Live updates, April 6: Watch – trans-Tasman travel bubble to open on April 19

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 6, bringing you the latest news throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

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4.45pm: Concern over number of positive cases coming from India

With another 12 positive cases detected in MIQ in arrivals from India today, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the government was concerned about the high proportion of cases coming from this region, and particular those testing positive on day zero or day one of their stays in MIQ.

“We’ve had a good look at that so far, and we’ve still got more questions with officials,” said Hipkins at the post-cabinet press conference this afternoon. 

He said there was so far no evidence that pre-departure testing was not robust or that fraudulent test results were being presented. “There is widespread and growing transmission in India,” he said, adding that if someone coming from India was infected just before they were tested 72 hours prior to departure, it was quite possible this wouldn’t show up in that test.

They were making sure that airline arrangements were “as robust as possible”, however, with prime minister Jacinda Ardern adding that it was essential for airlines to play their part in making sure passengers present their test results and don’t fly if symptomatic.

Hipkins said that feedback from public health teams was that if infections were picked up later in MIQ stays, they were most likely picked up in transit rather than on the plane. “It could be that airports are the highest risk point.”

Ardern mentioned the fact that some day zero/day one positive test results are reclassified as historic, which has been highlighted in the Ministry of Health’s press releases. In response to a request from our political editor Justin Giovannetti earlier today, the ministry said out of 356 positive cases in MIQ since the start of the year, 43 had been classified as historical, 20 of which were identified at day zero/day one testing.

4.10pm: ‘A new chapter in our recovery’ – PM

Announcing the start of the trans-Tasman bubble at a post-cabinet press conference this afternoon, Jacinda Ardern laid out a framework that provides three possible options for responding to a case of Covid-19 in Australia: continue, pause or suspend (the traffic light system mentioned below in the 4pm update).

A case well contained and connected to a border worker would result in “continue”, while a case not clearly connected to the border that might lead to a state lockdown would result in a “pause” on flights from that state. Multiple cases with no known origin, meanwhile, would result in flights being suspended for a period of time.

When travel resumes following one of these scenarios, travellers arriving in New Zealand may be expected to either simply monitor their symptoms, take a test before departure, isolate on arrival, or potentially go into managed isolation, said Ardern.

Passengers will travel on a “green zone” flight, meaning no one who has come from anywhere but Australia will be allowed on the flight, and crew members won’t have been on high-risk routes. Green zones will also be in place in airports, so travellers don’t come into contact with those from elsewhere, and there will be random temperature checks.

Final infection control reports for airports are being completed in coming days and will be reported on April 16. Final conditions of travel that may affect Queensland, which has recently had a small Covid outbreak, will be announced next Wednesday.

Ardern said between 1,000 and 1,300 MIQ spots are expected to be freed up by the creation of the bubble, roughly 500 of which will be maintained as contingency. “We do not anticipate a large number of vacant spaces to come on stream.”

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said there was no guarantee Australia would consult the New Zealand government on every decision they make regarding the bubble.

“We absolutely accept that speed is of the essence in an outbreak,” said Ardern. “We accept that it may mean that Australia moves quickly on a decision and whilst on the most part they’re very good at giving us a heads up, that may not always happen. That means that they expect and understand if we do the same.”

In February, Australia suspended quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders after an outbreak here, which “disappointed” Ardern.

4.00pm: Trans-Tasman bubble to open on April 19

Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports from parliament:

In two weeks New Zealand will open its borders to the first foreign visitors in over a year, with the creation of a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia that will kick in at 11.59pm on April 18.

After months of design, promises and delay caused by outbreaks on both sides of the Tasman, the bubble is expected to bring a significant boost to the country’s ailing tourism and aviation industry after a year of Covid-19 restrictions.

Ashley Bloomfield, the director general of health, has signed off on the system. Quarantine-free travel, or QFT under an acronym we’re sure to hear often, will happen under a traffic light system. Green means continue, yellow means pause, red means suspend.

The bubble will remain open if a few cases pop up in either country that are linked to the border, but could close suddenly if a significant number of community cases appear. “Flyer beware” is the government’s new catchphrase for what’s to come. Travellers could find themselves stranded if Covid-19 outbreaks appear.

One thing the trans-Tasman bubble won’t do is open many places in the country’s managed isolation facilities for travellers coming from outside Australia. The government doesn’t plan to open all of the spots vacated by travellers coming from across the Tasman because of the higher risk of transmission from returnees coming from elsewhere.

Visitors from Australia will be expected to fill out a health declaration, not have tested positive for Covid-19 in the last 14 days, provide contact details to the New Zealand government as well as download and use the tracing app.

3.45pm: Watch – trans-Tasman travel bubble date to be announced

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is set to reveal details of the much-awaited trans-Tasman bubble, which will allow quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia, at post-cabinet press conference at 4pm. As well as announcing a start date, Ardern is expected to go into detail of how the bubble will actually work. We’ll bring you all the news here.

Sound the pod klaxon! There’s a new episode of Dietary Requirements

A new episode of The Spinoff’s food podcast has just been released, with regular hosts Sophie Gilmour and Simon Day joined by special guest Leonie Hayden to debate whether or not hot cross buns are in fact bad, taste test some New Zealand-grown wasabi and discuss how hospitality will handle the rise in minimum wage.

You can subscribe and listen to Dietary Requirements via Apple PodcastsSpotify or your favourite podcast provider.

3.05pm: Labour MP wants to end alcohol holiday trading rules

Labour’s Kieran McAnulty has submitted a member’s bill that would repeal sections 47 and 48 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012.

In other words, that would allow for alcohol to be sold on public holidays such as Good Friday.

“This will remove many restrictions on the sale of alcohol on ANZAC Day morning, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day,” the MP said in a tweet.

Under the current rules, alcohol can only be sold on those particular holidays under certain circumstances. That includes if you are also buying food. One tweeter responded to to McAnulty saying they had “heard stories of hospo workers getting abused because people have to buy a meal with their booze on those days”.

Another asked: “Is there something you’re hiding? Do you need alcohol 365 days a year? Please seek help.”

New episode of The Fold looks back at corporate response to John Banks on Magic Talk

In this week’s episode of The Spinoff’s media podcast The Fold, Duncan Greive talks to Vodafone CEO Jason Paris about the company’s swift response to the John Banks Magic Talk saga, saying “haere ra” to racist customers and what exactly 5G will do for the average customer.

Paris on John Banks and the Magic Talk incident: “Media has been built on people being provocative, and that’s what gets people to listen and debate, however there’s a line and we felt that had been crossed. We felt that was a clearly racist position to take that we wouldn’t condone as an organisation or as individuals so we made the call.”

Subscribe and listen to The Fold via Apple PodcastsSpotify or your favourite podcast provider.

The Fold is proudly supported by Vodafone. With innovation made simple and world-class network technology, Vodafone will help maximise the potential of you and your business. Find out more at vodafone.co.nz

1.10pm: 17 new Covid-19 cases in managed isolation

There have been 17 new cases of Covid-19 detected in managed isolation since Sunday, all linked to the border. The seven-day rolling average of new cases detected at the border is four. An additional four have now recovered.

Of today’s new cases, 12 have arrived in the country from India where a major spike in Covid-19 cases is being recorded.

The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 74. Our total number of confirmed cases is 2,168.

“Today’s managed isolation case numbers underscore the value of having in place the day 0/1 testing as 13 out of the 17 cases were identified with this testing,” a Ministry of Health spokesperson said. All people arriving in New Zealand must remain in their rooms until those day 0/1 test results come back.

“It’s also not uncommon to see some of the day 0/1 cases to be reclassified as historical cases, which are not infectious.

“While the number of cases in managed isolation over the last two days is higher than in previous days, the average number of cases per day over the past week remains steady at four. Some of these cases are also contacts of known cases.”

In addition to day 0/1 testing, in January, the government announced it was extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, as a measure to further strengthen New Zealand’s border response.

April 6 MIQ covid cases

(Image / MOH)

Over the past 7 days, 26,705 tests have been processed, with a seven-day rolling average up to yesterday of 3,815 tests processed. The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,917,574.

“Lower testing numbers were always expected over the long weekend as New Zealanders made the most of the extra time with friends and whānau and the freedom of movement we currently enjoy,” the ministry said.

Watch: The Single Object trailer

While you wait for the latest Covid-19 numbers to come in, check out the first trailer from The Spinoff’s new web series The Single Object.

Coming to The Spinoff next week, The Single Object tells the stories behind five everyday objects which have had a significant impact on the history and people of Aotearoa.

Episodes include: the pou that became the trademark of pioneering Māori modernist architect John Scott and an embroidery that captures the experience of a Congolese refugee’s journey to New Zealand. A set of printing typeface holds key insights to understanding the history of Chinese New Zealanders, while a simple ballpoint pen tells an incredible story of protest against the police’s unjust treatment of Pacific people during the dawn raids.

Watch the trailer below:

12.10pm: Group to help government with firearms laws announced

The members of a new group to assist the government on matters involving firearms have been announced.

Police minister Poto Williams said the “Ministers Arms Advisory Group” will help keep the balance of keeping communities safe while still enabling the safe use of firearms in our communities for legitimate purposes.

“The establishment of this group was enabled by the laws passed last year to strengthen the administration of and the delivery of the intent of the Arms Act,” Williams said.

The group’s chair is to be chaired by Don Hammond, the previous chair of the Statutory Game Animal Council.

“The Group will provide advice on firearms matters and offer varying perspectives on how activities may impact on licence holders and on our communities,” Williams said.

The members are:

Maxine Shortland – Community and business leader, farmer and currently Chair, NZ Public Health Association.

Rehanna Ali – member of the reference group for the Royal Commission of Inquiry and founding member of the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand.

Simon Mount QC – Counsel to Sir Thomas Thorp assisting the review of firearms control in 1996-1997.

Michael Dowling – President of the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO), and board member of the New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups.

Dr Cathy Stephenson – GP, Clinical Lead Southern for the Royal New Zealand College of General Practice, and Senior Clinical Lecturer in Sexual Violence and Intimate Partner Violence, University of Otago.

Debbie Wakker – President of Pistol New Zealand and previous competitive shooter. Founding member of COLFO and the Firearms Community Advisory Forum.

Philippa Yasbek – Co-founder of Gun Control New Zealand.

Shayne Walker – Senior Lecturer for the University of Otago, department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work.

10.45am: Has Air NZ jumped the gun on travel bubble date?

Our national airline may have revealed when the trans-Tasman bubble is set to open.

The prime minister will be making the announcement at a 4pm press conference today. This morning, her deputy Grant Robertson stayed mum when pushed for a date, saying it had not even been confirmed.

But if Air New Zealand is to be believed, April 19 looks like the most likely date for quarantine-free travel with Australia to begin. As the Herald reports, that’s the date when the number of available flights across the ditch increases significantly.

It also coincides with the next school holidays, meaning a family trip to Sydney could be on the cards for some.

10.00am: UK planning for international travel to resume

People travelling to the UK from green zone countries will soon only require a negative Covid-19 test before departure and after arrival, with no need to quarantine.

Boris Johnson has confirmed a new “traffic light system” for international travel but has not yet confirmed the date when it will come into force.

The plan, however, is for foreign travel to resume from May 17. “Obviously we are hopeful that we can get going from May 17, we are hopeful,” Johnson said. But he went on to warn people to “be realistic” and said: “We’re not there yet.”

9.10am: Kiri Allan taking medical leave after cancer diagnosis

Labour minister Kiri Allan has announced she will be taking medical leave after being diagnosed with cancer.

Announcing the news on social media, Allan said she was told last week she had stage three cervical cancer.

“Now the fight of my life begins,” she said.

“The ‘C’ word hits you like a jolt I had never experienced. My whanau and I now prepare for the fight ahead as I start treatment.”

In a statement, the prime minister Jacinda Ardern called Allan a friend and said the news was devastating.

“I also know that Kiri is a person of determination, and as we’ve talked over the past few days I can hear how focused she is on her treatment, and ultimately her return,” Ardern said. “Kiri’s parliamentary family will do everything possible to support her during her treatment and recovery.”

During Allan’s absence, Kris Faafoi will be acting minister of emergency management. “He has held the portfolio previously so brings knowledge and experience with him to the acting role,” said Ardern.

Ayesha Verrall will be the acting minister of conservation and Peeni Henare will be acting associate minister for arts culture and heritage.

“I look forward to welcoming Kiri back on the team and into Cabinet upon her return,” Ardern added.

Allan’s statement is below in full:

My last smear test I had was when Talei Morrison, just prior to her passing from cervical cancer, rallied her whānau, her friends, the kapa haka community and ultimately NZ to campaign for women, and particularly Māori women to get their smear tests done regularly. #SmearYourMea

To be honest, I’m one of those gals that hates anything to do with ‘down there’. And have taken a ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ type approach to that part of my body.

Talei’s call to wāhine and whānau to get tested was the push I needed to get it done.

Time passes. Work piles on. Going to the doctor for anything other than an emergency goes way down the priority list.

Last year, during the campaign I noticed I was getting a lot of pain in my back, stomach and legs. I put it down to lots of driving and the general stress of campaigns etc – so, I got my partner to give me a few mirimiri and forgot about it. Earlier this year, I realised I was finding it hard to sit for a lengthy period of time. Nothing seemed to take the pain away.

In late January I started menstruating and it didn’t stop.

In hindsight, there were lots of opportunities to go touch base with a doctor. But I didn’t. I put it down to work, and was on the go, and “that stuff usually sorts itself out”.

After a GP visit – and with nothing changing after 6 weeks – my mate Dr Ayesha Verrall strongly advised me to get an ultrasound which found a growth in my cervix.

From then it has been a whirlwind of many hospital visits, biopsies taken, smears and MRIs and CT PET scans.

Last week, the doctors told me and my whanau last week that it was stage 3 cervical cancer.

The ‘C’ word hits you like a jolt I had never experienced.

My whanau and I now prepare for the fight ahead as I start treatment.

So today, the PM, Jacinda Ardern will make an announcement that I’ll be taking medical leave from work to focus on what’s in front of me.

So for now, my whānau and I are requesting a bit of privacy while we come to terms with the challenge ahead.

Heoi ano, arohanui from me to all of you (for now)

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kiri Allan (@kiri_allan_mp)

8.00am: Super Tuesday – Busy day for government as travel bubble date to be revealed

At the risk of going overboard on how big today is for the government, those of us in The Spinoff news team are labelling today “SUPER TUESDAY”.

So, what makes it so super?

  • There’s morning media: today, Grant Robertson is the one getting up early to get a grilling.
  • Parties will hold caucus meetings and then Cabinet will meet to agree on the travel bubble date.
  • After a week off, the House is sitting today and question time is back.
  • Finally, of course, we’re set for the long-awaited update on the trans-Tasman bubble at 4pm.

Speaking on Newshub today, Robertson confirmed that a date for when trans-Tasman travel will resume without quarantine would be announced today. “Cabinet is going to be working its way through the final details and making that decision on a date today,” he told the AM Show. “It’s a reward for the sacrifices made by New Zealanders.”

Robertson repeated the PM’s previous justifications for taking so long to announce the travel date, saying cabinet wanted to make sure they could confirm all the necessary details for New Zealanders and Australians. “We will never apologise for putting the health and safety of New Zealanders first… we’re really confident we can do this now,” he said. “Nothing is without risk and that’s why we need to have these processes in place.”

According to the Herald, April 12 or 19 are the two most likely dates for travel to commence. Robertson stayed mum when pushed on this and said no date had actually been decided upon yet. “We have been carefully working this through with airports and airlines,” he said.

The recent Covid-19 outbreak in Queensland was a “good example” of what could happen when the bubble opens, Robertson said. He called the travel arrangement a “flyer beware” situation.

We’re expecting all the details at a 4pm post-cabinet press conference and we’ll have everything you need to know right here.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Hopefully you’ve rested up over the last few days, because today will bring an absolute avalanche of news. A whole lot of things that normally happen on a Monday are now being condensed into Tuesday, and it will also be a sitting day for the house. So that means a senior government MP will be doing morning media rounds, there will be a caucus meeting, the PM will be doing an afternoon press conference, and there will also be Question Time in parliament.

And one bit of news in particular is likely to dominate – will we get an announcement on the trans-Tasman bubble? You might recall there was an announcement about this announcement – well, the announcement is now here. There was a short story on One News at the end of last week suggesting government departments and relevant stakeholders have been told to prepare for a bubble imminently. That includes the likes of Air NZ, who are recalling furloughed crew and staff to meet the expected demand. Newshub’s AM Show was reporting this morning that Air NZ is taking new bookings to Australia from April 19, which gives a hint (but importantly, not confirmation) of a potential opening date. But the industry is not exactly being subtle about demonstrating they’re ready for the bubble to open.

For business, it is hard to overstate how much hope is being pinned on a bubble. It has clearly been demonstrated by now that economies perform best when they’re Covid-free, so the border closure has been more than justified. But at a certain point, those who took a bigger hit from the closure get desperate to get back to business. Tourism NZ says it could lead to a billion dollar boost, for example. But there are also less obvious industries and companies that could be affected – for example, Stuff’s Esther Taunton reported on a vape store chain that is waiting on an announcement, so they can proceed with expansion plans into the Gold Coast. The economies of both countries have been really closely interconnected for decades, and being able to go back and forth is a vital part of that.

At the same time, bubbles with other countries aren’t particularly popular right now. Politik (paywalled) had a great report two weeks ago that included an understanding of polling data showing “that a substantial number of New Zealanders are opposed to opening a bubble with anyone.” Many will be personally reluctant to travel, because of the risk of being on the wrong side of the Tasman if there’s an outbreak.

Meanwhile, what’s the state of Australia’s latest mini-outbreak?  The ABC’s live updates reported yesterday that the long weekend had finished with two days of zero community transmission. It’s a positive sign, coming after Brisbane imposed a short sharp lockdown, in circumstances which bore plenty of resemblance to the brief lockdowns Auckland has seen this year. In other words, there isn’t all that much distance between how both countries are handling the virus.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here




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