Coronavirus: Treasury's scenario of up to 26 percent unemployment 'unacceptable' - Finance Minister

"Unacceptable" is how the Finance Minister described one of Treasury's COVID-19 economic impact scenarios showing up to 26 percent unemployment if the lockdown was extended by up to six months. 

"Certainly, that level of unemployment would not be acceptable to me as the Minister of Finance or I'm sure to the Prime Minister," Grant Robertson said on Tuesday. 

"We don't see that scenario playing out, but it is a good indication of why it is so important that we stick to the rules and we emerge from level 4 as we possibly can."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, "The whole point of the strategy of going hard and going early is so that we do not have prolonged periods as the Treasury has run scenarios on of being in lockdown."

She pointed to other countries that are in lockdown at the moment that are extending them. France has just extended its lockdown until May 11, with similar plans previously announced by Italy and Spain. 

"The reason we moved quickly is to avoid those situations," Ardern said. "Ultimately, all of us want unemployment to be as low as possible. What we are simply ruling out is the idea that we would be in lockdown at level 4 for six months."

Robertson described Treasury's scenarios as "extremely sobering". 

But he said the Government has already put in significant resources into supporting New Zealand through the pandemic, with the equivalent of 6.3 percent of GDP put into the recovery and response plan.  

He said there is "more to come", with Budget 2020 details to be released next month.  

The press conference followed the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield's confirmation that New Zealand has "passed the peak" of coronavirus, with just 17 new cases reported on Tuesday, bringing the total to 1366.