bnlog upd nov 26

Live UpdatesNov 26 2021

Simon Bridges confirms second run at National leadership

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 26, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


Today’s top stories

Nov 26 2021

The shape of the delta outbreak

Here’s a look at today’s key Covid-19 numbers, just a week out from the move into the traffic light system.

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

173 new delta cases; new case confirmed in Christchurch

Updated

There are 173 new community cases of Covid-19.

Of these, 154 are in Auckland, 15 are in Waikato, one is in Northland, two are in Bay of Plenty and one is in Lakes DHB. There is also a new case in Canterbury: a known household contact who was already in isolation. This case will officially be included in tomorrow’s case tally.

There are no additional cases to report today in Wairarapa, Wellington, Hawke’s Bay, MidCentral or Taranaki.

There are now 78 people with Covid-19 in hospital, including seven in intensive care.

Of today’s new cases, 81 remain unlinked to the wider outbreak while there are now 890 mystery cases from the past fortnight.

Meanwhile, finance minister Grant Robertson confirmed the eighth round of the wage subsidy opened for applications this morning, as did applications for the sixth round of the resurgence payment. Bookings are also open for those who wish to have the AstraZeneca vaccine instead of the Pfizer shot, added Robertson.

Today’s case details

There is one new case to report in Northland today: a child linked to an Auckland case who has been isolating. A case in Ruakaka reported yesterday has now been linked to the outbreak. “Anyone living in or near Ruakaka with symptoms that could be Covid-19 is urged to get a test,” said the Ministry of Health.

Covid-19 was also detected in a wastewater sample collected from Kaiwaka on November 18. Processing of the sample began on November 22, however, the result was delayed due to a technical issue. Testing is currently in progress for a further sample.

Covid-19 was also detected in a sample collected from Opononi on November 23, believed to be linked to active cases in Hokianga.

In Waikato, there were 15 cases confirmed in Waikato overnight. Six are in Huntly, four are in Hamilton, three are in Te Kūiti, and two are in Ngāruawāhia. All cases have been linked to previous cases.

The new Bay of Plenty cases were confirmed in Tauranga. One is a close contact of a previously confirmed case and is already in isolation. The second person being reported today returned a positive result after receiving a test in Tauranga, so is being included in the Bay of Plenty case numbers, however, they usually live in Waikato. “The person will be transferred safely back to their home in Waikato,” said the ministry.

The new Lakes DHB case is based in Rotorua. The case is a close contact of a previously reported case and has been in isolation.

Finally, there is the one new Canterbury case that will officially be tallied tomorrow. This person has been classified as a low risk to public health. They’re a household contact of a previously confirmed case and are already in managed isolation.

Watch live: Today’s Covid-19 numbers due

Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson will front today’s Covid-19 press conference alongside the director of public health Caroline McElnay.

You can follow along with our coverage in the live news feed or else tune into the presser below.

And while you’re here – a message from The Spinoff’s editor:

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.

Bridges confirms run for National leadership, Bishop considering

Updated 

Simon Bridges is putting himself forward to become the leader of the National Party for a second time.

As recently as this morning, the one-time leader said he was still considering his options following a dramatic 36 hours for the party. But, The Spinoff now understands he has since decided he will contest for the top job.

Currently, Shane Reti is the interim party leader and there has so far been no indication he will try to hold the position.

The Spinoff is also aware that National’s Covid response spokesperson Chris Bishop is considering a run for leader, while other names in the mix include Nicola Willis, Christopher Luxon and Mark Mitchell.

The new leader will be confirmed on Tuesday afternoon.

Details of decision to move Auckland to level three step system revealed

The director general of health emphasised the need for “a high degree of caution” when loosening restrictions in Auckland in early October, but supported a move to the three-step roadmap out of level three. 

A paper from Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins written on Friday, October 1, recommending the introduction of the three-step system, was proactively released by cabinet today. The paper sought cabinet’s agreement on the proposed plan, and that Auckland would move to step one from 11.59pm on Tuesday, October 5. It was publicly announced on Monday, October 4. 

Interim advice from the director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, was that the Auckland outbreak “continues to be of concern, and there is a need for a high degree of caution”, wrote Hipkins. Bloomfield’s advice detailed “a persistent tail of cases in Auckland with continuing spikes”, and said “contact tracers are finding some connections after cases are discovered, suggesting some undetected chains of transmission”.

But the minister emphasised that the decision needed to balance the public health risk with “evidence of eroding social licence for heightened restrictions”. An assessment by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) indicated “ongoing and increasing challenges related to financial support, economic, social and wellbeing impacts”, and found “general fatigue amongst the public is increasing and willingness to comply with some public health measures is reportedly reducing”.

Bloomfield’s advice highlighted how case and contact management had become more complex, due to the virus “circulating in communities facing complex socio-economic issues”. He said the public health workforce was “stretched, tired and fatigued”

“If there were another significant incursion/outbreak in the next two months New Zealand would struggle to respond like it has in this August outbreak,” said Bloomfield. This highlights the importance of a cautious approach to the current outbreak.”

In his advice, Bloomfield said, “The outbreak in Auckland appears to have peaked on Saturday 28 August,” a day that saw 82 cases. On October 1, there were 19 cases. Case numbers in the last couple of weeks have hovered around the 200 mark.

Gathering limits for unvaccinated people at ‘red’ level increased

Gathering limits for unvaccinated people at the “red” stage of the traffic light framework have quietly been increased from 10 up to 25 people.

That includes both indoor and outdoor gatherings where vaccine passes are not used. The limit for where vaccine passes will be used will remain at 100 people.

Gatherings include private events held at home, along with weddings, funerals and tangihanga, marae, social sports and places of worship.

One other key change to the rules will see the cap of 100 people at red removed for public facilities like zoos, museums, public swimming pools and libraries. Instead, the capacity limit will be based on the number of people who can visit based on one metre physical distancing. 

The rule changes were made following cross-sector engagement by the Covid-19 group within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Documents confirm Bloomfield backed moving Auckland to level three

Newly released cabinet documents confirm health officials genuinely believed Auckland’s outbreak was under control when the city moved from alert level four to three in late September.

Since then, the number of community Covid-19 cases has skyrocketed and there has been widespread criticism of the decision to ease restrictions in Auckland.

A week before the move, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield officially advised the government that he believed the Auckland outbreak was contained. Auckland cases continue to trend downward over time, he said, and there was no evidence to suggest undetected community transmission outside of Auckland.

“As at 5pm 19 September, the director-general is confident that the outbreak in the Auckland region is contained. The outbreak appears to have peaked on Saturday 28 August, with daily numbers generally decreasing or remaining static at low levels as the expected tail of the outbreak manifests. There has been no indication of any widespread community transmission outside Auckland and Wellington ”

At this point in the outbreak there were about 80 cases recorded daily. Now, it’s around 200.

On September 20, as the city prepared to transition to level three, officials outlined three scenarios for Auckland: very optimistic, optimistic, and pessimistic. The most optimistic of these anticipated a continuing decline of new delta cases during level three.

 

 

Vaccine mandate extended to cover police and defence force

All police and defence force staff will need to have had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by mid-January and be fully vaccinated by the start of March.

The government’s confirmed it’s extending its vaccine mandate beyond the current sectors that have already been announced.

Workplace relations minister Michael Wood said vaccination remained the greatest tool for keeping New Zealanders safe. “We have extended vaccine requirements to include constabulary, recruits and authorised officers of New Zealand police, and the armed forces and civilian staff of the New Zealand Defence Force,” Wood said.

“So many of the individuals within these organisations have been essential to our Covid-19 response and are already fully vaccinated. But we want to ensure that those who serve and protect our communities on a daily basis can do so without unintentionally spreading the virus.”

Collins and Bridges should ‘move on’ – former National MP

A former National MP reckons it could be time for both Judith Collins and Simon Bridges to call it quits.

Despite the dramatic events of the past 36 hours, Collins and Bridges both intend to stay on in parliament – with the latter still contemplating a run for party leader next Tuesday.

But Chris Finlayson, a former attorney-general, told RNZ the pair should consider quitting politics for good. “Maybe Simon and Judith need to reflect on the events of the last 18 months and consider whether or not they should perhaps move on for the good of the party,” he said.

Chris Finlayson during the official opening of the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park on April 18, 2015. (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

“There comes a time when people need to consider, it happened to me, whether or not their contribution to politics is complete, and whether there are other avenues that they could pursue.”

Finlayson said the party still had great talent that may be overlooked while the old guard stay in charge. “There are some very good people in the party, people like Joseph Mooney, who’s one to watch in Southland. Nicola Grigg… Penny Simmonds of course, in Invercargill, who’s very, very competent person. Then you’ve got people like Andrew Bayly, who’s a real original thinker, Shane Reti, who I recall did some fantastic work on medicinal cannabis.”

When the Facts Change: You deserve a raise

The Reserve Bank hiked interest rates this week, partly because of worries a surge in price inflation and a tight labour market will lead to a 1970s-style wage-price spiral. But speaking to CTU chief economist Craig Renney and Kiwibank economist Mary-Jo Vergara in this week’s episode of When the Facts Change, Bernard Hickey found there are plenty of reasons to challenge that “back to the 70s” assumption, and that workers lack many of the tools and powers they used to get big pay increases 40 years ago.

When the Facts Change is brought to you by The Spinoff Podcast Network together with Kiwibank. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider for new episodes weekly.

Bridges not ready to announce leadership bid just yet

Simon Bridges isn’t ready just yet to announce he’s running for the National Party leadership. But, he’s considering it.

“I think New Zealand’s got big issues,” Bridges told the AM Show. “I hope there is a contest, it brings forward the best ideas, the best combinations and people.”

Before Wednesday night, it was widely reported that Bridges was planning a coup against Judith Collins. Now, it’s possible he’s been tainted by the dramatic events of the past 24 hours.

Asked who his potential running mate would be, Bridges said it was too early to say as he hadn’t even talked to his colleagues yet. But, he said Erica Stanford was a “great” MP.

“If it happens, I’ll go in with my eyes open. I’m a bit older and a bit wiser,” he said.

Despite his “many differences with Judith [Collins]”, Bridges said he could work with her again and acknowledged she had taken over the leadership at a difficult time.

Simon Bridges delivers his speech in the House, Budget 2020. (Photo: Getty Images)

National MP Jacqui Dean blindsided by move against Bridges

National MP Jacqui Dean did not expect her complaint about comments made by Simon Bridges to lead to his demotion and the subsequent leadership battle.

Inappropriate sexual remarks by Bridges five years ago, said in the presence of Dean and other MPs, were said to be the reason behind Judith Collins’ surprise decision to strip Bridges of all his portfolio responsibilities. Dean complained about the comments when they were first made, but told the Otago Daily Times that she subsequently revisited them a few weeks ago in the wake of reports into parliament’s culture.

“I approached Judith several weeks ago about my concerns and the conversation was in the context of the work I have been doing with the Francis review, and I found myself disclosing my experience,” Dean said.

“The reason I did that was because in the course of looking at the issues … it suddenly occurred to me later in the piece that this had happened to me and that what I needed to be satisfied was that not only does parliament but also the National Party really have the systems and processes in place to manage situations where an MP and their behaviour is involved.”

National MP Jacqui Dean in 2016 (Image / Getty Images)

Dean said her comments then became “conflated” with a leadership tussle, which she regretted. “I’m very grateful that Judith supported me and backed me at the time but it is not the outcome that might have been anticipated,” she said.

“I have also had a very good discussion subsequently with Simon Bridges and we have come to a much closer understanding of each other’s points of view and I think that that is a good start to change.”

Collins this morning stood by her decision to reprimand Bridges for the historic remarks, saying she knew it would probably cost her the leadership.

Judith Collins: ‘I was between a rock and a hard place’

A surprisingly chipper Judith Collins has spoken out the day after losing her job as leader of the National Party.

Collins was ousted yesterday after a vote of no confidence triggered by her decision to demote Simon Bridges over historic inappropriate comments.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Collins said she stood by her actions. “I was between a rock and a hard place. Shane Reti and I decided the only thing to do was what I did,” she said. “For all those who want to put their hands up for the leadership: I want there to be a really good contest and I want the right person to come through.”

Asked whether the point of demoting Bridges was in order to stop him from becoming leader, Collins said that wasn’t “just” why she did what she did. Despite her actions, she believed there was a possibility she would survive the leadership challenge. “But I also knew that when I took the step I did it could lead to me not being the leader. But, I also felt it was the right thing to do,” added Collins.

Bridges’ comments five years ago were reportedly dealt with by the party’s leadership at the time, but Collins said they weren’t sufficiently addressed. “I don’t believe it was properly dealt with. There was a power imbalance,” she said.

Collins named a number of her caucus that she believed could step up to the mantel – but notably left out frontrunners Simon Bridges and Mark Mitchell, perhaps unsurprisingly. Christopher Luxon was a good choice, said Collins, adding that both Chris Bishop and Nicola Willis were hard working and effective politicians. Shane Reti, the interim leader, was also “outstanding” and a “decent person”, Collins said.