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Morning Briefing April 3: Should we be wearing masks?

Ever since Covid-19 arrived on New Zealand’s shores, debate has swirled over whether or not face masks should be worn to stop the spread of the virus.

The Ministry of Health currently only recommends them if you're likely to be exposed to coronavirus at work or you have symptoms - but there’s a renewed push for their wider use. 

Nations and regions like Israel, Austria and Los Angeles are now asking all citizens to wear face masks in public places, following new research into how the coronavirus is transmitted.

America's Disease Control Agency now believes that as many as 25 per cent of infected people aren't showing symptoms but can transmit the virus, prompting them to "aggressively review" whether the general public should be wearing face masks.

New Zealand’s Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he's looking "very closely" at that review, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) is also considering changing its guidance on face masks.

Previous concerns over wearing masks have revolved around how effective they are if they cause people to touch their face more.

There are also concerns around wider use limiting supply for healthcare workers. Dr Bloomfield said yesterday that there were plenty of masks available to workers, with an order for another 41 million masks due to start arriving from Monday. 

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Govt throws sport a lifeline

There’s some certainty for national sport and recreation organisations affected by Covid-19 this morning, with Finance Minister Grant Robertson announcing current funding for New Zealand’s sporting bodies will roll over into next year and core funding for Olympic and Paralympic sports confirmed ahead of the postponed Tokyo Games.

Mr Robertson says all sport and recreation businesses can also apply for the coronavirus wage subsidy. 

The sports funding move follows another 24 hours of Government funding announcements to help those struggling through the pandemic.

A new scheme has been announced to help essential workers take leave if they can’t be at work.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says there are many vulnerable workers who need to stay at home and that the new scheme will ensure they continue to receive an income.

And Health Minister David Clark says the Government is delivering on its commitment to support GPs and pharmacies, after many GPs revealed they’re struggling to stay afloat financially.

Mr Clark said yesterday that an initial $30 million funding plan has been put in place for those sectors, with money beginning to flow to GPs and pharmacies this week.

Lockdown breaches cause headaches

Health officials say New Zealand hasn’t yet flattened the curve of coronavirus cases, with another 89 new infections announced yesterday – the highest number the country has seen in a single day so far.

Health officials say the number will keep rising, with any impact of the current nationwide lockdown not expected to be seen for at least another week.  

New Zealanders returning from overseas still pose the highest risk when it comes to Covid-19, with the police now using the location setting on mobile phones to check recently returned Kiwis are not breaking self-isolation rules. 

However it’s those of us who have been in the country the whole time that are currently giving authorities headaches.

Police were forced to remind around 80 beachgoers at Auckland’s Mission Bay of their responsibilities to stay home last night, while officers will be stepping up their presence in Kaitaia, where lockdown rules are clearly being ignored.

There’s also concern over kava drinking groups still meeting in Auckland, where sharing cups and food is commonplace. 

Bauer swings axe on iconic mags

Source: 1 NEWS

As many businesses struggle to stay afloat in the wake of Covid-19, publishing powerhouse Bauer Media Group shocked many when it announced yesterday that it was closing its New Zealand business.

The news was a bolt from the blue for staff, with Bauer revealing the business was no longer viable due to a stop in publishing during the lockdown.

However Prime Minister Ardern rejected Bauer’s claims the shutdown was due to the coronavirus outbreak. She said the Government asked the publisher to take up the wage subsidy, but they refused

“In my view this appears to have been a decision that has been made at the same time as Covid-19, but not because of it.”

Whatever the case, Seven Sharp looked back at some of the iconic magazines now lost to New Zealanders last night, as readers bid farewell to titles including NZ Listener, North and South, Metro, Woman’s Day and the NZ Woman’s Weekly.

NZ Listener readers might also be interested in this obituary written for the magazine by former editor Finlay Macdonald, while RNZ’s Mediawatch has taken this deep dive into why Bauer pulled the plug so swiftly. 

Help for stranded tourists

The Government is helping tens of thousands of stranded tourists by lifting the domestic travel ban for visitors trying to leave the country from today.

For the past week, domestic flights have been for essential workers only, but that’s now been extended. 

Meanwhile, many Kiwis stranded overseas are still facing a long wait to come home – and with money lost on cancelled flights and accommodation bills racking up, the financial stress is rising for many travellers.

The Government says it’s still actively trying to bring Kiwis home, however the need to transit through other countries is problematic.

Prime Minister Ardern says if a charter flight is being used, the Government would look at the viability of putting stranded Kiwis on board – which is exactly what happened for 27 New Zealanders stuck in Kathmandu, who were able to board a flight organised by the Australian government yesterday.

School apologises for virus advice

With misinformation about Covid-19 spreading almost as fast as the virus itself, a Christchurch school has apologised for its own dissemination of falsehoods.

A newsletter sent to parents of Whītau School students incorrectly claimed things like hot water and sunlight can kill the virus and also encouraged the gargling of chemicals.

Whītau School board chairwoman Alexandra Davids apologised in an interview with 1 NEWS, saying the principal had been horrified to discover the error. 

Other news of note this morning:

Do you remember a time when drought was the country’s biggest concern? Well, it’s still a problem, with Aucklanders being urged to conserve water as the severe drought continues. 

Police say they’re are now treating the discovery of human remains near Tongariro as a homicide

Spain’s Covid-19 death toll passed another grim milestone, with the country reporting more than 10,000 people have now died from the virus. 

CNN reports the United States’ top medical expert on the coronavirus pandemic now requires security at all times after threats to his personal safety.  

And Auckland’s Sky Tower was glowing royal blue last night, in a gesture acknowledging the efforts of front-line emergency services staff engaged in the fight against Covid-19. 

And finally...

It’s natural to turn to humour in times of darkness, so Re: has ranked eight Covid-19 memes with comedian Chris Parker.

In doing so, they learn that people shouldn’t be used as scapegoats for poor taste (and that Chris is too young to know who The Cure are).