Four further coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded in New Zealand, as an expert urges the Government for key improvements before they make a decision on lifting the nationwide lockdown. Get all the important news and read the full stories in the links below.
Key developments in NZ
• New Zealand has four further deaths linked to Covid-19, which Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says is a "sobering reminder" of what's at stake in the fight against the pandemic. One man in his 70s has died in Wellington - a case linked to overseas travel - and three people from the Rosewood rest home cluster in Christchurch have died; two men in their 90s and a man in his 80s. They were all confirmed cases of Covid-19 and had underlying health conditions, Bloomfield said, bringing the Covid-19 death toll to nine. There are 17 new cases of Covid-19 to report since yesterday - made up of eight new confirmed cases and nine new probable cases. There are 628 cases that have recovered, an increase of 82 from the previous day, but there are 15 people in hospital; three in ICU, with one case in Dunedin in a critical condition. Bloomfield said New Zealand has passed the peak of new cases, but warned the public against any complacency, as the number of people caught flouting the lockdown rules more than doubled over Easter.
• A deadly coronavirus outbreak at a rest home spread so rapidly that there were a number of "safe practice issues", including how protective equipment was used. Rosewood Rest Home and Hospital in Christchurch is now linked to six deaths and 33 confirmed or probable Covid-19 cases, of which 18 are staff members. Many staff had to go into isolation and that led to shortcomings, the Canterbury DHB confirmed to the Herald.
• The mystery cluster of Covid-19 cases in Auckland linked to the infection of 35 people is believed to be a stag party. Bloomfield made the announcement at his press conference this afternoon, after days of speculation about what the cluster was, and why it hadn't been named. It is currently the fourth biggest cluster of Covid-19 cases of the 15 clusters in the country. The largest cluster in the country remains the Bluff wedding, with 86 cases. Marist College has 85 and the cluster linked to a St Patrick's Day party at a Matamata bar has 71. The clusters are now the centre of the spread in New Zealand, as overseas transmission declines.
• Otago University Professor and epidemiologist Sir David Skegg believes Cabinet will be playing "Russian roulette" with New Zealanders' lives if it makes a lockdown decision on Monday without first vastly improving rapid contact-tracing and acquiring more information about Covid-19 in vulnerable communities. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that Cabinet will make a decision on Monday on whether to lift or extend the nationwide lockdown from next Thursday. But Skegg said key factors before that decision was made included the ability to trace close contacts for all new cases within two to three days - which is Australia's current capacity - as well as having surveillance testing not only up and running, but completed.
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Around the world
• Coronavirus deaths in New York have reached a "terrible" milestone as plans begin to reopen the hard-hit region. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed that another 671 people died state-wide from coronavirus overnight, bringing the state's total death toll to 10,056 – accounting for about half of all US fatalities. "The terrible news is as terrible as it gets," Cuomo said, referring to the tally surpassing the 10,000 mark. While it was the first time in a week the daily toll dipped below 700, the governor noted people were still dying at a "horrific level of pain and grief and sorrow". However, the flattening of the curve has fuelled hopes that New York will ease restrictions on business and movement over the coming weeks.
• United States President Donald Trump asserted today that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to reopen the coronavirus-stricken country, though it is unclear what authority he has to overrule the states. While Trump, who is anxious to put the crisis behind him, has issued federal social distancing recommendations, it has been governors and local leaders who have instituted mandatory restrictions, including shutting schools and ordering the closure of non-essential businesses. Under the Constitution, public health and safety is primarily the domain of state and local officials, and many of those leaders have expressed concern that Trump's plan to try to return to normal as soon as the end of the month will cost lives and extend the duration of the outbreak.
• France reported 574 new deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said today, bringing the total to 14,967 since the coronavirus outbreak began. For the fifth day in a row, the number of patients in intensive care fell, with 24 fewer people, but there are still 6821 patients in a serious condition. The figure is seen as a key indicator of the outbreak's spread across the country. The report came just ahead of a televised address by President Emmanuel Macron, who announced another extension of the stay-at-home orders and business closures in place since March 17, until May 11.
• New projections from Treasury show that the unemployment rate can be kept under 10 per cent if the Government comes to the table with extra financial support to help the country weather the fallout of Covid-19. Without new support measures, however, the Treasury predicts the unemployment rate in New Zealand could reach as high as 13.5 per cent if the lockdown remains at four weeks. If the lockdown were to be extended, that figure could reach between 17.5 and 26 per cent - Treasury's worst of seven economic scenarios. The unemployment rate at 10 per cent would imply the number unemployed would be around 275,000 people. New Zealand's unemployment rate is currently just over four per cent, or 111,000 people, however that figure is expected to increase significantly. Liam Dann argues that the range of grim economic scenarios published made one thing clear - much more Government support is needed.
• The parent company of Burger King in New Zealand, which operates 83 stores around the country and employs more than 2600 staff, has been placed into receivership. Burger King restaurants have been closed as part of the alert level 4 lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a significant impact on the business, though senior management are said to be committed to the business and working on a plan to reopen after the lockdown. And, a retail expert argues that there should be appetite for the Burger King business among investors.
• Sanzaar, the organisation that oversees the Rugby Championship, is working hard on the possibility of an international competition based in Australia. According to reports out of Australia, the four countries that compete in the Rugby Championship – New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina – have prioritised test rugby over resuming Super Rugby, and are weighing up a six-week competition based in an Australian city. New Zealand Rugby said they are reviewing a range of competition options, but no decisions have been made yet, and will depend on advice from the Government.
Check our graphic for the latest case numbers in New Zealand.