blog dec 14

Live UpdatesDec 14 2021

Omicron contacts in MIQ

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 14. I hope the weather’s nicer where you are. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


Today’s Covid headlines

  • There are 80 new community cases of Covid-19.
  • Several members of a flight crew, now in MIQ, have been identified as close contacts of an omicron case in Australia.
  • There are 61 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including four in intensive care.
blog dec 14

Omicron contacts in MIQ

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 14. I hope the weather’s nicer where you are. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


Today’s Covid headlines

  • There are 80 new community cases of Covid-19.
  • Several members of a flight crew, now in MIQ, have been identified as close contacts of an omicron case in Australia.
  • There are 61 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including four in intensive care.
Dec 14 2021

The great 2021 Gone By Lunchtime Christmas quiz

The final episode of Gone By Lunchtime for 2021 has arrived in the shape of a giant festive quiz. Join Toby Manhire, Annabelle Lee-Mather, Ben Thomas and a line-up of special guest quizmasters as they try to remember various political things that have happened in the last 11.5 months. You can also play along at home with this interactive multimedia component.

Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you normally listen to podcasts.

Jacinda Ardern breaks Twitter silence to fight ‘conspiracy theory’

Jacinda Ardern is pretty active on Facebook, semi-active on Instagram and, generally, absent from Twitter (possibly because of this scorching piece I wrote a year ago, or more likely not because of it).

The prime minister has today returned to Twitter to take down a so-called “conspiracy theory” being pushed by Herald journalist Thomas Coughlan.

He claimed that Ardern had been putting “a wedge of lemon” into her water during today’s question time. “Not sure when it started. Feel like it’s new. I’m into it. Lemon water good,” he wrote.

A mere 48 minutes later, the PM retorted: “I can confirm this is a conspiracy theory. There is no lemon. I repeat, there is NO lemon.”

Ardern’s last three tweets were all in September, but prior to that she had not shared anything since January.

As for the ghost lemon, it appears to simply be a reflection from the wood behind.

Mystery solved?

The real conspiracy here is: why two glasses?

Government pushed to ditch MIQ for Australian returnees this year

No fully vaccinated people from Australia have tested positive for Covid-19 in managed isolation since August 23.

The revelation was made during question time today, when National’s Covid response spokesperson Chris Bishop pushed minister Chris Hipkins on why the managed isolation system won’t be ditched this side of Christmas.

Hipkins confirmed that while 4883 Australian travellers have spent time in MIQ during that period, just three have tested positive – all unvaccinated.

The timeline for allowing home isolation from mid-January was still set to be followed, said Hipkins.

Asked why vaccinated Aucklanders could move around the country from tomorrow, but overseas returnees cannot skip MIQ, Hipkins referenced the omicron variant. “At this stage, [the variant] will be captured by our managed isolation system,” he said.

NZ inching towards 90% fully vaccinated milestone

There were 18,527 total vaccine doses administered yesterday, including 2,434 first doses and 6,849 second doses. To date, 94% of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 89% are double-dosed.

90% of Hutt Valley DHB residents have now been fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has reminded travellers of the rules for leaving Auckland from tomorrow. Unvaccinated people who are asymptomatic and require surveillance Covid-19 testing for travel need to get a supervised rapid antigen test from a pharmacy, within 72 hours of travel.

“This testing is for people over the age of 12 years and 3 months who are not fully vaccinated and do not have Covid-19 symptoms, and includes unvaccinated people travelling out of Auckland,” said the ministry.

Rapid antigen testing at pharmacies is currently only available at no cost for people who are not yet vaccinated and need to get tested for travel. “Anyone with any Covid-19 symptoms is asked to get a PCR test at a community testing centre or a GP and stay at home until a negative result is returned. People who are vaccinated do not need to get a rapid antigen test or a PCR test for travel, so long as they carry their My Vaccine Pass.”

The shape of the outbreak

For more snazzy graphs, visit The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here.

‘Wellbeing’ budgets might not be helping the environment, says new report

The government’s “wellbeing” approach to budgets might not be doing much for our natural environment. 

A new report by Simon Upton, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, has investigated whether the annual budget – presented as a “wellbeing budget” since 2019 – also takes into account the wellbeing of our natural environment. 

“The benefits that arise from protecting and conserving the environment – or trying to recover some of the damage we’ve caused – unfold over long time frames,” said Upton. “This makes the natural environment difficult to slot into an annual budget process dominated by decisions orientated towards short-term outcomes.”

The report found that measuring or determining the value of the environment and its links to wellbeing is not easy. It ultimately concluded that while wellbeing is an aspirational goal, it is not clear that using it to guide decisions makes it easier to prioritise environmental spending. 

Upton’s primary recommendation is that the wellbeing analysis template be updated to “better reflect the importance of the environment”.

Sara Walton, associate professor at the University of Otago, told the Science Media Centre that the report provides a useful starting point for a nationwide conversation on how we might perceive the relationships between humans and the environment.

“How we understand well-being and incorporate a Te Tiriti approach to both well-being and the conceptualisations of the environment,” she said. “Such conversations are overdue and should help in being able to generate better data and measures to enable environmental well-being in Aotearoa to be at the forefront of policy and decision making.”

Omicron contacts in MIQ; 80 new delta cases in the community

Community cases of delta have dropped to 80 today, with 51 in Auckland, 21 in Waikato, seven in Bay of Plenty and just one in the Lakes DHB area.

While the case numbers overall have taken a dip, that’s a significant surge in Waikato cases compared with the last few days.

There is also an additional case in Canterbury today, which will be officially counted in tomorrow’s case numbers.

Meanwhile, New Zealand has had its first brush with the omicron variant. Several members of a flight crew have been identified as close contacts of an omicron case in Australia. These crew members arrived in New Zealand last night and are in a MIQ facility, as per standard international air crew arrival procedure.

There are now 62 people in hospital with Covid-19, including four in intensive care.

At 11.59pm tonight, Auckland’s border will drop for the first time since the country entered lockdown on August 17.

Today’s case details

There are 21 new cases to report in the Waikato. A large proportion of the new cases are in Te Kūiti. “Exposure events in Te Kūiti and across the region continue to be generally in private settings,” said the Ministry of Health. “We are grateful to all those who have been helping to keep our community safe by getting tested and encourage anyone with symptoms to contact Healthline or their GP and seek a test.”

Nine pop-up and dedicated testing sites are operating throughout Waikato today with sites in Hamilton, Te Kūiti, Ngāruawāhia, Huntly, Tokoroa, Putāruru and Ōtorohanga.

Today’s seven new Bay of Plenty cases are all in Tauranga City. One is linked to a previously reported case, while the other cases are still being investigated for potential links. Contacts are being identified and will be contacted for testing and isolation advice.

The new Lakes case is in the Taupō district and is linked to a previously reported case.

Finally, there is one case to announce in Christchurch today. The case is a close contact of a previously reported case and was already isolating at home when they tested positive. The case was notified after the morning cut-off and therefore will be officially included in tomorrow’s case numbers.

Covid numbers due at 1pm

It’s another written statement day. Today’s Covid-19 numbers will arrive around 1pm. Keep the live updates open and refreshed for all the latest.

11,000+ people to travel through Auckland Airport tomorrow

Expect congestion if travelling in or out of Auckland tomorrow.

It’s the first day since August 17 without a hard border in place and thousands will be transiting through the city’s airport. Air New Zealand will be taking 7500 passengers out of Auckland on Wednesday, while another 4500 are landing in Auckland.

Overall the company has almost 21,000 passengers booked across its network for the day.

Meanwhile, police checkpoints will be in force at Auckland’s southern and northern borders. It’s unlikely everyone will be checked, however, as police have pledged to keep traffic flowing.

Anyone leaving the city will need proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test, unless exempt for a valid reason.

New poll: Luxon eats into Act’s support as National surges

The National Party has seen a big boost in support since Christopher Luxon took over the leadership – at the expense of Act.

A new Taxpayers’ Union Curia Poll shows National up 6.4 points, pushing it back above the crucial 30% mark to around 32 points. However, it’s not Labour that has lost support to National’s gain: it remains steady on 39.5%. Act, however, has dropped back by about five points to 10.6%. The Greens were up two points.

The new poll has also give Luxon a serious surge in the preferred prime minister stakes. He’s up to 20.4% – the highest Curia result for an opposition leader since John Key.

Luxon told the Herald it was an encouraging result. “What I would say about that is there is a lot more work for us to do as a party, that’s all I’m saying. We’ve got to focus on New Zealanders and we’ve got work to do around housing and we’ve got work to do around education and we’ve got work to do around mental health.”

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Court supports call to lower voting age, but leaves it up to parliament

The appeals court has sided with a lobby group and concluded that our electoral laws, which set an age restriction on voting, are inconsistent with the right to be free from age discrimination.

However, the court chose not to issue a “declaration of inconsistency” with the Bill of Rights Act and instead left it up to parliament to determine whether any changes were necessary.

The group Make it 16 has been seeking legal action to try and lower New Zealand’s voting age to 16, arguing that the current voting age is not justified and discriminatory. After failing in the High Court, the group appealed and that ruling was released today.

“The attorney-general has not established that the limits on the right of 16 and 17 year olds to be free from age discrimination caused by the voting age provisions are reasonable limits that can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society,” said the ruling.

Make it 16 co-director Cate Tipler called the court’s decision not to officially issue a declaration of inconsistency frustrating. “We were asking the court to make parliament aware they are breaching our legal rights and to start a dialogue. As the judgment shows, this issue has been on the table since the 1980s (at least) but no action has been taken in all that time.”

Time person of the year is… Elon Musk

Time Magazine has named Tesla mogul Elon Musk as its 2021 person of the year.

Currently the world’s richest man, Musk is described by the magazine as “clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist, showman, cad” and a “hybrid of Thomas Edison, P.T. Barnum, Andrew Carnegie and Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan”.

It adds: “He tosses satellites into orbit and harnesses the sun; he drives a car he created that uses no gas and barely needs a driver. With a flick of his finger, the stock market soars or swoons. An army of devotees hangs on his every utterance. He dreams of Mars as he bestrides Earth, square-jawed and indomitable.”

Musk made headlines this year when his SpaceX company became the first private business to send astronauts into space. He also hosted Saturday Night Live and, err, has made some questionable tweets.

Other individuals singled out by Time include:

  • Heroes of the year: Vaccine scientists
  • Athlete of the year: Simone Biles
  • Entertainer of the year: Olivia Rodrigo.

Read more on Elon Musk here

Jane Campion’s latest film leads Golden Globes nominations

Jane Campion’s latest film the Power of the Dog has topped the Golden Globes nominations list. It’s up for seven awards, including best picture (drama), best director and best screenplay. It’s core acting cast are all up for their performances as well.

The film, which is available to watch on Netflix, has been picking up rave reviews ever since it first debuted at the Venice Film Festival in September.

Belfast, Kenneth Branagh’s black and white drama, is also up for seven nominations.

Other major films in the running include Licorice Pizza, celebrated for its breakthrough performance by Alana Haim, King Richard, starring Will Smith, and ensemble comedy Don’t Look Up. The latter will debut on Netflix next week and, despite today’s nominations, has seen mixed reviews from critics.

The Power of the Dog
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH in Jane Campion’s THE POWER OF THE DOG. Photo: Netflix

On the television front, Succession – which wrapped its third season last night with one of the most extraordinary hours of TV ever – is up for five awards including best drama. The entire core Roy family (excluding eldest brother Connor) are up for acting gongs with Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong fighting for best actor, and Kieran Culkin and Sarah Snook each nominated in the respective supporting categories. Hopefully Matthew Macfadyen will get his justice at the Emmys.

Ted Lasso was nominated for four awards after sweeping the Emmys, while Apple TV’s the Morning Show is inexplicably also up in four major categories.

While usually in the news for its wildcard awards, the Golden Globes is currently facing scrutiny over its lack of diversity. A broadcaster boycott will likely mean a stripped back telecast – or none at all.

PS: the Critics Choice Awards nominations are also out this morning – check them out here.

Rise in Covid cases won’t stop move to orange, says Henare

The associate health minister has defended the “cautious” decision to keep red restrictions in place until the end of the year.

Just Northland will stay in red restrictions come New Year’s Eve this year.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Peeni Henare said it was important vaccination rates kept rising and that two full transmission cycles of the virus were completed. However, asked whether that meant a sharp rise in cases could see the move to orange cancelled, Henare said: “We’re sticking to the date we announced yesterday.”

Northland would likely stay under harsher restrictions until its vaccination rates get close to the 90% mark. The region is currently “no where near” that, said Henare.

Peeni Henare speaks to media after a cabinet meeting (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

National and Act both argue Auckland should be in ‘orange’ now

The opposition has criticised the government over its decision to keep Auckland under “red” restrictions for another 16 days.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday announced that all red regions, except Northland, will move to orange just in time for New Year’s Eve: 11.59pm on December 30.

But National’s Christopher Luxon said that doesn’t make sense. “By the government’s own admission, the ‘red’ stage should be used when our healthcare system is overwhelmed and we’re facing unsustainable levels of hospitalisations – neither of which are happening,” he said. 

Ardern yesterday said that Auckland remained the centre of the outbreak and thus the higher restrictions were justified.

Luxon said that didn’t stack up. “There are just 61 cases in hospital, with only four in ICU. The case numbers are fewer than the modelling suggests. The “R rate” is now below one. New Zealand is just 48,000 doses shy of 90% of the eligible population being vaccinated. Auckland is one of the most vaccinated places in the world. All of these signs indicate Auckland should be in ‘orange’, not ‘red’, right now.”

The Act Party’s David Seymour agreed, saying the prime minister was still making up the rules as she goes along. “The next two weeks will cost people all over Auckland and other regions at red, that cost is put onto them simply because the prime minister doesn’t want the tiny risk she’ll have to reverse her decision,” he said.

Ardern has put the Covid response “on autopilot” until the end of the year, said Seymour.