Coronavirus: New Zealand has three new cases of Covid-19

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 Mar 2020, 3:34PM
Ashley Bloomfield. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Ashley Bloomfield. (Photo / NZ Herald)

Coronavirus: New Zealand has three new cases of Covid-19

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 Mar 2020, 3:34PM

There are three more cases of coronavirus in Wellington and Dunedin.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed the new cases were in Wellington and Dunedin.

A Wellington man in his 30s and his father aged in his 70s had recently returned from the United States. Neither require hospital care. They came to New Zealand from Los Angeles on Saturday March 14.

The Wellington family had been picked up from the airport, then spent the weekend at home. They called ahead before going to the doctor, which was the correct thing to do, Bloomfield said.

The Dunedin case also recently returned from overseas.

This is a man in his 40s who came from Germany. Two relatives are also in self-isolation as they are showing possible symptoms. One is a student.

If the student was to test positive it was likely the school would be closed, Bloomfield said.

The three latest cases takes the total number in New Zealand to 11.

"We are expecting more cases," Bloomfield said.

There had been a big increase in cases from overseas and that meant more would be expected to return with symptoms.

Bloomfield said cost was no barrier to coronavirus testing in this country, but said the right people had to be tested. There were round 500 tests under way today.

The Healthline phone service had fielded more than 24,000 calls yesterday - seven times the usual level.

He moved to reassure people that staff were doing their best to answer all calls.

There was now an online process available for those for registering for self-isolation.

Another 50 nurses have been brought in, as have non-clinician staff to help with all of the Healthline calls.

Asked if he was satisfied with the Government's economic package today providing $500 for health spending, Bloomfield said he was "very pleased" with the amount.

Earlier today the Government unveiled a $12.1 billion support package for the New Zealand economy, with almost half of the cash to be spent on a wage subsidy package for all coronavirus-impacted businesses.

Those full-time workers eligible for the package will receive $585 per week from the Government, paid in a lump sum package of just over $7000 covering a 12-week period.

The Government is also raising benefits by $25 a week, starting April 1, and doubling the Winter Energy Payment.

This is just the first tranche of the Government spending response – the rest will be unveiled during May's "recovery" Budget.

Today's package comes as part of "the most significant peace-time economic plan in modern New Zealand history".

The $12.1 billion spending package accounts for roughly 4 per cent of New Zealand's GDP and is comparatively bigger than the relief packages so far announced by Australia, the UK and the US.

"The Government is pulling out all the stops to protect the health of New Zealanders and the health of our economy," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

The big-ticket items of the package include $5.1 billion for the wage subsidy package, $2.8b for benefit increases and the bolstered Winter Energy Payment and a further $2.8b for tax changes to free up cash flow.

That's a total of $8.7 billion for businesses and jobs.

The package also contains an initial $500 million boost in health spending and an initial $600 million to support the aviation sector.

A Covid-19 sick leave scheme has also been created and will be available for eight weeks at a cost of $126.5 million.

Some 27,000 workers every two weeks are expected to take advantage of this scheme.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the package is one of the largest in the world on a per capita basis.

It is more than the total sum of new spending in all three of the last Budgets put together.