Increasingly tighter borders
* March 16: All overseas arrivals must self-isolate except from Pacific; 6000 foreigners enter NZ before borders close
* March 20: Borders close to non-NZers, NZers must self-isolate; more than 50,000 NZers come home in the last half of March
* March 26: Symptomatic arrivals are quarantined, asymptomatic people with no self-isolation plan are put in supervised accommodation, the rest can go home; 131 now in quarantine, 795 in accommodation, 5400 allowed to head home
* 67 new cases yesterday, total NZ cases now 1106
* Latest developments, essential information

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is looking to quarantine all people arriving in New Zealand from overseas to continue the momentum that has seen the number of new Covid-19 cases level off.

And she is not ruling out a pay cut for MPs in solidarity with the tough times that others have had to endure during the lockdown, having said last month she wasn't opposed to a 20 per cent cut across the board.

It comes as the Queen delivers a personal letter to New Zealand, calling on Kiwis "kia kaha, kia māia, kia manawanui" - to be strong, be brave, be steadfast, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Globally, there have been more than 1.2 million cases recorded of the virus and nearly 70,000 people have died so far. Almost 10,000 people have died of the virus in the US, with New York the epicentre of the disease.

Overseas arrivals pose a higher risk of importing the disease into New Zealand, and the Government has been under pressure from epidemiologists and the Opposition to impose a mandatory quarantine.

Last week Ardern said that self-isolation for asymptomatic people coming to New Zealand from overseas had been working, but it was later revealed that the police compliance check wasn't happening as promised.

Ardern said at her post-Cabinet press conference yesterday that quarantining all arrivals was something she was seeking advice on.

"This is an area where you'll only continue to see it ramping up," she said when asked about border controls.

The Government would have to be sure that the needs of those in mandatory quarantine could be met, and that the measure was sustainable for many months - potentially until a vaccine was ready.

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Today at the Epidemic Response Committee, National leader Simon Bridges will press Health Minister David Clark and Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield about why a quarantine hasn't already been imposed.

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Bridges told the Herald he has heard anecdotal reports of New Zealanders returning home who haven't been checked on.

"They could come right off the plane today with Covid-19 and be in the supermarket by the afternoon.

"We will be very supportive if the Government moves in this direction. It's got to be one of the lowest-hanging fruit we've got for preventing the spread of Covid-19."

About 6000 foreigners came into the country between March 16 and March 20, when border restrictions were raised from an obligation to self-isolate to the closure of the border to all non-New Zealanders.

More than 55,000 Kiwis have returned home from overseas in the two weeks since the self-isolation rule was brought in on March 16.

It is unclear if the Government knows where these arrivals are, or if any of them have tested positive for Covid-19.

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National Party leader Simon Bridges has been calling on the Government to quarantine all overseas arrivals. Photo / Paul Taylor
National Party leader Simon Bridges has been calling on the Government to quarantine all overseas arrivals. Photo / Paul Taylor

The increasingly louder calls for quarantine come as there were further signs that the number of new coronavirus cases was levelling off.

The 67 new cases yesterday was fewer than the 89 cases the previous day. The total number of confirmed or probable cases is now 1106.

Two people had been discharged from hospital, leaving 13 still in hospital, including three people in ICU, two of whom are in a critical condition.

West Coast woman Anne Guenole is the only person in New Zealand to have died from Covid-19 so far.

About 10 to 20 people had been infected via community transmission, but 17 per cent of cases were still being investigated and some were likely to also be community transmission.

"The levelling off is a good sign. We've clearly avoided that exponential growth," Bloomfield said yesterday.

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Ardern said that "we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves" and called on New Zealanders to double down to ensure the gains so far weren't squandered.

She torpedoed any suggestion the lockdown could be lifted before the current end-date of April 22.

Four weeks was the minimum period to look for cases that were infected by pre-symptomatic people in the first fortnight of the lockdown, she said.

It also allowed the Government more time to fill in regional black spots in its testing data, a need that has been highlighted by expert epidemiologists to ensure there are no outbreaks in areas where there has been little testing.

"The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," Ardern said.

Having appeared lukewarm on the use of technology to enhance contact-tracing last week, Ardern said yesterday it was being actively pursed.

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Stronger enforcement was also key to lockdown success, and while most people have been complying, more than 200 people have been caught breaking the rules and eight have been prosecuted.

Yesterday two fishermen in Auckland and an elderly man who had to be rescued from a Whangārei bush area were among those flouting the lockdown rules.

Ardern also sought to prepare New Zealand for post-lockdown life, saying that self-isolation, "aggressive" contact-tracing, and strict border measures would be part of the "new normal".

Tougher border measures have been in place since the lockdown started, meaning anyone with symptoms is quarantined, those without suitable self-isolation plans are placed in supervised accommodation, and the rest are allowed home to self-isolate.

Last night there were 131 people in quarantine, 795 in supervised accommodation, and about 5400 people were allowed home.

In announcing the measures, Ardern said at the time that mandatory quarantine for those with symptoms was doable because the number of people arriving was shrinking.

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According to Customs, more than 1500 people came through the border that first night, on March 26, but since April 1 it has dwindled to 300 or fewer daily arrivals.

On Sunday there were only 103 arrivals.

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says New Zealand has avoided the exponential growth in Covid-19 infections that has hit other countries. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says New Zealand has avoided the exponential growth in Covid-19 infections that has hit other countries. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Bridges said mandatory quarantine was easier to do now, given the trickle of people arriving.

But he wanted to know more about the tens of thousands of overseas arrivals since March 16, when all arrivals except those from the Pacific were asked to self-isolate.

Despite Ardern calling the measures an effective border closure, about 6000 foreigners flew in in the days before the borders closed to all non-New Zealanders on March 20.

And since March 16, more than 55,000 New Zealanders have returned home from overseas and were told to self-isolate.

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The Herald has asked Government agencies if the location of these arrivals is known, and whether any of them have tested positive for Covid-19.

A spokesman for Customs said a response was not ready by last night.

This morning the Government is announcing a mental health campaign, called Getting Through Together, to help people in lockdown to cope with stress and connect with loved ones.

It will include tools for parents to talk with their primary-school aged children about their mental health and wellbeing.

More Government support for the health workforce, and for ethnic communities and vulnerable people, is expected to be announced later this week.

The Government also published the names of the employers who have taken up its wage subsidy scheme.

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This will enable workers to see if their companies had been paid out a sum that should have been passed on to the workers.

So far, Ardern said about 876,000 workers had been accepted for the scheme, and $5.3 billion had been paid out.