Health officials have been given the power to order entire cruise ships and aeroplanes into quarantine as New Zealand "weathers the storm of Covid-19," says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Speaking to reporters, Ardern announced a raft of new measures the Government is implementing to limit the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).
• Extending travel restrictions to China and Iran
• Giving medical officials the power to quarantine entire ships and planes
• Creating a wage a subsidy scheme for workers impacted by Covid-19
• Removing the stand-down period for those who have lost their job to apply for the benefit
In addition to this, Ardern said the Government would not be scrapping its planned increase to the minimum wage, despite pressure from ANZ and the Act Party to provide some relief for small businesses as the economic impact worsens.
Ardern confirmed there have been no new cases, or probable cases, of coronavirus since the fifth cases was announced last week.
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She also revealed there were 2000 people in self-isolation across New Zealand - this is out of a total of 8000 people who have been in self-isolation to date.
This includes 54 health workers in self-isolation after coming into contact with a "probable" coronavirus patient now in a North Shore hospital.
The number of positive cases remains at five and probable cases are two.
The most significant decision, agreed to by Cabinet today, was new quarantine measures given to medical officers.
"Medical officers of health will have powers … to quarantine ships including, cruise ships, aircraft and associated travellers coming into New Zealand where there are grounds to believe there may be cases of Covid-19 on board," Ardern said.
These powers are afforded to officials under the Health Act of 1956.
Ardern said there has so far been no need for these powers to be used – "but we must be prepared, should the need arise".
Cabinet has also decided to keep in place temporary border measures, for Iran and China, for a further seven days.
"These measures remain effective in slowing the virus from transmission here in New Zealand."
She said they remain some of the "toughest in the world".
Any incoming people from South Korea and Italy are still required to self-isolate for 14 days, Ardern said.
She also provided an update from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) about the situation in Northern Italy.
The Italian Government has locked down around 16 million people — more than a quarter of its population — for nearly a month to halt the relentless march of the new coronavirus across Europe.
Ardern said according to Safe Travel, there are 233 New Zealanders registered in Italy.
She said half of those have not declared which region they are in.
Of those who have, there are currently 19 in Mulan.
The Government is aware of a small number of New Zealanders aboard a handful of cruise ships and riverboats that have been quarantined.
Mfat is providing assistance to them when requested.
Four New Zealanders are on the Grand Princess off the coast of San Francisco – "we're not aware of any health concerns around these New Zealanders".
Meanwhile, National says the Government needs to "urgently resolve" strike action planned by lab workers' unions, scheduled for later this week.
Apex, which represents DHB Medical Laboratory Workers and NZ Blood Service employees across New Zealand, announced plans to strike this Friday.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says it's "disappointing" that a laboratory workers' union is using the coronavirus outbreak as leverage in planned strike action.
Ardern said there would be no impact of Covid-19 lab testing.
"But I have to say, still within the current environment that we're in, my instinct is that most public health workers will be very mindful of the situation … and will be wanting to pull together as much as we can."