The prime minister had a serious message for those blaming people for being infected with the virus, the use of masks is once again being urged, and the financial hit in the second period of restrictions amid the outbreak is becoming apparent.
Today there were 11 new cases of Covid-19 in the country, nine in the community and two in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
It brings the total number of confirmed cases to 1315, of which 105 are active cases.
One case that was under investigation has now been linked to the existing cluster, and the inquiry into the case of the Rydges Hotel maintenance worker remains ongoing with no new leads to report.
It’s still believed the worker may have caught the virus after accessing a lift moments after a returnee – who later tested positive – did. However, microbiologist Siouxie Wiles told Morning Report while surface contamination is possible, it has only been recorded a few times internationally.
“This is why we ask everyone to keep washing their hands and not touching their face. I guess this will mean that they’ll have to look at putting some more rigorous processes in place but it just shows how sneaky this virus is.”
Cabinet met this morning to review the settings for the alert level restrictions throughout the country, but a decision on whether to stay or change will not be made until Monday.
In the daily afternoon briefing today, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield also detailed the sensible way to wear a mask and advised people they could even make their own ones at home.
Dr Bloomfield appealed to the public again to use masks, as the ministry pursues whether a person may have become infected while catching the same bus as a recent case from the cluster.
No blame, no shame
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – who also was in attendance at the briefing – warned people against blaming those who got infected with the virus. She thanked those who have been stepping forward to get tested.
“We would not have got in front of this cluster without them,” she said.
“Vilifying those who have caught the virus, or those who helped keep us safe by getting tested is something that I simply will not tolerate. It is those who shame others, those who seek to blame, they are the dangerous ones. They are the ones who cause people to hesitate before getting a test, they are the ones who make people feel afraid.”
It also comes after youth in New Zealand spoke out about the World Health Organisation’s warning that young people are driving the spread of the virus, based on surges in cases among people in their 20s and 30s in Australia, the Philippines and Japan.
Associate professor of infectious diseases Mark Thomas said it did not appear that young people had done more damage than anyone else in New Zealand.
“There will always be people who behave a little bit more wildly and we don’t want to end up as a society of people who are all scared to do anything. But everyone is going to be toned down to a considerable degree at the moment. Everybody’s working hard for success.”
The Minister of Health has also said Pacific people will not be punished for being in the country without a valid visa if their immigration status is revealed during Covid-19 testing.
An iwi-led checkpoint at Waiomio on State Highway 1 was set to be established following concerns that too many vehicles have been travelling into the region.
But Māori leaders have opted for mobile patrols in the Far North, rather than a checkpoint, after consultation with police.
Although restrictions are causing headaches for those on the southern side of Auckland’s border, with farmers finding themselves unable to check their stock, and having to drive vast distances to get feed and equipment.
They’re calling on the government make them exempt from the border rules, or move the border further south.
Exemptions for travel in and out of the city’s borders are necessary under the current restrictions. It’s also resulted in New Zealand Rugby postponing an inter-island match after 14 Auckland-based players were denied travel exemptions.
The match was originally due to be played at Auckland’s Eden Park on Saturday.
Financial hit across the board
Foodbanks are again reporting increased demand for food parcels.
Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly says they are handing out about 1200 food parcels a week – three times the number they would have done in a normal week, before Covid-19.
But families are also more anxious about how they will pay the rent and bills
Some people who were wrongly denied the benefit based on redundancy payments, or never applied because of misleading advice, say they still have no answers months after applying to have their cases reviewed.
And figures released to Checkpoint show more than $2 billion in wage subsidies have been given to businesses which have never paid company tax.
So far, $13.2 billion has been paid out through the government’s wage subsidy schemes, with another round available from today following the recent Covid-19 outbreak.
Meanwhile, RBNZ’s chief economist says the big bond buying programme is making a big difference to the country’s economic rebound from the pandemic, and any move to negative interest rates will be contingent on the health of the economy.
But Reserve Bank data also shows 10,905 homeowners were in arrears with their mortgages at the end of the first week of August.
More than 240,000 mortgage payments have been missed since April – worth about $2.2 billion.
Update in the Pacific
The Northern Marianas has reimplemented several restrictions, as the territory again confirms community transmission of Covid-19.
Governor Ralph Torres said his administration was being extra cautious, with the territory having recorded 54 cases.
Guam has also announced further restrictions after it recorded its highest number of cases in one day, with 105 people testing positive for the coronavirus on Thursday.
And United Nations report has warned an increase in poverty rates in Fiji could see tens of thousands of locals including children impacted post-Covid-19.
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