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Morning Briefing March 30: Covid-19 death and isolation breaches

When word came through that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would be joining Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at yesterday’s Covid-19 press conference, it was clear they had significant news to share – and they did.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield Source: Getty

New Zealand had recorded its first death linked to Covid-19, with the loss of a West Coast woman in her 70s, who was originally thought to have influenza.

The woman’s family and the 21 healthcare workers who treated her in hospital are all now in monitored self-isolation. 

As she and Dr Bloomfield delivered the news, Ms Ardern said it was “a very sad day”.

"This was devastating news for us to receive. No one wants loss of life and that is why we are all self-isolating."

Dr Bloomfield (who was originally scheduled to have the weekend off) also revealed 63 new cases of the coronavirus in New Zealand, which was a dip on Saturday’s total of 83. He said health authorities were also investigating a new cluster of cases in the Waikato town of Matamata.

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NZ’s first weekend in isolation

Prime Minister Ardern said yesterday’s news of the country’s first coronavirus-related death showed exactly why Kiwis needed to stay home in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Although after the nation’s first weekend in full lockdown, it appears some were still struggling to get that message.

A new online form for reporting Level 4 restriction breaches to police experienced heavy traffic as soon as it launched yesterday afternoon.

And the Council of Trade Unions also launched its own online tool yesterday for Kiwis to identify employers not following the law, with plans to raise any systematic breaches with the Government. 

Supermarkets on the frontline

Supermarkets have been under extreme pressure ever since New Zealand’s first confirmed case of Covid-19 and the recent nation-wide lockdown hasn’t eased their woes.

As Re: details in these interviews with just three of the supermarket staff currently risking their health to keep us all fed, workers have witnessed physical fights in their stores and been verbally abused themselves.

Online shopping has also surged in the past week, with reports Countdown is shutting three of its brick-and-mortar stores so staff can be redeployed to cope with the demand. 

And as supermarket workers prepare for another week on the frontline, Foodstuffs has announced they are giving staff at their Pak’nSave, New World and Four Square outlets a 10 per cent bonus as they work through the lockdown.

All of their vulnerable employees who aren’t able to work will also still be paid while they’re in isolation at home.   

What’s essential and what’s not?

As we enter the fifth day of our national lockdown, there’s still some confusion over what’s considered an essential service – however there could be further changes to that definition.

The Government announced on Friday that butcheries and bakeries had to close and it also discouraged home deliveries for some businesses.

However Prime Minister Ardern signalled yesterday that there could be changes for what’s allowed when it comes to online deliveries, saying she would be contacting MBIE officials today.

She also suggested changes will be made to ensure access to halal meat, after 1 NEWS spoke to Kiwi Muslims concerned that there’s very little halal-certified meat at supermarkets. 

Meanwhile, this article from The Age has looked at what’s been considered essential in other parts of the world currently in lockdown. Golf, guns and marijuana have been deemed essential in some US states, while France has declared shops specialising in pastry, wine and cheese as essential businesses. 

Life beyond lockdown

Questions are already being asked as to how long New Zealand will stay at its current Covid-19 level four lockdown.

Health Minister David Clark told TVNZ’s Q+A with Jack Tame that whether or not the shutdown ends after four weeks is in the country’s hands.

He said the lockdown could be lifted if New Zealand could bend or flatten the curve of new cases, and if the Government is “seeing the behaviours we know will change the nature of the outbreak”.

Meanwhile, a University of Auckland professor told Q+A that New Zealand shouldn’t expect travel restrictions to lift any time soon.

Professor Shaun Hendy, who’s leading a team modelling the spread of Covid-19, said that even if the four weeks of lockdown goes to plan, “the reality is [Covid-19’s] gotten out of control overseas”. 

Home births on the rise?

There's been an increase in New Zealand women considering changing their labour plans to give birth at home during the pandemic.

The New Zealand College of Midwives says women don’t want to be potentially exposed to sick people in hospital and worry about the health system being overwhelmed.

Hospitals have also brought in new measures around visitors and support people for pregnant women, something one Auckland father told 1 NEWS was not consistent, compassionate or kind after he was asked to leave hospital following the birth of his daughter.

However the Auckland District Health Board says their policy is about striking “the important balance between giving women appropriate support during birth and minimising any risks of spreading Covid-19”.

Other news of note from over the weekend:

Pressure is building to get Kiwis stuck in Peru home after a bungled repatriation effort saw them stopped from taking a flight because visa issues prevented them transiting through Sydney.

Australians aged over 70 have been urged to stay home, while outdoor gatherings have been restricted to two people, in new measures announced across the Tasman last night. 

Interest.co.nz estimates real estate agencies are facing an estimated loss of $135m in residential sales commissions during the Covid-19 lockdown.    

The Blood Service is encouraging people to donate blood while they are healthy as it aims to maintain a continuity of supply.

Concerns are mounting that members of the Gloriavale Christian community are not adhering to the national lockdown.

And football star Ronaldo is taking an $18.4 million pay cut to help his Juventus club during the coronavirus outbreak.

And finally...

Source: istock.com

It’s about now that some of you are probably regretting not grabbing one or two items from the shops before they went into lockdown last week.

So Re: has asked eight Aucklanders about the last thing they bought before the national shutdown began and what they regret not picking up for their four-week quarantine.

While Zoe of Ponsonby prioritised the purchase of tart cherry juice, Derek of Grey Lynn is currently pining for a skipping rope. You can check out the rest of the purchases – and regrets – here.