Live updates, October 5: Charges laid in relation to Tamaki’s ‘freedom picnic’; new locations of interest

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 5, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


Help us keep you informed on Covid-19 – click here to learn how you can join The Spinoff Members.


What you need to know

7.50pm: New locations of interest added, including two in Raglan

Two new locations of interest in Raglan have been added to the Ministry of Health’s website this evening, both for exposure times on Saturday, October 2: Ali’s Turkish Kebabs for 5.35pm-6.10pm and BP Raglan for 5.45pm-6.15pm. West Liquor in Henderson, Auckland is also now a location of interest for 4-4.30pm on Friday, October 1.

See the full list here and our interactive map here.

7.45pm: Some clarification on the new rules for Auckland

If yesterday’s big announcement about the phased relaxation of alert level three restrictions in Auckland left you scratching your head, you weren’t alone.

We sought clarification from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on a number of points, and it’s now been provided. Toby Manhire has updated his big explainer, but the TLDR is: no, neither you nor your child can go inside someone else’s house to wee, even if you’re busting; yes, organised exercise can involve 10 people all from different households; no, you can’t get an outdoor haircut; no, you can’t go to your bach or rent a place for an in-Auckland getaway.

5.30pm: Update on playgrounds, skate parks and toilets for Auckland

The new rules under step one of the eased restrictions for level three in Auckland, which kick in at midnight, will see an increase in meetings of households in public places, as well as an uptick in recreation.

“Over the coming days we will be working to reopen more of our public toilets and making some of our outdoor facilities available for use once again. With so many parks, this will take time so please do bear with us while we work through this,’ said Auckland Council’s Taryn Crewe in a statement.

“Playgrounds, skateparks and basketball courts will reopen but we ask that people exercise common sense when out and about.” She added: “If you can’t practise physical distancing around our playgrounds and other facilities, please don’t use them.”

Mayor Phil Goff added: “Being able to meet friends or family is something many Aucklanders have really been looking forward to, but remember it needs to be outside where there is much less chance of contagion. Please remember that Covid-19 is still in the community and keep your activities within the new rules.”

Outdoor showers will turn on; drinking fountains will remain on. And, says Auckland Council, existing liquor bans at some beaches and parks remain, and “police will continue to enforce them. Check before you pack your picnic please”.

4.30pm: New locations of interest across Auckland

A number of new locations of interest, all in Auckland, have been added to the Ministry of Health’s site this afternoon.

They include SuperValue Flat Bush (12-1pm, Monday September 27); New World Ormiston (6.33-7pm, Thursday September 30); Xpress Mart Flat Bush (7.49-9.03am, Friday October 1); Daily Cafe and Bakery, Ōtara (8.31-9.40am, Friday October 1); Golden Dragon Takeaways, Clover Park (5.57-7.10pm, Saturday October 2); Countdown Kelston (7-9.30pm, Thursday September 30); Panmure Fresh Supermarket (Wanjiafu) (11.55-12.30pm, Saturday October 2); Countdown Greenlane (Thursday September 30), 4.30-6pm; McDonald’s Wairau Road, Wairau Valley (6-8pm, Saturday October 2).

Earlier today, along with a Raglan liquor store (see 10.55am update), a number of other Auckland supermarkets were also added, as were several bus routes in Panmure, between Epsom and Ellerslie and between the CBD and Massey.

See the full list of locations of interest here, and our interactive map here.

4.10pm: Charges laid in relation to Tamaki’s ‘freedom picnic’

Police have laid charges in relation to Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki’s anti-lockdown protest at Auckland Domain on Saturday, which breached alert level three restrictions.

A 63-year-old man has been summonsed to appear in Auckland District Court next Tuesday in relation to organising the mass gathering, which was attended by around 1,000 people, said police in a statement. He is facing charges relating to breaching the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 and the alert level three public health order.

Police said further charges were being considered for others involved in the event.

About 20 police officers attended Saturday’s protest but none of the participants were arrested, which prompted criticism and 12 complaints to the Independent Police Complaints Authority, reports Stuff. A petition calling for Tamaki to be charged has attracted nearly 139,000 signatures.

“Police acknowledge that the taking place of this event was frustrating for our communities and we want to assure people that the police response on the day was planned and based on operational assessments as is usual for an event of that size,” said today’s statement. “Police decision making when it comes to these types of events will always be about community safety first and foremost.”

3.25pm: Another MIQ room release sees thousands miss out

Thousands of New Zealanders abroad once again missed out on a space in managed isolation.

Another room release of 4000 spots went live today. It quickly filled up after more than 20,000 people joined the virtual queue.

It’s the third room release since the revamped system went live last month. Each time has resulted in social media being flooded with New Zealanders expressing their disappointment at missing out on a spot.

The opposition has criticised the virtual queue as an “MIQ lottery” – a perspective rejected by the government.

 

2.55pm: ‘We’re sorry’ – Facebook apologises for global crash

Facebook has apologised after a global outage saw its platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp, go offline for several hours.

The outage was reportedly caused by a networking issue that also impacted many of Facebook’s internal systems, making it harder to resolve the issue.

“To everyone who was affected by the outages on our platforms today: we’re sorry,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “We know billions of people and businesses around the world depend on our products and services to stay connected. We appreciate your patience as we come back online.”

No user data was compromised due to the outage, said Facebook, however some people may still find services slower than usual.

Photo: Getty Images

2.00pm: ‘Uncharted territory’ – Early childhood teacher union sounds alarm on reopening

The union for early childhood teachers has raised concerns about the announcement that ECE centres will reopen tomorrow in Auckland’s eased alert level three settings.

“Teachers are keen to get back to work and reconnect with tamariki, but we’ve had no ministry advice about what back-to-work Covid testing would involve for staff, or how centres should manage the situation if they can’t separate their centre into bubbles of 10 for all enrolled tamariki,” said NZEI Te Riu Roa president Liam Rutherford in a statement.

The new measures require a maximum of 10 children per bubble, leading to many centres saying they will not be able to operate for most users, in spite of the government pledge that “early childhood education will return for all”.

“There is a concern among our members that the health and wellbeing of kaiako and tamariki will not be the number one priority for every service operator,” added Rutherford. “This is because our broken ECE funding system means that profit for owners and shareholders is often the overriding consideration. It’s vital that ECE staff be involved in the health and safety planning in their centres as we move into the uncharted territory of opening up when there is Covid-19 circulating in the community.”

1.10pm: Vaccine certificates due for November

Updated

The prime minister has confirmed vaccine certificates will be introduced next month and be required in certain high risk circumstances.

Speaking at today’s Covid-19 update, Jacinda Ardern said the new passports will be a way “to ensure more certainty and greater safety” at particular times. “We will use them as a tool to lessen the risk in high risk settings,” she said.

Further details will be released in the coming weeks, said Ardern, however she confirmed a vaccine certificate will be required at large scale events and possibly at hospitality venues. They will not be required for essential health services or to visit the supermarket.

Ardern said people should, if possible, move their vaccination bookings forward. To fully enjoy summer, “you need to be vaccinated this month, not in December.”

“If you are booked to go to a summer festival,” added Ardern, this was “a warning, a heads up, go and get vaccinated now.”

People will be able to download and print a physical document or carry it in digital form on their phone. The system will be adapted to take into account people who have been vaccinated overseas in the future, said Ardern.

Soon people will be able to access their Covid vaccination record, then late this month test results will be available by My Health Record. To access your vaccination record, you’ll need a My Health account or you can use RealMe. Through this you can get your NHI number in a scannable form to keep on your phone.

An app is being built to verify the vaccine certificates as Bluetooth isn’t be able to be used for vaccine certificates for privacy reasons.

While the certificates will initially be available on a mobile site, a full app is expected in January. It will distinct from the existing Covid Tracer.

1.00pm: 24 community cases, including six in Waikato

Updated

There are 24 new community cases of Covid-19, of which 18 are in Auckland and six are in Waikato. Three of those Waikato cases were made public yesterday but are formally counted in today’s total.

Of today’s 24 cases, seven have not yet been linked to the wider outbreak. Eight remain unlinked from yesterday’s total. “All of the Waikato cases are linked,” confirmed public health director Caroline McElnay.

Today’s update is the last before Auckland begins to ease restrictions at 11.59pm tonight. It’s also exactly seven weeks since the first community case of delta plunged the country into alert level four.

There remain 12 active subclusters with recent cases, and these are the focus of the public health response, said McElnay. An additional 48 cases – all close contacts – are expected to be confirmed in the coming days.

17 of yesterday’s cases 29 cases were infectious in the community.

There are now 32 people in hospital with Covid-19, including seven in intensive care.

Yesterday, 14,905 tests were processed nationwide. 12,595 swabs were taken in Auckland yesterday and more than 84,000 in the past seven days.

New suburb of interest identified

Red Beach on the Hibiscus Coast in northern Auckland is now a suburb of interest, taking the total to eight. The others are Clover Park, Māngere, Favona, Manurewa, Mount Wellington/Sylvia Park, Henderson and Papakura.

The Waikato DHB has not identified any significant locations of interest in Hamilton city at this stage. All potential exposures have involved direct interactions. A Raglan liquor store was earlier confirmed as being linked to the outbreak. So far, it’s believed the Waikato households involved had been following mask-wearing and distancing protocol before testing positive.

Covid-positive MIQ worker linked to the border

Whole genome sequencing has linked the recent positive result in the worker at Naumi Hotel MIQ to two recent returnees, therefore this is classed as a border case.

“There is an ongoing investigation into potential in-facility transmission including reviewing CCTV footage,” said the Ministry of Health. “All staff at Naumi have been swabbed again, in addition to their regular workplace testing. All results have been negative. The worker is currently in the Jet Park quarantine facility.”

Medsafe in talks over Covid-19 treatments

Ardern confirmed talks between Medsafe and the makers of Covid drug Molnupiravir have been under way “for some time”.

The government is facing pressure from the opposition to buy doses of the treatment amid reports it can halve hospitalisations related to the delta variant.

12.50pm: Ardern to reveal further details of vaccine passports

The prime minister is expected to unveil the government’s vaccine passport at today’s 1pm press conference. She’ll be joined by the director of public health Caroline McElnay along with other Ministry of Health officials.

We’re also expecting the latest Covid-19 numbers although these are due via press release today, with Ashley Bloomfield on leave for the next week.

Tune into the presser below or keep this page update for the latest live coverage.

12.40pm: NZ falling behind the world on Covid treatments – Bishop

The government should be buying up new Covid-19 treatments like Molnupiravir, according to National’s Chris Bishop.

The experimental antiviral drug is one of several new pills on the market that reportedly counter Covid-19 symptoms. In particular, Molnupiravir is said to halve deaths and hospitalisations among Covid-19 patients who take it within five days of developing symptoms. Australia’s government has paid for 300,000 courses.

Bishop said New Zealand has fallen behind other countries. “The United States has committed to purchasing 1.7 million doses of Molnupiravir alone should it receive FDA approval,” he said. “These are treatments for people who have already got Covid-19 or who are showing symptoms. Our first line of defence is of course vaccination but there is no doubt that New Zealand will want to access these treatments, which are increasingly being approved by regulators worldwide.”

Bishop said it was “inexcusable” that we have not entered into talks over Covid-19 treatments so that we can begin putting them through regulatory tests immediately. “These treatments are potential game-changers and the last thing we want is for New Zealanders to get sick with Covid-19 and not have access to exciting new treatment options.”

12.15pm: Reopening schools, early childhood, a ‘reasonable move’

Under the new alert level three rules, early childhood centres can reopen in Auckland where bubbles of up to 10 can be catered for. In addition, schools are expected to reopen fully from October 18. 

In this comment for the Science Media Centre, Jin Russell from Auckland University’s school of population health explains the risks:

With the transition away from an elimination strategy, we are now confronted with the difficult decision of determining what is best for children in this moment.

When children are infected with Covid-19, they fortunately typically experience a mild or asymptomatic illness. Hospitalisation of children can occur but this is uncommon. Children with pre-existing health conditions are at higher risk of severe illness, similar to the pattern seen for other respiratory viruses.

Overall, the plan to re-open education settings is a reasonable move. Overseas experience has shown that the harms to children from prolonged school closures is significant. Schools provide so much more than formal education. Schools are “essential services” for children, necessary for children’s wellbeing, learning, socialisation, and development. However, we need to immediately take steps to ensure that schools open in the safest way possible.

The direction of transmission in school settings is first adult-to-adult, then adult-to-child, and lastly child-to-child. A report on Covid-19 transmission within schools and ECEs from Australia, analysing delta data, found that infected children transmitted the virus to other children at school in only 2% of cases, while the likelihood of adults transmitting to children within schools settings was greater.

This means that one of the best ways we can protect children and re-open schools safely is to aim for 100% of teachers and staff, and 100% of eligible students, to be vaccinated. Overseas experience also shows that by implementing a suite of measures – including improving ventilation, taking activities outside, masking, and other measures, schools can drive the risk of Covid-19 transmission to very low levels.

When schools re-open, it would be a smart move to have the vaccine delivered within schools, available for both eligible students and parents.”

11.50am: Vaccine passports are coming – but not as soon as you might expect

Despite the slow move out of alert level three kicking off tonight, vaccine passports aren’t expected to be available until the end of the year.

Jacinda Ardern is set to reveal further details at today’s 1pm announcement, but Stuff’s Henry Cooke has obtained early information. According to his report, the passport website is currently beta testing and set to go live later this month. Certificates won’t be available until “towards end of the year”.

And, they won’t be part of the existing Covid Tracer app either; you’ll need a separate app to access your passport.

10.55am: Raglan liquor store linked to Covid case; MIQ absconder charged

A Raglan bottle store is the latest location of interest linked to a positive case of Covid-19.

One household in Raglan has so far tested positive for delta with further details set to be released at 1pm. It was enough to push parts of Waikato into a strict alert level three lockdown for at least five days.

Along with Raglan Liquor, a number of new locations in Auckland have also been confirmed.

The full list is available here

Meanwhile, a Covid-positive man who allegedly absconded from the Jet Park quarantine facility yesterday has been charged. According to Newshub, the man is accused of kicking a police officer in the face during the escape. He also reportedly damaged a police vehicle and, of course, has been charged for breaching Covid-19 restrictions.

MIQ head Rose King said an investigation was now under way. “The fact that someone has absconded from one of our facilities is a disappointing and unacceptable breach. We are investigating how this happened,” she told Newshub.

10.35am: A little more on the mysterious Facebook outage

The Spinoff’s CTO (yeah, we have a CTO now) Ben Gracewood sheds some light on what’s likely happened at the social media giant, and what they can do about it.

If, as the rumours indicate, Facebook has accidentally ruined its ability to connect remotely to those servers, they’re in quite the pickle. They might need to physically plug in to the local network to fix the problem, and the people who know how to fix the problem are almost certainly nowhere near the servers that need plugging in to. It’s not unthinkable to imagine a harried electrician in a noisy data centre, phone tucked under their ear, while a very senior Facebook engineer phones in from holiday in St Barts asking them to type in various commands and read back the results.

A bunch of other engineers will be working out how to handle the absolute torrent of traffic that will hit the servers when they finally get reconnected. Why? Because a large fraction of all the devices in the world are currently trying to connect and authenticate with Facebook, over and over and over again. The instant traffic starts flowing again, every one of those devices will try to connect. If not handled properly, that would just knock Facebook off the internet again.

Read the full write-up here

10.00am: Electoral laws to be reviewed – but no changes due until 2026 election

New Zealand could one day have a four-year political term and allow those aged 16 allowed to vote.

The government has announced a review of our electoral laws aimed at ensuring they are fit for purpose ahead of the 2026 election. The review will consider a number of areas, including: voting age and overseas voting, funding of political parties and the length of the parliamentary term. The existing MMP system will also be under the spotlight, with the 5% threshold to be reviewed along with the ratio of electorate seats to list seats.

Justice minister Kris Faafoi said while much has changed since the 1950s – most of our electoral rules haven’t. “We want to make election rules clearer and fairer to build more trust in the system and better support people to exercise their right to vote,” said Faafoi. “The Electoral Act has had mostly piecemeal tweaks over the years. We now have an opportunity to take a proper look at how we run our elections.”

A return to the first past the post electoral system, however, is off the table. The review will also not consider the future of Māori electorate seats or the possibility of New Zealand becoming a republic. The panel in charge of the possible reforms has not yet been determined. Once announced, they will have until late 2023 to make any recommendations.

As noted by Stuff, a 2012 review of our electoral laws already made a number of changes that were not adopted by the government of the time. Those included reducing the party vote threshold to 4% and changing the ratio of electorate seats to list seats.

In the meantime, some more immediate changes are planned ahead of the next election in 2023. Faafoi said the government was looking at improving the transparency of political donations. “Another focus is looking at when people can move between the Māori Electoral Roll and the General Roll,” he said.

What does it all mean? Here’s some rapid analysis from Otago University professor Andrew Geddis, an expert in electoral law:

This announcement delivers on an undertaking in the Labour-Green Party cooperation agreement “to work with political parties from across parliament (including the opposition) on issues that affect our democracy, including the Electoral Commission’s 2012 recommended changes to MMP, electoral finance law, and the length of the parliamentary term.” It’s a welcome move, given that we’re coming up to the end of MMP’s second decade and, like anything reaching its late-teens, that’s a good time to evaluate how well our basic electoral rules are working. The main challenge will be building a cross-party consensus for any proposed reforms; a good thing in itself, but potentially also necessary as some of the issues to be examined (the voting age and length of the parliamentary term) legally require a 75% parliamentary majority to change.

It’s interesting, however, that the government has identified a couple of matters it regards needing more urgent attention – changes to donation disclosure rules and making it easier to shift between the Māori and general roll. There likely will be other issues identified by the Justice Committee report on the 2020 general election as needing amendments before the next election in 2023. So, we’ll see a kind-of dual track electoral law change over the next couple of years; some immediate fixes pushed through this parliament while this review panel looks at larger, longer-term reforms for the next to consider. Managing the interface between those two processes will be another challenge.

Watch Kris Faafoi speak live

9.15am: Yes, Facebook and Instagram are still down

It’s been a hard morning for influencers and crazy uncles with social media platforms Facebook and Instagram down for nearly five hours.

The source of the outage is still unclear, with Facebook taking to rival platform Twitter to announce their services were offline. Since then, Facebook’s chief technology officer has said “networking issues” were to blame.

Some US media has reported a “Domain Name System” – or DNS – problem is likely responsible for the outage. I don’t really understand what that means but you can read more here.

What I do know is that Twitter users are loving it.

9.00am: A break down of those confusing new rules

The new alert level three step one/level 2.75/level two+barbecue rules are a little confusing.

To help you out, Toby Manhire has put together this handy cheat sheet breaking down the new three-step pathway to leaving level three. It kicks in tonight, with the first step, which means:

– You can catch up with members of another household, but only outdoors
– Early childhood centres can reopen, with kids in bubbles of up to 10.
– More outdoor recreation will be allowed.

Otherwise, it’s level three as usual.

The new level three rules, explained

8.30am: Siouxsie Wiles ‘gutted’ by new level three rules, move away from elimination

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles is “gutted” by the government’s new three-step roadmap out of lockdown, saying it should have been reserved for when vaccination rates were higher.

Appearing on TVNZ’s Breakfast, Wiles said she was concerned about the risk posed to children under 12 who cannot currently be vaccinated. “I thought this would be a step we’d be taking some time next year when we had vaccines available for all of our children and better treatment,” she said. “We know from overseas if a teacher is infected and not wearing a mask, they’ll transfer it to the students and the students will take it home.”

Wiles has largely been complimentary of the government’s elimination strategy throughout the pandemic until this point. “The fact we’ve been forced into it by delta – this learning to manage to suppress the virus rather than get to zero cases – is disappointing,” she said.

People now needed to understand the fact that we’ve “lost level one” and it’s unlikely we’ll return to the same freedoms we had before delta.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles (Photo: Arvid Eriksson)

8.00am: Robertson defends ‘very modest’ change to level three despite claims of putting vulnerable at risk

The deputy prime minister has defended the easing of Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland as “very modest” despite opposition from across the political spectrum.

Labour is alone in backing the new three-step pathway out of alert level three, with all other parties criticising it for a range of reasons. According to National and Act, it doesn’t make sense and is an admission of failure on curtailing delta. The Greens and the Māori Party say it will put the most vulnerable at risk.

But speaking to RNZ’s Kim Hill, Grant Robertson said that both of those critiques were untrue. “It’s the continuation of a careful strategy that supports the public health objectives we’ve got,” said Robertson. “We’re still doing the things we’ve been doing the whole way through,” he said, saying testing and “aggressive” contact tracing will continue.

Auckland was, despite some restrictions loosening, still in level three, Robertson claimed. “We’ve got to make sure we move carefully and methodically,” he said. “I want to make sure that wherever you live in New Zealand, you’re in a position to know that the vaccination is keeping you safe.”

Robertson said while politicians may have expressed disapproval with the plan, health commentators were largely supportive – naming Michael Baker, Michael Plank and Rawiri Jansen. That’s slightly disingenuous when Baker has labelled the plan “confusing” and a range of other commentators, including Siouxsie Wiles, have said the new plan is a huge risk.

Despite some calls for it, vaccinations were unlikely to be mandated. “I think the decision to say that a vaccination of any type is mandatory across the population would be highly challengeable to many New Zealanders,” Robertson said.

The prime minister Jacinda Ardern is poised to make a vaccine passport announcement today, said Robertson. This will take place at the usual time of 1pm.

7.30am: From The Bulletin

Waikato’s antivaxville has had a change of heart on Covid-19. The Waikato Times reports that vaccination rates are up sharply in Raglan after the town faced infectious cases of the delta variant in recent days. Raglan was given the antivax name due to its low childhood immunisation rates during the 2019 measles outbreak. While some locals may have had similar thoughts about Covid-19, that changed with the cases. Over the weekend, the lines for tests in Raglan often saw people then go for a vaccine for good measure, while other locals told the newspaper that this was their first vaccine ever.


The Covid numbers: 28 new community cases were reported yesterday in Auckland and 1 in Waikato. 58% (19) of the previous day’s total were in the community while infectious. There are now 275 active cases. 27,033 people were vaccinated on Sunday, of which 74% were second doses.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.


Construction of Auckland’s Erebus monument blocked as group warns of another Bastion Point. A national monument to the worst civil accident in New Zealand’s history shouldn’t go ahead at its current location in Dove-Myer Robinson Park, according to local Māori leaders who say they have been ignored. Te Ao Māori News reports that construction signs on the site have been repurposed by protestors for rāhui notices. In response, construction has stopped as the government has planned to begin talks.

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

What you need to know

  • Auckland will move to step one of a modified alert level three at 11.59pm tonight.
  • At this time, Aucklanders will be able merge their bubbles outdoors with no more than two households at a time and up to a maximum of 10 people.
  • Cabinet will review the steps weekly. Steps two and three allow for things like bigger gatherings.
  • The rest of the country will remain in alert level two but with the 100 person gathering cap lifted.
  • There were 29 new community cases of Covid-19 announced yesterday – 28 in Auckland and one in Waikato.



The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.