New Zealand has no new cases of Covid-19 today as the country's businesses scramble to reopen from Thursday under alert level 2.

There are a total of 1497 cases - and 93 per cent have now recovered, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said today. There are just 73 active cases.

There are no new deaths. A total of 2893 Covid-19 tests were conducted yesterday.

Bloomfield said the public could resume visiting people in hospital under level 2. In high-risk areas such as emergency departments and intensive care, only one visitor would be allowed at a time.


"As always when visiting people in hospital, be especially mindful of core public health precautions such as good hand hygiene and physical distancing.

"And don't visit if you're unwell."

An updated Section 70 order had been issued allowing people to enter businesses to prepare for level 2, he said.

Bloomfield said he didn't think the St Margaret's rest home "was a cluster waiting to happen" and he would see the draft report into the infection from the Waitematā DHB later today, before it was released publicly this week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said employees ready to return to work should try to take advantage of flexibility with things like start times to allow more of a spread of commuters, especially on public transport.

On allowing 100 people to go to the movies - but allowing only 10 people to attend a funeral, Ardern said the issue was people coming together.

Multiple groups could separately pay their respects at a tangi and this would fit within the guidelines.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges slammed the policy as "inhumane" and National would be pushing for up to 100 people being allowed at gatherings as people had made plans on that basis.


It also wasn't right that people could go to the movies or to a restaurant but couldn't go to their place of worship, Bridges said.

It wasn't just unkind, but inhumane, he said.

Asked about Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters' comment that hongi could have to cease, Ardern said she'd seen iwi leaders determine for themselves how they'd keep their people safe.

She said the hardest thing through all this, as a human, had been funerals and tangi but they were a place where people wanted to comfort others and come together.

The Government had made the same tough calls for other gatherings where people came together such as weddings and birthdays.

"We know this is causing pain but we've equally tried to be consistent."


Cabinet did consider if there was "a way to do this differently" but it was "a very, very difficult" thing to find a way to facilitate them.

Ardern said they had also considered churches but the line fell with where people would likely come together, like they would do at church.

She said the issue had weighed on her mind, having grown up in a religious family.

Ardern said she was aware of the danger of Covid-19 "flare-ups" as had happened in other countries - which she wanted to avoid here.

Bloomfield said officials had looked very carefully at the sort of activities where there was a "higher risk".

Professional and semi-professional sport will resume under level 2 but more guidance on community sports would be provided later today, said Ardern.


Asked about the September 19 general election, Ardern said she'd given thought to the campaign "only in passing" and was hopeful New Zealanders would have more interaction by then.

Small business scheme up and running

Ardern said the small business cashflow scheme "is officially open".

The scheme went live last night and applications can be taken today. Loans would be paid within five days of being approved.

More than $62 million had been paid to 676 businesses through the tax refund scheme which Ardern said was the biggest support package through the tax system in New Zealand's history.

A total of $10.7 billion has been paid out through the wage subsidy scheme to 1.75 million Kiwis.

More than 80 per cent of tourism operators had accessed the wage subsidy and Ardern said there would be more support for the sector in the Budget on Thursday.


The Government was prioritising domestic tourism to ensure Kiwis were safe before they could accept other international visitors.

Ardern said there would be sector-specific support for tourism and others hard-hit by Covid-19.

Reports of a migrant family given just a small amount of food to survive lockdown did not match her expectations, she said.

More than $20 million was provided to services to help people in need.

Stranded migrants were being treated differently because of the Winz system, Ardern said, but the circumstances were extraordinary so that's why there were other support service options.

Kiwi nurses thanked

Today is International Nurses Day and Bloomfield said they were celebrating them "now more than ever" as they had played a critical role in this country's Covid-19 response.


Ardern agreed and said that even before Covid-19, she had received letters from people who had been through the healthcare system about how kind and caring staff had been.

"We want to acknowledge all of the Jennys all around the world," Ardern said in reference to Kiwi nurse Jenny McGee who treated British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

On the $4 billion health pre-Budget announcement this morning, Ardern said we would never know when the next crisis would be but we needed to ensure we were prepared for it.

Ardern said the funding would help the health system "get us through" and provide more care.

Bloomfield said New Zealand's contact-tracing was now at "gold standard".

The country starts to move to alert level 2 from Thursday with cafes and malls allowed to open. Schools can resume from Monday.


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Yesterday, there were three new confirmed cases of Covid-19 - two were Waitākere Hospital nurses who treated patients from St Margaret's and the other was a returned overseas traveller.

And there were just 90 active cases.

Ardern said it was safe to move to alert level 2 and it would be phased in from 11.59pm on Wednesday.

But gatherings would be limited to no more than 10 people for at least two weeks, which has frustrated funeral directors, who said it was upsetting to grieving families who wanted a meaningful service.

Funeral Directors Association President Gary Taylor said they'd been led to believe level 2 would allow for gatherings of up to 100 people, as the Government had previously signalled, and had worked on how to manage funerals and tangi safely.


"This is a cruel and heartless blow to the thousands of New Zealand families who have lost loved ones and is unjustifiable."