blog upd july 20

Covid-19July 20, 2021

Live updates, July 20: South Australia becomes latest state to enter lockdown

blog upd july 20

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 20, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

3.35pm: What to do with Toa the stranded orca

Earlier this morning, a search was under way for the orca pod linked to stranded calf “Toa”. No update has been provided on that search thus far, but here is some expert commentary on how to care for Toa while we keep our fingers crossed for a positive reunion.

This from Massey University marine biologist Karen Stockin, as shared by the Science Media Centre:

Understandably, the New Zealand public, caregivers and supporters focus efforts on possible pod reunification for Toa. Finding his natal pod has proven a huge challenge, but that of course is only part of the problem. There are no guarantees that even if Toa’s natal pod could be located, and a safe translocation were possible, that Toa himself would be accepted or even survive the process. Balancing the welfare needs of Toa throughout all decision making is an unenviable task. What should remain at the forefront of our actions is his immediate welfare and long-term chance of survival.

Internationally-recognised practice for separated cetaceans this young is either lifelong human care or euthanasia. Notably, this is based on clear scientific rationale around welfare and survival outcomes. New Zealand has no captive or rehabilitation facility that could support Toa. Of course, we all crave a Disney happy ending, but what matters most here is not our understandable human sentiment and emotion, but notably the viability and welfare of Toa.

3.10pm: Hosting America’s Cup lost us $156 million

The America’s Cup lost New Zealand more than $156 million, according to new reports released by the business ministry.

As Newshub reported, the cost of hosting the regatta topped $744 million but benefits were listed at $588.1 million.

Covid-19 significantly impacted the event, with border closures limiting the number of challengers and spectators.

Auckland Unlimited chief executive Nick Hill said that despite the financial loss, events like the cup help to create lasting infrastructure for a city. “The America’s Cup has further transformed Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter, opening up new public spaces, artworks, calm water spaces and infrastructure that will be enjoyed for years to come,” he said.

2.45pm: Diary of Melbourne lockdown

The Spinoff’s Alice Webb-Liddall, who is still stuck in Melbourne, writes:

Dear diary,

Melbourne lockdown day 4: The premier has just announced that the lockdown will be extended for another week. I’m becoming acquainted with the hotel apartment kitchen. The non-stick pan is quite good, I fried up some tomatoes on it this morning for my toast.

I’m beginning to regret only bringing carry-on luggage. The tights I’ve been wearing for three days now will need to go in the wash tomorrow, which means I’ll have to break out the jeans. Lockdown is hard, but lockdown in a hotel room with only 7kg of your own things is something else.

I miss my cat.

Had this holiday gone to plan, right now I’d be on a plane home. I’d be sad, thinking about all the yum cocktails we sipped at rooftop bars and practicing my Aussie accent when the flight attendant asked if I’d like water.

“Naur thaainks.”

AWL. Still sad. (The Spinoff)

Read yesterday’s diary entry from Alice here and the full story of her trip to Melbourne here.

2.00pm: South Australia moves into lockdown

Another Australian state will enter lockdown due to spread of the delta variant of Covid-19.

From 6pm tonight local time, South Australia will enter a seven day lockdown after five confirmed cases. Premier Steven Marshall said there may just be “one chance” to get things right. “We have no alternative but to impose some fairly heavy and immediate restrictions to come in,” he said today.

The five cases stem from a man who returned to Australia from Argentina. The first four cases were all close contacts, but Marshall said this fifth case was “far more worrying” as they were not from the original family.

No announcement has yet been made by our government regarding quarantine-free travel with South Australia.

Victoria extends lockdown, New South Wales records more cases

Elsewhere in Australia, Victoria’s lockdown has been extended by a further week through until July 27.

In New South Wales, 78 local coronavirus cases have been reported in the past 24 hours. It’s still a shocking number, but it’s actually the second lowest daily case count since July 11. Of today’s new cases, at least 21 were infectious while out in the community.

1.10pm: Six Covid-19 cases recorded in MIQ, none in the community

There are no new community cases of Covid-19 today with six reported in managed isolation. Of those six, three are from onboard the Mattina container ship that is currently docked in Bluff.

A handful of new cases were confirmed onboard the vessel earlier today.

The number of active cases in New Zealand has risen to 51.

Meanwhile, daily health and welfare checks are continuing for all crew members who remain onboard the Playa Zahara in quarantine in Lyttelton.

12.30pm: Lorde to release second Solar Power single

The second track from Lorde’s upcoming record Solar Power will be released tomorrow, according to a post on the singer’s website. 

Titled “Stoned at the Nail Salon”, it’s probably the most anticipated song from the album just from the name alone.

The full album is due out next month.


12.00pm: Just 17% of Americans interested in watching Olympic rugby – poll

A poll of American adults has revealed just how few are excited to watch the Rugby Sevens at this month’s Olympic Games. Just 17%, according to data by Morning Consult and published by Axios. That puts it at the bottom of the most anticipated sports list.

It’s something I wouldn’t usually cover off in the live updates, but the fact that more Americans are excited to watch handball than rugby is… confusing to me. The fact that more Americans are excited to watch water polo than rugby just makes me angry.

One anonymous sports fan in The Spinoff office told me that water polo is “unwatchable”. That anonymous sports fan is not me because I will happily go on the record as calling it unwatchable.

On the flipside, more than 60% of those polled were looking forward to the gymnastics.

(Image / Morning Consult)

11.20am: Act promises to go tough on gangs with 10 page plan

Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports:

Courtenay Place provided the best symbol today for Act leader David Seymour to release the party’s new package of proposals to target crime. The centre of New Zealand’s capital city has been a horrible place to visit in recent months once the sun sets, with increasing reports of crime on the bar-lined thoroughfare.

Flanked by members of his caucus and the owner of the bar Danger Danger, Seymour pledged to push a tough on crime agenda.

According to the Act leader, gang numbers are up 50% since Jacinda Ardern entered the prime minister’s office. Labour is soft on crime, he said. Compounding issues, the prime minister has given funding to gang-adjacent groups.

While Seymour is about to launch a 45 stop whistle-stop tour of the country, Ardern is on vacation and her cabinet ministers have made a habit of visiting gang pads.

So what would Act do? Seymour stood under a big red neon sign in the bar that read “oh fuck yeah” as he laid out the plan: give police tools to seize gang assets, make parole contingent on completing rehabilitation, monitor the spending of any gang member receiving the benefit and set a formula for police funding based on population, not cabinet’s budget-making process.

Along with the stand-up, Act released a 10 page document with details and briefed media in advance of the policy.

Meanwhile, the National party continued to “demand the debate”. The party released a press release this morning calling for more guns for police and then put up its crime plan, contained in an Instagram post, as Seymour answered questions about how exactly his proposals would work.

10.45am: Orca update! Search continues for pod

The search will continue today for a pod of orcas in and around the Wellington region, after a calf was stranded near Plimmerton more than a week ago.

In a statement, the Department of Conservation said “favourable” weather conditions would allow for both air and sea searches today.

“Today’s weather offers us the best a good chance to look for the orca pod, especially with the credible sightings near Wellington,” said Doc’s Ian Angus. “We will have a boat in the water and the aeroclub are helping with an air search. If you do see an orca pod please report it straight away and make sure you keep a 50 metre distance from it.”

The separated calf is still being kept in a temporary pool in Porirua.

9.55am: More Covid-19 cases confirmed onboard Bluff-docked container ship

Nine crew members on the Mattina container ship, currently docked in Bluff, have now tested positive for Covid-19.

The vessel has been quarantined at the port after arriving on Sunday night with two symptomatic crew members. Those two were given rapid tests that yesterday confirmed they had Covid-19, with another seven testing positive overnight.

Health officials have determined that the only local port member who had contact with the ship crew is a Southport pilot, who went aboard the ship as it entered the port.

“Pilots are required to board vessels of this size when berthing,” a Ministry of Health statement said. “The pilot wore appropriate PPE and was fully vaccinated.”

No one else has been on or off the ship since it docked. The ministry said that yesterday morning’s testing for Covid-19 took place on the gangway area and all appropriate protocols were followed by health staff, including PPE being worn.

The Mattina is the third vessel in our waters to record Covid-19 cases in the past week, along with the Viking Bay in Wellington and the Playa Zahara in Lyttelton.

9.30am: England drops Covid-19 restrictions while case numbers soar


The UK has been recording, on average, more than 44,000 new Covid-19 cases each day over the past week. And yet, overnight, England has lost almost all coronavirus restrictions.

But while nightclub goers and shoppers celebrated “Freedom Day”, UK prime minister Boris Johnson was in self-isolation after coming into contact with a possible Covid-19 case.

Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker told TVNZ that the “herd immunity” approach of England would result in “mass infection”.

“Unfortunately, it carries a huge price to the British people,” he said.

“[Deaths from Covid-19] will continue to rise because it inevitably follows the rise in cases. Also, having millions of children getting this infection, some will have long Covid. We don’t know the long-term effects on children.”

It’s possible, added Baker, that the soaring case numbers would overwhelm the British health system with experts estimating 10 million new infections by the end of the year.

“You need two conditions if you’re going to even think about opening up. One is you need a high vaccine coverage, and the other you need to have dampened transmission to low levels. If you don’t have those conditions in place, you’re looking for a disaster,” he added.

With case numbers set to rise dramatically it begs the question – should New Zealand close off our borders entirely to UK-based returnees, even though they’re forced to isolate?

8.10am: Act wants electronic monitoring of gang members’ benefits

The Act Party wants to stop gang members spending their benefit money on things like alcohol, cigarettes or gambling.

The party has taken advantage of parliament’s closure this week to launch its law and order policy in Wellington. According to the Herald, who has early access to one element of the policy, the proposal was actually about keeping children safe.

“Act will ensure the children of gang members are less likely to suffer neglect by requiring gang members who receive a benefit to undergo electronic income management,” said Act’s social development spokeswoman Karen Chhour. Stats show that 21% of gang members were the alleged perpetrators of emotional abuse of children, although this number will have gone up as gang membership soared.

“The money provided by taxpayers will need to go towards food and other essentials,” Chhour said, explaining that gang members would receive their benefit on an “electronic card” that would restrict their spending.

Further details of Act’s law and order policy will be revealed today. We’ll have more details from our political editor Justin Giovannetti.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

In a release late last night, GCSB minister Andrew Little said the agency had established links between a Chinese state-sponsored hacking group and malicious activity in NZ. Radio NZ reports the group – Advanced Persistent Threat 40 – also stands accused of attacks in Britain. “We call for an end to this type of malicious activity, which undermines global stability and security, and we urge China to take appropriate action in relation to such activity emanating from its territory,” said Little. The statement was coordinated alongside one from US president Joe Biden, other Five Eyes countries, the European Union, and Japan.

This appears to be a pretty significant moment in the direction of travel for New Zealand’s international relations. Richard Harman at Politik speculated in a report that knowledge this was coming up is what led the government to warn exporters they could face trade disruption, similar to what is being experienced by Australian exporters at the moment. The bind NZ is now in was illustrated in this recent Radio NZ story about export growth to China, in which a foreign policy expert said it had been clear for at least a decade that a moment like this was coming.

The stats on inflation came out on Friday, and they show it running ahead of any time over the past decade. As the NZ Herald reports, a lot of that was driven by increased housing and petrol costs. The spike increases the chance the Reserve Bank will start moving interest rates up earlier – perhaps as soon as next month. Some are also seeing the risks of “stagflation” developing. As Interest’s David Hargreaves writes, “there is a risk then that our economy could rapidly lose heat and impetus, but prices would stay up. And that would be horrid. That would be stagflation.”

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal has ruled an Indian man cannot be deported right now, because it would be inhumane to send him back to a country ravaged by Covid. Stuff’s Steve Kilgallon reports former immigration minister Tuariki Delamere believes this could be a precedent-setter, making deportations generally much less likely. Immigration NZ has rejected this, saying the ruling will not make them change their approach.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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