New Zealand has moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 – Restrict, for the next 48 hours before moving into Level 4 – Eliminate, as New Zealand escalates its response to stop the virus in its tracks.
“Due to the early and strong steps we’ve taken, New Zealand is fortunate not to be as hard-hit by the virus as other countries but the trajectory is clear. We are under attack like the rest of the world and must unite to stop the worst from happening here,” says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“If community transmission takes off in New Zealand the number of cases will double every five days. If that happens unchecked, our health system will be inundated, and thousands of New Zealanders will die.
“Together we can stop that from happening and our plan is simple. We can stop the spread by staying home and reducing contact.
“Moving to Level 3, then 4, will place the most significant restrictions on our people in modern history but they are a necessary sacrifice to save lives.
“At Level 3, we are asking non-essential businesses to close. This includes bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries and other places where people gather together.
“Essential services will remain open, such as supermarkets, banks, GPs, pharmacies, service stations, couriers and other important frontline service providers.
“Gatherings, indoors or out, and of any shape or size, must be cancelled. This means weddings, birthday celebrations and other gatherings.
“Workplaces should have everyone working from home. Essential services will stay open at every level, but must put in place alternative ways of working including physical distancing of staff of two metres.
“Schools will be closed from tomorrow, except to children of essential workers who still need to go to work each day including doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and police. This will be temporary, and schools will close entirely from midnight Wednesday.
“The school term break will be brought forward. For the remainder of this week and through the term break schools will establish ways to deliver teaching online and remotely as quickly as they can.
“Public transport and regional air travel is restricted to those involved in essential services and freight, with domestic air travel permitted in some cases for people to leave the country and to get home to self-isolate. Private travel is allowed.
“I say to all New Zealanders: The Government will do all it can to protect you. Now I’m asking you to do everything you can to protect all of us. Kiwis – go home.
“Today, get your neighbour’s phone number, set up a community group chat, get your gear to work from home, cancel social gatherings of any size or shape, prepare to walk around the block while keeping a two-metre distance between you.
“If in doubt, don’t go out.
“These measures will be in place for four weeks at this point.
“New Zealand is fighting an unprecedented global pandemic and it will take a collective effort of every single New Zealander doing the right thing to give us our best shot at curtailing community outbreak,."
Further details available at www.covid19.govt.nz
In a nutshell
• New Zealand moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 – Restrict
• New Zealand to move up to COVID-19 Alert Level 4 – Eliminate, in 48 hours
• Two-staged approach to give people and businesses time to prepare
Level 3, from tomorrow
• Non-essential businesses must close
• All events and gatherings must be cancelled
• Schools will only open for children of essential workers. They will close completely when we move to Level 4
• Workplaces must implement alternative working with everyone who can to work from home
• No discretionary domestic air travel between regions
• Public transport for people undertaking essential services and transport of freight only
Govt takes significant economic decisions as NZ readies for Alert Level 4 in COVID-19 fight
The Government is announcing significant further support for the economy, workers and businesses as the country unites to prepare for Alert Level 4 in the fight against COVID-19.
Cabinet today agreed to remove the cap on the Government’s wage subsidy scheme, which will inject a further $4 billion into the economy over the next eleven weeks.
- The Government is expediting urgent work on new income support measures for all workers above and beyond the wage subsidy scheme, to be appropriate for how the economy will operate under Alert Level 4.
- The Government, Reserve Bank and retail banks have agreed in principle to significant temporary support for mortgage holders and a business finance guarantee scheme for those impacted by COVID-19 as the country moves towards Alert Level 4. The details of this will be announced in the next few days.
- Cabinet has agreed to freeze all rent increases and to look to extend no-cause terminations to protect people during this difficult time.
“We have a chance to beat this virus as we step up our public health response. We know this will have significant impacts on the economy, and we are doing what it takes in response to this rapidly changing situation,” says Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
“These significant measures – along with previous moves to raise benefits and tax changes to support cashflow – are focussed on cushioning the blow for workers and businesses as we respond to this unprecedented global crisis. As we have said before, we cannot guarantee to stop all job losses, but we are doing our best to cushion the blow.
"As this crisis evolves, we are moving rapidly to support New Zealanders.
"Now that many New Zealanders may not be able to go in to work for the next few weeks, our priority is ensuring they continue to receive some form of income through this period.
"All employers affected by COVID-19 will now be able to apply for the existing subsidy to support the wages of all of their workers.
"The changes mean the forecast cost of the wage subsidy scheme is being lifted from $5.1 billion to $9.3 billion. This assumes 50 per cent of businesses access the 12-week scheme.
“The $9.3 billion is an estimate, not a cap or a floor. This means the support will be there to meet the demand. We are doing what it takes to put support in place for workers and businesses.
“We can do this because New Zealand is one of the best-placed economies in the world to deal with COVID-19, due to our low Government debt and strong economic fundamentals going into this global crisis,” says Grant.
MSD will do its best to get payments out the door as quickly as possible, says Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni.
“But we ask that people have patience and show a little kindness to staff there who are working as quickly as they possibly can. A payment system of this magnitude is unprecedented in New Zealand.”
Wage subsidy scheme – Cabinet decisions on 23 March:
A number of other important changes are being made to the scheme:
- The previous $150,000 cap is being lifted, so that all employers can access the full payments to subsidise each of their workers’ salaries.
- New businesses (eg. that are less than a year old) and high growth firms (eg. firms that have had significant increase in revenue) are also eligible. They need to demonstrate the revenue loss assessment against a similar time period, for example a 30% loss of income, attributable to COVID-19, in March 2020 compared to January 2020.
- Self-employed people with variable monthly incomes are eligible if can demonstrate the revenue loss assessment against the previous year’s monthly average (eg. 30% loss of income attributable to COVID-19 comparing March 2020 to the average monthly income in the period March 2019 to March 2020).
- The scheme does cover registered charities, non-governmental organisations, incorporated societies and post-settlement governance entities.
Other criteria still apply, including the 30 per cent revenue reduction and for businesses, on their best endeavours, to maintain their named employees at 80 per cent of their pre-COVID income. The same twelve-week period applies to the wage subsidy scheme.
The new criteria will apply from midnight tonight.