The Government has backed down on their initial ruling for funerals ahead of the start of alert level 2 tomorrow, while warnings and predictions emerge about tomorrow's much-anticipated Budget. Get all the important news and read the full stories in the links below.
Key developments in NZ
• The Government has backed down on rules under alert level 2 only allowing 10 people at funeral and tangi. Health Minister David Clark announced this afternoon that up to 50 people can farewell their loved ones as long as long as the Ministry of Health is satisfied that a range of public health measures can consistently be met. The review came as the country recorded no new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row.
• The Human Rights Commission says it's "deeply concerned" about the lack of scrutiny and rushed process for the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill. The bill, which set up the legal framework for future alert levels, was rushed through most of its legislative stages under urgency, with the support of Labour, NZ First, the Greens and Act. But the Human Rights Commission says the Government has not allowed enough time for careful public democratic consideration of the level 2 legislation.
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• Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has questioned whether Māori should put a permanent end to the use of hongi, saying Covid-19 was a lesson that cultures need to adapt or die. However, an iwi spokesman said hongi would come back, and claimed there was a "growing feeling" that the efforts of the Government are undermining iwi.
• The schooling and hospitality sectors are preparing for their imminent return under level 2. Schools return on Monday, and it was announced today that end-of-year exams will start 10 days later than planned this year because of the disruption caused by Covid-19, while hospitality venues are scrambling to understand their obligations at level 2.
• Kiwi scientists have joined forces in an unprecedented effort to ensure New Zealand gets fast access to a potential vaccine to combat Covid-19. If the hunt for a cure is successful, a vaccine could even be manufactured in New Zealand, saving Kiwis from waiting longer due to worldwide demand.
• Economic figures due to be released by the Treasury in the Budget tomorrow will paint a stark picture of New Zealand's economic position, according to experts. The numbers will also show the colossal challenges ahead, with one top economist saying it will be the "sharpest, deepest economic slump ever."
• The only certainty in tomorrow's Budget is uncertainty in a sea of red, as no recent minister has faced so much uncertainty as Grant Robertson as he prepares to deliver the Budget in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. Former Finance Ministers Michael Cullen and Steven Joyce spoke to the Herald about what they expect.
• The Reserve said it would almost double its bond-buying programme to $60 billion to help stimulate the economy as it goes through a Covid-19 driven downturn. As expected, the bank kept its official cash rate unchanged at 0.25 per cent.
Around the world
• When the coronavirus struck, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agonised before closing stores, pubs and restaurants as part of the country's fight against the disease. But with the spread of the virus curbed, easing the lockdown is proving harder still.
• Australian Government officials and health authorities are on high alert after confirmed coronavirus cases spiked slightly. Australia's death toll is at 97, with just under 7000 cases.
• New Zealand and Australia are in talks to fire up their cricket rivalry with hastily-arranged matches this year, a positive twist in a sports world devastated by Covid-19.