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blog nov 29


Traffic light levels confirmed

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 29. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send me feedback, questions or dog pics on

Top stories:

blog nov 29

Traffic light levels confirmed

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 29. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send me feedback, questions or dog pics on

Top stories:

Nov 29 2021

A better traffic light map of New Zealand

As part of the announcement of traffic light levels for each part of the country this afternoon, the Ministry of Health released an official map which, while useful, featured text so small it rendered some parts of the map unreadable, especially on mobile devices. So we made our own version. Courtesy of Spinoff head of data Harkanwal Singh, here’s a scrollable, zoomable version of the map, along with a searchable table of traffic-light levels by district.

Traffic light announcement lacks ‘logic’ – Act

Act’s David Seymour has called for “clarity and consistency” around the move into the traffic light framework from Friday.

Jacinda Ardern has announced that 12 areas will move into the red setting, while the rest of the country – including the entire South Island – will start in orange. No part of the country will move into green this week.

“Jacinda needs to tell us the logic behind the red lights,” said Seymour. “Why are some areas that have no, or very low rates of Covid red? Is it to force up vaccination rates?”

David Seymour gets his vaccination

Ardern said Auckland being the epicentre of the outbreak was a key consideration along with vaccination rates and vulnerable populations.

Seymour added: “Why, when Auckland has high vaccination rates, is it in red? Why isn’t the South Island green?

“If [Ardern] is concerned about areas with low vaccination rates, but they have no Covid, why not put them in orange until Auckland opens up?”

Read our handy traffic light explainer here

‘Transition payment’ announced for businesses ahead of traffic light move

A “transition payment” of up to $24,000 per business will be made available as the country shifts into the traffic light framework. 

The one-off  payment will be available through the resurgence support payment system criteria from December 10. 

Speaking at parliament, finance minister Grant Robertson said the payment will be made available particularly for affected businesses in Auckland, Waikato and Northland. The payment is at a higher base rate than the current resurgence payment, and will be $4,000 per business plus $400 per FTE up to a cap of 50 FTEs. 

Treasury has estimated the likely total cost of the payment to be between $350 and $490 million.

“As I said last month we are moving away from the broad based economic supports provided under the alert level system. This is because at all levels of the new framework, most businesses will be able to operate at almost full capacity,” Robertson said.

“Support to be off work while isolating or to take leave while waiting for test results, currently provided by the leave support scheme and the short term absence payment, will remain available under all levels of the traffic light system.”

The new payment is available in conjunction with the final Wage Subsidy and resurgence payment that opened for applications on Friday. Robertson said these will still open, and pay out, even though we are moving to the new framework, in addition to the transition payment.

“We will monitor any economic impacts the new system may be having on businesses. I expect to report back to cabinet in early 2022 on this and will make recommendations for support as necessary,” added Robertson.

“To be clear about this, if it is deemed necessary targeted support would only be available under the red setting of the new system as businesses that operate vaccine passes have no significant restrictions at orange and green.”

Traffic light levels announced: 12 locations to start at ‘red’

Auckland will be joined by 11 other areas in the “red” setting when the country moves to the traffic light framework from Friday. 

Jacinda Ardern has announced that – along with Auckland – Northland, Taupō and Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and the Ruapehu districts will all start at red.

The rest of the North Island, and the entirety of the South Island, will start in orange.

“The certainty and stability of the traffic lights replaces the sudden lockdowns and restrictions of alert levels,” said Ardern. “Our schools will stay open at every colour and businesses will have protection through vaccine passes to keep operating.”

Read more: The traffic light settings for each region revealed

No travel restrictions will be in place aside from the Auckland boundary – where police spot checks will monitor those leaving the city until January 17.

Ardern said the decision to move Auckland into red, despite it having a high level of vaccinations, was because the city remained a delta epicentre. 

“Red provides extra protections against Covid-19 such as requiring both vaccine passes and some capacity limits in the most-high risk settings – that’s because if someone has Covid-19, the virus will find it harder to spread among fewer people who are at a distance,” said Ardern. 

“As we see what happens to cases and vaccination levels we can look to move regions down to orange over time, where there are no gathering limits for those who are using vaccine passes.”

Ardern confirmed that, yes, Aucklanders will be allowed to use the bathroom when visiting friends and family at the red level. “Luxury,” she said.

Initially, no part of the country will move into the green level. Cabinet will next review settings and provide an update on Monday December 13. This will be followed by a further update after the summer break on January 17. 

Watch: PM to reveal traffic light levels at 4pm

Jacinda Ardern is set to reveal more detail about the incoming traffic light framework at 4pm.

It’s expected the PM will outline which regions will enter the framework at which “colour”. So far, we only know for certain that Auckland will move into the strictest setting of “red” but it’s yet to be confirmed how other regions will be handled.

As always, you can follow our coverage in the live updates feed or else tune into the press conference below:

The Fold: Dan Buckingham on the ‘forgotten diversity’ of disability

In this week’s episode of The Fold, Duncan Greive meets Dan Buckingham, CEO of Attitude Pictures and chair of The Attitude Trust, which hosts the annual Attitude Awards. They chat about on screen representation for disability, which has been described internationally as the “forgotten diversity”, and about Attitude’s new primetime series Down For Love coming to TVNZ next year. Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.

How two men died with Covid-19 while isolating at home, alone

Here’s an extract from Toby Manhire’s piece looking into the results of a new review that concluded two home isolation deaths could have been prevented.

In the middle of Labour weekend, on Sunday October 24, the test result came back – it was positive. The 40-year-old man, who lived alone in a Manukau apartment, was one of more than 100 people whose swab had returned positive, joining the 2,500 or so people who had been infected as part of the delta outbreak. Within four hours, the regional public health team was on the phone. The assessor on the line, however, was lacking a crucial piece of information. They could not access the regional online “clinical portal”. That initial risk assessment, therefore, was made without access to notes on the man’s complex medical background.

These initial conversations are not designed as clinical assessments, so the people who undertake them do not have clinical analysis skills. The script the interviewer followed did not include looking for many risk factors that might lead to increased concern, such as obesity. There were no red flags raised out of the interview, even when the man was unable to continue a short phone call as a result of severe pain.

Read the full piece here

Today’s key Covid-19 numbers

Here’s a look at how the outbreak is shaping up. This will be the final set of Covid data considered before the government decides what level of the traffic light system each region will enter come Friday.

On the vaccine front: there were 14,009 total doses administered yesterday, made up 3,679 first doses and 8,040 second doses. To date, 92% of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 85% are fully vaccinated.

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

182 new delta cases; one confirmed in Nelson-Marlborough region

A new case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in the Nelson-Marlborough region.

The case was confirmed by the Ministry of Health after the regular cut-off time and so will officially be confirmed in tomorrow’s tally. The case and their close contacts are in isolation, with testing of those contacts underway. Investigations into the possible source of infection are ongoing.

Several exposure events are being assessed and any locations of interest confirmed will be published on the ministry’s website.

Meanwhile, there are officially 182 new community cases across Auckland, Northland and Waikato. There are 123 mystery cases among today’s total with 934 unlinked cases from across the past fortnight.

There are now 93 people in hospital with Covid-19, including 10 in intensive care.

The new case reported in Hawke’s Bay yesterday is now isolating in a community isolation facility. Close contacts identified to date have been contacted and are now isolating at home. Two close contacts in the case’s household have returned negative tests.

In Canterbury, five close contacts are self-isolating after yesterday’s confirmed border case. The case – reported by the Herald to be a child – travelled from Auckland to Christchurch on Thursday November 25 on Air NZ Flight NZ8475 arriving in Christchurch at 10.50am. “Anyone who is considered a potential contact of this case will be contacted directly,” said the ministry. “Unless you are contacted, you are asked to monitor for symptoms, and get tested straight away if you develop any consistent with Covid-19.”

Today’s case details

There are 167 new cases to report in Auckland.  Health staff are now supporting 4,207 people to isolate at home, including 1,158 cases.

Five of today’s new cases are in Northland. Two were announced yesterday and are being officially added to the case tally today. The remainder are made up of two cases in Kawakawa and one case in the Far North. These three cases are linked to existing cases.

Meanwhile, an unexpected detection of the virus was picked up in a wastewater sample taken in Opononi last week. “We urge anyone living in or near Opononi with any symptoms that could be Covid-19 to, please, to get a test – and remain isolated until they return a negative test result,” said the Ministry of Health.

Finally, there are 10 new cases being reported in Waikato today: four in Huntly, two in Te Kuiti, one in Hamilton, and the location of the remaining three are still to be confirmed. Nine of today’s cases have been linked to previous cases.

Jacqui Dean says she was ‘caught up in a political power-play’

National MP Jacqui Dean has taken to her Facebook page to claim she was “caught up in a political power-play” during last week’s leadership tussle.

Dean had complained to Judith Collins about inappropriate comments Simon Bridges made around five years ago. Collins used the complaint as a means to strip Bridges of his portfolios – a move that ultimately led to her being ousted by the party.

In a post on Facebook, Dean said it was not her intention for “past issues to be thrust into the spotlight”. She said she took “no pleasure” in being caught up in “a political power-play” that took attention away from the issues of the day.

Dean has not fully clarified what part she played – if any – in Bridges’ demotion. She released a statement last week which similarly implied that she had not intended for her complaint to be publicised and asked for privacy.

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

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.

Covid-19 numbers due in statement at 1pm

There is no 1pm press conference today but, as is usual for a Monday, the latest Covid-19 numbers will be sent out by the Ministry of Health. The big announcements are being saved for 4pm – when we’ll learn more about the move to the traffic light system on Friday – but we can still expect details on any further delta spread. We’re also keeping our fingers crossed the word “omicron” won’t be mentioned.

All you need to know will be here as soon as it lands in my inbox.

Gunman shot dead in West Auckland after injuring three police officers

A gunman has been shot dead by police in Auckland after injuring three officers.

According to Stuff, armed police tried to negotiate with the man in the west Auckland suburb of Glen Eden but the situation escalated and he started shooting. Two officers sustained moderate injuries and all three are being treated in Auckland Hospital.

The circumstances around the shooting are not fully known yet. However, locals reported hearing an “explosion” earlier today.

Extremely Online explores the fake world of Finstas

Everybody from “the teens” to Prince Harry has a Finsta (“fake Instagram”) these days. It’s most often treated as a space to be your true authentic self, as opposed to your real Instagram, which is by that logic… fake? The Shit You Should Care About team explains it better than I can in this week’s episode of Extremely Online.

Covid deaths in home isolation ‘potentially preventable’ – new report

Two Covid-related deaths in home isolation were potentially preventable, a new report has concluded.

The independent review was initiated after a person with Covid-19 isolating in Manukau and another in Mount Eden died alone within two days of one another.

The review identified “significant opportunities” to rapidly strengthen the capability, safety, equity and patient focus of the community isolation system and concluded that there were “missed opportunities” which contributed to the deaths.

“It is a very sad time for both the whānau and friends of these two people and our hearts and thoughts are with them as they come to terms with their loss,” said the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre lead Fepulea’l Margie Apa. “People in healthcare work tirelessly to provide the best care possible, however, it is clear that more could have been done and needs to be done. The main lesson is the need for improvement, which is what we are all committed to achieve.”

In Auckland, St John is facing extra stress and pressure as a result of rising Covid cases. (Photo: Supplied)

Other findings of the report include the need for earlier assessment of clinical safety, welfare needs and mental wellbeing of Covid-19 patients in home isolation, better connectivity between all parts of the system to ensure clinical oversight, and heightened focus on equity and cultural safety, specifically for Māori and Pasifika.

“These two deaths resulted from a combination of situations and events, and we needed to analyse them quickly so we can improve our care in the future,” added Apa. “The model for [home isolation] we have in place now is not the end point, it is an interim back up while we support primary and community based teams to build their capability to look after their enrolled patients.”

The review acknowledged that the home isolation scheme was established to meet rapidly growing number of Covid cases in a short space of time. It also said it was “remarkable” how well the system worked given the speed of change and its complexity.

The latest on the National Party leadership tussle

Tomorrow afternoon, at about 3pm, we’re set to learn who will be replacing Judith Collins as leader of the National Party.

It comes less than a week after a dramatic vote of no confidence bid saw Collins ousted as leader less than 500 days after she took up the post. Currently, her deputy Shane Reti is the party’s interim leader but media reports suggest he’s unlikely to formally contest for the top job.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • Simon Bridges and Christopher Luxon are believed to be the only two official contenders at this stage.
  • Other names in the mix include Mark Mitchell, Nicola Willis and Chris Bishop.
  • The Herald reported yesterday that Luxon likely already had the numbers. It was claimed that former prime minister John Key, a friend of Luxon’s, had been doing the phone rounds with some MPs. Key later rebuffed this.
  • However, according to Stuff this morning, the leadership remains up in the air at this point. The outlet described the situation as “fluid” but reiterated reports that it was likely a Luxon v Bridges contest.
  • So what happens now? Caucus will meet tomorrow and an outcome is expected in the mid-afternoon. Some, like Newstalk ZB’s Heather du Plessis-Allan, believe Luxon should be elected leader. Others, like Liam Hehir writing for Newsroom, say Bridges is the best bet.
  • There have even been calls for a Luxon-Bridges ticket; former National leader Don Brash floated that idea during an interview with Mike Hosking today.
  • The best case scenario for National would see a decision informally made before the meeting so as to avoid a divisive vote.

The Bulletin: Global travel restrictions as Omicron variant emerges

The world reacts to Omicron with mass travel bans. Countries around the world, including New Zealand, rushed to contain the new Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus over the weekend. On Saturday alone, the variant was detected in the UK, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic. Yesterday, Australia’s first two cases of the variant were detected in New South Wales. Previously known as B.1.1.529, Omicron was given a name and listed by the World Health Organisation as a variant of concern on Friday. It’s the first variant given that designation since delta in May. As The Observer reports, Omicron has developed incredibly quickly, emerging in South Africa only two weeks ago. It rapidly displaced delta to become the country’s most dominant variant.

What do we know about Omicron? A new Covid-19 variant was always going to emerge and most experts say that it’s important to keep a level head and not jump to catastrophe. According to Reuters, scientists are worried about the variant, but don’t have many answers for what it’ll mean. While Omicron has over 30 mutations on its spike protein (the part of the virus that allows it to enter our cells) it isn’t clear if that’ll have a significant impact on existing vaccinations. While it’s believed to be more infectious than delta, researchers and pharmaceutical firms are rushing to find out more. Scientists in Botswana and South Africa, along with health authorities, are being thanked for immediately warning the international community of their discovery. As Stuff reports, a South African doctor has said that Omicron symptoms in patients are unusual but seem mild.

This is part of The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s must-read daily news wrap. To sign up for free, simply enter your email address below

Omicron reaches Australia: will it change anything at our border?

The prime minister is confident our current border settings are enough to address the increasing risk of the omicron variant of  Covid-19 reaching our shores.

Two cases of the strain – said to be highly transmissible – have been detected in Australia, with many other parts of the world already on high alert.

Jacinda Ardern told RNZ that we had already acted swiftly to make sure our border settings were up to date by adding nine southern African countries to the “very high risk” list. “Australia’s in a different set of circumstances. They’ve changed their border settings quite dramatically and allowed people to move without self-isolation or quarantine,” said Ardern.

It is, however, very early says. “Because all travellers that come in are coming into our facilities, if they test positive we sequence that, so we’ll know if they’re positive for this particular variant,” Ardern said. “So we’re confident at this stage that the settings are where they need to be.”

If more widespread cases in particular countries then it’s possible they could be added to the very high risk list, said Ardern. As such, travellers heading abroad should continue to be thoughtful about their travel. At this stage, no further border changes were being made but Ardern said the government always considered the most up to date evidence and advice.