The Prime Minister and leading public sector bosses are all taking pay cuts, as the Government increases support for businesses, and the recovery rate for coronavirus cases in New Zealand continues to improve. Get all the important news and read the full stories in the links below.
Key developments in NZ
• There are 20 new coronavirus cases in New Zealand. Six confirmed cases and 14 probable cases brings the total number of cases in New Zealand to 1386 - 728 of which have now recovered. While Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there were no further deaths confirmed, he was waiting for more information on a man who died in Invercargill last night. The Herald understands the man is believed to have died of Covid-19 but Bloomfield said the cause of death had not been confirmed. The official death toll from Covid-19 remains at nine, with 13 people in hospital and three in ICU. There are now six significant clusters of coronavirus linked to aged-care facilities across New Zealand, meaning targeted independent inspections will start this week to assess their response to Covid-19.
• Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to take a $45,000 pay cut over the next six months as leading public sector bosses will have their salaries reduced by 20 per cent. Ardern said the six month, 20 per cent pay cuts would apply to all Government ministers and public sector chief executives. Ardern's annual salary is set at $459,739, meaning a 20 per cent reduction over six months would see her sacrifice $45,573 to earn $414,166. The Government's senior politicians - the Cabinet ministers - get $288,900 each year and now face a $28,890 pay cut to $260,010. Ardern said the cut would apply to all Ministers in her Government, and opposition leader Simon Bridges has also stated he will take the pay cut, dropping his $288,900 salary to $260,010.
• Media companies are facing an existential crisis as advertising revenues plummet due to the coronavirus pandemic, and MPs are being told that the Government needs to step in immediately. The Epidemic Response Committee heard from several media companies this morning imploring the Government to redirect its advertising from the likes of Facebook and Google to provide immediate cash relief, while special tax status and different ownership models should be considered as longer-term solutions. The Prime Minister, in a press conference this afternoon, said that the Government will continue to advertise with Google and Facebook because that's where New Zealanders are.
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• New Zealand could be coming out of lockdown next week and moving back to alert level 3. Exactly what that will look like remains unclear, with much-anticipated details to be unveiled this week. The Herald spoke to a range of sector leaders to see how life at alert level 3 could, and should, look like.
Around the world
• The official death toll from the coronavirus soared in New York City today after officials began including people who probably had Covid-19, but died without ever being tested. City officials reported 3778 "probable" deaths, where doctors were certain enough of the cause of death to list it on the death certificate, and 6589 confirmed by a lab test. Combined, that puts the total fatalities in the city over 10,000. The total number of people hospitalised was down slightly to 18,697, the first decrease since mid-March. Total hospitalisations have been flat recently, and Governor Andrew Cuomo believes the state could be at a peak, or a plateau. Still, more than 1600 new Covid-19 patients were hospitalised yesterday, and the state has 200,000 cases.
• Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the world's largest coronavirus lockdown to head off the epidemic's peak, with officials racing to make up for lost time as the caseload crossed 10,000. Modi ordered India's 1.3 billion people to continue to largely stay inside until May 3, but said some restrictions away from infection hotspots would be eased on April 20 to help poor people dependent upon daily wages. India has a long history of battling infectious disease, from a 19th century malaria epidemic to the Nipah virus outbreak in 2018. But experts have said these experiences were squandered.
• Britain will suffer its deepest recession for 300 years if the coronavirus lockdown continues into mid-year, according to the budget watchdog. The Office for Budget Responsibility said the British economy could shrink by 35 per cent this spring, with unemployment soaring by two million to its highest level since the 1990s. The OBR also said government borrowing could hit its highest level since World War II. The official UK death toll hit 12,107 as another 778 people died, with government sources stressing there could be no talk of an exit strategy "before we have reached the peak".
• The Government has announced a range of new support measures for small and medium-sized businesses, including a $3.1 billion tax relief package. It is the first significant new support measure on top of the $20 billion programme already underway, and has been called a positive first step by business groups. Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government recognised the need for more support, particularly in the small-to-medium-sized business space, and also told business leaders that a lowering of Covid-19 restrictions will be about eliminating the virus, but will consider how it is impacting the economy.
• A nine-year low and a national volume drop of nearly five per cent - that's the toll just the first six lockdown days took on the $55 billion-a-year residential real estate market in New Zealand. Real Estate Institute estimated daily sales of around $125 million are being lost, equating to a possible loss of trade around $3.6 billion during the lockdown. Cash-starved New Zealand real estate agencies have been given $6 million-plus in wage support to continue during the lockdown.
• They might be doing important training while in lockdown, but the Warriors are growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of information from the NRL, a week out from when they may have to depart for Australia. To align with the proposed competition restart date of May 28, the Warriors would have to cross the Tasman early next week, to have enough time to serve an isolation period, before a training window ahead of games kicking off. The club has asked for clarification on a number of issues, but is still waiting for answers, with CEO Cameron George hoping for information from the NRL today.
Check our graphic for the latest case numbers in New Zealand.