As the country prepares to go into lockdown at 11.59pm tomorrow, another 40 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in New Zealand, the highest daily total yet. The Government announced a six-month mortgage holiday for those worst affected and warned any New Zealanders wanting to come back from overseas to do so immediately.
The key announcements
• The Government unveiled a six-month mortgage holiday for those whose incomes have been affected by Covid-19.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern produced a $6.25 billion Business Finance Guarantee Scheme, which will provide short-term credit to cushion the financial distress on solvent small and medium-sized firms affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
The package will include a six-month principal and interest payment holiday for mortgage holders and SME customers whose incomes have been affected.
The scheme will include a limit of $500,000 per loan and will apply to firms with a turnover of between $250,000 and $80 million per annum. The loans will be for a maximum of three years.
• Details and locations for the 40 new cases of Covid-19 have been published by the Ministry of Health.
The new cases, and 13 probable cases, take our total number to 155. Six people are in hospital, and 12 people have recovered. Auckland school Marist College said today it had three new confirmed cases.
• The Government also updated its list of what is considered to be an essential business and, therefore, exempt from the alert level 4 lockdown.
The new list, on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's website, provides much more clarity as to who in which sectors will be exempt from the lockdown.
Meanwhile, out on the streets...
• Food and liquor aren't the only items that Kiwis are rushing to buy. A long queue of people lined up outside an Auckland gun shop before it opened this morning.
The queue outside Gun City in Penrose started before the store opened at 9am, with a local business owner estimating between 20-30 people were waiting. He told the Herald he had never seen queues outside the business.
• Freight flights could be used to repatriate Kiwis stranded overseas, as Mfat warns the options for New Zealanders to get home are ''reducing dramatically''. Meanwhile airlines around the world face financial oblivion, as passenger demand completely collapses. For most carriers the market for air travel is actually below zero — the number of people cancelling flights exceeds the number of new bookings.
How are we doing?
• A top epidemiologist says New Zealand may have spared itself a worst-case coronavirus disaster "in the nick of time" through its dramatic shutdown.
But it will still take many weeks before we can truly see what difference the month-long measure makes against Covid-19, Otago University's Professor Michael Baker said.
• Another scientist warns that New Zealand needs to supercharge its ability to rapidly identify cases of coronavirus and trace any close contacts.
"We should aim to leave the lockdown in one month with the ability to identify and trace the contacts of 1000 cases a day," said Dr Ayesha Verrall, an infectious diseases doctor at Otago University.
"We are currently struggling with 50."