Latest from the Beehive
Yes, we all now know Auckland must spend another fortnight at level 3 lockdown while the rest of New Zealand continues under level-2 restrictions.
Until 11:59pm on August 26 Aucklanders are expected to stay home in a bid to stamp out what has been identified as a new strain of Covid-19.
“Ardern said the alternative to a longer lockdown could have led to a “potential explosion in cases” and would be the worst thing for Auckland and the wider New Zealand economy.
“She also revealed some new information about the Auckland cluster – it was made up of a new strain of Covid-19, not seen in the country’s first wave.
“This means that Covid-19 has not been lying dormant in the community since the last outbreak.
“Ardern said this discovery showed Covid was not a “burning ember in our community – it appears to be new to New Zealand.”
But when Point of Order paid its daily visit to the Beehive website to learn from primary sources what’s up in the war on Covid-19, we could find no written statement from the PM. What she had to say is contained – according to our search – in a video recording to the PM’s media conference at 5.30pm.
Beehive.govt.nz promotes itself as the best place to find Government initiatives, policies and Ministerial information.
But our quest for a written statement (we hoped to avoid patiently listening to everything the PM said at the press conference yesterday) yielded a press statement advising only that the Government is taking action to support businesses and protect jobs following the decision to extend the public health measures across the country.
Great. But we must wait patiently for a few days to learn the details:
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said Cabinet has made an in-principle decision to extend the wage subsidy, and modify the COVID-19 Sick Leave Scheme to make it more accessible. Details will be finalised over the weekend and announced on Monday.
An extension to the mortgage deferral scheme has also been agreed in-principle as part of the plan to support households after the existing scheme expires on 27 September. Details, including the length of the extension, are being finalised and will be announced next week.
Robertson said the extended wage subsidy will apply nationwide, particularly given the significance of Auckland’s economy to the wider country, and due to the impact Alert Level 2 would have on sectors like hospitality and retail.
“These public health measures are affecting businesses around the country. This includes tourism operators who are expecting visitors from Auckland, companies that supply Auckland businesses, and the hospitality and retail sectors in other parts of the country now operating under Level 2.”
The extension to the scheme is expected to be operational within five days of the decision.
The existing extension to the wage subsidy remains open to applications until September 1.
“Businesses that haven’t yet accessed that scheme should reassess if they now meet the criteria, following the recent increase in Alert Levels,” Grant Robertson said.
Cabinet also agreed in principle to consider modifying the Covid Sick Leave Scheme.
“We are very aware that those who are required to self-isolate may be concerned if they do not have any sick leave entitlements left or the business they work for is not eligible for the scheme under current settings.”
Again, final details will be decided on Monday.
As for statements from the PM …
Maybe there is a shortage of press secretaries on the Ninth Floor of the Beehive, but the most recent pronouncement we could find was posted back on August 11, headlined PM comments on Auckland COVID-19 case.
That’s when she acknowledged that, after 102 days, NZ had its first cases of Covid-19 outside of a Managed Isolation or Quarantine facility.
But relax, good people. She was at her reassuring best:
“While we have all worked incredibly hard to prevent this scenario, we have also planned and prepared for it.
“We have a resurgence plan that we will now activate.”
Here are the press releases (just one, and short on detail) recorded on beehive.govt.nz since Point of Order last reported yesterday –
14 AUGUST 2020
The Government is taking action to support businesses and protect jobs following today’s decision to extend the existing public health measures across the country to stamp out COVID-19.