blog march 31 upd


Bloomfield rejects comparison between US and NZ Covid death rates

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 31, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on

The latest

  • There have been 22 more deaths from Covid-19 (over the past four weeks) and 830 people are now in hospital.
  • Ashley Bloomfield has rejected any comparison between the New Zealand and US pandemic death tolls: “That’s like comparing pears with beef steaks.”
  • Venerated Māori intellectual Moana Jackson has died.
  • Air New Zealand is still feeling the pressure from Covid-19 and is seeking to raise $2.2 billion.
  • It’s Pet Week on The Spinoff! Check out all the pieces we’ve published here and look out for our Pet of the Week everyday at 4pm right here in the live updates.
blog march 31 upd

Bloomfield rejects comparison between US and NZ Covid death rates

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for March 31, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on

The latest

  • There have been 22 more deaths from Covid-19 (over the past four weeks) and 830 people are now in hospital.
  • Ashley Bloomfield has rejected any comparison between the New Zealand and US pandemic death tolls: “That’s like comparing pears with beef steaks.”
  • Venerated Māori intellectual Moana Jackson has died.
  • Air New Zealand is still feeling the pressure from Covid-19 and is seeking to raise $2.2 billion.
  • It’s Pet Week on The Spinoff! Check out all the pieces we’ve published here and look out for our Pet of the Week everyday at 4pm right here in the live updates.
Mar 31 2022

The Spinoff’s Pet of the Day: Russell

From our friends at Pickle’s Pawtraits: Cats, dogs, feathered friends, critters and rodents – our pets, whatever shape they’re in, are our greatest companions. So why not honour your best friend with a personalised portrait?

The passionate team at Pickle’s Pawtraits design custom pet portraits for every animal – from fur to feathers, four legs to two. Digital artworks, prints, mugs, or make every day pet day with personalised stickers (so you can plaster your pet’s face on anything), all available through the Pickle’s Pawtraits website. Check it out here.

Russell, who is so clever he probably made this cake himself (Design: Bianca Cross)

But she caught me on the counter (it wasn’t me),” crooned one judge at the sight of this apricot-coloured baking enthusiast. “Is this Sue Nicholson’s cat?” another inquired, “because I think Russell can see my past, present and future.” It’s hard to miss the mouth-watering peach cobbler (?) next to Russell. “Mate that looks delicious, but you didn’t have to feed us to win us over,” opined one diplomatic judge, “look at those incredible ears.” 

Much was made of Russell’s ears by the panel. “Appropriate that Russell appears to have a “fee” jar, because I feel like I should be paying a “fee” for access to a pair of ears this large and pointy,” commented one judge. “With reception like that I imagine Russell spends most of his time tuned in to the early universe via cosmic microwave background radiation,” said a particularly technical judge. 

“Which explains why he is staring into my soul and also has a constant need for carbs to fuel all that processing power.” 

Remember when you would bring your pet to school as a kid and everyone would get a prize? Throughout the week, we will be awarding your pets with the rarest prize of all: the chance to appear on The Spinoff. Send your best, funniest, sleepiest, most glistening pet pics to our instagram or At the end of the week, one lucky winner will receive a Pet Lovers Gift Box from our friends at Pickle’s Pawtraits, including a custom digital pet portrait, mug and stickers.

Man arrested on parliament grounds one day before planned protest

Photo: Getty Images

The first man to be arrested during the occupation of parliament grounds has once again been taken into custody outside the Beehive. It comes the day before another planned protest and possible occupation of the precinct.

Footage of the arrest was shared on Telegram, showing Brett Power being taken in by police.

Police have been visibly present outside parliament today as plans are under way to prevent protesters from repeating their three-week occupation of the grounds. Earlier today, metal fences were set up around perimeter.

Power is a New Plymouth resident and failed district council candidate, who previously demanded the arrest of health minister Andrew Little for what he believed to be vaccine-caused deaths. He also led a group of protesters to the Taranaki Daily News office in an attempt to confront journalists.

The Spinoff has approached police for comment.

How to help your pet with its separation anxiety

(Image: Supplied; additional design: Tina Tiller)

The Spinoff’s Pet Week is brought to you in cahoots with Animates – and so is this message: There hasn’t been a lot to love about Covid-19, but one good thing is that we’ve been able to spend more time with our pets. As we return to life as normal, we can expect a wave of stressed out animals.

Ever experienced a panic attack? That’s what separation anxiety can be like for your pets. At Animates we have a range of tips and solutions that can help manage and reduce pet anxiety.

Visit your local Animates store or check out more information here.

National continues attack on cost of living ahead of benefit rises

The (Image: Getty Images)

The opposition is still going on the offensive about the cost of living.

Tomorrow, April 1, will see a suite of pre-announced increases to main benefits come into effect along with a rise to the minimum wage and nationwide cuts to public transport fares.

The National Party doesn’t think that’s enough. Leader Christopher Luxon said the changes will barely cover the rising cost of living and do nothing for middle-income households.

“Spare a thought for the forgotten squeezed middle who are paying higher prices at the supermarket and petrol pump, have seen costs rise faster than their wages, but will get no relief from today’s changes,” he said.

During question time today, Luxon’s deputy and National’s finance spokesperson Nicola Willis continued this line of attack. But the finance minister, Grant Robertson, said the government had struck the right balance. “All New Zealanders deserve a government that properly funds health, properly funds education,” he said.

Covid-19 update: 22 more deaths, 830 in hospital, 15,250 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

There have been another 22 deaths linked to Covid-19, bringing the nationwide death toll up to 338.

Speaking from the Ministry of Health, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the seven-day rolling average of deaths was now up to 17. He said that our death rate was continuing to grow, but he disputed the recent comparison to the United States. “That’s like comparing pears with beef steaks,” he said. “If you look back at the various outbreaks… the death rate in our omicron outbreak is a fifth of what it was at the peak of their omicron outbreak.”

New Zealand still has “by far” the lowest cumulative death rate in the OECD, Bloomfield said, and one of the lowest in the world.

The deaths being reported today include people who have died over the past four weeks but were only recently notified to the Ministry of Health. Of these, one was from Northland, ten were from the Auckland region, one was from Waikato, two were from Bay of Plenty, two were from the Lakes DHB, two were from the Wellington region, and four were from Canterbury.

Two people were in their 50s, four people were in their 60s, three people were in their 70s, six in their 80s and seven were over-90. Fifteen were female and seven were male.

There are now 830 people in hospital with Covid-19, including 26 in intensive care. A slight discrepancy worth noting: the ministry’s daily update lists ICU figures as being two higher, 28. Hospitalisations are declining, said Bloomfield, particularly in the Northern region.

Another 15,250 new community cases have been registered overnight. The ministry said it was “encouraging” to see case numbers continuing to decline. “This supports the trend we are seeing across the seven-day rolling average. Today’s seven day rolling average is 14,515, this compares with the seven-day rolling average of cases as at last Wednesday of 16,949.”

Canterbury continues to be the centre with the second highest number of new cases, with 2,379 recorded today compared with 2,708 in Auckland.

Watch: Bloomfield fronts latest omicron update

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

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is back at the podium for today’s Covid-19 briefing. He’ll be joined today by professor Peter McIntyre from the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Otago University.

As always, tune in with the livestream below or you can keep an eye on the live updates from 1pm for all the key details.

National Party to investigate after ‘repugnant’ bullying linked to Young Nat’s IP

Christopher Luxon, leader of the National Party, speaks during an interview in Wellington, New Zealand, on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. New Zealand’s central bank would lose its dual mandate if the main opposition National Party ousts Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government at the 2023 election. Photographer: Birgit Krippner/Bloomberg

The National Party is investigating after an IP address linked to the household of a Young Nat was found to be bullying female politicians online.

According to Stuff, 26-year-old Byran Beattie is the account holder behind the IP that used fake social media accounts to target minister Megan Woods and Christchurch councillor Sara Templeton.

Beattie has denied being responsible.

National’s leader Christopher Luxon told media it was cowardly and repugnant behaviour. “No one should be subject to any form of bullying and I commend those affected for coming forward. National does not tolerate any bullying and the party will look into this under our new code of conduct,” he said.

A statement from Young Nats president Stephanie-Anne Ross and party president Peter Goodfellow labelled the allegations “appalling”. They said “no one should be subject to harassment and bullying, either in person or online”.

Will Smith was asked to leave Oscars, but refused

(Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP)

The saga of the slap continues, with news today actor Will Smith was asked to leave Monday’s Academy Awards – but refused.

Smith has been condemned by the Academy and many in the film world after he went on stage during the ceremony and forcibly slapped comedian Chris Rock after taking issue with a low brow joke. Minutes later, Smith won the Academy Award for best actor.

In a new statement reported by Vanity Fair, the Academy confirmed Smith was asked to leave the ceremony after the incident, but chose not to.

It’s also been confirmed that disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against Smith. “Mr. Smith’s actions at the 94th Oscars were a deeply shocking, traumatic event to witness in-person and on television,” the statement read. “Mr. Rock, we apologise to you for what you experienced on our stage and thank you for your resilience in that moment. We also apologise to our nominees, guests and viewers for what transpired during what should have been a celebratory event.”

There’s been speculation that Smith could be stripped of his Oscar over the slap. That, however, would be a step further than the Academy took with the likes of abusers Harvey Weinstein and Roman Polanski; while both were expelled from the Academy, they retained their awards.

First speeding tickets given out on Transmission Gully

The Transmission Gully highway opened to the public in the early hours of this morning – and a handful of speedsters have already been pinged by police.

According to the Herald, “a small number” of speeding fines have been given out since the road opened around 3am. But, police said they were overall happy with the behaviour of motorists.

“Police want to remind people that this is a motorway and you cannot stop. We appreciate this is a new stretch of road and people will want to look around but we urge drivers to remain focused and drive distraction free to ensure the safety of all road users.”

Meanwhile, a police car has been snapped stuck in gravel on Transmission Gully.

Drug that can stop unvaccinated getting Covid could be used here soon

Health minister Andrew Little (Getty Images)

A drug that can stop people getting sick from Covid-19 could soon be used in the country.

Pharmac has secured access to AstraZeneca’s medicine Evusheld, which can prevent people who can’t have vaccines from getting Covid-19. It’s yet to receive Medsafe approval but, if it does, health minister Andrew Little said it would be “an invaluable tool” for New Zealand’s pandemic response.

“Evusheld is a pre-exposure prophylactic treatment that can actually stop people developing Covid-19, and, if approved by Medsafe, will be an invaluable tool to protect people who can’t have vaccines,” said Little. “It means we will have medicines to treat those who need it, from before an infection sets in right through to cases of severe infection.”

Meanwhile, the first batch of Covid-19 drug Paxlovid has arrived in the country and will be rolled out from next week. The government ordered 60,000 courses of the drug as part of a suite of medicines that can help combat Covid-19 (alongside vaccinations, of course). Paxlovid will join Baricitinib, Ronapreve, Remdesivir and Tocilizumab – Covid medicines already being used in our hospitals to treat Covid patients.

Little said access to Paxlovid will, however, be tight. “It will be prescribed by doctors, with factors such as age, disability and being immuno-compromised taken into account,” he said.

Pharmac has also secured access to another medicine, Molnupiravir, which is awaiting Medsafe approval.

Rose Matafeo nominated for a Bafta

Rose Matafeo is creator, co-writer and star of BBC-made television series Starstruck. (Image: Supplied/  with addition design by Tina Tiller)

New Zealand comedian Rose Matafeo has been nominated for a Bafta TV award for her performance in BBC sitcom Starstruck.

Matafeo created and co-wrote the show, which just wrapped its second season. Others nominated in the best female comedy performance category include Aisling Bea for her incredible sitcom This Way Up and Aimee Lou Wood for Netflix’s Sex Education.

‘The very best of us’: Venerated Māori intellectual Moana Jackson has died

Moana Jackson receiving his honorary doctorate from Victoria University (Photo: Leonie Pihama)

Constitutional law and Treaty of Waitangi expert Moana Jackson (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rongomaiwahine, Ngāti Porou) is being remembered as “one of the greatest Māori minds of our time”.

Reports are coming through on social media that Jackson has died.

Throughout his legal career, Jackson was recognised for his work as an advocate and educator on Te Tiriti o Waitangi and social justice matters.

Tributes have started to pour in on social media, with writer Morgan Godfery calling Jackson “the very best of us”.

“Unfailingly kind to everyone he met, generous with his time and energy,” he wrote.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson joined the tributes. “Utter grief, such a loss,” she said, adding that she “can’t begin to have the right kupu yet”.

Auckland Action Against Poverty said Jackson will be missed dearly. “May we all continue to do the work that Moana Jackson has done,” said a post on Twitter.


Air NZ’s $2.2 billion Covid recovery plan

(Photo: PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Air New Zealand’s announced plans to raise $2.2 billion as it continues to feel the impacts of Covid-19.

The airline halted trading on its shares yesterday afternoon before revealing its plan to raise the funds.

“While there will still be bumpy skies ahead over the next few years, the moment is right for Air New Zealand to raise equity recapitalise its balance sheet and repay the loan it received from the Crown during the Covid crisis,” said Air New Zealand chair Therese Walsh said in a statement. “This is an important step in refuelling for our recovery.”

According to 1News, the $2.2 billion “recapitalisation package” consists of a $1.2 billion pro rata rights offer, a $600 million issuance of redeemable shares to the government, and a $400 million loan from the government to replace the existing loan facility.

Shareholders will also be able to purchase up to two new shares for every one share they own at a 61% discount on Air New Zealand’s current share price of $1.38.

The government will also participate, with finance minister Grant Robertson saying the Crown had pre-committed to purchasing the number of new shares necessary to retain the government’s 51% holding. A portion of the capital raised will be used to repay loans it received from the Government during the pandemic.

Walsh told TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning that the airline was aiming for a return to profitability in 2025/2026.

New Zealand had world’s highest melanoma death rate in 2020

(Image / Getty)

New Zealand had the highest rate of melanoma deaths in 2020, and one of the highest incidences of melanoma globally, according to a newly released international study.

The study, carried out by a group of scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in France, the University of Sydney and Brisbane’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Centre and published in the journal JAMA Dermatology, has found the cumulative risk of melanoma was highest in Australia and New Zealand, with one in 20 males and one in 30 females being affected by age 75. Risk of death by melanoma before 75 was one in 280 for males and one in 555 for females. These figures reflect the finding that, globally, melanoma is more common in males, with females more likely to survive a diagnosis.

The burden of disease is also concentrated in high-income countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway and Canada, due to the higher risk profile of fair-skinned people of European descent.

The study used data from GLOBOCAN2020, which collects data on cancer worldwide for use in research. By comparing the figures with GLOBOCAN2012, global cases of melanoma were found to have increased by 41.3%, with mortality rising 3.6%. The increase could be partially attributed to “more screening skin examinations [and] falling clinical thresholds”. Based on this data, the survey authors estimate an approximate 50% increase in melanoma incidence and 68% increase in melanoma deaths worldwide by 2040, attributable to population growth and ageing.

In comments via the Science Media Centre, Amanda Oakley, a dermatologist with the Waikato District Health Board, said in response to the study, “not only are our incident and mortality rates high… we have a burgeoning ageing population of white New Zealanders (baby boomers) that baked in the sun during their youth or have worked outdoors with little protection from sunburn or daily relentless ultraviolet radiation”.

She added: “Our health services are under a great strain with far too few dermatologists, surgical specialists, and GPs to effectively manage our skin cancer epidemic.”

Fellow dermatologist Dr Louise Reiche noted the upcoming reformation of our health system was “a wonderful opportunity to… reduce the current and pending melanoma health burden”.

Dr Geri McLeod of the University of Otago agreed, saying “the results of this study send a clear message to the New Zealand government and local territorial authorities that more investment is needed to reduce risk factors for the development of melanoma”. She added that increased educational campaigns were needed, as sunscreen is often used incorrectly as the only source of sun protection rather than in conjunction with hats and shade.

Dr Bronwen McNoe from the University of Otago’s social and behavioural research unit said New Zealand “lags behind Australia in virtually every dimension of skin cancer prevention including government investment”.