: Auditor general to probe PPE provision

The auditor general has launched an independent review of the Ministry of Health’s management of personal protective equipment required for the Covid-19 response.

“Our review will include how the ministry manages the stock of PPE, ensures an adequate supply, and distributes the PPE. We will assess the controls over procurement, distribution to district health boards and others, and controls over the stock levels. We will report on how the ministry is responding to challenges and recommend improvements where appropriate,” said the Office of the Auditor General in a statement.

“Our focus will be on the Ministry’s approach from early 2020 and in response to Covid-19. We will not physically inspect stock levels because our staff cannot visit storage locations in the current environment. We are not clinical specialists so our review will not cover the appropriateness of the ministry’s clinical guidance on PPE use.”

The OAG said it expects to have its review completed in four weeks.

11.00am: SFO still investigating NZ First

The Covid-19 crisis swept away almost all other news, but political scandal is re-emerging into the headlines, and it will surprise no one that Winston Peters is involved. First, a judgement released yesterday found the legal action he took against National MPs he accused of leaking his superannuation overpayment details in 2017 was unsuccessful because he couldn’t identify exactly who was responsible. Today the Serious Fraud Office has announced the timetable for its investigation into donations made to the New Zealand First Foundation. The SFO confirmed it was on track to made a decision before the election (still scheduled for September 19) on whether or not any charges would be laid. The Electoral Commission escalated concerns over donations to police in February, who in turn asked the SFO to investigate.

10.30am: Nash faces criticism over lack of analysis

Minister for small business Stuart Nash is the first minister in the Epidemic Response Committee hot seat this morning. Committee chair Simon Bridges started by pressing Nash on why he couldn’t provide any analysis on how many businesses would collapse from the lockdown extension and the two weeks at alert level three. He cited an email he received from a bakery owner in his electorate who said the wage subsidy was not enough because they still had all the usual expenses and that the governments approach made them feel like “sacrificial lambs”. Nash told the committee that “an extra week of lockdown may actually end up saving a whole lot of small businesses because we can be even surer that we have Covid-19 under control.”

Asked about the many businesses that would not be commercial viable during level three because of reduced demand, Nash said that innovative businesses that were able to exploit opportunities, for example by setting up click-and-collect models, would be the ones likely to earn revenue and stay in business through level three. National MC Todd McClay then asked why dairies can stay open with a one-in, one-out policy, but a local florist can’t open under level three with the same policy, arguing that without the much needed cash injection, these decisions would mean that many businesses would collapse. Nash recommended the florist move to a click-and-collect model. On the topic of new start up companies and small businesses that were already vulnerable before the Covid-19 outbreak, Nash said there was a range of funded consultancy advice and tax relief services available to help them get through the transition, and he urged businesses to speak with their accountants and Inland Revenue.

Nash said that more measures and support for businesses would be coming along with the budget next month, and a range of scenarios were being considered.“Please don’t think that what has been delivered so far is the end of the road, it certainly isn’t.”

10.00am: Epidemic Response Committee in session

Today’s lineup includes finance minister Grant Robertson, minister for small business Stuart Nash and minister of employment Willie Jackson. You can watch it here:

9.50am: The day ahead

Following the economy-focused appearances at the epidemic committee this morning, the government minister appearing at today’s 1pm briefing, alongside Ashley Bloomfield with the latest numbers, will be Chris Hipkins. As the minister responsible for education he oversees a sector which has seen plenty of pushback to the instruction to reopen from April 29 to accommodate the children of parents who need to work under alert level three. It will be interesting to see what extra clarity the minister can provide for educators and parents. We’ll update live here from 1pm.

9.30am: Scientists want funding to find NZ vaccine

Scientists are calling on the government to provide more funding to develop a homegrown vaccine for Covid-19, RNZ reports. With the most optimistic estimates putting the availability of a vaccine at least a year away, and concerns that New Zealand would be near the bottom of the global waiting list when it does arrive, Malaghan Institute director Professor Graham Le Gros believes New Zealand should be working to find its own solution. Associate professor James Ussher of the University of Otago told RNZ his university had the facilities, capacity and expertise, “but what we do need is a commitment [from the] government to fund that … the longer we leave it, the longer we’re going to be without a vaccine in New Zealand for New Zealanders.”

Read the full story on RNZ

8.30am: Government’s SME response in the spotlight

Now that we know the date for moving to alert level three (next Tuesday, ICYMI), one of the big stories for the rest of the week looks to be what more the government can do to help small and medium-sized businesses make it through. When asked by Jack Tame on TVNZ’s Q&A last night if he was considering a subsidy for SMEs to help cover this month’s rent, finance minister Grant Robertson wasn’t ruling anything out. “We’ve got to look at how we make sustainable contributions to keeping people employed and keeping businesses going,” he said. “We’ve got billions of dollars going out, but that hasn’t stopped us from looking at what more might be possible.”

Plenty more questions around SMEs and the decision to extend level four lockdown by five days will no doubt be put to the government via Zoom at this morning’s Epidemic Response Committee meeting. Robertson is set to appear along with minister for small business Stuart Nash and minister of employment Willie Jackson. We’ll have a live stream and updates from the select committee here on the blog from 10.

8.05am: Ardern says doubts over contact tracing not behind lockdown extension

PM Jacinda Ardern has appeared on Morning Report, and denied that our capacity to contact trace was behind the decision to extend the level four lockdown. “It is one of the things that will be key to our ongoing response,” she told host Corin Dann. She said there were three elements to improving contact tracing. Firstly, any people who were unwell needed to be tested as soon as they showed symptoms. Second, a fast turnaround of samples at labs, which she said was improving all the time. Thirdly, she talked about the need for those with Covid-19 “to have a very good memory of who they’ve been in contact with”.

“For that process, we use police, we use customs, we use airlines to try and find people. We have a service that we’ve established that’s cross-government that helps us find the people we need to find,” she said. When asked if New Zealand had the capacity to deal with a 1,000 case flare-up, as referenced by the author of the contact tracing study Ayesha Verrall, Ardern said that she was confident in our systems. “Even now, we have the capacity to scale up to 10,000 calls a day,” said Ardern. National has cast doubt on New Zealand’s contact tracing, with health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse calling the claim of the ability  to trace 5,000 people per day a “mathematical impossibility”.

Dann also asked why New Zealand wasn’t comfortable with relaxing its restrictions to be more in line with Australia, despite having a similar reproductive rate. Ardern cited the make-up of New Zealand’s population versus Australia’s: “We have health inequalities in New Zealand. Any person that studies public health will tell you that we have devastating health inequalities in New Zealand. That means we have co-morbidities in parts of our population that, had they had an outbreak, would have made them more heavily impacted,” she said.

7.30am: The Bulletin wrap of the morning’s key NZ news stories

Taken from our essential daily 7am news roundup – sign up for The Spinoff’s newsletters here

The decision is in, and we will be leaving level four – just not until next Monday night. PM Jacinda Ardern made the announcement in a heavilywatched speech – if you didn’t catch it live, you can read it back here. It noted that the transmission rate of Covid-19 in New Zealand was exceptionally low on a global scale, with “a relatively low proportion of serious cases and, according to the Oxford University Coronavirus Government Response Tracker, one of the lowest mortality rates in the world.” In other words, Ardern said the lockdown has worked, but a bit more time so that “we lock in our gains”. Once the move to level three is made, the country will be in that stage for at least two weeks.

What prevented a decision to move to level three this week? Perhaps the biggest single factor was concern that the country’s contact tracing regime wasn’t yet up to standard. That’s covered in this Newshub report, which discusses rapid research into the system conducted by Dr Ayesha Verrall. Scaling up is taking place, and improvements are being made, but there were still some big gaps, and she had little confidence that it could contain a serious outbreak. This is a key quote from the story, about staffing in public health units – “these outbreaks are really complex. You can’t manage a rest home outbreak, for example, from a call centre. You have to be there on the ground,” said Dr Verrall.

The delay to the decision has not pleased National leader Simon Bridges, who has accused the government of falling short. One News reports that he argued there had been too many shortcomings over the past month in testing and tracing, and so the sacrifices of lockdown would now last longer. Bridges also looked to Australia, which has had somewhat lighter lockdown protocols in place over the past month. As Radio NZ reports, the extension to the lockdown will be a theme at the Epidemic Response Committee this week, which is chaired by Bridges.

What are the scientists saying? The Science Media Centre has canvassed the views of experts to find out, and in general terms they supported the extension. One idea raised in the collection was going back into lockdown later on – as politically unpalatable as the government might find that, given part of the justification for extension was to avoid going back into lockdown later. For example, associate professor Garry Nixon from the University of Otago said a “careful and gradual approach, based on the best science we have available, is the right one. This needs to be accompanied by a willingness to raise the alert level again if at any point it becomes clear that this is the right thing to do.”

The SMC experts said for future success, people need to keep track of their movements. Regardless of any app or technological solution, that’s the single biggest thing people can do to ease contact tracing efforts, if needed. “This means we should keep a diary of where we’ve been and who we’ve been with for the foreseeable future. If we ever become infected with Covid-19 or a close contact of someone who has the virus, tracing 80% of all our close contacts within three days is the ‘gold standard’,” said the University of Canterbury’s associate professor Malcolm Campbell. It’d probably be best to get into the habit of doing that now, even if it’s just the weekly visit to the supermarket.

Level three has been described by a few as “level four with takeaways”, because of the similar social restrictions that will be in place. But quite a few businesses will be allowed to reopen again when we shift down. To cover off what they’ll need to do to open, this piece from Michael Andrew is a very useful read. One of the key points about the move is that workplaces (and everywhere else) are still intended to be as contact-free as possible, so for example a business could hire a new employee, providing the interview was carried out remotely

A long-running court case taken by deputy PM Winston Peters against senior National Party figures has failed, reports the NZ Herald. In a judgement released by the High Court, it was confirmed that Peters’ pension information was deliberately leaked – however, it could not be established that any of those then-ministers had anything to do with it. The whole saga cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in the end. As for the original super overpayment – that was all cleared up and paid back by Peters well before any of this hit the headlines, making it a pretty weak smear if that was the intention of whoever leaked it. Meanwhile, in his capacity as foreign minister, Winston Peters has expressed the NZ government’s concern at the arrest of more than a dozen pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, reports Newshub.

A curious sale of shares by the chief executive of a major New Zealand company: The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Hamish Rutherford reports Summerset Group CEO Julian Cook sold off about $1.5 million in personally owned stock last week, with the retirement home company facing a decidedly mixed outlook at the moment. As Rutherford reports, it also came not long after the company received millions of dollars under the wage subsidy scheme.

Heavy high tides have given coastal cities cause for concern over the past week. The ODT reports Brighton – just to the south of Dunedin – was lucky to escape serious damage after flooding swept over the sand bars, reaching the local store. And in Wellington, the Dominion Post reports big waves battered the Owhiro Bay coast, with damage to roads, footpaths and several coastal houses.

From our partners: Oil markets are in turmoil, turning negative for the first time ever this morning, as energy demand has been hammered by Covid-19, and economic crises loom all over the world; so why is energy economist Michael Liebreich optimistic? I had a chat with him about the current state of the world, learnt heaps from it, and you can have a read of the interview here.

Thanks to PressPatron, you can now pay for the journalism of Stuff and the Otago Daily Times, regardless of where in the world you live. This matters a lot, because previously, there was basically no way to show support for these outlets if you didn’t live in a city with a newspaper. The ODT is of course great, but I’d rather talk about the other one here. Over the last few years especially, Stuff has been the most important platform for original reporting and investigative journalism in the country. Some sneer at them as nothing but a clickbait platform, but those people are wrong, and the loss of Stuff’s journalism would be a huge loss to the country.

7.15am: US oil prices turn negative

For the first time in history, US oil prices have turned negative, with such an oversupply of the commodity that oil producers must pay buyers to take oil they will produce in May. The price of crude plummeted by 114% in just hours, despite an agreement earlier this month between Saudi Arabia, Russia and other countries to cut 9.7 million barrels a day in production, beginning in May. The problem is that despite the reduction, the world’s demand has fallen by further than that again, meaning the excess must be stashed until it can be sold. Yet global capacity is said to be nearing its limit. The New York Times reports it as being “stockpiled on barges out at sea, and in any nook and cranny companies can find in their storage facilities. Now, traders are worrying that even this space is running out.”

Read the full story on the New York Times

6.25am: Singapore was the world’s Covid-19 response model. Now it’s the regional epicentre

World update / For weeks Singapore was seen as the nation which could teach the world how to manage Covid-19 while also living some semblance of normalcy. A combination of banning travel from infected areas, advanced technology and fast contact-tracing meant that it mapped its clusters fast, and appeared to be on track to control the virus. New Zealand was particularly focussed on its efforts, with our leaders in regular contact, local research notes written studying the response, and talk of deploying its tracing app.

Yesterday it announced 1,426 new cases of the virus in a single day, nearly as many as New Zealand’s total number of infections (1,440), bringing the Singaporean total to 8,014. It underscores the way that even countries which seem to have the virus under control can see a tiny number of cases explode if it gets into vulnerable populations.

In Singapore’s case it was low-wage migrant workers, a part of its economic miracle which isn’t front and centre of its public face, but nonetheless is a big part of why it has been so successful. They live in packed dormitories, and it’s there that the virus has run rampant, with over 3,000 infections in just three days. It underscores the critical importance of keeping the virus away from conditions in which it can rapidly spread, as New Zealand has its own areas of cramped and overcrowded housing, which often also coincide with multi-generational families and pre-existing medical conditions.

I caught sight of the Singapore story after noticing that it had the largest percentage increase in new cases since April 18 on the Washington Post’s data page. One bleak side effect of the pandemic is the number of different sites doing excellent data journalism and visualisation. That statistic helps show the pace at which the virus is traveling within a country, which is more helpful in many ways than the raw numbers alone. While Singapore is even now relatively well-placed to deal with its outbreak, due to its excellent medical facilities and strong trust in giovernment, some of the other countries showing exploding numbers are more populous, and less likely to be able to handle its rapid spread. Of countries with more than 5,000 cases, the next three with the fastest-growing outbreaks (as measured by positive tests, at least) are Belarus, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Of the 10 worst-hit nations as measured by total infections, the UK has by far the largest percentage increase over the span. It shows, again, just how difficult this virus is to control, with advanced and emerging economies, large and small, all struggling to manage outbreaks.

The global tally of deaths stands at 167,592, confirmed infections at 2,440,528 and recoveries at 639,585, all per Johns Hopkins.

6.00am: Yesterday’s key NZ stories

A $55m investment in contact tracing was announced, as an independent review of the contact tracing programme so far was released.

The prime minister announced that a move to alert level three will take place at 11.59pm on Monday, April 27, and we’ll stay there for two weeks. Opposition leader Simon Bridges criticised the five-day extension to the original four-week lockdown, saying it proved the government hadn’t laid the groundwork.

Nine new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand were announced.

The Ministry of Health’s Māori Covid-19 response plan was criticised by Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, a Māori national pandemic response group.

Simon Bridges announced the lineup for this week’s meetings of the Epidemic Response Committee: today it’s finance minister Grant Robertson, minister for small business Stuart Nash and minister of employment Willie Jackson.

Covid-19-hit media company Stuff announced it was seeking donations to help fund its newsrooms.

Professor Shaun Hendy, leader of a team advising the government on Covid-19’s spread, said he believed New Zealand should stay in lockdown for another two weeks.

Australia announced a mandatory code of conduct” for Facebook and Google.

Chinese ambassador Wu Xi announced the delivery of medical supplies to New Zealand, as part of the country’s global diplomatic push to help combat Covid-19.

The Early Childhood Council appealed to the prime minister to not open early childhood centres at alert level three. Teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa has not been as forthright, but has asked for more guidance from the Ministry of Education.

Read more of yesterday’s developments here.



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