Covid-19: What happened in NZ and around the world on 25 May

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Today there were no new cases and no deaths reported associated with Covid-19. Further benefit payments were announced for people who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19, and it was announced that groups of up to 100 people will be able to gather from later this week.

More job losses were confirmed, an earthquake interrupted a live TV interview of the Prime Minister, and the National Party announced a new Covid-19 Recovery portfolio as part of a caucus reshuffle as new leadership takes the reigns.

Covid-19 Wrap pic, 25 May 2020

Photo: Supplied

As Covid-19 spreads around the world, it can be daunting keeping up with the information. For RNZ, our responsibility is to give you verified, up to the minute, trustworthy information to help you make decisions about your lives and your health. We’ll also be asking questions of officials and decision makers about how they’re responding to the virus. Our aim is to keep you informed.

Case updates for 25 May

No new cases of Covid-19 were reported today; there has now been only three new cases in the past 14 days.

There were no further deaths reported, but one person remains in Middlemore Hospital.

New Zealand has now carried out more than 261,000 tests and recorded 1504 confirmed and probable cases, with 97 percent recovered.

The Ministry of Health said 380,000 New Zealanders had signed up for the NZ Covid Tracer app.

More than 5.4 million people have been reported infected with Covid-19 globally and 343,900 have died, according to a tally from Reuters.

Covid-19 rule change interview interrupted by earthquake

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern again attracted international attention today, this time for keeping her composure when a 5.8 earthquake hit during a television interview.

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Ardern finished answering a question about her husband Clarke Gayford’s sheds and calmly explained things were shaking around her, before continuing the interview. The video reached the most watched spot on the BBC for the day.

Level 1 considerations earmarked, and larger gatherings allowed from Friday

Ardern announced that from midday this Friday [https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/417481/pm-jacinda-ardern-reveals-move-to-gatherings-of-100-under-alert-level-2 gatherings of up to 100 people will be allowed under alert level 2.

She said the change was possible because there had not been new cases caused by the shift to level 3 more than three weeks ago.

It means New Zealand will have some of the most relaxed restrictions in the world.

She also said cabinet would reconsider the alert level 2 settings again on 8 June, and will consider a move to alert level 1 no later than 22 June.

Relief payments for those who have lost jobs

The government announced a new payment for workers who have lost their job due to Covid-19, while they retrain or find a new job.

The payments, for up to 12 weeks from 8 June, will be $490 a week for workers who lost a full time job, and $250 a week for part-time. Those with working partners could also be eligible if their partner earned less than $2000 a week.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said Covid-19 had created a new cohort of job seekers under immense pressure to meet their living costs.

In ordinary times these people would find work relatively quickly or manage costs without extra support – but these are extraordinary times, she said.

The government’s Future of Work working group has commissioned work to assess the possibility of a more permanent version of the scheme, which is similar to schemes brought in after the global financial crisis and Canterbury earthquakes.

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Opposition caucus reshuffle

New National Party leader Todd Muller has revealed a new caucus line-up, appointing Amy Adams at the number three spot with a new Covid-19 Recovery portfolio.

Muller himself took on the small businesses portfolio, his deputy Nikki Kaye keeps education, and Judith Collins now holds Regional Economic Development.

Adams said the Covid-19 crisis persuaded her to change her plans to leave parliament; “The last eight weeks have changed everything, and like all of you, I’ve been watching the most remarkable suite of challenges facing this country.

“If I can be any help at all in helping New Zealand think about how it works its way through those challenges, then that’s something that I feel duty-bound as a proud Kiwi to do.”

Adams said National’s Covid-19 recovery team would be divided into seven policy teams; “Not focused around Wellington and the public service and the normal bureaucracy, but actually around the things that we’re going to need to get right to get our country moving again.”

Rheumatic fever cases rise

Acute cases of rheumatic fever are up by about 25 percent nationwide, and Covid-19 testing centres in Wellington have begun swabbing for the dangerous childhood disease.

The College of GPs said it was incredibly frustrating after front-line workers had put in an immense amount of work over the last decade to get those numbers down, and public health officials should have reacted to the increase faster.

Schools concerned about the future for foreign students

Principals said schools are supporting thousands of foreign students who don’t know when they’ll be allowed to go home.

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There are about 14,000 foreign primary and secondary school students in New Zealand, with the majority planning to stay until the end of the year. But schools are concerned some may not be able to return. Principals said that could be a problem for students who had committed to several years of schooling in New Zealand.

Job losses and a media company sale

Mediaworks is cutting 130 jobs due to Covid-19.

Chief executive Michael Anderson said the job losses would be mainly concentrated in sales, radio, and marketing.

Sports betting agency the TAB also began informing staff of job losses today, after a proposal to cut 220 roles due to the Covid-19 downturn.

Meanwhile, news outlet Stuff was bought off Australia’s Nine Entertainment for $1 by its own chief executive Sinead Boucher.

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