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LIVE UPDATES

Goodbye traffic lights: Covid rules to end at midnight

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 12, made possible by our members, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me via email on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


What you need to know

  • The Covid-19 traffic light framework is no more. Nearly all restrictions will be dropped at midnight tonight.
  • That includes mask requirements outside of health facilities and isolation rules for household contacts.
  • Covid-19 numbers have dropped to their lowest since mid-February.
  • Monday, September 26 will become a one-off public holiday – officially named Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Day. The monarch’s coffin today arrived in Edinburgh where it will remain for 24 hours.
blog-sept-12.jpg

Goodbye traffic lights: Covid rules to end at midnight

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 12, made possible by our members, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me via email on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


What you need to know

  • The Covid-19 traffic light framework is no more. Nearly all restrictions will be dropped at midnight tonight.
  • That includes mask requirements outside of health facilities and isolation rules for household contacts.
  • Covid-19 numbers have dropped to their lowest since mid-February.
  • Monday, September 26 will become a one-off public holiday – officially named Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Day. The monarch’s coffin today arrived in Edinburgh where it will remain for 24 hours.
Sep 12 2022

Greens question whether government has ‘given up’ on Covid

Green Party list MP Teanau Tuiono (Photo by Lynn Grieveson – Newsroom/Newsroom via Getty Images)

The dropping of the Covid-19 traffic light framework will be concerning for certain communities, the Green Party’s pandemic spokesperson said.

From midnight, almost all Covid-related rules will be removed. That includes mask requirements and vaccination requirements for incoming travellers.

But the Greens said the ending of restrictions would leave people wondering if the government had given up. “The near complete removal of longstanding protections will be of considerable concern for immunocompromised and disabled whānau whose wellbeing should be at the centre of the government’s response,” said Teanau Tuiono, the Green Party Covid spokesperson.

“What is certain is that Covid and other respiratory illnesses are here to stay. We will be living with new waves of the infection for many years to come. Focus must immediately shift to slowing the spread of Covid-19 through long-term protective public health measures, alongside equal access to all future vaccines.”

Long term measures should include, at a minimum, air quality monitoring, strong ventilation standards and air purification. “In the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, the government didn’t leave it up to individuals to decide how safe they wanted to make their homes and workplaces,” said Tuiono. “It reviewed the Building Code and made changes that would improve the safety of everyone. Now is the time to do the same for Covid.”

Asked about the Greens’ reaction, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said she “totally” disagreed.

Traffic light ditched: The new Covid rules, summarised

Image: Archi Banal

The traffic light framework will come to an end at midnight tonight. Here are the key details, in bullet point form.

Rules removed include:

  • All mask wearing requirements, except in healthcare and aged care facilities;
  • The need for household contacts to self-isolate; and
  • Vaccination requirements for incoming travellers and air crew.

Rules maintained:

  • Those who test positive for Covid-19 will need to isolate for seven days.

In summary, we move to a two point system:

  • One: Masks in healthcare settings; and
  • Two: One week in isolation for positive cases only.

Read more: Traffic light system gone – the new Covid rules explained

Covid restrictions to end at midnight as traffic light framework dumped

FeatureImage_850x510_TrafficLight_V3

Almost all Covid-19 restrictions will be scrapped from midnight tonight as the traffic light framework comes to an end.

That includes all mask wearing requirements, except in healthcare and aged care facilities, the need for household contacts to self-isolate and vaccination requirements for incoming travellers and air crew.

All government vaccine mandates will come to an end in two weeks on September 26 (the date of the newly announced QEII memorial day).

Those who test positive for Covid-19 will still need to isolate for a week, however, and the government has announced that all New Zealanders aged 65 and over, and Māori aged 50 and over, will gain automatic access to Covid anti-virals if they catch the virus. An additional 40,000 doses have been purchased by the government.

Read more: Traffic light system gone – the new Covid rules explained

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said it was now time – 927 days into the pandemic – to “safely” turn the page on our Covid-19 management. “Today marks a milestone in our response. Finally, rather than feeling that Covid dictates what happens to us, our lives, and our futures, we take back control,” she said.

“For the first time in two years we can approach summer with the much needed certainty New Zealanders and business need, helping to drive greater economic activity critical to our economic recovery.”

The decision to drop Covid protections was, said Ardern, in line with the latest health advice that said New Zealand was in a position to move forward. Thousands of New Zealand lives had been saved by the actions taken throughout the pandemic.

While government-mandated mask rules would no longer apply, Ardern said individual businesses could choose to implement their own requirements. “Please respect those who choose to keep wearing masks as a form of protection,” the prime minister said.

With vaccination requirements travellers ending, the requirement to test on arrival and after five days will now just be encouraged. Household contacts of positive cases will, however, be asked to take a daily rapid test.

“In short, we now move on to a simple two requirements system of masks in healthcare settings and 7 days isolation for positive cases only,” Ardern said.

Earlier today, Covid communicator Siouxsie Wiles, writing for The Spinoff, argued against ditching restrictions. “It would be a big, and in the long term expensive, mistake,” she wrote.

Watch: Will the traffic light system be scrapped?

Image: Tina Tiller

Jacinda Ardern and the Covid response minister Ayesha Verrall are set to provide an update on our Covid-19 restrictions.

The rumour mill suggests that the traffic light framework could be dumped entirely. However, a move to green – which would still involve fewer rules – is a possibility.

Case numbers have plummeted in recent days down to their lowest since the omicron variant took hold back in February. For the first time in months, there were fewer than 1,000 new infections on Sunday.

We’ll have more coverage from 4pm. Tune in below.

Public holiday announced for death of Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II in 2020 (Photo: Getty Images)

Monday, September 26 will become a one-off public holiday – officially named Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Day – following the death of the monarch last Friday. A state memorial service will also be held on this date.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said it was “appropriate” to mark the life of the Queen in this manner, calling her an extraordinary person. “I know many New Zealanders will appreciate the opportunity to both mark her death and celebrate her life,” said Ardern.

“The State Memorial Service will be held in the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul on the same day… and will be televised and live streamed.

Ardern said the decision to hold a one-off public holiday in the Queen’s honour was in line with similar holidays in the UK and Australia.

All political parties were consulted on the decision to introduce the new holiday and it will officially be legislated next week. It’s expected the National Party will support the move, while Act has signalled it’s disapproval.

“I know many people will want the opportunity to pay their respects and the public holiday offers communities around the country the ability to come together and pay tribute at local events also,” said Ardern.

The prime minister will head to the UK this Wednesday to attend the Queen’s official funeral. She will then travel to New York for the United Nations General Assembly before returning home in time for New Zealand’s memorial service.

Three pulls Diana docuseries following Queen’s death

Diana, Charles and William on the lawn at Government House. (Photo: David Levenson/Getty Images)

A new documentary series examining the death of Princess Diana has been quietly bumped from the schedules in the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

The Diana Investigations is a four-part Discovery+ documentary that was expected to premiere tomorrow night on Three, right after the first episode of local Mike McRoberts series Kia Ora, Good Evening.

Instead, as first reported by the ScreenScribe blog, Three has removed the programme from its line-up. The fifth season of Aussie Gold Hunters will air in the 9.35pm time slot instead, apparently more appropriate following the monarch’s death.

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery told The Spinoff that there had been changes to the programming schedule on Three following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. “We will do our best to communicate these changes via the programming guide on your TV screen or you can view our most up to date schedule on ThreeNow,” said the spokesperson. “We apologise if our current programming doesn’t reflect the expected schedule.”

We still need a ‘Covid Protection Framework’ – Siouxsie Wiles

Dr Siouxsie Wiles (Photo: Arvid Eriksson)

Writing for The Spinoff, Siouxsie Wiles has argued that ditching our existing Covid protections would be a costly mistake by the government. Here’s an extract.

I think it’s definitely time for the traffic light system to be revisited. But I want to be really clear: we still need a Covid Protection Framework – one that protects us from a highly infectious airborne virus, which is what the virus responsible for Covid-19 is. Without any protective public health measures, we’ll just be accepting a whole lot of preventable infections, disability, and more disruptions to our daily lives and economy as a result.

The best public health measures are ones that work invisibly in the background or become so commonplace we don’t notice them anymore. Speed limits, seat belts, limits on how much you can drink when driving. Those are all public health measures. They aren’t just there to protect you. They are there to protect the wider public too.

Consider the Smoke-free Environments Act of 1990. Because of that, smoking is not allowed in indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. The law was brought in because of the overwhelming evidence that second-hand smoke is dangerous. In 2006/2007, 18% of people in New Zealand over the age of 15 were daily smokers. By 2020/2021 that had dropped to 9.4%. Are we thinking of getting rid of the Smoke-free Environments Act just because less people are smoking? Of course not, because second-hand smoke is still a health threat.

So is Covid-19.

Read the full opinion piece here – and tune in about 4pm for the government’s decision.

Illustration: Toby Morris

Covid-19 latest: Case numbers lowest since February, 225 in hospital

Image: Toby Morris

Here are the latest Covid-19 stats, as reported by the Ministry of Health:

  • There are 1,149 new community cases today. That follows the weekend where just 911 were reported yesterday and 1,388 on Saturday.
  • The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 1,480. Last Monday, it was 1,778.
  • There are 225 people in hospital with Covid-19, with just three now in intensive care.
  • The seven-day rolling average of hospitalisations today is 241. Last Monday, it was 273.
  • There are now a total of 1,950 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor.
  • The seven-day rolling average increase in total deaths attributable to Covid-19 is now five.

Check out our Covid tracker page here

Traffic lights, public holiday on government agenda

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 04: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arriving with director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and her chief press secretary Andrew Campbell for the post-Cabinet press conference at Parliament on October 4, 2021 in Wellington. New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Mitchell – Pool/Getty Images)

It’s a big day for cabinet today, with two major decisions being considered. Here’s what you need to know:

First up, the government will decide whether or not a one-off public holiday is created in memory of Queen Elizabeth II. New Zealand is next week set to hold its memorial service in honour of the Queen and, if we follow Australia’s lead, it could involve a day off work. We’re expecting an announcement on this around 3pm and will bring it to you when we get it.

Secondly, the government will consider revamping or overhauling our traffic light Covid-19 framework. There are several ways this decision could go. It’s possible we could stay at orange. It’s possible we could move to green. And, it’s possible – in fact more likely – that the system will be ditched entirely. That would mean mask use required only in the most high risk settings and a return to some sort of pre-Covid “normality”.

According to the Herald’s Claire Trevett, this is almost certainly the option the government will pick. The details on this won’t be confirmed until this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference at 4pm. Jacinda Ardern will be joined at the podium by Covid-19 response minister Ayesha Verrall. We’ll have rolling coverage of that presser this afternoon.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – OCTOBER 04: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arriving with director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and her chief press secretary Andrew Campbell for the post-Cabinet press conference at Parliament on October 4, 2021 in Wellington. New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Mitchell – Pool/Getty Images)

Image of the day: Marlon Williams is back

Marlon Williams (Photo: Supplied)

A beautiful album, a beautiful man, a beautiful piece of writing. The image of the day is Marlon Williams.

The man, the mystique: Here at The Spinoff we’re kicking off our Te Wiki o te Reo Māori with another quick spin of Marlon Williams’ (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāitai) brand new album My Boy. If you missed it have a read of this great profile by Chris Schulz – Ka rawe.

Marlon Williams (Photo: Supplied)

Mourners line the streets as Queen’s coffin brought to Edinburgh

Crowds of public gather for the Queen 
 (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The Queen’s coffin has arrived in Edinburgh, where she will lie at rest for the next 24 hours.

Overnight, a funeral procession made the six-hour journey from Balmoral, where the Queen died early on Friday morning, to the capital. Photos show thousands of people, many with phones pointed, lining the route. Many brought flowers with them to show respect for the monarch.

Crowds of public gather for the Queen
(Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The coffin will remain at the Palace of Holyroodhouse until Monday afternoon, UK time. From there, she will be moved to St Giles’ Cathedral where the public will be able to view the coffin. On Tuesday, an RAF plan will take the Queen on her final journey to London where her official funeral will be held.

Crowds of public gather for the Queen as funeral cortege proceeding Holyroodhouse on September 11 (Photo by Dylan Morrison/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, the the King and the Queen Consort will be in London today as parliamentarians mark the loss of the Queen.

When the Facts Change: What demand and supply factors might mean for house prices

In the latest episode of When the Facts Change, Bernard Hickey dives deep into the demand and supply factors behind our endemic housing shortages with Kiwibank economist Jeremy Couchman, including what they might mean for house prices.

Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts

The Bulletin: Quiet quitting doesn’t exist

An interesting read from Hayden Donnell this morning on Webworm. We’ve all heard and seen the headlines about “quiet quitting”, the name given to the phenomenon of “just doing your job and no more”. I included a story about it in The Bulletin a couple of months ago but did suggest at the time that it didn’t sound like a new idea that deserved a whole new name. Donnell asks where the evidence is to suggest masses of younger people are “quitting quietly”.

He does note there is some evidence underpinning this supposed trend but it crosses over with the Great Resignation and anti-work movements, which have a far firmer evidential basis. Ultimately it’s a good starter for discussing the reporting on Gen Z by their elders and the speed at which viral social media posts make the leap into mainstream media.

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.

Robertson hints at public holiday for Queen’s death – but not all MPs are in support

Grant Robertson announces cost of living package extension on July 17 (Photo: Getty Images)

The deputy prime minister has acknowledged the “extraordinary life” of Queen Elizabeth II – and hinted New Zealanders may be given a day off work to mourn her.

It was confirmed yesterday that a public holiday would take place in Australia next Thursday, as the country holds its state memorial for the Queen. New Zealand will also he hosting a memorial next week, but whether or not we’ll get time off work to attend has not been confirmed.

Speaking to Newshub’s AM, Grant Robertson said cabinet will today consider a one-off public holiday. “We want to recognise the significance of this occasion, 70 years in the making,” said Robertson. “The most important thing here is to recognise the sovereign of the country has died and we need to think about the best way to mark that.”

As part of cabinet’s considerations, the government had started canvassing views from different political parties and groups. National has confirmed it would endorse a public holiday but Act leader David Seymour told Newshub it was too expensive during a cost of living crisis.

“We doubt the Queen, who was famous for being a careful spender, would endorse such extravagance when people are struggling to make ends meet,” he said, estimating a $450 million cost for the public holiday.

Similarly, lobby group Business NZ told RNZ it would impose too many costs on struggling businesses.

Robertson said the estimated costs did not take into account the fact people would be out in the community spending money if they were not at work. “New Zealanders need to the opportunity to mourn and to commemorate this extraordinary life and the role that the Queen has played,” he said. “I do think this is a pretty special occasion.”

We’ll know more about the outcome of cabinet’s decision later today.