The number of new coronavirus cases in New Zealand continues its downward trend, but there are fears the number of deaths could rise in the coming days, as concerns remain over a rest-home outbreak. Get all the important news and read the full stories in the links below.

Key developments in NZ

• New Zealand has 18 new coronavirus cases, though grave fears remain for elderly residents at a rest home where there has been an outbreak. There are now 1330 total cases, but the death toll remains at four. The source of the Covid-19 infection at the Rosewood rest home in Christchurch was still being investigated, and there could be more deaths in the coming days from that rest home. "We may well see further deaths over the coming days, I'll just be honest with you about that," Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters. Bloomfield believed the 18 new cases was an encouragingly low number, and hoped the downward trend would continue over the next few days as testing ramped back up after Easter. Nationwide, 14 people remain in hospital, with five in intensive care units, and one in a critical condition. In terms of lockdown compliance, Bloomfield said there had been 847 breaches and 109 prosecutions.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield speaks to the media. Photo / Getty Images
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield speaks to the media. Photo / Getty Images

• Details remain a mystery about a private function in Auckland that has left 35 people with Covid-19. Health officials will only say the cluster is linked to a "private party to celebrate an event", and there are 35 confirmed and probable cases. Bloomfield today defended the lack of public information released about the Auckland party cluster, saying it was a "private event" which was "well-bounded" and everyone involved had been contacted. The origin of the cluster is unknown, although yesterday the Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said the event was held before the lockdown. McElnay was unable to give more details, other than that the event was not linked to a workplace.

• Schools have been told to prepare to reopen for "some but not all" of their students on April 29. The Ministry of Education has sent a bulletin to schools saying that "a hybrid model of both distance learning and on-site learning is very likely at least in the early stages" after the coronavirus lockdown ends - but some principals are still uncertain what reopening will look like. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the Cabinet will decide next Monday, April 20, whether the lockdown will end as originally planned at midnight on April 22.

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• The Government is helping councils expand footpaths and roll out temporary cycleways to help people keep two metres apart after the level 4 lockdown is lifted. Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter said when people begin to return to city centres after the lockdown "we want them to have enough space to maintain physical distance". Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the money – which will come from the Innovating Streets for People pilot fund - would help his council develop widened footpaths and new cycleways in areas including the city centre and South Auckland, where programmes are already under way.

The Government is to fund temporary cycleways and footpaths post Covid-19 lockdown. Photo / Glen Koorey
The Government is to fund temporary cycleways and footpaths post Covid-19 lockdown. Photo / Glen Koorey

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Around the world

• The US death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed Italy's for the highest in the world at more than 20,000, as Chicago and other cities across the Midwest braced for a potential surge in victims and moved to snuff out smouldering hotspots of contagion before they erupt. About half the deaths in the United States are in the New York metropolitan area, where hospitalisations are nevertheless slowing down and other indicators suggest social distancing is "flattening the curve" of infections and staving off the doomsday scenarios of just a week or two ago. Despite that, New York reported 783 more deaths today, for a total over 8600. Governor Andrew Cuomo said the daily number of deaths is stabilising "but stabilising at a horrific rate".

An emergency room doctor in Elmhurst, Queens, gives a rare look inside a hospital at the center of the coronavirus pandemic. “We don’t have the tools that we need. Video / New York Times

• Boris Johnson has told friends that he owes his life to doctors and nurses at St Thomas' Hospital, where he was treated in intensive care for coronavirus. The British Prime Minister said his care had been "exemplary", adding: "I can't thank them enough." Downing Street said Johnson continued to make "very good progress" in hospital. Upon his transfer to a lower dependency unit, politicians across the UK and the world sent good wishes.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson released from ICU, moved to hospital ward; Benjamin Hall reports. Video / Fox News

Business update

• New Zealand is about to see a level of state control over the economy that hasn't been seen in almost 40 years. The country is suddenly facing levels of Government support for industry that takes the nation back to a style of government many New Zealanders have no experience of, notes Liam Dann, who writes that when the lockdown is over, New Zealand is still going to be running on Government money for many months.

• Your smartphone could soon be saving a record of everyone you come in close contact with - a Big Brother-ish move in the higher cause of helping to stamp out Covid-19. The New Zealand Government is actively accessing Singapore's TraceTogether tracking tool, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed, but how does TraceTogether work, and what's it like living under it? Chris Keall investigates.

In sport

• The Kiwis rugby league team may not be seen again for more than a year. Their test against Tonga in June was postponed last month, and earlier this week the New Zealand Rugby League canned all international fixtures for 2020, leaving the Kiwis' next realistic fixture in June 2021. However, NZRL CEO Greg Peters told Michael Burgess that the sport has other pressing concerns to deal with first.

Check our graphic for the latest case numbers in New Zealand.

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