The Restaurant Association says the government’s decision to keep the country in the red traffic light setting comes as a “bitter disappointment for the hospitality industry”.
The group was hoping the prime minister would announce a move to orange this afternoon, which would see the end of indoor capacity limits as well as the “seated and separated” rule for hospitality venues. Instead, the country will remain in red until at least April 14.
In a statement, Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois called for the wage subsidy to be reintroduced for struggling businesses and a “tangible vision for the recovery of our sector” to be laid out. “We believe this should include a change of rhetoric from one of fear to one of hope and incentives, such as a subsidised dining scheme, to get people back out and stimulating the economy.”
Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White, meanwhile, said today’s decision was “gutting”. “With us seemingly past the omicron peak, businesses were rightly expecting a strong indication on when we could move to orange, but to get nothing at all today is particularly gutting.
“If not actual movement, then maybe a date so they could plan would have been better than nothing.”
Jacinda Ardern still won’t label Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” – but she has admitted Russia is committing war crimes.
Speaking at parliament today, the prime minister said Russia will be held to account for its “reprehensible” actions.
“New Zealand stands with our Ukrainian community who are in the process of bringing their relatives here,” she said, confirming 252 special visas had so far been issued to Ukrainians.
It was up to the International Criminal Court to determine whether Putin was a war criminal, said Ardern. “But every piece of evidence points to the fact that there are war crimes being committed by Russia in Ukraine at the hands of the president Vladimir Putin.”
Ardern signalled there was more New Zealand could do “around sanctions, around importation, around our people”.
New Zealand will remain in the red setting until at least April 14.
Cabinet met today to evaluate our current Covid-19 restrictions, with some predicting parts of the country would be dropping down to orange.
Speaking at parliament, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said a move to orange now would be too early. “We are not out of the woods just yet… We are still in a large omicron outbreak,” she said. “There is still pressure across our hospitals.”
While cases have been dropping in Auckland, Wellington and Tairāwhiti, not all regions are seeing that trend. Hospitalisations were not set to peak for some regions until mid to late April, said Ardern.
In the two weeks since the framework was refined, Ardern said the rolling average of cases had declined by 36%. There had also been data in Auckland showing an increase in the movement of people and a rise in people returning to their workplaces.
Cabinet will meet to review the traffic light framework ahead of the Easter long weekend.
Asked why Auckland couldn’t move to orange, Ardern pointed to pressure on the health system. “The [hospitalisation] numbers are still relatively high, the pressure on the system is still here,” she said. “A significant number of the hospitalisations are in Auckland.”
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, who joined Ardern at parliament, reiterated the message. “Nearly half the national hospital admissions are in Auckland, and the peak is prolonged – there is quite a long tail of people in hospital,” he said.
“Yes, Auckland has come down from the peak of its omicron wave but it’s not out of the woods yet.”
On the impact today’s announcement will have for the entertainment and hospitality sectors, Ardern said that was why the next review would take place ahead of the Easter long weekend. “We are aware of the impact of these settings,” she said.
Despite there being no change to our traffic light settings, vaccine passes and most mandates will still be dropped from 11.59pm tonight. Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said vaccine passes were an “extremely useful tool” during the delta outbreak, but were no longer required.
“Our Covid-19 response has always prioritised the health of kiwis by ensuring we’re protecting our immunocompromised and high-risk members in our communities,” he said. “Red means wearing a face mask in most indoor settings, limiting indoor capacity to 200, and if you catch Covid-19 – or someone you live with does – isolating for seven days.”
Jacinda Ardern is set to reveal whether any parts of the country will leave the red setting of the traffic light framework.
At orange, mask wearing would be the key protection against Covid-19 as gathering limits would be ditched entirely. With Auckland beyond the peak of the outbreak, it’s possible it could move ahead of the South Island which is currently grappling with a surge in omicron cases.
Richard Sivell, who was arrested after a standoff with police in Te Puke last week, has been charged at the Tauranga District Court with threatening to kill the prime minister. Stuff reports that Sivell, who has posted numerous audio messages calling for the execution of Jacinda Ardern and others involved in the Covid response, had to be carried by security guards into the dock after refusing to leave the public gallery this morning. He also faces charges of obstruction and failing to assist a police officer.
In court, Sivell made various statements drawing on his belief in the pseudo-legal gibberish of the “sovereign citizen” movement. The case was adjourned, with Sivell bailed on conditions including not using a device capable of connecting to the internet.
In a video posted on social media, Sivell told a supporter outside the court: “I think we’re living underneath a communist police state.” He baselessly described the Covid vaccine as a “bioweapon”, said those involved in its roll-out were “in violation of the Nuremberg code” and “we need to have military tribunals under international law”.
Another nine people with Covid-19 have died, pushing New Zealand’s pandemic death toll up to 405 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 20.
The deaths being reported today include people who have died over the past three days.
Of the latest deaths, one person was from the Auckland region, three from Waikato, two from Lakes, two from the Wellington region, and one from Southern. One person was in their 50s, one in their 60s, one in their 70s, two in their 80s, and four were over-90. Five were men and four were women.
There are now 734 people in hospital with Covid-19, a rise on yesterday’s 690. There are 25 people in intensive care.
Another 10,205 community cases have been announced, once again a sign that the omicron outbreak appears to be on a downward trend. Today’s seven-day rolling average is 13,218, compared with 16,102 last Monday.
Today’s Covid case update comes ahead of some restrictions easing. From midnight, there will be no requirement to use vaccine passes – however businesses will still be able to use the system if they would like to.
“As restrictions around the pass ease, it is important for people to continue to follow public health advice to stay at home, away from school or work if you’re feeling unwell,” said the Ministry of Health.
Vocus, the network host for a .nz domain site that ranks New Zealanders who should face a Nuremberg-style “reckoning” for their role in the Covid response, says it does not remove sites unless it receives a request to do so from a relevant authority. As revealed in The Spinoff this morning, the New Zealand Domain Name Commission, run by a Christchurch-based man, has referred the site to police but says it has not suspended it from the national high-level domain because it has not been instructed to do so. It has not invoked powers to suspend it without instruction because it fails to meet the “very high threshold” required.
A reader contacted the Spinoff this morning to say they had alerted Vocus to the content of the site more than a fortnight ago, suggesting it breached user conditions that include posting “material which is defamatory, offensive, abusive, indecent, discriminatory, menacing, unwanted, in breach of confidence, illegal or which brings Vocus or any of Vocus’ agents into disrepute”.
A Vocus spokesperson said via email: “For offensive sites to be removed from the internet, we, and other ISPs, require a request from an official channel such as the police, CERT, Netsafe or the DIA. People can report any hateful or offensive content to these authorities and if they deem it appropriate and in accordance with the law, the authority can request action from an ISP.”
A police spokesperson told the Spinoff last week they had received a “report relating to this website and concerns about its content” and were “working with a number of agencies in relation to this website and similar matters”.
There’s been a lot of talk today about a possible move to orange for parts of the country – but Act wants us to go a step further.
Leader David Seymour wants the traffic light system scrapped entirely, or for us to move into green and see restrictions ditched.
“They don’t even seem to be considering a move to green,” said Seymour of prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid minister Chris Hipkins. “Instead of all the tinkering, let’s just get on with our lives. The rest of the world is moving on and dropping restrictions. We desperately need tourists to want to come to here – why would they choose New Zealand if they face restrictions when they arrive.”
Seymour said it could be confusing for overseas tourists “facing one set of rules in Auckland and another in Christchurch”.
Health experts have suggested the government should take a cautious approach when reducing restrictions, citing second omicron waves in other countries. And while Auckland has clearly peaked, it’s uncertain whether the outbreak is on the decline in other main centres.
Cabinet is meeting today to review the Covid restrictions and an announcement on any changes will be made at 4pm.
Seen a few oodles out there lately? So has Alex Casey. “The adorable teddy bear faces of ‘oodle’ cross-breed dogs have appeared to take over the designer dog world, popping up everywhere from Lisa Carrington’s Instagram to Kim Dotcom’s wedding party,” writes Alex as part of Pet Week. “The growing popularity has also spawned countless Frankenstinian combinations. You probably know labradoodles, cavoodles and schnoodles, but what about bassetdoodles? Bernedoodles? Maltipoos? Shih-poos?” To find out why oodles are so popular, and cost so much, Alex traces their origins all the way back to 1980s Hawaii. You can get oodling here.
From our friends at Z: A lot has changed in New Zealand in the last ten years. So, when a company sets a brand tagline of ‘Z is for New Zealand’ in 2011 and still uses it today, it’s important they keep growing, to ensure that still holds true a decade on.
At Z, they know they have to innovate and make changes that positively impact the environment. From creating Sharetank, a virtual fuel tank that offers customers another way to pay, to installing EV chargers at service stations, they’re dedicated to providing New Zealanders with better ways to get moving.
To find out more about how Z is working to move from being a part of the climate change problem to the heart of its solution, check out their website.
Judith Collins has revealed the one comment made by a journalist that she’s never been able to get over since losing the National Party leadership.
The long-serving Papakura MP has given her first interview since being ousted by her party late last year, speaking to Today FM’s Sunday Cafe programme over the weekend.
After being told by host Mel Homer that the Today FM newsroom had some questions to put to her, Collins sounded uncomfortable at the prospect of facing journalists again. “I haven’t quite gotten over one of the journalists who is no longer in the press gallery saying to me one day, when I was leader of the opposition, ‘why is it that no one likes you Judith’, on camera,” said Collins.
“That sort of stuff, I’ve got to say, is pretty awful. I just felt like going out and walking under a bus.”
Collins acknowledged that journalists are also faced with a lot of criticism from the public. “They’re only human too, but so are we.”
I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s still feeling a little groggy this morning as the hangover from Sunday morning’s clock change continues.
Once again, the debate around daylight saving and whether it’s time to ditch it for good is raging. Te Anau got there early, electing to remain in daylight saving time all year round while the rest of us wind back the clocks. And good on them, I say!
The Spinoff’s Chris Schulz wrote a ferocious take down of the twice-yearly time shift over the weekend – and I am totally onboard. Here’s an extract:
Bollocks. Screw the farmers. I don’t even eat dairy, so I don’t care. If you can’t already tell, I am not a fan. Passionate hate is what I have for this time of year. Across my 43 years, I have experienced daylight saving 85 times and I have never gotten used to it, understood it, worked out why it exists, or who it is for. All I know is that my body hates it. Forget about thriving. When Dr Strange mucks around with the multiverse timeline, I can barely function.
While most of our Covid restrictions are on the way out, masks look set to stay – at least for the next while.
That’s good news, according to experts like Dion O’Neale from Te Pūnaha Matatini. He told RNZ that masks are highly effective at stopping Covid transmission. “They protect you and if you’re wearing a mask you’re also protecting people around you,” he said.
The key, said O’Neale, was that people had access to high quality and well-fitted masks. He would endorse the government making masks easier to access. “Anything that means more people are wearing better fitting, better quality masks all of the time is going to be good for spread of Covid,” he said. “It’s also going to be good for stopping the spread of a bunch of other airborne respiratory illnesses… as we open the international border.”
After tonight, masks will be the primary defence against Covid-19 as vaccine passes and most mandates are dropped. While we are in red, which is unlikely to be for much longer, indoor gatherings remain at 200. Experts are broadly urging for a cautious response from the government.
“It’s a good approach to not get rid of all our public health measures in one go, as some countries have done, because that does create a risk that you get a big rebound, and a second wave,” Covid-19 modeller Michael Plank told RNZ.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker agreed, warning of the potential for a second spike in omicron cases like we have seen abroad.
Parts of the country could soon move out of the “red” setting of the traffic light framework and into the less restrictive orange.
That would mean saying goodbye to gathering restrictions, with masks the primary Covid restriction that would stay in use.
Cabinet will meet today to discuss our traffic light system ahead of an announcement this afternoon. Speaking to Newshub’s AM, prime minister Jacinda Ardern indicated that a full nationwide shift to orange was unlikely, but that regional moves were possible. “We will be careful, we will be cautious,” she said.
Ardern said hospitalisations were the key consideration, as opposed to case numbers. That plays into Auckland’s favour, where both cases and the number of people needing treatment is on a downward trend. However, Ardern said the overall impact on the health system would be considered.
Meanwhile, tonight will mark the end of vaccine passes and most mandates. From 11.59pm tonight, vaccine passes will no longer be required and mandates will be dropped for all but health and aged care, Corrections staff and the border workforce.