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Morning Briefing April 1: Time to test, test, test

Multiple medical staff in Queenstown are awaiting test results after a second nurse tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday.

Source: istock.com

Another 38 Lakes District Hospital staff have been tested following the diagnosis, with the most recent case being one of 36 staff already tested and a ‘close contact’ of a nurse who returned a positive result on Monday.

The Southern DHB said the second nurse had mild symptoms and attended work for one shift while infectious. All close contacts, including four hospital patients, were now being asked to self-isolate. 

The Southern DHB region now has 98 cases of Covid-19, the highest number across the country, with the Queenstown Lakes District a particular hotspot for the disease.

Meanwhile, as health authorities yesterday revealed New Zealand’s total number of Covid-19 cases had risen by 58, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted there hadn’t been enough testing to know how many people were really infected with the virus. But that’s about to change.

Ms Ardern said she wants more tests, with testing to be widened to people with Covid-19 symptoms who don’t have a history of travel or exposure to another case.

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What if eradication fails?

The Government also reiterated the importance of following the Alert Level 4 lockdown conditions yesterday, as they released modelling that predicted dire consequences if the current Covid-19 eradication plan fails.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the modelling showed that "without the actions currently being taken, the uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 would exact a high price in New Zealand in terms of its impact on our health services, including our intensive care units, and deaths". 

More specifically, a “worse case scenario” showed almost 28,000 Kiwis could die, while one report author said a “best case scenario” could see fewer than 100 deaths.

All of the reports (available for download here), showed “an unacceptable level of deaths in New Zealand without strong action”, Dr Bloomfield said.

“We can see these scenarios playing out overseas already."

Supermarket headaches roll on

Each day continues to bring new pain points around an activity that we all once took for granted – a trip to the supermarket.

The process of popping to the shop for groceries is causing stress for many, with online shopping creating a new headache.

The gravely ill and those over 70 say they’re struggling to book grocery delivery services due to high demand, with delivery spots filling up almost instantly each day.  

Meanwhile Countdown announced several new measures yesterday to try and ease the current burden for some.

The supermarket chain said it would open an hour early for emergency services and medical personnel across the country to shop.

They’re also set to offer rent relief to the small businesses with shops inside their supermarkets or shopping centres. 

The Government also announced yesterday that supermarkets could stay open for Easter Sunday, but not Good Friday.

Prime Minister Ardern said the decision was about striking a balance between giving supermarket workers a break and avoiding people rushing to the supermarket ahead of time if there were closures on both days.

She also asked the public to “please be kind” to supermarket workers.

It’s a request that’s fallen on some deaf ears of late, with a checkout staff member telling RNZ’s Checkpoint that there had been daily tears, racial abuse and – in some cases – violence at supermarkets. 

‘Grim’ road ahead for economy

“Times are grim” and a severe recession is guaranteed – that’s the conclusion of several economic forecasts released by New Zealand’s big banks yesterday.

Westpac has estimated unemployment to rise from four per cent to nine, house prices to fall seven per cent, and GDP to drop 15 per cent over the first half of 2020.

Meanwhile, ANZ’s business confidence survey showed record lows, with 23 per cent of businesses saying they were likely to lay off staff. The figure was even higher in retail.

However there’s still optimism, with some economists saying the country will bounce back faster than it did following the global financial crisis more than 10 years ago. 

The Government also opened its books yesterday, with Treasury releasing interim financial statements for the eight months ending February. They showed a $1.4 billion surplus with debt just below forecast.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government was using the funds "to go hard and go early in our public health response, cushion the blow for workers and businesses, and position the economy for recovery".

Meanwhile, financial assistance is on the way to help the country’s transport construction industry.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced this morning that advance payments will be made to industry contractors in the hopes of helping them retain their workforce, so they’re ready to quickly continue the building projects key to economic recovery. 

Moves to help cancer patients

GPs will be able to prescribe more cancer drugs as a result of the current nationwide lockdown.

Pharmac is set to make it easier for existing patients to rollover some prescriptions, including at least nine cancer drugs.

The drug-buying agency says the move is a temporary measure to reduce the need for hospital visits and lab tests, as well as to reduce the risk of highly vulnerable patients catching Covid-19.

Other news of note this morning:

Some GPs are reporting they’ve run out of flu jabs after Covid-19 triggered an early start to the annual immunisation campaign.

The country's biggest insurer, IAG, is asking customers to call if the coronavirus is causing them financial trouble, as it offers some the chance to put off paying their monthly insurance bill.

The Government has begun using domestic charter flights to move Kiwis recently arrived from overseas home to regional centres.

Face masks will now be supplied to district health boards to disperse amongst essential workers in health sectors like pharmacies and home care. Meanwhile, WHO officials said they still recommend people not wear face masks unless they’re sick with Covid-19 or caring for someone who’s sick. 

And if you’re looking for more ideas about how to exercise while in lockdown, perhaps take your cue from Seven Sharp presenter Jeremy Wells and former Black Cap Grant Elliott who decided to catch up while enjoying some light exercise in their respective garages yesterday. 

And finally...

Senior Sergeant Guy Baldwin Source: 1 NEWS

It was a moment that would become etched in Kiwi lore: A police officer telling a suspected thief – and the rest of us – to “always blow on the pie”.

Senior Sergeant Guy Baldwin became an online sensation when he uttered that famous piece of advice during an episode of TVNZ 2’s Police Ten 7 back in 2009.

Now he’s back with a new safety message about staying inside (while eating pies?) in order to create safer communities together.