blog jan 28

Live UpdatesJan 28 2022

105 new community Covid-19 cases, at least 15 linked to omicron outbreak

Happy Friday and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for January 28. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send all news tips/fan mail to stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • There are 15 new community cases of omicron, pushing the outbreak total up to 105.
  • However, overall, there are 105 new community cases today with the majority in Auckland: 76. It’s not yet known how many of these will ultimately be linked to the omicron outbreak.
  • The government has announced it plans to construct a partially underground light rail network for Auckland.
  • It was also confirmed public consultation on a second Auckland harbour crossing will take place this year, with a final design chosen next year.
  • National’s Christopher Luxon is encouraged by a new TVNZ poll putting his party back above 30%.
blog jan 28

105 new community Covid-19 cases, at least 15 linked to omicron outbreak

Happy Friday and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for January 28. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send all news tips/fan mail to stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The latest

  • There are 15 new community cases of omicron, pushing the outbreak total up to 105.
  • However, overall, there are 105 new community cases today with the majority in Auckland: 76. It’s not yet known how many of these will ultimately be linked to the omicron outbreak.
  • The government has announced it plans to construct a partially underground light rail network for Auckland.
  • It was also confirmed public consultation on a second Auckland harbour crossing will take place this year, with a final design chosen next year.
  • National’s Christopher Luxon is encouraged by a new TVNZ poll putting his party back above 30%.
Jan 28 2022

No, you don’t have to wear a mask for an entire wedding

The government’s been forced to clarify mask rules for wedding-goers, after pressure from the opposition and a public petition.

The official government Covid-19 website said “anyone attending a gathering would have to wear a mask, even while having photos taken”. That led some to believe it included private events, such as weddings.

“You may not kiss the bride,” said a press release from Act’s David Seymour today. “Say yes to the dress, no to the mask,” said one from National’s Chris Bishop, who called on the government to ditch the “stupid” rules.

The confusion also led to a public petition. It gained over 30,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.

Today, health officials updated the website with some clarification. “From 4 February 2022, you must wear a face mask when attending a gathering — except where you have the exclusive use of the venue, including weddings.”

The jump in Covid-19 community cases, charted

Today saw 105 new community cases, with 76 of those in Auckland. While just 15 were definitively linked to the omicron, it’s possible that more will be retrospectively connected to the January cluster.

As you can see below, today’s spike in community cases stands out.

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

105 new community cases, including at least 15 linked to omicron outbreak

There are 15 new community cases of omicron, pushing the outbreak total up to 105. However, overall, there are 105 new community cases today with the majority in Auckland: 76. It’s not yet known how many of these will ultimately be linked to the omicron outbreak.

At the border, 45 cases were detected and are being treated as the omicron variant.

There are now active cases being treated as omicron in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, MidCentral, and Nelson-Tasman. There is also one new case in Northland and one in Bay of Plenty that will be officially added to tomorrow’s case numbers.

“The number of cases and contacts are expected to grow given the highly transmissible nature of omicron and as we learn more from case interviews,” said the Ministry of Health.

“We’re asking everyone in New Zealand to act like omicron is circulating in their community.”

There are also five new cases, presumed to be the omicron variant, linked to an early childhood centre in Tauranga. “A focus for Toi Te Ora Public Health today is an exposure at a polo event held at on Trustpower Baypark stadium between 1pm and 6.15pm on Saturday, January 22,” said the Ministry of Health. “The event was attended by a large number of people, including cases that are suspected to be omicron.”

Anyone who was at the bar during this time is a close contact and is being asked to self-isolate and get tested immediately. Those at the stadium but not the bar are casual contacts and need to self-monitor for Covid-19 symptoms for 10 days. “If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result,” said the ministry.

One case was today linked to the Hamilton Soundsplash festival. They tested positive for Covid-19 in Hawke’s Bay. They are the sixth person with Covid-19 linked to the festival.

There are now four people in hospital with Covid-19, with one still in intensive care.

Yesterday 13,112 doses of the vaccine were administered to five to 11 year olds, bringing the total to 137,301. A further 23,000 doses are booked in and 29% of 5 to 11 year olds have now received their first dose.

There were 46,827 booster doses administered yesterday, bring the total to 1,210,768. Of those due for a booster, 65% of people have now received one.

Additional case details

In Northland, there is one new case: a household contact of a previously reported case. They’re based in Whangarei. Separately, a new location of interest has been added to the Ministry’s webpage – the Wainui Marae in Kaeo.

There are 76 cases to report in Auckland today. Health and welfare providers are now supporting 698 people in the region to isolate at home, including 206 cases. It’s possible some of these will be linked to the omicron outbreak as well as the tail end of the delta outbreak.

There are five new cases in the Waikato. Four of the cases are linked to previous cases and one is under investigation. Four are from Hamilton and the location of the fifth case is under investigation.

Seven new cases are in the Lakes DHB area today. All seven are contacts of previously reported cases and are isolating at home or in managed accommodation.

There are nine new Covid-19 cases in the Bay of Plenty today, including three cases first announced yesterday and linked to an early childhood centre in Tauranga. More detail on these cases can be found above.

There is one new case in Palmerston North. “This case is not linked to any previously reported cases in the region and investigations are continuing to determine any links to other cases,” said the ministry.

Finally, one new case has been confirmed in Hawke’s Bay. “This case is not part of the previously reported Hastings delta cluster. Public health staff have, however, established a link to a previously reported case outside the region.”

How sustainable investing has grown through the years

(Illustrations: Rachel Salazar)

A word on sustainable investing from our partners Harbour Asset Management: Among the hundreds of sustainable investment options now available, ‘impact investing’ has recently broken through as an even more responsible option. But where did the idea of ethical investment actually come from? 

Sustainable investing isn’t the modern phenomenon people may think. It’s been around in some form since the 1960s, but fund managers have learnt a fair bit about the benefits of investing sustainably since then. Learn more about this history, and what the future holds for sustainable impact investing, here.

Beijing cybersecurity in spotlight as NZ athletes head to Winter Olympics

As New Zealand Olympic athletes prepare to head to China for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, there are ongoing concerns being raised internationally about cybersecurity threats being posed to athletes and journalists thanks to the “My2022” smartphone app that is required for access to venues.

Researchers at University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab identified vulnerabilities in the application, and other researchers have suggested even more nefarious functionality, including the ability to listen in to conversations through users’ devices.

 The International Olympic Committee disputed these claims, saying in a press release, “The IOC has conducted independent third-party assessments on the application from two cyber-security testing organisations. These reports confirmed that there are no critical vulnerabilities.”

A New Zealand Olympic Committee spokesperson told The Spinoff: “The NZOC has been working with the New Zealand government to understand the environment and risks to different stakeholder groups in China. We are providing New Zealand team members with advice around cybersecurity and protecting data and communications. We have advised athletes to take sensible precautions around data protection and internet access. For example, to only access the internet via official Olympic wifi, avoid using USBs or other external devices from other sources, to keep devices on their person. We are not advising taking burner phones.”

The Friday News Quiz

Yup, it’s back. The Spinoff’s soon-to-be-award-winning Friday News Quiz returns triumphantly for its 2022 season, with all new branding and the same mix of high and low brow questions you know and love.

Do you know what a “RAT” is? How well were you following The Spinoff’s quest to smell Benedict Cumberbatch? Test your knowledge.


New Auckland locations linked to omicron cases include Gucci, Krispy Kreme

A number of Auckland locations of interest have been published this morning in relation to omicron cases, including two pharmacies in South Auckland, the Gucci and Sunglass Style stores on Queen Street in the CBD, and the Krispy Kreme drive-through in Manukau, for various exposure times over the past week. The advice for these locations is to self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days, and isolate and get tested if any develop.

Auckland Airport’s domestic terminal has also been identified as a location of interest for a period on the afternoon of Monday, January 24, in addition to a period on Saturday, January 22. The advice is as above.

A private event at the Mahatma Gandhi centre in Eden Terrace from 4pm-11pm on Saturday, January 22 has been identified as a higher-risk location, with all attendees asked to self-isolate and test immediately.

The full list of locations of interest is here.

Greens back light rail, National and Act unhappy

The political response to the government’s newly re-announced light rail project has fallen largely along party lines.

Both National and Act have said they are unhappy with the proposal to build a partially underground train line from Auckland’s CBD to the airport. “The light rail saga is proof we need to get politicians out of transport and infrastructure decision-making to get better long-term outcomes,” said Act’s transport spokesperson Simon Court.

The party is not entirely opposed to light rail, but is concerned about disruption for Aucklanders. “Questions need to be asked about whether we could be taking actions today at less cost to deliver light rail in the future. For example, options like investing in the bus network and repurposing it for light rail later could be reconsidered,” said Court.

National’s Simeon Brown said earlier this week that the proposal should be scrapped altogether in favour of new highways. Today, he added: “[The government’s] delivered more metres of press release about light rail than actually getting anything done, and the price tag has only got more expensive every time.”

Labour’s friends in government, the Green Party, are generally onboard with the chosen light rail plan but said going underground meant some people might be left disadvantaged. “By partially going underground the government will need to ensure underground stations are accessible and welcoming to all communities,” said the party’s transport spokesperson Ricardo Menendez March.

“We also missed an opportunity to ensure the main corridor is people friendly. In the short term, cars will still dominate the spaces above ground. With urgent action on climate required, we need to seize every opportunity that allows us to support people to a sustainable future.”

Auckland light rail back on track: partially underground route chosen

There’s movement on Auckland’s light rail plan once again, with the government announcing it will go ahead with a partially underground transport network from Auckland’s CBD to the airport.

Selected as the preferred option by the working group tasked with designing routes for the project, it will see light rail in a tunnel from Wynyard Quarter to Mount Roskill, which comes to the surface and runs alongside the state highway 20 motorway to the airport. It comes with a price tag of around $14 billion.

Finance minister Grant Robertson said the chosen route will allow for future integration with other major infrastructure projects. “We are not going to repeat the mistakes of ad hoc planning and a scramble to build infrastructure when it is too late – this rapid transit system is about making sure Auckland is able to flourish as it grows,” he said.

It will be a 24 kilometre route with up to 18 stations from the city centre to Māngere and the airport, with trains running every five minutes. It will be able to carry up to 15,000 passengers per hour at peak – four times more passengers than a dedicated busway.

It was estimated that the light rail project will bring up to 66,000 new homes by 2051 and open up housing along the corridor in Mount Roskill, Onehunga and Māngere.

Light rail was first announced as a key Labour Party project in 2017, but development of the project has stalled multiple times since then. The government said today’s announced were part of a 30-year plan for Auckland.

Sandringham road of the future (image / supplied)

Alongside today’s light rail announcement, the government has announced it will bring forward work on a second harbour crossing. Public consultation on options for the additional Waitematā Harbour crossing will begin this year, with a preferred option selected in 2023.

“To kick the can down the road could either preclude a second crossing from being a possibility in the future, or require what will be established transport infrastructure to be reconstructed meaning additional costs,” said transport minister Michael Wood.

The chosen light rail plan would be able to connect up with any future harbour crossing, added Robertson, meaning rapid transit could one day extend to the North Shore.

Light rail decision expected this morning

The future of Auckland’s embattled light rail project is expected to be announced this morning.

The government is set to reveal which of the three proposed routes it has chosen for the project, after all were presented to cabinet last year. The option preferred by the working group tasked with designing the three possible routes would see light rail in a tunnel from Wynyard Quarter to Mount Roskill, when it would then rise to the surface and travel alongside the motorway to the airport.

Other options included a fully above ground rail network or even more underground travel.

We’ll have all the details for you around 9am.

Does rising inflation mean it’s time to ask for a raise?

From this morning’s edition of The Bulletin. Read more and subscribe here.

About half of New Zealand workers didn’t receive a pay rise last year, and for those who did, the average was around 2.5%. That still equates to a 2.4% pay cut. As RNZ explain, this won’t be a surprise for many readers who are struggling. The vast majority of workers enter 2022 worse off, with their weekly pay buying less than it did a year ago. Does that mean you should go to your boss and ask for a 5.9% raise? “In an ideal world, yes”, said [economist Brad] Olsen.

Profits across the economy have been rising quickly over the past few years, pay packets haven’t increased much and labour shortages are being reported across the country. It’s a perfect storm for workers to flex their muscles. Profitable businesses face two options: Share the wealth or lose workers.

“Indicators of the labour market are telling us it’s difficult to find labour, there’s more poaching and turnover. What you might see is that if workers hold more power, they can go to their employers and tell them to make it worth their while to stay. If they don’t pony up the cash, they can lose their employees and it’ll be hard to fill their orders, because they can’t replace those workers,” said Olsen.

‘Encouraging’: Luxon on poll showing National back in the 30s

The National Party’s leader said he’s happy with a new poll showing the party back in the 30s – but thinks there’s a lot more work to do.

Last night’s TVNZ Kantar Public Poll (the first televised poll of 2022) showed a strengthening right bloc, with National up four to 32% and Act sitting on 11%. It was National’s strongest result since October 2020, but not the slam dunk some party supporters would have been hoping for under a new leader. Labour dropped just one, falling to 40%, and could still govern with the support of the Greens, steady on 9%.

Christopher Luxon told Newstalk ZB he made the most of the summer political off-season to start getting his name out there. “I think we had a really productive period, I’m really pleased with the progress we’ve been making,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of work to build back trust and confidence with the New Zealand people.”

National MP Christopher Luxon
National leader Christopher Luxon (Photo: Getty Images)

National had to continue opposing the government, said Luxon, but also come up with new ideas it could present to the public. “That’s the work that I’m expecting all of my 33 members of the caucus to be able to do,” said Luxon. “We’re off to a positive and encouraging start [but] we’ve got a lot more work to do.”

Asked about the recent conduct of National list MP Harete Hipango, who made headlines yesterday after admitting she’d asked a staffer to edit her Wikipedia page, Luxon said the public ultimately didn’t want to hear about these sorts of issues. “New Zealanders are much more interested in the cost of living growing twice as fast as their wage growth, or how they get hold of a rapid antigen test,” said Luxon.

“We want all of our MPs focusing on their own portfolios and the bigger issues and not on themselves.”