Covid cases and hospitalisations surge to highest since April

It’s July 6 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, bringing you the latest news from New Zealand and around the world. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

The latest

  • Covid-19 cases have jumped back above 10,000 for the first time since April.
  • Ex-MP Aaron “do you know who I am” Gilmore launches political comeback.
  • A new grocery commissioner will be appointed as part of the government’s plan to target the supermarket duopoly.
  • Boris Johnson’s leadership under threat (again) as senior ministers quit. We’ll bring you the latest.
  • The ‘you have Covid’ text is now proof for taking time off work.
  • And the latest Covid-19 numbers are due at 1pm as the ministry warns of a surge in cases.

Covid cases and hospitalisations surge to highest since April

It’s July 6 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates, bringing you the latest news from New Zealand and around the world. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me on

The latest

  • Covid-19 cases have jumped back above 10,000 for the first time since April.
  • Ex-MP Aaron “do you know who I am” Gilmore launches political comeback.
  • A new grocery commissioner will be appointed as part of the government’s plan to target the supermarket duopoly.
  • Boris Johnson’s leadership under threat (again) as senior ministers quit. We’ll bring you the latest.
  • The ‘you have Covid’ text is now proof for taking time off work.
  • And the latest Covid-19 numbers are due at 1pm as the ministry warns of a surge in cases.
Jul 6 2022

Happy days, Taskmaster NZ is back

Welcome back, Taskmaster NZ (Image: TVNZ / Design: Archi Banal)

It’s Taskmaster NZ day aka… the happiest day of the year?

New Zealand’s best UK comedy reboot is back for a third season, with a whole new cast of comedians vying for Jeremy Wells’ golden head.

Want to know who’s competing on the show this year? Tara Ward has whipped up a great explainer on this year’s cast to get you ready.

And here’s a trailer to make sure you’re nice and excited before you tune in tonight, 8.45pm on TVNZ2.

Ps: I’m available for season four.

New Zealanders caught up in Sydney floods eligible for support

Jacinda Ardern has welcomed flood relief for New Zealand citizens in Australia, saying it’s demonstrative of a “reset” in the trans-Tasman relationship.

The Anthony Albanese-led government has announced flood aid for 23 local government areas in New South Wales after days of incessant downpour. New Zealanders living in flood-impacted areas will also be able to get this support.

“Equivalent financial assistance will also be available to eligible New Zealand citizens (‘non-protected’ Special Category Visas, subclass 444 holders) affected by the floods,” a statement from the Australian government said, as reported by Stuff.

Speaking to media after arriving in Sydney, Ardern welcomed the support for New Zealanders. It was “pretty much the opposite” to the treatment offered by the former Scott Morrison-led government, she said.

Help keep the live updates ticking

The Spinoff’s live updates wouldn’t be possible without the continued support from our members.

As we transition away from constant Covid-19 coverage, the live updates will remain packed full of the latest news, analysis and fun bits and pieces from around New Zealand. But I can’t do it without your help.

We need your support more than we ever have. So please, if you can, click here to become a Spinoff Member today.

Brodie Kane’s misguided petition to get Coke Zero reinstated

Farewell, Coke Zero and No Sugar. I won’t miss you. (Image: Archi Banal)

I’ve made my position on Coke Zero pretty clear. Bottom line: it was gross.

The sugar free Coke alternative was discontinued last month to be replaced with the equally average and imaginatively named “Coke Zero Sugar”. Of course, regular Coke is still around and still is delightful as ever. Diet Coke is also still being made if you have bad taste.

Which leads me to a new petition launched by broadcaster and Dancing with the Stars runner-up Brodie Kane, who has called for Coke Zero to be brought back. “Not that Coca-Cola will listen now, but a petition is always a good lol and I’m outraged they’re taking Coke Zero from us,” she wrote on Facebook. “NO ONE ASKED FOR YOUR NEW TASTELESS DRINK!”

With a goal of just 200 signatories, I think Kane knows the Coke Zero market is slim.

(Image: Archi Banal)

Mixed reviews for Taika Waititi’s latest Thor

Call it tall poppy syndrome, call it mediocre film making – but Taika Waititi’s latest Marvel film Thor: Love and Thunder has pulled in a fairly frosty reception from reviewers both here and abroad.

It’s sitting on an above average 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, though that’s paltry when compared to the 93% of 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. It’s also lower than his Academy Award winner Jojo Rabbit. Of course, Rotten Tomatoes isn’t always a signifier of a good film – but that 70% is the second lowest of Waititi’s career (above only his debut Eagle vs Shark).

A handful of Spinoffers went along to last night’s premiere and were pretty unimpressed with the experience (though Alex Casey enjoyed her Fanta).

Here’s what Chris Schulz had to say:

Out of all of the horrible accusations made by Gawker’s incredibly nasty recent takedown of Waititi, it got one thing right: he’s doing too much. From Reservation Dogs, The Auteur and Our Flag Means Death to two Roald Dahl Netflix shows, the Elisabeth Moss soccer film Next Goal Wins, a Flash Gordon reboot AND a freaking Star Wars project, it’s clear the director is stretched too thin. Thor: Love and Thunder feels like that problem writ large on the big screen. It’s a flaming hot mess that’s packed with too many characters, cameos and stupid green screen CGI action scenes that leaves little room for Waititi’s delicate and finely-tuned personal touch.

It feels much more like a Marvel movie than a Taika film, and is desperately missing Ragnarok’s very specific genre subversion – and, probably, The Hulk. Christian Bale’s villain Gorr the Butcher, while awesome, feels like it’s stolen from another, much darker, movie; Natalie Portman’s cancer journey is tonally jarring when up against straight-out-of-SNL skits like Russell Crowe’s Zeus; and Tessa Thompson’s awesome snark is wasted with a series of dud one-liners. Any film that needs four – four! – Guns ’n Roses songs to get its point across is doing something wrong. It’s not easy to say this, but Love and Thunder is Taika’s first dud. Also, I didn’t like the goats.

Read our full group review here

Covid-19 latest: Cases top 10,000 for first time since April, 522 in hospital

Image: Toby Morris

A surge in winter illness has contributed to the highest Covid case numbers and hospitalisations in months.

There are over 10,000 new community cases of Covid-19 for the first time since mid-April. Another 10,290 cases have been confirmed today, bumping the seven-day rolling average up to 7,591 – that’s almost 2,000 above where it was one week ago.

The Ministry of Health said there has been a “significant increase” in new Covid infections over the past fortnight, coupled with a rise in seasonal respiratory illnesses.

“Wearing a mask remains one of our best measures to reduce transmission against infectious respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19,” said the ministry. “Masking up is particularly important when you are going to be around our more vulnerable members of the community, such as in healthcare settings and in aged residential care.”

Hospitalisations of people with Covid-19 have risen to 522, the first time above 500 in several weeks. There are now 10 in intensive care. Of those, 108 alone are in Waitematā hospital with 55 in Auckland and 53 in Waikato.

There have been another 12 deaths of people with Covid-19 since July 1. It brings the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 1,604 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is now 15.

Ex-MP Aaron ‘do you know who I am’ Gilmore launches political comeback

Former National MP Aaron Gilmore

The former National MP who resigned from parliament after being accused of misleading then prime minister John Key has announced a return to politics, but this time his focus is local government. A decade on from his moment of infamy, when he allegedly upbraided a Hanmer Springs waiter with the timeless “Do you know who I am?”, Aaron Gilmore has announced he will run in the Motukairangi/Eastern Ward for the Wellington City Council.

“The current Wellington City Council has not delivered what we as ratepayers want and need. It is time for a shakeup and a focus that addresses residents’ needs, which the council has not been able to do to-date,” he said in a statement. “We are facing massive increases in rates, decades of infrastructure deficits, transport delays, housing shortages, and an unsavoury central city, together with the growing risks of living in a dynamic coastal environment.”

Since quitting his Christchurch seat in 2013, Gilmore moved to Wellington and took on various roles in the public sector as well as operating businesses. In May 2013, lawyer Andrew Riches, who had been socialising with Gilmore in the resort town of Hanmer, said the MP had told a waiter words to the effect of “Do you know who I am? I’m an important politician”, and “threatened to have the prime minister’s office intervene and end the waiter’s employment”. Gilmore disputed the account but after Key had a word he resigned. Gilmore made headlines again in March in relation to a court dispute with his parents over a loan.

Former National MP Aaron Gilmore

New supermarket watchdog to keep a close eye on duopoly

Grocery shopping can be used as a form of control. Photo: Getty Images

A new grocery commissioner will be appointed as part of the government’s plan to target the supermarket duopoly.

Rising living costs, including at the supermarket, prompted the government to move forward with recommendations made by the Commerce Commission in a market study completed earlier this year.

Commerce minister David Clark said 12 of the commission’s recommendations have already been completed or are under way right now. “The grocery commissioner will be a referee of the sector, keeping the supermarket duopoly honest and blowing the whistle where it suspects there is a problem,” he said in a statement (there was no confirmation if this was a physical whistle).

“They will maintain a close eye on how government’s reforms for the sector are implemented and ensure Kiwis are getting a fair deal at the checkout.”

The new commissioner will be based within the Commerce Commission and provide annual state-of-competition reviews, said Clark. “By placing this role in the Commerce Commission it will have access to a wealth of information when it comes to economic and competition regulation, fair trading, consumer protection and the grocery sector itself.”

A draft version of the government’s grocery sector code of conduct has also been released for consultation. Clark said the code will ultimately make sure major retailers don’t use their power to push costs and risks onto suppliers. This will allow “small, artisan brands” along with emerging start-ups to “feel empowered”, he added.

Speaking to media after the announcement, Clark said the commissioner won’t be in place until the “first half” of 2023. That’s because legislation has to be passed first.

Asked when consumers will notice cheaper prices at the checkout, Clark claimed the market study had already caused improvements for shoppers. “What we’re interested in is making sure that [changes are] long term and structural.”

Clark said that the likes of The Warehouse and Night ‘n Day would consider growing their grocery operation should the sector become more competitive. “We’ve got to create the characteristics of competition here that will make it at attractive to new entrants… and allow other players in the market to expand as well.”

Photo: Getty Images

The ‘you have Covid’ text is now proof for taking time off work – ministry

An at-home rapid antigen test, or RAT, for Covid-19 (Photo: Getty Images)

The text you receive from the Ministry of Health to confirm you have Covid-19 will now act as proof you need time off work should your employer ask for it.

It’s to help relieve pressure on the health system as winter illnesses surge and people flood to their GPs to ask for a “doctor’s note”.

Covid-positive people who register their test result online – which you should do – will receive a texts from either 2328 or 2648. The first text confirms their Covid-19 positive test and the need to isolate, and the second confirms they can leave isolation and return to work if they feel well.

One concern that’s been raised is that, feasibly, anyone can tell the ministry they have Covid-19 which in turn will trigger the text (you should not do this). Employment law expert Jennifer Mills told Newshub’s AM that any employer with a concern they have been shown a fake text can still ask their staff member to visit a doctor. “Because the Holidays Act is permissive, it’s certainly one option employers could consider,” she said.

Introducing Future Proof: your weekly environmental newsletter

Coming soon from The Spinoff, in partnership with Electric Kiwi is Future Proof: a new weekly newsletter turning an honest (but optimistic) eye on the environment.

Written by award-winning science journalist Ellen Rykers, Future Proof is designed to keep you informed, empowered and inspired about our natural world, the challenges it faces and importantly, the solutions to these challenges.

Sign up to get Future Proof delivered to your inbox every week from July 13.

Snap poll says Boris Johnson should resign

UXBRIDGE, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 17: Britain’s Prime Minster Boris Johnson speaks with members of the Metropolitan Police in their break room, as he makes a constituency visit to Uxbridge police station on December 17, 2021 in Uxbridge, England. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

A snap poll by YouGov has revealed over two thirds of UK voters think prime minister Boris Johnson should resign.

The UK prime minister is facing yet another threat to his premiership today, with the sudden resignation of two of his most senior ministers in protest at his leadership.

Despite that, Johnson has so far given no indication he will bow out.

According to the YouGov poll, 69% think Johnson should resign, with just 18% backing him as PM. Of Conservative voters, over half – 54% – also think Johnson should quit (the first time Tory voters have swung away from supporting Johnson in this poll).

Meanwhile, the departures within Johnson’s cabinet have prompted a reshuffle. Nadhim Zahawi will become the new chancellor while Steve Barclay’s been named health secretary.

Updated: 10am

And another British minister has resigned this morning, citing Boris Johnson’s leadership and recent scandals. Solicitor general Alex Chalk has quit, saying the government no longer has the backing of the public.

You can find the extraordinary list with all 10 (!!) ministers who have resigned from Johnson’s government this week here.

The Bulletin: Copyright change prompted by EU/NZ free trade agreement splits opinion

As Newroom’s Sam Sachdeva reports, the copyright extension agreed to via the free trade agreement with the UK is being fast-tracked after the announcement of the free trade agreement with the European Union. The library and archival sector says it’s unwelcome news. The sector is warning that the lengthening of our copyright term, from 50 years after a creator’s death to 70 years, would make it harder for New Zealanders to access and use copyrighted works while also damaging library digitisation projects.

On the flipside, the change has been welcomed by the recording industry. In a press release from Recorded Music NZ, CEO Jo Oliver says the change puts New Zealand artists and right holders on a level playing field with their overseas counterparts.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

National still backs health advice in Covid response, but wants traffic light revamp

Nicola Willis (Photo: Getty Images)

National’s deputy leader said the party remains in support of health advice being used to determine our Covid-19 response. But, Nicola Willis remains critical of the traffic light framework and said it needs a revamp.

The country is facing a resurgence of Covid-19 infections as we head deeper into winter. Despite this, the prime minister has signalled there will be no tightening of Covid restrictions anytime soon.

Willis told RNZ that National would back the government if the health advice suggested Covid restrictions needed changing. “But we’ve also said that the traffic light framework has become quite confusing,” she said. “We have felt a huge amount of sympathy for the hospitality businesses in particular… what we’d like to see is the health system being equipped to respond to a rapid rise in infections.”

The government should be fast tracking applications from overseas nurses wanting to come live in New Zealand, said Willis. “Let’s let immigrant nurses in, give them the permanent residency, and do everything we can to put out the welcome mat.”

Boris Johnson’s leadership under threat (again) as senior ministers quit

Britain’s PM Boris Johnson holds a virtual press conference at 10 Downing Street on December 19 to announce the move to Tier 4 (Photo: Toby Melville/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

The threshold for including overseas news in the live updates is often quite high, but I’ve determined that the news coming out of the UK this morning reaches that. That’s because for the second time in as many months, PM Boris Johnson is facing a serious threat to his leadership. Overnight, a pair of high profile cabinet ministers have dramatically quit in protest against Johnson’s leadership.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid have both released letters explaining their decision to leave. It follows Johnson’s bungled handling of the allegations against Chris Pincher, who resigned as deputy chief whip last week following complaints of sexual misconduct.

In his bombshell resignation letter, Sunak wrote that the public expected government to be conducted “properly, competently and seriously”.

He added: “I firmly believe the public are ready to hear that truth. Our people know that if something is too good to be true then it’s not true. They need to know that whilst there is a path to a better future, it is not an easy one. In preparation for our proposed joint speech on the economy next week, it has become clear to me that our approaches are fundamentally too different.”

Britain’s PM Boris Johnson (Photo: Toby Melville/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Health secretary Javid wrote that he had lost confidence in Johnson and said there needed to be “integrity” in government. “I served you loyally and as a friend, but we all serve the country first. When made to choose between those loyalties there can only be one answer,” he said.

Just last month, Johnson survived a vote of no confidence. That means he won’t be able to face a similar challenge just yet, but MPs from within his own party have already called for Johnson to resign instead.

Others to have quit this morning include Conservative Party vice-chair Bim Afolami (who quit live on TV) and Boris Johnson’s trade envoy to Morocco. A number of Tories have, however, publicly backed Johnson.