Apr 29, 2020
New Zealand COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 29
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director of Health Ashley Bloomfield held a New Zealand coronavirus press briefing on April 29. Full transcript is here.
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Jacinda Ardern: (00:29)
Good afternoon. Welcome to day two of alert level three. It may surprise some viewers today to see me here alongside Dr. Bloomfield because you will have heard me say that recently was a sit down to be our last for the foreseeable future press conference together. But you will also have heard me repeatedly say that life at level three is very similar to life at level four, and so we decided to extend that mentoring to the way that we’re treating it with our press conferences. So after some feedback, you will find us here together until the remainder of level three concludes for the most part with ongoing appearances from other ministers and other agencies as part of the response to COVID-19. I’ll hand over though now for the health update from Dr. Bloomfield.
Dr. Bloomfield: (01:20)
Thank you, prime minister. [foreign language 00:01:23]. So today I have two new COVID-19 cases to report. One is a new confirmed case that is in quarantine in Auckland associated with international travel, and one is a probable case that is associated with an existing case, that is a close contact of an existing case. In addition to this, we have also reclassified a previous probable case as confirmed. This is an historic one that actually dates from earlier in April, and it’s just been updated in our episerve database as confirmed. So therefore whilst the net increase today was two cases, our new total confirmed cases is 1,126, and for probable cases it is 348 which is the same as yesterday. Our total combined confirmed and probable cases is therefore 1,474. We report the confirmed case number to WHO and we’ll continue to do so. That is the 1,126. Pleased to say no additional deaths to report today, and we have six people in hospital, none of whom are in intensive care.
Dr. Bloomfield: (02:37)
Yesterday, 2,637 tests were completed and our combined total to date is 128,073 tests. Of our cases, 1,229 are reported as recovered. That’s an increase of 15 on yesterday and now comprises 83% of all cases. There remain 16 significant clusters, no change from yesterday. A couple of words from me about alert level three, as the prime minister said now two days old, it’s important that we keep reinforcing the key messages around expectations and how we need to all behave during alert level three. It’s crucial we stay vigilant and in particular maintain the guidelines around physical distancing, keeping within bubbles, good hand hygiene and not going out if unwell. Commercial activity resumes, the supplies to businesses and retailers who are now interacting in a contactless way with providers. And yesterday, like me, you will have seen some aspects of level three. We’re a little bit like the first day back after the summer holidays, and also we were all getting used to a new way of doing things.
Dr. Bloomfield: (03:51)
And I think for the most part businesses got that right. However, we did see some pictures of quite large groups of people congregating outside one or two places. I’m sure those businesses involved will be working on their processes today to ensure that any customers waiting to pick up goods or services can maintain physical distancing. That will be imperative in terms of our ability to provide confidence to the government that we are ready to move down alert levels in due course. So as I said yesterday, we have a new section 17 notice that does include provisions to close noncompliant premises.
Dr. Bloomfield: (04:31)
However, I think yesterday would be a good example of everybody settling into a new regime. And for the most part, that worked well. But just ironing out some small matters that do need to be ironed out quickly. So overall, the message is the same. Stay home, save lives. And that’s our number one rule for alert level three. If you need medical attention, ring health line, ring your GP, or if it’s an emergency dial 111. And if you have any respiratory symptoms, please do contact health line or your GP and talk about getting a COVID-19 test. Thank you, prime minister.
Jacinda Ardern: (05:06)
Thank you Dr. Bloomfield. I want to start by reminding people in the same way that Dr. Bloomfield has that we are not out of the woods yet. While our case numbers remain low, we will still have cases and we have seen with our large clusters in New Zealand that it only takes one person to potentially affect many. With that in mind, we continue to take a firm stance with the enforcement of rules at level three. This is our waiting room, and so we need to make sure that we’re vigilant in the way that we treat it. The rules are ultimately in place for a reason and that reason is to keep us safe, but to also move us as quickly as we can into other alert levels. Police recorded 104 breaches in the first 18 hours of alert level three. The vast majority of these resulted in warnings, but 21 people have been prosecuted and 71 warnings issued. In addition, 742 complaints of businesses not complying with level three rules were made. Most related though, interestingly, most related to a lack of social distancing and business operating practices. NB, NPI and other agencies will be following up on a further proportion of these complaints. Agencies have been tasked. In particular cases, with have triaged. 61 cases in particular are being followed up on. So our preference is to educate and engage with businesses to ensure they’re operating within the rules. We will not hesitate to take firmer measures if required. I asked a couple of questions this morning, particularly of some of the images I’ve seen of areas, and there were a couple of persistent photos that lingered around from some places in particular. And I’d been told that NB and health have actively reached out to some of those businesses to make sure that they are working with them on the ground to improve their practices to stop congregation at their place of business.
Jacinda Ardern: (07:11)
I wanted to update you today on early figures we have to hand on school and ECE attendance on the first day back today. Data from 10:30 AM this morning shows there are 7,713 children attending an early learning service and 11,846 attending a school. This represents 4% attendance at ECE and 1% attendance in schools. Keeping in mind though, for those numbers we’ve had reporting from 37% of early learning services and 55% of schools, so these numbers will be updated. But early indications are that New Zealanders continue to take our lock down at level three very seriously, that there remains an ongoing commitment to cementing what we’ve done and therefore learning and working from home if that’s possible. I do want to thank everyone who is doing that though. I know distance learning and having children at home while you’re working can be very hard, but these early numbers demonstrate the ongoing commitment people are showing and New Zealand’s ongoing commitment to not seeing a second wave of infection in New Zealand.
Jacinda Ardern: (08:23)
Finally, I want to talk about New Zealand small businesses, many of whom will now be back at work, but some who will not. We have already put in place the wage subsidy scheme to help with what is usually a firm’s largest costs, wages. And today I can share news of further work that we are doing to help with commercial rents. As many of you will know, we’ve already agreed to push out deadlines on lease terminations when someone moves into arrears, but it is clear that this alone would not be enough for many businesses. We need to provide more reassurance, as much as we’re able to within the law. Although we cannot currently impose a commercial rent reduction, you’ve heard me speak to that a few times here, we have asked commercial tenants and landlords to work together to reach a fair agreement. However, some parties on both sides of the contract appear unwilling to renegotiate payment terms with officials advising that some landlords are demanding full rent from tenants who have been unable to trade for several weeks and cannot afford it.
Jacinda Ardern: (09:28)
While resource tenants have written to landlords declaring that they refuse to pay any rent for several months. Minister Little discussed options with other ministers at cabinet committee this morning. I can confirm that we are actively working on measures under which parties to a commercial lease would be expected to consider written concessions in whole or in part for a period where a response to COVID-19 has had a material impact on business. We’ve heard the call for extra support from small business over and above that already provided through the wage subsidy and tax measures, and we are working actively to resolve that. So in principle, we’ve supported the work Minister Little is doing, we expect papers to come shortly, and as soon as those final decisions and work has been completed by the ministry of justice, we’ll be sharing it. I do want to acknowledge that something similar has been worked up in Australia.
Jacinda Ardern: (10:21)
That code of conduct designed to stand still hasn’t been legislated. That needs to happen at a state level. So we’re working actively on some or looking at some of the similarities of what they’ve done here and what will be workable under our property act in New Zealand. Finally, it was my privilege during alert level four lockdown to thank all of our essential workers and others who have done an amazing job. And now at alert level three, I’m receiving many, many examples of businesses using good old Kiwi ingenuity to open up at level three with contactless transactions. Today I want to highlight a couple of examples from what I know will be the missed food and beverage sector. [inaudible 00:11:03] local and events website-
Jacinda Ardern: (11:03)
The missed food and beverage sector. Gizzy Local, an events website, has collated in one place nearly 30 food businesses that Gisborne locals can now access, noting how to order and how to collect. And some of you will have seen coverage of the Auckland Coffee Shop extending a plank of wood from which to serve up their flat whites at inappropriate distance. I do want to say good on to everyone who is working so hard to innovate, keep their customers safe, but get also their staff back to work. It’s incredible to see. I know it makes people feel very proud, given the difficult circumstances people are operating under.
Jacinda Ardern: (11:34)
Okay. We’re happy to take your questions.
Press Corps: (11:34)
Jacinda Ardern: (11:34)
Why did Cabinet reject advice from the Ministry of Health to close down the borders, including to returning New Zealand citizens?
Jacinda Ardern: (11:44)
Yes, you will have heard the deputy prime minister point out that Health did suggest closing our borders entirely. Now you remember, we did close them off to foreign nationals. But we did not consider that it would ever be okay to stop New Zealanders coming home. You’ll struggle to find countries in the world that would make a move like that. But we simply would not tolerate New Zealanders not having the option to return to the safety of New Zealand, their home.
Press Corps: (12:16)
Dr. Bloomfield, what was the rationale behind the ministry’s call on this? Why did you take this to Cabinet in the first place?
Dr. Bloomfield: (12:22)
So if you think about our elimination goal, there are two parts to it: keep it out and stamp it out. And as we were moving very quickly from alert level two, and three, and into four, we felt that until we had a really secure process in place, this was based on the position as we were providing the advice, for people to come across the border, to actually isolate or quarantine them, or be assured about the fact that they didn’t have intention, then we should at least temporarily close the border until we had that process in place. Cabinet balanced our advice up with all the advice they had. And of course, with that came the instruction and the expectation that we would get that process in place very promptly. So that was the response to help mitigate that risk.
Jacinda Ardern: (13:11)
I think it’s totally understandable, under the circumstances, the Ministry of Health taking that position. Of course, the Ministry of Health wasn’t required to weigh up our obligations, through law, to our own citizens. We did have to weigh that up. The way that we could deal with both obligations was actually to set up the kind of quarantine that we have now at the border, which is working well.
Press Corps: (13:32)
Jacinda Ardern: (13:32)
Press Corps: (13:32)
During that time most of our cases were linked to international travel. Are you disappointed Cabinet went against that advice?
Dr. Bloomfield: (13:43)
Not in the slightest bit. And you can see that not only was the decision to go into lockdown, level four, made it the right time, but that the additional measures we’ve been able to put in place to manage the border, and prevent further cases coming in during that lockdown period, has paid off. And that’s why now we are seeing any new cases coming across the border are in fact already in quarantine, and our overall low numbers reflect the fact that the overall approach was successful.
Press Corps: (14:13)
… Like to see that mandatory quarantine brought up sooner though, considering that your initial advice was for a total shutdown of the borders?
Dr. Bloomfield: (14:23)
No, I don’t actually. I think we’ve been successful. And as I say, Cabinet’s decision was made with the expectation that we would manage the risk at the border. And I feel we have done that successfully. And that is part of our ongoing “keep it out, stamp it out” approach.
Jacinda Ardern: (14:38)
Yeah. I do just want to reinforce that you’ll be hard pressed to find many countries in the world who took an extraordinary stance to exclude their own citizens from returning back to the one place they have a legal right to be. And it would have been extraordinary for the government to make a decision to strand New Zealanders and give them no ability to be able to come home. It could have meant that they were stuck illegally in other places, and it could have meant they could be stuck unsafely in other places, and we just couldn’t entertain that. Equally, we needed to keep New Zealanders safe when they did return.
Jacinda Ardern: (15:12)
So how quickly was that recommendation dismissed then? [crosstalk 00:15:18]
Jacinda Ardern: (15:18)
Oh look, it was never entertained, in the same way that almost no country in the world has entertained not allowing citizens to come home. It is an extraordinary thing to deem someone stateless. But if you tell someone that they cannot return home, that’s essentially what you’re doing. And so there are international obligations that we have to consider with extraordinary decisions like that.
Press Corps: (15:38)
Jacinda Ardern: (15:38)
Gina, I’ll let you finished your question.
Under what legal basis, then, did the Ministry of Health [crosstalk 00:04:43]-
Jacinda Ardern: (15:43)
They don’t have to consider those kinds of things.
Dr. Bloomfield: (15:47)
Yeah. While we were giving our advice from a public health perspective as I say, the approach was really clear: keep it out, stamp it out. And it was clear at that point in time that most of our new cases were still coming in across the border. So we wanted Cabinet to understand from a public health perspective, if we were to mitigate that risk of cases coming in across the border, ideally we would close the border for a period. Cabinet weighed up the full range of matters, including of course other legal obligations, in making their decision.
Jacinda Ardern: (16:17)
Look, it’s not at all unusual. Ministries focus on their own obligations and their own focus. And it wouldn’t have been normal for a public health response to factor in the kinds of things that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [crosstalk 00:16:32]-
Press Corps: (16:31)
Jacinda Ardern: (16:31)
Press Corps: (16:34)
Thank you. Shouldn’t the Ministry of Health also weigh up human rights though, when making recommendations to the government?
Jacinda Ardern: (16:40)
We always make sure that within every decision that we make, we do have human rights considerations. That’s explicit in every paper we consider. It does not have to be generated by the Ministry of Health though. It is always a consideration though.
Press Corps: (16:52)
Jacinda Ardern: (16:55)
I’ll come to the front, and then I’ll come back to you.
Press Corps: (16:57)
Dr. Bloomfield, did you recommend a specific period for how long the border should remain closed for?
Dr. Bloomfield: (17:03)
No, we didn’t actually. And I don’t recall the details. But what I will say is that the whole level four lockdown response was predicated on us managing the risk of new cases coming across the border, and of breaking the chain of transmission in our communities here. We’ve been successful on both counts. That’s why we’re now on a level three.
Jacinda Ardern: (17:27)
Right here. I’ll keep [inaudible 00:06:25].
Dr. Bloomfield: (17:27)
What about a political lens on this decision though from the Ministry of Health? Shouldn’t the health minister have realized that this was a breach of human rights, and potentially suggested that instead of it going to Cabinet?
Jacinda Ardern: (17:36)
No. Actually the minister of health, or indeed any minister, doesn’t necessarily vet and curtail the advice of the Ministry that’s made available to us. In the same way that the minister of finance won’t always agree with Treasury’s view, that’s still able to be put to us for full consideration. So they don’t filter the advice that comes through. So we were able to see what the view of the Ministry of Health was, and then it’s our job to weigh that up against all of the other legal considerations that we must have.
Press Corps: (18:06)
Jacinda Ardern: (18:10)
The periods of time have somewhat merged together for me. I can get you a date for that, but it was … My recollection? It was pre level four, is my recollection. And out of interest, we now have 3,241 in managed isolation or quarantine. And we’ve had, roughly, give or take, about 25 people who have tested positive for COVID whilst they’ve been in our quarantine or isolation facilities. So it is proving its worth in stopping the spread of COVID.
Press Corps: (18:42)
Press Corps: (18:42)
Prime Minister, on social distancing, there’s a video online of a [inaudible 00:18:47] out in Auckland. Have you seen that? And what’s your message for businesses who want to operate but obviously they’re not getting social distancing right?
Jacinda Ardern: (18:54)
I believe I’ve seen the same; I’ve seen still images rather than a video, and that caused me enough concern. I saw multiple angles of it. So it caught the attention of members of the public, which tells me that by and large people absolutely know what we need to be doing at level three, but clearly that wasn’t happening in this scenario. We have had confirmation though from officials this morning that they had been directly in contact, I’m told, with the head office of that operation, in order to ensure they understand their obligations, and that they will manage their ongoing trade from here on. Because they certainly didn’t fulfill those obligations last night.
Jacinda Ardern: (19:37)
Yep. I’ll let you follow up.
Press Corps: (19:37)
On your phone call with the Queen last time, what was the purpose of that phone call and what did you discuss?
Jacinda Ardern: (19:41)
So as I mentioned, we received a message several days ago now just suggesting that Her Majesty was eager to touch base and hear how New Zealand was doing under the circumstances of the global pandemic. And so while it’s not general practice to comment to any detailed degree on the conversation, what I came away with was a very genuine and strong sense that Her Majesty is really interested in how we’re doing, and was heartened to hear that we’re doing okay.
Press Corps: (20:13)
Jacinda Ardern: (20:13)
Press Corps: (20:15)
For a number of years now, you’ve told us-
Jacinda Ardern: (20:16)
Oh, I’ve come to you twice. I meant to go to Henry.
Prime Minister, is it helpful for the foreign minister to share advice that was rejected by Cabinet, seemingly with a political bent, to prove that the government is not being [inaudible 00:20:30] by the health minister?
Jacinda Ardern: (20:31)
We work on proactive release and so this is information that would have been public anyway, and will be.
Jacinda Ardern: (20:35)
Press Corps: (20:35)
So just to follow up on Henry, New Zealanders who are returning home to be with dying relatives are still being subject to that 14 day quarantine. Under those circumstances, wouldn’t there be grounds for an exception?
Jacinda Ardern: (20:47)
Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve heard that this might be based on an actual case, so I’ll hand over to Dr. Bloomfield.
Dr. Bloomfield: (20:53)
Yes. Thanks, Prime Minister.
Dr. Bloomfield: (20:54)
So look, there is a process for seeking an exemption or an exception for those people coming into the country. They are granted under very limited circumstances. Clearly, as I’ve said, the border remains, and managing the risk at the border remains, a really important part of our, both, alert level four and alert level three stance. So at the moment, there is an exception process. People can apply and they do. And obviously where circumstances are where there is a dying relative, we take a very compassionate look at that. But we also have to weigh that up against the overall approach to protect all New Zealanders. I have asked the team to, as we start to prepare for a move to alert level two, to revisit that as well and just see what other things could be put in place to help manage that risk.
Press Corps: (21:38)
Press Corps: (21:39)
… We have spoken to have described the process as slow and unwieldy, in terms of making that application.
Dr. Bloomfield: (21:47)
Well I’m sorry if that was their experience, and I’ll take that feedback back. And obviously we recognize the urgency of these sorts of decisions, so I’ll make sure that the processes is expeditious and fair.
Jacinda Ardern: (22:00)
And this is incredibly difficult, no matter what way you look at it. But you also see that …
Jacinda Ardern: (22:03)
… difficult, no matter what way you look at it, but you also see that from the statistics we’ve provided, they’d all be at a small number. We’ve also seen COVID cases coming in from international travel. We have to make sure that in allowing and enabling people to see family members they’re desperate to see that we don’t have double tragedy.
Speaker 1: (22:19)
What measures should food delivery drivers be taking? Are you concerned that they could potentially be a victim by going from restaurants, cafes into people’s homes and workplaces?
Dr Winfield: (22:28)
Well, they could potentially and therefore it’s very important they’ve got both the understanding of what hygiene measures they need to take, including regular use of hand gels would be the most practical, wearing a mask if needs be. However, importantly also their employer needs to, or the the place they are servicing, needs to also be facilitating that for them. It is very important, but we have had experience of this through alert level four with couriers operating quite high volumes during alert level four to get goods and services out there. So I think people understand what the expectations are and it’s very important that they abide by them.
Speaker 1: (23:06)
You mean that they wear PPE masks?
Dr Winfield: (23:10)
Not specifically. They shouldn’t need a mask if they are not symptomatic in which case they shouldn’t be going to work and if they are not having face to face contact with them, and that’s the whole point of the deliveries, they need to be contactless. The key thing is the regular hand-washing and good hygiene within their vehicles.
Speaker 2: (23:26)
Is there an update on those New Zealanders returning from overseas sharing some of the costs of quarantine?
Jacinda Ardern: (23:33)
I have asked for another paper to come back to cabinet. One of the things that we’ve been mindful is we’re trying to reach a point where actually we’re bringing back all those who are caught up in the circumstances of COVID-19 through no fault of their own. And we were getting to a point where there is more deliberate decision making because then people know they’re going to encounter these costs in particular. So we have asked officials to provide us extra advice so we can work through what a cost recovery regime will look like in the future.
Speaker 3: (24:01)
Prime Minister, I’m going to start simple [inaudible 00:24:06] spoke of unemployment yesterday she confirmed that unemployment will be likely to go out post COVID, which isn’t a surprise, but there is concern within some modern communities that life after COVID will just continue to extend the gap between the rich and the poor. What can you do, what will you be doing to make sure that doesn’t happen?
Jacinda Ardern: (24:24)
You will have heard me say from this podium before that this has to be an opportunity for us to finally close the inequities that we have in New Zealand and that we’ve had for a persistent amount of time. Now, whether or not it’s the guidance that you see from the State Services Commission saying today to exercise wage restraint for those on higher incomes, but to consider the wage situation of those on lower incomes. Or whether it’s the work that we’re proactively doing to redeploy, to drive a high wage economy, to see that we don’t replace those industries that traditionally have had lower wages with more lower wages. This is an opportunity and we need to use it.
Speaker 3: (25:03)
Your expectation as the Prime Minister then we look forward three months, six months, one year, two years that they gap will be less as opposed to going wider?
Jacinda Ardern: (25:13)
Our goal as a government has always been to reduce inequalities. That is now a focus now more than ever. [inaudible 00:25:19]
Speaker 4: (25:19)
Thank you. On the 23rd of March, you told us that we needed to stay home and save lives. The day that you announced the lockdown, stay home, save lives or tens of thousands of New Zealanders could die. Was it a surprise to you then that in the immediate wake of that advice, two days later on the day of the lockdown, your health minister hired a moving company and moved house?
Jacinda Ardern: (25:39)
No, I was aware that the minister before lockdown had moved home before lockdown. This was something that he completed a sale before even New Zealand even had a COVID case.
Speaker 2: (25:51)
It was on the day, the day that he moved was the day that we went into lock down. What do you say to all of those other New Zealanders who have deferred their settlement or didn’t move into their new homes or given warnings by police for trying to move house at level three or level four?
Jacinda Ardern: (26:05)
My message is very, very simple. I will not hesitate to act when it comes to a minister who I believe warrants my action against them. And you’ve already seen that. In this case, I do not believe that is the case based on what I have been advised.
Speaker 2: (26:22)
The two days that we were on level three that was just basically so that the lockdown door wasn’t slammed in our face, wasn’t it? It wasn’t to try and sneak through a kind of moving date as the minister did on the day that we went into lck down?
Jacinda Ardern: (26:30)
Again, and that’s not how I would characterize things. For me, I’m very clear. You have already seen that if I believe it’s warranted for a minister to be severely reprimanded, for demotion to occur, I will not hesitate on that. But based on the information I’ve received, I do not believe that is warranted in this case. [crosstalk 00:26:48] the back.
Speaker 4: (26:48)
You think it’s fine to move house on the day that the country went into lockdown cause that wasn’t the advice-
Jacinda Ardern: (26:51)
Again, I’ve already shared with you my exact principle in dealing with these kinds of situations. You’ll have already seen, I won’t hesitate to act if that is what is required, but based on the information I have, that is not what is required here. There in the back.
Speaker 5: (27:05)
What do you make of suggestions in the past few days, including at [inaudible 00:27:09] Committee by submitters today that New Zealand was unprepared for a pandemic in part due to under investments in public health and the fragmentation of those functions across the health sector?
Jacinda Ardern: (27:20)
Yeah, so two comments I would make. Firstly, it is very difficult for the world to have actually been well prepared for what has become a one in 100 year global pandemic. And I think you’ll see to varying degrees that has been manifest for all of us. But when it comes to actually public health, I would agree that we do need to rebuild our health system, in particular the investment in public health. That is something that I would have said even beforeCOVID-19 and was part of this government’s agenda. But what we’re seeing is some specific elements of public health that did need that extra investment and modernization. Previously there probably hasn’t been the reason for PHUs who have operated separately to necessarily have the national footing that we now see as so, so necessary, dealing with TB, dealing with rheumatic fever. We may well have had that advice post measles, but we’re still in the aftermath of working through that to have made that determination. But the fact we’ve managed to change our footing within a month, I think demonstrates that we can be agile. [crosstalk 00:28:24] Yes, Jason.
For a number of years now you’ve told us when we’ve asked about what happened in cabinet that you don’t discuss what happens in cabinet. So what changed today that made the deputy prime minister come up and so overtly talk about something so substantial that happened in cabinet. What’s the difference?
Jacinda Ardern: (28:39)
Jason, you’ll find that I usually say that when you’re fishing.
Speaker 6: (28:43)
Dr Winfield, there’s a call from the Primary Teachers Union for teachers to be made a priority group for flu jabs. Is that in the pipeline?
Dr Winfield: (28:50)
Well actually now any New Zealander can get a flu jab. So from this week it’s been opened up not just to those vulnerable groups that are publicly funded, but any New Zealander including our school teachers can get a jab. And it sounds like from the number of our students that are at school, there might be an opportunity to do that. I recognize teachers are actually doing a lot of teaching online still for all those students at home but all New Zealanders are now able to get a flu jab and I would encourage them to do so.
Jacinda Ardern: (29:18)
[crosstalk 00:29:18] Yeah.
Speaker 7: (29:19)
I mean we saw another case linked to it yesterday and so how are we still seeing cases [crosstalk 00:29:25] are so far along [inaudible 00:29:26] timeline?
Dr Winfield: (29:26)
Yeah, so just a comment on the case yesterday. This was someone who had only been tested in the last few days but had actually been symptomatic earlier in April. So one of the things we’re doing is actually having a really good look at that cluster because I think it can tell us a lot about the transmission of this virus in a school group either between students or between teachers and students, between teachers and teachers and also within family settings. So we’re looking to do a study there to see what was the pattern of infection because I think it will inform us and in fact I think will inform a scientific body of knowledge globally about just how to manage these situations.
Jacinda Ardern: (30:08)
It tells us so there’s a long tail to COVID though when you have that length of time and still someone testing positive.
Dr Winfield: (30:14)
Yes. We’ve seen this with other clusters as well, including the Bluff one.
Speaker 8: (30:19)
[crosstalk 00:30:19] random testing is taking place this week [inaudible 00:30:22] and where it’s happening and if we’re making the most of our increased capacity for testing?
Dr Winfield: (30:27)
Yes. So the priority for testing through alert level three remains first of all finding any symptomatic people, so case finding. Secondly, we’ve asked all the district health boards to have a very planned approach to, not random testing but testing specific populations and settings including in healthcare settings, age residential care settings where there are essential workers like supermarkets that might have exposure to members of the public quite frequently. And so that’s part of our, what I would call surveillance testing and that’s moving into a much more systematic approach. And as we move to alert level two, we will do that in a way that is informed by epidemiological advice around what sampling frames we need to make sure we are testing sufficient New Zealanders in different regions and from different ethnic groups to get a really clear picture of whether there is any underlying infection there that we’re not detecting through case finding.
Speaker 9: (31:22)
Should there be a limit on the number of people from-
Dr Winfield: (31:25)
Sorry, there was a follow up.
Speaker 8: (31:28)
[inaudible 00:31:28] details.
Dr Winfield: (31:28)
Look, we can provide some, it’s happening in a different, I’ve got… There are some details back in the ministry about what different DHBs are doing and some of them have been putting this up on their websites, so we’ll talk with them about making available on their websites an outline of what testing they’re planning over this next couple weeks.
Jacinda Ardern: (31:45)
We can probably bring you an update tomorrow as well. Yeah, [crosstalk 00:31:48]
Speaker 9: (31:48)
Prime Minister, should there be a limit on the number of people from a bubble that can collect takeaway food because in some of the images there’s groups of three or four people, presumably from the same bubble, and that means there’s less space for everyone else to socially distance.
Jacinda Ardern: (32:00)
Yeah. I take your point. I mean we haven’t put out that same level of specificity, but it’s fair to say the guidelines that we put out at level four around limiting people’s movements, limiting being out and about limiting being in the supermarket, they all still apply and so again, we just want people to stick to those same principles now, even though you have the joy of being able to queue, which has obviously become a social activity for some bubbles. Yeah, [crosstalk 00:32:24]
Speaker 10: (32:24)
Dr Winfield, what have the testing results been for the residents of the Hawke’s Bay Holiday Park where one resident tested positive for the virus?
Dr Winfield: (32:31)
I don’t have the final results because most of those swabs were taken yesterday but if they are all back and make it available, we’ll make it available. What I can say is of all the tests done yesterday, which will have included some of those processed and perhaps all of them, none of those were positive, but we can confirm that.
Speaker 10: (32:49)
[inaudible 00:32:49] understanding that two staff members from the same risk time of now tested positive despite having no symptoms?
Dr Winfield: (32:54)
Well, actually we’ve seen this in other age residential care facilities and over the last two weeks we’ve changed our approach nationally to, if we do get a case in a fac-
Dr. Bloomfield: (33:03)
So we’ve changed our approach nationally to if we do get a case in a facility, to testing all residents and staff regardless of symptoms and that’s now an embedded part of our routine approach to infections in these facilities.
Jacinda Ardern: (33:13)
As is the testing protocols for asymptomatic testing of close context when someone is an essential worker in a place where there’s high contact with people. So asymptomatic testing is happening under those scenarios.
Speaker 12: (33:24)
[crosstalk 00:33:24] Quickly, why are midwives’ extra costs still not being funded and why hasn’t Cabinet signed off on the Cabinet document that would fund them?
Jacinda Ardern: (33:34)
So, we have said that we do want to cover off legitimate costs for health practitioners for COVID-19, and we’re still in the process of working through what the detail of some of that would imply, and that includes for maternity services. I haven’t got a timeline for you, but I think it’s under active consideration by the Ministry of Health at the moment. [crosstalk 00:33:51].
Speaker 13: (33:50)
What are your thoughts on David Clark going forward? Is his jobs safe as Health Minister or as we come out of lockdown, is it something you’ll be reviewing?
Jacinda Ardern: (33:59)
He remains as our Health Minister. I know I’ve had those ongoing questions from time to time, but I can tell you that you can put a hypothetical and have any minister’s name in there around the ongoing future, and my answer to this will be a that until I say otherwise, people are in their jobs, but I expect everyone to maintain standards throughout their role as ministers, and I give no minister guarantees about anyone’s future because we all have to maintain standards all the way through our practice in these roles. [crosstalk 00:34:26]
Speaker 14: (34:27)
Professor Goldman told the Epidemic Response Committee this morning that we should have had really strict border measures in the middle of February. Was that ever considered? And he also said that the high trust sort of isolation model was flawed and it should have been a lower trust model given what he’d observed in other countries like Taiwan where the people even turned their phones off. They were checked on immediately.
Jacinda Ardern: (34:49)
Yeah, I don’t think, Oh, sorry. You didn’t mean that for me.
Speaker 14: (34:54)
For both of you.
Jacinda Ardern: (34:55)
How about I have a go first?
Dr. Bloomfield: (34:56)
We can both take turn on that one.
Jacinda Ardern: (34:58)
Well, first thing I would say is that I wouldn’t have called it simply a high trust model. There were checks in place. We did have the police involved. We had Healthline involved. But it became very clear to us that not only did we need a more rigorous approach, we needed to stop household transmission. So at a point where we were able to manage a system where everyone was quarantined, keeping in mind we had tens of thousands of people returning in those early days, we moved to that. On the question of timeliness, New Zealand 20 days after our first class closed our borders to foreign travelers, now that made us amongst the first in the world to have done that. And so I think that was a significant move by us and we did it very, very early on in our COVID journey. [crosstalk 00:35:45]
Dr. Bloomfield: (35:44)
Just a follow-up comment on that. You have to live life forward, but you understand that. Looking back at the time we were making decisions but for, as the Prime Minister said, well before other countries were based on the same information. And I think based on the information we had, remembering that when we stood up our National Health Coordination Center, there were less than 300 cases globally of this disease and five deaths, and we were incredibly responsive to what we saw emerging and responded, as I’ve said a number of times, we were constantly thinking, what do we need to do in two weeks time and then do it today? And so I think the success of our approach is evident in the position we find ourselves today, which is not unique, but we are amongst a very small number of countries in this very fortunate position that all New Zealanders had put us in where we now have choices about what steps we take next.
Dr. Bloomfield: (36:46)
Jacinda Ardern: (36:46)
Sure, Derek, last one.
You just said that the fact that we didn’t have obviously the logistics to set that up at the border is huge.
Jacinda Ardern: (36:55)
Capacity, we’ve talked about that.
Yeah. But he said the fact that we couldn’t do that in mid-February was a reflection of how under-resourced we were in our pandemic plan and that showed that we were basically caught with our pants down.
Jacinda Ardern: (37:07)
Well, I would disagree with that, but…
Dr. Bloomfield: (37:09)
Yeah, I mean the proof’s in the pudding isn’t it? I think for an under-prepared or ill-prepared country, we’ve done remarkably well and I don’t think we were all prepared. We have got a very comprehensive plan. We responded very promptly and that was not just a health effort, that was an all of government effort right from day one. And I think the evidence is in the position we find ourselves now.
Jacinda Ardern: (37:31)
I think that’s the best counter argument we could have is that if that’s his claim about where we stood, then how is it that we’ve managed to produce what we have?
Speaker 15: (37:40)
[crosstalk 00:37:40] You talked about the tale of COVID there.
Jacinda Ardern: (37:42)
Speaker 15: (37:43)
What are the concerns that there are people out there who have had it, who have been told that they have recovered, and then it comes back again and then they’re out there, like this case, and passing it on in level three where things aren’t so strict?
Jacinda Ardern: (37:58)
We’ve been having this discussion. Of course there is a threshold that needs to be met for someone to have been declared recovered. And the person that tested positive had not been declared recovered. But what we’re discussing now is just the length of time that COVID can take. And so we’ve had this discussion before, and I’ll hand over to Dr. Bloomfield on that, but this idea that you can have COVID for a long period of time, and that it can have not necessarily be gone and come back, but actually just persist with you for quite some period. So we’ve been talking about what the work the technical advisory group can do to help us get reassurance that people who’ve recovered genuinely have.
Dr. Bloomfield: (38:33)
Yes, and I think further to that, as this makes the physical distancing aspect of alert level three and beyond really important, because the way if people do have residual infection, it does not mean they are infectious, and if they are, the way they will not pass that on, including if they’re asymptomatic, is by maintaining physical distance and by good hygiene practice. So that’s what everyone needs to do.
Speaker 16: (38:56)
[crosstalk 00:38:56] Upstand the quarantine then for people who did get positive?
Dr. Bloomfield: (39:02)
Yes, if we find, for example, the advice of the technical advisory group is to use testing as part of confirming whether people are recovered, then we would use extended isolation to help provide a buffer to make sure that they weren’t infectious and likely then to infect others.
Jacinda Ardern: (39:20)
[crosstalk 00:39:20] I’ll finish up with Ben.
Can I return to the subject of Jason’s earlier question about why is that the minute Deputy Prime Minister was able to come in and release information about a Cabinet disagreement today? Is this a new era of [crosstalk 00:06:32]-
Jacinda Ardern: (39:31)
Two quick clarifications. I don’t think I’m ever [inaudible 00:00:39:37], but two clarifications. The first is that it wasn’t a Cabinet disagreement. It was advice from a department that as a whole Cabinet did not share that view and that is not unusual. You’ll often receive Cabinet papers that will hold a view that is not overall supported by the entire paper it even sits within. So it wasn’t a Cabinet disagreement as we would frame it. Cabinet disagreement is when we can’t form consensus as a group of ministers.
Jacinda Ardern: (40:05)
The second point that I would make is I frequently come down and share views and decisions that are made, and we release Cabinet papers proactively that then demonstrate where a department takes a view counter to a decision we’ve made. So it’s not at all unusual for that to have been done. And that’s what the Deputy Prime Minister has done today, and he did it with my full knowledge, so I see nothing unusual about that at all. Okay. [crosstalk 00:40:30] Very, very last one. Jenna, I’ll give it to you.
Speaker 17: (40:33)
Mental health workers are warning that isolation and redundancies are causing more people to suffer from mental health problems. Does that worry you, and what has the government doing to mitigate the mental health fallout of the response?
Jacinda Ardern: (40:44)
All the way through we’ve been concerned about mental health. Right before even making a decision about lockdown, this was something we were concerned about. We’ve invested heavily in mental health responses, whether or not it’s access to 1737, the mental health telehealth service, or actively promoting and supporting apps that people have been able to access from home, that has been a strong part of our in-isolation response to mental health. We also know one of the best things we can do is try and get back to normality as soon as we can safely. Okay, thanks everyone.