Morning Briefing April 16: Growing concern for society’s most vulnerable

Anna Murray
Source: 1News

Growing concerns for the safety and wellbeing of elderly rest home residents during the coronavirus pandemic has sparked an investigation by the Chief Ombudsman.

It comes as health authorities revealed a Covid-19 cluster had taken hold in another Auckland aged care facility yesterday. Infection has now been detected in more than 90 people across five rest homes. 

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says he will begin a series of targeted inspections of rest homes this week, so as to provide an independent assessment of how facilities are responding to Covid-19.

The move has been welcomed by Age Concern, who say there are important lessons to be learned in how the country protects its most vulnerable. 

Meanwhile, there’s also concern for the nurses caring for elderly patients at places like Christchurch’s Burwood Hospital, where four staff were revealed to have contracted Covid-19 yesterday.

There had been some disputes over the quality of the PPE used to protect workers, however the Canterbury District Health Board yesterday gave staff alternative PPE options, including visors and N-95 masks. 

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Lockdown loneliness a threat

Advocates for the elderly are also warning that lockdown loneliness and social isolation will likely impact the physical and mental health of the more than 400,000 Kiwis aged over 70.

Dr Hamish Jamieson, an elder care expert at the University of Otago, says that while Covid-19 is a threat to the health of older people, the impact of loneliness, social isolation and less contact with GPs could also be dangerous.

He says the Government needs a plan to tackle the issue, especially since older New Zealanders are advised to continue isolation, even at Level 2 of the Covid-19 alert system. 

It comes as one man’s family says he died from severe anxiety linked to isolation. Stuff reports 93-year-old Patrick ‘Paddy’ McCann passed away on Easter Sunday after panic attacks saw him sedated and slip into a coma.  

Pay cuts at parliament

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday she, along with Government ministers and public service CEOs, will be taking a 20 per cent pay cut for the next six months, as a show of solidarity with Kiwis facing financial difficulties during the Covid-19 crisis.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has confirmed he is one of those taking the pay cut.

This rundown of the top 10 paid public service bosses details the likely cost savings from such a move. 

News of the pay cuts sparked a slew of other public officials choosing to do the same.

National Party leader Simon Bridges tweeted he would take a 20 per cent drop in salary, while the Green Party said its Ministers would also opt-in to the pay cuts.

At a local government level, Auckland mayor Phil Goff says he’s taking a 20 per cent pay cut, while Otago mayors have decided to donate a portion of their salaries to charity.

Uphill battle for exporters

New statistics have shown the major impact border closures have had on two of New Zealand’s biggest export markets. 

Exports to China are down 11 per cent, representing a drop of $169 million, while Australian exports have slumped by 9 per cent, a drop of $77 million.

New Zealand's Minister of Trade David Parker says there is a rough road ahead, given the International Monetary Fund is predicting a 13-30% drop in world trade.

However, Export New Zealand has drafted a list of businesses it hopes can get back to work under Level 3 restrictions.

Prime Minister Ardern is expected to reveal more details today about what businesses will be able to be open once the country does move out of the current Level 4 lockdown. 

And while there may have been plenty of jokes about at-home haircuts during the lockdown, the hairdressing industry has sounded real concerns about their business, given it’s not deemed an essential service under Alert Level 3 or 4.

The New Zealand Association of Registered Hairdressers (NZARH) says there’s been no consultation process for the sector about how or when it might be able to resume business.

They say some salons will likely go out of business. 

Freakish weather batters Wellington 

Just in case Wellington’s residents weren’t battling enough problems during the Covid-19 lockdown, a wave described as “the biggest they’ve ever seen” sent some of them running yesterday.

Freakishly large waves battered homes in Ōwhiro Bay, leaving many garages flooded and their contents flung all over the road and bay. The event also left one person in hospital.

MetService says the high waves were being caused by a deep area of low pressure passing the Chatham Islands. 

Police say the high tide did not reach the road overnight.

Other news of note:

As US President Donald Trump halts funding of the World Health Organisation , former Prime Minister and UN Development Programme administrator Helen Clark has labelled the move “foolish”, while philanthropist Bill Gates says it’s "as dangerous as it sounds". 

John Tamihere and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer have been selected as the new co-leaders of the Māori Party. 

A Southland man has died after suffering fatal injuries during a stag attack .

Reigning New Zealand Sportsman of the Year, Israel Adesanya, is paying to supply thousands of masks and face shields to health frontline workers.

A 99-year-old war veteran has raised more than $8 million for the UK’s NHS by aiming to walk 100 laps of his back garden before his 100th birthday. 

And Re: takes this deep dive into why some people think 5G is linked to Covid-19. 

And finally...

Jeremy Wells’ tips for home schooling were such a hit (especially in North Korea), the Seven Sharp presenter has now decided to help Kiwis enjoy a holiday without leaving their lockdown bubble. Check out this sneak preview of what he says will likely be a real game-changer.