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5.30pm: Data shows impact of latest lockdown
Recreation and retail activity in Auckland fell by 49% in the latest level three lockdown, but it’s a markedly less dramatic fall than under the same rules in August, when the corresponding drop was 57%. That’s according to new data from Google, drawn from anonymised mobile phone location records. More people were at their workplaces and there were fewer hours spent at home than under the lockdown in August.
Read the full story here.
2.45pm: A shaky day in the east
Fifteen earthquakes above Magnitude 4 have struck off East Cape since midnight. They follow a 7.2 quake at around 2.30am yesterday, which led to tsunami warnings and evacuations. The worst of the earthquakes today was Magnitude 6.1, at a depth of 33 km, 140 km east of Te Araroa. Felt at 1.16pm, it rated a “moderate” quake by Geonet.
This series of aftershocks is consistent with seismologists’ expectations. GNS has laid out three scenarios for earthquakes in the region after yesterday’s event. Read them here.
1.00pm: No new community cases; nine in MIQ
There are no new Covid-19 cases detected in testing in the community, according to the Ministry of Health’s daily update.
There are nine new cases in managed isolation. Of those, eight arrived from India, via the UAE, on March 4. Of those, there are two pairs, each sharing a bubble. The ninth arrived from the US via Qatar, also on March 4. All cases were detected in routine testing on day zero.
“Today’s managed isolation case numbers underscore the value of having the day 0/1 testing in place. All people arriving into New Zealand must remain in their rooms until those day 0/1 tests results come back, and in these cases, all nine people are transferred to a quarantine facility following those positive results,” reads the ministry release.
With six previously reported cases now classified as recovered, the total number of active cases in New Zealand is 71. The total number of confirmed cases is 2,042.
Yesterday 9,471 tests were processed, meaning more than 71,000 tests have been processed in the last week. The total number of Covid tests processed by New Zealand laboratories is 1,772,480.
12.30pm: Update expected at 1pm
A reminder: there is no Covid-19 press conference scheduled for today. Instead we’re expecting a media release at around 1pm. We’ll bung that directly into these updates as soon as it arrives.
In the meantime, here’s something to listen to – Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris talk to Noelle McCarthy about their Spinoff collaborations, from the excellent Word Christchurch festival.
11.40am: Pasifika postponed, relocated
The Pasifika Festival, planned to take place on the weekend of March 13 in Auckland, has been postponed to the weekend of April 10. The announcement follows the decision to leave Auckland at level two until at least Friday. The event, which attracts thousands of guests and therefore cannot be held under level two, will now he held at Mt Smart Stadium rather than Western Springs, its home since 1993.
“Pasifika is a much-loved festival and an important celebration of Auckland’s vibrant Pacific cultures,” said Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. “I’m happy that Auckland Unlimited, our Pacific community leaders, organisers and festival stakeholders have been able to work together to confirm a new date. I look forward to attending Pasifika this year and enjoying all the performances, music, art, culture and heritage the festival offers.”
Pasifika has not been held since 2018. Last year’s event was cancelled at the last minute after Covid began to spring up in New Zealand. In 2019 it was cancelled because police resources were strained after the Christchurch mosque attacks.
10.45am: Middlemore staff return to work after false-positive
Some staff members at Middlemore hospital in South Auckland were stood down after a patient returned a “weak positive result for one of two target genes”, 1 News reports. After two further tests returned negative results, the first “has now been categorised as a false positive”, the DHB told the outlet.
Staff have since been “released back to their normal activities”, a DHB spokesperson told 1 News. “Although the nasal swabbing we use for Covid-19 testing has a low rate of false positives they do occur and we take a very precautionary approach when any cases under investigation are in our care.”
10am: Who is Kiri Allan?
The search traffic flowing into the Spinoff over the last 24 hours suggests the minister for emergency management has made quite an impression. Kiritapu Allan, pictured above, is the MP for East Coast (winning comfortably despite some disputes about a poll), and in only her second term in parliament has been promoted to cabinet, where she also holds the conservation and associate arts portfolios. It’s in emergency management that she has come to the attention of the wider public, however, with a series of impressive press appearances following the earthquakes and tsunami warnings of yesterday.
Allan grew up in Paengaroa, Te Karaka and Auckland, and before becoming an MP worked as a lawyer. As a newbie in 2017, Allan wrote a candidate diary for the Spinoff through the election campaign, reflecting on everything from the impact of the Edegcumbe floods to wanting to throw up before her first interview on live TV. Her daughter is said to be a powerful force in the parliamentary infant union.
Here’s an excerpt from her maiden speech, which you can read in full here:
I am one of 10 children, from a mixed family that transcends race, class and geography. My dad, a son of a solo mother who raised four boys in Gore to be resilient, hard-working and kind men. Her ancestors arrived here in 1848 aboard the vessel Blunder, landing in Port Chalmers from Scotland. My father’s father, the son of migrants from Aberdeen, Scotland, that came via Sri Lanka where they were the owners of tea plantations.
My mother’s father, a fisherman and World War II veteran. Her mother, a Pirirakau princess was raised in the centre of our universe, Te Puna.
I have the honour of carrying my grandmother’s name: Kiritapu. My nana spoke only Te Reo Maori until the age of five when she entered into the Native Schools system. On her first day at that school, her name was changed to “Kitty” and she was strapped for speaking Te Reo. Whatever the intention, it was nevertheless the effect, my nana’s cultural identity was whipped out of her at that school, and so too, some might say, was her voice.
Nana, I stand here in this House to honour your name, and to give voice to the voiceless, who for whatever their circumstances, cannot speak for themselves.
Update: Stuff political editor Luke Malpass has just published a terrific interview with Allan here.
9.35am: No new cases overnight
Peeni Henare, associate minister for health, has just told Newshub Nation that no new cases of Covid-19 have come to light overnight. Assuming that doesn’t change in the coming hours, it will be the sixth consecutive day with no positive tests returned in the community. “I am confident that we have managed to contain this cluster,” Henare said.
Asked whether the latest outbreak had exposed holes in the contact tracing approach, and a more rigorous approach might have been taken, Henare accepted that there were “lessons along the way”, but “we’re confident in our health response”.
8.00am: The day ahead
There are a couple of things we’ll be looking out for today to soothe our collective nerves. Or rather, a couple of things we don’t want to see.
First, we don’t want to see any new cases of Covid-19 in the community. At least, we don’t want to see any new cases in people that aren’t linked to the Valentine’s Day cluster. We can live with a case or two that have been isolating and are linked.
We also don’t want to see any press conferences. The plan as we understand it is a 1pm press release today. We’ll have that in full as soon as it lands, here.
And we really do not want to hear that is-it-a-lockdown-or-is-it-a-tsunami hell chord screeching out of our phones like a Kraftwerk migraine.
7.30am: Thank God it’s not Friday any more
“It’s hard not to feel our country is having a run of bad luck,” said the prime minister yesterday afternoon. Here’s a reminder of what she was talking about.
March 4, 2021, will be remembered as a very eventful day; one which began for much of the country with a 2.27am shake, and for thousands of people in Bay of Plenty and East Cape with a dash for the hills. Just a few hours after they’d returned to their homes, with that tsunami warning from an offshore earthquake over, the alarms were sounding again. A 7.4 magnitude quake near the Kermadec Islands at 6.41am was just the warm-up act for an 8.1 at 8.28am. Amid some early confusion about which warning was which, much of the eastern coast of the North Island was put into evacuation mode. It must have been a stressful time for the people of Northland and the east, but they weren’t about to show it. The marine and beach warnings covered most of the North and some of the South Island.
Shortly after 3pm the worst of the waves were over, and the evacuated headed home. What does all this seismic ballyhoo mean in the days and weeks to come? Geonet has sketched out three scenarios, which you can read here. They’re mostly comforting.
Alert level latest
There was good news in the 1pm press release from the Ministry of Health yesterday: zero new cases. None in managed isolation and, much more importantly, for the fifth straight day, none in the community.
It made the alert level decision, announced at 4pm after a cabinet meeting, inevitable: Auckland would move out of the alert level three lockdown. The only question was how soon, and to what. The answer: Auckland goes to alert level two at 6am Sunday, while the rest of the country goes to alert level one. If that feels familiar, it is: this was the scenario on February 18. The fact of that deja vu may have informed cabinet’s decision to keep Auckland in level two for longer than last time. The prime minister indicated that cabinet would review the settings next week with a view to putting the region back into level one “before the weekend” – a nod to events organisers and the hospitality sector that a semblance of normality is not too far away.
If you’ve emerged from a rock or just want to take the ride again, relive yesterday by clicking here, zipping to the end and scrolling upwards.