Mortgage holiday for those hit by pandemic

Mortgage holders whose incomes have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic will be granted a six-month "repayment holiday" by their banks, the Government has announced

Speaking alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday afternoon, Finance Minister Grant Robertson revealed an agreement between the Government, the Reserve Bank, and New Zealand's retail banks to grant "mortgage holidays" to homeowners whose incomes have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The details would be announced in the coming days, and Robertson urged New Zealanders not to "bombard" their banks with queries before that was finalised.

Robertson also revealed the Government and the banks would set up a $6.25 billion business finance guarantee scheme for small and medium-sized businesses who are under stress.

The scheme will include a limit of $500,000 per loan and apply to firms with annual turnover of between $250,000 and $80 million. The loans would be for a maximum of three years and expected to be provided by the banks at competitive, transparent rates.

On Monday, Ardern announced New Zealand would move into a full lockdown at Level 4 - the highest on the country's new Covid-19 alert system - at 11.59pm on Wednesday.

Supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential services will remain open, but non-essential businesses are required to close their face-to-face functions - including bars, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, libraries, playgrounds and other places of public congregation.

Ardern said New Zealand would move to Level 4 on Wednesday and was expected to remain in full lockdown for at least four weeks to break the chain of transmission.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Government was significantly expanding its wage subsidy scheme, removing the $150,000 cap and widening the eligibility criteria, and was urgently developing other economic measures to help New Zealanders.

Earlier on Tuesday, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield announced there were now 155 probable or confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the first case was identified on February 28.

Of those, 12 have recovered, with six still receiving treatment in hospital and nobody requiring intensive care.

Read more of Newsroom's Covid-19 coverage here. 

Covid-19 is transmitted like the flu. The Ministry of Health recommends that all New Zealanders wash their hands frequently and refrain from touching their face in order to protect themselves and others. Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have been to any countries or territories of concern or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19.

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