One-third of Kiwis felt the lockdown didn't go far enough, meaning that tougher measures could have been rolled out under level 4 if necessary.

This was according to the first weekly monitoring report into the lockdown that was used to inform Cabinet about decisions to move between alert levels.

It was one of almost 400 previously secret documents made public late yesterday afternoon.

READ MORE:
Covid 19 coronavirus: Live - Government dumps thousands of pages of official Covid papers
Covid 19 coronavirus: Two new cases; Auckland rest home nurse tests positive
Covid-19 coronavirus: What will life look like under alert level 2
Covid 19 coronavirus: Researchers find New York was the 'gateway' for US infections

Advertisement

The trove of reports, advice, aide memoirs and cabinet decisions paint a picture of the Government's Covid-19 response.

The material shows the initial "wait-and-see" advice from the early days of the epidemic; to the more urgent recommendations aimed at mitigating the health and economic costs of the pandemic.

It also reveals New Zealanders' initial feelings on the level 4 lockdown.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arriving at her post-Cabinet media conference with her chief press secretary Andrew Campbell, left, and Health Minister David Clark. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arriving at her post-Cabinet media conference with her chief press secretary Andrew Campbell, left, and Health Minister David Clark. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Documents from April 15 show how the All Government team found that one-third of Kiwis felt the lockdown could have been tougher.

And the newly released documents also outline some of the serious risks New Zealanders face as a result of the level 4 lockdown.

For example, Justice officials were concerned that children and teenagers would be increasingly subjected to online predators during lockdown, as a result of spending more time online.

Officials were worried about children being particularly vulnerable to under-reported abuse, and to witnessing violence at home, as abusive behaviours escalated in isolation.

Another report shows the Government rejected advice to deem liquor shops an essential service.

Advertisement

Officials warned closing liquor outlets may lead to people doing "booze runs" beyond their communities to get alcohol.

This would affect the Government's ability to contain transmission, advice to Cabinet on March 24 said.

But Cabinet rejected this advice and deemed liquor stores non-essential and only allowed booze shops to remain open in the four areas where licensing trusts hold a monopoly.

The documents were broken down into different categories, including alert levels and restrictions, border, education, health response, housing, income support measures, offshore issues, supporting the economy and wage subsidy and leave schemes.

Each category contains dozens of documents, dating from early February to late April.

They reveal a plethora of new information including:
• The initial wage subsidy didn't count 56 per cent of the workforce
• The Government shot down recommendations to make liquor stores "essential"
• Tertiary students dropped out of university and going onto the unemployment benefit because of the higher payments
• A massive spike in Pornhub's traffic on the day we went into lockdown
• The hit on the economy could be similar to the Great Depression with up to 300,000 unemployed.

Advertisement

But the Herald has learned that before the documents were released yesterday afternoon, Government departments were sent an email advising them to "dismiss" media inquiries.

"The public have confidence in what has been achieved and what the Government is doing," the email, obtained by the Herald, said.

"Instead, we can dismiss [media questions]."

This comes as the number of new Covid-19 cases in New Zealand remains low.

There were just two new cases yesterday and no further deaths were reported
In fact, there have been just 13 new Covid-19 cases over the past seven days.

Director of public Health Caroline McElnay said yesterday the low case numbers were "a very good sign", but wouldn't be drawn on whether they were a reflection of how New Zealanders had handled the easier restrictions of level 3.

Advertisement

On Monday, Cabinet will decide if New Zealand is ready to move into alert level 2.

Despite the usual 1pm press conference, much of the focus yesterday was on the hundreds of newly released documents.

One piece of advice showed the Government's ability to contact trace was questioned early on in its Covid-19 response.

In a weekly briefing to the ministerial group on April 15, the crisis centre said there was undetected community transmission about three weeks earlier, but they didn't know how widespread.

It told the government there were gaps in the data making it harder to prepare the report.

It said a significant amount of cases had missing information and others had been under investigation for a long time reducing its confidence in the data on cases of community transmission.

Advertisement

Another document revealed that New Zealand's contact-tracing capacity was for about 10 active cases at a time when the country already had 13 cases of Covid-19.

And, because of information released in another document, it is now known that within days of Covid-19 becoming a notifiable disease on January 31, 16 suspected cases were under investigation by health officials.

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

At the time, the number of confirmed or probable cases outside China was still well below peak levels.

As well as outlining high-level health concerns, the economic impact of Covid-19 was the subject of many briefings and reports.

Subscribe to Premium

When the extent of the economic cost of the virus was unknown, officials at the IRD shot down an idea to remove Covid-19-hit businesses' requirement to pay GST.

Advertisement

Treasury advice showed that the Government removed the need for companies to prove they had suffered a drop in revenue to obtain the wage subsidy, despite warnings this would lead companies that could survive without it taking it anyway.

Officials advised that the "30 per cent income loss eligibility test" be removed to ensure broad take-up, even though they acknowledged that this would mean companies which could afford not to take the subsidy would do so.

Another Treasury paper, provided to ministers in mid-April, reported that the economic hit to New Zealand could be similar to the Great Depression.

It went on to say that unemployment could peak as high as 300,000 in the September quarter. It was 111,000 in the December 2019, quarter.

Advice to Education Minister Chris Hipkins on April 2 reveals that after the first week of the nationwide lockdown, officials warned that some tertiary students were already dropping out of university and going onto the unemployment benefit because of the higher payments.

The officials said that because of Covid-19, many students had lost the part-time jobs that were supplementing their student loans or allowances and were struggling financially.

As well as this, Hipkins lobbied his Cabinet colleagues for an extra $14 million in school emergency payments to thousands of casual and part-time staff, such as relief teachers, who had no income over the lockdown.

Advertisement

Additional reporting from: Derek Cheng, Hamish Rutherford, Claire Trevett, Amelia Wade, Kirsty Johnston
NOTE: This article has been edited to correct an an earlier statement that wrongly said Covid-19 was confined to China at the time of January 31. Several countries had confirmed their first cases by then.