Health Minister David Clark has been demoted after revealing another breach of his own Government’s Covid-19 level four lockdown measures.
Dr Clark released a statement this morning saying he had driven his family 20km to a beach in Dunedin, in addition to a mountain bike ride that he’d already disclosed.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said under normal conditions, she would sack him, but couldn’t currently afford a disruption like that to the health system.
“For that reason, and that reason alone, Dr Clark will maintain his role,” she said.
However, he has been demoted to the bottom of the Government's Cabinet rankings and stripped of his Associate Finance portfolio.
Register reveals subsidy claims
The Government has revealed the businesses that have claimed the coronavirus wage subsidy in an online register that went live late last night.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Ardern announced $5.3 billion had already been paid out under the scheme, noting the figure was “an incredible number in terms of money we’ve got out the door in just a few weeks”.
Ms Ardern said the online register of businesses who have accessed the scheme (which you can search here) would enable workers to look for their company’s name and see if their employer has applied for the subsidy – and is passing it on.
It comes as an Auckland woman told RNZ she was shocked to find her boss applied for the subsidy in her name after she was made redundant.
Meanwhile, an Infrastructure NZ survey has revealed nearly one in three construction workers is facing the prospect of unemployment. An urgent plan is now being rolled out to try and save jobs in the $40 billion sector that employs 10 per cent of the country’s workforce.
And as every nation around the world grapples with the swift economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the BBC has identified five countries they think have a “high likelihood of maintaining stability and resilience through the crisis” – and New Zealand is one of them.
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New Covid cluster in rest home
Meanwhile, an outbreak of coronavirus has been reported in a Christchurch rest home, with more than a dozen of the country’s most vulnerable citizens now in isolation in hospital.
A further 20 residents from the Rosewood rest home in Linwood have been moved to hospital to try and ensure they don’t also contract the virus and can receive the care they need.
The rest home is one of 12 significant clusters around the country, with 72 cases at Auckland’s Marist College, 62 linked to a wedding in Bluff and 61 cases now linked to a St Patrick’s Day party in Matamata.
A supermarket worker in the Northland community of Kaikohe has also tested positive for Covid-19.
Locals are being urged not to panic, however those who shopped at the town’s New World supermarket between March 20-30 are being told to keep a close eye on their health.
No early exit from lockdown
As the country approaches the midway point of the four-week national lockdown, Prime Minister Ardern has said that while she didn’t want New Zealand to be at Level Four “a minute longer than needed”, there was no plan to move out of lockdown early. She also quashed rumours of an extension to the lockdown, saying no decision had been made yet.
And as Kiwis continue to adjust to their “new normal” under lockdown, the Government has today rolled out new measures to support mental health. Ms Ardern says the measures are designed to help people manage their stress and look after themselves during the Level Four restrictions and beyond.
Hope for Kiwis stuck in Peru
New Zealanders stuck in Peru could be on their way home, with the Government yesterday confirming they are chartering a flight for them.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters said the flight out of Peru had been arranged following agreement with the Chilean government to allow the necessary transit through Chile.
Previous attempts to repatriate Kiwis stuck in Peru failed after visa issues prevented them transiting through Sydney.
Shopper sorry for ‘appalling’ prank
A judge reprimanded a Christchurch man for “appalling behaviour” after he posted a video of himself coughing on people in a supermarket.
Raymond Gary Coombs, 38, appeared in the Christchurch District Court yesterday where he admitted a charge of behaving in an offensive manner.
During the hearing Coombs apologised to the court for his “foolish and senseless behaviour”, adding he regretted the act and that he “owes the country an apology”.
Other news of note this morning:
Prime Minister Ardern says butchers, bakers and grocers are able to operate online during the current lockdown.
Ms Ardern also paid tribute to Auckland’s National Burn Service yesterday as the last of their White Island patients was discharged. Other victims are still receiving treatment at other facilities.
Honor Blackman, the actress who played Pussy Galore in the James Bond movie Goldfinger, has died.
Just in case you didn’t feel inadequate enough sitting on the couch during the lockdown, one British man has climbed the equivalent of Everest on his staircase during isolation.
And fear not, children of New Zealand. The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy have both been deemed essential workers, however the PM warned the Easter Bunny may not make it to all homes this year.
Through the beauty of technology and my trusty internet connection, I’m able to write this briefing each morning from the safety of my couch while in lockdown. But my TV journalist colleagues are not so lucky.
Here, 1 NEWS reporter Garth Bray explains how producing the news has had to change during the coronavirus pandemic.