New modelling has indicated that New Zealand got it right by locking down, as the Ministry of Health reveals why, despite criticism, schools are being reopened at level 3. Get all the important news and read the full stories in the links below.
Key developments in NZ
• A Ministry of Health report has revealed the reasoning behind reopening schools at level 3. Schools are due to reopen from April 29, but despite criticism - including from the principal of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's old high school – the report argues that closing schools and childcare centres had only a minimal effect on reducing Covid-19, but is causing major social damage.
• There is one new death and six new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, according to Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. The new death takes the country's total toll to 14. She was a woman in her 80s from the Rosewood rest home cluster in Christchurch where seven others have died. The total number of cases is now 1451. So far, 1036 have recovered, meaning the number of active Covid-19 cases is 401. Bloomfield said there are 11 people in hospital – two in ICU, in Middlemore and Dunedin hospitals.
• Patients referred to hospital with cancer and other potentially urgent conditions are being sent back to their GPs because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The alarming situation could cost patient lives and has been raised by the Health and Disability Commissioner Anthony Hill in a rare letter to Health Minister David Clark. Additionally, close to 20,000 Kiwis are missing out on dental care every day because of the lockdown, while funding to desperate general practices for the second half of lockdown has been blocked by the Government.
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• National leader Simon Bridges has received public backing from his deputy, after rumours his leadership was on shaky ground following a controversial Facebook post. Bridges has been forced to defend himself after facing a flurry of online fury over the post criticising the Government's decision to extend the level 4 lockdown. His deputy leader, Paula Bennett, was forced to proactively say she supports Bridges as leader and deny any speculation of leadership unease within the party.
• New modelling has indicated that New Zealand got it right by locking down – and that other countries battling Covid-19 can learn from our example. It has also suggested that our rate of virus reproduction – currently below 0.5 – has put us on track for stamping out Covid-19, if not containing it. Science reporter Jamie Morton talked through the data with mathematical modeller Rachelle Binny.
• When Kiwi toddlers get together, they really mix, sharing toys, books and often germs - so how do you keep them safe from Covid-19 infection in early childhood centres? Most centres admit they don't yet know all the answers ahead of their reopening next Tuesday.
• Labour MP Dr Deborah Russell has come under fire for saying businesses in trouble "after only a few weeks in a pretty bad situation" was a sign they did not have the necessary strength. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he disagreed with Russell's statement, while Act MP David Seymour said the comment lacked "empathy and understanding".
• The economy will be back up and functioning at about 80 per cent capacity after the country moves into level 3 next week, the boss of a major bank is predicting. Vittoria Shortt, chief executive of ASB, believes there would be a significant difference from level 4 where it estimated around two-thirds of the economy was functioning, and pointed to the construction sector as an example of where the economy will start to bounce back.
Around the world
• British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to United States President Donald Trump to discuss coronavirus and international trade in the clearest sign yet that he is close to returning to work full-time. Johnson will also resume his regular audiences with the Queen for the first time in three weeks as he takes back control from his stand-in Dominic Raab. The Prime Minister told Trump he is "feeling better and on the road to recovery", the White House said.
• Spain called off the Running of the Bulls in July, the United States scrapped the national spelling bee in June and Germany cancelled Oktoberfest five months away, making it clear today that the effort to beat back the coronavirus and return to normal could be a long and dispiriting process. Amid growing impatience over the shutdowns that have thrown tens of millions out of work, European countries continued to reopen in stages, while in the US, one state after another — mostly ones led by Republican governors — outlined plans to gradually get back to business. But all indications are that some businesses won't necessarily spring back to life when they get the all-clear.
• The prospect of trans-Tasman rugby battles, including Bledisloe Cup tests, resuming this year have received another boost. Reports in Australia suggest Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle's three-point plan to keep ailing Australian rugby afloat includes a quick return to trans-Tasman matches, and Castle appeared hopeful of the Wallabies and All Blacks resuming battle.