TODAY |

Cluster of cases at Bluff wedding kicked off by overseas exposure, contact tracing finds

This live updates article has finished for the night, however further news on the coronavirus can be found on the 1 NEWS website. See today's developments below. 

Keep up with the latest on the coronavirus pandemic with 1 NEWS. Source: 1 NEWS

What we know so far:

- New Zealand’s total number of Covid-19 cases sits at 1239 and 317 people have recovered from the virus
- From midnight tonight all returning New Zealanders will be required to undergo "quarantine or managed isolation" 
- The Government will announce operation guidelines for businesses outside of Level 4 next week
- Today marks two weeks since New Zealand went into lockdown

6.54pm: An international link has been confirmed within the Bluff wedding cluster of cases.

Eighty seven people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 after the wedding, which was held before the lockdown was announced and followed the rules in place at the time.

Until now, health authorities weren't sure what the initial source of the outbreak was, as international guests had cancelled.

However intensive contact tracing has now revealed an overseas link, the Ministry of Health said today.

6.42pm: Only a handful motorists had to be turned around at a series of police checkpoints in the Southern district today, police say.

For the most part, people on the roads in the area were either essential workers or travelling to the supermarket.

Checkpoints will continue around the country as police crack down on travellers heading on holiday for the Easter weekend, with Kiwis reminded that only essential travel is allowed and heading to your bach doesn't count.

5.57pm: A potential vaccine for the coronavirus, created by Australia's University of Queensland, is about to be tested in the Netherlands.

It'll be used on the live coronavirus for the first time to see how well it can protect against infection.

It's hoped they'll be able to start clinical trials later this year, vaccine programme co-leader Dr Keith Chappell says.

5.21pm: The Government has backtracked and will now allow groundskeepers to maintain their turf and plants under the Level 4 lockdown.

Urgent maintenance will be allowed, but people are warned not to jump into it right away.

Details and criteria will be released after Easter weekend and Sports and Recreation Minister Grant Robertson asks people to hold off until that point.

4.56pm: Up to 3500 Air New Zealand staff could be cut within the next year, the airline confirmed to 1 NEWS.

"We started the consultation process with our staff on Monday to reduce the size of our workforce by up to 3500 roles," a spokesperson says.

In an email sent to staff, it was estimated the consultation process will take up to two weeks.

4.28pm: Up to 1460 cabin crew staff at Air New Zealand are facing redundancy, according to an email seen by 1 NEWS.

Staff were emailed this afternoon and told the airline burns through just under $14 million a month in crew salaries.

In the email, the airline estimated up to 300 staff A320 cabin crew, up to 950 widebody cabin crew and up to 210 turboprop cabin crew would be made redundant under the current reduction proposal.

Air New Zealand had previously estimated around 30 per cent of its total workforce would be made redudant due to the Covid-19 crisis and its impact.

3.58pm - The Pacific region now has 227 cases of Covid-19 spread across seven nations, and the death toll is now at six. Over half of the cases are located in Guam, with 125 people testing positive along with four deaths.

The other two deaths in the Pacific are located in the Northern Marianas, which is also treating 11 patients with the illness.

French Polynesia has jumped to 51 cases whilst New Caledonia has reported no new cases and remains at 18.

3.47pm - If it weren't for the lockdown, there could have been hundreds more cases of coronavirus in New Zealand, according to RNZ.

New modelling conducted by a group of Kiwi researchers, Te Pūnaha Matatini, shows case numbers could have grown to 350 a day by the middle of next week.

The research also shows New Zealand now has a high chance of eliminating the virus. But, only if the Level 4 restrictions are extended.

The group of researchers from Landcare Research and the Universities of Auckland and Canterbury has been working for more than a month on modelling the spread of the virus in New Zealand.

3.20pm - Christchurch City Council is closing all its boat ramps around Christchurch and in Lyttelton and Akaroa Harbours to prevent boaties from heading out.

The council says it is following Government advice that people are not to go boating, surfing or swimming during the four-week coronavirus lockdown period.

3:00pm -  Kiwis are being called on to help out charities in need, as they face increasing pressure to manage a surge in demand for services, with fewer resources during the Covid-19 lockdown. 

That's according to United Way New Zealand which surveyed 200 charities across New Zealand and found they are facing the same challenges as businesses are with reduced cashflow. Ninety five per cent of charities surveyed have been directly affected by Covid-19. More than 74 per cent require additional funding and 41 per cent need additional staff and volunteers.

“If you are still employed, any money you can spare would make a huge difference to your local charities. You could also contact your employer to find out whether they have a payroll giving scheme in place,” says Teresa Moore United Way New Zealand CEO. 

2.40pm - A charter flight carrying gear such as gloves and masks to protect New Zealand's essential services against coronavirus has arrived at Auckland Airport today. 

It is the first of five charter flights scheduled to arrive within the next 10 days carrying 500 tonnes of PPE, according to National Express Products. The shipments arriving from China will include millions of disposal masks, gloves, wipes, hundreds of thousands of coveralls, and face shields.

The PPE will be given to essential service providers such as NZ Police, NZ Defence Force, and healthcare workers. The items are kept under constant armed guard from the time of purchase until they leave China.

1.50pm - The Prime Minister says life will still be different once the country exits Level 4 lockdown.

"When we are in the position to move from alert Level 4 it will only be from there to alert Level 3. So life will still be different." 

She said every business should prepare to move out of Level 3 and Government will provide more official guidance next week. 

1.40pm - Despite coronavirus pandemic the Prime Minister says it is too soon to make changes to New Zealand's election date. 

"Of course the alert level you're in will make a big difference because we need people to go out and make a vote," said Jacinda Ardern. 

1.30pm - Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he expects coronavirus case numbers to stay low, but with a few bumps up and down.

1.25pm - The Prime Minister says guidelines for Kiwi businesses operating in Level 3 will be revealed next week.

"I ask every business to use the time to prepare for what every alert level means for you. Can you build in contact tracing tools or mechanisms?"

1.20pm - All returning New Zealanders will be required to under go "quarantine or managed isolation" from midnight tonight, Prime Minister has announced. 

Everyone arriving must go into a hotel that is being provided by the Government. Quarantine is applied to those who are symptomatic. Those who are not will be required to isolate, and can step outside for fresh air, but both will be required to stay in the facility for 14 days.  

"I am also signalling that the requirement for 14 days of quarantine or managed self-isolation in a government-approved facility, will be a prerequisite for anyone entering the country in order to keep the virus out," said Ms Ardern.

1.15pm - The Prime Minister has announced the lowest daily number of cases since before the lockdown began at 29. Jacinda Ardern says Kiwis 'have saved lives' with actions taken to date.   

1.05pm - New Zealand now has 1239 cases of coronavirus with 29 new cases announced today.

12.35pm - The Waikato DHB has today confirmed two nurses have tested positive for Covid-19. The nurses, who work in the same ward at Waikato Hospital, have been stood down on developing symptoms.

Staff who were working on that ward during the previous week - March 31 to April 6 - have also been stood down as the hospital works to obtain more information regarding the nursing movements.  

The ward provides general medical services, mostly for those 65-years-plus. Waikato DHB says are no Covid-19 positive patients in the ward at present.

12:15pm - The Transport Minister has announced that all driver licences, WoFs, CoFs, and some vehicle certifications have been extended under lockdown.

Phil Twyford says those that expired on or after 1 January 2020 will be valid for up to six months from 10 April 2020. The extension is for essential travel only. 

12.10pm - Benefit numbers in New Zealand have jumped due to the Covid-19 crisis. The Ministry of Social Development (MsD) has received a huge increase in applications due to Covid-19, and has seen benefits increase by 8 per cent.

Last week, MsD received 22,500 benefit applications, which some Ms Sepuloni said were duplicate applications and some people may not be eligible for those benefits applied for.

12.00pm - Eight camper vans have been stopped and turned around by Tasman police at a checkpoint south of Murchison.

Police said on Faceook people were ordered to return to their homes in Christchurch "where they were supposed to be rather than trying to get to an Easter holiday destination". 

11.30am - NZ police have already started preparing for non-essential travel this Easter weekend, particularly those who want to head to their bach. The current Level 4 restriction requires everyone to remain at the place of residence they were in as of midnight 25 March, as New Zealand went into lockdown. 

Officers have already been spotted stopping traffic on SH1, the main road heading North of Auckland. Northland police are also urging boaties to keep off of the water this weekend. 

10.55am - The latest figures from Stats NZ show spending on hospitality during the month of March fell the most of any retail industries in dollar terms, in the wake of measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.

With all non-essential businesses having to close due to Level 4 restrictions, March saw $338 million less spent on dining out and staying in hotels and motels arount the country.

10.40am - The total confirmed number of coronavirus cases around the world has topped 1.5 million. The number has reached 1,504,971, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

10.20am - Airways could be closing seven of its regional air traffic control towers, according to RNZ. It comes as traveller numbers dropped significantly due to the Covid-19 lockdown.

Some of the services under review include New Plymouth, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Rotorua.

10.15am - What's happening with Covid-19 around the world:

  • In the UK, London is trialling a new method of boarding on the city's buses after nine bus staff died of Covid-19. This comes as the death toll in the UK climbs to more than 7,000 and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care battling the virus. He is said to be in a "clinically stable" condition.
  • In the US, New York state reported 731 new Covid-19 deaths yesterday, its biggest increase since the start of the outbreak, Associated Press reports. New York state's death toll now sits at 5,489.
  • In Australia, new coronavirus infections continue to stabilise in NSW with the state recording 48 new cases yesterday, taking its total to 2734, according to AAP. The state's death toll remains at 21.

9.30am - Countdown has confirmed that from today customers will be able to make contactless payments up to the value of $200. Kiwis won't need to use a pin at all of their stores in a further effort to help prevent the potential spread of Covid-19. The PIN limit was originally $80.

9.15am - Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters told RNZ that under the new quarantine rules to be announced today, travellers would be met at the airport and taken straight to a quarantine facility. 

Mr Peters said the police and military could also be used to help escort those returning to the country to holding centres.

8.55am - It’s expected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will today announce compulsory quarantine for every person arriving in New Zealand. Those arriving into the country will have to go into quarantine in supervised facilities, according to RNZ.

Many have been demanding such action, including opposition leader Simon Bridges, who has said the matter was “seriously urgent” to stop the spread of Covid-19. Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health said earlier this week stronger border measures were under “very active consideration”.

8.40am - When asked if the Government should be able to use apps to track Kiwis who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 during lockdown, New Zealand's Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says he "understands" why.  But, he says what's done with that information after it's collected needs to be addressed.

"There's going to be numbers of people needing to be tracked that makes the manual system really strained so I understand why there's a lot of work going on now in looking for technological solutions to assist that."

8.20am - Canterbury police are searching for a teenager in Rangiora who spat in the face of an officer after claiming he had coronavirus. The officer has is now in isolation and Canterbury police are looking for two males, aged around 14 years old.

This incident isn't a first. Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says there have been multiple reports of this “completely unacceptable” behaviour, with several police officers now in isolation.

8.00am - It was announced this morning by the Government that there would be a two-week extension for priority groups to get their flu vaccines, before being made available to the wider public. 

The priority groups include those over the age of 65, those who are pregnant, people with chronic conditions, young children with a history of severe respiratory illness and frontline health workers.