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* Latest developments and essential information
All signs are positive towards lifting New Zealand's lockdown next week and a lower level would see "a whole lot" more businesses able to open under guidelines, says Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.
"Unless there is an adverse finding... the evidence looks compelling for that [lockdown lifting]," Peters told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking today.
He would wait right up until Monday - when Cabinet meets to decide on the future of the lockdown - and for the latest health information, but right now, the data "points to the easing up of the situation".
The four-week lockdown officially ends next Wednesday night, at 11.59pm, but the Government won't announce whether we move down a level until next week.
However, New Zealanders will today get to hear about what life looks like after lockdown - expect to see pubs and food courts still closed but potentially takeaways allowed and more police on the roads.
Peters expected "a whole lot" of businesses would be able to reopen next week, provided they met safety requirements and guidelines, of which more will be revealed today.
There would be advice for specific sectors and specific guidelines within those sectors, he said. It was important business owners had clarity to be able to say "yes, we can comply".
"We have to get this economy coming back as fast as we can without making a mistake on the way through."
Opposition leader Simon Bridges also says the country needs to come out of lockdown as planned, for the sake of the economy.
He told Hosking that Australia would come out of its lockdown in a better position economically because it had allowed more businesses and services- such as baristas - to stay open.
Health and the economy were interlocked, and if we did not move fast to get workers and businesses back, mental health issues would be as bad as Covid-19, he said.
He favoured an alert "two-plus" level where there was a sense of normality. "If you can assure us you have decent processes - sanitisation, social distancing - we will let you at it... and we let a lot of businesses at it immediately."
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The Government will today release guidance around alert levels 3 and 2 and what measures businesses would need to have in place at each step.
But it will likely still be quite restrictive with Finance Minister Grant Robertson calling it a move from "essential" to "safe" businesses.
The announcements come as the number of global cases passed the two million mark. In New York, the epicentre of the pandemic, residents have been told they must now wear masks where physical distancing is not possible.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would require people to wear face coverings in public settings where they could not keep 2 metres away from others, an aggressive step in New York's broader effort to contain the deadly spread of the coronavirus.
The requirement, Cuomo said, would be the subject of an executive order set to take effect on Saturday. Those who violate the rule could eventually face fines, although he added that he was not calling for such penalties yet. He also said that for now, a failure to wear a face covering would not be cause for removal from mass transit.
Mayor Bill de Blasio had said earlier in the day that New York City grocery stores should begin to require that shoppers wear face coverings before letting them enter. Cuomo's action went further.
"I don't know all the local laws that are out there on masks to tell you the truth," the governor said.
Yesterday, in New Zealand, for the first time, the number of people recovered from the coronavirus - 728 - outweighed the number who still had symptoms of Covid-19 with 1386 total cases.
There were 20 new cases yesterday and 13 people were in hospital with two of those in a critical condition in intensive care units.
An elderly man who died in his Invercargill home on Tuesday night is believed to be the tenth coronavirus-related fatality.
The cause of death was not confirmed yesterday but if it was found to be Covid-19, it would be the first death in the community.
Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, said given New Zealand was over the peak the health system had been spared from the immense pressure they wanted to avoid.
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But the country wasn't yet out of the woods and Bloomfield said "very rigorous testing" and contact tracing would now be fundamental in the effort to fight the deadly virus.
Another aged-care facility in Auckland was revealed to have had an outbreak, meaning six are now associated with a Covid-19 cluster. There are 16 in total.
"What we have seen with all of our aged residential facility outbreaks is that [the infection] has been introduced by someone coming in from the outside."
In response to the number of deaths and outbreaks in aged-care facilities, Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier brought forward targeted inspections previously scheduled to happen next year.
The assessments will start this week and a small team will focus on residents detained in facilities because of dementia or other causes.
"I believe the public needs reassurance about two things - that the facilities are doing all they can to prevent the virus from spreading to those most at risk, and that steps are being taken to make sure the basic human rights of residents are protected," Boshier said.
Bloomfield ordered a review of how the aged-care facilities with an outbreak responded and how other facilities have prepared.
Cabinet will decide on April 20 whether to lift the restrictive alert level 4 lockdown two days later, and the primary basis for making that decision would be whether Bloomfield was confident the virus was under control.
But this would give businesses little time to prepare.
Guidelines will be released today to show what measures businesses must have in place to operate safely at different alert levels, including ensuring employees and patrons could be socially distanced and contact-traced.
The Government will work through the guidance with specific examples on a sector-by-sector basis and will consult on and change them as they're developed, Robertson said.
"What I can say now is that our emphasis at level 3 moves from 'essential' economic activity to 'safe' economic activity."
"The critical questions are: is it possible for your business to have social distancing? Can you build in contact tracing tools or mechanisms to keep track of your supply chain and customers?"
Business leaders were under no illusion: alert level 3 would be little different to the restrictions of alert level 4.
"People will not be gathering at cafes, nor can I see the Government opening up the city," said Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett.
But a move to alert level 3 could accompany a loosening of restrictions for online shopping so stores could open virtually while the hospitality sector hoped restaurants could at least offer takeaway meals.
The industry is lobbying the Government to consider converting on-premise alcohol licenses so establishments could offer something like a cooked meal for four people with a bottle of wine, said Hospitality New Zealand president Jeremy Smith.
"We are looking to create a point of difference to, at the very least, try to generate some revenue while we are waiting to go from level 3 down to level 2 and we can reopen."
The lockdown has been brutal for bars and restaurants and how long spent at alert level 3 would be critical.
Even if hospitality businesses could open at the end of the four-week shutdown, up to 25 per cent were going to go under, Smith said.
"The longer it drags on that number is going to increase."
Meanwhile, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has signalled schools could reopen on April 29 as long as they weren't affected by an outbreak.
Children of essential workers would be given priority and the Government was working through public health advice about different age groups as it would be tough to keep young children 2m apart, but older students were more susceptible to the virus, Hipkins said.
It's not yet clear whether public playgrounds could be used at alert level 3 but food courts, libraries, museums, cinemas, amusement parks and other public venues will remain firmly shut.
Gyms will also remain closed at alert level 3, but are hoping they'll be able to open their doors at alert level 2 as long as they're limiting numbers, enforcing physical distancing and sharing of equipment is prevented where possible.
New Zealanders would also see a shift in how the alert level would be enforced, with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster saying police would focus on deliberate rule breakers under alert level 3.
More officers would be on the roads and although patrols had been pared back during alert level 4 - a resurgence was expected, Coster said.
But little would change for supermarkets except there could be magazines back on shelves.
Food and Grocery Council spokesman Brent Webling said he hoped grocery shopping might be less frantic so there would be more time to get goods onto shelves.