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Morning Briefing April 23: Health sector complaints begin to pile up

As we officially mark four weeks in lockdown, New Zealand’s number of new Covid-19 cases remains low – but the strain on the country’s health sector in the fight against the virus is evident. 

Source: istock.com

Those on the medical frontline clashed with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern over several issues yesterday, including funding for GPs and a “total disaster” of a flu jab campaign.

New Zealand Medical Association chair Kate Baddock has raised concerns at Parliament's epidemic select committee about funding, saying GPs are “very much hand-to-mouth” with cash flow at the moment.

However, Ms Ardern says the Government has provided $45 million in funding to GPs, as well as giving them access to the wage subsidy scheme.

Dr Baddock criticised this year’s flu vaccination campaign, too, saying distribution of the vaccine has been a “complete debacle”. Ms Ardern also disputed this. 

The epidemic select committee also heard about the “deluge” of patients needing to be seen by doctors once the Covid-19 alert levels are lifted.

Emergency departments and GP clinics have seen a dramatic drop in patient numbers during the lockdown, with many people in worse condition by the time they do seek medical help.

One emergency department doctor told 1 NEWS they’ve had two patients turn up to hospital three days after suffering a heart attack. 

And those weren’t the only medical concerns shared at Parliament yesterday.

The Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand says pharmacies are still waiting for ongoing financial support from the Government, while dentists are warning of a “dire” public health problem with guidelines around dental care in lockdown still unclear.

Around 400,000 people have missed out on dental appointments since lockdown began, with one person winding up in intensive care after an infection became life threatening.

PPE is also an issue for dentists, with supplies difficult to access and becoming increasingly expensive. 

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Air NZ reveals case numbers

After initially refusing to share how many of their employees have Covid-19, Air New Zealand now says 30 of their staff have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began. Twenty-five of those people have since recovered.

The airline, which also released a new domestic flight schedule yesterday, says not all of those staff are air crew, while some cases are not linked to their employment at the airline.

An Air NZ spokesperson says they’ve had just one positive case since April 1, with testing of international air crew and airport staff taking place this week.

They’re not the only work group participating in testing this week either, with approximately 250 seasonal workers being tested in Te Puke from today. The workers are linked to a recent confirmed case of Covid-19. 

More than 5,000 tests were processed around New Zealand yesterday, with just six confirmed new cases.

However, the death toll rose to 14 after a woman in her 80s from the Rosewood rest home cluster in Christchurch died of the disease. 

Kiwis urged to avoid Uber Eats

With Level 3 of the Covid-19 alert system frequently described as ‘Level 4, but with takeaways’, many Kiwis are counting down until their takeaways fix.

But as fast food outlets announce their reopening plans and others gear up for contactless deliveries, restaurant owners are warning they struggle to turn any profits using the popular Uber Eats delivery service. 

The Government is being urged to consider placing a cap on how much third party food delivery apps like Uber Eats can take as commission.

Uber has told 1 NEWS it won’t be cutting its fees, however alternatives to Uber are popping up.

The Prime Minister has also encouraged Kiwis to look at ways of supporting their local businesses by checking whether or not they offer delivery directly themselves. 

Food parcel demand skyrockets

But while some might be keeping an eye on their favourite local takeaway, many other Kiwis are struggling to feed their families at all during lockdown.

The Government has boosted its spending on welfare assistance and food delivery around the country, however demand for foodbanks has soared by 900 per cent in some areas.

More than 70,000 food grants have been issued in one week, while Auckland City Mission says they’ve seen double their usual demand

Meanwhile, Masterton’s foodbank ran out of food completely at one point – but were able to carry on supporting those in need after the community rallied together to get new supplies through.  

Relief for real estate 

Kiwis looking to buy or sell homes will be able to do so again once the country moves to Level 3 next week.

The Government has confirmed real estate agents will be able to show prospective buyers through homes, but there will be some restrictions in place.

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) is praising the move, saying the ability to buy, sell and move into homes is crucial to New Zealanders and the economy.

Doctor admits lockdown breach

Dr Lance O’Sullivan has admitted his own lockdown breach, after admonishing those who have been breaking the rules in Northland.

The former New Zealander of the Year went live on Facebook yesterday to call himself a “silly bugger” after going for a kayak trip at the beach over the weekend.

He made the admission after he says a reporter contacted him with allegations of the breach.

"I shouldn't have done that. What a silly bugger, eh?" he says.

Other news of note this morning:

A report into last year’s major fire at the SkyCity Convention Centre has found it was an accident – but not one caused by an inexperienced worker.  

A 60-year-old man has been charged with murder following the death of a man at an Auckland brothel last month.

While the World Health Organisation is strongly refuting claims that Covid-19 was manufactured in a Chinese laboratory, CNN reports the US state of Missouri is suing the Chinese government for the role they played in the pandemic.

A New Zealand vaccinologist says developing a Covid-19 vaccine here is our best chance of stamping out the virus.

A regional airline may be headed for receivership if it's not able to qualify for a slice of the Government's $600 million aviation support package.

And a survey finds most Kiwi adults want to stay in isolation after Alert Level 4 restrictions are lifted next week.

And finally...

Laura Daniel Source: Seven Sharp

Seven Sharp’s Laura Daniel has been putting in the hard yards during lockdown, scouring the country for the country’s best dad dancing and mum moves.

Now she’s got a competition that’s open to everyone, as she searches for New Zealand’s lockdown lip sync legends.

She shares the details here – and has a few tips for standing out from the crowd of entries.