VIRUS LATEST
* 2.2 million cases globally, with almost 150,000 deaths - residents in New York and London being told to wear masks in public
* NZ has 582 active cases, 11 deaths and 816 recoveries
* China raises Wuhan death toll - by 50 per cent
* 108 people in lockdown - is this New Zealand's biggest bubble?
* Haunting video of Auckland a surprise global hit
* Latest developments and essential information


New cases of Covid-19 are back to single digits for the first time since the very first days of the virus' arrival on New Zealand's shores.

Despite the promising figures, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government has not yet made up its mind as to whether the country will come out of level 4 lockdown next week.

"There is still more work for us to do," he said.

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And he has warned that level 3 is not "markedly different" from level 4.

"[Level 3] is not a return to pre-Covid-19 days. We are some time away from that."

But some things will be returning to normal in the near future.

The Business Committee – MPs in charge of making decisions on many aspects of the proceedings of Parliament – has agreed Parliament will sit again on April 28.

It is likely the first priority will be passing further Covid-19 legislation.

There were just eight new cases of Covid-19 yesterday – six probable and two confirmed.
The last time there were this number of new cases was exactly a month ago today.

This comes as the total number of Covid-19 tests continues to climb – 4241 were done on Thursday, for a total of more than 74,000 to date.

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And the Government has announced it will be spending $276 million on additional support for the health service.

This includes $200 million towards the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Some $26 million will be spent on keeping Covid-19 at bay in rest homes and Pharmac gets $35 million to buy more essential medicine.

This comes as Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay confirmed yesterday that a further two people have died from Covid-19, taking the total number of deaths to 11.

A man in his 90s who died at Waikato Hospital had been a part of the Matamata cluster.

The second death was a woman in her 80s, who died at the Burwood Hospital in Christchurch, the seventh person in the Rosewood Rest Home cluster to die from Covid-19.

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"The fact we knew we would lose some New Zealanders to Covid-19 doesn't lessen the shock and sadness each time it happens," Robertson told the media.

He added that the deaths were a "sombre reminder that we need to continue to stay home to save lives and break the chain of transmission".

Although the number of new cases has been dropping, the number of deaths may still rise.

McElnay said there were still a number of confirmed and probable Covid-19 cases in the Rosewood Rest Home cluster.

"This is a group who have been frail and vulnerable from the outset," she said.

She added that with this age group, there could be some "deterioration quite quickly".

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There are now a total of 1409 Covid-19 cases in New Zealand; 816 people have so far recovered.

Robertson said the fact that there were only eight new cases was an "encouraging sign that level 4 is doing its job. But I don't think we should be getting ahead of ourselves."

He said the Government still had two or three more days of data to go through before the Cabinet reached the point of making a decision about coming out of level 4.

Just days ago, the UK Government extended its lockdown for a further three weeks. The UK joins others who have made similar decisions, including France, Australia, India and Japan.

Robertson noted that the decisions of these governments should not serve as a signal that the New Zealand Cabinet will make the same decision on Monday.

"This is a long game – a marathon, not a short sprint."

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He said there were a number of things the Government needed to be sure of before restrictions were eased.

"One of those is that we genuinely are breaking the chain of community transmission."
He said there was still some work being done on getting to the bottom of some of the new Covid-19 cases.

There is still some work to be done around contact tracing, as well as making sure the health system has all the capacity it needed, Robertson said.

One of these contact-tracing initiatives could be done through the use of a "CovidCard" – whereby everyone living in New Zealand would be issued a Blue-tooth-enabled card which would help in contact tracing.

Asked about the use of such a card, Robertson said there was a lot of work being done on various different contact tracing initiatives.

"I'm aware that there is work going on in a card-type approach."

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But he said the Government needed to assess all options and figure out which is the best way to get the maximum amount of contact tracing done.

"The Ministry of Health is working very closely with a number of different people and we will have more to say about that as we come to making a decision on how we can use it. We are certainly aware of the Covid card as one [option]."

Robertson confirmed that, to date, $9.9 billion had been paid through the wage subsidy, covering 1.6 million workers.

In comparison, there are roughly 23,000 new people on the Jobseeker benefit.

"I think it's worth acknowledging again what the wage subsidy is doing to protect jobs and help businesses and workers stay connected through the lockdown," he said.

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

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