Live UpdatesJan 18 2022

Household contact of omicron-infected MIQ worker tests positive

  • A symptomatic household contact of the MIQ omicron case has today tested positive for Covid-19.
  • Ten contacts of the initial omicron case from two bus trips are yet to be tested.
  • There are 14 new community cases today, and 30 at the border.
  • Two deaths have been confirmed from the aftermath of the eruption and tsunami in Tonga, with a third unconfirmed.

Household contact of omicron-infected MIQ worker tests positive

  • A symptomatic household contact of the MIQ omicron case has today tested positive for Covid-19.
  • Ten contacts of the initial omicron case from two bus trips are yet to be tested.
  • There are 14 new community cases today, and 30 at the border.
  • Two deaths have been confirmed from the aftermath of the eruption and tsunami in Tonga, with a third unconfirmed.
Jan 18 2022

Two deaths confirmed in Tonga

Two people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following Saturday’s eruption and tsunami, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has told Stuff.

Fiji-based United Nations co-ordinator Jonathan Veitch said one of the fatalities was British national Angela Glover, reports RNZ.

Meanwhile, speaking to Tagata Pasifika today, Peter Lund, New Zealand’s acting high commissioner to Tonga, said there were “unconfirmed reports of up to three fatalities”.

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NZ sends two navy ships, more money to Tonga

Two Royal New Zealand Navy ships are heading to Tonga today to assist in its recovery from Saturday night’s undersea eruption and tsunami, the government has announced.

The HMNZS Wellington will be carrying hydrographic survey and diving teams, as well as an SH-2G(I) Seasprite helicopter, while the HMNZS Aotearoa will carry bulk water supplies and humanitarian and disaster relief stores, said defence minister Peeni Henare in a statement. The journey will take three days.

“Water is among the highest priorities for Tonga at this stage and HMNZS Aotearoa can carry 250,000 litres, and produce 70,000 litres per day through a desalination plant,” said Henare.

A C-130 Hercules aircraft remains on standby, unable to land on Nuku’alofa’s ash-covered runway. Once the runway is cleared, it will deliver humanitarian aid and disaster relief stores including collapsible water containers, generators and hygiene kits for families.

A New Zealand P-3K2 Orion surveillance and reconnaissance flight to Tonga yesterday captured images that have been sent to relevant authorities in Tonga, said foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta in the statement.

The New Zealand government has also allocated a further $500,000 in humanitarian assistance, taking the initial funding total to $1 million.

Ash is seen on the roofs of homes and surrounding vegetation in this photo of Nomuka island taken from a P-3K2 Orion aircraft surveillance flight yesterday (Photo: Supplied)

Household contact of omicron-infected MIQ worker tests positive

A symptomatic household contact of the MIQ omicron case has today tested positive for Covid-19, the Ministry of Health has announced. The case was already isolating. They will be formally included in tomorrow’s case numbers.

Further case interviews are currently under way but, at this stage, there are no exposure events associated with this case, said the ministry. All other household members have returned negative tests to date.

As of this morning, a total of 86 contacts had been identified in relation to the MIQ border, including seven household and 79 close contacts. At this stage, 75 have returned negative test results and one a positive result, as outlined above.

From the exposure events linked to the initial case, there are 10 people from the two bus journeys who are yet to be tested and are being followed up in person.

No other close contacts linked to this cluster have returned positive results.

The investigation into the transmission route continues and testing of staff from the Stamford Plaza facility continues today.

14 new cases in the community, 30 at the border

There are 14 new cases today, seven in Auckland, six in Rotorua and one in Wellington. The Rotorua and Wellington cases are all linked to previous cases, and the Wellington case has been in isolation.

At the border, 30 new cases have been detected.

14,367 five to 11-year-olds vaccinated yesterday

Yesterday, on the first day they became available, 14,367 child (paediatric) vaccine first doses were administered to five to 11-year-olds throughout New Zealand, said the Ministry of Health.

“We want to thank children, and the caregivers who supported them, who got their first dose yesterday. We encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.”

Daily Covid-19 update imminent

Still no sign of the Ministry of Health’s daily 1pm update, but we’ll have all the details here as soon as it lands.

Police mandate Covid vaccination for all employees, visitors

New Zealand Police has announced it’s putting in place a mandatory vaccination policy for all employees, contractors, volunteers, suppliers and visitors who work at or enter police sites.

Everyone covered by the new policy must have had their first Covid-19 vaccination by February 11 and their second by March 11.

The majority of police staff are already covered by a vaccination mandate that came into effect on January 17 and applies to constabulary staff, authorised officers and recruits. Across all staff, 96% have received at least one dose and 94% two doses, according to a media release.

Anyone visiting a police station or police site to access essential police services and people brought to a station for services in relation to enforcement and operational activities are exempt from the policy, as are people held in police custody suites.

Tova O’Brien, Discovery NZ in legal stoush over radio host’s new start date

Broadcaster Tova O’Brien is taking her former employer to the Employment Relations Authority in a last-minute bid to escape from her contract early and launch her much-anticipated radio breakfast show with new boss MediaWorks, reports Newsroom.

The political journalist’s new gig, which Toby Manhire predicted “might shift the tectonic plates of NZ talk radio”, is tipped to start airing this month as part of a new lineup of talent on Today FM, previously Magic Talk.

But in response to O’Brien’s efforts to start her new job sooner than her contract with Discovery NZ allows, the owner of TV3 and Newshub is trying to enforce a three-month restraint of trade clause, reports Newsroom. At stake is the return of its new-look AM Show, which isn’t expected to resume airing until February.

MediaWorks used to own the television and radio networks but it sold the television arm to US-based Discovery in September 2020. The deal was finalised last December. A month earlier, O’Brien announced her resignation. She was with Newshub for 14 years, most recently as its political editor.

Restraint of trade clauses are designed to prevent employees from jumping ship to work for a competitor, and are often included by employers concerned their former staff might misuse confidential company information in their new job.

O’Brien is not MediaWorks’ only get: its new lineup includes Duncan Garner, Mark Richardson and Polly Gillespie. MediaWorks director of news and talk Dallas Gurney, in charge of resetting Magic Talk’s brand, told Stewart Sowman-Lund that a fresh coat of paint had been “a long time coming”.

Distress signal detected from isolated Tongan islands

A distress signal detected in an isolated, low-lying group of islands in the Tonga archipelago following Saturday’s massive volcanic eruption and tsunami has the United Nations concerned for its inhabitants, reports RNZ via Reuters.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said there had been no contact from the Ha’apai group of islands and there was “particular concern” about two small low-lying islands, Fonoi and Mango, where an active distress beacon had been detected.

Stuff reported yesterday, however, that a resident of Lifuka, the main settlement in the Ha’apai group, further away from the volcano than Fonoi and Mango, had shared photos of damage to a wharf.

As reported in this morning’s Bulletin, while electricity and the local phone system has been restored, Tonga’s main cable was broken by the violent eruption, cutting off communications with the rest of the world. Repairs could take weeks.

Initial reports suggested no mass casualties on the main island of Tongatapu, but two people were reported missing and the capital Nuku’alofa was badly damaged, as were resorts and homes along the island’s western beaches, said OCHA. Stuff is reporting the death of a British aid worker.

Traffic light system may need changes in face of omicron – Bloomfield

The traffic light system may need to be adjusted in light of the looming arrival of the omicron variant, according to the director general of health.

The Covid-19 Response Framework, commonly known as the traffic light system, had served the country well over the summer break, Ashley Bloomfield told Morning Report.

“If you look at the cases from our ongoing delta outbreak in the community, they continue to decline. I think the seven-day average is 20 cases a day now. That’s fantastic and that’s in the context of the traffic light system.”

But, he said, it was important to remember the system was based on the role of vaccination and the use of vaccine certificates to restrict people’s ability to gather.

“It’s quite clear that omicron does escape vaccinations.”

Further advice around the need to strengthen or adjust the traffic light settings was currently being prepared, he said.

Yesterday, the prime minister said New Zealand would move to the red traffic light setting if omicron was spreading in the community – which was a case of “when, not if”. Jacinda Ardern said the traffic light system was designed to “pick up the impact” from different variants such as omicron.