Government reveals $12.1 billion coronavirus relief package, Ardern tells Kiwis to 'be strong, be kind, we will be OK'

Source: 1News

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has announced a massive, multi-billion dollar economic package today in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

That concludes our live updates of today's announcement. Be sure to watch 1 NEWS at 6pm for the latest, and check back here at 1NEWS.co.nz

3.05pm: The Royal New Zealand College of GO welcomed the news.

Dr Samantha Murton says, "one of the great concerns with COVID-19 is ensuring a sustainable frontline of general practitioners; we just can’t afford to have health workforces and businesses falling over.

"I look forward to seeing the detail of these measures but am optimistic that what I’ve heard today will support general practices in New Zealand in unprecedented times.

"We are particularly mindful of small, sole-operated practices in rural areas where there is no back-up if those doctors need to self-isolate."

3pm:  Chris Roberts from the tourism industry says the package won't help large and medium-sized businesses. It's designed for those who employ 20 or fewer people. 

2.55pm: 1 NEWS' Katie Bradford says some businesses will be breathing sigh of relief that they will get some wriggle room. In the short-term the package may save some jobs. Aviation and retain are two areas where things will be tough. Many would view today's announcements on an eye on this year's budget, where more relief would be announced. 

2.40pm: Jacinda Ardern is speaking in Parliament. She has reiterated her plea to health officials to test for coronavirus if they can. 

She says to stimulate the economy, you boost the incomes of the lowest paid.

She speaks to New Zealanders, saying we have been shaped by our experiences, many of them tough and unpredictable. 

Ardern says to look out for each other.

"Be strong, be kind, we will be OK". 

2.30pm: Here is more on the boost to benefits, and wage subsidies for struggling businesses. 

There will also be a one-off doubling of the winter energy payment. 

2.25pm: Economist Cameron Bagrie says the package in a step in the "right direction", and the first of many announcements.

He thinks it will take the tourism sector could take up to four years to recover, and a wider economic strategy will be required. 

2.15pm: Simon Bridges is now speaking in Parliament. He's criticised Ardern and Robertson for not acknowledging earlier a recession was likely. He says the $12.1 billion package is significant, but says Robertson's priorities are "muddled and confused".

He says money will flow faster into the "hands of beneficiaries" than businesses.

2.10pm: Here's Anna Whyte's first take from the announcement.

"The Government’s $12.1 billion Covid-19 coronavirus business package sees a $8.7b injection into business and jobs including wage subsidies and tax changes, $2.8b for a permanent boost to benefits and doubling the Winter Energy Payment and millions into health."

2.05pm: Robertson has paid tribute to health workers in New Zealand. 

The biggest single component of the package is more than $5b set aside for a wage subsidy scheme.

The benefit will go up $25 a week immediately. 

2pm: The package is worth a total of $12.1 billion, four per cent of GDP, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

He says it's not a one-off package. 

Speaking to the house, he says a recession is almost certain, businesses will fail, and people will lose their jobs. 

Here is some of the detail:

Business and jobs ($8.7 billion)
$5.1b in wage subsidies for businesses impacted by coronavirus
$2.8b in tax changes for businesses
$126m for self-isolation and coronavirus leave support
$600m in initial aviation support (this does not include payment to Air NZ).

Income support and boosting spending ($2.8 billion)
Permanent benefit increase of $25 per week
Double Winter Energy Payment for this year
$100m redeployment package

Health ($500 million)
$32m for ICU capacity and hospital equipment
$50m GP support and primary care
$20m to improve video conferencing
$20m for Healthline
 

Among those businesses affected are Air New Zealand, which has slashed flights and expecting massive job losses.

The tourism sector is crying out for help as visitor numbers grind to a halt, while the likes of SkyCity are struggling as well.

For those with concerned little people at home, here's Dr Michelle Dickinson explaining how you can help your children understand what's happening.