blog late nov 24

Live UpdatesNov 24 2021

Simon Bridges stripped of portfolios following ‘serious misconduct’ allegation

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 24, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Want to get in touch? I’m on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


Today’s headlines

blog late nov 24

Simon Bridges stripped of portfolios following ‘serious misconduct’ allegation

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 24, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Want to get in touch? I’m on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


Today’s headlines

Nov 24 2021

Simon Bridges demoted following allegation of serious misconduct

National MP and former leader of the opposition Simon Bridges has been demoted and relieved of his portfolio responsibilities following an allegation of serious misconduct.

Current leader of the opposition Judith Colins shared the news in a press statement this evening at 9.23pm. “The decision follows an allegation of serious misconduct relating to Simon Bridges’ interaction with a caucus colleague,” the statement read.

“The case relates to comments made by Mr Bridges to a female caucus colleague at a function a number of years ago.”

No further detail of the interaction or complaint was given.

“Having been made aware of the seriousness of the complaint for the first time and the ongoing distress this has caused the complainant, I was left with no option but to immediately demote Simon Bridges and relieve him of his portfolio responsibilities.

“This decision has not been made lightly. However, the seriousness of the situation demands a swift and decisive response. Under my leadership, the National Party will not tolerate harassment and intimidation of any person.

“Members of Parliament and staff should be able to conduct their duties at all times without feeling unsafe or intimidated, and all deserve to be treated with absolute respect by their colleagues in all situations.”

Update: The complainant is understood to be MP Jacqui Dean, as reported by NZ Herald. According to the Herald, Dean complained at the time and then-leader Bill English spoke with Bridges.

Pacific community hit major vaccine milestone

90% of New Zealand’s Pacific community has now had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Aupito William Sio, minister for Pacific peoples, said reaching the milestone reflected the work of community leaders in supporting the vaccination drive. “However, we still have work to do to reach those who are yet to receive their first dose, and also to encourage our communities to get their second dose, which will help us be able to get back to doing all the things we enjoy over the coming summer,” he said.

“We know that giving Pacific people and Pacific providers a say to lead the delivery of vaccination services is what works for our communities. That innovative approach by Pacific providers using our Pacific language­ and cultural intelligence has been embraced by everyone.”

Roughly 82% of the eligible population has now been fully vaccinated.

The race to 90%: the latest vaccination numbers

There were 18,880 vaccine doses administered yesterday, made up of 6,496 first doses and 12,384 second doses. To date, 92% of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 84% are fully vaccinated.

As of 9am today, more than 1,664,000 million requests for a My Vaccine Pass had been processed.

And here’s a look at how every DHB is tracking:

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

Reserve Bank hikes OCR to 0.75%, with more rises likely

The Reserve Bank has raised the official cash rate to 0.75%, after it was last month lifted from a record-low 0.25%, the first rise in seven years.

Today’s increase was largely in line with economists’ expectations, though some had tipped a 50-basis-point rise as the central bank tries to rein in inflation.

The Reserve Bank said further removal of monetary policy stimulus was expected over time “given the medium term outlook for inflation and employment”. Headline CPI inflation is expected to measure above 5% in the near term before returning towards the 2% midpoint over the next two years, said the bank.

The New Zealand dollar dropped immediately following the announcement this afternoon.

National and Act say government has ‘stolen’ Christmas

Both National and Act have accused the government of stealing Christmas from overseas New Zealanders who can’t make it home before the end of the year.

It’s been announced that fully vaccinated New Zealanders will have to wait until next year to bypass the managed isolation system. From January, this will apply to returnees from Australia while everyone else abroad has to wait until February or April.

National’s Chris Bishop said the timetable for reopening New Zealand was “pathetic”.

“Not a single fully vaccinated traveller from Australia to New Zealand in the last three months has tested positive for Covid after arriving into New Zealand. There is no reason why the trans-Tasman Bubble should not be open right now,” Bishop said.

“New Zealanders can travel to NSW without any self-isolation or quarantine already. Australia is opening up while New Zealand remains in Fortress New Zealand mode.”

The National and Act Party releases (Image / Screenshot)

Act Party leader David Seymour agreed, calling Labour the grinch. “Labour needs to stop milking gratitude for giving citizens any freedom at all and start explaining why restrictions are justified,” he said. “Aucklanders will be able to move around New Zealand from December 15, but not foreigners who are less of a risk. There is no longer any logic in restricting New Zealanders’, or other citizens’, freedoms to enter the country.”

The trans-Tasman bubble has been popped for good

It’s official: the government has popped the Australian travel bubble for good.

Speaking at today’s 1pm Covid briefing, minister Chris Hipkins said the government was instead focused on reopening New Zealand’s border.

“The reality is we are moving to reopen the border… the bubble doesn’t exist anymore,” he said. “The bubble was a construct that was established when there was no Covid-19 in New Zealand or Australia. And that’s not the case on either side of the Tasman.”

We are now entering a “post-pandemic” time, said Hipkins, when reopening the border in a sustainable manner was the key goal.

“Having settings that move around all the time are really difficult,” he said. “As we open up, we don’t want to be flipping back. Once it’s opened up, that’s it – it’s open.”

Air New Zealand and Qantas planes together on runway
An Air Zealand plane after it landed at Sydney International Airport (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

In brief: What you need to know about the end of MIQ

Starting in January, managed isolation will be phased out for fully vaccinated returnees. You can read Chris Hipkins’ comments from the 1pm briefing here.

But, for those who just want the cold, hard details – here’s all you need to know:

  • Step 1: Opening to fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens and residence-class visa holders and other travellers eligible under our current settings from Australia from 11.59 pm on January 16 2022 (provided they have been in Australia or New Zealand for the past 14 days)
  • Step 2: Opening to fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens and those residence-class visa holders and other travellers eligible under our current border settings, from all but “very high risk” countries, from 11.59pm Sunday February 13.
  • Step 3: Opening to fully vaccinated foreign nationals (possibly staged by visa category), from April 30 onwards

All travellers not required to go into MIQ will still require:

  • A negative pre-departure test;
  • Proof of being fully vaccinated;
  • Passenger declaration about travel history;
  • A day zero/one test on arrival;
  • A requirement to self-isolate for seven days; and
  • A final negative test before entering the community

215 new community cases of Covid-19

For the second day in a row, there are 215 new community cases of Covid-19. That makes it the second highest day for new cases on record.

181 of the new cases are in Auckland, 18 are in Waikato, three are in Northland, 12 are in Bay of Plenty and one is in Canterbury (this is an historical case). There are no additional cases today in Lakes, MidCentral, Wairarapa or Wellington.

Of today’s cases, 115 have not yet been linked to the wider outbreak. There are 920 mystery cases from across the past fortnight.

There are now 87 people in hospital with Covid-19, including eight in intensive care.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has confirmed that of the 15 delta-related deaths, 10 were unvaccinated, two had one dose less than 14 days before they contracted Covid-19 and three were fully vaccinated.

Today’s case details

There are three new cases being reported in Northland today, two in Kaitaia (one unlinked) and one in Whangārei. The Whangārei case and one of the Kaitaia cases are close contacts of existing cases and were already isolating.

One of the new cases in Waikato is being cared for in hospital, the ministry said. There are seven pop-up and dedicated testing sites operating across Waikato today in Hamilton, Tokoroa, Putāruru, Ōtorohanga, Thames, and Te Kūiti

There are now 53 Covid-19 cases in Bay of Plenty, with 12 new cases reported today. Six of the cases are known close contacts and were already in isolation. Interviews with three of the cases are underway to determine the source of their infection, which includes a case in Eastern Bay of Plenty.

In response to the detection of the case in Eastern Bay of Plenty, additional testing is being stood up today at the Waimana Club Rooms from 1pm today until late.

The one case being reported in Canterbury today has been deemed historical and is no longer considered infectious. They are a close contact of a previously reported case.

Confirmed: Transition away from MIQ to begin in January

A transition away from managed isolation will begin for fully vaccinated New Zealanders from the start of next year, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has announced.

From 11.59pm on January 16, fully vaccinated New Zealanders will be able to avoid MIQ when travelling from Australia. From February 13, this will apply to all other countries. And, from April 30, it will apply for fully vaccinated foreign travellers.

“We do now consider that we’re able to move to our next phase,” said Hipkins.

There will still be carefully managed processes for recent arrivals including a mandatory seven-day self isolation period for those not required to enter MIQ. All travellers will require a negative pre-departure test, evidence of full vaccination, a declaration about recent travel history, a day zero/one test on arrival, a self-isolation requirement and a final test before entering the community.

“We do know that the international restrictions we’ve had around our border have been tough on many people,” said Hipkins, although he confirmed that travel in 2022 won’t necessarily be exactly the same as it was in 2020.

“Some people and businesses want us to start to open up before Christmas, and that’s understandable, but others want us to be more cautious. We acknowledge it’s been tough but the end of heavily restricted travel is now in sight,” Hipkins said. “There continues to be a global pandemic with cases surging in Europe and other parts of the world, so we do need to be very careful when reopening the border.”

Further details on how self-isolation will be implemented will be made available in December, and include guidance on how people can travel from their arrival airport to their location of self-isolation and requirements for the places where they can self-isolate.

Five countries to be removed from ‘very high risk’ travel list

Hipkins also confirmed that five countries will be removed from the “very high risk” list, meaning returnees can travel to New Zealand directly. Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, India and Fiji will be taken off the list from the start of next month while Papua New Guinea will remain.

“Closing our border was one of the first steps we took to keep our country safe from Covid-19 and it’ll be the last thing we open up, following our transition into the traffic light protection framework system and lifting of the Auckland boundary,” Hipkins said.

Watch live: Chris Hipkins set to make border announcement

Along with today’s Covid-19 numbers, we’re expecting an announcement to be made regarding New Zealand’s border.

Whether it will be about the home isolation scheme or the trans-Tasman bubble or something entirely else – we just don’t know.

But, if you want to know, follow along with our live coverage or tune into the livestream below. As always, we’re also expecting today’s regular Covid-19 case update from Ashley Bloomfield.

A message from the editor

While we wait for today’s Covid-19 update, here’s Mad Chapman: 

Like any good door-to-door salesperson, I’m about to cheerily introduce myself and then, in the very next breath, ask you for money. Hi! I’m Madeleine (or Mad) Chapman, previously an intern at The Spinoff, then a staff writer, senior writer and now editor. It certainly wasn’t the plan to step into this role in the middle of a delta outbreak, nor did I think my first weeks on the job would unfold alongside New Zealand’s largest city slowly coming out of stagnation. But despite the strange and unfortunate circumstances, The Spinoff team has stepped up once again, working tirelessly (and mostly from our bedrooms) to bring you the most important news when you need it, and the lighter moments when things are looking a little bleak. We’ve been able to continue this work because of the ongoing contributions from our members, and I can’t thank you enough.

But I can boldly ask that you consider becoming a member if you aren’t one already. If you’ve read something on our site recently that you enjoyed or appreciated, consider it a koha for that alone, because every dollar donated through The Spinoff Members is used to create more of the work you see every day. And with Christmas around the corner (which I’m finding genuinely hard to believe), there’s no such thing as shipping delays on a membership of The Spinoff bought for whānau and friends.

Greens call for delayed review of new traffic light legislation

The Greens want the government to commit to a review of the new Covid-19 legislation once it’s passed through parliament under urgency.

The sweeping new Covid reforms, which included mandated vaccine passes for certain workplaces, have not gone through the usual select committee process and therefore avoided public scrutiny.

Green Party Covid response spokesperson Elizabeth Kerekere said while the party has backed the new law through parliament – the only party other than Labour to do so – it has had some concerns. “While we support the bill passing through urgency today, it is important people are still given an opportunity to have their say on its implications,” said Kerekere. “The best way Labour can make that happen is to commit to a review.”

The new law will have “far reaching implications”, added Kerekere. “As a democratic country it is only right we have the opportunity to reflect and debate the bill’s impact, with enough time for full consideration and changes,” she said.

National, Act and the Māori Party have all argued against the bill passing.

Five ‘very high risk’ countries to be downgraded – report

New Zealanders in certain countries overseas will soon have an easier route home, 1News reports.

Five countries are expected to be removed from the “very high risk” list meaning that people wanting to return to New Zealand won’t need to spend 14-days in a third country along the way.

According to 1News, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, India and Fiji will be taken off the list from the start of next month while Papua New Guinea will remain.

The high risk category was first introduced when delta emerged abroad, with all arrivals from India temporarily banned before the need to spend a fortnight in another country was introduced.

More details are set to be released at 1pm.

Rec Room: Yellowjackets and Sweet Bobby

Here are a couple of recommendations from this week’s Rec Room newsletter: a guide to all the pop culture we’ve been enjoying at The Spinoff lately.

Yellowjackets

Emily says: Yellowjackets on Neon is scary and gory and I have to watch it with the lights on but the soundtrack really bangs. There’s only two episodes so far and waiting each week for a new episode is so annoying.”


Sweet Bobby

Chris says: “New podcast Sweet Bobby is an investigation into a really bonkers UK catfish case that lasted more than 10 years. Ten years! Anyway, after episode three it morphs from a retelling of the story to a live case, and I am hooked (sorry) and hanging out to see where it’s going to go next. Four eps are out now, two more are coming…”

Read more and sign up to Rec Room here

Study questions effectiveness of cotton face masks

New research suggests disposable face masks offer much higher protection from Covid-19 than reusable masks.

RNZ has spoken to a group of researchers who found that brand new medical masks stopped up to 98% of the particles. Single layer cotton masks only stopped 10%, while even triple-layered cotton masks stopped just 40%.

Many choose reusable masks due to their sustainability benefits. However, the researchers found that disposable masks were still better at protecting against the spread of Covid-19 with multiple washes. After 10 consecutive washes using deep clean methods – including bleach – the disposal masks still filtered out about half of the particles.

Read the full report here

Photo: Getty Images

The Grammy noms are as cooked as usual

As with every year, I spend most of Grammy nominations day reading about all the various snubs and surprises among the top categories. This year is no exception (although I presume most of that comes down to my personal taste).

Expected names like Billie Eilish, Doja Cat and Olivia Rodrigo have landed among the top nominees this year. All scored album of the year nominations, with Rodrigo likely to also pick up a best new artist gong. Unexpectedly, the most nominated artist is R&B musician Jon Batiste with 11 nominations.

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett scored a surprise five nominations for their jazz duet album Love for Sale. It shows up in the album of the year and record of the year categories. Abba also pops up in the record of the year category, after their first album in 40 years was released earlier this month.

On the snub front: there’s barely a hint of Kacey Musgraves, whose last album swept the Grammys in 2019. To be fair, her latest effort Star-Crossed is… an effort to get through. There’s also no Drake, barely any BTS, and last year’s big winner Taylor Swift only scores a single nomination for Evermore in the album of the year category.

Lorde also missed out with her third album Solar Power after scoring a best album nomination for Melodrama and picking up two awards for her debut single Royals.

Check out the full list here (and don’t @ me)

NZ Covid series scoops international TV award

A New Zealand-made series shot during, and about, the Covid-19 pandemic has scooped up a top international award.

Inside, which aired on Prime late last year, has won an International Emmy Award for best short-form series. The show focuses on Morgana O’Reilly’s character Rose, a germaphobe who begins to unravel during a fictional second-wave Covid lockdown (yes, the show was produced well ahead of delta’s emergence).

 

KiwiRail boss quits after allegations of sexism and bullying

KiwiRail’s chief executive has resigned following “sustained allegations in the media” that he says have become a distraction.

Greg Miller will step down from the role immediately, just weeks after a number of current and former staff expressed concerns about his leadership. Earlier this month, 1News received claims of sexism and bullying by senior KiwiRail leaders, with one staffer labelling Miller “combative and dictatorial”. They alleged that women were leaving the company “in droves” as a result.

Miller has rejected the claims. “I wish Team KiwiRail well as they deliver projects which will see rail enjoy a greater role in New Zealand’s transport sector in future,” he said in a statement.

Miller’s deputy Todd Moyle has been appointed as acting chief.

Human rights commissioner concerned by rushed traffic light system

The Human Rights Commission has echoed the concerns of the National Party about government overreach in the passing of the new traffic light framework.

The rules are being sent through parliament under urgency, meaning they’ll likely be passed today and without the usual public scrutiny that new laws are subjected to.

Paul Hunt, the chief human rights commissioner, said “robust” scrutiny of the bill was vital. “Anything less is highly problematic both constitutionally and in terms of the state’s human rights and te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations,” he said.

The use of urgency to pass the law was of consider concern, added Hunt. “It bypasses the select committee process and severely limits the ability of Parliament and the public to scrutinise and address the bill’s human rights implications and Tiriti obligations.”

Like last year’s Covid-19 Public Health Response Act, Hunt said the traffic light rules should be scrutinised in a select committee once passed.

Collins: Traffic light system has a ‘clear’ Bill of Rights problem

The National Party has officially declared its opposition to the incoming traffic light system, voting against the Covid-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Bill during a heated debate yesterday.

The bill is being rushed through parliament under urgency. It went through its first two readings last night with the expectation it will be passed into law by the end of today. Only Labour and the Greens supported it through a second reading, with National joined by Act and the Māori Party in voting against it.

National’s Judith Collins told RNZ the government had failed in its “most basic duty” by not getting the bill checked against the Bill of Rights. “It is not impossible to get the Bill of Rights issues advised on. It is important, it is not a nice to have,” said Collins, who believed there were “clear” rights issues with the proposed law.

Even if the traffic light system passed a Bill of Rights test, Collins implied that National would not endorse it. “It is simply going to add further confusion to people, and it is something that is not needed if we get 90% of people vaccinated,” she said.

National supported the use of vaccine passes but said it should be up to individual businesses, and not the government, to determine whether they were used.

Speaking in parliament last night, the party’s Covid response spokesperson Chris Bishop labelled the bill “shoddy” and said it had been pushed through under a “repugnant process”. “This has been developed in a rush and it reflects a government that was in denial about the potential failure of elimination,” he said. “They had no backup plan.”