'No one wants a second wave': PM on first day at level 3

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 28 Apr 2020, 1:29PM

'No one wants a second wave': PM on first day at level 3

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 28 Apr 2020, 1:29PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said alert level 3 was recovery room and didn't mean New Zealand was "out of the woods".

She said there may still be some "smouldering ashes" of Covid-19, and they had the potential to become a wildfire again if given the chance.

"We must continue to stay home if possible."

"No one wants a second wave in New Zealand," she said.

She said the goal of elimination was not zero cases. "We will have to keep stamping Covid out until there is a vaccine."

She said about 75 per cent of the economy was operating at level 3, with about 1 million New Zealanders at work. Road and rail projects were back up and running, but many workers had been displaced.

Ardern said there was not "one point in time" when the fight against Covid-19 ends.

Small businesses were feeling the pain and Ardern said they can operate if they can do so safely, but having to go back into lockdown would be worse for the economy.

Small businesses were struggling with paying commercial rents, and Ardern urged commercial landlords to come to a workable arrangement.

She said the Government was looking at how to support operators previously reliant on international tourists, such as how resources many be redeployed.

She said not every business was going to survive, but the Government was looking to support those that are "vulnerable but viable". The wage subsidy was also about meeting cashflow issues, and most of the scheme had gone to small businesses.

She said help was available to migrant workers that was essentially the equivalent to the benefit.

Schools and ECE centres opening tomorrow, but Ardern said the numbers of returning students was going to be "very low". "That's as it should be."

Ardern's comments come as the Government announces a resource boost for people facing job losses as a result of Covid-19 to help their find new work, or re-train for another job.

Ministry of Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni announced the extra measures alongside the Prime Minister today, under a 'Keep New Zealand Working' tag.

It was announced as benefit numbers started to rise: 90 per cent of the weekly increase in main benefits had been for Jobseeker Support with 7,694 more people coming onto a benefit – 6,991 for Jobseeker Support.

"The increase in benefit numbers was expected. It's a global phenomenon. Countries that we compare ourselves to like the US, UK and Australia are experiencing dramatic increases in unemployment during Covid-19. We are not alone," Carmel Sepuloni said,

The package includes:

  • An online recruitment tool to connect job seekers directly to an employer making it quicker and easier for people to find work. It also provides online training courses.
    • 35 new employment centres across the country working with employers and job seekers under Level 3, over the phone and online. Under Level 2 face to face engagement with clients, employers and providers will begin.
    • An employment service for those directly impacted by Covid-19 who are not on a main benefit.
    • A fast-tracking service for those benefit applicants who need to re-engage quickly with the job market.
    • Working in partnership with industry to provide 'quick upskilling solutions', for example the new free online Community Health course with NZQA Unit Standards."

Sepuloni said it was important people could quickly find other jobs.

"People want to stay in work – and the Government delivered a $10.4b wage subsidy to ensure employers and employees stay connected. But due to the impacts of Covid-19 restrictions, unemployment will rise before it improves. "

"In response we need to act quickly and proactively."

Sepuloni said the Ministry of Social Development had already been ramping up employment efforts as part of the overhaul of the welfare system.

That included budgeting 263 more case managers, and investing in programmes that supported employment and upskilling."
There were also rapid response teams to work in regions most affected, trying to find work placements.

Yesterday, Ardern said Covid-19 in New Zealand was "currently eliminated" given there are so few cases and the Government knows where they are and have got them contained.

"It's been nearly five weeks living and working in ways that just two months ago would have seemed like fiction," she told media.

"But we did. And we did it together," she said.

For the first time in a month, the House will sit today – albeit scaled back significantly.

Although the signs are looking good when it comes to New Zealand's Covid-19 fight, Ardern continues to urge people to remain vigilant.

"We must make sure that we do not let the virus run away on us again and cause a new wave of cases and deaths," she told media last night.

When asked by Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking if the Government was being too conservative, Ardern this morning said: "We are doing what's right for New Zealand".

"I have a lot of faith in New Zealanders."