Live updates, August 6: Health worker classified ‘close contact’ of Covid-positive case in hospital

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

3.10pm: National Party conference a chance to ‘move forward from 2020’

Updated

The National Party’s annual conference has started today. The three-day event is set to feature speeches from leader Judith Collins along with fellow MPs. It will also see the election of the president, with all eyes on the incumbent Peter Goodfellow.

Former National Party staffer Brigitte Morten said the conference will largely be about background work. “What often gets lost in media discussions about party conferences is that they are not public events. They are for the membership – who provide thousands of volunteer hours – to tell the party leadership and caucus what their views are,” she told The Spinoff.

“There shouldn’t be an expectation of a rebrand coming out of this conference – this about the background work. Members will be looking for progress on the outcomes of the election review and signs the caucus is moving forward from 2020.”

The Green Party is also set to host its AGM this weekend. David Cormack, an ex-Greens communications director, said the party will likely use the event to “reconnect” with voters.

“The party was more divided than expected when it came to ratifying the deal that saw James [Shaw] get climate change minister and Marama [Davidson] get associate housing, so given this is the first time they’ll have been hanging with the members since the election they’ll want to play nice,” he said.

“I doubt there will be any big announcements. It’s too early in the cycle. That said this will be a lost opportunity given that the party has all but disappeared off the planet in the last few weeks, with National’s race-baiting and culture war bullshit dominating, ably supported by Labour’s announcing and unannouncing stuff, and Act pretending they’re the statesmanlike opposition.”

2.30pm: Bloomfield suggests gap between vaccine doses could be extended to increase immunity

The director general of health has suggested the three-week gap between doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 could be extended to increase protection from the virus.

Currently, Pfizer recommended people space their two doses of the jab by about three weeks. This can be longer, however:  Jacinda Ardern got her second jab about six weeks after her first.

Speaking at the Conference for General Practice in Wellington, Bloomfield said an eight week gap might provide higher immunity. He also said there may be a need for an annual booster shot, but said there was no evidence of double-jabbed people losing their protection from Covid-19.

1.20pm: Health worker classified ‘close contact’ of Covid-positive case in hospital

The Ministry of Health has revealed that public health protocols were not fully met during the transfer of a Covid-positive patient from quarantine to hospital.

The individual was moved from the Jet Park facility to Middlemore Hospital yesterday afternoon, the ministry said. They are not connected to another Covid patient at the same hospital – the UN worker from Fiji.

“Public health officials have deemed the PPE use did not fully meet agreed protocols,” said the ministry. “While the risk has been assessed as low, as a precautionary measure the health worker has now been classified as a casual contact and has been asked to monitor symptoms. They will be automatically tested in seven days’ time.”

Today’s Covid-19 numbers

There are no new cases of Covid-19 to report in the community today, with one in managed isolation. Five previously reported cases have now recovered, with the number of active cases in New Zealand standing at 25.

12.45pm: Just 30 people taking Te Huia train each trip, on average

The Te Huia train connecting Auckland with Hamilton is racking up costs of roughly $24,000 a day.

Latest figures released to the National Party have shown that, on average, just 30 people take the train on each trip. The train is capable of transporting 500 passengers each day across its two return journeys.

National’s transport spokesperson Michael Woodhouse called it a waste of taxpayer money. “It is quicker and more convenient for Kiwis to jump in their cars and drive, and that is what they are doing,” he said.

11.50am: Olympics wrap – Carrington heads back out on the water

New Zealand has its seventh gold medal thanks to a stunning performance yesterday from Lisa Carrington. Today, the most medalled New Zealand olympian heads back out on the water. Here are some of today’s highlights:

  • Now: 50km walk – Quentin Rew
  • 1.30pm: Kayaking (women’s K4 500m heat one) – Lisa Carrington, Teneale Hatton, Alicia Hoskin and Caitlin Regal
  • 6.30pm: Track cycling – Ellesse Andrews, Kirstie James

10.50am: MIQ guests moved to hospital

Two guests in managed isolation have been transferred to hospital after displaying Covid-19 symptoms.

According to Newshub, the pair have been moved to Middlemore Hospital. It’s not clear whether they have tested positive for the virus or not.

“It’s normal for us to have patients from MIQ,” a spokesperson for the Counties Manukau DHB said.

10.00am: National faces backlash to conversion therapy vote

The National Party has faced a wave of opposition to its decision to vote against legislation that would see conversion therapy outlawed.

The bill passed its first reading last night with the support of all parties other than National.

Directly after the vote, National’s Chris Bishop – perceived as being from the party’s more liberal wing – took to Twitter to say he “strongly” supported banning conversion therapy, but the party had determined it could not support the bill in its current form. “I am confident parliament can improve the law so we can support the bill into law,” he wrote.

That tweet was met with wave of criticism, including from those in the rainbow community and fellow MPs. The Greens’ Chloe Swarbrick wrote: “Can you genuinely please point to the specific thing you oppose in the bill? Those speeches from your team today were not really about drafting concerns – Act gave that speech. Your team just did some straight up weird ranting and insinuation about trans people.”

Bishop has not responded to the hundreds of messages on his post, but has since sent an unrelated tweet this morning.

Speaking to Newshub this morning, National’s justice spokesperson Simon Bridges defended the party’s decision to vote against the bill.

“We support the intent fully, we wish we could get behind it,” he said. We have one major concern and by the way Kris Faafoi, the guy behind it, can’t and won’t explain it at any level. I’ve looked through the law really closely and it comes down to this – the bill will criminalise, as it’s written, good parents for being parents.”

Bridges said parents should be able to prevent their child from taking puberty blockers until they are 18 (an age where most children will have completed puberty).

9.30am: Little pledges to hold healthcare system to account with new reforms

The health minister has pledged to end the postcode lottery and hold the system to account with the introduction of new reforms.

The “health system indicators framework” will, said Andrew Little, help deliver more equitable healthcare for all New Zealanders.

“The indicators are a new way of thinking. They are not about incentivising with funding or pointing the finger if targets are not met – they are neither a carrot nor a stick,” Little said.

“They are a measure of how well our health system is functioning across the country, and an opportunity to then create local solutions to address local health needs.”

The announcement follows already announced reforms to scrap the DHB system and introduce a nationwide health service. The indicators are based on the government’s six priorities for health, said Little. Namely: improving child wellbeing, improving mental wellbeing, improving wellbeing through preventative measures, creating a strong and equitable public health system, better primary healthcare and a financially sustainable health system.

“When the indicators show there is a problem, health services will work with local communities to come up with effective ways to fix it. This framework will help the sector focus on the areas that most need to improve – especially for Māori and Pacific peoples.”

9.10am: Covid-19 vaccine available for 55+ age group early

Vaccination bookings have opened early for anyone aged above 55. It’s five days earlier than expected, said health officials, with anyone in the age bracket able to head to bookmyvaccine to organise a time.

As TVNZ reports, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said there will be enough vaccines in the country to meet the demand.

“We’re able to bring this group forward because of the great response from the earlier groups and because DHBs have been continuing to add capacity to vaccinate more people and faster,” he said.

8.10am: National’s president could face challenge as party conference kicks off

The National Party’s annual conference kicks off today, with reports party president Peter Goodfellow could lose his job.

It’s been a tough year for the party since losing the election: polls have kept support for the party stagnant below the 30% mark with backing for leader Judith Collins much lower.

According to Stuff’s Henry Cooke, Goodfellow could face a challenge for the party presidency from former MP David Carter. One party delegate said the “nail in the coffin” for Goodfellow had to be his involvement in the selection of Jake Bezzant as a candidate for the last election.

Carter said that more than 100 members had rung him asking him to take the job, but would not confirm he wanted it. “I’m going to keep an open mind. I’m prepared to consider it – it’s a decision of the board,” Carter said.

Youth Wings star runs for National Party board

Aryana Nafissi, who featured on an episode of The Spinoff’s web series Youth Wings last year, will run for the National Party board this weekend.

Nafissi is chair of the northern branch of the Young Nats.

The annual conference officially begins this morning, with both Judith Collins and Peter Goodfellow expected to address party faithful.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Despite the measures taken against spread, the Covid situation in Australia is getting worse by the day. The Sydney Morning Herald reports a record 262 new cases were recorded in the state of New South Wales yesterday, continuing an upwards trend that has been taking place for almost a month. As well as that, five deaths were announced.

Fears are mounting about the “long Covid” effects this outbreak will have, with an increasing proportion of new cases among those under 40. Among the deaths in this outbreak has been a 27 year old man who was unvaccinated – as The Monthly Today reports, that was because of Australia’s slow vaccine rollout. The pace of Australia’s rollout is roughly comparable to that of New Zealand, so it should be taken as a huge warning about the risks of a delta outbreak.

The state of Victoria will also go into a week-long lockdown, after eight cases of the delta variant were reported. Like in Sydney, the ABC reports the announcement was immediately met by hundreds of people protesting, with 15 arrests made. It’s not clear whether the protests in Sydney have contributed to the current spike in cases, though it was widely speculated at the time that it could. This lockdown will be the sixth faced by Melbourne.

In economic terms, the response to this outbreak has been shaky at best, and could be disastrous at worst. The SMH reports a huge swathe of jobs in greater Sydney have been lost as a result of the lockdowns, and given the city is Australia’s most important economic centre, that could have wider implications for the country. The state was very slow to move when the delta outbreak was beginning, and as a result (how many times have we now seen this around the world?) is now having to lock down harder for longer. Two writers on Crikey (paywalled) argue that any recession that follows should be put at the feet of PM Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.



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