blog april 13

Live UpdatesApr 13 2022

It’s orange for Easter as rules loosened nationwide

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Wednesday April 13, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. I hope you’re keeping dry wherever you are today. Want to ask a question or just say hi? I’m on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • The entire country will move to orange at 11.59pm tonight. That means goodbye indoor gathering restrictions.
  • Masks will still be required indoors, however. Covid minister Chris Hipkins temporarily confused himself with his own rules.
  • There have been 15 new deaths linked to Covid-19.
  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson has been fined after he broke Covid-19 restrictions set by his own government. He is ignoring calls to resign.
blog april 13

It’s orange for Easter as rules loosened nationwide

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Wednesday April 13, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. I hope you’re keeping dry wherever you are today. Want to ask a question or just say hi? I’m on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • The entire country will move to orange at 11.59pm tonight. That means goodbye indoor gathering restrictions.
  • Masks will still be required indoors, however. Covid minister Chris Hipkins temporarily confused himself with his own rules.
  • There have been 15 new deaths linked to Covid-19.
  • UK prime minister Boris Johnson has been fined after he broke Covid-19 restrictions set by his own government. He is ignoring calls to resign.
Apr 13 2022

New Gone By Lunchtime: Ukraine, Bloomfield, Wall and more

As New Zealand dispatches a 1969 Herc, 59 personnel and “lethal aid” cash to support Ukraine, how big a shift is it in our contribution? Plus: will fair pay agreements be this government’s biggest achievement? What is Ashley Bloomfield’s legacy? What is Louisa Wall up to? And a word on Moana Jackson.

Follow Gone By Lunchtime on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

Green Party upset by decision to make masks at schools optional

The Green Party says the country should stay in the red setting and does not support today’s announcement that masks will no longer be mandatory at schools.

As the country moves into the orange setting of the traffic light framework from midnight, some Covid-19 restrictions will be eased. Mainly this involves the ditching of indoor gathering restrictions, but it also involves removing the mask requirement for schools.

Teanau Tuiono, the Green spokesperson for the Covid-19 response, said now isn’t the time to ease restrictions. “Case numbers are moving around and people are dying every day,” he said. “It’s too early to say for sure that we’re at stable levels of cases nationwide.”

New Zealand should remain at red for a further two weeks, at least, said Tuiono. “Our concern is that removing protections now will put Māori and Pacific whānau, immunocompromised people, disabled people, our under-5s, and whānau on the lowest incomes at risk.”

FIRST: Joe Daymond reveals his celebrity lookalike

Comedian Joe Daymond tells FIRST about a resemblance that can’t be unseen, honing his comedy craft at tangi and more.

Read more from Joe here or check out the FIRST boxset here

National MP wants Ukraine president to address NZ parliament

National MP Simon O’Connor wants Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to address New Zealand’s parliament.

The Tamaki MP called on his fellow MPs to invite Zelenskyy to speak, saying the Ukrainian president had similarly addressed the elected leaders of other countries.

O’Connor’s call has so far had a fairly frosty reception; National’s leader Christopher Luxon said he was unaware that his MP would be lodging the motion. He said Zelenskyy is probably too busy to speak to New Zealand MPs.

Earlier today, leader of the house Chris Hipkins said it was “undiplomatic” to issue an invitation without first checking with Zelenskyy himself.

“He’s a busy guy,” said Hipkins. “I think we have to acknowledge there is a lot happening for him at the moment and we wouldn’t want to issue an invitation which he felt he either had to do or that he turned down.”

Supreme Court to consider challenge to voting age

The country’s top court has agreed to consider the issue of whether New Zealand’s voting age should be lowered.

The “Make it 16” campaign has announced today that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear their voting age challenge. The Court of Appeal previously acknowledged that keeping the voting age at 18 could be discriminatory to those aged 16 and 17. However, the Court chose not to issue a formal declaration of inconsistency with the Bill of Rights.

While the Court would not have the power to amend the voting age, Make it 16 co-director Cate Tipler said a formal declaration of inconsistency from the Supreme Court would send a powerful message to government. “It would force parliament and the government to see this as a priority and boost the movement for change,” they said.

“This is a great step forward for our movement.”

Stranger Things is back and it looks bonkers

The fourth (and penultimate) season of Netflix’s sci-fi drama Stranger Things premieres next month – and the full length trailer has just been released.

Along with the return of old favourites, the trailer teases new faces – and new monsters. It looks batshit.

OCR moves to 1.5% – the largest jump in over 20 years

The Official Cash Rate has jumped by 0.50 basis points, up to 1.50%.

It’s the most significant rise of the OCR in over 20 years. The last 0.50 rise was in May 2000.

In a statement, the Reserve Bank said it was appropriate to tighten monetary conditions. They agreed that moving the OCR to a “more neutral stance sooner” would reduce the risks of rising inflation expectations. “A larger move now also provides more policy flexibility ahead in light of the highly uncertain global economic environment,” said the statement.

“There is an elevated level of uncertainty created by the persistent impacts of Covid-19, and clear signals that monetary and broader financial conditions will tighten over the course of 2022. Added to this is the high level of geopolitical tension and related economic sanctions on Russia.”

‘Bit of a mind blank’: Covid minister confused by Covid rules during Covid press conference

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has blamed a “mind blank” on his temporary inability to answer reporter questions on face mask rules.

The government has confirmed the entire country will today move to the orange setting, at 11.59pm tonight.

During a speech, Hipkins provided a brief overview of mask rules at orange but was subsequently pressed by reporters to provide further information. According to the official rules on the Covid-19 website, masks are still required on public transports, flights, and in shops.

But that’s not what Hipkins said when questioned by reporters. He initially claimed people wouldn’t be required to wear a mask at the supermarket or on a plane.

Asked to provide further detail, Hipkins appeared to realise his mistake. He deferred at least half a dozen questions from reporters and eventually said he would not answer any mask questions until he had been sent through the “absolute list” from his officials.

A few minutes later he admitted his mistake and backtracked on his comments around supermarkets and flights. “That was my mistake – I did not refresh my memory sufficiently about mask requirements at orange before I came down here, I apologise for that,” he said. “The guidance is very clear, yes I should have been familiar with that guidance before I came to do this, I’ll accept responsibility for the fact I did not do that, there’s been quite a lot going on.”

The Spinoff’s political editor Justin Giovannetti has been in the room, and said today was a bit of a disaster for Hipkins. “It seems unbelievable that the Covid response minister walked into a press conference to announce a move to orange, and then completely stumbled over the mask rules for orange and telling the country they can pretty much ditch masks, only to then retract most of what he’d just told the country.”

He added: “It was probably his worst few minutes at the podium and bizarre that a minister who is usually across his portfolio, suddenly thought that you don’t need to keep wearing a mask on a plane, on public transit or in a shop.”

So to confirm: at orange, mask use will still be required in most indoor settings. However, face coverings are no longer mandatory at schools but simply a recommendation.

Orange for Easter: Entire country moving out of the red at 11.59pm

All of New Zealand will move to the orange setting of the traffic light framework from 11.59pm tonight, in time for both school holidays and the Easter long weekend.

The move will bring huge relief for hospitality venues with all indoor restrictions dropped and the seated and separated rule ditched.

Speaking at parliament, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the move was possible as case numbers and hospitalisations are on the decline. For the first time since late February, all three hospitals in Auckland are reporting less than 100 Covid-19 patients.

However, facing questions on mask use, Hipkins appeared not to know the rules at orange. He deferred at least half a dozen questions from reporters and eventually said he would not answer any mask questions until he had been sent through the “absolute list” from his officials.

“I just had a bit of a mind blank,” he said.

Face masks would not, though, be made mandatory at schools while at orange. Further guidance is being provided to schools, said Hipkins, and where schools are experiencing acute outbreaks they may introduce mask requirements.

“Face masks will continue to play an important rule in keeping cases down,” said Hipkins. “We continue to encourage the use of face masks when people are out and about in public. For workers face masks are still required at some events and close-proximity businesses such as hairdressers.”

According to the official rules masks are still required, at orange, on public transports, flights, and in shops. Hipkins initially said people didn’t need to wear masks in retail settings or on flights – they do.

“The decline in cases and hospitalisations, along with the arrival in new anti-viral medications, means the rolling average of deaths is also declining,” he said. “We are coming off the peak… in some cases, the peaks are falling off quickly.”

Since the last review of the settings 10 days ago, the seven day rolling average of cases had declined by 3,930, and cases now sit at under 10,000.

Asked about whether removing Easter trading restrictions for this year had been considered, as businesses will move out of Covid restrictions and straight into public holiday restrictions, Hipkins said no. However, he said that was why the move out of red will happen tonight instead of tomorrow night.

The next review of the traffic light framework will happen in mid-May.

Covid-19 update: 15 new deaths, 551 in hospital, 9,495 new cases

There have been more 15 more deaths linked to New Zealand’s Covid-19 outbreak.

These deaths all occurred over the past eight days, including 11 in the past two days. It takes the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 531 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 13.

Of the latest deaths, one was from Northland, four from the Auckland region, one from Waikato, one from Bay of Plenty, one from Lakes DHB area, two from MidCentral, three from Nelson Marlborough, and two from Canterbury.

One person was aged in their 40s, two in their 50s, two in their 60s, four in their 70s, five in their 80s, and one over 90. Eight were female and seven were male.

Speaking at parliament, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said hospitalisations continued to fall. There are now 551 in hospital with the virus, including 27 in intensive care.

There are 9,495 new community cases nationwide. The seven-day rolling average of case numbers continues to decline, with today’s seven-day rolling average at 9,288 – last Wednesday it was 12,307.

“The number of reported community cases is expected to continue to fluctuate day to day but the overall trend remains an overall reduction in reported cases,” said the Ministry of Health.

Watch: Traffic light decision to be revealed

The Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins is set to reveal whether any parts of the country can shift out of the red setting of the traffic light framework.

Members of cabinet met this morning to review our current settings, in time for the upcoming Easter long weekend.

We’re also anticipating today’s Covid-19 case numbers.

Tune into the presser below or follow along from 1pm for our rolling coverage.

A note from deputy editor Alice Neville

While most vaccine mandates have ended and the occupiers have left parliament grounds, the story is far from over. As Covid continues to spread, so does mis- and disinformation, which makes fact-based and level-headed journalism more important than ever. We’re keeping a close watch on this ongoing story, from the inadequate regulation of disturbing online content, to those trying to turn the parliament occupation fury into a political force, to the next target of the protest ringleaders.

But we can’t do this – or the award-winning collaborations between Toby Morris and Siouxsie Wiles, painstakingly, sensitively reported investigations or up-to-the-minute live updates – without your support. As we continue to struggle against commercial pressures, contributions from our members are more critical than ever.

If you want to support what we do, please consider becoming a member today. Donate now.

Fruit and vegetable prices up 18% in one year

The price of food has risen by 7.6% over the past year, the largest annual increase since July 2011.

It comes as the government faces continued pressure to address the overall cost of living. Recently, it announced cuts to fuel taxes and public transport fares but did little else to help people cover day-to-day costs.

According to Stats NZ, grocery prices were up 6.7%, meat was up 8.7% and fruit and vegetables soared by a massive 18%. “Average prices for vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli, iceberg lettuce, and cabbage were notably higher than they were in March 2020 and 2021,” consumer prices manager Katrina Dewbery said.

In a statement, consumer affairs minister David Clark said the price rises confirmed the need to tackle the supermarket duopoly. A recent Commerce Commission study found grocery retailers were earning excess profits of around $1 million a day.

But the opposition attacked the government for failing to rein in inflation. “The War in Ukraine isn’t to blame for fruit and vegetables going up by 18% in the last 12 months,” National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis. “The government should rein in its big spending plans, hit pause on plans to add more costs to business and prioritise tax relief for the squeezed middle.”

Labour amps up attacks on National over public transport comments

The government has ramped up its attacks on the National Party over transport policy.

Yesterday, National’s leader Christopher Luxon implied that his party might scrap subsidies on public transport. “Ultimately, public transport needs to stand on its own feet. It can’t be subsidised or underwritten,” he told media.

Around half of public transport costs are subsidised normally, with even more public money being contributed currently as part of the government’s attempt to tackle living costs.

Luxon’s comments prompted transport minister Michael Wood to label National “climate deniers” in a tweet.

A later press release, issued via Labour as opposed to under a government letterhead, called Luxon out of touch. “Luxon’s commitment to driving up the cost of public transport is in contrast to Labour who have halved the cost for three months to help with current cost of living pressures,” said Wood. “Luxon’s plan would likely result in a cut in bus and train services, giving commuters fewer options and driving up New Zealand’s transport emissions.”

Luxon has today walked back his comments, telling RNZ his party would continue to subsidise operational and capital requirements for public transport. Instead, he suggested cutting wasteful spending and said “we’re not up for subsidising white elephant public transport projects like a slow train from Hamilton to Auckland”.

How the UK front pages reported the BoJo party scandal

Overnight it was revealed UK prime minister Boris Johnson was fined over his attendance at a 2020 birthday party in breach of Covid-19 restrictions.

Johnson, who has become the first sitting UK leader to be penalised by police, has ignored calls to resign.

Here’s a look at how some of the big British newspapers reported the scandal

The Sun: ‘I’m sorry but I have work to do’

A pretty down the line front page reporting Johnson’s apology and his decision not to bow to resignation calls.

The Daily Mail: ‘Don’t they know there’s a war on?’

King of the tabloids, the Daily Mail, has run with the line that we shouldn’t be focusing on Johnson’s fine because, yup, there’s a war on. As an aside, yesterday’s DM front page had no mention of Ukraine but instead took a hit at Meghan Markle.

The Mirror: ‘Led by liars and lawbreakers’

Focuses on the fact BoJo is the first UK prime minister to break the law while in office.

NZ airports welcoming back Australians from today

Thousands of travellers from across the Tasman are expected to land in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington today. Stuff looks at the work underway at the border to prepare airports for the arrivals. The prime minister is expected at Wellington’s airport to greet some tourists as they step off. One thing many of those travellers won’t have is insurance. Stuff asks: should we mandate travel insurance for arrivals, especially in Covid times? The reopening of the border could also fuel a growing exodus from Aotearoa. The NZ Herald writes that up to 50,000 residents could leave this year, according to a warning from officials.

At 1pm today the government will announce whether the country, or some part of it, will move to orange. Derek Cheng explains in the NZ Herald (paywalled) what the government will consider in the move.

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.  

Defence force aircraft leaves for Europe to support Ukraine

A defence force C-130 Hercules aircraft has departed for Europe today as part of the government’s efforts to support Ukraine.

The plane left from Whenuapai Airbase around 8am, carrying nine of the 50-strong team that has been committed to helping with operations for the net two months.

Peeni Henare, the minister of defence, said the Hercules would join a “chain of military aircrafts” from partner nations and help to transport equipment and supplies.

“New Zealand may be a long way from Europe, but we know that such a blatant attack on a country’s sovereignty is a threat to all of us. That’s why we are doing our bit to support Ukraine,” Henare said.

NZDF F-230H Hercules departs the RNZAF Base Auckland on April 13, 2022 (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Cabinet to decide whether it’s ‘orange’ in time for Easter

A move to the less restrictive “orange” setting of our traffic light framework could be announced today.

Cabinet is meeting this morning to decide whether any parts of the country can move out of red in time for the Easter long weekend. A shift to orange would be a boon for our hospitality businesses as they deal with debilitating gathering restrictions and the requirement for patrons to be seated and spaced at all times.

The key question many have, including health experts like Michael Baker, is whether any changes will be made to the mask rules at orange. Under the current settings, face coverings would just be a recommendation indoors at orange as opposed to a requirement. That may seem all well and good for those of us who are fully vaccinated and have the freedom to work from home if we want, but many school children are stuck indoors for over six hours a day. And remember, our youngest children are currently unvaccinated and boosters have only just been made eligible for senior students aged 16 and 17.

Image: Tina Tiller

If I was a betting man, and based on the current trajectory of cases and hospitalisations, I’d say a move for (at least) the North Island would seem likely. While the outbreak is trending down in the South too, case numbers remain high in Canterbury.

Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins will front today’s 1pm briefing where he will announce any changes to our traffic light framework. We’ll have a livestream for you along with rolling coverage.

Boris Johnson fined over lockdown party, but won’t resign

Boris Johnson is facing calls to resign after he was fined by police for breaching Covid-19 restrictions set by his own government.

The UK prime minister has admitted to attending a birthday party thrown for him during the 2020 Covid lockdown.

It makes Johnson the UK’s first serving prime minister to be penalised for breaking the law, but Johnson said he won’t be stepping down. “I want to be able to get on and deliver the mandate that I have [and] also to tackle the problems the country must face right now, and to make sure that we get on with delivering for the people of this country,” he said. 

“I accept in all sincerity that people had the right to expect better. [But] now I feel an even greater sense of obligation to deliver on the priorities of the British people.”

Others fined over the gathering include Johnson’s wife Carrie and chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Johnson claimed the illegal gathering was for “less than 10 minutes” and admitted that “at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules”.

Among those demanding the PM quit over the incident are Labour leader Keir Starmer, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon and Wales’ Labour first minister Mark Drakeford. The BBC has reported that all opposition parties are demanding parliament be recalled from its Easter break so MPs can discuss the matter.

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)