PM says lockdown won't be lifted early

New Zealand won't be coming out of alert level 4 lockdown earlier than the full four weeks, despite promising signs, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Ardern is giving a press conference in the Beehive in Wellington, updating the public on the latest decisions about the response to the Covid 19 pandemic.

On how long we'll stay in level 4 lockdown, Ardern said she didn't want New Zealand to be locked down "a minute more" than necessary.

But we won't be brought out of lockdown early, she said.

She didn't want the gains in the first half of the lockdown to be lost in the second half.

Ardern said the four week lockdown allowed health authorities to see where the spread had happened but should have stopped further transmissions.

It would be four weeks minimum, she said.

Ardern said every day of the four weeks was important because it showed where the infections were because of the lag with Covid 19.

The four weeks would show where community transmission had happened.

We have positive signs, but Ardern said "we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves".

Graphic: NZ Herald
Graphic: NZ Herald

Surveillance testing would start for the "latter half of the lockdown".

A total of 876,000 people had shared in $5.3 billion paid out through the wage subsidy scheme which the Prime Minister said was extraordinary given it's only existed a few weeks.

Two per cent of cases have been confirmed as community transmission.

The increase in community transmission showed what they were expecting, Bloomfield said.

Between $8 and $12 billion will eventually be paid out through the scheme, the Treasury estimates.

A searchable database will be available shortly for employees to see if their workplace has applied for it.

Ardern said she was looking at the possibility of taking a paycut in light of the pandemic.

"I wouldn't rule that out," she said.

Ardern is paid $471,000 a year and she and other Ministers were acutely aware of the financial issues many New Zealanders now faced.

Ardern said she knew there were people feeling stressed, nervous and anxious during the lockdown.

Campaigns and resources will be released tomorrow to help Kiwis cope with the mental health impacts of Covid 19 and the lockdown.

Today there were 67 cases of Covid 19 bringing the total to 1106.

On digital solutions for contact-tracing, she said "no one wants to reinvent the wheel" and the Government was looking to other countries, like Singapore, which used it with success.

But no app compared to the interrogation which a human was able to do, she said.

The Government was having to design a means of sentinel testing, or random testing, as fewer people were presenting to their GPs.

On butchers, bakers and green grocers, they're not allowed to open their shops but can operate online.

On solo parents struggling to juggle shopping and childcare during lockdown, Ardern said essential workers had some provision for care.

For those who are sole parents they should have the flexibility to take them to the supermarket with them.

The jury was still out on whether the general public should be using face masks out in public.

On Bridges driving between Tauranga and Parliament, Ardern said Ministers had advice and it was up to them.

There were digital solutions, she said.

Ardern said it wasn't for her to determine how the Opposition operated.

"It is ultimately up to those MPs to make those decisions."

On the RNZ/TVNZ merger, Ardern said the pandemic showed how important it was for people to access information but the fact that advertising revenue was diluted. She expected to "expedite" this area.

On the Sylvia Park landlord asking for full rent, Ardern asked for compassion.

She said the Government had been looking more widely at rent issues.

As well as the organised charter flight to Peru, Ardern said they'd also been able to extract 11 New Zealanders from the Tyrol region of Austria.

The tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny are both deemed to be essential workers but Ardern said children should know the Easter Bunny might be a bit busy this year and might not be able to get every house.

On quarantining at the border, Ardern said they had to ensure any change was sustainable long-term and that was being worked through.

Ardern said it would be "absolutely wrong" to ask for Health Minister David Clark's resignation after he drove to mountain bike on a trail in Wellington despite lockdown guidelines banning the risky activity.

The last patients from the Whakaari White Island eruption have been discharged from the National Burns Centre at Middlemore, she said.

She thanked the staff at Middlemore and other healthcare workers across New Zealand involved in the response to the eruption.

"They do incredible work - very, very difficult work."

On Cyclone Harold, she said it was concerning and looked like it was coming into the Pacific with considerable force and the Defence Force was at the ready and Covid 19 didn't change that.

DHBs should be making sure frontline healthcare workers had the PPE they needed "because the supply is there".

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said a number of data points showed New Zealand's cases were "quite comfortably" levelling off.

It was encouraging, he said.

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