Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 1, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.
The alert level decisions, in brief
- Auckland will shift to step two of the level three exit pathway at 11.59pm on Tuesday, November 9.
- The parts of Waikato in level three will shift to step two at 11.59pm on Tuesday, November 2.
- At step two, retail outlets can open, with masks and physical distancing. Outdoor gatherings can expand to 25 people from multiple bubbles.
The 1pm update, summarised
- It is another record day for Covid-19 infections with 162 delta cases confirmed.
- Of those, 156 are in Auckland, five are in Waikato and one is in Northland.
- There are 92 mystery cases among today’s figures.
- 53 people are currently in hospital with Covid-19, including three in intensive care.
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7.00pm Tonga to enter week-long lockdown from tonight
Tonga will go into lockdown at midnight tonight until at least Sunday. On Friday, the Kingdom of Tonga confirmed its first ever Covid case, a person returning to the country on a repatriation flight from Christchurch. More than 200 people who arrived on the same flight are now in managed isolation.
Full vaccination rates jumped from 35% before the first case was announced, to over 62% today. This will be the country’s first ever nationwide lockdown, having gone nearly two years with no Covid whatsoever.
6.25pm: Alert level changes ‘messy and illogical’, says National
National leader Judith Collins says the government’s plan to further loosen Auckland’s Covid-19 restrictions as “messy and illogical”.
“If businesses aren’t a risk now, why couldn’t they open last week? Why do they have to wait another week? Why do Aucklanders have to wait for step two of alert level three to take effect?” said Collins in a press release.
“To make matters even more confusing, next Wednesday retail will apparently open to everyone in Auckland and then, at the end of November, the traffic light system will kick in and the unvaccinated will face restrictions. How is this going to work? It makes zero sense.”
Collins was critical of the lack of clarity around when vaccine certificates will be ready. The government only started working on them in July. If they were ready now, vaccinated Aucklanders could have much greater freedom and could even leave the Auckland prison. The fact they are not ready is a disgrace and emblematic of a government that simply hasn’t done the work.”
6.15pm: Experts concerned about step two move for Auckland
Siouxsie Wiles says she is “very nervous” about next week’s move to step two of the alert level three exit plan in Auckland.
“Cases are still rising,” says the University of Auckland professor, “and while we are being reassured that this is not going to overwhelm our health system, we need to remember that Covid-19 is a serious disease and many unvaccinated people who catch the virus will develop long Covid.
“We also have to remember that there are people in our community who have been safely vaccinated but who haven’t had a good immune response and so are still vulnerable to getting sick.”
Modeller Michael Plank has also expressed concerns, saying that while it is “true to an extent” that high vaccination rates justify a higher tolerance for Covid-19 cases because it lessens the risk of severe disease and hospitalisation, “we can’t afford to forget about cases altogether”.
“Vaccination weakens the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths, but doesn’t remove it altogether. If case numbers grow too high, it will translate into large numbers of people needing hospital treatment. There are also other consequences of high cases, including pressure on primary care, health impacts from long Covid, and disruption to schools and workplaces from illness.”
Plank also said the risk needed to be looked at from an “equity point of view”. “Māori now account for 40-50% of cases in the current outbreak and will bear the brunt of any increase in community transmission.”
He also said easing of restrictions could push the R number back up, and if the contact-tracing system struggles to cope with demand, cases could accelerate. “The planned move to step two next week may need to be revisited if there are signs this is happening.”
Immunologist Dianne Sika-Paotonu also highlighted contact-tracing capacity, pointing to the Roche report released earlier this year, which “concluded that New Zealand would struggle to maintain high system performance of contact tracing for a prolonged period with 100-200 cases per day”.
Sika-Paotonu said while the 75% (New Zealand) and 80% (Auckland) vaccination milestones highlighted today were important, consideration of vaccination targets for Māori and Pacific communities who have borne the brunt of Covid outbreaks was equally so. “To ensure no one is left behind in, DHBs will need to ensure at least 90-95% full vaccinations for Māori and Pacific peoples.”
5.20pm: The move to step two, level three, explained
Confused by exactly what was announced at 4pm? It’s understandable, so deputy editor Alice Neville has prepared a handy explainer of what exactly parts of the Waikato and all of Auckland are moving to tomorrow at midnight and a week later, respectively.
In sum: shops and public venues such as libraries will open, and outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people can take place (with no limit on bubble mixing). Read the full piece here.
5.00pm: ‘A great New Zealander’: Helen Clark pays tribute to Dame Catherine Tizard
“Cath Tizard was a very important person in my life,” said Helen Clark this afternoon in a tribute to Dame Catherine Tizard, the former governor-general and mayor of Auckland who died last night aged 90. “We first met in 1971 when she was campaigning for and then elected to the Auckland City Council. Cath went on to serve four terms on the Council, and to be elected as Mayor of Auckland City three times.”
Tizard “enjoyed the respect of all sides of politics”, said Clark. “Cath’s voice was always a progressive one across the spectrum of human rights and for sexual and reproductive health and rights. Many young women of my generation saw her success in public life and knew that that door could open for us too. We admired her forthrightness and directness – no one would walk away from a conversation wondering what Cath thought about the issues discussed.”
She added: “On a personal level, Cath was always a good and generous friend to many. She kept the loyalty and friendship of former staff at Government House and at the council throughout her life. Since Cath’s health has failed in recent years, she has been lovingly supported by her children. My thoughts are with Anne, Linda, Judith, Nigel, and all Cath’s descendants now; her passing leaves a huge gap in their lives. Cath was a great New Zealander and will be very much missed by all who knew her.”
4.50pm: Four transport options unveiled to ‘transform’ Wellington
Reweti Kohere writes:
Mass rapid transit connecting Wellington’s CBD with Island Bay, the airport and eastern suburbs will be the cornerstone of four options to “transform” Wellington’s transport system.
The NZ Herald reports Let’s Get Wellington Moving has unveiled proposals ahead of six weeks of consultation starting Tuesday.
Mass rapid transit sits at the centre of all options, with either light rail or electric buses moving people along routes to the city’s east and south, shaving off up to 12 minutes to travel times and enabling up to 21,000 more houses by 2050. Light rail to Island Bay makes up three of the four proposals, with bus rapid transit reaching the airport, Miramar and Seatoun rounding out the list.
Among the proposed improvements include no longer having the Basin Reserve as a roundabout, with traffic instead travelling around the area by extending the Arras tunnel. An extra Mt Victoria tunnel for walkers and cyclists is a feature of all four options, with refurbishments to the existing tunnel proposed.
The cheapest option is estimated to cost $5.8 billion over 30 years, with the priciest sitting at $7.4 billion. Construction would take eight to 15 years to complete.
“Our goal is to build a world-class capital to be proud of with streets that are beautiful and safe so that new housing and business will flourish,” said Let’s Get Wellington Moving acting programme director David Dunlop. “We won’t need to use our cars as often so can cut back on our carbon emissions. This is about building a better future for the city and region that we love.”
Tasked with improving the capital’s transport system, Let’s Get Moving Wellington is a joint initiative between Wellington’s city and regional councils and Waka Kotahi, the government’s transport agency.
4.30pm: What does level three, step two, even mean?
It’s been a while since we’ve had to think about the three steps of the alert level three exit pathway. Before we even make it to the new traffic light system, Auckland and parts of Waikato have the ability to slowly reopen.
Here’s a brief summary of what the rules are at step two:
- Retail can operate, with customers able to enter premises, wearing face coverings and keeping two metres apart;
- Public facilities like libraries and museums can reopen, with face coverings and two-metre physical distancing required; and
- Outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people can go ahead, with the two-bubble rule removed.
4.20pm: Auckland to move to step two of level three next Tuesday; Waikato shifts on Wednesday
Auckland will shift to the second step of the alert level three pathway from next Tuesday, November 9, at 11.59pm. The parts of Waikato currently in lockdown will move into those same restrictions even earlier – from 11.59pm tomorrow night.
Speaking at today’s 4pm press conference, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said vaccines mean we can continue to have the same goal as we did during elimination – to protect people from Covid-19. “Cases will go up, we expect that,” said Ardern. “That does not mean that restrictions haven’t played a role – they have. It also doesn’t mean those extra cases will have the same impact on our health system or people’s health than at the beginning of the outbreak.”
As vaccination rates goes up our risk assessment of cases can change, said Ardern. “We’re very aware that daily case numbers don’t tell you much about how we’re doing overall, and that information is really important when it comes to decisions we have to make about next steps,” said Ardern.
“We are in a transition right now and that is tough. There is a huge amount of new information and a lot of change. And all of that is happening while everyone is, quite frankly, tired of Covid.”
Ardern said today’s decisions were “carefully balanced” and allow for some of the pressure and fatigue in Auckland to be released while the vaccination rollout continues. “The boundary that we have now has given us time but we will not be able to contain [the virus] forever,” Ardern said. “We have seen cases emerge and even with further tightening we are likely to see them in future. We will continue to try to extinguish these cases but I don’t want anyone to be left with the belief that we can keep Covid in one place and one place only.”
4.15pm: Modelling shows impact of vaccination on Covid case numbers
While Covid cases are considering to rise significantly in Auckland, Ashley Bloomfield has singled out our steady hospitalisation rate and growing vaccination rate.
The director general of health has revealed new modelling related to our ongoing Covid-19 response. “Of concern in the current number is we’ve seen an increasing proportion of current cases that are Māori,” said Bloomfield. The high number of Pasifika cases from early on in the outbreak has dropped.
Reaching 75% of the eligible population fully vaccinated, and 80% in Auckland, are “significant milestones”, said Bloomfield. The nationwide figure should reach 80% next week. “If those vaccination rates weren’t increasing, you could see what happen to those case numbers,” said Bloomfield.
There has been a slight increase in the positivity rate – up to 0.6%. However, Bloomfield said the highest was 4% back in September and the World Health Organisation has said the aim is to be under 3%.
“As you see in every country, as you get high vaccination rates, an increasing proportion of cases will be people who are fully vaccinated, but the protection vaccination offers from becoming a case or being hospitalised does remain really high,” said Bloomfield.
Get intimate with Breast Assured
In this week’s episode of Breast Assured, it’s time to get intimate with our boobs. Specialist breast care nurse Judith Beattie joins host Sarah Gandy to help us learn how to perform self-checks – what to do, when to do it and how often. Listen now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favourite podcast provider.
3.50pm: Alert level decision due for Auckland and Waikato
Jacinda Ardern will reveal whether alert level three restrictions can loosen in Auckland and/or parts of Waikato. Currently, both are in the first step of the three-stage exit pathway. At step two, retail can reopen and gatherings can expand outdoors.
The PM, who will be joined by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, is also expected to reveal new modelling that will signal when the community delta outbreak may hit its peak.
Watch below or follow along with our live coverage from 4pm.
3.05pm: Today’s key numbers, charted
Today saw another record for new Covid-19 infections with 162 recorded across the North Island. It’s a nudge above the previous record of 160 recorded on Saturday and, as you can see from the below graph, much higher than any other day during the delta outbreak.
We’re due to find out at 4pm what the latest modelling shows for when we might hit the peak of new cases in the community.
Check out more graphs like these on The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here.
2.55pm: New arrest over Auckland anti-lockdown protest
A 36-year-old man has been arrested in relation to attending an anti-lockdown protest, and march, in Auckland over the weekend.
The man will appear in court tomorrow on three counts of failing to comply with Covid-19 health orders. Further charges have not been ruled out, said police.
This new arrest follows charges being laid against Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki and others over previous events also held at the Auckland Domain. During Auckland’s alert level three, outdoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and between no more than two bubbles.
2.25pm: The race to 90%
75% of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19, today’s Ministry of Health update confirmed.
Yesterday saw a typically low Sunday figure for vaccinations. Nationwide, just 20,176 doses were administered comprising 4,867 first doses and 15,303 second.
Once every DHB (except Auckland) hits 90% doubled dosed, the new traffic light system will kick in. Auckland is on track to move to the new system earlier, with 81% of the eligible population now fully jabbed.
How is your region doing? Here are the latest vaccine numbers, charted
Check out more flashy graphs on The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here
1.55pm: North Shore hospital workers test positive
Three workers on a Covid-19 ward at Auckland’s North Shore Hospital have tested positive for Covid-19.
The hospital is currently treating 15 Covid-positive patients, including two residents of the Edmonton Meadows Care Home.
According to Stuff, the source of the spread within the hospital is not yet known but further testing has not seen any additional cases crop up.
All staff members on the ward have been fully vaccinated, wear PPE, and undergo regular surveillance testing along with a health screening before each shift.
1.35pm: Another daily Covid-19 record with 162 community cases
There are 162 new community cases of Covid-19 – the highest daily count from across both years of the pandemic. Of those, 156 are in Auckland, five are in Waikato and one is in Northland.
So far, 92 cases remain unlinked to the main delta outbreak while 33 of yesterday’s cases were deemed infectious while in the community.
There are now 53 people in hospital with Covid-19, including three in intensive care. The average age of Covid-related hospitalisations is now 47.
Of today’s new cases, one was a staff member at the Edmonton Meadows Care Home in Henderson, West Auckland. There are now two Covid-positive staff members along with eight residents, bringing the total number linked to the home up to 10.
Covid testing in Auckland remains key in several suburbs: Redvale, Rosedale, New Lynn, Wiri, Drury, Henderson and Manurewa. Anyone with symptoms, even if they are mild symptoms, is asked to get tested even if they are vaccinated. In Auckland, 1115 individuals are now isolating at home – including 564 confirmed cases.
There are five new cases in Waikato today. Of those, one is in Ngāruawāhia, two are in Ōtorohanga and one is in Hamilton. The fifth is a case in Ōtorohanga announced yesterday that came in after the ministry’s daily reporting time cut-off. “This case is still under investigation to determine any links to existing cases,” said the ministry.
Three of the other five cases today are known contacts already in isolation and the remaining case has now also been linked to existing cases.
Following an unexpected Covid-19 wastewater detection Huntly reported yesterday, there are pop-up testing centres at both Huntly East and Huntly West from 10am today.
One new case has been confirmed in Northland, pushing the region’s outbreak up to 13 cases. The ministry has not stated whether today’s new case is linked to the outbreak.
Finally, no new cases have been confirmed in the South Island today. However, Covid-19 has been detected in two new wastewater samples collected in Christchurch on Friday, in the southern and eastern part of the city. “One of these samples is likely the result of a known case living in the catchment area,” said the ministry. “Investigations are underway to establish any link to known cases for the second sample, including any recovered cases that have recently left MIQ.” Further samples are being taken, with results expected later this week.
1.20pm: While you’re here…
Have you considered joining The Spinoff Members? Our ongoing coverage of the Covid-19 pandemic relies on the support from our members. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be here, hurriedly refreshing my inbox, waiting for today’s numbers to drop.
Click here to find out how you can support The Spinoff for as little as $1.
1.13pm: Yes, we’re still waiting for those numbers
You haven’t gone mad! It is in fact 1.13pm and those pesky Covid numbers, due at 1pm, haven’t been released. I’ll have them as soon as they land.
Meanwhile, Newshub’s Michael Morrah has claimed that today will be a new record for infections in Auckland with 150+ in the supercity alone. We’ll have all the details ASAP.
12.50pm: 1pm press conferences to be less regular
We’ll see fewer Covid-19 press conferences starting from this week.
They will now only take place on Wednesday and Friday, along with the PM’s regular post-cabinet presser at 4pm on a Monday. Written statements from the Ministry of Health will continue to be sent out daily, including on the days when a press conference does not take place.
It’s not the first time the 1pms have been pulled back since the start of the pandemic. However, it’s the first time this has happened while we’ve been in the middle of an outbreak. In New South Wales, ex-premier Gladys Berejiklian faced criticism for cancelling the daily press conference while the state was living through its delta outbreak.
Act’s David Seymour tweeted to share his frustration about the move following comments made by Ardern this morning. The PM indicated that she could not visit Auckland during level three, in part, because of her media schedule.
12.35pm: 2022 Billy T nominees announced
Sam Brooks writes:
These five nominees were picked from seventeen emerging comedians, who pitched their 2022 NZ Comedy Festival show concepts to a panel of industry experts via a digital format. They have been selected for their proven comedic ability, dedication to their craft, current form and outstanding potential.
The Billy T Award, New Zealand’s most prestigious award for emerging comedians, is in its 25th year. The current holder of the award is Brynley Stent (currently on Celebrity Treasure Island), and in recent years the award has gone to the likes of Kura Forrester, David Correos and Angella Dravid. Stent will host the Billy T Jams, which will showcase these nominees, at Q Theatre on February 25th.
12.20pm: Extremely Online – The evolution of the internet
From connecting via dial-up to send an email, to social networking, to the oncoming metaverse – the web has changed a lot in the last 25 years. The Shit You Should Care About team takes a look in this week’s episode of Extremely Online.
12.00pm: Further Covid spread in Waikato
Ōtorohanga’s mayor has reported a further two cases of Covid-19 in the town.
Max Baxter told Stuff the pair of new delta cases were linked and already in isolation. “Hopefully it can be contained,” said Baxter.
The new cases are expected to be confirmed in the 1pm update from the Ministry of Health, but Baxter said locals liked to get the information as soon as it was available. “We’ve missed out on being able to get people to look after themselves because the information has been released until 12 hours after,” he said.
So far, 118 cases of delta have been confirmed in Waikato although 35 have now recovered.
10.00am: Covid modeller calls for level four to be put back on the table
Shaun Hendy, whose Covid modelling has helped inform the government’s pandemic response, has once again called for alert level four to be put on the table for Auckland.
Daily case numbers are expected to continue rising following the weekend’s record of 160.
Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast, Hendy said a circuit breaker should be considered despite officials ruling it out in recent weeks. “We would expect numbers to continue to rise for a couple of weeks – maybe leveling off between 200 to 300 a day – as the effect of vaccination really starts to kick in,” he said.
“The concern is at the moment, we’re seeing so many unlinked cases that our contact tracers are really not keeping up with the edges of this outbreak,” he said.
A snap level four lockdown could “bring case numbers down to really bring our contact tracers back into the game,” claimed Hendy.
The next alert level update is due at 4pm today.
8.45am: No plans for Ardern to visit locked down Auckland
The prime minister has been under pressure from the opposition to visit Auckland in order to truly understand what the supercity is going through in lockdown.
Both Judith Collins and David Seymour have been in the city in recent days, with the latter saying he had “never seen Auckland like this before”.
Speaking to RNZ, Jacinda Ardern said she will not be travelling to Auckland but pushed back at the claim she did not understand what the city was feeling.
“There is not a moment where I’m not thinking about how I can bring back life safely to Auckland,” said Ardern. “Unfortunately, if I were to travel to Auckland that takes me out of being able to come back to parliament for five days. It does impact on my accountability in the debating chamber [and] my ability to front before the media.”
Ardern rejected the assertion she did not understand what Auckland was going through in lockdown. “Auckland is my home. It’s where all of my personal connections are,” said Ardern. “It’s where where my family lives, where my friends and my colleagues around the cabinet table live. I don’t think you can really appreciate it without being there for the full period of time.”
Under rules set by speaker of the house Trevor Mallard, all MPs travelling to parliament from a level three area need to self-isolate for five days and test negative for Covid-19.
8.35am: Decision day for Auckland – level three restrictions could ease
It’s decision day for Auckland. The supercity is waiting to hear whether it can move to the second step of the alert level three exit pathway, after weeks under current restrictions. At step two, retail can open and outdoor gatherings can expand. However, indoor gatherings remain prohibited.
PM Jacinda Ardern, who will announce any alert level changes at 4pm, told RNZ that no decisions have been made yet. Cabinet will be meeting to discuss the latest Covid numbers today, she said.
“One of the things we are going to do is share some of the things we are seeing from the modelling,” said Ardern. Cases could peak at around 200 per day during November. “While we’re in that period where there is a bit of a wait and see,” said Ardern. “I’m not ruling out any of the decisions that may or may not be taken by cabinet today.”
Ardern told Newshub that she expected cases to reach their peak “soon” after a weekend where over 300 new infections were recorded.
8.20am: Dame Catherine Tizard dies at age 90
New Zealand’s first female governor general Dame Catherine Tizard died yesterday, at the age of 90.
Dame Catherine was also the first woman to be elected mayor of Auckland back in 1983.
In a statement, Dame Catherine’s family called her a woman of amazing energy, intelligence and warmth. “She had a long and distinguished life of public service. She was a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother; and a confidante, mentor and friend to many more. We will miss her more than we can ever say.”
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said Dame Catherine was a “trailblazer” for women in public office. “In everything she did, she demonstrated her remarkable qualities of leadership and determination, combined with a down to earth approach and an irrepressible sense of humour,” Ardern said.
7.50am: Two Auckland schools close after Covid scare
Two Auckland schools have closed their doors after a Covid-19 scare, just a week after they were allowed to reopen.
In an email seen by The Spinoff, Mount Albert Grammar confirmed one of its students had tested positive for the virus. The student was in class from Tuesday to Thursday last week.
The school will undergo a deep clean and online learning will resume for senior students.
Meanwhile, Macleans College in East Auckland will also be closed today after a support staff member was infected. In a message on the school website, it was confirmed the staff member had not been in contact with any students.