Apr 7, 2020
New Zealand COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 7
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director of Health Ashley Bloomfield held a New Zealand coronavirus press briefing on April 7. Full transcript is here.
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Jacinda Ardern: (00:22)
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to day 13 of our COVID alert level four lockdown and update. We’ll start with the update today from the director general of health, and then I will come back for some opening remarks. You’ll note that we have moved to a combined press conference set simply as we transition from really the early stages of alert level four and as we see some of those operational updates lessen a little bit. We will still be making sure that we have different operational leads who are available. For instance, the commissioner of police and so on, just to pick up any questions across those areas. In recognition though of a combined press conference, I will make sure that we linger longer in order to pick up any questions that you might have. But director general, we’ll start with you.
Ashley Bloomfield: (01:07)
Thank you, Prime Minister. [foreign language 00:01:08]. Today, there are a total of 54 new cases to report. 32 of these are confirmed cases, and 22 are probable cases. There are no additional deaths to report, and we can report that 241 people have now recovered from the COVID-19 infection. So the new total combined of cases both confirmed and probable in New Zealand today is 1,160. Today, there are 12 people in hospital and four of these are in intensive care units around the country. One in Wellington, one in Waitemata, one in Counties Manukau, and one in Southern District Health Board. One of those people is in a critical condition, and one person has been discharged from hospital since our update yesterday. For the cases we have information on, 42% are linked to overseas travel, so that proportion continues to drop, and 41% contact of known existing cases. We have confirmed community transmission at 2%, the balance we continue to investigate to get to the bottom of where they may have been infected.
Ashley Bloomfield: (02:22)
The ethnic breakdown is as follows: 73.3% European, 8.5% Asian, Maori is 7.8%, and Pacific 3.4%. As usual, we will publish all the details including demographic information on our website this afternoon. We’re continuing to see testing happening across the country. The seven day rolling average of the number of tests is 3,063. The total tests undertaken to date is 42,826, and yesterday they were 2,908 tests undertaken. We will be also publishing that daily test number on our website, and we will do that from right from the start going right back to when we first started testing, so that people can map, if they wish to, the number of tests undertaken each day. Our test capacity, despite that increase in test numbers gradually, continues to increase. As of today, we have enough tests onshore, complete tests, to do 44,000 tests. That will be up to between 50 and 60,000 even with ongoing testing by the end of this week. We have 50,000 nasal swabs and stock and are expecting a through the 250,000 such swabs over the coming three to four weeks from a local supplier.
Ashley Bloomfield: (03:45)
People will be interested to know that the World Health Organization has updated its advice on the use of masks, in particular in the general population. Just in summary, the WHO does not recommend the use of medical masks by the general public, except in particular circumstances where someone is sick and wearing a mask protects others, or someone who is caring for a sick person, and the mask can help to protect them. That advice is on the WHO website.
Ashley Bloomfield: (04:15)
And a final comment, just to reiterate my point from yesterday, if you need medical attention for anything, whether it’s COVID symptoms or a non-COVID illness, any exacerbation of an existing illness, please do seek medical attention promptly. All general practices and other primary care providers are able to attend to your needs, and please get onto that quickly. Just to clarify that travel for essential health care in another region, essential medical care is classified as essential travel, and people should undertake that travel to get care that might be required out of the district. The advice on our website will be being updated today. I’ll hand back to the prime minister.
Jacinda Ardern: (04:57)
Thank you, Ashley. To begin with, today, I wish to speak about the actions of the Minister of Health. As you all have heard, last night David Clark advised me that he drove his family to the beach for a walk in the early stages of the lockdown. He also offered me his resignation. I want to share with you what I shared with him. Under normal circumstances, I would sack the minister. What he did was wrong and there are no excuses, but my priority above all else is our collective fight against COVID-19. That requires leadership amongst our DHBs. It requires a good understanding of workforce issues. It requires an intimate knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of our health system, which we have been working so hard to rebuild. And, of course, it requires knowledge of the complex nature of this global pandemic and what it means here in New Zealand.
Jacinda Ardern: (05:58)
Simply put, I determined that we cannot afford massive disruption in the health sector or to our response, because David Clark continues to possess what we require as our health minister to take on COVID-19. For that reason and that reason alone, Dr. Clark will maintain his role, but he broke the rules and he does need to pay a price. So, while he maintains his health portfolio, I have stripped him of his role as associate finance minister and demoted him to the bottom of our cabinet rankings. His associate finance minister delegations revert to the minister of finance, with the exception of where they relate to budget oversight of Minister Robertson’s other portfolios. They will go to Minister Parker. These changes are effective immediately. David Clark is under no illusions that I expect better, and so does New Zealand.
Jacinda Ardern: (06:55)
Onto COVID-19 related matters, I can also report that we do, as the director general of health says, continue to ramp up our testing capacity. We are testing more and more people, and the growth in the number of new cases remains relatively consistent. While I still urge caution, this does suggest that what we are doing as a nation is working. This was echoed earlier today on Nine to Noon by John McDermott, who leads a team of data scientists that I referenced on Sunday. He said over the next day or so, we could continue to see the impacts of alert level four. He says, ” When numbers start to fall, that is the first indication your interventions working.”
Jacinda Ardern: (07:35)
John explains we need to go through three phases. You start with outbreak, then secondly you want linear, which we have seen over the past few days. Thirdly is the phase where you see cases start to fall. He is cautiously optimistic that what we’re doing with the lockdown is making a difference, but as with any data analysis, there are always possibilities of setbacks. But, for the moment, we do appear at this early stage to be on track, another reason, if one was needed, of the need to stay at home. Now is not the time to change any of our behaviors. Now, that doesn’t make the physical isolation any easier, so I also note today that we have announced a range of support being rolled out to help look after people, look after their mental health as we fight COVID-19. Details of Tangata Pacific communities’ health response to the virus has also been released.
Jacinda Ardern: (08:33)
I can also share that as of last night, the government’s wage subsidy scheme has provided support to preserve the jobs of over one million New Zealanders. The latest numbers show over 435,000 applications have been made, almost 10,000 yesterday alone, and that has seen over 6.6 billion paid out to help retain 1,073, 120 workers. Finally, the foreign minister has just announced that New Zealand will enter into transit arrangements with a range of countries to make it easier for each other’s citizens to get home. As you know, a major barrier to New Zealand is getting back here at the moment, as the transit restrictions imposed by many other countries. We, in tune, are also receiving an increasing number of requests from foreign governments to allow their nationals to transit through Auckland. I note that while this is a welcome development and regardless of the countries involved, we will maintain strict criteria in determining the basis on which people can transit through New Zealand in order to protect public health and meet our level four requirements. That includes that any transiting passengers absolutely remain Airside.
Jacinda Ardern: (09:51)
Lastly, I do want to acknowledge the news this morning that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is currently in intensive care. Upon learning, the prime minister had tested positive for COVID-19 some days ago now, I sent a message to him to pass on New Zealand’s best wishes. He replied to that message and said that his thoughts were also, “with all our friends in New Zealand.” This more than ever is a time when every nation is connected, and I know we want everyone in the UK, especially the prime minister, to know that we are thinking of them. Now, I’m happy to take your questions.
Speaker 1: (10:26)
Prime Minister, how can David Clark do his job effectively when he doesn’t have the moral authority?
Jacinda Ardern: (10:30)
He has made a massive mistake. What he did was wrong and there are no excuses for it, but I need to make decisions now in the best interest of New Zealand. Disrupting our current plans to take on this global pandemic by removing the minister of health, in my mind, was not in the best interest of New Zealand.
Speaker 1: (10:49)
[crosstalk 00:10:49] four days before his memory was jogged about this other breach?
Jacinda Ardern: (10:55)
None of that matters. I wasn’t interested in excuses. He wasn’t interested particularly in offering them. He’s made a mistake. He needs to pay the price, and he is.
Speaker 1: (11:02)
It was just because he thought he’d been caught though, because media put requests into his office yesterday afternoon about other breaches and whether he’d driven to other locations for recreation activity. He only came clean because he thought he was-
Jacinda Ardern: (11:11)
That is not the case. That is not the case. It was offered up over the course of him preparing for select committee this morning. But regardless of how it came up, regardless, there is no excuse. It was wrong. He needs to pay the price, but the price cannot be paid through our response to this global pandemic. We have a job to do, and I’m determined that we need to get on with it.
Speaker 1: (11:34)
[crosstalk 00:11:36]. How does he keep operating though when he’s got this thing hanging over his head, when you’ve said, “In a different circumstance, I’d sack you.”
Jacinda Ardern: (11:42)
Yeah. By acknowledging that he was wrong, by acknowledging that under different circumstances he would have lost his job, but he knows as well as I do that we have to put New Zealand first, and we have to put the response to this global pandemic first. Nothing else matters right now.
Speaker 1: (11:58)
[crosstalk 00:11:58] will you reconsider once the lockdown’s over?
Jacinda Ardern: (12:03)
At the moment, our entire focus is on this pandemic, and we will have this with us for many, many months to come. I’m focused on getting on with it now, and he needs to to.
Speaker 1: (12:11)
[crosstalk 00:12:14]. Prime Minister, how [inaudible 00:12:15].
Jacinda Ardern: (12:15)
I’ll come back to you.
Speaker 2: (12:17)
Is it appropriate that health is now the lowest ranking portfolio in cabinet, particularly given the crisis we’re in?
Jacinda Ardern: (12:22)
He’s had to pay a personal price for this, but I’m determined that our health system will not.
Speaker 3: (12:26)
Prime Minister, many have lost loved ones and haven’t been able to give them proper sendoffs because of the lockdown and made immense sacrifices. Women haven’t been able to have people support them during childbirth or after childbirth. What message does David Clark’s actions, what does it send to those people who have made those sacrifices or our frontline workers who are taking those risks every single day, and [crosstalk 00:12:46].
Jacinda Ardern: (12:48)
This is why you will hear no defense, no excuse. He made a mistake. He must pay the price, but the price cannot be in our response to COVID-19. I have a duty of care to New Zealand, and it was my determination that removing him from …
Jacinda Ardern: (13:03)
… off Kia to New Zealand, and it was my determination that removing him from this role at this time would not be in the best interest of that response that we must focus on.
Speaker 5: (13:10)
When we come out of this thing, you’ll sick him immediately?
Jacinda Ardern: (13:12)
Again, I am totally focused on this and not on hypotheticals. We need to get on with the job.
Speaker 6: (13:18)
And how can he continue when he effectively has no credibility?
Jacinda Ardern: (13:22)
Again, as I say, my focus is on responding to pandemic and I’ve set out a number of different areas where it is critical that we have deep prior knowledge, the role that he must play within DHBs, the personalities he needs to know and understand across our health system, and the deficiencies that already exist in our health system we were well aware of and need to fix. I cannot lose the work that’s been done nor the prior knowledge of the health system in this pandemic. He holds that so we will hold onto that, but he must pay a price.
Speaker 7: (13:54)
Do you think it would be challenging to bring someone up to speed?
Jacinda Ardern: (14:00)
Speaker 7: (14:03)
In terms of timing, how long do you think it would have taken?
Jacinda Ardern: (14:05)
Yes, it would have been challenging. And keeping in mind that it’s not just of course the knowledge of this pandemic itself and its impact on New Zealand, but also the prior knowledge of our health system and where there are issues within our health system. I was not willing to sacrifice the time that would be required to bring someone up to speed when we are in the middle of a global pandemic. That would not have been the right decision for New Zealand.
Speaker 7: (14:33)
Sorry, this is still on this topic. [inaudible 00:14:37] Just push him to the side because I mean you’re saying you don’t have confidence and we’re in the middle of a health pandemic and the health minister, his neck’s [crosstalk 00:14:47].
Jacinda Ardern: (14:47)
No, I have expressed of course through all of the details I’ve outlined to you about the prior knowledge required to do this job well, the standing that was currently required within his knowledge of the health system, I needed someone who has that to continue in this job, not someone to start fresh. Not we’re in the middle of a global crisis. I’ve determined that this is the right thing to do, but he still must pay a price.
Speaker 5: (15:13)
Sorry, can I stick one more on there? Is he actually the guy for the job? Because we counted more than a dozen times that he had to kick to Dr. Bloomfield this morning during the committee because he simply couldn’t answer the questions. So is he actually the guy for the job?
Jacinda Ardern: (15:24)
Oh look, I haven’t seen every single, I’ve seen the outline of the slit committee today, so I can’t respond to individual questions around detail that he may have determined to be operational. That’s not unfair.
Speaker 8: (15:38)
[inaudible 00:15:38] If he was the person who had all the information, he’d be here in Wellington fronting these daily briefings?
Jacinda Ardern: (15:41)
Again, I said right from the beginning, my expectation was that ministers fulfill the obligations we are expecting of every other New Zealander, and that is why I am here now reprimanding him, steeping him down from other portfolios and sliding him down the cabinet rankings. He must be a role model, but equally I will not sacrifice our response to COVID-19. That has to be my absolute focus.
Speaker 9: (16:07)
Given the centrality of the health focus at the moment, why don’t you take on the health minister role by yourself?
Jacinda Ardern: (16:12)
Well, I of course have a role to play here, but I also have a role to play in supporting the minister of finance in the economic response, the welfare and wellbeing response, even some of the recovery packages that are specific to my areas too. My job is to continue to keep our all of government response going. I’d need that additional focus on our health response, and the minister of health provides that.
Speaker 10: (16:37)
[crosstalk 00:16:37] Know what the rules are-
Jacinda Ardern: (16:41)
I’ve reminded them. I’ve reminded both our ministers and every member of my caucus, and I think it’s obvious what our expectations are. I’ve been up here repeating them daily. I don’t think that’s been lost on anyone. It is certainly not lost on the minister of health.
Speaker 11: (16:56)
Discussion this morning with the COVID committee about mandatory quarantining, toughening up quarantines for people coming back.
Jacinda Ardern: (17:12)
Yes, there was some discussion of that. I’m not expecting final advice and recommendations in the next… I’m expecting them very shortly. There was a preliminary discussion though around our expectations and giving a steer to officials.
Speaker 12: (17:21)
Compliance they speaked of, were ministers concerned that this group hadn’t been monitored as closely as they should have been?
Jacinda Ardern: (17:31)
Well I think you’ve seen from every decision we’ve made at the border, that we see it as an ongoing point of risk. And so we want to make sure that we remove that risk as much as possible. That’s why we’ve only continued to ramp up. So quite frankly, regardless of the enforcement, I really want a water tight system at our border and I think we can do better on that.
Speaker 13: (17:57)
[crosstalk 00:17:57] was saying he feels that our quarantine at the border could end up lasting longer than four weeks because they’re not strong enough, and he feels that our inability to trace the pace when it comes to contact could be our achilles heel.
Jacinda Ardern: (18:11)
Yeah, I did see those comments and I think you’ve always would have heard me say, and perhaps the director general have a comment on this too, that there are those three areas that we must be absolutely watertight on, border restrictions. We did move faster than many other countries and we have reaped the benefits of that. But border restrictions, the work on contact tracing and of course just general use of isolation and quarantining as a part of that. On border restrictions, I’ve already indicated that we will continue to ramp those up and we’ll be doing that shortly. On contact tracing, the director general’s talked about the extra support we’re putting in there, the fact we want that backed up by new technological solutions, and also many of you will have heard Dr. Ayesha Bureau speaking frequently about WHO knowledge there. The ministry of health is proactively bringing her in to undertake an audit of our contact tracing and give us that extra assurance that we are doing everything that we can do. Director general, is there anything you want to say in response to David Skeeks?
Ashley Bloomfield: (19:11)
Yes. Just, I mean two comments, and I agree with what professor Skeek was saying, that actually if we’re going to go for the elimination approach, which is our extended keep it out, stamp it out end for when we moved down out into level three, we need to be very confident we are not leading new cases into the country at the border. So we are providing active advice to cabinet around options there.
Speaker 15: (19:34)
The controls haven’t been water tight. They remain not water tight. And doesn’t risk even from the people that have been allowed-
Jacinda Ardern: (19:41)
Again, I just want to point to the evidence base for that because that’s making the assumption that people who are in self isolation, which we’ve been using as a tool for the whole country, the whole country, we’ve used self isolation for. And for border controls, we’ve used it since February. And I haven’t seen today suggestions that those individuals have been broadly flouting it and infecting people. What we’ve done though is leave no room for human error and leave no room for individuals to flout that because we can’t risk it going forward. So that’s why we’ve continued to ramp up. We now have a situation where well over 1,000 people are in hotels monitored by the government and that will only set to increase.
Speaker 15: (20:26)
The regime being as open to human error, and as open to people-
Jacinda Ardern: (20:30)
So is alert level four. But we have continued to rely on people following the rules, and I haven’t seen suggestions that we have a broad wide ranging breach of that, but equally we don’t want to leave room for that. So that’s why we’ve continued to ramp up at the border.
Speaker 16: (20:49)
[crosstalk 00:20:49] from quarantining all new arrivers immediately?
Jacinda Ardern: (20:52)
So from the very early days where we were asked about it, quite frankly, scale. I don’t think there’s a full appreciation of how many New Zealanders travel abroad. We literally had tens of thousands returning to New Zealand. Now we had a process at the border to make sure that we were picking up symptomatic individuals, that we were giving the full requirements and expectations of them, that health line were checking. So we had measures in place, but you’ll see we’ve continued to stoop them up as we’ve had the capacity and as the numbers have dropped.
Speaker 16: (21:24)
So now that it’s slown to a trickle, can you-
Jacinda Ardern: (21:26)
And as I’ve said, I’ve already flagged that we are looking again to leave no room for error at the border. And so I warn New Zealanders that you can expect at our borders, we will be expecting more of you.
Speaker 17: (21:41)
Should government owned buildings be given [inaudible 00:21:44]?
Jacinda Ardern: (21:45)
That’s not an issue I’ve had raised with me. I wouldn’t mind just having a bit of time to look at that, if you wouldn’t mind.
Speaker 17: (21:50)
What would be your response if an SOE had gone and increased [inaudible 00:08:56]?
Jacinda Ardern: (21:57)
Again, I wouldn’t mind seeing some of the detail on that, but I would apply the same principle for everyone here around providing compassion for those who need compassion at this time, and I would provide that view generally. No exceptions for the government on that.
Speaker 18: (22:08)
And Tim’s Coromandel has said that there are a lot of people that they’ve discovered are flouting lockdown and traveling to holiday homes and they want the region blocked off. Will you entertain their request and how would you block off that region?
Jacinda Ardern: (22:23)
Yeah, I think we do need to send a clear message as we come into Easter. The same rules apply. The whole notion of stay local applies. And so I know people will be very tempted over this period of time, that if they’re in a position where they have a home some distance from where they are, stay where you are. Just because it’s Easter does not mean that the rules of alert level four have changed. Director general, you might have more to say on that perhaps because it is some public messaging we’ve been trying to share.
Ashley Bloomfield: (22:52)
Look, I think you’ve narrowed it PM. If we are going to make the most of this period in this alert level, and the signs are promising, cautiously optimistic, then everyone needs to keep their foot on the pedal and that includes over Easter. Have a staycation.
Jacinda Ardern: (23:10)
Speaker 19: (23:12)
What are your thoughts on the health portfolio now being the lowest rank in [inaudible 00:10:20]? How you do that given the climate that we’re in at the moment?
Jacinda Ardern: (23:20)
I’m going to allow the director general to answer that himself, but I’m going to jump in if we have too many political questions going to the-
Ashley Bloomfield: (23:26)
Well, I’ll continue to work very closely with the minister of health as I have done since I started in the role.
Speaker 20: (23:31)
Do you have any update on the timing of the… Apparently something looking at the price [inaudible 00:10:46]?
Jacinda Ardern: (23:45)
Yes, so we do. Under certain circumstances there is provision for [inaudible 00:23:52] assistance. But that is under very particular circumstances. And they include, for instance, if someone has absolutely no financial ability to extract themselves from a country. Those are made all on a case by case basis by the ministry of foreign affairs and trade on the ground. So I don’t want to say that it’s a blanket provision, but it does exist for emergency situations. On the Peru repatriation flights, there is a charge that they are being treated, but it does not cover the full cost of getting these New Zealanders out. I should be very clear on that. We are underwriting the cost of getting them out. They are being charged for the tickets but not at the full rate of, not full cost recovery, and similar prices to what, for instance, people paid on the recent flight from Peru and Montevideo, so not too dissimilar to what Australia had under these circumstances.
Speaker 20: (24:48)
Do you have recent numbers in terms of how many have registered for their flights?
Jacinda Ardern: (24:48)
No, I do not at this stage. No, but we can probably give it to you. I imagine that they must be fairly close to extracting them given that we have a level of detail now around the price and ticketing for it though.
Speaker 21: (25:01)
It’s the first day by my back of the envelope maths that the number of recovered people outnumbers the number of new cases, 65 to 54 if I’m right. Is this significant and can you expect that to maintain through the flattening?
Ashley Bloomfield: (25:17)
Well, I think the number of recovered cases increasing at a high rate reflects that we did have a period probably a couple of weeks ago where the case numbers were going up at a sharper rate. We will expect the number of… I think we will expect the number of new cases to continue to stay level. And of course we’re looking for that decline. I should say also, and I didn’t mention the clusters, we don’t have any more significant clusters. But the three largest clusters, Marist College one, there is an additional five there. The bluff one, an additional 11. That have been tested and diagnosed and were already in self isolation. So in the Matamata cluster, up to 59 up one. So just over half of our new cases-
Ashley Bloomfield: (26:03)
So, just over half of our new cases are from extent clusters that we know. And we’ve got people in close isolation. And we’re seeing the infection that had happened play out. So, that’s also important to know that quite a lot of our new cases are coming from those close contacts. And we’re not seeing very many now from people coming in across the border, remembering that anyone who comes in symptomatic is immediately quarantined and tested.
Jacinda Ardern: (26:26)
I think it’s also worth noting that I think the last time we had positive cases at this level was roughly two weeks ago. So, that’s also interesting to know. Again, don’t wish to draw conclusions, but it is interesting to see the parallel. Jackson.
Dr. Bloomfield, is the most affected age group still 20 to 29?
Jacinda Ardern: (26:50)
Ashley Bloomfield: (26:51)
That is still the most affected. Actually, I think we categorize it sort of 20 to 29 and then up to 40. And that was just because that was the group traveling back from overseas.
Jacinda Ardern: (26:59)
Yeah. 286 from the 20 to 29 year olds. And the next highest is the 50 to 59. But, yeah. Dr. Bloomfield is absolutely right. The 20 to 49 group really do dominate.
Speaker 22: (27:10)
When asked about nasal swabs, you said there are 50,000 of the nasal tests in the country. So, why are Auckland, Nelson, and other regions shifting to throat swabs because they’ve run out of nasal swabs?
Ashley Bloomfield: (27:22)
Well because they can use throat swabs for doing the nasal pharyngeal swabbing while they wait for more supplies to come. So, every time a DHB gets short, we can get swabs out to them immediately. And they do let us know.
Speaker 22: (27:35)
They’re saying those throat swabs are inferior though. So, why aren’t those 50,000 nasal swabs being distributed more evenly across the country?
Ashley Bloomfield: (27:42)
Well, my hope is that all the DHBs and individual practices are able to get us notice before they run out so we can get the swabs we already have out to them in a timely way.
Jacinda Ardern: (27:53)
Yeah. In the front.
Speaker 23: (27:53)
Dr. Bloomfield, the messaging from the beginning from the government has been that the people that are most vulnerable are 70-plus and those predominantly with respiratory issues. We spoke with some Maori doctors. And given that Maori have a wider range of health issues more so than non-Maori, that actually Maori that are 60-plus can often be the vulnerable group. And that 70-plus is just a generic number that doesn’t quite fit with Maori. What do you say to them?
Ashley Bloomfield: (28:23)
Well, under the current elite level four arrangements, in fact, the advice to everyone is the same. And, for anyone who might be vulnerable because of age or an underlying condition, and it’s a mix of the two, they should be making sure they are staying at home and staying isolated. That’s the best way they can be protected from the virus, regardless of age or indeed of preexisting condition. So, I think in the current arrangements, the advice stands for all groups.
Jacinda Ardern: (28:52)
Just to update you, at the moment, the numbers for Maori who are presenting with COVID-19 is 91. In the back.
Speaker 24: (28:59)
On those abroad, one of the nearly 800 who are in India who are petitioning very strongly for assistance, some of them are very frustrated to see that Kiwis in Peru are being helped.
Jacinda Ardern: (29:08)
Speaker 24: (29:08)
Are there any plans here?
Jacinda Ardern: (29:10)
Yeah. And so, there were some very specific issues around Peru and the ability because of the nature of the lock down to keep them out. And I’ve seen some specific details on others. Obviously, I shared a little bit about Austria yesterday, but I can look into India. I don’t have that in front of me now. But I am aware that that’s one of the areas we’ve got affected New Zealanders too.
Speaker 24: (29:30)
Can I just ask one other question?
Jacinda Ardern: (29:31)
Otherwise, Fiji as well. We’ve got some in Tonga, a small number in Samar, around the world
Speaker 24: (29:37)
On the Ruby Princess.
Jacinda Ardern: (29:38)
Speaker 24: (29:39)
Did the ship see clearance to dock in Tauranga and/or the Bay of Islands? And what was the outcome of this? Do we know about its travels in New Zealand?
Jacinda Ardern: (29:48)
Yes. So, I might ask the Director General to supplement what I’m able to share. I’m familiar with some of their activity in Wellington. And I’m familiar with some of their activity in the Hawke’s Bay. And, of course, you’ll remember that the obligations on a cruise ship such as this is to ensure that anyone who is unwell essentially does not disembark. And so, I know specifically for the Hawke’s Bay, I’ve been advised that those assurances were directly sought from their medical officer of health, from the captain directly before individuals disembarked.
Jacinda Ardern: (30:23)
What I’ll add here is that, on that basis, given you’ll see we have cases in the Hawke’s Bay, I have asked minister Parker to seek legal advice from Crown Law as to whether or not the Ruby Princess, while in New Zealand, fulfilled all of its obligations under our laws. Because, of course, we are now suffering the consequences of cases here in New Zealand as a result of that cruise ship.
Speaker 24: (30:49)
Is it a review? Or would it be sort of like a criminal investigation?
Jacinda Ardern: (30:49)
It’s really… I’m seeking legal advice on whether or not we should be pursuing that further. So, it’s very preliminary stages. But, of course, because they have existing obligations, because those obligations include making sure that people who are unwell essentially do not disembark, and we now have COVID-19 transmission that directly links back to that ship, not from passengers but from people who had contact with passengers, that raises significant questions. And so, I’ve sought legal advice around that. Do you have anything further on that?
Ashley Bloomfield: (31:21)
Just in terms of the question about whether permission was sought to birth and Tauranga of the Bay of Islands, no it wasn’t. The shipping line took the decision to cut the cruise short and head strike from Napier back to Sydney. They went South through the Cook Strait to do so.
Jacinda Ardern: (31:36)
So, they cut off, I think, the last two stops.
Ashley Bloomfield: (31:41)
Jacinda Ardern: (31:41)
The claim there was that they would depart straight after the Hawke’s space. So, that lasts cheek did happen, as I understand, I’m advised that last cheek happened at Hawke’s Bay and then they left. Yeah.
Can you give us an update about how many arrests there have been of people flouting the law so far?
Jacinda Ardern: (31:54)
And every time, usually, I have that number straight in of me, but I haven’t brought it down with me today, Jason.
Ashley Bloomfield: (31:59)
Jacinda Ardern: (31:59)
Oh, do you? Do you mind?
Ashley Bloomfield: (31:59)
I got handed these just before. So, there have been 291 breaches of the CDM Act or the Health Act. 16 people have been prosecuted. 263 warnings and ten youth referrals.
Jacinda Ardern: (32:15)
Speaker 25: (32:16)
On that last question, Tommy [inaudible 00:32:19] should have known better. There was a policeman who was spotted hunting days after the lockdown on the West Coast. I guess he should have known better. But also, a patient went into Invercargill Hospital, knowing that they had COVID-19.
Jacinda Ardern: (32:31)
Speaker 25: (32:31)
And this has now resulted in medical staff having to self-isolate.
Jacinda Ardern: (32:36)
Speaker 25: (32:36)
Do you have a message for these people? And should they face consequences?
Jacinda Ardern: (32:39)
Yeah. I mean, on the issue of the individual who went into hospital, from what I’ve seen of the case, it leaves a strong impression that, in order to excess surgery, that individual was not open about their health status. And that puts them at risk. And it puts the health staff who are there to look after them at risk too.
Jacinda Ardern: (33:04)
Now, I think this feels like an obvious statement to make, but if you have COVID symptoms, if you do not tell health professionals, even before you have contact with them, by picking up the phone you are putting their lives at risk. And we just can’t tolerate that regardless of how urgent someone considers their surgery to be. We cannot tolerate that. That, though, is an issue. And, as to any repercussions for that person, that’s not a matter for me. But my message on it is very clear.
Speaker 25: (33:34)
What about the police officer who was hunting who should’ve known better?
Jacinda Ardern: (33:36)
Yeah. Yeah. Again, they should. Hunting was an area where I will acknowledge, in the early days, I did see some conflicting advice going out on hunting. So, I just see that issue there. But ultimately, that is for the police to follow up on their own team and making sure that they do fulfill the expectations that have been set out for elite level four. Yeah. Right to the back.
Speaker 26: (33:58)
Thousands of people are walking to dairies right now and purchasing products by pressing POS pads.
Jacinda Ardern: (34:05)
Speaker 26: (34:05)
Instead of using contactless payments, because they’re not available.
Jacinda Ardern: (34:07)
Speaker 26: (34:08)
Is that a public health issue? And what are you doing about it?
Jacinda Ardern: (34:10)
Every time you go outside, when you return, wash your hands. I cannot say that often enough. And I say that, if you go to the supermarket. Yes, the supermarkets have actually put in quite rigorous protocols that they’re using, trying to sterilize trolley handles, trying to make sure that they give people the ability to keep as sterile as possible while they’re there. But, if you go out, when you come home, wash your hands.
Speaker 26: (34:35)
But id there anything you’re doing it around making contactless payments more available?
Jacinda Ardern: (34:39)
Well, even then, I mean, they’re not utilized by everyone. And I think we need to keep that in mind. We have thought about that though. It’s one of the reasons, obviously, in public transport now people aren’t having to have that interaction with the drivers for that very reason. But, regardless of where the contactless payment existed more widely, there will be still people who wouldn’t use it, who choose not to, and equally who still want and need to access personal, one-to-one bank services as well. So, we do need to remember that part of the community. Right here.
In regards to the mental announcement by David Clark this morning, which he sort of managed to over shadow himself, there wasn’t any specific information.
Jacinda Ardern: (35:18)
I’m sure you won’t though, Joe.
He didn’t manage to provide any information about how it’s actually going to be rolled out, where people are going to be able to access this. There was no specific information for teenagers, young adults who we know are the at risk group in New Zealand.
Jacinda Ardern: (35:33)
Your government’s being very clear about wanting to provide more information and more support for mental health, yet this seemed to be a reasonably small announcement with very, very little detail.
Jacinda Ardern: (35:44)
And so, what I can share with you at the moment, we are going to, in the same way that you’ve seen the Unite COVID-19, we’ll be using similar ways to excess New Zealanders. So, a lot of use of our social media and online platforms to access New Zealanders and share a strong message around looking after the public, their mental health. So, there’ll be tips directing people to places where they can look for information on how to look after themselves.
When is this coming out, because we’re halfway?
Jacinda Ardern: (36:11)
It’s been rolled out now. But there is a specific set of information that is also being designed specifically for those, for instance, who have recently had a baby and may have specific needs at this time too. So, we are starting to segment that as well. Director-General, you might have something you want to add on that.
Ashley Bloomfield: (36:30)
I don’t have any further detail. I would say though, there are a number of existing resources already, online resources and of course some 1737 and other resources like Youth Line. So, this is really to compliment and bring to the attention of people what those other resources are, but also some specific messages about being under elite level four and how to stay well.
Jacinda Ardern: (36:52)
What I should add is that this has been designed by the Mental Health Foundation and the Canterbury DHB because of their expertise and having gone through the likes of the earthquake. It will be supported by mobile apps which also link people into telehealth services, which is obviously something we use now, 1737. We are monitoring the number of people who are referencing COVID-19 when they call in that number. And we can see that there had been periods of spikes, and then it’s come back a little bit in recent times.
Jacinda Ardern: (37:22)
One of the other specifics, part of this program though, is the use of Sparklers. Sparklers is a program that we supported in the budget. It specifically focuses on support and resilience of children who are undergoing periods of anxiety, and stress, and distress. And so, it is evidence based. And I really encourage parents to look out for the Getting Through Together Campaign, look out for the details that come out there. Do access the programs for kids because they’re really well thought through. Jenna. Yeah.
I just have a question for the sports department for both of you about the Crusaders. How disappointing was it to see professional rugby players from three different bubbles out training together?
Jacinda Ardern: (38:00)
How dangerous was that decision?
Jacinda Ardern: (38:02)
It is flies directly in the face of the advice that we’re giving. And I would just say to those who are in positions like that, that we are relying on everyone to role model the behavior we need right now. And we are all in this together. And I’m really asking, for those leaders within our sporting codes, to join us in this because we can’t do this alone. No one can be exempt.
Jacinda Ardern: (38:28)
There seems to be some confusion over butchers, grocers, and bakers, and whether they are able to operate online services.
Jacinda Ardern: (38:36)
Can you just clarify that for people watching whether that’s allow?
Jacinda Ardern: (38:41)
Yeah. So, you all have heard me reference a few times now that the access to whole food was something that from day one, when we made a decision around essential services just being supermarkets, that people could access whole food provision online because there are a number of places that already provided that. Where there has been some question mark is for those who only offered a retail-
Jacinda Ardern: (39:03)
Some question mark is for those who only offered a retail offering, then transitioning into online sales and establishing new ways of doing things. That did open up some risks because they wouldn’t have been established processes for those businesses. I expect to have that conversation with our ministers again tomorrow about that specific issue. But what I would say is that through all of this, our priority has been reducing contact with people as much as possible and it will continue to be our primary focus.
What do you say to Visa holders or immigrants here in New Zealand whose immigration status may be a bit unclear. Will they get help to get home if they need to? What’s being done here for those people who are probably in quite a unique situation?
Jacinda Ardern: (39:43)
Do you mean primarily people on work Visas?
I know there was a change to extend some.
Jacinda Ardern: (39:48)
But we’ve just got questions about some people feeling their status is a bit gray. They feel like they haven’t really been given much information about what’s happening with these.
Jacinda Ardern: (39:56)
Under the epidemic notices we’ve had the ability to make sure that people through no fault of their own were in a position where either their Visa status had expired but they had no ability to leave the country. We’ve made provision for that. On the issue though specifically people on work Visas who have lost their jobs, this is a discussion I’ve had with the minister of immigration. Because as you can imagine, that does happen from time to time even outside of this extraordinary period. We rely on people on work Visas as a part of a condition of their Visa having the ability to support themselves if they find themselves in that situation. They are tested to ensure as part of the conditions that they do have some resource. But we also recognize that these are particular times and so this is a bit of an ongoing discussion with ministers. Something that we have had raised with us and that we are looking at.
We thought too I believe that Australia is helping repatriate some of those people as they’re part of the discussion to their home countries. Is it part of the discussions here [inaudible 00:02:01]?
Jacinda Ardern: (41:02)
Yeah. We’re looking at the whole end but if we’ve got a situation where people here were previously able to work now cannot work and now cannot get home, that is of course a problem that we need to be involved and working through.
They are eligible aren’t they for support benefits?
Jacinda Ardern: (41:19)
They do not have the same eligibility if they’re on a work Visa. Yeah.
Dr. Bloomfield, I meant to confirm how many people are infected in the Hawks Bay cluster on the Ruby Princess?
Ashley Bloomfield: (41:30)
In that Ruby Princess related cluster, there were six people who were passengers on the ship, they’re not in Hawks Bay but have since come back from Sydney. Then the balance so there were four people who were either tour guides, one was an interpreter, one was a bus driver and in context of one of those is another sex. The total is 16 in the cluster.
So no change?
Ashley Bloomfield: (41:56)
No change from yesterday.
Jacinda Ardern: (41:56)
Just to follow up on the cruise statements, one of the players has a pregnant wife at home. How dangerous could that have been for her in breaking his bubble?
Ashley Bloomfield: (42:08)
I can’t comment on the specific situation, but he may well be in as much trouble at home as he is in the media.
Jacinda Ardern: (42:15)
I’d say that’s probably true. I’ll just take the last couple. If anyone’s got questions on behalf of others that they haven’t asked. Okay. [inaudible 00:03:24]. I’ll give you one more. Then Derek, just because you look so appalled, I’ll give you one. Yeah.
Another one for both of you please. It’s World Health Day. What is your message to everyone that’s working in the health sector right now?
Jacinda Ardern: (42:37)
Look, if I could start, because you are one of them and so really we should be paying tribute to Dr. Bloomfield as much as we should everyone. I wonder sometimes whether we underestimate the importance of public health in our health workers until we either have to access our health services or a family member does or we’re in a global pandemic. It shouldn’t take that to remind us how important they are. But may we never forget how important they are. Derek.
There’s 54 new cases.
Jacinda Ardern: (43:06)
Oh, sorry. Sorry. You may wish to…
Ashley Bloomfield: (43:08)
Well, the comment I made after Whakaari / White Island was that I feel we have an excellent health system in this country. It’s by no means perfect, but I’ve yet to find a country with a perfect healthcare system. But the state of our health system has directly responsibility of the people who work in it. We have fantastic people who work in our health system. So we’re very, very fortunate.
There were 54 new cases the last two weeks. How confident can we be on that downward trend given the gaps in the testing around regional and demographic gaps? Is there any light you can shed on where those gaps are? Which regions, what kinds of groups of people?
Ashley Bloomfield: (43:45)
I think we can be increasingly confident. One of the advantages of the centralized contact tracing platform we’ve put all that onto, an electronic platform, is we’re able to link now with the laboratory testing data and we will be able to this week show the pattern of testing by region and also demographically by ethnicity, by age group and so on. That will help us get a good understanding.
Ashley Bloomfield: (44:11)
There were two other important pieces of information we talked about this morning at Select committee. One is that we’ve seen in the last few days the number of close contacts of each of our new cases has dropped down to two or three reflecting the fact that we are in alert level four so people are in small groups and so the number of close contacts they have is very small. The other is a comparison that the prime minister’s chief science advisor got her team to do just in the last day or so, which looks at our mortality rate compared with… So it looked at our number of deaths compared with the number of cases we have and it’s very low. It’s 0.1% at the moment.
Ashley Bloomfield: (44:49)
As you’ve seen in countries that have got widespread community transmission, the death rates are much higher. France and Spain, 12%. This is triangulating all the information we have that suggests we didn’t, at least two weeks ago, have much community transmission going on and then we went into alert level four which really will really assist us with breaking that chain of transmission.
Jacinda Ardern: (45:11)
So you’ve got-
Meaning sort of undetected transmission then.
Ashley Bloomfield: (45:15)
There may be and we’re keeping a close eye on it, but the signs are good.
Jacinda Ardern: (45:21)
Quietly confident and cautiously optimistic [crosstalk 00:00:45:23].
Have you been briefed on the devastation due to [inaudible 00:06:30]?
Jacinda Ardern: (45:30)
No, actually just as I was preparing to come down, I’ve sought some additional information and unfortunately at the moment what I’ve seen is more the reporting. But I will ask for an update from particularly obviously for the people of Vanuatu who we are primed and ready to assist as required, but also the New Zealanders who are there. [Joe 00:06:49]?
Have you had any thoughts or further information or updates in regards to whether a September election is going to be [inaudible 00:06:53]?
Jacinda Ardern: (45:55)
No, I have not. I’ve been focused as you can imagine on this particular period, alert level four. Really, I feel it’s too early for me to say what situation New Zealand will be in even a month’s time. So I will continue though to make sure though that we give plenty of consideration to that with a good lead time.
Just with Vanuatu, How much from challenging will it be given the circumstances we are all operating now to be able to assist and will we still be able to fully assist [inaudible 00:46:25]?
Jacinda Ardern: (46:25)
Yes we will and I don’t anticipate that being challenging because our defense force as a matter of course have to be ready and able to deploy within a very short period of time no matter what status New Zealand is in. That’s in case we have any natural disasters domestically or in case they’re called upon internationally or for even surveillance purposes within our waters. They’re always at the ready no matter what New Zealand situation. Last one, [Tover 00:46:53].
Thank you. Are officials investigating reports of fraud by employers not passing on the wage subsidy?
Jacinda Ardern: (47:00)
Yes, that it’s always been built into our scheme. I’d have to check what the status is of any investigations because we’ve always said this a statutory declaration. It is a high trust model, but we will be following up on ensuring that if there are any anomalies, if issues are raised by employees, that we have a team ready and available to investigate any misuse. I believe we’ve actually beefed up the enforcement team for that purpose as well.
On funerals information, would you consider loosening some of the criteria around that to allow maybe one person or two people to attend a cremation or a small service if they’re in full protective gear or whatever?
Jacinda Ardern: (47:41)
Outside of bubbles because of course people who are within bubbles can, but it means people who haven’t been in contact with one another.
[inaudible 00:47:49] for people who weren’t able to go to a crematorium to be with their loved one when they were cremated.
Jacinda Ardern: (47:54)
Yeah. This has been an area where there’s been utter consistency because as you can imagine being such a traumatic experience and time for people, we’ve provided advice on tangy cremation graveside burials and access to funeral directors. It’s all available on the COVID 19 website. One of the things that I would just, and this is devastating to have to point out, but one of the things you will have seen from some of our clusters is they’re a slice of New Zealand life. The weddings, the functions in our small towns, their conferences, their rugby teams, that any social occasion where people are coming together and unfortunately a high risk time is when people come together to grieve.
[inaudible 00:48:39] while not being able to go to probation, but being able to go to a dairy on the way home to pick up some milk.
Jacinda Ardern: (48:43)
Because when you grieve, you reach out for personal contact. You reach out to one another. That’s what we do at weddings as well. We have an enormous cluster as a result of one of those. I’ve said many times before, I don’t want grief on grief. It’s one of the devastating byproducts of what we’re having to do. Okay. Last one. Yep.
With the ship being quarantined as the captain had reported symptoms on the ship because we had that power under the health act.
Jacinda Ardern: (49:08)
Yeah. Yeah. Of course, you’ll know that there were questions asked and tests undertaken in Wellington and so yes, there would have been repercussions if there were positive tests there. Okay.
I was going to ask you-
Jacinda Ardern: (49:20)
Sneaky last one.
Simon Bridges has said that his internet isn’t good enough and that’s why he has to travel to Wellington from Tauranga. What do you make of his excuse?
Jacinda Ardern: (49:29)
I didn’t pass any judgment on it yesterday, and I won’t pass judgment on it today. Ultimately, we made the form for the [inaudible 00:49:35] committee available in such a way that every member could stay home in order to participate. But ultimately there’s an element there of personal choice of those employees as to how they wish to do that. Okay. Thanks everyone.