COVID-19 UPDATE – 6 APRIL

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has advised that businesses should plan how they will operate post-lockdown, in an environment where intensive contact tracing would be needed.

“I ask all businesses to look at the alert level framework, think about how your business could successfully operate within each,” said Ardern. “We will need to, for many months to come, contact trace all New Zealanders who come into contact with one another and workplaces have a role to play in that.”

There is yet to be confirmation of what intensive tracing would look like after lockdown. The government simply stated that it is looking at what technology exists and what other countries have implemented.

Of the total number of confirmed cases in New Zealand, 49 percent had a link to international travel. Known community transmission was still running at 1 percent but Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, advised that this could grow to 18 percent of cases as investigations progressed.

The Prime Minister noted that the numbers showed that New Zealand had avoided the exponential growth that overwhelmed health systems in many other countries.

“I’m aware that every time we see new cases it may be hard to see success, but we can be sure that what we have done as a country since the very beginning of Covid-19 is making a difference,” said Ardern. “Now what we need to do is see those numbers start to climb down.”

The National Close Contact Service (NCCS), based at the Ministry of Health in Wellington, was funded out of a $40m public health package. A 190-strong team has tracked down 4909 close contacts of people infected with Covid-19.

Director of Public Health Caroline McEnlay said the centre currently made 2000 calls per day as part of its contact tracing efforts.

The Prime Minister has also confirmed that New Zealand will be staying in Alert Level 4 lockdown for the full four weeks as planned.

“Four weeks is the minimum time to ensure the chain of transmission is stopped,” noted Ardern. “There is no plan to move from level 4 early.”

Ardern explained the need to be absolutely sure the country doesn’t miss any silent outbreaks.

The government announced today that New Zealand will get a database of businesses that have claimed the wage subsidy scheme. This will help employees find out if their businesses have claimed it.

It also announced extra mental health resources to be available during this difficult time and beyond the lockdown.

“No one should be hard on themselves,” pleaded Ardern, who acknowledged the heightened stress and anxiety being felt by most Kiwis at this time.

There was some clarification on which businesses can operate under the lockdown restrictions.

Ardern confirmed that the items people can access in supermarkets can be sold by independent businesses online and with delivery only. This means that any grocer, butcher or coffee roaster that has online purchasing and delivery available can operate during the lockdown. This will be some relief to many small businesses.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that the Easter Bunny is an essential worker and offered the idea of families putting easter eggs and bunnies in the windows of their homes for children to find when they’re out waking, as many have done with teddy bears recently.