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Covid-19 live updates, April 2: Wage cuts coming, flu vaccine stocks in focus – The Spinoff


For all The Spinoff’s latest coverage of Covid-19 see here. Read Siouxsie Wiles’s work hereNew Zealand is currently in alert level four. The country is shut down, apart from essential services. For updated official government advice, see here.

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Wage cuts are coming thick and fast for all sorts of industries right now, but it’s looking particularly bad in construction, where activity has basically stopped. It’s worrying for some of the biggest players too – Stuff’s Anuja Nadkarni reports that some Fletchers staff could be looking at losing a huge share of their income, as part of a 12 week plan to get the company through the uncertain lockdown and post-lockdown period. Fletchers executives are also taking a 15% cut over 12 weeks. The E tū union says the latter pledge is a bit disingenuous, as some staff could end up seeing their income fall by 70%.

Speaking of the construction industry, the government could be about to make a big move into trying to build things. Newsroom’s Dileepa Fonsecka reports that consideration is currently being made by senior ministers to reform Crown Infrastructure Partners so that it’s more like the old Ministry of Works. The aim would be to sidestep financing concerns in the industry to simply charge ahead with projects, to create employment and offset the likely large loss of jobs through other parts of the economy. There were two other measures announced yesterday aimed at bolstering the commercial infrastructure industry – a pledge to pick out some “shovel ready” projects that can start within six months, and advance payments for firms whose NZTA contracts are on hold.

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Dire predictions are being made about the viability of hospitality businesses after the lockdown ends, reports the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Aimee Shaw. In tourists hotspots like Wanaka and Rotorua, the fear is that around half of businesses simply won’t be able to reopen, whereas in places like Christchurch and Wellington it will be more like 20-30% – so still pretty bad for an industry where margins can be very thin. A big problem is that the only way through for many will be through significant borrowing, which they’ll then have to spend years paying off – and in those tourist-heavy areas, will there even be customers?

If you’re working from home at the moment, you’ve almost certainly been recently introduced to the joys of Zoom calls. But as the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Chris Keall reports this morning, there are questions being raised about whether it is secure enough for the meetings of MPs and Cabinet. Zoom claims itself as an end-to-end encrypted service, but according to The Intercept’s reporting, that’s not actually true. The fear of one security expert spoken to by the Herald is that either the PM’s office wasn’t aware of security concerns around Zoom when discussing restricted and sensitive material, or they’ve relaxed their requirements because of the crisis. Incidentally, we’ve just published this guide to internet privacy and security by tech journalist Henry Burrell, which is particularly useful if you’re spending a lot more time online right now.

The stocks of flu vaccines are there, but they’re not getting to the people that need them, reports Newshub’s Michael Morrah. There’s really high demand for vaccines this year (for obvious reasons) and the government has instructed at-risk groups to be proactive about getting their jab. However, access has ended up being difficult for some people, and some are seeing their appointments get cancelled. Many GPs in particular are finding supplies are running short, but the story suggests pharmacies are doing a bit better. Speaking of the flu, Dr Siouxsie Wiles has written about the Flutracking project, and how mass participation in symptom tracking could save lives.

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