VIRUS LATEST

• Number of global cases nears 2 million, with more than 123,000 deaths - in New Zealand, there have been nine deaths
IMF warns coronavirus economic fallout will be 'worse than the Great Depression'
A grooms's dad, a 'quiet' grandma and a travelling rest-home resident - what we know about the nine Kiwi victims
Revealed: 15 cases linked to Auckland rest home
NZ's new schools - are one million kids ready? Are parents?
Government launches new $3 billion tax package for small amd medium businesses
Latest developments and essential information

The number of global cases of Covid-19 is set to hit two million today - and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the highest daily New Zealand death toll is a "sad and sobering reminder of the need to stay the course".

There were four New Zealand deaths reported yesterday, three from the Rosewood rest home cluster, while one was a man in his 70s in Wellington.

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New Zealand has now recorded nine deaths in total – six from Rosewood – and Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield cautioned it was likely there were more to come.

The number of global cases of Covid-19 sits at 1.95 million. There have been more than 123,000 deaths, while almost 500,000 people have recovered. More than 20,000 people have died in the United States and Italy, more than 18,000 in Spain and more than 12,000 in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has warned the global economy faces a crushing blow far worse than the financial crisis as lockdowns paralyse businesses and families across the world.

An estimated $NZ14.5 trillion (£7 trillion) of output will be lost this year and next, the institution (IMF) said - equal to the combined economies of Germany and Japan.

Overall its economists expect global GDP to fall by 3 per cent in 2020, the biggest drop in almost a century.

The figures underline growing fears that measures to combat Covid-19 risk causing catastrophic damage to the world economy which will tip millions into poverty and take many years to overcome.

Ardern said yesterday was a sad day in New Zealand.

"[It was] our deadliest day to date. We always knew there would be more deaths, even at level 4, and especially in cases where the virus enters a vulnerable facility like an aged-care facility.

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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.

It is, however, a reminder of how much worse the spread and death toll would be had we not taken the actions we have taken to break the spread of Covid-19."

There is now just one week left of the initial lockdown period and Ardern and Cabinet will decide on Monday whether to move out of full lockdown next Wednesday night.

Ardern has voiced "quiet confidence" the lockdown was working, but yesterday warned against getting too hopeful about the end of the lockdown.

"I have seen some commentary that reflects our success to date in stamping out the virus as reason enough to take our foot off the pedal. It is not. We are successfully over the peak – that is not the same thing as being out of the woods."

However, she said the whole point of going into lockdown early was to try to avoid the plight of other countries, in which months' long lockdowns have been in place.

On Thursday Ardern will set out some guidance for life at alert level 3, including the types of businesses that can open. However, she said even then social distancing would be part of everyday life for a long time to come.

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Two of the "clusters" are from weddings, while one was a stag party.

She said the Ministry of Health was working on expanding testing yet again to check community transmission, and improving contact tracing – an area in which the response has come under fire.

Earlier on Tuesday, Otago University Professor and epidemiologist Sir David Skegg told the Epidemic Response Committee New Zealand had to ensure it was contact tracing fast, and doing surveillance testing of the wider population.

"If the answer to those questions is 'no', I would submit that we're asking the Cabinet to play Russian roulette with the health of New Zealanders," Skegg said.

The deaths among rest-home residents sparked Bloomfield to start a review of the rest homes with Covid-19, and to tell DHBs to check all rest homes in their area to ensure they were taking the necessary steps, had personal protection equipment, and identify what other support they might needed.

Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield gives the daily briefing on Tuesday. Photo / Pool
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield gives the daily briefing on Tuesday. Photo / Pool

Bloomfield said they were also looking at ways to allow family members of those dying from the virus to visit them. None of those who have died in hospital were able to have family with them because of the risk of further transmission.

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The economic toll also become clearer yesterday as Burger King went into liquidation, and NZME – the owners of the NZ Herald – said around 200 positions had gone, a mixture of non-replacement of vacancies and already announced redundancies.

The release of Treasury scenarios showed that even in the best scenario, without significant Government intervention unemployment would hit 13 per cent – up from four per cent before Covid-19.

At the worst, if there were extended lockdowns, it could hit 26 per cent.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government was planning further funding announcements on top of the $20 billion for wage and other subsidies.

He said the scenarios showed the impact an early, effective lockdown and Government funding could have: potentially keeping unemployment under 10 per cent.

Early on Wednesday, Robertson also set out measures for smaller and medium businesses, including tax relief and restrictions on the cancellation of commercial leases.

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The Government also bolstered support for students with a $130m support package toward student loan entitlements and the fees-free policy.

Work was also underway on targeted "sector" packages for some industries – including the media which has struggled in a slump of advertising.

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