VIRUS LATEST
• 4.6 million cases globally and more than 300,000 deaths; NZ has just 40 active cases
National leader Simon Bridges faces no-confidence vote as Labour soars in poll
Chaos in jam-packed Kmart store as shoppers ignore physical distancing rules
'Nothing like this in recent times': Photo of Mt Everest goes viral
Latest developments and essential information

New Zealanders will hear today how life in level 2 will soon become even less restrictive - and what we might expect in level 1 - but life just got a whole lot harder for Simon Bridges after the National Party's disastrous poll ratings.

Bridges this morning confirmed two MPs - understood to be Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye - will challenge for the National Party leadership and deputy leadership respectively at the party's caucus next Tuesday.

It follows Labour's massive support (56.5 per cent) in this week's political poll - and National's demise (30.6 per cent) - on the back of the way the Government has handled the Covid crisis.

Advertisement

Bridges would not confirm Muller or Kaye's names, saying they deserved the dignity of announcing their own challenge.

National MPs Judith Collins and Mark Mitchell - two earlier speculated names - told the NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB they were not challenging.

"Simon has shown enormous resilience. He's got enormous self-belief and he's a smart guy," said Mitchell, who added he did not know if Bridges had the numbers.

Bridges confirmed the leadership challenge but told ZB's Mike Hosking that he was "very confident" he would win a vote on Tuesday. NZ First leader Winston Peters says Bridges won't make it to the election.

Bridges said the biggest issue New Zealand faced right now was its economic future. The leadership challenge was "a massive distraction" but he wanted to deal with it and move on and "win an election".

The challenge needed resolving so people could get back to talking about the future of the country, he said.

LISTEN LIVE TO NEWSTALK ZB

"I've got a whole lot of great caucus colleagues," he said, namechecking Muller, Collins, Mitchell and Paula Bennett. "We are blessed to have the best team in New Zealand politics."

Asked if the challenge was "destabilising" he said the vast majority of National MPs "get it" and understood what was at play. "I think actually, Tuesday latest we will have resolved this, we'll be able to get back to the things that matter in politics."

Advertisement

Peters told Hosking that Bridges and his colleagues had no grasp of politics and he would not make it to the election. He said he had known Muller a long time and he was a "genuine product" but it was someone else's job to decide if he was a leader.

A leader needed an "authentic brand".

Bridges has previously ruled out Peters as a coalition partner. Asked if he would therefore be in favour of a new National leader, Peters said a party was not worth having "if you've got to get your hope or succour from some other political party, which most of them do".

Judith Collins said she would not be standing in a leadership contest next Tuesday. "I definitely have no intention of standing, no intention of doing it."

She said she did not believe a no-confidence vote in Bridges would pass. "My view is I am just focused on the job and I am not part of anything that is going on. I am keeping myself well out of everything.

"It is very important I think that there is as much caucus unity as possible going into any election and I'm just not interested in being part of anything other than doing my job."

Collins is the only National MP other than Bridges who regularly appears in preferred Prime Minister polling - although it has only ever been in single digits.

She contested the leadership in 2018 against Bridges, Steven Joyce, Amy Adams and Mitchell when Bill English stepped down.

Mitchell said the National Party had "enormous depth and experience" whereas Labour had a great leader but not many good MPs.

Mitchell would not comment on whether Muller and Kaye were the challengers. "I'm sure that will become clear on Tuesday."

Mitchell said the resolution of the challenge would be "done quickly". He knew who the challengers were - "conversations had taken place" - but nobody had called him to ask for support.

Meanwhile, Kiwis eager to finally get a pint in the pub tomorrow will be able to use a new app to track their movements. The Government's contract tracing app has been released a day early and Kiwis can download the tool now.

It comes as the Government prepares today to give more details on the easing of restrictions in level 2 - and what we might expect in level 1.

The app, named NZ Covid Tracer, was due to launch today, but Kiwis have been able to load it on their devices and sign up since last night. It is unclear why it was released a day early.

Once signed in, users are able to scan QR codes at businesses, public buildings and other organisations to track where they have been for contact tracing purposes.

The app will keep a log of where they've been and when. If they happen to get Covid-19, it's a simple way to retrace steps.

READ MORE:
Covid 19 coronavirus: No new virus cases, digital diary app launches tomorrow
Covid 19 coronavirus: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hints at more public holidays in NZ to encourage domestic tourism
Covid 19 coronavirus: Worrying aspect of new Australian coronavirus outbreak
Covid 19 coronavirus: Dynamic duo to split - Ardern and Bloomfield briefings to end

It is understood this is the first iteration of the app and it's hoped later versions will be able to alert users if they might have come into contact with an infected person.

To get a unique QR code, retail and hospitality establishments will apply with their business number to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to be sent the free code.

That system would allow users to keep data to themselves and do away with the need for a paper and pen sign-in sheet, which has caused privacy concerns.

Although not mandatory for customers nor businesses, it's hoped a widespread uptake would create a nationally consistent means for diary-keeping.

The Prime Minister will also today shed more light on the key considerations for lifting further restrictions under alert level 2 - and what needs to happen before a move to level 1.

A critical piece of that decision is the confidence that there is no risk of community transmission, with every single case being linked to a source. Yesterday marked 47 days since an infection could not be traced.

Jacinda Ardern has previously said the 10-person limit on gatherings will be assessed at Cabinet on Monday and will today give more details on what criteria they'd want to see before making that decision.

But a shift to alert level 1 is unlikely in the very near future.

Subscribe to Premium

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield yesterday said it was "too premature" to say what was needed to get to level 1 as that work was only just getting under way.

And it was too early to say whether some regions without active cases could be moved down a level sooner than others.

"We're only just into level 2, we still need to settle into the full level 2 parameters, which include going up to group sizes of one hundred," Bloomfield said.

Yesterday was yet another day with no new Covid-19 cases, but New Zealand's tally climbed by four after including returned travellers from Uruguay in our numbers.

There's now just 40 active cases with 96 per cent recovered from the coronavirus.

Bloomfield said the most likely way new cases would be now introduced was through a relaxing of our border with Australia under alert level 1.

But the health chief said he wasn't "so worried about the number" of new cases in that instance creeping back up again, but whether they could be identified and quickly contact-traced to ensure there was no community spread.

Meanwhile, Ardern said the Government was "actively considering" many options to spur the domestic travel market while the borders were still closed, including giving Kiwis more holidays.

In Rotorua to meet key leaders to discuss the tourism industry's recovery, Ardern urged New Zealanders to take a two-hour trip to experience it for themselves.

"My message to Kiwis is, come and experience your own backyard and come and experience the cultural and hospitality here in Aotearoa."

She visited Te Puia New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute for a series of discussions on how the region is coping following the alert level lockdowns and the plan for the future.

It comes after the Government announced $7.6 million funding for the centre to get back on its feet.