Confidence is increasing in New Zealand's lockdown response, with more people recovering from coronavirus than testing positive, but unwanted issues remain for the Government, as Health Minister David Clark is demoted for a breach of the lockdown rules. Get all the important news and read the full stories in the links below.

Key developments in NZ

• More people have recovered from coronavirus in the last 24 hours than tested positive, and an upbeat Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says New Zealand can be "increasingly confident" about its lockdown response. Bloomfield announced 54 new coronavirus cases today - 32 confirmed cases and 22 probable cases. It brings the total number of New Zealand cases to 1160 since the pandemic began. However, 65 people had recovered in the past day, marking the first time in the pandemic where more people had recovered than tested positive. Bloomfield expects the number of new cases to "continue to stay level" before a decline.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during his media update. Photo / Getty
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during his media update. Photo / Getty

• Health Minister David Clark has been demoted after driving his family 20 kilometres to a beach to go for a walk in the first weekend of the lockdown - a breach that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says he would normally be sacked for. "At a time when we are asking New Zealanders to make historic sacrifices I've let the team down. I've been an idiot," Clark said. Ardern said he would be demoted to the bottom of the Cabinet rankings and stripped of his Associate Finance portfolio, but said removing Clark as the minister was "not in the best interests for New Zealanders", saying the Government could not afford massive disruption to the healthcare system at this time. However, Audrey Young argues that it was clear from the Prime Minister's statement that Clark cannot last in the job.

Health Minister David Clark speaks to Mike Hosking after being demoted for breaking lockdown rules.

• Nearly 300 people have been caught breaking the rules since lockdown began - most of whom have been sent home with a warning. However, police told the Herald they have taken action against 16 people who are now facing prosecution. Police have also told the Herald that Clark is not among the 291 breaches recorded, and has not received a police warning. A spokeswoman said police continue to take an "education and encouragement" approach to the enforcement of the level 4 restrictions.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government cannot afford massive disruption to the health case system. "He broke the rules, and he needs to pay a price."

Listen live to Newstalk ZB's coronavirus coverage

• An expert epidemiologist says every day without a blanket quarantine at the border exposes New Zealand to potential coronavirus cases, and the risk of the lockdown being extended beyond four weeks. Otago University Professor Sir David Skegg told the Epidemic Response Committee that New Zealand was the only western country in the world that was in a position to eliminate the virus, but the lack of a mandatory quarantine at the border was an issue that needed to be dealt with promptly. Ardern said that advice on the issue would be ready "very soon". "We need a water-tight system at our border and I think we can do better on that," Ardern said. She defended not implementing a mandatory quarantine earlier, saying the sheer number of people flying in made it impossible, but there was now capacity to do it.

Perspective: with Heather du Plessis-Allan - PM made the right call.

Around the world

• Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to an intensive care unit. Johnson is understood to be conscious, and that his move to intensive care was advised in case he requires a ventilator to assist with his breathing. Reports out of the UK said the Cabinet was "informed of the Prime Minister's condition via video call" and that he was not using a ventilator. The Prime Minister's spokesman earlier said Johnson had spent a comfortable night and remained in charge of Government, despite being admitted to St Thomas' Hospital in London after Covid-19 symptoms of a cough and fever persisted, 10 days after he was diagnosed.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been transferred to an intensive care unit at St. Thomas Hospital.

• France's health minister has reported the country's highest 24-hour death toll recorded in the country since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Olivier Veran said that 833 people died of coronavirus in hospitals and nursing homes since yesterday. Though some predicted that the infection rate might start to slow, Veran said that "we have not reached the end of the ascent of this epidemic". France has only recently started counting nursing home deaths in their Covid-19-related death counts, and previously only reported deaths in hospitals. The total number that have died from the coronavirus stands at 8911.

Up in the air

• Air New Zealand plans to make up to 387 pilots redundant as it shrinks its operation. New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association president Andrew Ridling said the union would fight for every job. These cutbacks follow on from Air New Zealand's earlier announcement that it may have to cut as much of 30 per cent of its staff. A spokeswoman said it had started the consultation process with staff to reduce the size of their workforce by up to 3500 roles.

• Airlines last year were desperate to recruit pilots - now they're racing to let them go. As well as Air New Zealand's proposed cuts, Virgin Australia's shutdown of its New Zealand operations means a further 200 Kiwi pilots are out of a job, and a similar number face uncertainty as Qantas and Jetstar operations flying across the Tasman and around New Zealand have been slashed to skeleton services. Late last year, corporate jets had to be grounded because their pilots were being gobbled up by airlines. Now, the near-collapse of all air travel means thousands are out of a job, writes Grant Bradley.

• Auckland International Airport has applied for, and been paid out, $4.3m under the wage subsidy scheme as the fallout from the global Covid-19 outbreak sees air traffic plummet. According to an online tool released by the Ministry of Social Development, AIA is the only company listed on the NZX50 to have been paid out under the scheme. The scheme allows employers to claim $7029 in payments per worker to cover 12 weeks of employment. So far more than $7 billion has been paid out, and the Prime Minister today said payments made under the scheme covered more than a million workers, and total costs would likely exceed $10 billion.

In sport

• Several Crusaders Super Rugby players have been caught breaking lockdown rules. The players, including All Blacks first-five Richie Mo'unga, were spotted passing and kicking the ball between them at a park, despite being part of different bubbles. New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson called the breach "unacceptable", while Mo'unga took to social media to explain the incident.


Check our graphic for the latest case numbers in New Zealand.