New Zealand will move to level 3 of lockdown from 11.59pm next Monday. See what this means for you, and get all the important news and read the full stories in the links below.
Key developments in NZ
• Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that New Zealand will move to level 3 of lockdown from 11.59pm next Monday, April 27. Level 4 had originally been scheduled to lift on Thursday this week, but Cabinet wanted to "lock in some gains" and give some certainty, Ardern said. Alert level 3 will be held for two weeks and then Cabinet will assess whether to move down another level. Any businesses needing to prepare to move into level 3 could be accessed, Ardern said, as could schools, to prepare for the return of pupils. On whether the lockdown could be extended further, Ardern said she wasn't expecting "any surprises" with the case numbers, after just nine new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed today - the second day in a row where new infections have been in single figures.
• What does the impending move to level 3 mean for you? Here are the latest rules and regulations about what is allowed and what is still off limits at level 3.
• The Prime Minister says parents will decide whether their children will return to school next week, but is encouraging distance learning. Children up to Year 10 can return to school from April 29, but the Early Childhood Council thinks this is risky. This adds to mounting backlash from teachers and some parents against Ardern's decision to reopen early childhood services and schools, to care for children whose parents have to return to work at level 3.
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• National leader Simon Bridges says the Government's decision to extend the level 4 lockdown until the end of Monday shows it hasn't done the groundwork required to make sure the country is ready for the next step. Bridges said the Government's decision means one of the strictest lockdowns in the world has been extended, and that it will "no doubt see a rise in mental health problems and stress related illnesses".
• Meanwhile, Matthew Hooton believes the Prime Minister had no choice but to extend the lockdown.
• The difference between alert level 4 and 3 has a multi-billion dollar effect on business - and for many companies that means preparing to get back to work as soon as possible. In the building and infrastructure sectors, the move dictates whether around 300,000 workers with a $46 billion annual output can return to work, but the Employers and Manufacturers Association are warning it's a long way from business as usual. Here's what the end of the level 4 lockdown will mean for hundreds of thousands of Kiwi workers.
• As coronavirus infections tore across the United States in early March, a Silicon Valley executive called a survival shelter manufacturer. He wanted to know how to open the secret door to his multimillion-dollar bunker 11 feet underground in New Zealand. His story is not unique – as many rich Americans have fled to New Zealand to try and escape the pandemic.
• The chief executive of one of New Zealand's largest retirement care companies unloaded around $1.5 million worth of shares in the days after the company was granted a wage subsidy for more than 1300 staff. A statement posted on the NZX late on Friday showed Julian Cook, chief executive of Summerset Group, sold 250,000 shares in the company on Wednesday. It comes as Summerset was paid $8,870,544 in wage subsidies from the Ministry of Social Development, as part of the Government's scheme to help businesses which faced a large downturn in business as a result of Covid-19.
• Finance Minister Grant Robertson has responded to growing criticism that the Covid-19 taxpayer-funded wage subsidy scheme is open to abuse, saying the Government has "faith" most businesses won't rort it. Wage subsidy payments totalling around $84 million to processors in the $9 billion export meat industry are the latest to raise concern.
Around the world
• World leaders have spent the past several weeks grappling with the unexpected as country after country has seen the coronavirus arrive at its borders and an outbreak has exploded into a pandemic. The pandemic is a challenge not only for public health but also for messaging. Here's how some world leaders – including New Zealand's - have talked to their citizens about the outbreak.
• The European Centre for Disease Control says the continent now has more than one million confirmed cases and almost 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. According to a tally posted on the ECDC website, Spain had the most cases in the region with 191,726, followed by Italy, Germany, Britain and France. It listed Italy as having the most deaths in Europe, with 23,227, followed by Spain, France, Britain and Belgium. According to the tally, Europe accounts for almost half the global case load and more than half the total deaths.
• While professional sport is unable to take place at level 3, there could be good news on the way for those looking to partake in some different forms of exercise. The governing bodies of certain recreational sports will meet with Sport New Zealand on Wednesday to learn their specific guidelines under alert level 3, but New Zealand Golf confirmed that the sport could resume "under strict rules and guidelines, which will become known this week", while sports such as swimming, surfing and kayaking are set to also be allowed, with restrictions.