blog march 1


Daily Covid cases almost at 20,000

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates and welcome to autumn – it’s March 1. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can get in touch with me on

The latest

And a reminder: You can now bookmark the live updates to easily find them everyday! 

blog march 1

Daily Covid cases almost at 20,000

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates and welcome to autumn – it’s March 1. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. You can get in touch with me on

The latest

And a reminder: You can now bookmark the live updates to easily find them everyday! 

Mar 1 2022

Newshub, TVNZ, Tova win big at the New Zealand Television Awards

Newshub, TVNZ and Tova O’Brien were the big winners at the New Zealand Television Awards this afternoon, presented virtually by comedian Tom Sainsbury.

Three’s Newshub dominated the news and current affairs categories, taking home four awards. Michael Morrah won Reporter of the Year for the second year in a row, and, with Angus Gillies and Kim Hurring, won Best News Coverage for his Covid-19 Testing programme, while Tova O’Brien was awarded Best Presenter: News and Current Affairs for Newshub Nation, a more pleasant end to her journey with the company.

The Hui walked away with Best Current Affairs Programme and, for the second time, the Te Māngai Pāho Best Māori Programme award.

TVNZ won big in the scripted categories, taking away both Best Drama Series (for Creamerie) and Best Comedy/Comedy Entertainment Programme for Wellington Paranormal (which also claimed an award for Best Script: Comedy for Melanie Bracewell). Joel Tobeck won Best Actor for Black Hands, while Rima Te Wiata scored Best Actress for The Tender Trap. The company also nabbed awards for Best Presenter (for Have You Been Paying Attention’s Hayley Sproull) and Best Director: Documentary/Factual (for Natalie Malcon and Thomas Robins’ work on Heaven and Hell – the Centrepoint Story).

The Spinoff’s webseries Scratched: Aotearoa’s Lost Sporting Legends was nominated for Best Sports Programme, but lost out to Sky Sport’s All Access: Aaron Smith. You can watch Scratched here, and you should, because it’s bloody great.

RAT tests roll out to The Warehouse

Rapid antigen tests will soon be available at The Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery.

As we are now in phase three of the omicron response, rapid Covid tests are being distributed to all testing centres (where they will be free) along with a number of pharmacies, GPs and other retailers (where they will be available to buy).

In a statement, The Warehouse group chief customer officer Jonathan Waecker said a five pack of RAT tests will cost $31.99. “These will be available for purchase online later today, and we’re working as quickly as we can to have these tests available for customers in The Warehouse and Warehouse stationery stores nationwide by next week,” he said.

“All of The Warehouse stores offer a contactless Click & Collect service, and we will be prioritising RAT orders to have them sent out and available for collection as quickly as possible”.

While they don’t appear on The Warehouse website yet, these are already up for sale on The Warehouse-owned website The Market. 

Political leaders jointly condemn actions of Russia

Political leaders have jointly condemned the actions of Russia during the first sitting of a new hybrid parliament.

The prime minister Jacinda Ardern raised the motion: “this House condemns the recent unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine by Russia, that it calls on Russia to cease all military operations in Ukraine and withdraw, and express New Zealand’s strong support for Ukraine’s people, its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

During her speech, Ardern labelled the invasion of Ukraine as “brutal, intolerable and an act of aggression”, calling president Vladimir Putin a “bully”.

“We are united,” said Ardern. “Russia’s actions are a direct challenge to our core values: democracy, human rights, and the international rules-based system. Values that we rely on for our own peace and security.”

Other political leaders – such as James Shaw and Christopher Luxon – similarly condemned Russia and Putin.

Auckland bears brunt of outbreak, with 40,000 new cases in four days

Tāmaki Makaurau continues to be the most heavily impacted part of New Zealand in the Covid pandemic in New Zealand, with 12,530 of today’s 19,566 new confirmed cases recorded in our biggest city. Across the last four days, Auckland has officially recorded 40,143 new infections. The burden is more marked still in hospitalisations. Of 373 people currently hospitalised with Covid-19, 312 are in one of Auckland’s three hospitals. Middlemore is the most affected, with 134 Covid patients – more than a third of the national total.

The experience in Auckland will help other parts of New Zealand plan for the inevitable surge in numbers, epidemiologist Michael Baker told Newsroom on Saturday. “Watching how things go in Auckland will be very helpful for the rest of the country.”

While Auckland has led the country in terms of the first two vaccination doses, it is lagging on boosters, despite the clear evidence that the third shot helps prevent serious disease, hospitalisation and death.

Newly approved Novavax jab could be ‘extra incentive’ for unvaccinated

A nurse holds up a vial of vaccine at a hospital in Srinagar. India has administered more than 55 million shots of Covid-19 vaccine so far. (Photo: Yawar Nazir/Getty Images)

A third Covid-19 vaccine will soon be accessible in the country.

The Novavax vaccine has been approved and will be made available for people over the age of 18. “Novavax is a protein-based Covid-19 vaccine and while the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine remains the preferred vaccine of most New Zealanders, for some people, the arrival of Novavax will be the extra incentive required to get vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Chris Hipkins.

“There’s no reason to doubt that with the introduction of Novavax, New Zealand can continue to nudge up our vaccination rates.”

The first doses are anticipated to arrive in New Zealand this month.

Covid-19 update: 373 now in hospital, nine in ICU, 19,566 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

There are 373 people in hospital with Covid-19, with nine now in intensive care. Most cases are in Middlemore Hospital, 134, followed by Auckland Hospital, 115.

Speaking from the Ministry of Health, Ashley Bloomfield said the average stay for people in hospital with Covid-19 from the past few weeks is 2.2 days – around half of what it was during the delta outbreak. The vast majority of people are not requiring any respiratory support

Meanwhile, there are nearly 20,000 new community cases of Covid-19 today with around 100,000 active cases nationwide. The Ministry of Health confirmed 19,566 new cases – the highest recorded from across both years of the pandemic.

Of those, only “a couple of thousands” were detected from PCR tests, said Bloomfield.

Just 22 new overseas cases were confirmed ahead of the full border reopening later this week.

While the rise in numbers could sound concerning, Bloomfield reminded people that Covid-19 is now a different foe to what it was two years ago.

As the outbreak worsens, Bloomfield said it has become less feasible to pool samples for testing. “Two Thursdays ago, before the rollout of rapid antigen tests, 17 or the DHBs across the country recorded positivity rates of more than 5%. Less than a month ago, none of our labs had exceeded that 5% threshold,” he said.

It’s now clear we overestimated the number of tests the lab network could actually process once omicron began to take off, added the director general. “This led to a delay in the processing of around 32,000 samples,” he said.

For more: Visit The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here

Bloomfield has apologised to anyone who had their test result delayed, and has implored anyone who still has symptoms to go and seek a rapid antigen test.

Over 9,000 tests were sent to Queensland for processing at the weekend, explained Bloomfield. “We’re addressing the situation.”

GPs and urgent care clinics will now have unsupervised RATs to hand out as well as offering supervised RATs. Bloomfield said people will now be given three RATs per household when they go to a testing centre, GP or urgent care clinic.

Bloomfield has asked for an external review of what went wrong with lab testing of PCR results. It was hoped unpooled capacity could reach 39,000 a day by the end of March. At the moment it’s about 30,000, he said. “It was a combination of staffing vacancies and staff being off, some of the new machines were delayed, and there were delays around reagents [a substance used for lab testing],” he said.

Around 54% of people who were notified by text that they were a case in the last week have followed up with the self-investigation tool online.

About 15%-20% of staff at Middlemore Hospital are currently off work owing to testing positive for Covid-19, being a household contact, or caring for a case, said Bloomfield.

Yesterday, there were 23,465 booster doses administered. Bloomfield said his team was looking at the period of isolation for cases and household contacts to see if it could be reduced from 10 days, and will be providing advice to ministers in the next day or two.

Location of today’s cases

Northland (329), Auckland (12,530), Waikato (1,812), Bay of Plenty (1,185), Lakes (376), Hawke’s Bay (168), MidCentral (260), Whanganui (45), Taranaki (165), Tairāwhiti (88), Wairarapa (42), Capital and Coast (691), Hutt Valley (355), Nelson Marlborough (196), Canterbury (740), South Canterbury (37), Southern (529), West Coast (17); Unknown (1)

Watch: Ashley Bloomfield to provide omicron update

Ashley Bloomfield arrives at a press conference at the Ministry of Health.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will hold a press conference as the 1pm briefings make a return.

As omicron case numbers and Covid-related hospitalisations increase, press briefings will once again be held every weekday to provide information on the outbreak.

Watch below:

Auckland Domain protesters told to leave immediately

Protesters camped at Auckland Domain have been served an immediate eviction notice.

It comes after mayor Phil Goff said the group of 30 protesters were breaching a bylaw against parking and camping at the domain.

According to Stuff, 10 police officers and 10 Auckland Council officers visited the park today to service the notices. The camp began on Saturday after thousands of protesters marched across Auckland Harbour Bridge. Meanwhile, a few hundred occupiers remain outside parliament after three weeks.

The Auckland protesters were told they had until midday to leave.

A note about The Spinoff Members

With omicron cases increasing and an ongoing protest fuelled by the spread of misinformation, fact-based and level-headed journalism is more important than ever.

The generous support of our members powers all of The Spinoff’s journalism, including live updates on the ground at the Wellington protest, the award-winning collaborations between Toby Morris and Siouxsie Wiles, and richly reported feature writing. It’s what you need to know, without the sensationalism – and member donations keep it free to all, without a paywall. Tautoko mai, join The Spinoff Members today.

Return of the 1pm briefing

Ashley Bloomfield arrives at a press conference at the Ministry of Health.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Today marks the return of daily Covid-related press briefings. Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will front a press conference at 1pm today, live from the Ministry of Health.

Bloomfield will answer questions related to the ongoing omicron outbreak.

Covid response minister Chris Hipkins will also host a press conference this week, while other days will be fronted by a rotating roster of senior officials.

We’ll have a livestream for you each day ahead of time.

Olympic champ Valerie Adams retires


Valerie Adams, one of New Zealand’s greatest athletes, has officially announced her retirement.

The two-time Olympic champ, who won back-to-back gold medals in 2008 and 2012, said it’s finally time to “hang up these size 14 throwing shoes”.

Along with her pair of gold medals, Adams won bronze at last year’s Tokyo games and a silver in Rio in 2016. She’s competed at five Olympic games, and was the first woman to win medals at four in a single field event.

“After winning my bronze medal in Tokyo, I contemplated whether to embark on another campaign,” Adams tearfully told media today. “I took some time to really process this thought and to see if it was something I actually wanted to do again. My heart, mind and body simply answered the question for me so it’s time to call it a day.”

While she may be leaving the field herself, Adams will continue to coach her sister Lisa leading into the next Paralympics.

In 2017, Adams was named a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

New report ‘unequivocal’ about damage from climate change, says James Shaw

Green party co-leader James Shaw (Radio NZ, Nate McKinnon)

Get ready for more droughts, fires, storms and floods. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is “unequivocal” about the adverse impacts of climate change.

That’s according to the climate change minister, James Shaw, who said even by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting global warming to 1.5°C, we cannot eliminate climate damage.

But, we can reduce it: “Put simply, we need to see a huge step change in our approach to climate adaptation in Aotearoa – and later this year the government will consult New Zealanders on a national adaptation plan to do just that,” said Shaw.

“The need to prepare for the climate impacts that are locked in is critical – and I am particularly concerned by the potential for those impacts to disproportionately affect Māori. But we mustn’t lose sight of the urgent need to lower our emissions.”

The next 10 years will be “make or break for the planet,” said Shaw, and the severity with which we will experience climate change can be lessened if we do all we can to limit warming.

Read more: The climate crisis isn’t just about the environment, it’s about people

Protesters trying to leave parliament area can’t get their cars out – police

(Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

A number of protester vehicles are trying to leave the occupation at parliament, but are currently being blocked by other protesters, according to the latest police update.

Around 300 vehicles are still within the protest area outside parliament, reportedly outnumbering remaining protesters.

“We will be overseeing the perimeter today to allow vehicles to leave in a one-way exit if they wish to do so,” a police spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, police confirmed they seized a shower block being used by protesters overnight. The unit was parked illegally on the fringe of the protest zone.

“This work is part of our ongoing efforts to reduce the impact of the protest on Wellingtonians, particularly those who live, work and study in the area around parliament,” said police.

“Our focus will remain on containing the protest within the perimeter, and police will continue to seize the large infrastructure protesters are trying to bring in, if they are in breach of local bylaws or committing an offence under the Local Government Act.”

The shower unit was secured during a police operation that saw officers clad in riot gear surround an area on Stout Street, allowing a forklift to access the area. One civilian car received minor damaged in the process of manoeuvring the forklift and shower block, said police, and protesters deflated the tyres of four police vehicles in retaliation.

An operation overnight has successfully removed and seized possession of a mobile shower block, brought in yesterday afternoon, which was parked illegally, on the fringe of the protest perimeter on Parliament grounds in Wellington.

It’s been a week since police last fronted for media. Since then, the only communication from the frontline has been daily press releases.

Let tourists come to NZ right now, says National

National MP Chris Bishop is currently leader of the house (Photo: Getty Images)

The National Party would open up the border to all overseas tourists now, ditching self isolation requirements for vaccinated arrivals.

It was announced yesterday that all New Zealanders abroad will be able to enter the country from this Saturday, about a week earlier than initially planned.

Chris Bishop, the opposition Covid-19 spokesperson, told RNZ that while that announcement was good news – it wasn’t quite enough. “If you look at the tourist areas of Rotorua and Queenstown, for example, they are doing it very tough,” he said.

Holidaymakers would help to “jump start” areas of our economy that rely on tourism, added Bishop.

On the added risk that it would bring, Bishop said it was all about looking at it in perspective considering the thousands of daily cases being announced domestically. “You’re not going to see a massive influx of tourists in the next two to three weeks,” he said. “But it is really important that we send that signal to airlines and airports that tourists are going to come soon.”

‘Gold standard’: New free trade deal with the UK signed overnight

Boris Johnson and Jacinda Ardern in a discussion about, possibly, fishing, at the UN in New York, 2019. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

New Zealand and the UK have signed an “historic” free trade agreement overnight.

The long awaited agreement will, Jacinda Ardern said, unlock “unprecedented access to the UK market” along with accelerating our own Covid-19 recovery.

“This is a gold-standard free trade agreement,” said Ardern. “Virtually all our current trade will be duty free from entry into force, including duty-free quotas for key products like meat, butter and cheese, helping to accelerate our economic recovery.” The deal will boost our GDP by up to $1 billion, the prime minister added.

Key aspects of the trade agreement include a specific article on climate change, provisions toward eliminating “environmentally harmful subsidies”, and prohibiting fisheries subsidies which lead to overfishing. There is also a “ground-breaking” Māori trade chapter that will create a platform for cooperation on issues important to Māori.

Trade and agriculture minister Damien O’Connor (Getty Images, Kai Schwoerer)

The deal was officially signed in London by trade minister Damien O’Connor. He labelled the agreement a commercially meaningful deal. For example, $14 million of wine tariffs will disappear overnight. Wine is our largest export to the UK.

“By removing tariffs and other barriers that have limited the growth of our goods and services trade, as well as our investment connections, our exporters and businesses can now enter a new era of market access, levelling the playing field with the UK’s other trading partners,” O’Connor said.

Protesters’ shower block seized by police in latest stand-off

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – FEBRUARY 23: People walk past graffiti covered steps during a protest at Parliament on February 23, 2022 in Wellington, New Zealand. The perimeter of the anti-vaccine and COVID-19 mandate protest is slowly being reduced by police after sixteen days of demonstrations on and around the grounds of Parliament. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

A hot water shower block has been removed from the parliamentary protest less than a day after it was delivered.

It’s not been confirmed whether police were responsible for the unit’s disappearance, however a late night operation saw officers in riot gear stand-off against occupiers at about 12.30am.

Along with the shower block, protesters have recently plumbed new toilets into Wellington’s wastewater system. Those makeshift, and illegal, toilets still remain.

According to Newshub, police were indeed responsible for the shower block’s removal in the early hours of this morning. Protester vehicles were reportedly damaged and in retaliation the tyres of three police vehicles were slashed.

Today is the start of week four of the illegal operation. Around 200 protesters remain permanently camped on parliament grounds and the surrounding area – a decrease on the weekend’s numbers.