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Morning Briefing March 31: A much-changed Air NZ emerges

Air New Zealand is readying itself to become a domestic airline as it looks to begin the process of laying off more than 3000 staff from this week.

Air New Zealand, Boeing, 777. Source: istock.com

CEO Greg Foran sent a message to the company’s workforce last night discussing the unprecedented changes ahead, after the airline cut 95 per cent of its flights due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It is clear the Air New Zealand which emerges from Covid-19 is a much smaller airline and could take years to get back to its former size," he wrote.

"Therefore, we are planning to be a domestic airline with limited international services to keep supply lines open for the foreseeable future."

Mr Foran said he looked forward to working with unions to try and keep staff reductions to a minimum. 

Earlier in the day, the Government had announced it was fast-tracking up to $1 million to help Air New Zealand move urgent freight, such as medical supplies and food, to and from New Zealand.

As that first cargo journey left for Shanghai last night, the airline said they were “pleased to be able to keep New Zealand connected to the world in this way”. 

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A boost for Australia’s Kiwis

New Zealanders living in Australia will be able to access their Government's new $12 billion wage subsidy scheme.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the ‘JobKeeper’ scheme late yesterday and said it would be available to Kiwis on “special category visas”.

The scheme is similar to New Zealand’s job subsidy arrangement and will last six months, with full-time, part-time and casual workers who have been with their employer for at least a year eligible.

However, Kiwis still cannot access support from Australia’s wider welfare system.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last night she was pleased Kiwis had been included in the JobKeeper payments.

Ms Ardern said she had spoken to Mr Morrison again yesterday morning about the status of Kiwis in Australia and their access to the welfare system. 

"New Zealanders are a core part of the Australian workforce,” she said.

“Many are working on the front line in essential services. Others have built their careers there and paid taxes for years, so it's really pleasing the Australian Government has agreed to provide them a wage subsidy at their time of need.”

“We're all so much at risk”

The family of New Zealand's first Covid-19 victim is warning others of the dangers of the virus.

Anne Guenole, 74, died in Greymouth over the weekend after contracting Covid-19, with family members at a loss as to how she caught it. Daughter Diane Cummings told 1 NEWS it had been a shock.

“It points out to us we're all so much at risk, it’s important to stay home because she was the most unlikely person that you would ever think would possibly somehow get Covid-19.”

New Zealand had 76 new confirmed cases of the virus yesterday and as the number of infections rises, a clearer picture has emerged of the clusters of cases around the country.

Auckland school Marist College is the biggest cluster so far, with 47 confirmed and probable cases, including teachers, students and parents. 

Health authorities are also investigating a cluster of cases in Matamata, with most of those linked to a St Patrick’s Day event at a local bar. 

Meanwhile, 36 Lakes District Hospital staff are also being tested for Covid-19 after a nurse tested positive for the virus.

It’s not yet known how she contracted the disease, given she had no contact with any of the hospital’s Covid-19 patients.

All close contacts are now in isolation while the hospital undergoes extensive cleaning. 

More businesses made essential

The Government announced yesterday that more essential goods can be sold during the nationwide lockdown, with items such as heaters, whiteware and computers available to the public.

There are restrictions in place over how those items can be bought, with orders only able to be taken over the phone or online.

The Government is also expected to confirm later today whether essential businesses will remain open over the upcoming Easter weekend. 

Lockdown’s climate lessons

Kiwi scientists say the current lockdown is teaching us lessons about the impact of vehicles on our environment.

Initial results of air quality monitoring from NIWA showed a big drop in traffic pollution in Auckland, with scientist Dr Ian Longley saying the readings represented “some of the largest reductions we’ve seen anywhere in the world”.  

Testing is also underway to measure the reduction of greenhouse gases in New Zealand, with Victoria University climate scientist Professor James Renwick saying it’s likely those will drop as well.

He said the data showed the impact that could be made on the climate if we change our behaviour. 

"We face an existential threat from Covid-19, we’ve got to act right now and so that’s what’s happening,” he said.

“Climate change is the same situation, we’ve got only a matter of years to reduce emissions globally by half. We know it can be done and it’s happening before our eyes.”

Other news of note this morning:

Twenty-eight NZ Defence Force personnel are in isolation in Auckland after returning from a tour of duty in Iraq last week. The Government confirmed yesterday they have ended their mission at Camp Taji.

Health Minister David Clark says 36 intensive care beds are being fast-tracked at Christchurch Hospital’s new Hagley building, so they can be available for treating Covid-19 patients.

US President Donald Trump has extended his country’s social distancing guidelines through April, after bowing to public health experts predicting even more dire coronavirus projections there. 

Back in New Zealand, three people have been arrested for persistent breaches of the national lockdown.

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have had new dates confirmed for 2021.

Clarence House says Prince Charles is now out of isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus.  

And the Bachelorette NZ wrapped up last night – with one of the Bachelorettes deciding to self-isolate with nobody from the show. 

And finally...

Source: 1 NEWS

Kiwi kids of all ages are getting involved with a bear hunt up and down the country as they try and keep amused during the coronavirus lockdown.

But I doubt any of them are taking the task as seriously as Seven Sharp’s Laura Daniel.

You can check out her report from the bear hunt frontline here