A drive-through Covid-19 testing station in Auckland (Photo: Getty Images)
A drive-through Covid-19 testing station in Auckland (Photo: Getty Images)

SocietyApril 25, 2020

Covid-19 live updates, April 25: Five new cases, one further death in NZ

A drive-through Covid-19 testing station in Auckland (Photo: Getty Images)
A drive-through Covid-19 testing station in Auckland (Photo: 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.

6.00pm: The day in sum

There were five new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today

There was also one further death related to Covid-19, the Ministry of Health reported. A woman in her 70s died in Waitakere Hospital, where she had been transferred from CHT St Margarets Hospital and Rest Home.

This brought the total number of Covid-19 cases reported in New Zealand to 1,461, and the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 18

Health officials processed 6,777 Covid-19 tests yesterday, just short of the record 6,961 tests processed the day before

Earlier today, prime minister Jacinda Ardern stood in the driveway of Premier House at dawn, joining thousands of other New Zealanders commemorating Anzac Day in a slightly different way than usual

US president Donald Trump had a much shorter-than-usual press conference, after appearing to suggest people should inject themselves with disinfectant to prevent Covid-19 at his press conference yesterday (you shouldn’t do that)

Broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi told Newshub Nation the government’s next media priority would involve beefing up its local democracy reporting fund 

Victoria University of Wellington was criticised for asking students to start paying next week for hall of residence rooms they won’t be allowed to live in until level two

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield encouraged New Zealanders to thank health and disability workers as part of a new Ministry of Health social media campaign.

4.10pm: Bloomfield encourages New Zealand to ‘pass on the aroha’

Good news for any Ashley Bloomfield fans missing their daily 1pm appointment with the director general of health today: here he is in a Facebook video posted by the Ministry of Health, calling on New Zealanders to join a social media campaign showing gratitude for the nation’s health and disability workers.

“To all working across New Zealand in our health and disability system, for all the work you’ve done to look after the health and care and support needs of kiwis, thank you,” he says in the clip. “Your dedication and professionalism is amazing.”

The video also features brief messages of thanks from other New Zealanders, including the famous faces of Art and Matilda and (in a separate bubble) Guy Williams. People are invited to join them by posting a photo or video holding a sign of thanks, and using the hashtag #arohanuihealthheroes

4.00pm: Also on The Spinoff today

The hospitality industry is broken, but the Covid-19 crisis gives us the chance to fix it, writes Sophie Gilmour

Speaking of hospitality, here’s a huge list of places around the country that’ll be offering takeaways and/or delivery under alert level three next week

A return to normal after Covid-19 might seem appealing, but Allbirds founder Tim Brown argues now is the time to strive for something better

Author Fiona Farrell reflects on Anzac weekend and going back to ‘normal’ in today’s Lockdown Letter

What’s it like being locked down in paradise aka scenic Lake Tekapo? Michael Andrew finds out

3.00pm: New graphs

Chris McDowall’s latest set of daily charts and maps for The Spinoff, reflecting all the latest Ministry of Health numbers, are now available to peruse at your leisure here.

2.30pm: Students told to pay for rooms they can’t use

Students at Victoria University of Wellington’s halls of residence have been told to restart their rent payments, despite still being locked out of their rooms. VUW sent a letter to students yesterday telling them that they won’t be able to return to their rooms until the country drops to alert level two, Salient reports. Students who had been living in catered accommodation were nevertheless told they would have to pay $150 per week to hold their rooms, the report said. Those who had been living in the halls of residence where they catered for themselves would be charged at their usual rate, minus a $120 weekly discount.

Rooms in halls of residence typically cost around $450 a week. A university spokesperson told Stuff the university had incurred costs of more than $2 million in accommodation services, and that “cannot continue unabated”. “It is now time for students who wish to retain their rooms to begin to contribute to the costs of the hall operations,” the spokesperson said.

Students were given 48 hours to either move out of their rooms or shift to the only open hall of residence, Weir House, when the government announced its shift to alert level four. Victoria University vice-chancellor Grant Guilford admitted that had been stressful, and promised to only levy “modest” charges on students who couldn’t access their accommodation, in an interview with Stuff earlier this week.

Several students expressed disgust at the charges to Salient. “I feel like I’m being strong-armed out of money,” one Weir Hall resident said. “I have now been forced to choose between paying hundreds of dollars rent for a room I’m not legally allowed to enter, or drop out of university.”

1.40pm: Today’s numbers, graphed

There are now 325 active and 1,118 recovered cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. Here’s how that information looks in graph form:

1.13pm: Five new cases, one further death

There are five new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, and there has been one further death, the Ministry of Health has announced.

A woman in her 70s died in Waitakere Hospital last night. She had been transferred from CHT St Margarets Hospital and Rest Home. The woman is the second resident transferred from CHT St Margarets to Waitakere to have passed away. This takes the total number of Covid-19 related deaths in New Zealand to 18.

The five new cases reported today are made up of three confirmed and two probable cases. One of the new infections announced today is still being investigated for links to confirmed cases, while the other four are linked to existing clusters. It takes the combined total of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand to 1,461.

There are now 1,118 cases of Covid-19 that have recovered, an increase of 23 on yesterday.

Seven people with Covid-19 are in hospital, including one person in ICU in Middlemore Hospital.

There are 16 significant clusters of Covid-19 around the country. That number is unchanged from yesterday.

A smaller cluster in Wellington of 13 cases linked to a local wedding is now regarded as closed, the statement said, as there has now been two incubation periods (28 days) since a case was notified.  The Ministry of Health said it expected to be able to declare more clusters closed in coming days.

Health officials processed 6,777 Covid-19 tests yesterday, just short of the record 6,961 tests processed the day before. A total of 115,015 Covid-19 tests have now been processed in New Zealand to date.

This means the 30 days since lockdown began look like this, in terms of new cases: 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, and today, 5.

1.05pm: Case numbers expected soon

The Ministry of Health is due to release the latest case numbers for Covid-19 in New Zealand. It earlier said the numbers would be released via email at 1pm.

12.10pm: Faafoi names first priority for next media bailout

Beefing up a local democracy reporting fund is the government’s priority as it puts together a second media rescue package, broadcasting minister Kris Faafaoi has told Newshub Nation. The government announced a $50 million media bailout on Thursday, with the majority of funding going to radio and TV broadcasters in the form of cuts to transmission fees and NZ On Air contributions. Print and online publishers like Stuff received less help, though they were able to access $11.1 million set aside for “specific targeted assistance”.

Faafoi stressed that another media funding package was coming as he announced the fund. He told Newshub today the second tranche of funding would see increased resources devoted to a local democracy reporting service, which has so far received $1 million to operate a year-long pilot program. “I think through this we can beef up support for journalism and… potentially help regional journalism but also some of the more traditional media players as well,” he said.

Faafoi also reiterated that the government would not stop advertising with tech giants like Facebook and Google. Media executives repeatedly asked government to redirect its ad spend on those companies to local media at a meeting of the Epidemic Response Committee last week. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the government’s ad spend, saying its messages must be present where people are.

Faafoi pointed out to Newshub that 70% of the government’s ad spend already goes to local media. However he said he would look at increasing taxes and regulation aimed at companies like Facebook and Google, citing Australia’s decision to charge the tech giants for using local media content.

11.30am: Second Ardern lawsuit rejected

Another man who attempted to sue prime minister Jacinda Ardern and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, claiming that lockdown amounted to illegal detention, has had his had his case dismissed by a judge. In a judgement released yesterday, Justice Mary Peters found that the lockdown was lawful and dismissed the man’s application. A similar lawsuit was also dismissed earlier in the week. Both men have requested and been granted interim name suppression.

11.00am: Today’s briefing

The Ministry of Health’s daily briefing of the number of new cases is due at the normal time of 1 o’clock this afternoon, in the form of a written media statement. Anybody tuning in to TVNZ 1 at that time expecting to be able to watch the briefing will instead find an episode of Extreme Chocolate Makers. We will of course have all the details here the second the numbers hit our inbox.

10.21am: Trump ends Covid-19 briefing early

US President Donald Trump has kept his daily Covid-19 media briefing more brief than usual as he receives criticism for musing about whether disinfectant injections could treat the virus. Health experts have issued warnings over Trump’s comments on disinfectant at yesterday’s briefing. He didn’t take media questions at today’s briefing and left the podium after less than 25 minutes. The briefings can last up to two hours.

Neither National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Dr Anthony Fauci or Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr Deborah Birx attended today’s briefing. Videos of Birx’ stony-faced reaction to Trump’s musing on disinfectant treatments went viral yesterday. Trump has since claimed the comments were “sarcastic”, though some fact-checkers have called that claim a lie.

The US Center for Disease Control and the manufacturer of the cleaning products Dettol and Lysol have both issued statements warning people against using household cleaners to prevent or treat Covid-19. Here’s what Dr Siouxsie Wiles had to say about the issue:

9.15am: Ardern joins New Zealanders in unique Anzac commemorations

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was among thousands of New Zealanders who stood in their living rooms and at the ends of their driveways to commemorate Anzac Day this morning. Ardern stood with her partner Clarke Gayford and dad Ross Ardern in the driveway of Premier House. She was joined by thousands of people around the country as part of the ‘Stand at Dawn’ campaign.

The campaign featured a ‘virtual dawn service’. In a broadcast, defence minister Ron Mark urged New Zealanders to pause and pay respect not only to the Anzac soldiers who gave their lives 105 years ago at Gallipoli, but in World War II and other conflicts since. “This Anzac Day look after each other, remember, commemorate and give thanks – but inside your bubble,” he said.

8.30am: US death toll passes 50,000

The US death toll from Covid-19 has passed 50,000, as experts issue warnings over President Donald Trump’s advice for health authorities to look at how disinfectants treat the disease. More than 875,000 Americans have contracted Covid-19, according to recent figures collated by Reuters. About 2000 have died every day this month, and the country’s death toll has doubled in 10 days. The US has the highest Covid-19 death toll in the world.

The grim milestone comes despite New York, the early US epicentre for the disease, reporting its lowest number of daily deaths in weeks late this week. Only 422 people died from the virus on Thursday (US time) – the fewest since March 31. Spain and Italy, the European epicentres for the virus, also recorded significantly lower daily death tolls last week.

Meanwhile, medical experts and health officials have issued warnings over Trump’s musing on potential treatments for the virus, which included suggesting injecting disinfectant. At Thursday’s White House media briefing, Trump said disinfectants could knock out the virus in “one minute”. “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds interesting to me.”

The US Center for Disease Control issued an article on correct use of household cleaners following the statement. Reckitt Benckiser, which makes the cleaning products Dettol and Lysol, said in a statement: “We must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route).” Several medical experts have also denounced Trump’s theories. Their responses have been collated by The Guardian

Trump has also talked up the potential benefits of using the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 treatment and prevention. The FDA has issued a warning urging doctors to take caution prescribing that drug as well. It can cause abnormal heart rhythms, which may be life-threatening, its advice says.

8.02am: Guidance issued on real estate transactions

If you’re wondering how you can buy or sell a house during alert level 3, REINZ has released some guidance. The basic rules are:

  • Two private viewings can be held each day for properties for sale or rental properties
  • Two people from an extended bubble can attend a private viewing
  • The private viewing must be contactless. The agent/property manager is to open any doors/ cupboards before the viewing

REINZ chief executive Bindi Norwell said she was pleased at the level of detail offered by the rules.

“We have also had a number of important health and safety aspects clarified that will ensure we are protecting both customers and real estate professionals for as long as level three lasts.”

The full guidelines are here.

5.05am: Mental health service rollout under way

The mental health and addiction services that the government promised to provide free for 1.5 million New Zealanders in 2019’s Wellbeing Budget have started being rolled out. Services are already being offered in nine DHB areas, health minister David Clark said, with the full programme expected to be up and running nationwide by the middle of next year. The government also plans to add additional services in the following three years.

The services that have been rolled out so far are still available during lockdown via phone or video conferencing. The training for staff being brought in to provide these new mental health and addiction services had been adapted so that it could be delivered virtually from next month, said Clark.

“Many people across New Zealand will be feeling distress or anxiety about the future because of Covid-19,” Clark said. “We want people to know that it’s normal to feel this way in times of uncertainty, and that there is free support available for people to talk with a professional.”

5.00am: Remember to #StandAtDawn this morning

Today is Anzac Day, and commemorations will be done a little differently than usual. With all public services having been cancelled, the New Zealand Defence Force and the RSA are encouraging New Zealanders to instead #StandAtDawn this morning – at the end of your driveway, outside your front door, even in your lounge, anywhere so long as you stick to your bubble and practice responsible social distancing – in remembrance of our fallen soldiers. An Anzac Day service will be broadcast on both RNZ National and NewstalkZB from 6am, with the Last Post, Ode of Remembrance, national anthems and an address by defence minister Ron Mark. More information can be found here.

If you were still thinking of heading out of town for the long weekend, the word from the government, police and this live blog is don’t. Police have reminded New Zealanders that we’re still under alert level four, just like Easter weekend, and they’ll be out patrolling the motorways and so on to make sure only essential travel is being undertaken, just like Easter weekend.

Another important thing you may want to take into consideration is supermarket opening hours – as usual for Anzac Day, the shops won’t be open until 1.00pm.

4.55am: Yesterday’s key New Zealand stories

There were five new cases of Covid-19 confirmed in New Zealand, and one death

The death was a man in his 60s at Rosewood rest home in Christchurch. His was the 10th Covid-19 death linked to the Rosewood cluster and the 17th in total

The government announced it will be extending and broadening its leave support scheme offering for at-risk workers who need to self-isolate under alert level three

Epidemiologist Michael Baker warned of the danger of case numbers growing again if people get complacent 

Demand for food parcels has more than tripled nationwide under lockdown, the Salvation Army’s monitoring report revealed

Both Countdown and Foodstuffs supermarkets announced they would will be cutting the 10% bonus they’ve been paying workers throughout lockdown starting from the week after next

Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult spelled out the huge hit the area has taken from Covid-19 in a speech delivered to councillors, as a survey of tourism operators revealed they expected to cut as many as half of their staff this year.

Read more on yesterday’s live updates

Keep going!