The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Live updates, July 6: Covid privacy breach probe launched; one new case in quarantine

For all The Spinoff’s latest coverage of Covid-19 see here. Read Siouxsie Wiles’s work here. New Zealand is currently in alert level one – read about what that means here. For official government advice, see here.

The Spinoff’s coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak is made possible thanks to donations from Spinoff Members. To support this work, join The Spinoff Members here

6.00pm: The day in sum

One new case of Covid-19, a man in his 20s who arrived from London, was detected in quarantine.

An inquiry was launched into the leak of private Covid-19 case data, with criminal charges possible if found to be intentional.

Employers sought answers from the government over what will happen when workers’ temporary visas expire date in September, warning of potential ‘disaster’ without a plan in place.

Victoria and New South Wales announced they are closing the interstate border as Covid-19 cases continued to rise in Victoria.

The Orange Guy from the Electoral Commission ad campaigns made a comeback, and he has a dog now.

5.00pm: Primary health care nurses and staff to stop work

On July 23, more than 3,400 primary health care nurses and medical receptionists/administrators will stop work for two hours, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) has announced. This comes after mediation to settle their multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) negotiations failed. The move will affect more than 500 practices and accident and medical centres nationwide.

NZNO industrial advisor Chris Wilson says the move is a clear indication of the frustration workers feel after eight months of fruitless negotiations. “It’s not surprising employers have not increased their offer to one that our members could accept because their funding from government is completely inadequate. Employers have been very clear that they also want pay parity with DHBs so they can keep their staff and continue delivery of a quality primary health care service.”

According to Wilson, an experienced nurse covered by the Primary Health Care MECA is currently paid 10.6% less than their DHB colleague with the same qualifications, skills and experience. She also points out that the recently released Health and Disability System Review Report was clear that primary health care nurses should expect pay parity, and that former health minister David Clark had acknowledged there was a disparity just last month.

“Resolving this really comes down to political will, and our members’ patience has just about run out. Budget 2020 put an extra $3.92 billion into DHBs over the next four years, whereas pay parity for PHC nurses would cost a mere $15 million,” she says.

“Without additional funding, recruitment and retention issues will only be solved by passing additional costs on to the consumers. This is not a responsible solution and clearly not in the interests of communities.”

This week, various government officials including prime minister Jacinda Ardern and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will be contacted by the NZNO to make the case again for improved government funding.

3.30pm: ‘Change needs to occur on social media platforms’ – PM

Asked for a response to the news, as broken by The Spinoff this morning, that Stuff is ceasing use of Facebook, prompted by moral and ethical concerns, Ardern said she had been concerned about the conduct of social media companies since the terrorist attack of March 15. “My view then, and it is still now, is there is change that needs to occur on our social media platforms. We’ve opted for working to push for that change in direct contact with them. Some media outlets have an ability to share information, to engage with the public, on their own platform … they have their own channels to communicate. Politicians don’t have some of those same options … But I still see there is an argument for those platforms to change, so I will continue to hold them to account.”

Ardern said she would like to see more work done at a greater pace by Facebook et al, but she’d prefer to pursue that change through existing forums. “My decision not to do a Facebook Live is not, I don’t believe, going to make the same inroad.”

3.15pm: QC appointed to undertake privacy breach inquiry

Also at today’s post-cabinet press conference, state services minister Chris Hipkins announced the state services commissioner would investigate the Covid-19 active case privacy breach and report back at the end of this month.

Michael Heron QC had been appointed to undertake the inquiry, said Hipkins. He will use the state services commissioner’s powers under the State Sector Act of 1988 and the Inquiries Act of 2013, which will allow him to require the production of documents, summons witnesses and question parties under oath.

The investigation will look at who or what caused the disclosure of the information, identifying what if anything might have prevented this happening, and any improvements that might prevent it from happening in future. Hipkins said, “New Zealanders have an absolute right to expect their personal information will be held in the strictest confidence,” adding that the public release of the information was wrong.

3.10pm: ACC levies to stay at current rate

Cabinet has agreed to keep ACC levies at their current rate until 2022, the prime minister has announced. “Holding the rate steady achieves the right balance between the financial sustainability of the scheme and the interests of levy payers in the current economic environment,” Jacinda Ardern said at her post-cabinet press conference this afternoon. The move will cost the government $278 million this year and $92.7 million this year, said Ardern.

3.00pm: Watch today’s post-cabinet press conference

2.00pm: Today’s data, charted


1.30pm: NSW-Victoria border to close

The New South Wales-Victoria border is set to close at midnight tomorrow after another day of rising Covid-19 cases in Victoria, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The state recorded 127 new cases today, with 16 of those among residents of locked-down public housing towers in Melbourne.  The decision to close the interstate border was made by Victorian premier Daniel Andrews, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and prime minister Scott Morrison. Victorians will require a permit to enter NSW, Andrews said.

1.00pm: One new case in quarantine

There is one new case of Covid-19  in quarantine today, the Ministry of Health has announced.

The person who tested positive for the virus is a man in his 20s who arrived in New Zealand from London on the 4th of July, via Doha and Sydney. The man was taken straight from Auckland Airport to the quarantine facility as he had symptoms of Covid-19 upon arrival. The Public Health Unit will be interviewing the man to find out more details.

There are now 22 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, all in managed isolation or quarantine facilities. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 1,184.

The last significant cluster – that associated with St Margaret’s Hospital and Rest Home – has now closed. A cluster is considered closed when there have been no new cases for two incubation periods from the date when all cases complete isolation.

One person remains in Auckland City Hospital in a stable condition on a ward.

Yesterday laboratories completed 1,057 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 415,283. On Saturday, laboratories completed 2,294 tests.

There continue to be no cases of Covid-19 in the community. It has been 66 days since the last case that was acquired locally from an unknown source.

12.45pm: Covid-19 case number update coming soon

The latest daily update on New Zealand’s Covid-19 case numbers is due around 1pm today. The updates will come in the form of a written statement this week, because the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is on holiday.

11.45am: Stuff quitting Facebook, leaked email reveals

New Zealand’s largest news website Stuff is cutting ties with social media giant Facebook, according to an email seen by The Spinoff. “Effective immediately, Stuff is trialling ceasing all activity on Facebook-owned networks. This experiment applies to all Facebook pages, groups and Instagram accounts across our entire group,” the email from the site’s deputy editor reads.

According to the email, the move comes in the context of the international Boycott Facebook movement, and will apply until further notice.

Read the full report on The Spinoff

11.40am: Boris Johnson invites Invercargill nurse for tea

British prime minister Boris Johnson has hosted Invercargill-born nurse Jenny McGee along with other health professionals for tea in the garden at Downing Street to say thank you for treating him when he was hospitalised with coronavirus earlier this year. The ceremony was held to mark the 72nd anniversary of the National Health Service. Johnson posted photos of himself having a socially-distanced laugh with McGee and others to his Twitter.

11.30am: Government has ‘no plan’ – opposition leader

National Party leader Todd Muller says the prime minister’s speech at the Labour Party congress yesterday was an admission that the government has “no plan”.  

“The Labour leader told her party rally yesterday that there was no playbook or plan for her three years in government, no plan for Covid and no plan for recovery. We now see why her Government has been so chaotic and incompetent over three years and has failed against every important measure it has set for itself,” Muller said in a statement issued this morning.

The specific part of Jacinda Ardern’s speech he is referring to is the bit where she said: “There wasn’t a playbook for Covid. There wasn’t a playbook for the recovery. And, speaking frankly, there hasn’t been one for much of what has happened this term.”

New Zealand would be far better off with National in government, Muller said. He strongly urged people to vote for his party in the upcoming election.

10.30am: ‘Disaster’ looming when temporary visas expire

Employers are seeking answers from Immigration New Zealand over what will happen when thousands of extended temporary visas all expire in September. Anybody in New Zealand with a work, student, visitor, limited or interim visa with an expiration date of between 2 April and 9 July has been given until the 25th of September to renew their visa. However, Immigration New Zealand is not renewing or issuing any new visas until it is satisfied there is no citizen or permanent resident available to do the job, meaning employers must first advertise and interview for the roles, RNZ reports

“I think we’ve got a disaster on our hands on September 25th, simply because we don’t know what the plan is. You’ve got thousands of visa applications, all coming to expire at the same time,” Association for Migration and Investment chair June Ranson told RNZ. “We’re saying, what is the plan ahead? We’ve got silence, we haven’t got a plan,” she said.

Read the full report on RNZ

9.20am: Orange Guy is back, and now he has a dog

The Electoral Commission has launched its enrolment update campaign with news that the Orange Guy from the ads now has a dog, named Pup. Orange Guy and Pup can be seen in personalised enrolment update packs being sent out to 3.27 million enrolled voters from this week. “Open the pack and check your details are up to date,” chief electoral officer Alicia Wright urged voters. If you want to check or update your enrolment details you can do so at vote.nz.

Orange Guy and Pup (Photo: Electoral Commission)

9.00am: Ball in Australia’s court over trans-Tasman bubble

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern says the status and timeframe of quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia depends on decisions from the Australian government on whether to open its borders state-by-state or nationally.

“We’ve got our criteria for what we need to see – either as the country as a whole or state-by-state – in order to open up. Whether they choose to go state-by-state is a matter for them,” Ardern told The AM Show this morning. “If states continue to have their own border controls … then [a trans-Tasman bubble] is possible. But that’s actually Australia’s call not ours,” she said.

Ardern declined to put a timeframe on the bubble, but said the Australian tourism minister’s estimate of September was “reasonable”. “I’m confident that things will be ready on our end by then. It does, obviously, from their end, depend on seeing us succeed in getting Victoria back under control and delivering them complete confidence in all of our systems,” Ardern said.

7.45am: Inquiry into leaked Covid-19 case data

State services minister Chris Hipkins has promised to find those responsible for last week’s data breach in which personal details of 18 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand leaked. If it’s found to have been deliberate, the leak could result in criminal charges, RNZ reports.

Data about people in quarantine is held by a number of different agencies, including the Ministry of Health, the all of government Covid-19 response team and the hotels being used as managed isolation and quarantine facilities. “To identify what the record- keeping practices are, who has access to the information, how it came into the public domain, I want them to do that really thoroughly,” Hipkins said about the inquiry.

7.35am: Updates from today’s edition of The Bulletin

There have been several stories involving the theme of political accountability for mistakes in recent days. So for a lead today, we’re going to pick up a few threads within them. Each gives fascinating details around who gets reprimanded, who loses their career, and who doesn’tIt would be a mistake to see this as making a partisan point, or suggesting that some party or politician is better or worse than another. Rather, the set of pieces reflects that these matters are always deeply circumstantial and inconsistent, and there aren’t really any clear rules about why some get away with it when others don’t.

The first one concerns National MP Hamish Walker, who put out a press release which warned that up to 11,000 people from “India, Pakistan and Korea” could be coming to the lower South Island region for managed isolation. Because they’re largely non-white countries, not the most risky places of departure in the world, and because the statement neglected to mention that returnees at the moment are in fact New Zealanders, the statement was described by many as racist. The NZ Herald reports Walker was told off by National leader Todd Muller, and an ODT editorial criticised him for “nimbyism and selective scaremongering”. However, it doesn’t appear that he will face any demotion beyond that.

Meanwhile, Labour has sacked a candidate from their list for tweets made seven years ago. Newshub reports Kurt Taogaga, formerly 68th on the list, has been booted over praise he made for a column written by former MP Richard Prosser in 2013 – the column itself being an Islamophobic screed which has since become infamous for using the term ‘Wogistan’. Labour Party president Claire Szabo said the party stood against intolerance, and Taogaga issued an apology saying his views had changed in the intervening years. Many will see the punishment as fair even if it is harsh – though it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is the same party that came out with the risible ‘Chinese sounding names‘ assertion around foreign property buyers, and the MP who fronted that has remained in Labour’s top team ever since.

Finally, there were many interesting and pertinent threads in this exit interview with former minister Clare Curran, written for The Spinoff by Donna Chisholm. It is a must read piece for anyone who wants to understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of political attacks that turn deeply personal. But there is one line in particular that stood out, after Curran was sacked for failing to disclose meetings. To quote: “In November last year, the regional economic development minister, Shane Jones, was required to correct 20 answers to questions from the National Party after failing to disclose 61 meetings, including some relating to the Provincial Growth Fund.” Curran also saw the treatment she received as gendered and an example of targeted bullying, which was partly backed up and apologised for by rogue MP Jami-Lee Ross. And that campaign allegedly took place because the opposition saw Curran as a weak link, which underlines another point – politics is brutal, and it’s hard to have any expectations of fairness.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

Three new cases of Covid-19 were detected in managed isolation. All three originated on the same flight from India, and the cases are now in quarantine in Christchurch.

Jacinda Ardern marked the unofficial start of the Labour election campaign with a speech to party members at Te Papa.

It was revealed that a woman escaped managed isolation in Auckland on Saturday night and spent around 90 minutes in the CBD before being apprehended by police.

Read yesterday’s live updates here



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