Morning Briefing April 6: Lockdown 'working' despite 'idiots' flouting the rules

As expected, New Zealand’s total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases surpassed 1000 over the weekend.

Source: Getty

However, in announcing the news, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was also quick to point out that things could have been much worse.

She referenced modelling that had projected a potential total of 4000 cases by now, saying the 3000 fewer cases showed the difference “going hard and going early” could make. 

Ms Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield also revealed there’s been a significant increase in New Zealand’s ability to carry out contact tracing of cases, with a team of 190 people working in shifts to make more than 2000 calls a day.

Infectious disease specialist Dr Ayesha Verrall had earlier told TVNZ’s Q+A that New Zealand needed to hugely increase its capacity for contact tracing in order to safely come out of lockdown. 

Ms Ardern addressed rumours over an extension to that current lockdown, saying the Government hoped to announce more details on how long New Zealand will remain at Alert Level 4 this week.

She also added that while most people understood the importance of still sticking to the lockdown rules, “there are some I would charitably describe as idiots”. 

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Level 4 rules cleared up

If you were one of those “idiots” and missed the news while going for a dip at the beach, the laws around the activities and travel permitted under lockdown were clarified over the weekend.

The rules now make it clear that all water-based activities, including swimming, surfing and boating are officially banned, as are activities like hunting, tramping or anything else that might require search and rescue services.

Dr Bloomfield said the rules were cleared up to “help move the country out of lockdown as soon as possible".

They no doubt also hoped the clarification would help avoid situations like yesterday, where a person was seriously injured after falling off a mountain bike in Wellington and needed a rescue helicopter to be called.  

Kiwis told to go home

As well as taking aim at those ignoring the lockdown rules, Prime Minister Ardern also had sharp words for Australia’s acting immigration minister Alan Tudge yesterday.

Australia’s government advised New Zealanders living there without means of support to go home, with Mr Tudge saying changes were being made to temporary visa arrangements.

Ms Ardern once again urged her Australian counterparts to better support New Zealand citizens living across the Tasman. 

"What [Mr Tudge would] do well to remember is that if they wish for Australia to be in a position to gear up in the aftermath of the outbreak, they now need a workforce to do that. New Zealanders make up that workforce.”

She also tersely pointed out many Kiwis were employed in Australia’s health care system. 

Police probe Ruby Princess ship

The operators of the coronavirus-stricken Ruby Princess cruise ship are now facing a criminal investigation in Australia.

More than 2700 people, including those with flu-like symptoms, were allowed to disembark the Ruby Princess in Sydney last month.

The ship is now linked to more than 600 cases of Covid-19, including several deaths, and is also linked with a cluster of cases in Hawke’s Bay. 

Meanwhile, there was better news for New Zealanders stuck on three cruise ships off the coast of Florida.

Fifteen Kiwis aboard the Zaandam and Rotterdam ships were able to fly home from Fort Lauderdale, while 17 others stuck on the Coral Princess have new hope after their ship was finally allowed to dock in Miami. 

Business survey’s grim findings

While Prime Minister Ardern said yesterday that the current lockdown is “the best thing for our economy” by “making the pain as short as possible,” a recent survey of mostly Auckland businesses suggests a third of them are getting ready to close permanently.

National Party leader Simon Bridges told TVNZ’s Q+A contactless businesses that don’t pose a risk of spreading the virus should be allowed back.

Meanwhile, economist Rodney Jones said New Zealand's goods trade has held up "relatively well" amid the pandemic. However, he told Q+A the hit to the country is “much more through the export of services”.

"There's no winners from this shock,” he said. “Every country, every economy faces really profound challenges unlike we've seen for 70 years." 

Coromandel locals fed up

Easter holiday destinations like the Coromandel are bracing for an influx of people flouting lockdown restrictions.

An unseasonal stream of people choosing to see out the lockdown from their holiday homes has already frustrated locals there, with increased pressure on essential services and vulnerable people in those communities.

Thames-Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie is now calling for road checkpoints to be put in place before the Easter weekend.  

Other news of note this morning:

Midwives are warning they’re at breaking point, as they deal with an increased workload, more home births and a lack of protective equipment. 

Fijian police have arrested more than 240 people for breaching curfew in the last two days, as the island nation looks to stop the spread of Covid-19.

A crisis is being seen in morgues around the world as cities struggle to meet demand during the pandemic.

More promising news has emerged from Europe, where Italy has reported its lowest daily coronavirus death rate for the last two weeks.  

And if you’re reading this before 7am, TVNZ 1’s Breakfast and will be broadcasting the Queen’s message to the Commonwealth at that time today. It’s only the fourth time she has delivered such a message (outside of the traditional Christmas Day message) during her 68-year reign. 

And finally...

You know the old saying about a picture painting a thousand words? Well, two images shared over the weekend did exactly that in demonstrating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

As you can see in the above photo taken in February, Peru’s Agua Dulce beach is usually a sea of humanity. But a new photo taken just weeks later has shown the stark change coronavirus has brought to that landscape.

And it may not be a photo, but this flight radar image taken yesterday compared the US with New Zealand – and showed the skies over America were still very busy, even as they recorded their most deaths in a single day from Covid-19.