Advice from 7 weeks of Covid confinement

This was posted on Facebook a few days ago – these are challenging times but there are or can be positives if you look for them and appreciate them.


To everyone who is feeling the fear – have a read of this. My friend Victoria posted it and I hope it brings you some comfort. This is the stuff we want to see on our newsfeed!♥️ It came from a teacher in China who has been there since the start of the crisis, and is well worth a read:

“It has been a while since my last post when we were in ‘lock-down’ in China and since I’ve had a few emails recently, I think it’s probably time to update everyone.

We are just finishing our 7th week of E-Learning, seven weeks of being mainly housebound and seven weeks of uncertainty. We are healthy, we are happy, and we are humbled.

We are allowed to move around freely now with a green QR code that we show when we get our temperature taken. You get your temperature taken everywhere, and it’s just become part of the routine. Most restaurants and shopping centres are now open, and life is coming back to our city.

As we watch the rest of the world begin their time inside; here are some of my reflections on the last seven weeks:

1. Accept that you have no control over the situation. Let go of any thoughts of trying to plan too much for the next month or two. Things change so fast. Don’t be angry and annoyed at the system. Anxiety goes down, and you make the best of the situation – whatever that might be for you. Accept that this is what it is and things will get easier.

2. Try not to listen to/read/watch too much media. It WILL drive you crazy. There is a thing as too much!

3. The sense of community I have felt during this time is incredible. I could choose who I wanted to spend my energy on – who I wanted to call, message and connect with and found the quality of my relationships has improved.

4. Appreciate this enforced downtime. When do you ever have time like this? I will miss it when we go back to the fast-paced speed of the ‘real world’.

5. Time goes fast. I still haven’t picked up the ukelele I planned to learn, and there are box set TV shows I haven’t yet watched.

6. As a teacher, the relationships I have built with my students have only continued to grow. I have loved seeing how independent they are; filming themselves to respond to tasks while also learning essential life skills such as balance, risk-taking and problem-solving, that even we as adults are still learning.

7. You learn to appreciate the little things; sunshine through the window, flowers blossoming and being able to enjoy a coffee in a cafe.

To those just beginning this journey, You will get through it. Listen to what you are told, follow the rules and look out for each other. There is light at the end of the tunnel. 🙏🏼

Trump considers quarantine as Covid-19 keeps climbing in US and world

|Earlier this week President Donald Trump said he wanted business and congregations back to normal by Easter Sunday, but with Covid-19 cases and deaths climbing in the US he is now considering imposing quarantines in some areas. However the horse may have already bolted, with a lot of people movement around the country over the last couple of weeks, and new cases and deaths surging.

Cases in the US currently are 105,573 (UPDATE half an hour later 112,468), with deaths now at 1,841 and climbing by hundreds each day.

NHS medical director: if the UK were to keep the number of deaths from coronavirus below 20,000, “we will have done very well”.

On Tuesday Trump’s Easter goal in war on virus a nod to faith, business

President Donald Trump’s “beautiful” idea to reopen the U.S. economy by Easter Sunday and pack church pews that day was dreamed up during a conference call among business leaders desperate to get the country back up and running.

But his target date for easing coronavirus restrictions is another outstretched hand to a group he has long courted: evangelical Christians.

Cooped up at the White House and watching the stock market tumble, Trump had already been eager to ease federal guidelines aimed at halting the spread of a virus that had infected more than 55,000 Americans when about a dozen business leaders convened a conference call on Sunday.

His rush to get back to business as usual was questioned – Trump’s plan to reopen the economy by Easter could cause more damage in the long run, according to LinkedIn’s top US economist

However, framing America’s response as a direct trade-off between the health of its people and the health of its economy could ultimately harm both, according to LinkedIn principal economist Guy Berger.

“There’s no economy without people, so getting them healthy is the way to get the economy off the ground,” Berger told Business Insider.

“That’s why the public health measures are so important and why they’re essential, even though they’re hard in the short run, that’s the only way to really end up rebooting the economy,” he said.

Easing lockdowns and social distancing measures too early, while the virus is still spreading rapidly, could ultimately cause more people to get sick, forcing them out of the workforce and causing an even more negative impact on the economy.

The message must have got through to Trump about the risk – to health, lives and to business – of rushing back to no restrictions.

Fox News: Trump mulls coronavirus quarantine on New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined,” he said outside the White House.

“I’m thinking about that right now. We might not have to do it but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine — short term, two weeks for New York, probably New Jersey and certain parts of Connecticut.”

He said that if such a move happened, it would be primarily a restriction on residents of those states traveling to other parts of the country.

“This will be an enforceable quarantine, but hopefully we won’t need it,” he said.

The move would be a dramatic escalation of the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and comes on the back of those states essentially shuttering daily life — closing schools, businesses, leisure activities and urging residents to stay at home.

But this could be too late. Movement of people has been a problem elsewhere in the country for weeks.

Fox News: Frightening cellphone ‘heat map’ shows coronavirus’ potential spread as spring break revelers went home

Heat maps that show cellphone location data in the U.S. paint a disturbing picture of the potential spread of coronavirus as the country grapples with lockdown meaures and tries to stem the virus’ tide.

Tectonix, geospatial data visualization platform, working in partnership with location company X-Mode Social, created an alarming map that shows the impact of ignoring social distancing restrictions.

Focusing on just one group of spring break revelers on part of one beach in mid-March when they left Fort Lauderdale, Fla., it quickly becomes obvious that the thousands of people who were at the beach ended up all over the country — in the Midwest, the Northeast and other parts of the South.

That’s just one example. Contract tracing must be a nightmare.

Reuters: U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 100,000

The sum of known coronavirus U.S. cases soared well past 100,000, with more than 1,600 dead, as weary doctors and nurses coping with shortages resorted to extremes ranging from hiding scarce medical supplies to buying them on the black market.

Reuters: As virus threatens, U.S. embraces big government, for now

Whatever the motivation, in the scope of two frantic weeks, U.S. elected officials and central bankers have engineered an economic intervention unparalleled outside of wartime.

All in it would supplant perhaps 30% of gross domestic product with government spending and loans, drive the federal deficit as high as needed to make that happen, and broaden U.S. social spending in ways that just a few weeks ago Republicans and President Donald Trump were branding as “socialist.”

In the time taken to put this post together (so far) US cases jumped to 112,468 – that’s how rapidly Covid-19 is growing in the US.


BBC: Number of UK deaths rises above 1,000

The number of people to have died with the coronavirus in the UK has reached 1,019.

The latest government figures on Saturday showed there were another 260 deaths in the UK in a day, up from 759 on Friday.

There are now 17,089 confirmed cases in the UK.

The jump in deaths is the biggest day-on-day increase the UK since the outbreak began. The number of deaths is 34% higher than Friday’s figure.

NHS England Prof Stephen Powis said if the UK were to keep the number of deaths from coronavirus below 20,000, “we will have done very well”.


BBC: More than 900 deaths in a day in Italy

Italy has recorded 919 new coronavirus deaths, its highest daily figure in the outbreak so far.

It means 9,134 people have now died from the virus in the country.

Earlier World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a “chronic global shortage” of protective equipment was one of the “most urgent threats” to the ability to save lives.

Italy is the worst-affected in Europe. Almost everything has been closed and people told to stay at home.

Earlier on Friday, authorities warned that restrictions were likely to be extended beyond 3 April.

That seems inevitable.

Deaths now recorded on JHU&M CRC are at 10,023, cases have jumped to 92,472 (they were 80,589 this time yesterday) so the problem is far from over in Italy.


Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose by 832 in 24 hours, bringing it to 5,690. However, the number of people recovering is also increasing, with a total of 12,285 out of over 72,000 cases

French PM: ‘Fight is just beginning’

The first 15 days in April will be “even more difficult than the 15 we have just left”, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has warned.

France has recorded 1,998 deaths and has been in lockdown for 10 days, a period which has now been extended until 15 April.

“I want to speak clearly to the French,” said Mr Phil

Total confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa: 3,926

South Africa has 1,170 but it is spreading across the continent.


There are improvements in places that first has major problems,

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, has partially reopened after more than two months in isolation

South Korea says it has more people who have recovered from the virus than infected.


Brazil’s Bolsonaro questions coronavirus deaths, says ‘sorry, some will die’

Following the advice of public health experts, the vast majority of the country’s 26 governors have banned non-essential commercial activities and public services to contain the outbreak in their states.

“I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life,” Bolsonaro said in a television interview on Friday night. “You can’t stop a car factory because of traffic deaths.”

Bolsonaro said that in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic powerhouse, the death toll seemed “too large.” Sao Paulo has the most cases and deaths so far of coronavirus in Brazil, at 1,223 cases and 68 deaths.

“We need to look at what is happening there, this cannot be a numbers game to favor political interests,” Bolsonaro said.

Earlier on Friday, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a former Bolsonaro ally who many expect to be a rival in the 2022 presidential election, accused Bolsonaro of promoting “disinformation” by launching a TV ad campaign criticizing the restrictions, featuring the slogan “#BrazilCannotStop.”

The slogan is similar to a campaign in Milan before deaths in Italy soared.

Currently 3,477 cases in Brazil with 93 deaths.

 

Photo Day

Duperez has suggested “And maybe a challenge each day (or when all else fails) is to go outside and take a photo to share.”

Good idea, but may we can vary the focus for the day, perhaps have a music day, a book day, an online interest day etc. This photo post day could extend across days.

Any photo subject is welcome, nature, what your neighbourhood is like under shutdown, projects or whatever.

Duperez: Why not start with another little b who didn’t stay in their own patch?!”

Here’s a cheat of my street (it’s from Street View September 2019) but this is how my street looked yesterday and will look today and looks most days except when there’s a local school fair and it’s chocker with parked cars, or occasional when someone wanders or walks their dog up and back.

I might post pic from today when it gets light.

If you don’t know how to post a pic you can email it to me – YourNZContact@gmail.com -and I can do it for you. It may take a wee while, I will be busy outside at times today.

Open Forum – Sunday 29 March

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Daily update – 83 new cases, total 451

From today’s Ministry of Health update:

83 new cases of Covid-19 (78 confirmed, 5 probable), total now 451

Summary

As at 9.00 am, 28 March 2020
Total to date New in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand 416 78
Number of probable cases 35 5
Number of confirmed and probable cases 451 13
Number of cases in hospital 12 (22 total to date)
Number of recovered cases 50 13

View full details of the confirmed cases.

View details of significant COVID-19 clusters.

Health officials expect to see an increase in covid-19 cases in the coming days, despite today’s number of cases being lower than yesterday’s.

50 individuals have recovered

12 people are in hospital:

  • 3 in Wellington Regional Hospital
  • 2 in Nelson Hospital
  • 2 in Whangarei Hospital
  • 1 each in Auckland, Waikato, Taranaki, Dunedin and Greymouth hospitals.

Average daily test number over a 7 day period is 1613

8 Air NZ staff are infected with Covid-19. Al worked on long haul from London or New York.

Government Controller John Ombler:

No one needs to worry about supermarkets running out of food, choose one person to do the shopping and respect the need for physical distancing

Can only leave house for physical exercise or essential reasons – stick to your bubble

Avoid undertaking activities that are a distance from home

Don’t travel out of your neighbourhood and go to baches or second homes – stay in one place

Police report most people are following the new rules, isolated incidents of people congregating – in these cases people were spoken to

If people believe others are not complying with new restrictions first port of call is to discuss it with them, otherwise you might like to call police on 105

Maritime New Zealand says the strong message during the lockdown, is that all recreational boating and other non-essential on-water activity must stop.

Business and the economy versus the ill, elderly and others

There’s no doubt that Covid-19 will have a very large impact on businesses and employment and livelihoods in New Zealand, and our economy will take a big hit. This will have happened regardless of the actions taken by the Government. It’s debatable what would be worse, doing more or doing less to limit the spread and infection rates.

It is also likely there will be deaths here. There are currently 368 confirmed and probably cases. Many of those will be mild to moderate and are being treated at home. Some are more serious and require hospitalisation.

Even with the relatively stringent lockdown cases are expected to rise for the next 7-10 days (or more if people flout the restrictions on movement away from home).

There is no doubt that without the level 4 lock down there would be a lot more spread, many more people catching the virus, and a real risk of quite a few deaths.  This shows how easily it can spread even with restrictions:

Marist College, Auckland – 18 confirmed cases, 1 probable
Private wedding, Wellington – 10 confirmed cases, 2 probable
Rest home, Hamilton – 11 confirmed cases

Older people and people with existing medical conditions (especially lung or heart) are particularly susceptible to Covid-19, but this is hardly surprising, they are also more susceptible to other viruses and illnesses. Younger people seem to generally have milder symptoms – but they can still spread the virus.

There have been suggestions that the virus should be left to take it’s course, to build ‘herd immunity’. This must accept an inevitable casualty rate – people would die, possible quite a few people.

It has been suggested elsewhere and also here that it isn’t a big deal that old people and people with illnesses might die of Covid-19. They die of other things anyway, Covid will just knock them off a bit sooner.

From Australia Victoria’s first two coronavirus deaths were cancer patients caught in Alfred hospital outbreak

Victoria’s first two coronavirus deaths were cancer patients at The Alfred hospital, and a further five cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed among patients and staff.

Duker commented on this:

Bingo! It seems like northern Italy all over again, the sick people get sicker and the elderly have less chance to recover.
It’s a fact of life and one day it will be my turn.

I’m quite disturbed by this attitude.

It’s a fundamental fact of life that we will all die, eventually.

But it is also a fundamental facet of a decent society that we don’t just do nothing to prevent old and ill people dying of any new virus or disease, treating them as expendable.

We put huge budgets and resources into health care to try to keep everyone alive as long as reasonably possible.

People who get old often live to get quite a bit older after having illnesses.

My father had most of his stomach removed in the 1980s, had a bowel cancer operation in the early 1990s, his lungs were fag fucked with emphysema, but he still had a fairly good life up until 2000.

In the mid-90s he was given a choice of having chemotherapy which would give him a 60% chance of not dying of cancer, or doing nothing and lowering his chances to 40%. He chose not to have chemo because he didn’t want to suffer through the treatment with a close to 50/50 chance it wouldn’t save him anyway. But this was his choice, and I think a sensible one.

If a Covid-like virus had hot the country then and I was given a choice of saving my business (I was a sole trader than) or saving his life I would have chosen his life. I had already changed jobs and moved so I could support him as his health problems increased (just after he had a mild stroke).

I’m sure there are many people who would put people before money in this way.

I think it would be terrible to let Covid-19 spread freely in New Zealand to try to reduce the impact on business and the economy.

I also think it would be misguided. If we didn’t have a lockdown and Covid-19 ran rampant here, as it almost certainly would, there would likely be hundreds if not thousands of deaths and many more hospitalisations. That in itself would be expensive.

If our hospitals were swamped with Covid cases – I presume no one things they should be left to suffer and die untreated – it would increase deaths by other causes because of lack of resources and treatment.

And if New Zealand was ravaged by Covid-19 there is no chance of tourism  recovering, no one would want to come here. New Zealanders would be banned from travelling to many countries. It’s likely exports would also be affected, air and sea transport would be badly compromised, and New Zealand would be an unpopular source of goods.

Internally if the virus was uncontrolled it would also have a major impact on travel and business. Many people would willingly keep away from places and businesses that were a risk to their health and life.

The main difference would not be economic impact, it would be whether the economic and employment was in a well controlled situation or chaotic and uncontrolled.

It’s debatable (and impossible to know) which would be economically worse, doing a lot to limit Covid-19 as we are, or doing much less or nothing.

Regardless of the economic factors and effects, we can’t just treat the elderly and the ill as expendable to try to save a few jobs and possibly (but probably not) keep the economy healthy.

“But the flu’ is trotted out by Trump and some here – but we have a choice of vaccinating against the flu and minimising our risks. We can’t do that with Covid. And because we could potentially die of something else, the flu (more often of complications), of cancer, of heart disease, is a very poor reason to not protect against a new threat.

If I was in a decision making position I certainly would put the health of citizens – especially the old and the ill – ahead of the economy. I back and applaud our Government and unanimous Parliament doing this.

No matter what the financial impact of Covid-19 measures, businesses will survive, new businesses will fill gaps, the economy will recover.

No one recovers from death.

 

Boris Johnson & UK Health Secretary test positive for Covid-19

People who are in contact with many others have a greater risk of catching Covid-19, so there’s been quite a few prominent people who have contracted the virus.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock have both tested positive.

BBC: Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus and is self-isolating in Downing Street.

He said he had experienced mild symptoms over the past 24 hours, including a temperature and cough, but would continue to lead the government.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he had also tested positive while England’s Chief Medical Officer, Prof Chris Whitty, has shown symptoms.

Another 181 people died with the virus in the past day, figures showed.

It takes the total number of UK deaths to 759, with 14,543 confirmed cases.

The UK has had relatively low rates of testing which is likely to be keeping their Confirmed case total low.

“So thank you to everybody who’s doing what I’m doing, working from home to stop the spread of the virus from household to household,” he added.

“That’s the way we’re going to win.”

There will be no winners. There will be survivors and victims of the pandemic.

The US House of Representatives has passed a $2 trillion support package padded with pork, and it now has to be signed by Donald Trump.

Meanwhile cases in the US are climbing, and deaths have jumped to 1,438.

  • Total confirmed cases 566,269 (deaths 25,423)
  • USA 94,238
  • China 81,897
  • Italy 80,589
  • Spain 64,059
  • Germany 49,344
  • France 29,591
  • United Kingdom 14,735
  • Switzerland 12,311
  • South Korea 9,322
  • Australia 3,166
  • New Zealand 368

These totals are a snapshot and are changing, in some cases rapidly.

The New Zealand total was 368 as at 9 am Friday (up 85 in 24 hours) – COVID-19 – current cases

The Australian total was 3,166 as at 3 pm  Friday, (up 367 in 24 hours), with 13 deaths – Coronavirus (COVID-19) current situation and case numbers

Italy records 969 coronavirus deaths dashing hopes of turnaround

Italy has recorded its single biggest leap in coronavirus deaths, announcing that 969 people have died from Covid-19 over the past 24 hours.

Seemingly dashing hopes the rate of infection might be flattening there, Italy also became the second country to overtake China in terms of the number of coronavirus infections, reaching 86,498 cases. That included 66,414 current infections, up 4,401 from Thursday.

France extends lockdown by a fortnight

“After these first 10 days of confinement, it is clear that we are just at the beginning of this epidemic wave. It has submerged eastern France and now it is arriving in the Paris region and northern France.”

For this reason, he said, the confinement period would be extended by two weeks from Tuesday next week, and added that the same rules would apply. He added that this period would only be extended again if the health situation required it.

Deaths rise sharply in Spain while infection rate stabilises

Confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, rose to 64,059, a 14% increase compared with 18% a day earlier and 20% on Wednesday.

In 24 hours, 769 people died, a daily record, taking the total to 4,858.

The Spanish government has extended the state of emergency until at least 12 April. People’s movement are severely restricted and most shops and businesses closed.

India ‘super spreader’ quarantines 40,000 people

Indian authorities in the northern state of Punjab have quarantined around 40,000 residents from 20 villages following a Covid-19 outbreak linked to just one man.

The 70-year-old died of coronavirus – a fact found out only after his death.

The man, a preacher, had ignored advice to self quarantine after returning from a trip to Italy and Germany, officials told BBC Punjabi’s Arvind Chhabra.

Russia no longer has the virus ‘under control’

Russia Covid-19 cases surpass 1,000

Russia on Friday reported 196 new cases of Covid-19 coronavirus, a daily record, taking its official total for those infected with the disease to 1,036.

Russia said one more person had been killed by the virus in the past 24 hours, taking the total number of deaths to four.

Coronavirus in Africa Tracker: How many covid-19 cases & where?

Total confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa: 3,721

Jair Bolsonaro claims Brazilians ‘never catch anything’ as Covid-19 cases rise

President suggests citizens may already have antibodies that help virus ‘not to proliferate’, as cases rise to nearly 3,000

“They never catch anything. You see some bloke jumping into the sewage, he gets out, has a dive, right? And nothing happens to him.”

Without offering any scientific evidence, Bolsonaro continued: “I think it’s even possible lots of people have already been infected in Brazil, a few weeks or months ago, and have already got the antibodies that help it not to proliferate”.

Now 3,027 confirmed with 77 deaths.

Trump touts great success as US becomes world’s worst virus epicenter

As America became the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump downplayed the escalating national crisis.

His comments at Thursday’s afternoon briefing underscored the growing duality of the fight: While the President is telling a tale of great successes, of a government powerfully mobilizing, front-line health care workers are facing gruesome scenes in hospitals in a growing number of hot spots.

All the evidence of the virus’s advance, seen in rising death tolls and infection figures, suggests the situation is getting worse and that normal life could be weeks or months away. Once, Trump minimized the looming impact of the crisis. Now his assessments conflict with the reality of its deadly march.

On Thursday, a day that saw more reported deaths from Covid-19 than ever before in the United States — Trump bizarrely turned the focus to what he said was a far lower mortality rate than he had expected.

As doctors say they still lack sufficient masks and other protective gear, Trump had earlier in the day read out a list of equipment delivered by federal authorities, giving the impression there was more than enough.

Significant clusters in New Zealand

Last updated 6:00pm, 27 March 2020

Investigations are ongoing.

Clusters under investigation Number of cases
Marist College, Auckland 18 confirmed cases, 1 probable
World Hereford Conference, Queenstown 17 confirmed cases, 1 probable
Private wedding, Wellington 10 confirmed cases, 2 probable
Group travel to US, Wellington 15 confirmed cases, 2 probable
Rest home, Hamilton 11 confirmed cases

And so it goes on.

 

Open Forum – Saturday 28 March

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Modifications to the wage subsidy scheme

Beehive: Further steps to protect New Zealanders’ jobs

The Government has made modifications to the wage subsidy scheme to ensure people don’t lose their jobs during the national lockdown.

These changes will soften the impact of COVID-19 on workers, families and businesses, and position them to exit the lockdown and look to recovery, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

The modifications focus on keeping businesses and workers connected during this unprecedented time. They apply from 4pm today, and include:

  • Businesses accessing the scheme must still undertake best endeavours to pay employees 80% of their pre-COVID income. Where that is not possible – in particular where a business has no activity whatsoever due to the shutdown and workers are not working any hours – they must pass on at least the whole value of the wage subsidy to each affected worker.
  • Businesses must undertake to keep employees in employment for the period of the subsidy.
  • We are folding the previous sick leave scheme into this scheme to prevent double-dipping. The original sick leave scheme was designed when few people were in self-isolation, and it is no longer fit for purpose. We are working on arrangements for those in essential work who require sick leave due to COVID-19.

The Treasury now estimates the financial cost of the scheme will be between $8 billion and $12 billion depending on uptake by businesses.

“These modifications are about keeping New Zealanders currently at home in lockdown connected to the job they were in on Wednesday before it started,” Grant Robertson said.

“This ensures businesses not able to operate do not need to lay off staff. Even if this requires businesses to operate with no activity, the subsidy allows them to keep their workers on the books, particularly during Alert Level 4.”

The wage subsidy is a Government payment to help employers pay wages. It does not change any other employment law obligations, meaning employees must be paid appropriately under their employment agreements for the hours they do if they work during the lockdown.

“We are running this scheme on a high-trust model in order to get money out the door and support the workers, families and businesses who are affected by COVID-19. We are also preparing an appropriate audit process that will act as a backstop for this high-trust model,” Grant Robertson said.

The wage subsidy is $585.80 a week for full-time workers (who worked 20 or more hours per week before COVID-19) and $350 a week for part-time workers (fewer than 20 hours). It will continue to be paid out in a lump sum covering the 12 weeks, meaning a $7,029.60 payment per full time worker.

“Demand for the scheme is high, with $2.7 billion already paid out for 428,768 workers. I want to place on record my appreciation for the Minister of Social Development, Hon. Carmel Sepuloni, MSD CEO Debbie Power and all their team for the incredible work that has made this happen.

“People are working hard to respond and process applications as fast as they can under challenging conditions. Please be patient when applying, and please be kind to each other,” Grant Robertson said.

Expansion of the wage subsidy scheme comes on top of a range of support measures for Kiwis during this global pandemic, including:

  • The $500 million increase to public health funding for the immediate response.
  • A six-month deferred mortgage scheme for home-owners affected by the virus, so people don’t lose their homes due to COVID-19.
  • The $6.25 billion Business Finance Guarantee, and business tax measures to support cashflow, and help businesses continue to operate.
  • A doubling of the Winter Energy Payment so older New Zealanders can stay warm during winter.
  • Main benefit increases, and
  • Rent freezes and a ban on terminations of tenancies/evictions other than in exceptional circumstances.

Successful lockdown could buy enough time for a vaccine

But that sounds like a lockdown far longer than 4 weeks, although a month could be sufficient if all measures are rigidly followed and enforced.

Te Pūnaha Matatini, the centre for research excellence that Shaun Hendy leads, studies complex systems and networks. Right now, he and the centre’s other researchers are working to predict how Covid-19’s web of infection might spread – and if it’s possible to slow it down or even stop it.

Modelling shows NZ’s lockdown could buy time for a vaccine:

Modelling done by New Zealand researchers shows the lockdown measures now in place could buy the country more than a year for a vaccine or treatment to be developed.

However, the research shows that without a vaccine or cure, cases of Covid-19 will still peak well beyond hospital capacity as soon as any lockdown ends.

The modelling, released today by Te Punaha Matatini, shows measures similar to those now in place can suppress the virus for up to 400 days but infections could spike as soon as they are gone, because the population will not have developed any herd immunity.

However, any fewer restrictions would result in a peak of at least six times hospital capacity within just a few months.

The paper compares a “suppression strategy” – a sustained period of restrictions – with a “mitigation strategy”, where controls are lifted for brief periods before being put in place again as infections rise and ICU beds fill up.

In all scenarios, the lockdown period is modelled to last significantly longer than the initial four weeks that began today.

However, one of the researchers, University of Auckland Professor Shaun Hendy, told RNZ the current lockdown could be sufficient if all measures were rigidly enforced.

“Provided the contact tracing, testing, and containment strategy works then we may be able to relax in four weeks. But we need to cut cases to just a handful.”

The researchers wrote that both strategies were “fraught with uncertainty” but suppression at least had the advantage of buying New Zealand time until a vaccine or treatment became available.

“The initial modelling the team published yesterday is stark and, frankly, terrifying”:

Left unchecked, the virus would eventually infect 89 percent of New Zealand’s population and kill up to 80,000 people in a worst-case scenario.

ICU beds would reach capacity within two months and the number of patients needing intensive care would exceed 10 times that capacity by the time the virus peaked.

“Tens of thousands of people would die, our health system would collapse and people wouldn’t be able to get proper treatment. That explains why the government’s been prepared to take such drastic steps,” Hendy says. “The worst-case scenario is a really unpalatable one.”

Even the best-case scenario is hard to swallow. It assumes restrictions similar to the lockdown now in place – but suggests that unless testing, contact tracing, and isolation cut the number of cases to just a handful, the restrictions might need to remain in place for over a year.

And if the cases can’t be stamped out under those restrictions, the eventual peak will swell well beyond hospital capacity as soon as any lockdown ends, unless a vaccine or treatment is found in the interim.

“When controls are lifted after 400 days, an outbreak occurs with a similar peak size as for an uncontrolled epidemic,” Hendy and his colleagues wrote in a paper rushed out yesterday. “In other words, these strategies can delay but not prevent the epidemic.”

The good news – if there is any – is that while strict suppression measures remain in place, fatalities should remain in the low dozens and hospital capacity wouldn’t be exceeded. That would buy New Zealand time to wait for a vaccine or a successful treatment.

A lot of guesswork but also a lot of cause for concern.