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Police Commissioner Andrew Coster speaks during the All of Government briefing at Parliament on April 8, 2020. (Photo by Mark Mitchell/Getty Images)
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster speaks during the All of Government briefing at Parliament on April 8, 2020. (Photo by Mark Mitchell/Getty Images)

SocietyApril 23, 2020

Covid-19 live updates, April 23: Three new cases; major tourist attractions shutter

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster speaks during the All of Government briefing at Parliament on April 8, 2020. (Photo by Mark Mitchell/Getty Images)
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster speaks during the All of Government briefing at Parliament on April 8, 2020. (Photo by 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 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.

7.15pm: The day in sum

There were three new cases of Covid-19, and two new deaths

An opinion poll found that 87% of New Zealanders back the government’s response

A $50m rescue package for media was announced, with the bulk of the funding going to broadcasters

A replacement for the usual Anzac Day dawn services was announced: Stand at Dawn, which encourages New Zealanders to stand at the end of their driveway instead

The Australian and NZ prime ministers confirmed they’ve had preliminary talks about opening the trans-Tasman border

Grant Robertson ruled out tax cuts to stimulate the post-Covid economy, but said ‘helicopter money’ (a one-off payment to all New Zealanders) was still an option

Foreign minister Winston Peters announced three Air New Zealand flights to bring New Zealanders home from India over the next week

6.55pm: Ardern on letting billionaires buy their way in

This is from earlier, but worth a watch if you missed it. At today’s 1pm briefing, the PM was asked about the suggestion that overseas billionaires could be allowed to buy up land in New Zealand to stimulate the construction industry. In short, she wasn’t having any of it. “That philosophy has existed in New Zealand for a number of years and it’s never been one that I’ve subscribed to or believe actually achieves what people claim it does,” she said, before swiftly moving on.

6.45pm: On The Spinoff today

We find out what’s the deal with takeaway food and coffee under alert level three

Siouxsie Wiles explains what we know about children and Covid-19

Kris Faafoi unveils $50m rescue package for NZ media as Covid-19 crisis bites – and many are unimpressed

In their own words: Children talk about how they’re feeling about level four lockdown

Public backing for NZ Covid-19 response rises to 87% – we have details of a new opinion poll

Safe sex: How to keep up your sex life going during lockdown, if you live with your partner or not

Chris McDowall is back with his collection of data visualisations showing the status of Covid-19 in New Zealand today

Together, apart: Emily Writes on keeping kids connected under rāhui

Ben Thomas says Simon Bridges’ flailing attack was too far, too soon

6.05pm: Australian PM in talks with Ardern over future border opening

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison says he and Jacinda Ardern have discussed opening the trans-Tasman border. “I would have thought New Zealand would be the obvious candidate [for border openings] and that’s the nature of discussions we’ve had,” Morrison said.

“That is an area we can look potentially favourably on provided all the other arrangements are in place regarding public safety.”

In a statement, the NZ prime minister’s office confirmed that the subject had been discussed, but said it was too early for the two countries to be making any firm plans.

“Our current border restrictions and quarantine arrangements are the most important protections we have to stop the virus re-entering New Zealand and taking off again, so they will only be lifted when we are confident it is safe to do so,” the statement said. “So while nothing is going to happen immediately, the idea has merit as something that might be possible down the track.”

5.30pm: Major tourism company announces job losses, attraction closures

Ngāi Tahu Tourism is cutting 300 jobs and closing a number of the country’s top tourist attractions, the NZ Herald reports. The iwi-owned, Christchurch-based tourism company owns the Shotover Jet near Queenstown, Franz Josef Glacier Guides, the Agrodome and Rainbow Springs Nature Park in Rotorua, and the Dark Sky Project in Tekapo, all of which are now closed.

3.30pm: Stuart-Black gives details of air travel during lockdown

As of April 19, the National Crisis Management Centre had approved around 2000 travel requests on compassionate grounds, Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black has reported. These were mostly for repatriation around the country of people who had finished their period of mandatory isolation after arriving back in New Zealand.

There may up to six repatriation flights into New Zealand between now and April 30, carrying a combined total of approximately 1,200 people, she said. These are scheduled from Fiji, the US, Tonga, Bangladesh (via Singapore), Samoa, Rarotonga and India. A flight from Thailand has yet to be confirmed. New Zealand has received 1,250 expressions of interest from people in India seeking repatriation.

3.05pm: Commissioner on police plans during Anzac weekend

There have been 4,452 breaches of the lockdown laws so far, police commissioner Andrew Coster has just announced. Of these, 423 happened in the past 24 hours. There have been 477 prosecutions, 3,844 warnings, and 131 youth referrals.

A total of 55,000 reports have been received from the public about breaches; 1,535 of those received in the past 24 hours.

The police presence over Anzac weekend will be similar to that of Easter weekend, Coster said. This will include operating road checkpoints, making sure people are safe and complying with the lockdown restrictions. “Any travel over Anzac weekend should be for essential purposes only. If you are planning to travel to your bach or visit friends or family, you need to change your plans and stay home,” he said.

Under alert level three, police will continue to be highly visible in communities and on roads to maintain public safety, security and order, Coster said. An education-first approach would be taken, he said, and he advised New Zealanders to get familiar with the new alert level rules. “Reassurance checks” will continue to occur, with a particular focus on large gatherings.

Coster noted that while he understands the desire for small, isolated communities to protect themselves from Covid-19, the police does not encourage community checkpoints. “Where communities have determined to undertake checkpoints to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the police is working with these communities and other agencies to ensure that checkpoints are safe and not preventing lawful use of the road,” he said.

Over the course of the alert level four lockdown, there’s been a decrease in crime such as road policing, theft and burglary and assaults, he said. In comparison to a similar period, there was a 57% decrease in road policing activity, 42% decrease in theft and burglary reports, and a 36% drop in assaults. This is likely due to a number of factors including higher police presence and lower traffic volumes. In the first few days of lockdown there was a 24% rise in family harm-related events, but since then these numbers have stabilised to similar levels to last year.

2.10pm: Today’s numbers

Here are the top-line numbers from today. Active cases are now down to 370, continuing the downward trend that started around April 8.

1.40pm: No need for compulsory masks, says Bloomfield

The director general of health has said the government has no plans to make masks compulsory. “We don’t believe it is an important part of our measures,” he said.

He reiterated that the most important parts of Covid-19 are physical distancing, hygiene, and maintaining the bubbles. He also advised that if people want to use masks they should and they should know how to use it, but said, “We don’t think at this point there is any indication for routine use of masks in public.”

Although compulsory masks are not currently government policy, other bodies may have their own rules or recommendations. Auckland Transport, for example, has asked passengers to wear face masks when using public transport under level three.

1.30pm: Bloomfield apologises to family of Dunedin patient

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has apologised for the “anxiety and concern” he had caused the family of the patient in ICU at Dunedin Hospital, who has since died, when he listed her condition as “stable” earlier in the week, reflecting the fact that her condition had not changed. “I’m sorry that that happened and I’m certainly happy to be in touch with them personally if they would like to,” he said.

1.20pm: How health services will operate under level three

The director general of health has been explaining how non-Covid health services will look under alert level three. As has been the case under level four, hospitals will remain open for emergency and acute care. Some elective services including surgery and radiology will be provided under alert level three, he said, adding that more detail will follow in the coming days.

As under level four, urgent dental appointments will be allowed, but not routine dental care. “There will be an allowance for some face-to-face services for physiotherapy, podiatry and optometry where urgent care is required, but they will continue to provide services as much as possible virtually.”

In aged residential care, only family visits for palliative and compassionate reasons will be considered, and that will be on a case-by-case basis.

1.15pm: Details of Anzac commemorations announced

This weekend is Anzac Weekend, and commemorations will look a bit different under lockdown. Stand at Dawn will take place at 6am on Anzac Day, April 25, in place of the usual dawn services. New Zealanders will be encouraged to stand at the end of their driveway to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in World War I. The official dawn service broadcast will be on RNZ at 6am on the day.

The prime minister said, “As dawn breaks, we can stand at the ends of those driveways and together ins sl and pay tribute to those we should never forget. We still can take time to pause, reflect and pay our respects to the people who have given so much to us.”

More details can be found at

1.05pm: Three new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand

There are three new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has announced. Two are confirmed and one probable, and all cases are linked to existing cases.

Bloomfield reported two further deaths. One is a woman in her 60s who lived in Dunedin and had an underlying health condition, as reported earlier today. The other is a man in his 70s who was a resident of Rosewood rest home in Christchurch. He had tested negative for Covid-19 but was considered a probable case based on his exposure and symptoms.

Today there are eight people in hospital with Covid-19. One person is in ICU at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland. There are still 16 clusters across the country, and four additional cases have now been linked to those clusters. A total of 101,277 tests have now been processed.

While there are three new cases today, there has been no change to the total number of Covid-19 cases in New Zealand, which remains at 1,451. Bloomfield explained this was because three of the cases reported yesterday were from the Greg Mortimer ship, and since their testing was done in Uruguay, the Ministry of Health was checking with Uruguayan authorities whether those cases had already been reported to the World Health Organisation.

12.50pm: Watch live: Ardern and Bloomfield to update case numbers

The 1pm briefing will be delivered today by the standard pairing of PM Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield. You can watch it live here:

12.30pm: $50m rescue package for media announced

The first round of a rescue package for New Zealand media has been announced, following government promises to “triage” its support measures for an industry in crisis. The majority of the funding is targeted at broadcasters, including the state-owned operators RNZ and TVNZ. Newspaper operators were likely to be “aghast” at the plan, says media commentator and former New Zealand Herald editor Gavin Ellis. “[The government] have privileged broadcasting above everybody else”, he said.

Read the full story on The Spinoff here

12.15pm: Dunedin ICU patient dies

An Invercargill woman who had been in ICU in Dunedin Hospital has died of complications from Covid-19, Stuff reports. The 62-year-old was airlifted to Dunedin from Invercargill Hospital on April 4. Earlier this morning (see 8.25am update) RNZ reported her family’s dismay at what they believed was misleading language used by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield at this week’s daily media briefings, where yesterday he described the patient’s condition as ‘stable’. The Ministry of Health explained that in this context the word ‘stable’ meant ‘unchanged’. According to Stuff, the patient died last night, making her the 15th Covid-19 related death in New Zealand.

11.40am: Tolley wants warbirds

An Anzac Day flyover of Auckland by five warbirds that has been blocked under alert level four restrictions should be allowed to go ahead, National’s Veterans spokesperson Anne Tolley says. The flyover had been arranged by the Auckland RSA, but they were told by the Ministry of Transport to scrap it because it was too risky for alert level four. In a statement released this morning, Tolley said that it was “ridiculous” for a flyover by highly-skilled pilots to be lumped in with everyday punters going surfing or mountain biking. “We’re talking about professional pilots who follow strict safety protocols. They won’t struggle to maintain social distancing from their cockpits,” she said. She wants the government to grant the RSA an exemption so the flyover can still happen. 

11.30am: Duck hunting season postponed

The duck hunting season, which was due to open on the first weekend in May, has been postponed until the second weekend after New Zealand enters alert level two. The decision was announced by sport and recreation minister Grant Robertson and conservation minister Eugenie Sage this morning, along with a ruling on hunting under alert level three. They confirmed hunting will be allowed from next Tuesday, provided it is done locally, on private land, with the landowner’s permission. Hunting on public conservation land will still be prohibited under level three.

11.00am: Nats not keen on ‘helicopter money’

‘Helicopter money’ has become the country’s latest buzzword after Grant Robertson said it to Mike Hosking on NewstalkZB this morning. In the simplest possible terms, it’s when the government gives everybody some money to spend in order to help stimulate the economy. It’s an idea suggested by Kiwibank’s chief economist earlier in the week, and Robertson said he hadn’t ruled it out when asked by Hosking. Perhaps unsurprisingly, National’s finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith has come out in opposition of the idea. “Before [the finance minister] tosses the bundles of cash from the chopper, he needs to acknowledge the immediate focus right now should be on business relief,” Goldsmith said in a statement released this morning. “He should focus on the thousands of small to medium sized businesses that are paying a disproportionately heavy price for the extension of the lockdown. Reducing the number of business collapses is the best way to reduce the number of job losses and livelihoods lost.”

10.45am: The day ahead

On top of the Epidemic Response Committee there are two government media briefings scheduled for this afternoon.

At 1pm, the familiar pairing of Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield will take the stage. At 3pm, two other key figures in the Covid-19 response will address media: the director of Civil Defence emergency management, Sarah Stuart-Black, and the police commissioner, Andrew Coster. We’ll have full coverage and live streams here.

10.30am: What will NZ look like post-Covid?

The Epidemic Response Committee is cutting Paul Henry’s lunch this morning, welcoming a range of “prominent and thoughtful New Zealanders” to talk about their visions for a post-Covid New Zealand. It’s basically Rebuilding Paradise with Simon Bridges.

Xero chief executive Rod Drury is the first guest, and is largely speaking to a piece he wrote for Newsroom last week, which discussed some of the big questions we have to consider when rebuilding the economy. Things like improving broadband quality and rolling out 5G, and encouraging overseas investment. National MP Judith Collins says she agrees with everything Drury wrote, and admits “I wish I’d written it.” Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson isn’t as convinced, wondering why Drury is so keen on building luxury holiday homes for international millionaires when there’s a housing crisis in New Zealand. Drury says some money brought into the country from sales of luxury property could be channelled into affordable housing. Asked by chairman Simon Bridges if he drives a Tesla, Drury says yes, he does.

Traci Houpapa is the next guest, telling the committee that “New Zealand needs to recognise the important role that Māori play as commercial, industry, cultural, social and environmental leaders.” The closure of borders over the coming months or years is an opportunity to rethink the impact tourism has on New Zealand’s environment and communities once international tourism is able to resume, she says.

10.00am: Zoom meeting in session

9.30am: Mental health helpline calls up 40%

The number of texts and calls to the government’s ‘Need To Talk 1737’ mental health helpline has risen by 40% under lockdown, but Mental Health Foundation chief executive Shaun Robinson says the fact people are reaching out for help is a good thing. “It is perfectly OK to feel upset, fearful, anxious, angry”, he told RNZ. “It is really good people are asking for help.” National Telehealth Service chief executive Andrew Slater said the service had been hearing from a lot of first-time callers and texters, with financial and employment stress and family or household tensions under lockdown being common concerns. 

Read the full story on RNZ

9.00am: Today’s Epidemic Response Committee

The parliamentary Epidemic Response Committee will once again be taking to Zoom from 10 this morning. Scheduled to appear today: contact tracing expert Dr Ayesha Verrall, Xero chief executive Rod Drury, KPMG global head of agribusiness Ian Proudfoot, Māori business leader Traci Houpapa, academic and author Max Rashbrooke and The New Zealand Initiative’s Oliver Hartwich. They’ll have approximately 30 minutes each. As always, we’ll have updates and a link to watch the live stream from 10.

8.35am: Robertson rules out tax cuts, but ‘helicopter money’ still an option

Finance minister Grant Robertson has told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking that New Zealanders shouldn’t expect any tax cuts when this year’s budget is delivered next month. However, when asked about the idea of giving direct payments to every New Zealander in an attempt to stimulate the economy, Robertson didn’t rule the possibility out, saying the government had to consider all the options. “Things like ‘helicopter money’, as it’s sometimes called, is part of a potential package”, he told Hosking, “but it does have downsides as well because it’s not particularly targeted.” Kiwibank chief economist Jarrod Kerr earlier in the week called for all New Zealanders to be given a payment of $1,500 to help stimulate the economy post-lockdown. Robertson also assured Hosking that the government would be investigating any businesses which had potentially rorted the wage subsidy scheme.

8.25am: Family of Dunedin Hospital patient upset by briefings

The family of one of New Zealand’s Covid-19 patients currently in intensive care are concerned that the severity of her case has been downplayed in media briefings this week. The daughter of the 62-year-old Invercargill woman, who has been in ICU in Dunedin Hospital since April 4, told RNZ the family were “elated” when director general of health Ashley Bloomfield announced all hospitalised Covid-19 patients were in a stable condition at yesterday’s briefing, only to then call her doctors and be told that she was in fact still critical. The Ministry of Health responded explaining that in this context ‘stable’ meant that the patient’s condition had not changed. The woman and five other members of her family who tested positive are believed to be among New Zealand’s small number of community transition cases of Covid-19.

Read the full story on RNZ

7.40am: Even booze is not immune to the lockdown slowdown

The reason alcohol is meant to be a great business its alleged indifference to business cycles. That people drink to celebrate in good times, and as a release during bad times. There has been a steady flow of stories in recent weeks advising people not to drink excessively or too frequently in response to the stresses or boredom generated by the lockdown.

Yet it appears that the country has been much drier than usual lately. The Herald’s Aimee Shaw reports that alcohol sales are down 20% in recent weeks, in part because almost all locations which sell alcohol – from restaurants to liquor stores – are shut. 60% of sales in normal times are through hospitality outlets, which suggests that the slowdown for that sector will have a major impact on the booze industry. Perhaps the most surprising statistic in the whole story is that two thirds of New Zealanders claim to not have had a single drink in the past month, according to the industry representatives the NZ Alcoholic Beverage Council.

Read the full story on the NZ Herald

7.05am: 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

Watching the Epidemic Response Committee yesterday, one thing became very clear, very quickly. The health sector is in serious trouble, viewed from the lens of those working in it. The Spinoff’s live blog was watching, and one after another, spokespeople from organisations that represent those working in the sector outlined the same basic problems: There wasn’t enough money to meet rapidly increasing costs, the supplies and equipment that workers needed to do their jobs wasn’t reaching the front lines, and the communication from the health ministry wasn’t good enough. Scroll down from the ‘11.25am: Pharmacies also voicing criticism of ministry, funding’ update, and you’ll see what I mean.

The funding question is particularly acute for GPs and midwives, as Radio NZ reports, and if that doesn’t change, we could end up in the absurd position of medical professionals being made redundant during a health crisis. For some parts of the sector, the problems are unavoidable consequences of the lockdown. For example, Newshub reports the Dental Association is concerned about the lack of access people have had to care over the last month. But at the same time, they’ve also spoken out about “a lack of ready guidelines setting out what dental treatment should look like at each Alert level,” and a lack of available PPE. Other issues are being caused by the fact that each DHB has different systems of delivery.

On the question of PPE, another problem was revealed yesterday. The NZ Herald reports thousands more of the country’s supply of N95 masks – a crucial piece of protective equipment – have been found to be defective, and unfit for use. In this instance, the South Canterbury DHB had their supply replenished immediately by the ministry, so it hasn’t necessarily turned out to be a disaster. But given that it comes on top of around 100,000 masks around the Wellington region being found to be defective, it’s a bit of a worry.

Compounding this all, health workers have told Newshub they’ve been threatened with disciplinary action if they blow the whistle to media. This quote, from an anonymous doctor, is absolutely damning: “The reason hospital doctors don’t speak out is because we are bullied constantly by DHB managers, told not to talk to the press… on the threat of being terminated”. The Waikato DHB told Newshub that they were disappointed to see this complaint being made, as it was “in direct contrast to our policy” – I’d imagine anyone who has ever spent time in a workplace would understand that policies are no guarantee of how things will actually happen on the ground.

The final blow over the course of the day came from Pharmac. Radio NZ reports they will not be able to fund cancer drug Keytruda, because their budget has been squeezed by rising drug prices. Internal documents show the drug buying agency had planned to make the high-profile medicine available – that won’t happen in the near future now, and patient advocates will be furious.

None of these problems are necessarily the government’s direct fault, as they all reflect a system that has been under crushing pressure for a long time being suddenly hit with a crisis. But they’re the ones holding the bag now, and will need to respond rapidly to restore confidence among these groups. There were signs of strain at PM Jacinda Ardern’s press conference yesterday – in response to an allegation from the NZ Medical Association that the early flu vaccine distribution had been a “complete debacle”, Ardern’s response was that she disagreed with the assessment, reports the NZ Herald. From a political perspective, it would be extremely damaging for the government if the impression took hold that they weren’t listening to front line concerns.

A message from The Spinoff editor Toby Manhire:

“Here at The Spinoff, members’ support is more important than ever as the Covid-19 crisis lays waste to large chunks of our commercial work. It’s a tight time for everyone, of course, but if you’re able to, please consider joining The Spinoff Members to help us stay afloat and keep producing work by the likes of Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris, whose collaborations have had a real impact in New Zealand and around the world.”

$30 million in additional funding will be put into food banks and other welfare providers, reports One News. It comes on top of a previous $27 million boost in March, which was quickly swallowed up by rampant demand for support. At the Māngere Budgeting Service office for example, the queues have been up to two hours long. Meanwhile, Stuff reports there are still about 160,000 overseas visitors in New Zealand, many of whom need to be looked after as well. The really worrying thing about this tightness is that it’s happening relatively early in what is likely to be a long economic downturn.

Should your local mayor take a pay cut along with huge swathes of the city? Have they done so already? For the second question, the hard work on answering it has been done by the NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell, but in the case of local elected officials, they actually can’t choose to voluntarily reduce their own pay, so have to instead give a chunk of their pay to charity as a gesture. And some local elected officials are in fact paid very poorly for their public service already.

As for the first question, on whether they should – the Taxpayers Union are arguing that rates should be frozen this year, because businesses are doing it tough, and for elected officials to take pay cuts. Local Democracy Reporter Marcus Anselm got the views of South Wairarapa mayor Alex Beijen on that, who said that the call lacked any research or analysis behind it, and was an irresponsible suggestion. It’s a very tricky issue, because as we’ve discussed in previous Bulletins, most councils are currently facing a big infrastructure deficit, and currently the only realistic way to pay to address that is through rates.

Another timely and important piece from Dr Siouxsie Wiles. Writing on The Spinoff, she has addressed concerns around children being at risk of catching or spreading Covid-19 to others. The evidence here has big implications for the reopening of schools. It’s worth her full piece for a thorough explanation, but in simple terms: kids can get it, they can spread it, and there can be very serious outcomes too – but it’s much less common for children than adults.

A big story for the dairy industry, with the green light being given for Mooving Day to go ahead no matter what alert level we’re at. Newshub reports that strict controls will be in place for June 1, which is traditionally when sharemilking and employment contracts end, and new ones begin. Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor says that dairy farmers should be used to this by now, because of their experience in dealing with mycoplasma bovis over the last several years

In a symptom of the current situation facing the lower South Island tourist economy, the ODT has reported on the possible closure of a Scenic Group hotel in Dunedin. The company has already closed hotels in Franz Josef and the Fox Glacier, and now one of their two properties in Dunedin is likely to be shut as well. One potential saviour – with the hospital being rebuilt, there will be an increased workforce who need to be housed, which could offer them the chance to at least get some use out of the rooms

Something to watch out for if you have a fireplace in the home – the chance of unswept chimneys causing the wrong kind of fires. The Wairarapa Times-Age reports that with people at home and with colder weather setting in, firewood sales are up – but at the same time, chimney sweeps haven’t been able to work, because of the level four restrictions. As a rural fire officer quoted in the story says about chimneys, “you don’t know you’ve got an issue until you start cleaning it”.

6.15am: Tensions rise around the world

World update / The Guardian reports that France has endured a fourth night of unrest after an incident involving a motorcyclist and police car on Saturday night. It has manifested in fires and vandalism, with a primary school partially destroyed, and incidents in Toulouse, Lyon, Bordeaux and Versailles.

In Kenya, Al Jazeera reports that six people have been killed by police enforcing a Covid-19 curfew during its first two weeks. Human Rights Watch says police “appear to have enforced [the curfew] in a chaotic and violent manner from the start. In downtown Nairobi, police arrested people on streets, whipping, kicking, and herding them together, increasing the risks of spreading the virus.”

Relations between Iran and the US are deteriorating rapidly, with the Washington Post reporting president Donald Trump has instructed its Navy to fire on Iranian vessels which approach US ships. “I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any and all Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea,” Trump tweeted overnight.

Meanwhile, it has been discovered that the first deaths from Covid-19 on US soil occurred weeks earlier than previously thought. And WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that countries impacted early are showing signs of being hit with second waves of the virus. “Most countries are still in the early stages of their epidemics. Some that were affected early in the pandemic are now starting to see a resurgence in cases. Make no mistake: we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time.”

There have been 2.6m confirmed cases of the virus, over 180,000 deaths attributed to it, per Johns Hopkins.

6.05am: Yesterday’s key NZ stories

Six new cases of Covid-19 have been announced, all of which are confirmed cases and related to either international travel or existing clusters.

One further death – a woman in her 80s – has been reported. She was a resident of the Rosewood care facility.

A further $30 million has been announced by the government to meet immediate welfare and food security needs

Quarantine and isolation for all returning New Zealanders in government facilities will continue at alert level three.

Food delivery app and Uber Eats competitor Menulog has announced it will halve its commission rate for restaurants until June when it resumes service early next week.

The deadline for the Christchurch mosque attack inquiry has been extended due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Read more on yesterday’s live updates

Keep going!