COVID-19 update as of 17 August 2020

Monday, August 17, 2020

There are currently 78 active cases of COVID-19, 58 of which are from community transmission. 56 are connected to the Auckland cluster (with the other 2 presumed to be).

Due to the impacts of COVID-19 New Zealand’s new election date is 17 October 2020.

Alert levels

The Auckland region is in Level 3 until Wednesday 26 August, the rest of the country is at Level 2.

Public Health Response Order 12 pm 12 August 2020

The Government has released a new COVID-19 Public Health Response Order. The key points are;

  • Legally people must work from home unless it is safe to continue at your workplace, and if you are at work, then you must ensure physical distancing. Nothing is new here, this is just the same as the previous rules of level 3.  
  • Anyone travelling out of Auckland via air travel must wear a face covering. Note, only travel out of Auckland if the city is not your primary place of residence. Everyone else is encouraged to wear a face mask. This is a proven line of defence to protect your own health. The Prime Minister has said that scarves and other clothes will suffice as a mask if you do not have access to one.
  • Businesses nationwide must display a QR code in a prominent place at or near the main entrances to the workplace. The display of this QR code is mandatory. There is a one-week grace period for businesses to set this up.
    • Businesses can create their NZ COVID Tracer app QR code at this link.
    • Note, it will be an infringement offence for those who do not have the QR code up by 19 August 2020.
    • A person who commits an infringement offence is liable under the Act for a $300 fine, or a fine imposed by a court not exceeding $1,000.

The requirement for a QR code specially applies to:

  • voluntary and not-for-profit services;
  • public and private sectors;
  • businesses and services that provide space for others to operate, like malls;
  • businesses and services that provide facilities or venues for events or activities, where people pay to attend events or participate in activities, or pay to hire the facility or venue; and
  • professional and semi-professional sports.

But does not apply to:

  • voluntary or not-for-profit sporting, recreational, social or cultural activities;
  • households carrying out family activities in their bubble;
  • faith-based gatherings; and
  • community club activities (except for activities that happen at the same time and place as services provided under a club licence).

All New Zealanders are encouraged to download the NZ COVID Tracer app. The app allows users to scan the code and keep a log of where they have been. People are also notified through the app if they have been in contact with a COVID-19 case.

A breakdown of specific requirements for types of businesses can be found at the bottom of this article.

Directions of the Director-General of Health under the Health Act 1956

Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director-General of Health has made certain oral directions under s 70(1)(f) of the Health Act 1956.

Direction 12 August 2020

The following people must do 2 things; Isolate at their usual home, and not go out to work, and remain isolated, until they are contacted by their national contact tracing service, and they receive further direction. This direction applies to the following people; any employees or contractors of 2 employers:

  • Americold in Mt Wellington (Auckland);
  • Finance Now the Dominion Road branch in Auckland;
  • any visitors to those workplaces in the last 14 days, and
  • any people who ordinary live with those employees, or contractors, or visitors.

Direction 13 August 2020

Anyone who has COVID-19 now must be managed in an isolation facility.

Next steps

Cabinet will reassess the situation on 21 August but at the moment there is nothing to suggest extended alert levels. Cabinet has also agreed to the following further work;

  1. Officials will report back on a more sustainable longer-term support scheme that can adapt to changing alert levels, can be easily administered, communicated and understood.
  2. Officials will also be undertaking further work on the leave scheme to ensure its adaptability and flexibility in the event of further alert restrictions.   

COVID-19 income help

COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme

The COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is available for employers, including sole traders, to pay their employees who can't work. Employees are eligible* if they:

  • can't come into work because Ministry of Health guidelines recommend they stay at home; and
  • can't work from home.

This payment used to be called 'COVID-19 Essential Workers Leave Support' because it was only available to essential businesses. It's now called 'COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme' because it's available for all employers returning to work who meet the criteria.

The Leave Support Scheme will be paid at a flat rate of:

  • $585.80 for people who were working 20 hours or more per week (full-time rate).
  • $350.00 for people who were working less than 20 hours per week (part-time rate).

The Leave Support Scheme is paid as a lump sum and covers 4 weeks per employee from the date they submit an application. You can't apply for less than 4 weeks. If your employee worked variable hours you can use an average to work out what rate to apply for. Use the average hours worked each week;

  • over the last 12 months, or
  • over the period of time they (or you) have been employed (if it's less than 12 months).

If the average hours are 20 or more, apply for the full-time rate, and if they are less than 20, apply for the part-time rate.

*As of 17 August 2020, there is no longer a requirement to show a 30% decline in revenue or show that your business has had their ability to support their employees negatively impacted by COVID-19.

Wage Subsidy Extension

Wage subsidy extension applications are open until 1 September 2020 (11.59pm). Businesses can apply to cover the wages of their employees over an 8-week period. Businesses can apply even if they haven't applied for the Wage Subsidy before, but they;

  • can't apply for the same employee twice; and
  • must wait until any other government payments are finished before they can apply for the Wage Subsidy Extension (the same employee cannot get more than one government COVID-19 payment at the same time).

Your business must have experienced a minimum 40% decline in revenue for a continuous 30-day period. The 30-day period must be:

  • In the 40 days before you apply (but no earlier than 10 May 2020) compared to the closest period last year.
  • The decline must also be related to COVID-19.

New National Wage Subsidy Scheme.

Given Auckland’s move to Alert Level 3, The Finance Minister, Hon Grant Robertson has announced a new two-week nationwide subsidy. This is a focused extension of the wage subsidy scheme. It is available to the whole country, not just Auckland businesses. Robertson reiterated that Auckland represents nearly 40% of GDP and going into Alert Level 3 has spill over effects on the whole economy. This nationwide subsidy is a representation of that.

To be eligible businesses must have had or be predicting a revenue drop of 40% for any consecutive period of at least 14 days within the period from 12 August to 10 September 2020. Businesses must show this 40% drop using a similar 14-day period from the last year.

Types of businesses eligible for the wage subsidy

Registered charities, Non-government organisations (NGOs), the self-employed and sole traders, if you're also an employee of a business your employer can also apply for a Wage Subsidy Extension for you, contractors, incorporated societies, post-settlement governance entities, local government organisations, kindergartens and Early Childhood Centres.

If you're an eligible employer, you can apply:

  • for casual employees if they're employed by you at the time you apply, and they would have expected to work during the time you will receive the Wage Subsidy Extension;
  • if you're a shareholder in a business (ie, you work for the business and are paid a wage, salary or draw an income for the work you do);
  • if you're a partner in a business (ie, each partner is paid a wage, salary or draws an income for the work they do).
  • Note: you can't apply for an employee on ACC earnings related compensation. But you can apply for them if they've returned to work and no longer get ACC.

State sector organisations are generally not eligible to receive the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Extension. This includes: Ministry of Health, District Health Boards, Inland Revenue, Ministry of Social Development, Crown entities, such as: Kāinga Ora, Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), Schools, tertiary education institutions, such as: universities, polytechnics, institutes of technology, Wananga.

A state sector organisation can ask for an exception to become eligible to apply for the subsidy. State sector organisations should contact their monitoring agency if they wish to discuss this. Businesses contracted to provide services to state sector employers (eg cleaning, security, etc) are not state sector employers. They can apply for the subsidy if they meet the other qualifications.

Small Business Cashflow Scheme (SBCS)

Businesses can still apply for the SBCS. This scheme supports businesses and organisations struggling because of loss of actual or predicted revenue as a result of COVID-19. They must have 50 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees. Inland Revenue administers the payments and repayments of this scheme.

Applications are open until 31 December 2020. Eligible businesses and organisations are entitled to a one-off loan. The maximum amount loaned is $10,000 plus $1,800 per full-time-equivalent employee.

The annual interest rate will be 3% beginning from the date of the loan being provided. Interest will not be charged if the loan is fully paid back within one year.

Covid Income Relief Payment

If you lost your job (including self-employment) from 1 March 2020 to 30 October 2020 due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for the COVID-19 Income Relief Payment. You can get up to 12 weeks of payments, to help with living costs after a sudden job loss, and give you time to find other work. Applications are open till 13 November 2020. Payment rates are;

  • $490 per week if you were previously working 30 hours or more a week;
  • $250 per week if you were previously working 15 hours to 29 hours a week.
  • You don't need to pay tax on this payment.

Specific requirements for types of businesses at Alert Level 3

If you’re a Category A business or service (includes border or parole services, Civil Defence emergency management, transport services, early childhood education or schooling, and veterinary or animal welfare services you must:

  • keep one metre distance between people (including between workers) so far as is reasonably practicable, taking into account the nature of the business or service, and
  • display a copy of the Government QR code in a prominent place, like the premises’ main entrance.
  • If it’s not reasonably practicable to maintain the one metre distance at all times, you need to mitigate the risks.
  • If you provide early childhood education or schooling you must also:
    • keep children, students, and teachers in groups that are appropriately sized and stable, to the extent reasonably practicable
    • limit school students’ physical attendance to years 1 to 10.

If you’re a Category B business or service (includes supermarkets and dairies, petrol stations, pharmacies, accommodation services, licencing trusts, and hardware stores for trade customers only) you must:

  • keep one metre distance between workers, so far as is reasonably practicable, taking into account the nature of the business or service; and
  • keep two metres distance between everyone else so far as is reasonably practicable, taking into account the nature of the business or service.
  • If it’s not reasonably practicable to maintain theses distances at all times, you need to mitigate the risks;
    • stop food and drink being served and eaten on the premises, except for accommodation services, and
    • display a copy of the Government QR code in a prominent place, like the premises’ main entrance.

If you are any other business and service, except for venues and public transport, you’re Category C and you must:

  • keep one metre distance between workers people so far as is reasonably practicable, taking into account the nature of the business or service;
  • if it’s not reasonably practicable to maintain this distance at all times, you need to mitigate the risks;
  • display a copy of the Government QR code in a prominent place, like the premises’ main entrance;
  • support contact tracing of people accessing or using the premises;
  • ensure no customers or clients enter the premises, and that they collect goods in a way that minimises physical contact without entering a building;
  • ensure there’s no close personal contact with customers or clients.

Public transport services should follow Ministry of Transport guidance.

Businesses and services should follow public health guidance to control the risk of COVID-19 spreading at work.

Obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) to ensure the health and safety of workers and other people in the workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable, will continue to apply.

 

Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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