Morning Briefing March 16: Coronavirus, travel restrictions, tourism shocks

It’s been a weekend of drastic measures as nations around the world try to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand’s own unprecedented travel restrictions are officially in effect this morning, with almost all travellers required to isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival. Customs also shut their eGates from 3am today, meaning all passengers need to go through a Customs officer.

New Zealand’s number of confirmed Covid-19 cases currently stands at eight, with the two newest cases confirmed yesterday.

A passenger on board the Golden Princess cruise ship in Akaroa was also tested for coronavirus yesterday, however they told 1 NEWS this morning the test has come back negative.  

Two of the country’s politicians are already following the new self-isolation guidelines, with Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick and National’s Chris Bishop both in isolation after trips to Australia over the weekend.

(And if they or anybody else is wondering what self-isolation actually entails, they can find official Ministry of Health guidelines here.)

Sign up to get the Morning Briefing delivered direct to your inbox – here.

Tourism industry preparing for shock

The tourism industry is bracing for a loss of up to $10 billion in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With small operators already feeling the pinch, even fewer tourists are expected to visit with the new travel restrictions in force.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to announce the biggest financial package of her entire term tomorrow as a response to the expected economic fallout.

Meanwhile, airlines have been overwhelmed with calls since New Zealand’s new travel restrictions were revealed, with Air New Zealand’s call centre increasing its customer service support in order to cope with enquiries.

Airlines are now asking any passengers not travelling in the next 48 hours to delay their calls and to be patient as they manage the logistics of the situation.

Battening down the hatches worldwide

As New Zealand rolls out its new travel restrictions, other nations have announced drastic new measures to combat their own spread of coronavirus.

The situation is evolving so rapidly, there are reports planes are turning around mid-air due to new flight restrictions.

The other major developments in the past 24 hours are:

Australia has followed New Zealand’s lead and announced all travellers arriving in the country will need to isolate themselves for 14 days. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also banned cruise ships from arriving at Australian ports for an initial 30 days.

Samoa has strengthened its border requirements in a bid to keep the country free of Covid-19.

Two of the EU’s biggest states, Spain and France, have announced wide-ranging restrictions on their citizens. Spain has banned people from leaving their homes except for work or for buying essential supplies, while France has closed cafes, restaurants, cinemas and most shops.

The UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said every Briton over the age of 70 will be told to stay home “within the coming weeks”.

US President Donald Trump has been tested for coronavirus after coming into contact with two people who tested positive for the disease. A White House statement says President Trump’s test came back negative.

What now for the NRL?

With sports leagues – including New Zealand’s beloved Super Rugby – suspending competition globally due to coronavirus concerns, the NRL is still battling on.

The Warriors are currently basing themselves across the Tasman as they prepare for round two of the competition in empty stadiums, with club boss Cameron George saying decisions about the squad’s base are being made week to week.

Meanwhile, Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith has said he wants the NRL to be suspended for at least two weeks so the code can figure out how best to deal with the situation.

Remembering victims through kindness


The coronavirus outbreak overshadowed yesterday’s one-year anniversary of the March 15 mosque attacks in Christchurch, however the 51 victims of the tragedy were still remembered around the country.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated calls from the Al Noor and Linwood mosque Imams, telling Q&A’s Jack Tame that acts of kindness should be the way in which the victims are honoured.

TVNZ’s Sunday also spoke with Gamal Fouda, the Imam who witnessed the March 15 atrocity. A year on, they find he’s struggling for the strength to lead the faithful and have them believe his words that “we are not broken, we are alive, we are together, we are determined not to let anyone divide us”.

Other news of note this morning:

New Zealand has been rattled by two separate earthquakes overnight.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders prepare to debate today against the backdrop of the global pandemic.

And more than 20 people have lost their jobs at a Rotorua transport engineering company due to the economic pressures of the coronavirus outbreak.

And finally…

If all the bad news around the world is weighing you down, then carve out 11 minutes of your day to watch Sunday’s chat with Dolly Parton from last night. The greatest country music artist of all time has been working 9 to 5 for more than 50 years now – and says her ever-youthful appearance is thanks to good lighting, good makeup and good doctors.