VIRUS LATEST
* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson improving, now sitting up in bed in hospital
* A record 938 deaths in one day in the UK, pushing toll to 7097
* Globally, 1.5 million people have or have had the virus, with more than 85,000 deaths
* The total number of cases in NZ is 1210, with 50 new cases reported on Wednesday
* How did the Marist school infection spread to Christchurch?
* Thousands of Kiwis rush to banks for mortgage help
* Latest developments and essential advice


Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has spoken of the "huge tensions" between looking after the health of New Zealanders but also saving the country's economy - and he wants to come out of the level 4 lockdown as quickly as possible.

"We are hearing the calls [about the economy] and the calls are massive all around the country in every respect. In terms of the economic analysis, we have a lot of work going on as to what this all means," Peters told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB today.

"The number one priority is to get us out of this level 4 to some level far more manageable, sustainable and durable while we rebuild the economy.

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"Health is an imperative but it cannot be at all costs. If it's at all costs, we can't afford to pay for it. We'll be broke. We have to be rational, sane and keep our feet on the ground and keep a commonsense approach.

"There are huge tensions but enabling the economy to pay for the health delivery that is going to be critical here and in the months ahead is also very important."

Peters acknowledged they were hearing about concerns from small businesses who are struggling at the moment.

There have been a total of 37,000 reports of breaches, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said. Eight police staff had been spat at - which potentially constituted a charge of infecting with disease, carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

He said greater assessments needed to be made for those businesses that effectively could remain open because of the nature of them.

"We cannot afford to make mistakes on the way through," he said.

On quarantining, more details on the restrictions for those arriving into New Zealand would be revealed later today - but the cat appears to be out of the bag.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she is planning "across-the-board" quarantining of all arrivals in New Zealand in the next step to eliminate Covid-19 from New Zealand.

The plans would be based on the model initially used at Whangaparāoa military facilities in which all arrivals from Wuhan, the source of the contagious infection, were kept for 14 days in camper vans.

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She said arrivals from specific Covid-19 hotspots would not be singled out. It would be "across the board".

The National Party is stepping up pressure over mandatory quarantining through an online petition but Ardern pointed out she has been planning it for some time and the Government is considering advice on it.

"I indicated on Monday … we were working on stepping up our border control once again with no distinction, and in the way we have had no distinction to date," she said yesterday.

"Everyone who has been coming through has been screened for symptoms and screened for their isolation plan."

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All arrivals are screened for symptoms of Covid-19 and are required to have specific plans to self-isolate for 14 days. If they have symptoms or if they don't have a credible plan they are required to go into supervised quarantine at a hotel with meals supplied.

Arrivals to New Zealand have slowed to a relative trickle with only several hundred arrivals a day, mainly Kiwis returning.

Ardern is planning to hold her last briefing today before the Easter break and is expected to set out next steps for the second part of the lockdown.

READ MORE:
Covid 19 coronavirus: How New Zealand's level 4 lockdown might end
Covid 19 coronavirus latest: Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield reveal 50 new cases - lowest daily number in 2 weeks
Covid 19 coronavirus: Washington Post - 'New Zealand isn't just flattening the curve, it's squashing it'
Covid 19 coronavirus: Data scientist says today could be turning point

Police have warned anyone with plans to head away for Easter to change their plans immediately.

Police will be running spot checks to seek compliance.

All but essential work has closed or is being conducted at home and people are being urged to stay home and to exercise locally.

Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Ministry of Health reported 50 new cases yesterday of which 26 are confirmed cases and 24 are probable. Fifteen of yesterday's new cases were in the Canterbury DHB, nine in Waitemata, eight in Southern and four in Counties Manukau.

The total confirmed and probably cases in New Zealand is 1210.

Of those, 282 of those cases are classed as recovered, 41 more than the previous day.

West Coast woman Anne Guenole is the only person in New Zealand to have died from Covid-19 so far.

Just over half of yesterday's increases, 26 of the 50, were increases in the 12 existing clusters, which is when a group of 10 or more infections are identified from the same event or place.

There were 12 people in hospital yesterday with the virus, including four in intensive care – in Wellington, Waitemata, Counties Manukau and Southern DHBs. Two patients were in a critical condition.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield revealed 64 healthcare workers were among the confirmed or probable or which the largest category was support or care workers with 20.

Their union representatives lobbied vigorously to be given personal protective equipment when dealing with clients and patients. The Ministry of Health eventually agreed to supply its DHBs to distribute to such workers if they felt they needed it.

New Police Commissioner Andrew Coster. Photo / Mark Mitchell
New Police Commissioner Andrew Coster. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Bloomfield also indicated there would be a relaxation of testing criteria around clusters to allow testing of people without symptoms - which until now has been reserved for special circumstances such as some schools and health workers.

The move follows publicity about difficulties some people had getting tested despite being a close contact of someone in the largest cluster, Marist College, at 84.

Bloomfield said he would be surprised if anyone with Covid-19-like symptoms could not get a test now because the case definition had been broadened – it allows fewer symptoms and no link to overseas travel.

However, he had asked for the Medical Officer of Health overseeing each cluster "to use testing to help ring-fence those clusters that may include testing people with no symptoms to check and see if they are pre-symptomatic".

Bloomfield also indicated the ministry would give more details on clusters which are now described in anonymised terms on the Ministry of Health website, such as "Southland event" rather than Bluff wedding or "Waikato workplace" rather than Matamata bar.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Chris Hipkins revealed an $88 million package to help children learn at home while schools are closed, including the launch of two television channels and free computers for low-income families.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

New Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told his first press conference that prosecutions have begun against 45 people breaching lockdown rules, including surfers who returned to surf despite having been warned.

Another 367 people had been issued warnings.

There have been a total of 37,000 reports of breaches, just under 7000 of them reporting breaches by businesses.