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blog march 22


Covid death toll grows by 15

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 22. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. If you need to get in touch, reach me on

The latest

  • Another 15 people have died from Covid-19 overnight, with 1,016 now in hospital. All the key numbers from today’s update can be found here.
  • Most of Auckland’s beaches are unswimmable following yesterday’s flash floods.
  • The government will tomorrow announce changes to our Covid-19 traffic light system, possibly scrapping mandates.
blog march 22

Covid death toll grows by 15

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 22. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. If you need to get in touch, reach me on

The latest

  • Another 15 people have died from Covid-19 overnight, with 1,016 now in hospital. All the key numbers from today’s update can be found here.
  • Most of Auckland’s beaches are unswimmable following yesterday’s flash floods.
  • The government will tomorrow announce changes to our Covid-19 traffic light system, possibly scrapping mandates.
Mar 22 2022

Amazon is buying MGM to beef up its streaming service

Let’s face it, there are way too many streaming services these days. Each one seems to have at least one good offering that kind of justifies the amount you spend, but ultimately it adds up quickly.

Amazon’s Prime Video service looks set to become an even better investment. The company has just spent billions acquiring MGM, the production company behind franchises like James Bond and Hannibal. Not only does that mean the entire 007 series will soon be available to watch at home, but it could mean possible spin-offs in the future. Personally, I’m keeping my fingers tightly crossed for a fourth season of Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal.

For more on what the deal means, check out this piece on Vox.

‘Severe’ weather watch back in place for parts of Auckland

Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund

After a wild Monday that brought with it flash flooding and torrential rain, Metservice has just announced a new weather warning for parts of Auckland and Northland.

The severe thunderstorm watch applies to western parts of Auckland and the southern half of Northland, with heavy downpours of 25 to 40mm per hour possible in certain areas.

On Facebook, civil defence warned of hazardous driving conditions and the risk of further flooding or slips.

Number of Auckland vaccine centres remain closed after storm

Disruption to Auckland’s vaccination drive continues after yesterday’s storm caused the closure of several vaccine and testing centres.

Just two of the Auckland vaccination centres closed by yesterday’s stormy weather have reopened: the Westgate and Mount Wellington centres, which are now operating indoors only.

The Ōtara vaccination centre will remain closed for the rest of today as the site needs to further dry out, said health officials, while the Orewa centre is closed until further notice.

The Auckland Netball and Orewa community testing centres remain closed “for now” and the Wairau Valley community testing centre, which was due to close at the end of the week, is now permanently closed.

Covid-19 latest: 15 deaths, 1,016 in hospital, almost 21,000 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

There have been 15 more Covid-related deaths overnight, pushing the country’s death toll up to 199. Of those, nine are from the Auckland region, three from Waikato, and three from the Wellington region.

One of these people was in their 50s, three in their 60s, six in their 70s, and five were in their 80s. Eight were men and seven were women.

Covid-related hospitalisations have risen by 16 to 1,016. There are now 25 people in intensive care.

Another 20,907 community cases have been registered overnight. “We have seen an increase today in case numbers across most regions of New Zealand, however it’s not unexpected as we generally see lower testing and reporting over weekends,” said the Ministry of Health statement. Just under 4,300 new cases were confirmed in Auckland.

Further analysis confirms Auckland outbreak on the decline

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said that the latest health analysis confirmed Auckland’s omicron outbreak, across all DHB areas, had passed its peak. The increase in cases nationwide was now slowing as well, he said, but case numbers were still “very much on the increase” in the South Island.

He expected that hospitalisations would peak within the next week or two, but he said that these numbers would decrease slowly. “We can expect ongoing waves of Covid with elevated baselines of case numbers and hospitalisations,” he said. In New South Wales, Bloomfield said hospitalisations never dropped below 950 even as case numbers continued to decline.

In the delta outbreak the hospitalisation rate was 8%, but Bloomfield said in Auckland for omiron it was 0.9%.

There would likely be future waves of omicron, said Bloomfield, along with new variants of concern.

Watch: Bloomfield to give today’s Covid update

Dr Ashley Bloomfield speaking at an August 13 news conference (Getty Images)

Ashley Bloomfield will front today’s Covid-19 update, a day out from an announcement on the future of vaccine mandates in New Zealand.

Tune in below and we’ll also have rolling coverage, plus all the key numbers, from 1pm.

We tuned into Today FM to see what it was all about

If you’re a media obsessive like moi, you will already be all over the new talk network Today FM. It launched yesterday with an impressive line-up that includes Tova O’Brien in her post-TV3 era, Duncan Garner in his post-TV3 era, along with big names in radio like Leah Panapa and Polly Gillespie. Pretty formidable stuff.

Yesterday’s debut included iconic moments such as Winston Peters hanging up on Tova, Duncan Garner going deep about his departure from the AM Show, and Polly Gillespie forgetting that Prince Charles wasn’t dead.

I think I tuned in for about half the day, but The Spinoff’s Alex Casey and Toby Manhire went above and beyond – listening in from brekky til way beyond dinner. Their thoughts can be found here.

The presenters of radio station Today FM
The presenters of Today FM (Image: Archi Banal/supplied)

Business is Boring is back!

(Design: Lauren Stewart)

From our partners at Spark: After an extended summer break, The Spinoff and partners Spark Lab are proud to announce the return of award-winning podcast Business is Boring.

Join host Simon Pound as he talks to everyone from accidental entrepreneurs to industry leaders about their business journeys.
In this new season, you can expect more inspiring entrepreneurs, returning guests and stories of struggle, success and determination.

In the first episode, we welcome back Sharesies co-founder and CEO Brooke Roberts, whose company has grown from 2,000 users to over 500,000 since we last spoke to her on Business is Boring back in 2017.

Listen now wherever you get your podcasts.

Should the PM’s vaccine mandate announcement have been made already?

Jacinda Ardern. (Photo by Mark Mitchell-Pool/Getty Images)

Jacinda Ardern is facing criticism from her political opponents after she yesterday announced a future announcement about our Covid-19 restrictions.

Cabinet met yesterday to consider changing our traffic light system, which could see the end of vaccine mandates and passes. But instead of announcing any more detail, Ardern said the announcement would be made tomorrow.

Act’s David Seymour was first out the gate with a scathing press release in which he accused Ardern of treating New Zealanders like children. “Our staged managed prime minister has decided she cares less about New Zealanders desperately waiting to the hear the decision and more about the podium time,” said Seymour. “People have lost their jobs over mandates and are excluded from parts of society but none of that seems to matter to Jacinda Ardern.”

It’s a sentiment shared by National’s Chris Bishop, who told the Herald people were sick of announcements about announcements. “The whole justification is to protect the health system and if data shows there is no risk any more they need to get rid of them as soon as possible.”

In a way, the criticism is valid – it seems unwise to announce that a cabinet decision has been made but then choose to hold off on revealing it. And it’s certainly not the first time the government has done this; last year, the government teased its then-unannounced traffic light system during a press conference but decided not to provide further details until the end of the week. It prompted Judith Collins, then National’s leader, to send out a press released titled: “No plan, no ideas, no hope from government”.

Doctors fear mental health crisis for children, worsened by Covid

From The Bulletin – The Spinoff’s daily, curated news wrap.

Years-long underfunding of the country’s mental health system now means all hospitals in New Zealand face significant shortages of clinical mental health staff. Bridie Witton reports for Stuff that Wellington hospitals are missing 40% of full time stuff as demand surges for child and adolescent mental health services. The country’s mental health systems were under stress before Covid-19, but the pandemic has worsened nearly all aspects of the situations. Reported cases of self-harm are up and some doctors warn that things have gotten out of hand.

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.  

Almost all Auckland beaches unsafe for swimming after floods

Safeswim (Image / Screenshot)

Almost all Auckland beaches have been deemed unsafe for swimming after yesterday’s wild weather saw flash flooding around the city.

A quick glance at the Safeswim website shows only a handful of beaches (those with green symbols below) with a low risk of illness. Most have either a high (red) or very high (black) risk, including popular beaches like Mission Bay and Takapuna.

Safeswim (Image / Screenshot)

I wrote about Auckland’s beach safety issues for The Spinoff last summer. In that piece, I explained how the problems with Auckland’s current stormwater and wastewater infrastructure mean the network often overflows and sends actual human shit into, yup, the ocean.

More from me: What happened when the heavens opened on Auckland

Soaring fuel prices mean New Zealanders are driving less – new poll

Getty Images

A new Consumer NZ survey has found four out of five New Zealanders driving less than they normally would because of skyrocketing fuel prices.

Here in Auckland, petrol is sitting around the $2.70 mark currently after the government cut taxes by 25 cents a litre due to what was labelled a cost of living crisis. That’s well above levels from a few months back and, with the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, prices are set to keep rising.

“With the price of fuel past $3 a litre in most parts of the country, it’s inevitable that we’re seeing many New Zealanders looking to minimise their driving,” said Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy. “A lot of people don’t have a choice, they can’t afford their fuel bill right now.”

Along with driving less, respondents also said they were monitoring air-con use, driving more smoothly and carpooling – and a third said they were considering switching to a hybrid or electric vehicle to save money.

The current fuel tax cuts, and a reduction in public transport fares, will be in place for three months.

New Zealand’s newest star-studded radio station is here

Tova O’Brien (Image: Supplied)

From our partners at Today FM: This week Today FM launches with an incredible lineup of shows from some of New Zealand’s favourite journalists.
Tune in from 6.30 weekday mornings for Tova, the long-awaited morning show hosted by ex-political reporter Tova O’Brien, with Mark Dye and newsreader Carly Flynn.
O’Brien’s signature cut-throat interview style and journalistic eye brings you the news that matters most to New Zealanders.
Later, join other big names like Duncan Garner, Leah Panapa, Mark Richardson, Lloyd Burr and Wilhelmina Shrimpton throughout the day as they delve into the big, and not-so-big, stories of the day.
Listen to Tova, 6.30am-9am every weekday on Today FM.