Certain and uncertain consequences of Covid lockdown

The lockdown of New Zealand will have some obvious consequences, but other consequences are less certain.

The near isolation of most people in their homes with some exceptions and exemptions will reduce the spread of the virus in the short term at least, and should keep the death toll lower than it would otherwise have been. The longer term health outcomes are less certain, it is dependent on short term success, improvements in treatment and the time taken to develop an effective vaccine.

It is certain there will be a substantial impact on the economy and an increase in unemployment. It is unknown how bad, and for how long – we don’t know if the economy will bounce back or if we will be in for a protracted recession, or whether it will deteriorate into a depression.

Sport was a prominent early casualty of the virus, and the flow on effect will be substantial for a year or two at least. Many sports have shut down for the short term at least. The Olympic Games have been delayed by a year.

There are other certainties and uncertainties. One significant uncertainty is how long the lockdown will be in place, and if it is relaxed by how much and for how long. For example we may be allowed to go back to work but still need to limit travel around the country.

Road toll

The lockdown means far fewer vehicles on the streets and roads, and shorter trips, so the road toll will come down for a while at least. There are already signs of this – the number of deaths from 1 January to 1 April 2020 are already down slightly, being 84 (for the same period in the four previous years the toll was 90, 92, 105, 100).

Drownings

There is likely to be reduction in the number of deaths by drowning at least for the duration of the lockdown. Over the last three years total deaths have been 92, 78, 82.

Accidental and workplace deaths

Deaths in the workplace will reduce significantly while the lockdown is in place.In the year to January 2020 there were an average of 9.4 deaths per month, with 10 bin both last March and April.

Accidental deaths will probably also reduce, but they could still occur at home as people do more work on houses and rooves without being able to get scaffolding.

Suicides

It’s uncertain what the overall effect of the lockdown will have on our suicide rate.Some people will be more stressed, some will be less stressed. Being confined to home won’t stop some going out and at least trying, but the lockdown will reduce opportunities and increase contact and surveilance of at risk people.

There were a record 685 recorded suicides in the year to June 2019.

Relationships

The lockdown effect on relationships will be uneven and uncertain. Some relationships will be more stressed, some may benefit from more time together. Being confined to home during the lockdown their may be a lag in relationship breakups.

There will be less temptation and opportunity for infidelity and jealousy.

Family Time

Some parents and children will benefit from having enforced time together

Infectious and Communicable Diseases

Following on from the effect on relationships, there is likely to be less promiscuity and fewer sexually transmitted diseases.

It won’t just be the spread of Covid-19  that is limited, the lockdown will also reduce the cold, flu, hepatitis, measles and all other communicable diseases.

Schools being closed will improve the health of kids, and nits should be contained more than usual.

Other Health Issues

Along with the lockdown hospitals have geared up for treating Covid-19 patients by reducing operations and treatments. There could be a negative impact on health, which could result in more deaths from delayed or unavailable treatment and delayed diagnosis and detection of diseases.

Media

Traditional commercial media – newspapers, magazines, radio and television – were already struggling and in decline. They will be severely impacted by the hit to business activity, which has taken most of their revenue away (ironically while getting a big boost in readership and audience).


This is just some of the things that will be impacted by the Covid lockdown. It will take a year or two to quantify some of the impacts, and some impacts may never be quantified.

There are some certainties but many uncertainties, and there will be both positive and negative outcomes.

We are stuck with what we have got for now, we should be doing what we can to make something out of the change in opportunities – including not grumping and grizzling too much about things we can’t change..

Why were we slow to increase Covid-19 testing?

A number of Governments around the world have been criticised for their lack of testing for the Covid-19 virus. This may have helped the virus spread undetected in communities.

Some countries like Italy and Spain had so many serious cases to deal with they didn’t have sufficient resources to test.

The US and UK were both slow to ramp up testing.

It is apparent in some places that the horse had bolted before comprehensive testing at the stable was started.

The spread of the virus and the actions taken by countries including here has been a rapidly changing situation, perhaps governments have struggled to keep up with demand, or perhaps governments are just too slow to act in emergencies like this (although the modern world has not experienced a virus like Covid-19).

New Zealand was also slow off the mark, limiting testing to people with Covid symptoms AND some link to international travel. Last week testing rates were increased, but only yesterday it was announced that the criteria for testing would be widened.  But even the highest risk group, travellers coming into the country, were not all tested (I suspect that there were too many too handle at the time).

This is despite medical experts and academics calling for far more testing.

The prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been criticised for possibly misleading the country over testing. Her first official release on Covid-19 was Saturday 14 March (just two and a half weeks go).  From Major steps taken to protect New Zealanders from COVID-19

  • Every person entering New Zealand from anywhere in the world will be required to self-isolate for 14 days, excluding the Pacific [i]. ‘
  • These restrictions will all be reviewed in 16 days’ time.
  • Existing travel ban retained for China and Iran
  • Cruise ships banned from coming to New Zealand, until at least 30 June 2020
  • Strict new health measures at the border for people departing to the Pacific
  • A range of measures to assist those in self-isolation to be announced next week
  • Government will work closely with the aviation sector to encourage airlines to remain active in New Zealand, limit impacts on the tourism sector and exporters
  • Directive on mass gatherings to be announced early next week

There was no mention of testing in her statement.

Tuesday 17 March she did mention testing in Economic package to fight COVID-19

“We will be investing in more health staff, more virus testing, more medicines, facemasks, extra intensive care capacity and equipment at hospitals, and more money for GPs. If we can manage the virus we can mitigate the damage to the economy.

The same day in Parliament from 2. Question No. 2—Prime Minister

Hon Simon Bridges: Why are people being denied coronavirus tests when they are displaying symptoms?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I reject the assertion they are. I want to read—

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, they are.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would like to read from the case notes provided to doctors. Under the case definition, it says, “Note”—this is for clinicians—”that due to the ongoing changing global and domestic situation, clinical judgement should apply as to whether someone who doesn’t quite meet the current case definition should be tested or not.” Any person who a clinician thinks needs a test should get a test.

Hon Simon Bridges: So does she deny the email to me from a Wellingtonian and his partner who had all the symptoms and were denied the tests yesterday?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I’ve just said, that decision sits with doctors. I will read, again: “due to the ongoing changing [environment], clinical judgement should apply as to whether someone who doesn’t … meet the … case definition should be tested or not.” I cannot be clearer. Any person a doctor believes should be tested can and should be tested. We have the capacity to do up to 1,500 tests a day. My understanding is that we have hundreds of tests currently being processed for which we will have the results tomorrow.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why doesn’t she just guarantee that those who show the clear symptoms will get the testing, as Prime Minister of our country?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve just given you the exact advice that is for doctors. Doctors make those decisions, not politicians, but what they have been told is that anyone who they believe should be tested should be tested. I cannot be clearer than that. I cannot make those judgments, but they can, and they should.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why is she only suggesting ramping up tests now after the World Health Organization has called for countries to test, test, test?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is utterly incorrect. We’ve had the capacity to test up to a thousand a day for a very long time.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is she concerned that a comparable country like Norway has tested 8,000 people and we’ve tested less than 600?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the member seems to be upset about where our global standing currently is in terms of case profile. We have, currently, a small number of cases, that have been confirmed through testing. But I expect that we will have many hundreds more tests conducted. In fact, I understand we have hundreds currently being processed this very day.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn’t the reason we only have a dozen confirmed cases and not dozens and dozens and dozens because under her Government, since the start of the year, we just haven’t done many tests?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is an appalling, appalling statement to make. The implication that tests are being determined by politics is appalling. Doctors are making the call, and they are being told that if they believe they should test, they should. I cannot be clearer about the advice that has been provided by the Ministry of Health; it is in black in white—in fact, it is in bold.

Hon Dr David Clark: Is the Prime Minister aware that Norway currently has 1,200 confirmed cases of the virus, and is in Europe, which has been described as the epicentre of the outbreak?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. In those cases, you would expect, therefore, that the contact tracing and symptoms would therefore lead to the other testing outcomes that they have. It seems extraordinary to me that the suggestion seems to be that there is disappointment about where we are. Hundreds of tests are being processed today. Very unfortunately, we will see—[Interruption] We will see more—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can I just ask members on both sides—this is a very serious issue, and petty calling back and forth from both sides ill behoves the House.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that the reason, say, Norway has many more confirmed cases is because they have done many, many thousands more tests, and that’s where we needed to be weeks ago.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No, I reject that, and I again confirm I have just been advised there are 500 tests currently being processed. That capacity has always existed, but we have allowed doctors to make that decision, not politicians.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will she apologise to New Zealanders who have been previously denied a test under her Government last month, the month before, and as little ago as yesterday?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No one who a doctor believes should be tested should have been denied a test.

Ardern said “there are 500 tests currently being processed”. The average tests over the past week is 1,777 daily as of yesterday when more testing was called for by Ardern.

That same day from Question No. 10—Health

Dr Shane Reti: Does New Zealand coronavirus testing align with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to test all older people with symptoms who also have heart conditions; if not, why not?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The member will have heard from the Prime Minister earlier in today’s House session that all primary-care workers who are so qualified are being encouraged to test if they have any clinical suspicion.

Dr Shane Reti: What is the weakest point in the health system for coronavirus management, and how can we help?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: It’s misinformation, and members of the Opposition can help by making sure that they are pointing people toward the Ministry of Health website, where the most up-to-date and correct information is on hand. They can share that widely, and I would appreciate it. Thank you.

Two days after that a nurse I know who works in an age care hospital had flu-like symptoms and south a test but ws told she didn’t need one, and could return to work the following Saturday.

Also on 17 March – Jacinda Ardern urges clinicians to do more COVID-19 testing: ‘We have the capacity’

The Prime Minister is urging clinicians to conduct more testing for the coronavirus COVID-19 insisting New Zealand has the capacity to do 1500 tests per day.

“Our capacity is significant. We’re ramping up the ability to have up to 1500 tests per day,” Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. “That test number you’ve been seeing per day happening in the community is growing day on day.”

It comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) pleaded for countries to ramp up testing of every suspected coronavirus COVID-19 case as it warns children are dying of the illness.

Several more media releases by Ardern didn’t mention testing, including the big announcement on Saturday 21 March – Nation steps up to COVID-19 Alert Level 2

Two days later on Monday 23 March from Prime Minister: COVID-19 Alert Level increased:

We will continue to vigorously contact trace every single case. Testing will continue at pace to help us understand the current number of cases in New Zealand and where they are based. If we flush out the cases we already have and see transmission slow, we will potentially be able to move areas out of Level 4 over time.

Ardern made several more media statements since then with no mention of testing.

Wednesday 25 March from Returning New Zealanders will be tested for Covid-19

New Zealand borders will be open for returning New Zealanders but all of them will be screened at their port of arrival, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.

“All incoming passengers will be tested and anyone found systematic will be quarantined in a facility. All others will be asked to go into self-isolation. The Police will monitor them and anyone found violating the order will be fined and quarantined,” she said.

Yesterday (31 March) – Covid-19: More testing needed, Ardern says

The number of tests for coronavirus is set to ramp up, with health officials relaxing the testing criteria as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for more testing to be done.

New Zealand’s testing regime has been under scrutiny for some time, with people complaining of being turned away despite medical recommendations they get tested.

The matter was at the fore during the inaugural meeting of the epidemic response committee earlier on Tuesday, where Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield indicated a change was coming.

Now, Ardern has confirmed the technical advisory group overseeing the case definition of Covid-19 had agreed to expand it to include people who had symptoms potentially indicative of the virus, but without a link to overseas travel or a close contact who had tested positive.

The new advice would be circulated to Healthline, GPs and community clinics, with the Prime Minister expressing a desire to see testing levels ramp up further.

“I want more tests, we’ve built the capacity for more tests, more tests will only allow us to get a better picture of the spread of Covid-19.”

However, she pushed back when asked why the Government had not made such a change earlier, saying New Zealand had already been conducting a high level of tests relative to other countries.

The rapidly spreading and dangerous Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented health emergency and has been very difficult for governments to deal with. One thing we should get is open and honest information. Questions remain about the slow lift in testing for the virus.

3,500 tests are now being done per day with plans to lift it to 5,000 a day but we may need more. This is being discussed now on RNZ:

Michael Baker, an epidemiologist from the University of Otago, tells Morning Report that although the shutdown has been very tough on people, it’s the right move from the government and they acted in a nick of time to get Covid-19 under control.

Prof Baker says that as we start to test more, we could see the number of cases rise dramatically.

He said more about testing, may have to wait for the audio.

Minister of Health David Clark is just being asked about this on RNZ,

The Minister of Health David Clark tells Morning Report the government asked the Ministry of Health to revisit their criteria for testing.

“We need to continue to ramp our testing, absolutely, and we are,” David Clark says.

He acknowledges there are valid questions that need answers about testing but that should be directed at clinicians who decide on who should be tested. He is waffling around the question.

He said current testing capacity is 3,700 per day.

Clark is already being questioned about the number of ventilators, he doesn’t sound assured or confident answering but says we have the capacity for about 500 ventilators with about another 200 ordered.

Public and private hospitals have about 750 ventilators between them.

It is a relatively low number per capita – with only 4.7 intensive care beds per 100,000 people compared to 35 per 100,000 in the United States and 29 in Germany.

Doctors have warned if Covid-19 pushes up demand so that 3000-4000 patients need ICU treatment at any one time, current capacity would be overwhelmed.

https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/413111/covid-19-nz-sources-more-ventilators-amid-rampant-global-demand

“President Trump is a ratings hit” says President Trump

There were four tweets in all:

President Trump is a ratings hit. Since reviving the daily White House briefing Mr. Trump and his coronavirus updates have attracted an average audience of 8.5 million on cable news, roughly the viewership of the season finale of ‘The Bachelor.’ Numbers are continuing to ris.

On Monday, nearly 12.2 million people watched Mr. Trump’s briefing on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, according to Nielsen — ‘Monday Night Football’ numbers. Millions more are watching on ABC, CBS, NBC and online streaming sites, and the audience is expanding. On Monday, Fox News alone attracted 6.2 million viewers for the president’s briefing — an astounding number for a 6 p.m. cable broadcast, more akin to the viewership for a popular prime-time sitcom.

The CBS News poll said 13 percent of Republicans trusted the news media for information about the virus.” Michael M. Grynbaum @NYTimes

This would be unbelievable if any other world leader was so openly obsessed with his own popularity. But this is not surprising from Trump, he has long bulldozed over the ability to shock.

911 had huge ratings but that wasn’t because of popularity, it was due to horror. The Global Financial Crisis had huge ratings but that wasn’t due to popularity either.

 

How many people actually have Covid-19?

No one knows, but it’s certain that official counts will be under reporting actual cases. By how much?

“2.3% of Americans surveyed said they’ve been diagnosed with the coronavirus, a percentage that could translate to several million people”

The current official total in the US is 75,000 cases (and 1,070 deaths).

Official counts of cases of Covid-19 have been questioned around the world. The limited number of tests done and the narrow criteria for getting a test here in New Zealand naturally raises questions about the true numbers.

The only thing we can be certain of is that actual numbers are greater than official numbers, at least of cases (questions have also been raised about death counts in some countries).

Reuters: How many Americans have coronavirus? New Reuters poll might offer a hint

The official count of coronavirus infections in the United States sits at about 70,000 cases, but a chronic shortage of tests means only a fraction of the people infected are being counted. So how can we know how many Americans actually might have the disease?

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in the past several days could offer what one behavioral health expert called a “fascinating” hint of the possible numbers.

In the nationwide poll, 2.3% of Americans surveyed said they’ve been diagnosed with the coronavirus, a percentage that could translate to several million people.

Diagnosed by whom? That is likely to be various and of varying reliability.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if the answers are a result of misinformed self-diagnoses, untested professional diagnoses or test-confirmed infections. But Carnegie Mellon University professor Baruch Fischhoff, who studies risk perception and analysis, said that the poll results shouldn’t be viewed as merely a collective neurotic reaction to the pandemic.

Given the shortage of coronavirus test kits, it may well be a broadly accurate estimate of the extent of the infection across the United States, he said. “It may be the best available data,” he said.

A further 2.4% of those polled said they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

And in an illustration of the degrees of separation with the deadly virus, a further 2.6% said they knew someone who has been in close contact with a person who has tested positive.

While accuracy of these results can be questioned, there is a rise from a similar poll that at least suggests significant under counting in official numbers.

The poll, which surveyed 4,428 adults between March 18 and 24, shows a dramatic increase in those saying they have tested positive for the virus from a similar poll conducted just a few days earlier.

In the Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,115 Americans conducted March 16 and 17, about 1% said they were infected.

The second poll was just after the first, but was for a longer period and polled four times as many people.

Still, the poll results may fill some gaps in knowledge in the face of limited testing.

For example, Fischhoff said, on March 15, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine estimated there were about 100,000 infections in his state, which represents about 1% of the state’s population, despite there only being a handful of confirmed cases at the time.

If these suggested infection rates are anywhere near reality there is one positive – the death rate per infected person and per population will be a lot lower.

But the obvious negative is that the virus may be far more widely established and spread in populations, including here in New Zealand.

One thing that needs to be remembered – until an effective vaccine becomes widely available Covid-19 will continue to spread probably everywhere, and more and more people will get it.

Apart from hoping a vaccine will come out in time we have to hope we don’t get it until the demand for health services settles back and treatments improve as they learn what works best to deal with the symptoms and avoid complications.

So for now I’m happy to be in isolation, and I am prepared for this being for closer to four months than four weeks (August has been mentioned as a time we may be getting on top of things by).

No hunting and fishing under Level 4 restrictions

A NZ First tweet yesterday suggested that “hunt the roar” (deer hunting) was an allowed activity during the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown, but that has been ruled out.

The tweet, now deleted, had graphics depicting hunting and said:

“Having to self-isolate doesn’t necessarily mean being locked indoors. You may go for a walk or exercise or hunt the roar, but keep a 2 metre distance from people at all times.”

If allowed that would have given many people an excuse to roam the countryside as long as they had firearms, while everyone else was confined to home or nearby.

Covid-19 Alert Level 4 states:

Public spaces

  • Places where the public congregate must close.
  • All bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must close their face-to-face function.
  • Playgrounds are classed as an area where people congregate and so are off-limits.
  • People can exercise outdoors but must maintain a two metre distance from others.
  • People are expected to stay local when leaving the home.

Recreation or exercise

  • You can go for a walk, run, or bike ride. Exercise is good for people’s mental health.
  • If you do, it must be solitary, or with those you live with.
  • Keep a 2 metre distance.
  • However, if you are unwell, do NOT go outside.
  • DOC has closed all its campsites and huts.
  • Do not go hunting or hiking, and especially not on overnight trips.

The day before the NZ First tweet NZ Fish & Game posted under Covid-19 Information:

5.10pm 24 March

The Government’s clear intention at this stage is that fishing and hunting are prohibited during the Alert Level 4 lockdown period. If and when we receive other advice from the Government we will change our position.

Therefore, Fish & Game New Zealand are urging all anglers and hunters to do the right thing and stay at home while New Zealand is at COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

“Unfortunately, being at Level 4 means that anglers and hunters aren’t able to do the pursuits that they love,” Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor says.

“The advice we have is that at Alert Level 4 anglers and hunters should not undertake activities that expose them and others to higher levels of risk. We are also advised that DOC huts and campsites are closed as they do not meet minimum separation requirements.”

New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) is asking people to stick to simple outdoor exercise and avoid areas where they could get lost or require search and rescue. NZSAR want to ensure that emergency services are available to help those in the greatest need. Fishing and hunting, even close to home, inherently carry a degree of risk and it is important for anglers and hunters not to further burden our emergency services and healthcare system. Staying in and around home is simply the right thing to do.

“It is heart-breaking to not be able to spend time in the outdoors, especially as for many of us this is our main way to destress, but we all have our part to play to beat COVID-19,” Mr Taylor says.

“The point of the next four weeks is to kill the virus in New Zealand so that life goes back to normal as quickly as possible. Let’s stay home for four weeks then we can get outdoors and back into angling and hunting.”

The Level 4 lockdown period is scheduled to end prior to the start of the game bird season, and if we are all responsible during the next four weeks the game bird season is on.

We ask for your patience while we piece together the complexities of what we are facing. In particular, we will have further advice on pegging day as soon as possible.

It is our intention to give anglers and hunters ongoing updates on our facebook page and website.

Please keep up-to-date with all the most recent Government guidance around COVID-19 here

If hunters and fishers were allowed to roam where ever they liked, which would often have involved travel first, it would have encouraged others to push limits and it could easily have become an unmanageable farce.

It would also have potentially been dangerous, as if they were to comply with requirements to keep isolation within households many hunters and fishers would have had to hunt and fish alone.

Last night NZ First changed their Facebook profile picture to:

and a Winston Peters video reinforces this message:

Where is all the money coming from?

Businesses and economies around the world will take a severe hit from the costs and effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

New Zealand has already announced $12.1 in spending to prop things up. It equates to about 4% of our GDP.

That amount is likely to grow substantially, and will add to borrowings. But that’s only small change in the international finance pond.

Across the Tasman: What Australia’s $189bn coronavirus economic rescue package means for you

The government has announced a second major economic rescue package worth $66bn, on top of an initial $17.6bn package and more than $100bn in emergency banking measures to prevent against a credit freeze.

Framed as a “safety” package, the second wave of stimulus ramps up support for small business and also includes a major boost to welfare recipients and for people who lose work as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In total, the government has now committed economic support worth $189bn – almost 10% of GDP – and has also flagged more packages as the crisis unfolds.

UK Government: Support for those affected by COVID-19

On 17 March, the Chancellor announced an unprecedented package of government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses, making available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of GDP.

This was on top of a series of measures announced at Budget 2020, the government announced £30 billion of additional support for public services, individuals and businesses experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19, including a new £5 billion COVID-19 Response Fund, to provide any extra resources needed by the NHS and other public services to tackle the virus.

Just announced in the US: Senate, White House reach $2 trillion stimulus deal to blunt coronavirus fallout

Senate leaders and the Trump administration reached agreement early Wednesday on a $2 trillion stimulus package to rescue the economy from the coronavirus assault, setting the stage for swift passage of the massive legislation through both chambers of Congress.

National Post: Trump and his children banned from applying to US$2 trillion stimulus plan

Together with Fed intervention, the proposed legislation amounted to a $6 trillion stimulus, according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, or about 30 per cent of annual GDP.

The package will likely more than double a U.S budget deficit that was already set to hit $1 trillion this year before the outbreak. It also may not be the last infusion of government spending in response to the spread of the virus.

The US has had growing deficits and growing debt since the GDP in 2008:

As of February 2020, federal debt held by the public is 17.23 trillion and intragovernmental holdings were $6.02 trillion, for a total national debt of $25.3 trillion

 

At the end of 2018, debt held by the public was approximately 76.4% of GDP and approximately 29% of the debt held by the public was owned by foreigners. The United States has the largest external debt in the world.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_of_the_United_States

When the US package was announced the country was heralded as ‘the greatest country in then world’, as they tend to do. That may refer to the greatest debt in the world. That’s one thing trump has been biggest and best at, growing debt.

There’s some big numbers here, and this is just four countries.

Where will all this support package money come from? Are loans already secured?

 

We’re now in Covid-19 Level 4 household isolation

This is New Zealand’s first day in Covid-19 Level 4 ‘lockdown’.

Lockdown is a commonly used term but it is a bit misleading – we are in household isolation but able to go to the supermarket, pharmacy or doctor, and able to go for walks in the vicinity of our homes (people are expected to ‘stay local’ when leaving the home) as long as we keep at least a 2 metre distance from anyone not in our household.

For the household I’m in we will keep supermarket visits to a minimum, probably about once a week. We don’t need to go shopping for a week from now. And only one person from the household will do the shopping. Our aim is to do what we can to keep a virus free household, for our own sakes, but we have also taken in a person at higher risk that we have undertaken to protect from the virus as much as possible.

I expect that the number of cases in New Zealand will continue to climb over the next couple of weeks, due to people who have been travelling still returning home, and the congregations of people who have felt compelled to binge and panic shop prior to the lockdown, and for some reason have seen it necessary over the last few days to have their last fixes of fast food and commercial coffee.

The household isolation will be tough for some people (especially those who live alone), and some household groups. Access to essentials will be difficult for some – if you have your own transport check that neighbours are managing. Relationships may get strained, family violence may increase.

Some who are at risk through their work are taking precautions: Frontline doctors prepare for ‘what’s coming’ by sending kids away (a kid has been ‘sent away’ to us to give them better protection).

But there will be positives. Some households and families will come together and benefit from spending more time together. Many people seem to be looking at getting back to basics, making and baking food rather than relying on time saving but less healthy highly processed packets.

Many will catch up on odd jobs around the home that have suffered from a lack of time.

It is also an opportunity to discover and rediscover different ways of entertaining ourselves.

And with the Internet available to many keeping in touch with family that are isolated in other households will be easy. I’m used doing this with family living overseas anyway.

Level 4 isolation is an unprecedented imposition on us, having experienced nothing like it before in our lifetimes. But it is also an opportunity to take a pause from modern hectic lifestyles, to re-evaluate our way of living and looking at getting a better balance into our lives.

Household isolation is both a challenge and an opportunity.

This is what level 4 officially means for us:


We are at Level 4 of New Zealand’s four-level COVID-19 alert system. It is likely Level 4 measures will stay in place for a number of weeks.

Staying at home – what it means

We need your support to protect New Zealand and eradicate COVID-19. Enforcement measures may be used to ensure everyone acts together, now.

  • Everyone must now stay home, except those providing essential services.
  • Only make physical contact with those that you live with.

Food and shopping

  • Supermarkets, dairies and pharmacies will remain open.
  • When shopping, as much as possible send in only one family member at a time, practice physical distancing and hygiene rules while shopping.
  • Dairies will operate a strict ‘one-in, one-out’ policy and they won’t be allowed to sell food prepared on the premises.
  • Primary industries, including food and beverage production and processing, will still operate.
  • Freight and courier drivers will continue to transport and deliver food.
  • Grocery food deliveries – such as My Food Bag and Hello Fresh – are considered as essential and will continue as long as the food is not pre-cooked.
  • Takeaway services will be closed.
  • Liquor stores will close, unless within a licensing trust area and will operate with a strict ‘one-in, one-out’ policy. Wine and beer will continue to be sold at supermarkets.

Public spaces

  • Places where the public congregate must close.
  • All bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must close their face-to-face function.
  • Playgrounds are classed as an area where people congregate and so are off-limits.
  • People can exercise outdoors but must maintain a two metre distance from others.
  • People are expected to stay local when leaving the home.

Services

  • Rubbish collection will continue. Check your local authority website for recycling.
  • NZ Post will deliver mail and courier drivers will continue to make deliveries.
  • Self-service laundries can stay open, as long as 2 metre physical distancing is enforced.
  • Service stations will remain open and will be supplied.
  • Public transport, regional air travel and ferries are mostly restricted to those involved in essential services and freight.
  • Some public transport will be available for essential trips, such as to the supermarket or doctor, but options will be limited.
  • Building and construction workers will carry on in cases where they’re needed to maintain human health or safety.

Recreation or exercise

  • You can go for a walk, run, or bike ride. Exercise is good for people’s mental health.
  • If you do, it must be solitary, or with those you live with.
  • Keep a 2 metre distance.
  • However, if you are unwell, do NOT go outside.
  • DOC has closed all its campsites and huts.
  • Do not go hunting or hiking, and especially not on overnight trips.

Interaction with others

  • Staying at home is meant to reduce the transmission of the virus.
  • For this to work, you are asked to only have contact with the people you live with.
  • If you want to talk to a friend, call or video chat with them.
  • If you want to talk to a neighbour, do it over the fence.
  • Please note that children CAN travel between the homes of separated parents so as long as they live in the same town/city.
  • Feel free to drop off groceries to others e.g. a grandma, but keep a 2 metre distance for her safety.

If you are unable to find what you need, and are not sure who to contact for help, call the free government helpline on 0800 779 997 or on 0800 22 66 57 (8am–1am, 7 days a week).

Essential businesses

Only businesses that are essential may remain open during the Level 4 Alert period. If a business isn’t sure if it provides services or products which qualify as essential, it should close.

Find out more about essential businesses

Where can I get financial support?

The Government is acting to support New Zealanders through these changes. This includes:

  • a wage subsidy scheme
  • leave and self-isolation support
  • business cash flow and tax measures.

Your usual financial support, such as benefits, will continue.

Find out more about COVID-19 support , including how to apply, on the (external link)Work and Income website.

Gatherings are cancelled

All indoor and outdoor events cannot proceed.

This does not include workplaces of people undertaking essential businesses .

These requirements apply to family and social gatherings such as birthdays and weddings. These gatherings cannot go ahead.

We are asking you only spend time with those who you are in self-isolation with, and keep your distance from all others at all times.

Funerals and tangi

Funeral directors provide essential services and will continue working during Level 4. However, gathering together for funerals and tangi is not permitted while New Zealand is at Alert Level 4.

This may be a challenging time for you and your family. If you ever feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional. For support, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.

Find out more about funerals and tangi.

Education

All schools and early childhood education centres will be closed.

Schools will be providing information directly to all parents about what this means for them.

The upcoming school term break will be brought forward to start on Monday, 30 March. For the remainder of this week and through the term break, schools will establish ways to deliver teaching online and remotely.

Where possible, essential workers with children aged 0-14 need to make their own arrangements for childcare. We know this will not be possible for everyone.

Alternative arrangements are in place to allow essential workers to access childcare and continue to work.

Your employer will tell you if you qualify as an essential worker for these purposes.

How to access healthcare

Health and medical facilities are essential services and will remain open while we are at Alert Level 4.

Just because you have to stay home doesn’t mean you can’t get medical help if you need it.  This includes healthcare services, such as Healthline, GPs, cancer services, disability and aged support services.

The way these services operate might change  for example your GP might be talking to you over the phone rather than seeing you in person.

The health system will continue to provide the necessities of life for New Zealanders.

If you need to see a Doctor or other medical professional you MUST phone first.

Most consultations will happen over the phone (or by videoconference) to stop any risk of Covid-19 spreading by person to person contact.

If a face-to-face meeting is required, your doctor or other medical professional will organise this with you.

Please only call Healthline if you or someone you know feels unwell or you need medical advice, rather than general questions about COVID-19. It’s important Healthline is able to answer calls from those who need medical advice. The more people who call asking for general information, the fewer people who need medical advice can get through.

If you cannot get through and are severely unwell, for example having trouble breathing, contact emergency services (dial 111).

Further advice on how to access healthcare

Public transport and travel

You may not fly within New Zealand.

You may use a private vehicle to get food or medicine.

Private Vehicles and active travel

Using private vehicles for transport is allowed. Where possible, practice physical distancing.

Personal walks and other active travel like biking, is fine, provided you follow the two metre physical distancing requirement at all times.

International air travel

Visitors and tourists can still use international air services to travel home but commercial flights have been impacted.

Do not go to the airport unless you have a ticket. If you do not have ticket contact a travel agent or airline directly. If you are unable to secure a ticket please contact your country embassy.

For information about the Government Epidemic Notice issued and information about visa extensions, go to the Immigration New Zealand website.(external link)

Domestic air travel

While in Alert Level 4, air travel will be used only for the transport of people undertaking essential services and the transport of freight.

At risk people

Vulnerable people in particular should stay at home, and ask others to pick up supplies for them. You just need to ask them to leave these at the door, rather than come in. Drop offs at the door (rather than coming in) will protect vulnerable people from exposure to COVID-19.

You are at high-risk if you are over 70, have a compromised immune system or have underlying health conditions.

People with underlying medical conditions include a compromised immune system, liver disease, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes mellitus, pregnant people or those on immunosuppressant medications.

You need to take more precautions to protect yourself against all infections, including COVID-19.

Source: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-level/

More information for vulnerable and at risk groups

Download a poster asking people not to enter your building

Find out more about COVID-19

Wednesday MOH update

From today’s Ministry of Health Covid-19 media conference.

50 new confirmed (47) and probable (3) cases

Current total 205.

22 people have recovered.
6 people are in hospital, non in intensive care.

1421 tests processed yesterday, total tested 9780.

The numbers are expected to increase before they turn around due to the lockdown (providing that works successfully).

Civil Defence says in a state of emergency authorities will have powers that are not normally available to them, ie: potential military patrols

 

‘Essential businesses’ that are allowed to stay open (not hardware stores or The Warehouse)

There was a lot of discussion yesterday about which businesses would be open or available to work during the lockdown.

There are general details on Covid-19 Essential businesses page, but Cabinet has also made some rulings and clarifications.

The Warehouse will be closed, and hardware suppliers Mitre 10, Placemkers and Bunnings are only open for “open to trade customers for essential purposes only”.  The lockdown would have been unworkable if everyone could shop at large outlests for whatever they wanted, and it would have been unfair on other retailers who sold some of the same products, eg appliance shops.


Decisions made by Cabinet, 24 March 2020

  • Dairies can remain open, with a one-in-one-out rule, and cannot sell cooked food.
  • Food delivery is prohibited, except meals-on-wheels and whole food delivery (eg subscription food boxes).
  • Every restaurant, café and bar must close all aspects of their operation.
  • Liquor stores must close, unless they are within Licensing Trust areas (in which case they can operate with a one-in-one-out rule).
  • Self-service laundries can stay open, with two meter physical distancing to be enforced.
  • Retirement villages are included as an essential service.
  • The Warehouse must close.
  • Bunnings, Placemakers, Mitre 10 and other retailers essential to the supply chain for building and construction can stay open to trade customers for essential purposes only.
  • The Tiwai Point smelter is exempt from closure.
  • NZ Steel is to shut down in a way that allows for production to recommence easily.
  • Pulp and paper plants are to shut down their non-essential elements in a way that allows for production to recommence easily, and while maintaining essential production.
  • Methanex can remain in production, but at a scale consistent with the stability of gas supply.

For the avoidance of doubt, sectors and occupations specified in the following are also included in this list of essential services:

  • Schedule 1 of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management CDEM Act 2002 Schedule 1 of lifeline utilities, and
  • Employment Relations Act 2000 Schedule 1 of essential services.

The entities listed above can continue to operate premises but must put in place alternative ways of working to keep employees safe, including shift-based working, staggered meal breaks, flexible leave arrangements and physical distancing.


The Warehouse says:

“we believe all new Zealanders deserve a place to get affordable family essentials” but “we’re temporarily closing our Red Sheds around the country“.

Mitre 10:

24 March 2020: All Mitre 10, Mitre 10 MEGA and Hammer Hardware stores will close to the public at the end of day Wednesday 25 March in line with the New Zealand’s government’s action to manage COVID-19. Online ordering is no longer available, and fulfilment of orders placed over the past 48 hours unfortunately cannot be guaranteed.

With recent government advice that we can continue to supply trade for purposes to support essential building and construction, we will now work to determine the best way forward to do this (including consultation with government) while ensuring the safety of our people and trade customers.

Placemakers:

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

All our branches are open with normal business hours today (24th March) and until 5pm tomorrow (25th March).

In line with the government alert Level 4 for COVID-19 our branches will be temporarily closing from Thursday (26th March) onwards. A few of our branches will be open between 7-11am hours to supply products to trade customers for essential services to maintain human health and safety at home/work. Click here for details.

Bunnings:

A message to our customers

We are open. Check your local store’s trading hours.

We are doing all we can to keep our customers and team safe, as well as  play our role preventing the spread of Coronavirus COVID-19.  This includes following the advice of the New Zealand Government and World Health Organisation and their recommendations for minimising the spread of this virus.

That’s for today. I presume they will follow Government advice when the lockdown begins tonight.

So if you want harwdare or timber to catch up on jobs around the house then you will have to join the last throngs today, and risk catching the virus before going into isolation.

Covid-19 climbs around the world, last day before NZ lockdown

Cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus and deaths continue to climb around the world, with many countries having significant increases.

Currently (JHU data):

  • Total confirmed 407,485
  • Total deaths 18,227
  • Total recovered 104,234

 

The February spike will be China, but the rest of the world is now picking up.

The toll across the United Kingdom rose by 87 in the last day to 422 (a 26% increase) and confirmed cases were up 21% to over 8,000. They are still having problems with crowded trains.

Spain has had more than 500 deaths in a day, making a total of 2,800 who’ve died from its 39,676 cases.

Germany has had a relatively low number of deaths from 31,991 cases but have jumped recently to 149.

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

Either the spread or detection is slow in most parts of Africa.

Conspicuous is the lack of reported cases and deaths in Russia.

Official: Russia has no ‘clear picture’ of extent of Covid-19 outbreak

Russia, which shares a border with China and has a population of 144 million, has so far reported 495 cases of the coronavirus but no confirmed fatalities.

“The problem is that the volume of testing is very low and nobody has a clear picture” of the situation in Russia and the world, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told President Vladimir Putin during a meeting.

“The picture that is unfolding is serious,” said Sobyanin

This photo from a store in Moscow suggests it is a major concern of not a problem there.

A man, wearing a protective mask, walks past empty shelves in a store, due to the fear of Covid-19 outbreak in Moscow March 17, 2020. — Reuters pic

JHU data shows 519 cases in India and 10 deaths, which seem very low for such a densely populated country.

India’s 1.3b people to enter ‘total lockdown’

India is to impose a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced.

The restrictions will apply from midnight local time and will be enforced for 21 days.

“There will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi said in a televised address.

The US could soon become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic after a ‘very large acceleration’ in cases, WHO warns

  • The US could soon become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation warned Tuesday.
  • A WHO spokeswoman, Margaret Harris, noted that there had been a “very large acceleration” in cases in the US in recent days.
  • In the past 24 hours, 85% of all new coronavirus cases were in the US and Europe. In the US, 553 people have died from COVID-19.
  • President Donald Trump has refused to impose a national lockdown, however, and has instead insisted the US will soon be “open for business.”

Current John Hopkins data shows 49,768 cases in the US (third to China and Italy and ahead of Spain) and 600 deaths.

Despite this Pence says White House not considering a nationwide coronavirus lockdown (a number of states are in lockdown) and:

Trump, during Fox News coronavirus town hall, calls for re-starting economy by Easter: ‘We have to get back to work’

President Trump said Tuesday during a Fox News virtual townhall that he wants the country’s economy re-opened by Easter amid questions over how long people should stay home and businesses should remain closed to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking from the Rose Garden alongside others on his coronavirus taskforce, Trump said he “would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.” The holiday this year lands on April 12.

Trump argued he doesn’t want “to turn the country off” and see a continued economic downfall from the pandemic. He also said he worries the U.S. will see “suicides by the thousands” if coronavirus devastates the economy.

“We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off,” Trump said during the interview.

“We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We don’t call up the automobile companies and say stop making cars. We have to get back to work.”

That’s contrary to how most countries are handling Covid-19, and also major US states.

And contrary to US officials:

During a coronavirus town hall with U.S. forces around the world, Defense Secretary Mark Esper estimated it could take up to 10 weeks, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley went a little further saying he expected the military to be dealing with the virus for the next three months.

Currently in Australia there are 2,139 confirmed cases and 8 deaths.

Many New Zealanders who have suddenly lost jobs in Australia and will get no Government assistance there are trying to come back here.

Australian states have taken different actions, but some restrictions have been applied to the whole country. Official information:

  • Tight new restrictions on weddings, funerals, fitness classes, beauty salons, arcades and play centres will be implemented from 11:59pm, 25 March. An international travel ban (with some exemptions) will also be introduced. Read more.
  • Some states and territories are closing their borders, meaning anyone entering will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Currently, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia have announced they will close their borders. Essential services are generally exempt from this requirement but some states require undertakings and/or evidence be provided to prove that entry into the state is essential.
  • School closures (both government and non-government) are a matter of the respective state and territory education authorities. Read more.
    (Schools aren’t being closed yet in Queensland but parents can choose to keep their children at home).
  • All pubs, licensed clubs and hotels (excluding accommodation), places of worship, gyms, indoor sporting venues, cinemas, casinos must be closed. Restaurants and cafes can offer takeaway options. Supermarkets, pharmacies and essential services can remain open. Read more.

Cases in New Zealand (confirmed and probable) jumped to 152 yesterday. We go into full lockdown (except for essential services, shops and petrol stations) at 11:59 pm tonight.

A state of emergency will be declared in Parliament today. A UBI is being considered as one option.

People needing to travel on domestic flights, trains and Cook Strait ferries to get home before the country moves into level 4 lock-down tomorrow night will be able to continue using the passenger services until midnight on Friday.