No new Covid-19 cases on eve of entry to level 2

On the eve of New Zealand's entry to level 2 the country has recorded no new Covid-19 cases for the second day running.

Jacinda Ardern and health chief Ashley Bloomfield are giving their final update during alert level 3 and said there were no new cases of Covid-19, for the fourth time in total and the second day in a row.

The "encouraging news" meant the country had a combined 1497 cases - 94% were recovered, said Bloomfield.

Two people remained in hospital - neither in ICU.

There were 5961 tests yesterday.

"We've reached the milestone of more than 200,000 tests which is just over 4 per cent of the population," Bloomfield said.

He said the sense of anticipation for level 2 was palpable and understandable.

He reiterated the golden rules of keeping your distance, staying home if sick, call your doctor or Healthline and wash your hands.

Bloomfield said the numbers showed again "we're on the right path" and we couldn't afford to give our gains away so had to remain vigilent.

He's also received a copy of the Waitakere Hospitals infections and it would be released at 2pm today.

This evening at 11.59pm, New Zealand will move into alert level 2.

Announcement on funerals and tangi

Ardern said "the hardest parts" of the alert level framework were funerals and tangi.

There is currently a 10-person limit planned when level 2 kicks in, but Ardern signaled movement on this.

She has instigated calls between church leaders, funeral directors and iwi leaders to see if they could find a way to address legitimate health concerns while recognising funerals and tangi were life events which couldn't be postponed.

They were "well on their way" to finding a solution and the Health Minister would have more information on that this afternoon.

The Government was still working through the details. She said they had always been agile and aknowledged the difficult times Kiwis were going through. She urged that "there will still be restrictions".

They were seeing whether there'd be "checks and balances", involving funeral directors and the Ministry of Health.

Ardern said there had been other areas in their response that had been changed after consultation "and I don't shy away from that".

She accepted there'd been consequences of the restrictions - she's had friends who'd had funeral and tangi during lockdown and alert level 3.

"But ultimately we've always said we'd want to work through issues where they arose."

But New Zealand would have to exercise caution because "we're not out of the woods yet".

Bloomfield said the consistency around the public health advice was around group size and the purpose of the gathering, especially where there would be mixing and mingling.

The public health advice was focused on balancing health risks but had engaged and listened to the specific concerns about funerals and tangi.

Ardern said no one wanted to see funerals broken up by police - but enforcement was ultimately up to police.

"I don't think anyone in New Zealand wants to see a scene like that."

Ardern said social gatherings had the biggest risk factors and countries were now having second waves which she called "a warning shot to us".

This morning, relatives of a young butcher who died suddenly at the weekend made a heartfelt plea to the Prime Minister to allow them to attend his funeral.

Roy Green, 38, died at the weekend after his business went into liquidation a week ago.

One of Green's cousins, Bianca Rhind, has sent a letter to PM Jacinda Ardern pleading for the rules to be relaxed and to allow more than 10 people to attend their loved one's funeral service.

Hairdressers

The Ministry of Health has told hairdressers the most important element of PPE was a mask, if they wanted to wear it.

Bloomfield said New Zealand's situation was different to most other countries where restrictions were being relaxed because of our low levels of Covid-19.

And it was up to hairdressers and other hands-on sectors if they wore PPE.

Migrant workers

According to official advice to Cabinet released in Friday's document dump, there's potentially 380,000 foreigners and migrant workers in New Zealand.

The advice said "repatriation of foreign nationals at such a scale is unlikely to be possible" and they would have to shelter in place in New Zealand.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said yesterday Civil Defence had "done their best" to help them out.

"But that said, if you're here with no long-term legal authority or right to be here then perhaps you should go home."

Ardern said they would need a longer term framework for migrant workers but said she didn't want to get ahead of any decision making.

When asked about Peters comments, she said in her view many foreigners wouldn't have had a chance to get home which was why the Government had a compassionate response.

Ardern acknowledged that as New Zealand moved out of the emergency response, that group of people would need a more tailored response.

The gap had been plugged for now but would need a longer-term response, she said.

She rejected that the Government hadn't supported people in need.

A 'jobs Budget'

Ardern said tomorrow's Budget will be a "jobs Budget", signalling how the Government intends to tackle the virus economically.

"Our number one priority is jobs... That means doing all we can to support people staying in their current job or move to a new job if needed.

"And the reason for that is simple. It harks back to the sentiment of Norman Kirk, that all anyone ever needs is something to do, somewhere to live, someone to love and something to hope for. Employment helps form a foundation. It supports families, pays the bills, helps provide self-value and worth and when times are tough like this workplaces can provide an important support network."

She said she wouldn't pre-empt anything Finance Minister Grant Robertson has to say tomorrow, but could set out what the Government was trying to achieve, and the values to make it work.

The Government's plan was to invest.

"The first thing you will notice, is that we believe when times are hard, you don't cut – you invest.

"We will run the ruler over every line of expenditure, no question we need to ensure our expenditure provides value for money and supports our primary goal of jobs."

The notion that the Government would make cuts to essential services New Zealanders needed more than ever was "not only immoral, it is economically wrong".

That was why yesterday the biggest investment in health funding in two decades was made.

"It's why on Monday we delivered pay equity for early childhood teachers. It's why one of the first things we did when the virus hit was to increase benefit rates to ensure those who lost their job had more to help them through.

"Now more than ever we need our schools and hospitals, our public houses and roads and railways. We need our police and our nurses, and we need our welfare safety net. We will not let our team of 5 million fall when the times get tough, instead we will strengthen the blanket of support the Government can provide. We are rebuilding together, not apart.

"These foundations are essential. They are out base. But on top of them we must build the things that accelerate employment, empower businesses, and stimulate our productive economy. A relentless focus on jobs, economy and businesses is what's required now for the wellbeing of all New Zealanders."

In the coming month the Government would also launch a "comprehensive engagement programme" that will pose a simple proposition – look what our team of 5 million achieved together in beating the virus, now what can we do together to get our economy moving again, to look after our people, and rebuild in a way that make things better than they were before.

"That will of course include the business community, but it will be broader too."

"Prior to the virus we faced serious long term challenges – persistent inequality and poverty, the threat of climate change, the need to diversify the economy, low productivity, limited domestic manufacturing and an abundance of low paid jobs. Do we return to those settings or is now the time to find a better way?"

New Zealand to enter 'a very tough winter'.

Ardern said the Budget "will be delivered within the most challenging economic conditions faced by any Government since the Great Depression".

"The global COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global economic shock not of our making, but like every country in the world, we are also not immune to its fallout.

"Let me be clear, the coming months and years will be some of the most challenging our country has faced in a very, very long time."

She said the International Monetary Fund predicts the global economy will contract by 3% in 2020, much worse than during the global financial crisis.

Around the world, unemployment will rise significantly, businesses will close and Government revenue will decline.

"And we will feel the pain here too. New Zealand is about to enter a very tough winter.

"But every winter is followed by spring, and if we make the right choices we can get New Zealanders back to work and our economy moving again quickly."

Comments

So they announce on Monday that they will restrict religious gatherings and funerals and weddings to 10 people, and then two days later they are announcing 'coming close' to finding a solution to this problem. What is the problem? A rule that has no basis in rationality or even consistency with the other rules. You don't need to 'come too close' to find the solution: Scrap the inhumane rule. I guess they needed a couple fo days to poll people before they realised that such a rule would not be so popular. But anyone who needs to poll to find that out seriously calls into question their ability to lead anyone, let alone lead us in what it might mean to "be kind" in any situation. The kindest the government could be to the country right now is to resign. But in the meantime can I appeal to anyone polled to tell the truth and don't feel you need to tow some line about 'how well she is doing' as our country is taken from us in the name of "staying safe".

Look at the mixed messages in this story. It's a joke.
As a country we should be baying for blood, but no, kiwis just keep on taking it.
Well it's time we stopped that and started throwing mps in jail for treason and corruption. But no, were kiwis and let them do what they want.

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