VIRUS LATEST
* New York state's death toll passes 10,000 - accounting for more than half the deaths in the US
* Globally, there are or have been 1.88 million cases of Covid-19, with more than 117,000 deaths
* New Zealand, with five deaths, appears on track to beat the virus, with only 19 new cases yesterday - and 75 recoveries
* Bluff wedding cluster - Air NZ flight attendant is possible origin
* 'Idiot' supermarket cougher jailed after breaching bail conditions
* Latest developments and essential information

Police expect a "greater number of businesses to be trading" under alert level 3 - and officers will focus their attentions on deliberate rulebreakers, says Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.

The Government will this week provide much-anticipated details on what New Zealand can expect when the country goes back into alert level 3, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

And she appears determined to avoid the messy, conflicting statements that left many Kiwis confused when the country went into lockdown almost three weeks ago.

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Ardern told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking today that the Government was working with the retail and hospitality sectors - and would do so with primary industries as well - on what levels 3 and 2 would look like.

Coster told Hosking that while details of alert level 3 were still being worked through, "we would expect to see a greater number of businesses trading".

He acknowledged this would lead to more workers travelling on the roads, and police attention would be focused on people clearly breaking the rules, such as big gatherings. "Businesses will also have some conditions on how they are expected to trade."

Ardern rejected any suggestion the Government should ease the lockdown early.

"Just remember, one case can lead to a massive outbreak. What matters is not just the numbers but what they tell us," she told Hosking.

"If we have cases where we don't know where they came from, we have to make sure there's no iceberg underneath."

She did not, she said, want to waste the good work of New Zealanders of the past three weeks of lockdown.

Ardern said the Government would be providing some guidance around what alert level 3 and 2 would look like this Thursday.

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Cabinet will next week decide whether New Zealand will drop to alert level 3 on, or about, Thursday next week (10 days' time).

New Zealand was at alert level 3 for just a couple of days before going into alert level 4 some 20 days ago.

The level three guidance included restrictions on travelling, public gatherings and the closure of affected educational facilities.

Specifically, it said alert level 3 was designed for a scenario where there was "heightened risk the disease was not contained".

It said travel in areas of community transmission was limited, public venues and affected educational facilities would be closed, mass gatherings were cancelled, alternative ways of working were required and some non-essential businesses would be closed.

There are four further deaths linked to Covid-19 and Director General Health Ashley Bloomfield says it is a "sobering reminder" of what's at stake in the fight against the pandemic.

But coming back down from alert level 4, however, will be different.

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Ardern said yesterday alert level 3 should be considered a "waiting room".

"A place we move to that allows a bit more activity to occur, but not so much that we risk losing all the gains we have made," she said.

"This is the place we go while we check that we genuinely have things under control, and that we are on track to stamp out the virus."

With only 19 new cases and 75 reported recoveries yesterday, Ardern appeared optimistic but she warned New Zealanders not to get complacent.

"Our number of cases may be small, but that doesn't mean we have yet been successful in hunting the virus down."

She reiterated that border restrictions would be in place for "a long time to come".

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Ardern said the Government would provide clarity around what alert level 3 looks like to businesses, for transport, for health and for recreation and education.

She said the Government would provide "the principles of what we expect to see within different environments and what can and cannot occur, and then examples".

"We will be providing as much detail as possible for businesses to know and understand whether they can, or cannot, open and if they can, what is expected of them."

Ardern told Hosking today the Government would also unveil this week more assistance for small to medium enterprises.

The wage subsidy scheme was one step but the Government recognised there were many other fixed costs for these businesses, including commercial rent, she said.

Ardern also confirmed discussions were under way at Cabinet for assistance for New Zealand media firms, who have been hit by a big drop in advertising revenue.

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She did not go into details but said the pandemic had shown the importance of a media industry that provided trusted news and information. "We need to make sure they [media firms] are also viable post coronavirus."


READ MORE:
Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown: 5 deaths, 19 new cases, 75 recoveries - Ashley Bloomfield, Jacinda Ardern with latest updates
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The Treasury will today unveil a projection of the country's unemployment rate, which is expected to show the jobless number has climbed into the double digits.

The announcements come as Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield confirmed yesterday a fifth person had died as a result of Covid-19.

The man, in his 80s, was a resident of the Rosewood Rest Home in Christchurch.
Ardern said that the fifth Covid-19 death serves as a reminder for New Zealand as to "why we are doing what we are doing".

"It is a timely reminder that our battle with this virus is far from over," she said.

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Today is the 20th day of lockdown and New Zealand has 1349 confirmed and probable cases.

Although the number of deaths has been slowly rising – and is expected to rise further – the number of new cases confirmed each day has been falling.

There were just 19 new cases yesterday, up just one on Saturday's 18 and down by 10 on Friday's 29.

In fact, yesterday there were four times as many people who had recovered from Covid-19 than had contracted the virus over the same 24 hour period.

The small number of new cases was "encouraging," said Bloomfield.

Ardern said that because of people's collective efforts to stamp out Covid-19, New Zealand was in a position that many other countries were not.

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The death toll in the UK has surpassed 10,000 – and it's double that in the US.

After yesterday's briefing and while answering questions on a live video, Bloomfield revealed one measure which might change in alert level 3 – the rules preventing people from being with dying family members.

"I can say this is something we are looking at and [it] will certainly be something we will be wanting to give advice about, especially as part of a step down to level 3 restrictions."

Today, the Treasury will unveil a raft of important economic projections, including the unemployment rate, the expected level of GDP growth going forward and the ability for the economy to recover.

Treasury Secretary Caralee McLiesh has previously said New Zealand's unemployment rate could likely head "well into the double digits".

Tomorrow, Finance Minister Grant Robertson will outline new measures to assist businesses during the lockdown, as well as the Government's "revised approach to the Budget," which is still due to be delivered on May 14.

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In the meantime, Ardern continues to urge New Zealanders to stay at home and to stay within their bubbles.

"Week three may in fact be the hardest, we're coming around the bend but can't quite see the finish line," Ardern said.

"As the Minister for Sport recently said to me, we can't squander a strong half-time lead by letting up or getting overconfident."

And she had a message for those letting the side down by breaking the lockdown rules.

"It would take one case amongst you to have an outbreak that could lead to dozens of infections and possibly death."

She said New Zealand does not take this challenge lightly "and neither should you".

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