Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 2, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.
The key Covid-19 headlines
- The northern part of Northland will move into alert level three at 11.59pm.
- A boundary will be put in place from the centre of Hokianga Harbour to the Mangamuka junction on state highway one to the Kāeo River bridge on state highway 10 and East Bay.
- There are 126 new community cases of delta.
- 107 are in Auckland, 18 in Waikato and one is in Northland.
- 59 of today’s cases have not been linked to the wider outbreak.
5.40pm: Parts of Northland to move to level three after pair of unlinked cases spark concern of undetected spread
Parts of the Northland region will move to alert level three at 11.59pm tonight following a pair of unlinked Covid-19 cases being confirmed in Taipa, north of Mangōnui in the far north.
The northern part of Northland will be affected, with the remainder of the region staying in alert level two. A boundary will be put in place from the centre of Hokianga Harbour to the Mangamuka junction on state highway one to the Kāeo River bridge on state highway 10 and East Bay. Below this boundary line the rest of Northland will stay at level two.
The pair are geographically separate from the existing Northland outbreak, which is centred around Kaipara and Kaikohe further south. This has prompted concerns about undetected spread in the region.
“There is a strong possibility that there is one or more missing links in the chain of transmission,” said Covid response minister Chris Hipkins at a press conference this evening.
“Despite extensive case interviews and contact tracing over the last 24 to 48 hours, contact tracing teams have not been able to find an epidemiological link with the Northland outbreak,”said Hipkins.
The snap lockdown will stay in place until 11.59pm on Monday night, with the decision reviewed by cabinet over the weekend. The boundary was decided on with help from local iwi, said Hipkins. Bloomfield said it won’t be a “hard boundary” but there will be a police presence.
Hipkins said prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who was in the region today, avoided the impacted parts of Northland. As a result, she will – at this stage – be allowed to return to parliament.
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the unlinked cases were regular users of the Covid Tracer app and a number of locations of interest have already been confirmed.
Northland has the most doses of any region to deliver before it reaches 90%, said Hipkins. This makes the risk of an outbreak that much greater, especially among the 11,000 Māori in the region who are still unvaccinated, he said.
Bloomfield admitted that there was some debate about whether or not an alert level change was needed, but said he concluded that a short period with heightened restrictions was necessary. The goal – outside Auckland – remains to eliminate the virus, he said.
5.30pm: Watch live – Hipkins poised to announce Northland level change
The Covid response minister Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield are about to hold an unnannounced press conference on Northland alert levels.
4.45pm: Hipkins to hold unscheduled press conference on Northland alert levels
The Covid response minister will hold an unexpected press conference on Northland’s alert levels at 5.30pm tonight. The region was previously in level three from October 8-19 after a Covid-positive traveller breached Auckland’s lockdown and headed north.
Northland is currently in alert level two, though roughly a dozen Covid-19 cases have popped up in the community over the past fortnight, the latest being a pair of cases in Kaitaia. A number of locations of interest in the far north have been added this afternoon: Farmers Kaitaia, Bells Produce fruit and vege store and The Awanui Hotel, north of Kaitaia, for exposure times on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As shown in our interactive map, full vaccination rates in Kaitaia and its surrounds sit at around 50% of the eligible population, compared to 75% nationwide.
The prime minister Jacinda Ardern has been in Northland today. Should the region move to level three or four, it’s unclear whether or not she would be permitted to return to parliament immediately. Current rules stipulate all MPs travelling out of level three regions need to self-isolate for five days and return a negative Covid test.
We’ll have a livestream for you at 5.30pm.
3.45pm: Today’s key Covid-19 numbers
Here’s how the delta outbreak is looking ahead of Waikato’s shift to level three, step two from tonight.
As you can see, today marked a substantial drop in daily new cases although still safely in triple figures. 18 of today’s new cases were in Waikato ahead of the easing of restrictions. Auckland will remain in level three, step one, for a further week.
The number of mystery cases, however, did hit a new high today: there are now well above 400 unlinked Covid-19 community cases from the past fortnight.
Check out these graphs and more on The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker
3.00pm: Lowest weekday for first doses in months
Yesterday saw the lowest number of first jabs in arms for a weekday since the start of June – well before delta came to town.
According to today’s Ministry of Health data, just 7,187 first doses were given out yesterday.
Were it a weekend or public holiday, that number might not be too surprising. However, the last weekday that had a lower number of first doses administered was June 9.
2.45pm: Second arrest over Auckland anti-lockdown protest
A 57-year-old man has been arrested in relation to a mass gathering held at Auckland Domain over the weekend.
It’s the second arrest linked to Saturday’s protest, and subsequent march, after a 36-year-old was charged yesterday.
In a statement, police said the man will also appear in court for breach of bail conditions.
2.00pm: Ardern shuts down anti-vax heckler at Northland news conference
The prime minister has sternly told off an anti-vaxxer who attempted to take over her Northland press conference after joining the press pack.
The heckler, according to reports on the ground, was from Counterspin Media – a conspiracy theory-driven talk show streamed on GTV, a network founded by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon. While unconfirmed, it’s understood the heckler was Counterspin’s “Medical Correspondent”. He’s Northland based and has recently appeared on programmes by Counterspin.
During the press conference, the man attempted to make unproven claims about the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine, prompting a warning from the prime minister. “Sir, I’ll direct questions across those who are [accredited] here to be able to ask questions.”
He later he piped up again, repeating his claims about the vaccine. Ardern retorted: “I’m going to answer the questions of the accredited media. I will shut down the press conference if you do not cease.”
And that’s exactly what she did, inviting only accredited media to follow her inside a nearby building.
Watch the clip below:
1.45pm: The race to 90%
Here’s a look at today’s vaccine statistics.
There were 27,473 vaccines administered yesterday, taking New Zealand’s vaccination rate to 88% for first doses and 76% for second doses. That comprised 7,187 first doses and 20,286 second doses. 3,179,817 eligible New Zealanders are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
In Auckland 91% of people have received one dose of the jab while 81% are fully vaccinated.
How’s your DHB doing? Use our interactive chart below, courtesy of The Spinoff Covid Tracker:
1.20pm: 126 new delta cases across Auckland, Waikato and Northland
There are 126 new community cases of Covid-19, a drop from yesterday’s record of 162.
Of the new cases, 107 are in Auckland, 18 in Waikato and one is in Northland. No new cases have cropped up in the South Island today. So far, 59 of today’s cases have not been linked to the wider outbreak and there are now 432 mystery cases from across the past fortnight.
Forty-seven of yesterday’s cases were infectious in the community while there are now 49 people in hospital with Covid-19, including three in intensive care.
Two further staff members at the Edmonton Meadows care home in West Auckland have tested positive for Covid-19, bumping the cluster up to 12. A mobile testing unit will be at the care home today for further testing for the residents and staff of the care home. Two of the Covid-positive residents remain in hospital.
A “small number” of Covid-19 cases have also been confirmed in Auckland in Corrections custody, said the Ministry of Health. These people were exposed to Covid-19 prior to coming into custody and are being managed appropriately to avoid any potential for the virus to spread to the prison population. There is no evidence of in-facility transmission to date.
“The Department of Corrections has controls in place to minimise risks relating to the transmission of Covid-19, including health screening, separating all newly arrived prisoners for their first 14 days, testing prisoners for Covid-19 on days zero, five, and 12, and isolating suspected and confirmed cases.”
Nationwide, 67% of prisoners have received their first dose and 50% are fully vaccinated. Just 66% of prison staff have received both doses.
In Auckland, health officials are still asking locals in Redvale, Rosedale, New Lynn, Wiri, Drury, Henderson and Manurewa to get tested for Covid-19 even if they have only mild symptoms.
All of the 18 new cases in Waikato – spread across Hamilton,Te Awamutu/Kihikihi, Ōtorohanga, Ngāruawāhia and Kawhia – have been epidemiologically linked. Fourteen were known contacts of previous cases and were already in isolation. A number of Waikato locations of interest have been identified in recent days and we encourage people to continue checking the Ministry of Health website for those locations.
The new Northland case is in Kaitaia and is a household member of a case announced yesterday. This brings the region’s total number of cases to 14, with three people now recovered.
1.15pm: While we wait for the numbers…
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12.50pm: Covid numbers due in written statement
We’ll be getting today’s Covid numbers in written form from the Ministry of Health today, tentatively around 1pm (although regular readers of these updates will know that’s often not the case).
I’ll have them for you when they land. Yesterday saw a new record for daily Covid cases, with 162 reported across the North Island.
As for why it’s just a statement today: the government yesterday pulled back on the number of regularly scheduled press conferences. There will now be written statements on Tuesday and Thursday, along with in the weekend.
12.25pm: Reports of new Waikato Covid cases as restrictions set to ease
The parts of the Waikato in alert level three will drop down to step two of the exit pathway at 11.59pm tonight.
But, according to media reports, the region will today be hit with another 18 cases of delta. The Herald has reported six new cases in Hamilton, four in Ōtorohanga, two in Ngaruawahia, four in Te Awamutu, one in Kihikihi and one more linked to an existing Kawhia case.
The official numbers will be released in a written statement at 1pm.
From midnight, retail in Waikato will be able to reopen – with restrictions – and outdoor gatherings can expand up to 25 and between multiple bubbles. Auckland will see those same rules applied in a week’s time.
11.30am: New home consents hit records in 2021
There’s been a 25% increase in the number of new homes consented this year, compared with 2020.
According to Stats NZ, there was a record 47,331 new homes consented in the September 2021 year. Of course, last year included the nationwide lockdown.
In Auckland, the annual number of new homes consented rose 29% to a record of 19,886. Over the same period, the number of new homes consented in Canterbury rose 31% to 7,379, and in Waikato rose 23% to 4,968.
11.00am: Tova O’Brien quits Newshub
Newshub’s political editor Tova O’Brien will leave the network at the end of the year, it has been announced. She will front a new breakfast radio show for a new radio “brand” owned by MediaWorks. It’s likely that new station will replace the embattled Magic Talk.
O’Brien told Newshub the new role was an ” incredible once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of something new, different and exciting”.
After joining Three 14 years ago, O’Brien has spent time as the network’s European editor along with her time in the parliamentary press gallery.
Last year, she went globally viral following her infamous take down of outgoing MP Jami-Lee Ross.
9.15am: Rule change could allow PM to visit Auckland
A rule change could allow the prime minister to visit locked down Auckland without needing to self-isolate.
Currently, all MPs returning to parliament from a level three area need to spend five days in self-isolation along with testing negative. Jacinda Ardern has used that as a defence for not visiting Auckland during the extended lockdown, despite calls from opposition leaders.
But according to the Herald’s Claire Trevett, that rule could soon be dropped. Speaker of the house Trevor Mallard indicated he was likely to decide on the rule change by today, which could see the requirement for isolation dropped in favour of just a negative test result.
Act Party leader David Seymour, who visited his Epsom electorate over the weekend, told Newstalk ZB the PM had to come to Auckland. “She’s been exposed to far too much thinking from Wellington civil servants who get paid every fortnight without fail by the taxpayer. She needs to see some people who actually have to have their shops open.”
He added: “If the prime minister does go to Auckland and gets some perspectives, it would probably be a good thing for all Aucklanders.”
Seymour said that Ardern had originally claimed the whole parliament could be run on Zoom so it did not make sense for her not to visit Auckland earlier.
8.40am: ‘Impending doom’ – Māori health expert reacts to alert level shift
Māori health leader Rawiri Jansen has described the easing of level three restrictions as “impending doom” and said he’s “incredibly disappointed” the government chose to ignore science.
He’s joined other leading Covid health experts like Shaun Hendy in condemning the government’s decision to shift Waikato and Auckland out of the current level three step one.
“The Delta outbreak has been on simmer for a few weeks, the pot has come to the boil and we’re gonna turn the gas up and that’s really problematic,” Jansen, the clinical director of the National Hauora Coalition, told TVNZ’s Breakfast. “Opening schools and moving to alert levels with fewer restrictions is seriously going to create a big problem for us in my opinion.”
Jansen said the government has gone against science in its decision-making. “It’s very hard to step back towards the science if they’ve stepped away from it, and we’ve stepped away from it twice now,” he said.
8.05am: Covid modeller ‘pessimistic’ about loosening of level three
A leading Covid-19 modeller says he is “pessimistic” about the government’s move to loosen level three restrictions.
From 11.59pm tonight, the parts of Waikato in level three will move to step two of the exit plan. Auckland will follow suit a week later.
Shaun Hendy told RNZ that while the vaccination programme has been going really well, the government has chosen to relax restrictions before case numbers started to drop. “If we let case numbers get away from us we’re going to be dealing with sizeable outbreak throughout the summer months,” said Hendy.
“If we’d kept things at the moment, we expected to see case numbers level off at 200-300 a day. Now with these relaxations we’d expect things to go even higher and for those numbers to persist through the Christmas period.” Hendy anticipated more than 300 cases each day will inevitably be recorded, putting additional pressure on our health system.
However, he said the ongoing vaccination drive will stop delta spreading at the same rate it would have before we rolled out the jab. “We’re increasing that r number with relaxing restrictions and trying to bring it down with vaccinations at the same time, leaving it at about the same magnitude, which just means we’re going to continue to see increase in case numbers,” said Hendy.
Māori communities were also going to be put at additional risk. “A number of experts have been calling really all year for programs that that would be targeted for Māori by Māori, and that hasn’t happened and that’s left Māori vaccination rates lagging,” Hendy added.
Yesterday’s key Covid-19 headlines
- 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 tonight.
- At step two, retail outlets can open, with masks and physical distancing. Outdoor gatherings can expand to 25 people from multiple bubbles.
- It was another record day for Covid-19 infections with 162 delta cases confirmed.
- Of those, 156 were in Auckland, five are in Waikato and one is in Northland.
- There were 92 mystery cases among yesterday’s figures.
- 53 people are currently in hospital with Covid-19, including three in intensive care.
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Australia reopens to fully vaccinated citizens. The Guardian reports that for the first time in 583 days, Australians walked off airplanes and into the arms of families in tearful reunions at Sydney’s international airport yesterday. Quarantine is being waved for the fully vaccinated, with people from overseas allowed to leave the airport without restrictions. Traffic is also going the other way as fully vaccinated Australian residents and citizens can leave the country without asking for permission, with some taking flights to Los Angeles on holiday.
New Zealand won’t follow Australia’s example, with the Beehive only promising a system of mandatory home-isolation for fully vaccinated arrivals starting around the end of summer.
Tonga’s main island is in lockdown for a week. RNZ reports that the country’s first Covid case was detected in a traveller from Christchurch last week.
The Covid numbers: There are 53 cases in hospital and 3 in ICU/HDU. There are now 1,879 active cases in New Zealand. 156 new community cases were reported in Auckland yesterday, 5 in Waikato and 1 in Northland. 20,176 people were vaccinated on Sunday.
The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.
The new climate target will reduce emissions, but it might not be fair. There’s a real question about what a fair reduction in emissions would look like. While the prime minister is satisfied the new target is enough, her climate minister isn’t so sure. Newsroom looks at the plan and James Shaw’s obvious reservations when he presented it. The new target is an improvement over the previous plan from the National government and includes cutting more emissions domestically. The NZ Herald (paywalled) writes that we need to do a lot more, faster.
Property owners could turn to lawyers to thwart denser cities. Thomas Coughlan reports in the NZ Herald that officials have warned the government that lawyered-up property owners could threaten housing rules Labour wants to pass along with National. In advice, officials say owners could use legal restrictions on land use, including development covenants and cross leases, to restrict how property could be used for years to come. If implemented, the restrictions could maintain inner city neighbourhoods at suburban levels of density for generations.
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