Live updates, June 8: A million Pfizer doses expected in July; Ardern to receive vaccine this month

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for June 8, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

5.00pm: Vaccine roll-out a ‘shambles’, says National

The announcement that a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in New Zealand in July (see 4.00pm) only “removes the last remaining excuse for the government’s pathetically slow Covid-19 vaccine roll-out”, the Covid-19 response spokesperson for the National Party, Chris Bishop, has said, in a statement declaring the process a “shambles”.

“The government said we would be at the front of the queue, but New Zealand is the second slowest in the OECD and 115th in the entire world. This is hardly the ‘year of the vaccine’ that the prime minister promised. The government still needs to explain why there are 3,800 border workers who are yet to have a single vaccine dose. The vaccinating of Group 1 border workers was meant to be completed by the end of March … In summary, the booking and IT systems are a mess, there aren’t enough staff, communication has been poor, the government has had lacklustre reporting, and the roll-out is slow. And yet, this government is constantly telling us everything is going to plan.”

Chris Hipkins earlier said the plan was “on track”, saying vaccination numbers were ahead of schedule , while “6,800 vaccinators have completed the necessary training to administer the Pfizer vaccine. We have at our disposal one of the best vaccines in the world and starting later next month we will start making it available, for free, to everyone in New Zealand over the age of 16.”

4.00pm: A million Pfizer doses expected to arrive next month

Pfizer has scheduled delivery of an estimated one million doses of its vaccine to New Zealand in July, Chris Hipkins has just announced.

“These consignments will double the total number of Pfizer doses we have received this year to more than 1,900,000 – enough to fully vaccinate almost one million Kiwis,” said Hipkins. “This is great news and reassuring to see our vaccine supply ramping up. It shows our plan for what is the biggest and most complex logistical undertaking ever by the health system is on track.”

Full vaccination requires two doses, so the delivery is enough to cover half a million people.

In a release ahead of the post-cabinet press conference, which is about to begin, he said: “The doses will arrive in weekly drops, ramping up in quantity from mid July as we start to move to the wider population roll out. The drops will enable us to continue vaccinating Groups 1,2, and 3, while giving us the certainty needed to start the general population rollout as planned. The supplies means DHBs can keep delivering to their plans and start accelerating their way through Group 3 from mid July – which is everyone over the age of 65 and people with disabilities and some underlying health conditions. It’s a group of more than 1 million people and will take time to work through. As we start Group 4, we will significantly ramp up our vaccination efforts.”

The government will be hoping the announcement will lift some of the pressure over the vaccine roll-out, which has lagged behind much of the OECD.

2.35pm: Ardern to receive vaccine ‘by the end of the month’

Jacinda Ardern will receive her first dose of the vaccine by the end of the month, the prime minister’s press secretary has confirmed.

A number of the PM’s most senior colleagues, most with portfolios related to the pandemic, have already received both doses of the vaccine.

According to the Herald, the timing of Ardern’s jab will follow announcements relating to the scheduling of the roll-out to the general population. At this stage, “group four” vaccines are still expected to begin next month but the number of available doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the country could limit that.

Ardern has been expected to get her vaccination closer to the public roll-out in order to help combat vaccine hesitancy. Earlier this year, the PM said she did not want to cut into the line ahead of people who needed the jab more urgently.

1.40pm: 100 days without community Covid-19 transmission in NZ

Today marks 100 days since the last case of community Covid-19 transmission on our shores. Once again, there are no new community cases today with 10 reported in managed isolation since Sunday.

According to the Ministry of Health, the last community case of Covid-19 was on February 28 this year. Since then there have been cases linked to managed isolation facilities – including a worker at the Grand Millennium hotel – but none have led to the public spread of Covid-19.

Of today’s MIQ cases, four arrived from Iraq, three from the Philippines, two from India and one from Russia. The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 22. All four of those arriving from Iraq tested positive during routine testing on day 11/12 of their stay in managed isolation, sparking a further investigation.

“Cases 1-4 are in a travel bubble together. As is our standard protocol, any cases detected after day three are investigated further,” said the ministry.

Meanwhile, 27 people who returned from Melbourne at the start of the city’s Covid outbreak are still yet to receive a negative test result. 4789 people travelled to New Zealand between May 20 and 25, with almost 3000 testing negative for Covid-19 and a further 1626 requiring “no further action”.

“Contact tracers have emailed and twice called each of these 27 travellers and will be recording test results as and when they are logged,” a ministry spokesperson said. “If a negative test result is logged, they are removed from this list and added to the number of people who have already returned a negative test result.”

12.50pm: Melbourne’s Covid-19 cluster linked to returnee

Health officials in Melbourne have linked the Delta strain of the coronavirus to a returned traveller in a Victorian quarantine facility.

“I can confirm today that we have now found a match between a return traveller who entered hotel quarantine in Melbourne on the 8th of May and this cluster,” said the state’s acting premier James Merlino.

“We’ve been checking all known positive cases against the genomic sequencing for the cases in this cluster.”

There were two new community cases in Melbourne reported overnight, taking the total number of active cases in the outbreak to 83.

11.25am: Global police sting leads to 35 arrests in NZ

Updated

A major international police sting has resulted in 35 people arrested in New Zealand, with millions of assets, drugs, firearms and vehicles seized.

The police operation, which took place locally and around the world, has led to 900 charges being laid on our shores alone.  Senior members of the Comancheros in Waikato, Waikato Mongrel Mob and the Head Hunters were among those arrested.

In a statement, police say those arrested are considered to be “among key leaders” of organised crime in the country.

$3.7 million in assets have been seized, including: 20 ounces of methamphetamine, 8.6 kilograms of methamphetamine, large bags of cannabis, multiple kilograms of iodine, four firearms, 14 vehicles and motorbikes, over $1 million dollars in cash and a  number of mobile phones.

“We believe the termination of these operations will have a significant impact on New Zealand’s organised crime scene,” detective superintendent Greg Williams said.

Called “Operation Trojan Shield”, the transnational operation was led by the FBI and coordinated with the DEA, AFP, Europol and numerous other law enforcement agencies from more than a dozen countries. As part of this, the FBI created a closed network called “Anom” that was unknowingly used by criminals for over 18 months.

Police in New Zealand began working on the operation at the start of last year to monitor the communication of platform users.

9.35am: Influencers, online streaming, used to bolster Covid messaging in March lockdown – new documents

Cabinet documents released to the Herald show the government used social media influencers, along with streaming service Spotify, to help spread Covid-19 messaging during the March lockdown.

Social media personalities with reach in Māori, Pacific, Indian and youth communities were especially sought by the government such as hosts from radio stations Tarana, Flava and the Edge.

The move to use people with reach in certain communities was part of the government’s attempt to maintain “social license” to stay locked down.

“Public reaction to particular individuals who have not used the Covid-19 Tracer app or otherwise failed to follow good practices suggests a possible erosion of this,” the paper said, with Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins suggesting hostility could undermine the pandemic response.

9.20am: Lorde announces comeback ‘Solar Power’ after four years

New Zealand’s most successful pop export Lorde has confirmed online speculation she will soon release the first single from her third album.

Her website has been updated to announce Solar Power and reveal the cover art for the new song.

No release date has been confirmed other than 2021. A brief message on the website reads “patience is a virtue”.

8.00am: Police search properties linked to ‘major transnational organised crime operation’

A number of search warrants are being executed across the country today as part of a police are operation targeting organised crime.

Few details about the operation are known, but police confirmed to the Herald they were searching properties in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Central and Wellington districts.

An update won’t be provided until 11am today, but media have been made aware the searches are in relation to a “large-scale transnational operation targeting organised crime groups”.

Police have not yet confirmed whether this operation is connected to similar crime busts being reported around the world. Police raids in Europe have been reported overnight with representatives from Europol along with the FBI and Dutch, Swedish and Australian federal police set to front a press conference later today.

“This operation is the most sophisticated effort to date in disrupting the activities of criminals operating from all four corners of the world,” a Europol representative said.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Tens of thousands of nurses will walk off the job tomorrow, after a pay offer from DHBs was “overwhelmingly” rejected by union members. Stuff reports the NZ Nurses Organisation ballot was held on the third pay offer made, and it was both the pay and the wider conditions that were considered insufficient by nurses. Staffing levels are considered particularly poor right now by nurses, leading to dangerous situations. The NZNO has agreed to provide enough staff to ensure safe levels of patient care during the strike – union organisers say this will ironically mean more staff rostered on than normal in some cases.

The sector is one that has seen plenty of industrial action in the last few years. Just last year primary healthcare workers (those who work at GP clinics and such) went on strike for pay parity with DHB nurses. And in 2018, DHB and hospital nurses went on strike before eventually accepting the fifth pay offer made. At the time, there was a lingering sense of unfinished business, with nurses not exactly thrilled with what they got.

But right now, nurses clearly believe they have both just cause and leverage to take industrial action. On this it’s worth looking at the simple rules of supply and demand – there aren’t enough nurses, and this is both an improvement being urged by the union, and an advantage in negotiations. For example Radio NZ reported recently on a GP clinic that hadn’t been able to recruit a practice nurse for a year, amid high rates of burnout in the sector. And globally there is a shortage of nurses, meaning employers are having to compete with better deals overseas. Plenty of New Zealand nurses are still moving to Australia, reports Newshub, citing both much more money and more manageable workloads.


A rather low-key virtual APEC meeting took place at the end of last week, with participating countries discussing the removal of trade barriers. Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva reports there was an agreement to speed up vaccine exports, but no corresponding agreement was reached on tariff cuts on vaccines. The latter was understood to be a position the New Zealand government was pushing for, but it appears to have been scuppered by trade tensions between the US and China.

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