* Almost 500,000 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus globally, with more than 22,000 deaths – 120,000 people have fully recovered
* More than 1000 people have now died in the United States, with cases growing at an alarming rate
* New Zealand has 283 cases, but no deaths – 13 students and staff from one Auckland school have been diagnosed
* Entire hospitals could be cleared to focus on coronavirus patients
* Latest developments and all you need to know after day one of NZ’s lockdown
After ushering New Zealand into historic lockdown, Government leaders will now clamp down on anyone looking to take advantage of the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis.
It comes as the number of global cases reaches half a million people, with more than 22,000 deaths. The coronavirus has now killed more than 1000 people in the United States, a toll that is increasing at an alarming rate. Both Italy and the US are likely to surpass China’s overall number of cases.
A record-shattering 3.3 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits in just one week as the virus hits the world economy.
After the first day of lockdown in New Zealand – and despite most people following rules and recommendations – the message from authorities became sterner.
• If you continue to breach the lockdown rules that’s obstruction of police, says Police Commissioner Mike Bush.
• If you don’t pass on the wage subsidy scheme on to your staff that’s fraud, says Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
• If you’re a landlord and you unfairly threaten your tenant, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants your name.
• And if you don’t play your part and stay home to break the chain of Covid-19, lives could be lost, says Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: TV chef’s chilling message before virus death
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Can blood from recovered victims help newly ill?
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Woman challenges anti-Chinese gesture in Mission Bay
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Why the virus is so hard to kill
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After just 48 hours’ notice of nationwide lockdown, New Zealand yesterday woke up to quiet streets, empty motorways and teddy bears in windows.
Bush said most Kiwis were complying with the stay-home orders, but warned police wouldn’t hesitate to put people into custody who continuously broke the rules, so they could think about the “consequences of their actions”.
If it came to it, police could charge truants under various laws including obstructing police.
“Stay home to stay safe. If we don’t comply, the consequence of that is people will die,” Bush said.
Stricter procedures at the border were in force and of the 360 who flew into Auckland Airport yesterday morning, almost half were quarantined for being symptomatic or not having a solid plan for self-isolation.
Worldwide the death toll of the Covid-19 pandemic yesterday topped 21,000 with more than 471,000 infected – Prince Charles now counted among them.
In New Zealand, the total number of cases reached 283, with 78 new cases confirmed yesterday.
The majority of cases were still linked to overseas travel or being a close contact of another confirmed case.
But there were several clusters of suspected community transmission, including Marist College in Auckland, the World Hereford cattle conference in Queenstown, a wedding in Wellington, a contact with the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Hawkes Bay and a rest home in Hamilton.
Seven people were in hospital with Covid-19, all in a stable condition, while 27 Kiwis have recovered from the virus.
Bloomfield said confirmed Covid-19 cases could peak in the thousands but now New Zealand was in lockdown, he hoped the turnaround point would be in 10 days.
Everyone was hoping New Zealand could escape the pandemic without a single death and our best chance of that happening was to stay home, he said.
Bloomfield also announced that as a precaution and due to stockpiling, pharmacists would be limited to providing only one month’s supply of prescribed medicines, or three months for the supply of oral contraceptives.
Pharmacists would still be able to make exceptions to provide additional amounts where people live remotely or for individuals with a disability.
The approach of the carrot first, but the stick if needed was a common theme among the Covid-19 leaders yesterday.
Robertson urged every business to try to keep their staff employed throughout the crisis and said that’s why the wage subsidy scheme was in place.
About $1.54b had already been paid out for 244,887 workers; 72,913 applications had been paid out, while a further 111,898 had been approved and were about to be paid, and 47,434 were being processed.
It was open to almost every business, sole trader and contractor but they had to do it honestly, Robertson said.
When a business made an application to the scheme, they signed a declaration that they would make “best endeavours” to retain their employees and top up their salaries to 80 per cent.
If a business was forced to let its staff go during those 12 weeks, they had to keep paying their fulltime staff $585 a week or $350 for part-time staff for that period, or refund the money to the Government.
If they keep it – that’s fraud, said Robertson.
“I’ve made very clear that if we get the name of that business, we will follow it up immediately.”
The Herald understands businesses will be audited once the dust of Covid-19 settles and so companies have been advised to keep records.
Robertson also had stern words for landlords threatening renters after property manager Quinovic told tenants they would get a 14-day notice if they missed rent payments.
Ardern asked for the landlords’ names.
Robertson said that was in contradiction of a new law which states a tenant can only be evicted if they don’t pay rent for 60 days, and Quinovic had now been informed of this.
He said there had also been feedback from the business community about commercial landlords being inflexible about rent payments, and he urged those landlords to talk to their tenants.
The telling-offs were extended to stores that think they can stay open without the essential services letter from the Government.
Despite the lockdown order, two Mad Butcher stores were open in Auckland yesterday which didn’t impress the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
“Butcher shops are not classified as essential. What they supply can largely also be purchased at supermarkets.
“This approach has been taken to prevent community transmission and to ensure people limit movement to their suburbs,” a spokeswoman said.
“We need as many businesses as possible to close to slow the spread of the virus.”
Ignoring the lockdown order could incur a $4000 fine or incur a three to six months’ jail term.
Ardern, who announced former Air New Zealand boss Rob Fyfe would join the lockdown taskforce to co-ordinate the private sector, said they were also keeping a very close eye on allegations of price gouging.
She told media supermarkets had given their assurance it wasn’t happening and had been able to provide explanations for specific examples.
“That is the effort we are going to, to protect consumers.
“We will be following up on those reports. Our expectation from everyone at this time is that New Zealanders are treated fairly.”