Election Live, October 4: Five new Covid cases, all at border; poll shows race tightening in Auckland Central

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for October 4, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other NZ news. The essential campaign dates are here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here. Explore the parties’ pledges at Policy.

7.00pm: The day in sum

Judith Collins’ stop for a prayer at an Auckland church on her way to vote led to claims she was politicising faith.

For the ninth straight day there were no new cases of Covid-19 in the community. Five people were reported to have tested positive in border facilities.

A new poll by Colmar Brunton for Q+A showed the race for Auckland Central tightening, with Helen White of Labour on 35%, Emma Mellow of National on 30%, and Chlöe Swarbrick of the Greens on 26%.

Labour pledged new funds to target rheumatic fever: the Greens pledged to save kauri.

Donald Trump released a video from hospital updating Americans on his health and “miracles coming down from God”.

5.30pm: Sparks fly in election advertising

That’s about a wrap for the day, but before we go, you’ll be interested to know that the Labour Party has issued a new campaign ad, which includes this image of an angle grinder at work.

As students of political strategy will immediately note, this is an audacious bid by the Labour Party for the angle-grinder vote, a constituency the National Party under Bill English targeted aggressively in its campaign ad from 2017 which included this image.

4.20pm: Campaign goes biblical

The photograph of Judith Collins at prayer in an otherwise empty Tamaki church (see 11.10am) ahead of advance voting this morning has prompted plenty of commentary online this afternoon about her suddenly visible devout Christianity.

It’s prompted the leader of the NZ First Party to reach for the bible and Matthew’s denunciation of, I guess, virtue signalling?

It’s only fair to note that Katie Scotcher’s report for RNZ suggests that the photograph may have been less, ah, pre-ordained by Camp Collins that some have suggested.

She writes:

As she arrived at the polling station, Collins was asked by the church’s priest if she would like to say a prayer before voting, to which she replied “what a good idea”.

When later asked by reporters about her brief prayer, Collins said the media had not asked if they could follow her, but she “didn’t want to make a fuss”.

Collins said she was very “comfortable” going to church and sometimes vists one on Sundays, “but not always”.

“I pray every day,” she added.

3.40pm: Important election day announcement

If you have a dog please photograph it outside a polling place. Thank you.

3.00pm: Labour pledges to target rheumatic fever; Greens target kauri

Catching up with some policy announcements earlier, Labour this morning released a new policy aimed at cutting rates of rheumatic fever, with “healthy homes, healthy children and healthy hearts” the focus. It comes in at $55 million across four years.

The three main elements:

  • Expand the existing Healthy Homes programme which covers the likes of heaters, curtains, bedding and floor covering.
  • Strengthen healthy home compliance and enforcement efforts by Tenancy Services.
  • A national register to actively track and treat rheumatic fever patients.

“While good progress has been made to tackle the conditions that lead to ‘strep throat’ and consequential rheumatic fever, we need to keep up the momentum. We will drive greater resources into efforts to eliminate this illness and protect our most vulnerable communities,” said Jacinda Ardern in a statement.

“We all know that poverty and deprivation are factors in the 160 new cases we have on average each year in New Zealand. We will invest an additional $55 million over four years to tackle the root causes of rheumatic fever through our health and housing agencies.”

The Greens this morning meanwhile announced they would put $50 million towards saving kauri, drawn from the $1.3bn Jobs for Nature funding in the Covid recovery budget.

“Kauri are an incredibly important taonga for Aotearoa and the Greens want to go further and faster to keep them healthy and standing,” said co-leader Marama Davidson.

“This term, the Greens have prioritised pushing for adequate funding for kauri dieback in every budget, but other political parties haven’t agreed to prioritise protecting kauri with the necessary funding. That’s why we’re seeking to make it a priority in our Jobs for Nature investments next term.”

1.30pm: New rules for air crew

The ministry release (see 1.05pm) also confirms changes to the requirements for air crew arriving in New Zealand, which kick in from midnight tonight.

Those are:

  • All New Zealand-based air crew to use PPE on all flights and to isolate with other crew members while on overseas layovers.
  • All overseas-based air crew to wear appropriate PPE while in New Zealand airports and whenever travelling between the airport and their hotel.
  • Overseas-based air crew who are laying over in New Zealand to do so in a Government managed isolation facility for as long as they are in the country, to ensure they avoid contact with New Zealanders.
  • New Zealand-based crew returning to New Zealand from high-risk locations overseas to self-isolate for at least 48 hours after they return, and until they are assessed as being low risk of having Covid-19 (including receiving a negative test).

“The ministry is aware these measures are already widely used,” concludes the statement, “and this change will make sure that they’re applied consistently.”

1.05pm: Five new border cases of Covid-19, ninth day of zero new community cases

Five new cases of Covid-19 have been reported by the Ministry of Health. All were detected in managed isolation. For a ninth day in a row, and on the eve of the cabinet decision about moving Auckland to alert level one, there are no new confirmed cases in the community.

Two of the new cases arrived from Switzerland via the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia on September 29, one from Russia via the United Arab Emirates on September 21, another from Ukraine on September 29, and the fifth from Australia on September 30.

“Two of the returnees are in managed isolation in Auckland; one has already been transferred to Auckland’s quarantine facility and arrangements are in place for the second person to be transferred,” said the ministry in its daily release. “The three other returnees are in managed isolation in Rotorua and will also be transferred to Auckland’s quarantine facility. Today’s results were from routine testing around day three for four people and testing around day 12 for the fifth person.”

It puts New Zealand’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases at 1,498.

There are five newly recovered cases, meaning the overall active case number stays the same at at 41. However the number of active cases that were detected in the community drops from eight to seven.

There is no one in hospital with Covid-19 in New Zealand.

Yesterday 3,616 tests were processed.

12.00pm: Trump update

Here’s Potus on his health and “miracles coming down from God”.

11.10am: Airport update / Collins update

Seems fine. Passengers have been escorted back to the terminal. As you were.

Meanwhile, the leader of the National Party is about to vote in Kohimarama, Auckland. On her way she’s stopped for a prayer at St Thomas Anglican church in Tamaki. Who can blame her for seeking assistance wherever it might be available?

10.45am: Auckland airport evacuated after ‘suspicious item’ found

The domestic terminal at Auckland airport has been evacuated and travellers are gathered on tarmac after the discovery of a “suspicious item” in a bathroom. The domestic terminal has been cleared as a precaution and the Explosion Detector Dog Unit is at the terminal, according to images posted on Twitter.

According to a Spinoff reporter who was about to board a flight, the evacuation began at about 9.45am.

Auckland Airport this morning. Photo: The Spinoff

9.30am: Helen White holds lead in Auckland Central

A Colmar Brunton poll for Q+A of the Auckland Central electorate suggests the high-profile race may have tightened, with only nine points separating the third placed candidate, Chlöe Swarbrick, and the first, Labour’s Helen White, with National’s Emma Mellow – a late addition to replace the retiring sitting MP Nikki Kaye – in the middle. The results look like this:

Helen White, Labour: 35%
Emma Mellow, National: 30%
Chlöe Swarbrick, Greens: 26%
Felix Poole, Act: 4%
Vernon Tava, Sustainable NZ: 2%
Jenny Marcroft, NZ First: 1%

Fifteen days ago, a Reid poll for Newshub Nation had White on 42%, Mellow on 27% and Swarbrick on 24%.

Party vote intentions in today’s poll look like this (in brackets, the 2017 election result):

Labour: 47% (39%)
National: 28% (38%)
Green: 13% (14%)
Act: 6% (1.1%)
Top: 2.2% (3.1%)
NZ First: 1.7% (3.9%)

Asked if she would like to see Swarbrick step back, White said, “I would love her to, but I doubt she’s going to. I’ve always said it’s really important we don’t split the vote on the left”, adding that her perspective is “very left leaning”.

Swarbrick responded by warning against an “underestimation of the level of independent thinking” among voters, saying, “Nobody is entitled to this electorate … This is up to the voters of Auckland Central.”

Mellow told Q+A she was “very encouraged” by the poll, saying she was the natural successor to Kaye and confident her “ground game” could take her to parliament.

White stressed that she had 27 years experience as an employment lawyer. Swarbrick stressed that she is the only one who lives in the electorate. Mellow stressed that she has links to the corporate world. All three stressed, many times, that they are working very hard.

9.00am: Trump’s health ‘very concerning’, with critical 48 hours ahead

There are mixed messages from Washington over the state of the president, who was choppered to hospital yesterday after testing positive for Covid-19. Donald Trump’s doctors announced he was “doing very well” and they were “extremely happy” with his progress, but White House sources have told media, including Reuters, seemingly in an anonymous briefing, that his symptoms have been “very concerning” and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care.

At least 25 people are now thought to have tested positive linked to the Trump cluster. Trump, who is now calling it, all-caps, the PLAGUE, is considered at high risk because of his age and weight. There is now less than a month till election day.

7.15am: On the campaign trail

Here’s where the party leaders are today:

  • National leader Judith Collins is in Auckland, and is expected to cast her vote later this morning.
  • NZ First leader Winston Peters is in Auckland, where he’ll be visiting the Takapuna Market and the Glenfield Mall.
  • Greens co-leader Marama Davidson is in Auckland, where she’s making an announcement on kauri protection then popping over to Waiheke to meet constituents; her co-leader James Shaw is on Wellington’s south coast, where he’ll be doing a shallow dive and talking about ocean policy.
  • Act leader David Seymour is taking his bus tour to Gisborne.
  • Can’t tell you where Labour leader Jacinda Ardern is because I do not know.

7.00am: The day ahead

The last week has been encouraging as far as the stamping out of community transmission of Covid-19 is concerned. If there are no new community cases reported today, that will be the ninth day of zero local cases in a row, and with only eight active community-detected cases in the country, cabinet’s decision tomorrow should be straightforward, meaning Auckland can, as signalled, move to alert level one at end of play on Wednesday. (Though don’t rule out Ashley Bloomfield’s previously teased idea of a “level one plus”, with some additional requirement on, for example, mask wearing.) We’ll have the latest from the ministry, expected to arrive via press statement at 1pm, here.

Advance voting opened yesterday, and there were anecdotal reports of a higher turnout than last time round. Some voting sites are open today, but a lot aren’t; if you’re in a voting mood, have a look at what’s available in your area here.

Meanwhile, Q+A are promising a Colmar Brunton poll on the Auckland Central seat. A fortnight ago a Newshub Reid Research poll put Labour’s Helen White in a strong lead with 42.3% of the votes, ahead of National’s Emma Mellow on 26.6% and and the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick on 24.2%.

And, of course, eyes around the world will remain on Washington DC, where the president of the United States is in hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus.

6.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

American president Donald Trump was taken to hospital with Covid-19, and various contacts also tested positive.

Advance voting opened and New Zealanders – including the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, flocked to polling booths across the country.

There was one new case of Covid-19, a recent returnee who tested positive in managed isolation.

Read yesterday’s top stories here.



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