Essential workers who take leave from their jobs to comply with public health guidelines can now access a leave scheme to ensure they continue to receive income.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the scheme is available from next Monday.

The scheme supports any front line workers, who are vulnerable and can remain at home.

Ardern said there had been $4.5 billion paid out to 750,000 people through the wage subsidy scheme.

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Close to 115,000 of those were self-employed.

She said there were 13,300 applications just yesterday.

Asked about Fletcher Building and pay cuts to its staff, Ardern said the company is obligated to pass on the full amount of the subsidy scheme, if they cannot pay their employees their full wage.

Ardern 'gutted' by Bauer closing

This morning, Bauer Media – which published North and South, the Listener, Woman's Day and other magazines, announced it was closing.

Ardern said she was "gutted" to see Bauer media close its doors.

But she said the company refused the wage subsidy.

"The wage subsidy could and should have made a difference to those staff."

Ardern said the magazines were part of New Zealand's history and "deeply regretted" the fact that Bauer did not take the Government up on the wage scheme.

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In fact, she said Bauer proactively came to the Government to say it would not be taking up the scheme.

Ardern questioned the claims that the company shut in New Zealand because of Covid-19.
Ardern said the Government knows that long form journalism is under pressure but knows how important it is.

It is looking into options to helping media.

She said the Government wanted to see the company continue to operate, maybe with more of an online presence.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government understands the "plurality of media".

He said there needs to be more players than just the state-owned organisations.

What will end the lockdown?

Ardern said there are "multiple factors" which will contribute to New Zealand going back down to level three, or lower.

This includes how many clusters there are, and what the level of community transmission is.

'Expect a call from the police'

Ardern said the Government is replying on every New Zealander to self-isolate.

"There is a level of faith we have to have with everyone," she said, in response to a question as to why people are not being quarantined at the border.

She said there was a level of reliance on all New Zealanders to follow the rules.

But she pointed out that anyone who is symptomatic is quarantined – "not put in a hotel, quarantined".

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The Government will be checking on people arriving in New Zealand – if they don't respond, they can expect a call in from the police, Ardern said.

She said the "large numbers" of New Zealanders coming home is starting to trail away.

Ardern stressed that the monitoring system, announced by Police Commissioner Mike Bush, was voluntary – the Government can't make people use it, she said.

The police would be knocking on the door of those who opt not to be a part of the voluntary system.

However, she said most people have opted in.

New WhatsApp Covid-19 channel

A Government WhatsApp channel has been launched to help make information more easily accessible and shareable in the fight against Covid-19.

Function includes:

• Latest updates and news

• Latest case information

• Covid-19 symptoms

• What financial support is available

• Things people need to do to unite against Covid-19

Ardern said since so many Kiwis already have WhatsApp, the Government didn't consider building its own app.

Getting stranded visitors out of NZ

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has announced plans to get thousands of stranded visitors out of New Zealand under the current Covid-19 lockdown.

Under the managed exit plan:

• Foreign nationals returning home will be considered to be engaging in "essential travel", and therefore able to travel domestically (whether by air or land) when they have a confirmed and scheduled international flight out of New Zealand, subject to requirements which will be set out on www.covid19.govt.nz

• Foreign governments will be allowed to organise charter flights to repatriate their citizens, but only if they can satisfy New Zealand health requirements

• Commercial capacity between New Zealand and Europe will be increased, by New Zealand approving a second daily flight between Doha and Auckland by Qatar Airways.
It is expected that the first foreign government-organised charter flight, operated by Air New Zealand, could leave New Zealand as early as Friday evening. Commercial options continue to be available to stranded foreign nationals.

Peters said travel restrictions associated with alert level 4 would continue to apply for all foreign nationals, except for those travelling to leave the country.

"If you do not have a confirmed international ticket, then you must stay in self-isolation. Stay put and continue to follow alert level 4 guidelines and maintain your bubble," he said.

"New Zealanders returning home from overseas will continue to be subject to strict screening and self-isolation requirements; and domestic travel by New Zealanders will continue to be reserved for essential workers only."

Peters said time and care was taken to develop a seriously detailed plan without endangering the lives of others.

"When we moved into lockdown a week ago, the Government rightly prioritised public health, and limited the movement of people so as to restrict the spread of Covid-19.

"But it is clear that many foreign nationals travelling here do not have the resources or capability to adequately self-isolate, and wish to return home."

On Peters' announcement, Ardern said the Government has been drawing up a plan this week to help foreign nationals leave New Zealand to get home.

She said foreign Government could charter flights to New Zealand, but only if they comply with New Zealand's health rules.

Ardern said the Government has not put a time limit on domestic travel for the foreign nationals – this will give them the time they need to make plans to leave New Zealand.

Ardern said there are still many Kiwis around the world who are sheltering where they are.

But the Government was still looking to rescue them with mercy flights.

Ardern said she will endeavour to work with foreign Governments to bring those Kiwis home.

Govt's use of Zoom

Asked about the use of Zoom, Ardern said she is seeking GCSB's advice on using it.

If they say stop, it will no longer be used in Cabinet, Ardern said.

But she said Cabinet had only used it once.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said this afternoon New Zealand was not yet "flattening the curve".

He confirmed there are 89 new cases of coronavirus in New Zealand – the most recorded in a single day so far.

Bloomfield said it will be another week before the nationwide lockdown will have observable effects on the numbers.

The 89 new cases of Covid-19 are made up of 76 confirmed cases and 13 probable cases. It brings the total to 797 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Just 1 per cent of cases are considered to be community transmission - but Bloomfield expects that number to rise.

Seventeen per cent of cases are still being investigated. Bloomfield says many of those are expected to be community transmission.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website