PM reveals new powers to quarantine cruise ships

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced travel restrictions from countries hardest hit by coronavirus will stay in place for another seven days.

Speaking at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon, Ardern said Cabinet also agreed that medical officers will have the power to quarantine travellers on cruise ships where they feel there is a need.

This could be individuals, or entire vessels.

Ardern said there are 19 Kiwis in Milan, in Italy. If they return to New Zealand, they will be required to self-isolate.

She said there are 2000 people in self-isolation in New Zealand.

She will also provide details on the business continuity package which was discussed by ministers at Cabinet this afternoon.

The Ministry of Social Development has had 677 coronavirus related calls – many related to self –isolation.

When it comes to the Government's economic response, Ardern said she has instructed all Government departments to pay all their bills to small businesses within 10 working days.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who has just returned from a meeting with the CEOs of New Zealand's major banks, said there had been a constructive conversation.

He was confident in the strength in New Zealand's financial sector.

He asked banks to be proactive with its customers.

"I want to thank the banks for its approach [to coronavirus]," Robertson said.

Cabinet has approved a package with a wage subsidy scheme for workers in the hardest-hit regions.

The Government is also in the process of coming up with new tax rules for small businesses to help with paying their bills.

The details of this package is being worked through and a full announcement on the package will be announced next week, Robertson said.

He said coronavirus represents a different economic threat to any New Zealand has seen before.

That means it was important to get these details right, he said.

He added it was a "rapidly" changing situation.

Officials are also working on a "longer-term" package for the New Zealand economy as a whole.

He said coronavirus will have a "serious impact on the economy" but the package will help New Zealand in the long term.

Ardern would not be drawn on a bailout for Air New Zealand.

She said all airlines have been hurting.

Robertson said Treasury has not advised him that there would be a recession.

This comes after BNZ said a recession - two negative quarters of GDP growth - was "probable".

He said the New Zealand economy remains robust.

Asked about the "long-term" package, Robertson said he did not want to get into too much detail.

Officials were in the process of creating this package.

But he would not say how much money the Government was prepared to spend.

Yesterday, Robertson said: "Ministers are actively considering a range of options in response to the impact of Covid-19".

"A tailor-made response is required. Industry representatives are telling us they are seeing different effects on different industries in different regions. A one-size-fits-all approach is not what is needed."

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