Covid-19July 2, 2021

Live updates, July 2: Morrison announces ‘pathway out of Covid-19’, trial of self-isolation at home on arrival


Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 2, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at info@thespinoff.co.nz

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2.40pm: Morrison details ‘pathway out of Covid-19’ for Australia

Speaking to media in Canberra following a cabinet meeting, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has announced a “pathway out of Covid-19”. Speaking as the country reels from a fresh outbreak that has seen more than half the population thrown back into lockdown, Morrison identified four phases, which would eventually lead to Australia to a place where it would “manage Covid-19 as an infectious disease like any other in our community”.

Phase one, the current state of play, is to vaccinate, prepare and pilot. That includes a temporary reduction in commercial inbound passenger arrivals “to all major ports by 50% from current caps to reduce the pressure on quarantine facilities, due to the increased risks of the Delta strain of the virus.” That will see the quarantine system capped at 3,035 intakes a week for most of the rest of the year. Lockdowns to be used only as a “last resort”.

They will also “trial and pilot with individual jurisdictions … alternative quarantine options, including home quarantine for returning vaccinated travellers”. 

Phase two is post-vaccination. “The post-vaccination phase will be entered once we reach a threshold of vaccination to be determined by the modelling process we’re currently engaged in. This will be a scientific number. It won’t be a political number.” Morrison said he was confident this point will be reached by the end of 2021.

In this phase, inbound travel restrictions would begin to ease and “lockdowns would only occur in extreme circumstances to prevent escalating hospitalisation and fatality”.

Phase three is the consolidation phase. “That basically means that the hospitalisation and fatality rates that you would see from Covid-19 would be like the flu,” said Morrison. “When it is like the flu, we should treat it like the flu and that means no lockdowns … the vaccine booster program under way, exempting vaccinated residents from all domestic restrictions, abolishing caps on returning vaccinated travellers.” The bubble for unrestricted travel would extend to “new countries such as Singapore, the Pacific and potentially other candidates“.

Phase four is “back to normal”. This is likely to see “uncapped inbound arrivals for all vaccinated persons without quarantine, and allowing uncapped arrivals of non-vaccinated travel subject to pre-flight and on arrival testing”.

New South Wales, currently in lockdown, reported 31 new community transmitted cases today. Twelve of those were “active in the community” while infectious.

1.40pm: Inquiry into seafood sector use of migrant labour launched

A ministerial inquiry looking into the “use and allocation” of migrant labour in the seafood sector has been announced by oceans and fisheries minister David Parker. “The inquiry will focus on the sector’s reliance on migrant labour, and how to transition it away from that reliance. It will also examine how to accelerate efforts to attract more New Zealanders into rewarding jobs in the seafood sector,” he said in a statement.

The inquiry follows calls from the seafood industry, which is responsible for around $2bn in exports annually, to address the shortage in workers on vessels and land since the Covid-19 border restrictions were introduced in 2020. In a statement Seafood NZ said, “We welcome analysis of the barriers preventing the further ‘New Zealandisation’ of the workforce”.

The probe will “take in all commercial seafood activities, including deep-sea fishing, inshore fishing, aquaculture activities, and seafood processing”, said Parker. “Some businesses in the sector have reduced their reliance on migrant workers since border restrictions were imposed, but some deep sea vessels in particular are still 100% foreign-crewed. The inquiry will do a stocktake of the current state of the seafood sector’s workforce and determine what a more resilient seafood workforce – with a greater proportion of New Zealanders ­– could look like, and how this might be achieved.”

Peter Wilson, principal economist at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, will chair the inquiry, with a deadline for findings of October 29.

A report by the prime minister’s chief science adviser, published in February, raised a number of concerns about the future of commercial fishing in New Zealand.

1.00pm: No new community cases; two in MIQ

There are no community cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, with two detected in managed isolation, along with one historical case.

With three cases deemed recovered, that makes the NZ active case tally 27.

It’s now 11 days since the Australian visitor, who subsequently tested positive for the delta strain of Covid-19, flew out of Wellington, so we’re getting close to being able to confidently say, in accordance with the obligatory terminology, that we are out of the woods / have dodged the bullet.

Of the 2,695 people identified as contacts of the Australian visitor from his June 19-21 stay, 2,627 or 97% of people have now returned a negative result. Says the Ministry of Health: “32 people have been granted a clinical exemption and eight have returned overseas which means their home jurisdiction will be following up with them. The remaining contacts are being actively followed up by contact tracing teams.” We count that as 28 people.

Yesterday 7,131 tests were processed across the country. There were 856,762 QR scans using the Contact Tracer app in the last 24 hours.

11.00am: Is there hope after all for housing in NZ?

Last week’s pod-and-column by Bernard Hickey was something extraordinary. As he himself put it: “This is the ugliest and most despairing column I have ever written.” The state of the housing crisis, and the prospects for home ownership for younger generations had seen what was left of his hope evaporate away.

We invited Megan Woods for a response, and she provided this commentary. “It’s taken many years to get us into this housing crisis and it will take more time to get out of it. There is no quick fix,” wrote the housing minister. “But the steps we have taken will bring about enduring, structural change.” Bernard’s response to that response can be found in yesterday’s updates.

Bernard returns to the scene of the hope apocalypse today. “I’ve been shocked at how shocked people were about my declaration of hopelessness about the futures for young renters wanting affordable housing in their lifetimes,” he writes. Peeling himself from the floor of the void, he set about “asking a range of people: what needs to change and how they would change it if they didn’t need to get re-elected and there was no Treasury edict limiting the Crown’s ability to borrow and invest for the future?”

Read the result here. Listen below and follow When the Facts Change on Apple PodcastsSpotify or your favourite podcast provider.

9.45am: Lawyers sue Climate Commission

Lawyers for Climate Action NZ is has filed proceedings at the High Court seeking a judicial review of the Climate Change Commission’s advice to the government. The group contends that the advice fails to comply with the Climate Change Response Act and New Zealand’s obligations under the Paris Agreement to limit warming to 1.5°C. It also questions the commission’s accounting methods and budgets.

“The Climate Change Commission’s advice looks ambitious on a first glance. However, when you dig into the detail, it fails to adequately address the scale and urgency of the task and is inconsistent with the legislation and international agreements it is meant to address,” said the group’s Jenny Cooper QC in a statement.

LCANZI’s statement of claim is here.

9.00am: ‘Misunderstood’ – man behind jaw-locking device responds to critics

An upbeat social media post about a device called the DentalSlim Diet Control went very badly for Otago University earlier this week, prompting waves of outrage, with comparisons drawn jaw-wiring and medieval torture. Today the researcher behind the jaw-locking contraption, Paul Brunton, has told the Otago Daily Times people had got it wrong. “I think people have misunderstood, unfortunately, our intention and the nature of the research itself,” he said.

He told the paper that it was not for general use. “People will not be forced to use it – it’s a choice – and it’s a decision that a person would be able to make for themselves in consultation with medical professionals.”

He said that the pilot included just six patients and “much more” research would need to be undertaken before taking it further.

Read the full ODT article here. And I’d encourage you to read the Spinoff commentary by Anna Rawhiti Connell – who absolutely did not misunderstand the situation – here.

8.00am: ‘We could have been clearer’ Hipkins on vaccine roll-out

The minister for the Covid response has acknowledged concerns around the roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine. He conceded that many in “group three” had thought they would be getting the jab around May, rather than from May, and more likely in the second half of the year. He told the Herald, “We certainly could have been clearer right from the beginning that it is going to be a three or four-month process.”

His remarks come amid reports around queue-jumping and text alerts to people surprised to learn they are in group three. Hipkins told the Herald he is looking into the alerts, and how many were sent in error. It’s worth noting that group three isn’t just over-65s. It also applies if you have a relevant underlying health condition, are disabled or caring for someone with a disability, are pregnant or an adult in a custodial setting

Next week New Zealand will be running it right up to the line in Pfizer vaccine supplies. If deliveries do not arrive as planned, the cupboard could run bare on Wednesday. Hipkins told the Herald he’s so nervous about the situation he’s been checking flight trackers and live streams of the shipments arriving.

Adjusted for population, New Zealand is currently ranked 122nd in the world for the pace of the vaccine rollout.

6.15am: Matariki holiday dates announced for next 30 years, and it’s always a Friday

Planning a long weekend around this time in 31 years? Pencil Friday June 21 in your 2052 diary. The government has this morning announced the recommended dates for three decades of Matariki public holidays. The new winter holidays fulfill a Labour campaign promise. It will always fall on a Paraire (Friday) and will move around a bit depending on the maramataka (Māori lunar calendar).

“Matariki will be our first public holiday that recognises Te Ao Māori and will be one that is uniquely New Zealand,” said Peeni Henare in a statement. “Mātauranga Māori has been at the heart of decision making on the new public holiday … Our celebration of the new public holiday will be informed by key values such as unity, sharing, feasting, coming together, and environmental awareness.”

For more on the case for and meaning of a Matariki public holiday, read this.

The earliest date is June 20; the latest, July 19. Those dates, then:

2022: June 24
2023: July 14
2024: June 28
2025: June 20
2026: July 10
2027: June 25
2028: July 14
2029: July 6
2030: June 21
2031: July 11
2032: July 2
2033: June 24
2034: July 7
2035: June 29
2036: July 18
2037: July 10
2038: June 25
2039: July 15
2040: July 6
2041: July 19
2042: July 11
2043: July 3
2044: June 24
2045: July 7
2046: June 29
2047: July 19
2048: July 3
2049: June 25
2050: July 15
2051: June 30
2052: June 21

One more thing. Maybe add a note in that 2052 entry: climate change permitting (see below).

6am: Highest recorded Antarctic temperature of 18.3C last year

The World Meteorological Organisation has verified the 18.3C temperature measured at Argentina’s Esperanza base February 6 2020, the warmest on record. They rejected, however, a 20.75C report from a Brazilian automated permafrost monitoring station on Seymour Island three days later.

“Verification of this maximum temperature record is important because it helps us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth’s final frontiers,” said WMO secretary-general Professor Petteri Taalas. “Even more so than the Arctic, the Antarctic is poorly covered in terms of continuous and sustained weather and climate observations and forecasts, even though both play an important role in driving climate and ocean patterns and in sea level rise.”

The temperature came amid a high-pressure system over the area created which created “föhn” conditions: downslope winds producing surface warming. The same conditions had caused extreme heat in New Zealand, too, said Victoria University of Wellington Professor James Renwick, who was part of the WMO evaluation team.

“The hottest day ever recorded in Aotearoa is still 42C in Rangiora and Christchurch, and other places in Canterbury, on February 7 1973. That happened in a big nor’westerly event just like the one that caused the new record for the Antarctic,” he said. “The Antarctic Peninsula has mountains running down its length, perpendicular to the flow of the north-west winds, so places on the eastern side of the Peninsula can experience very warm days, just like in Canterbury, which lies downwind of the Southern Alps.”

Top stories from this morning’s Bulletin

He Puapua is not government policy, but aspects of it could become so after a consultation period. That was the message given by Māori Economic Development minister Willie Jackson yesterday, in launching a two-stage consultation process around implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. As Stuff reports, NZ signed up to this in 2010, and since then governments have been trying to figure out how to integrate the ideas of UNDRIP into law. Over the course of this year, the otherwise pretty obscure He Puapua report has been dug out and brought to prominence by Act and National, who say it has secretly been government policy all along, and that it will create an ethnically separatist society.

As was explained by the author of He Puapua, the purpose of the report was to explore ideas about how UNDRIP could be implemented. For an understanding of where He Puapua is meant to be coming from, I recommend listening to this episode of The Detail interviewing constitutional scholar Dr Claire Charters. To take one quote, “part of that was: what would engagement look like on this? It certainly was not to say: ‘this is what it must look like’, but to provide a line of sight about how you might achieve compliance with these rights,” said Charters about her report.

In a perhaps optimistic statement, Willie Jackson launched the consultation process with a wish that it would bring the country together in kōrero. The NZ Herald’s Michael Neilson had a brilliantly comprehensive report on the launch event at Ngā Whare Waatea marae in Auckland. The consultation will first involve a targeted engagement with iwi and Māori organisations, with a second stage involving the general public. I said optimistic at the start of the paragraph, because the response from opposition leader Judith Collins was to say “by making this a matter for Māori alone, he is fostering more division.” It was a typically frustrating moment for this issue, because her wider point – that discussions need to take place between groups outside of those represented by Māori and the Crown – is reasonable, but the way Collins expressed it was not an accurate reflection of what is actually happening.

The government hasn’t exactly helped avoid controversy here though. A particular incident of this came up recently, in which mixed messages came out about whether it was good that He Puapua sat on the shelf over the last term. Jackson had said he was pleased it never made it to a cabinet that included Winston Peters, after the PM had denied a claim from Peters that it was deliberately withheld. That followed another incident in which Ardern said He Puapua wasn’t previously released “because of a concern that it would be misconstrued as government policy.”

An Oranga Tamariki care and residence facility has been closed following a damning video depicting mistreatment of children. All staff at the facility have been stood down and placed under investigation, after the initial report from Newsroom. The video showed two particular instances, one involving a child being thrown to the ground, and another involving a child being placed in a headlock. It came to light from a whistleblower who filmed the mistreatment captured by CCTV cameras, who then took it to media.

The Ngāti Rangitihi iwi are raising concerns that not enough will be done to remediate the land and water after the closure of Kawerau’s mill. Te Ao News reports there is no specific “clean-up” clause in the contract between Norske Skog Tasman and BOP Regional Council, but that general obligations to manage environmental effects apply. The mill owners assert they are not in breach of any consents. But you’d have to imagine industrial sites like Tiwai Point – where locals have been left with an enormous amount of contamination – loom large in the thinking of iwi.

A few more stories on water infrastructure: First of all, here’s the correct link to Stuff reporter Thomas Coughlan’s excellent piece about the tension between central and local government on it all. National’s Christopher Luxon spoke to Newstalk ZB last night setting out the opposition’s position, particularly noting the sense of unfairness high performing councils might feel at losing control. And on the boundaries of the four entities, there’s a strange situation in Marlborough – LDR Chloe Ranford reports the district will be split between two of the four entities, with Blenheim grouped with places as far flung as Gisborne.

Meanwhile in local government, it’s getting to that time in the election cycle when incumbents weigh their options. Radio NZ reports Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel will not be running again – sadly her husband died last year, and she said she does not want to campaign without him by her side. Several Christchurch councillors are now eyeing up the job. The NZ Herald’s Georgina Campbell reports neither Auckland nor Wellington’s mayors have given a firm commitment either way yet. And LDR Matthew Rosenberg interviewed Sir Tim Shadbolt last month, who reckons he’s got several more terms in him.

The Ministry for Ethnic Communities has officially been launched, in an upgrade that was recommended by the Royal Commission into the March 15 attacks. Stuff reports it will be led by minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan, and helmed by career public servant Mervin Singham as chief executive. He said part of the ministry’s job will be to address “services that don’t always meet the needs of ethnic people that need to be done in a more flexible way”. There has been some criticism of the new ministry, with National spokesperson Melissa Lee writing in the Indian Weekender that it has been set up as a “paper tiger” that won’t deliver real engagement.

In Fiji, the Covid outbreak is starting to get really bad, with hundreds of new cases declared yesterday. We’ve republished an RNZ Pacific report from yesterday, with the figures including two deaths, bringing the total since April to 22. Fiji’s top health official Dr James Fong is warning that the current numbers indicate it will get worse in the coming weeks, with the Fiji Village reporting his fears that the big increases are taking place in hard to reach areas of the country.

In further world news, a heatwave that unfortunately people need to be aware of: The West Coast of the US is currently being smashed in a heatwave, with both a harsh drought and fires, reports the Guardian. Further north in Canada, temperatures are getting alarmingly close to 50 celsius, a heat wave that has resulted in several hundred sudden deaths. This is the future with climate change.

Catch up with yesterday’s updates here.

Image: Tina Tiller

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