OCR cut, relief package due, travel ban in force, New Zealand in frenzy

OCR cut, relief package due, travel ban in force, New Zealand in frenzy

RNZ Updates, Wellington, March 16, 2020

Passengers arriving in Auckland International Airport this morning (March 16, 2020) RNZ Photo

The Reserve Bank has cut its benchmark interest rate by three quarters of a percentage point, to support the economy against the impact of the Covid-19 virus.

In the wake of the outbreak, health officials have also ramped up their presence at airports as tougher travel restrictions came into force today.

From 1 am today (March 16, 2020), all travellers who enter New Zealand, except from Pacific Island countries, must go into isolation for 14 days.

Since the announcement of the new restrictions, airlines have been overwhelmed with calls, and are asking for patience from their customers.

If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800-3585453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

The tourism industry also say that they will be affected by the new rules and are predicting widespread job losses.

Relief Package

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that a relief package will be unveiled on Tuesday (March 17, 2020) to try to mitigate the blow.

So far New Zealand has eight confirmed cases of Covid-19 as two more people tested positive yesterday. Across the globe, there is chaos at US airports after new health screening measures came into force for people returning from Europe.

In Britain, every person over the age of 70 will be told “within the coming weeks” to stay at home for an extended period.

Updates since this morning

Mar 16, 2020 6:39 AM
RNZ Live

Travellers arriving in New Zealand must now self-isolate for 14 days.

All travellers are being registered, and Healthline will step up how it monitors the self-isolation process.

People from small South Pacific island nations which have no confirmed Covid-19 cases will be exempt from the self-isolation rule.

Strict exit measures are being imposed to protect the Pacific, barring anyone who has been overseas from travelling to South Pacific islands for two weeks, and barring anyone who has had symptoms or been in contact with anyone with Covid-19 from travelling there.

All cruise ships are being told to stay away until 30 June.

The government is urging people to reconsider any non-urgent overseas travel.

Cargo aircraft, ships allowed

The restrictions do not apply to cargo ships or cargo planes or to marine or air crew. The government will be aiming to ensure sea and air freight routes remain open for imports and exports.

The measures will be reviewed in 14 days.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will announce an economic response including the business continuity package on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Government guidance on self-isolation and advice on mass gatherings will be released in the next few days.

Across the globe, Britain announced plans for over 70s to self-isolate; Spain, France and Austria imposed severe restrictions on movement to combat the rapidly spreading outbreak.

If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

Mar 16, 2020 8:37 AM
RNZ Live

News from Matthew Theunissen at Auckland Airport:

Some passengers arriving in New Zealand from abroad this morning are being hit hard by the news they’re required to self-isolate for two weeks.

One man left Canada before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the tough new restrictions on Saturday.

He was only due to be here for three days before flying to Australia but now he is unsure whether he will have to stay in New Zealand for the full 14 days. He is currently waiting to hear from Air New Zealand and Customs.

Mar 16, 2020 8:35 AM
RNZ Live

More from Grant Robertson on the business package:

“It will be a substantial package… it’s still primarily a public health issue and that’s got to be our focus because the more we can do to protect New Zealanders’ health the better that will be for both our health and the economy in the long term, but it also will address some pretty significant economic issues and consequences that we’re now facing.”

Mar 16, 2020 8:34 AM
RNZ Live

Finance Minister Grant Robertson on the government’s upcoming relief package:

“We are about to go into cabinet meetings today and we’ll make our final decisions there. We understand the extent of the situation we’re facing today. the n z economy is part of the global economy and the global economy is going through an economic shock at the moment.

“We have to respond to support New Zealanders through that, we’ve already talked about the fact it will include a wage-subsidy scheme … we’ve obviously also got to continue to resource our public health system so it plays its important part. I would characterise it as being about cash flow and confidence, making sure that was can support people through this but also making sure that we rebuild our confidence quickly.”

Reserve Bank measures

He said that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Governor had made some other announcements today, including delaying this year’s introduction of new bank capital requirements by another year. He said most of the new funds would be borrowed.

“This will be largely about borrowing, these are unprecedented times, we have to continue to make sure that we are delivering the services that New Zealanders need in their day to day lives.

“That will require us to borrow more, it’s the reason why it’s very good that we enter this situation with our net core crown debt levels so low, at around 19.5% – lower than what we inherited – that’s what gives us the space now to be able to respond quickly to this.”

Mar 16, 2020 8:27 AM
RNZ Live

More on the Reserve Bank announcement – the new rules around how much capital retail banks will be required to hold in their reserves is going to be pushed back a year.

The Reserve Bank is giving retail banks a 12 month breathing space from increasing their capital reserves. The new rules, which require banks to start beefing up their finances with more capital, were due to come into force in July.

However, the Reserve Bank has delayed that for a year and says if necessary will push that out further. Deputy Governor Geoff Bascand said that the delay is needed to support lending during a period of much uncertainty.

He said that banks will be expected to maintain lending to households and businesses.

The delay is in tandem with the Reserve Bank’s slashing of its benchmark rate by three quarters of a percentage point to a record low zero-point-25%, which will stay in place for at least 12 months.

Westpac Bank has announced it will pass on the full rate cut to customers.

Published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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