Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 9, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send me thoughts and feelings to firstname.lastname@example.org. Auckland is currently at alert level four, the rest of NZ level two.
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10.15pm: Covid test returns positive for Middlemore patient after discharge from ED
A person who came to Middlemore’s emergency department for a non-Covid-related issue has tested positive for Covid-19.
According to a statement from the Ministry of Health based on information from the Counties Manukau District Health Board, the patient answered all Covid-19 screening questions in the negative, indicating they had had no exposure to or symptoms of the virus, and had not been at any locations of interest.
They were assessed and spent a short time in the adult short stay ward, consenting to a Covid-19 swab. But they decided to self-discharge before the result came back, said the DHB.
“The patient has now been informed of the positive result and is isolating under the management of public health.”
The hospital is working with Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) to assess the risk of this exposure, said the DHB. All staff were wearing the appropriate PPE, including N95 masks and goggles, and as such the risk to those staff members is considered extremely low.
“Inpatients who were deemed close contacts of the patient in question have been identified, informed and isolated.”
Today’s new case follows a patient testing positive for the virus at the weekend. Twenty-nine staff have been stood down and are isolating. All have so far tested negative, as have the patients who shared a room with the man.
6:15pm: Jacinda and Winston are back on the tweets
As pointed out by Newshub’s Jamie Ensor, both Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters have returned to Twitter today after being silent on the popular social media platform for months. We’re not saying it is a competition but, as of 6.15pm, one of the tweets had over a thousand likes and one of them had 27 likes.
5.45pm: Colin Craig’s epic legal saga reaches its end
The Supreme Court has rejected Colin Craig’s attempt to appeal a ruling that he sexually harassed his former press secretary, Rachel MacGregor, during the 2014 election campaign.
It signals the end of a long and messy legal road for the former Conservative Party leader, which along the way has wrapped in Jordan Williams of the Taxpayers’ Union and Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater.
In its judgement, the Supreme Court found no merit in Craig’s claim that the Court of Appeal had erred over the issue of qualified privilege. It added that “the proposed appeal raises no issue of general or public importance. Nor, given the factual findings made in both Courts, do we see any appearance of a miscarriage of justice.” Craig was ordered to pay MacGregor $2,500 in costs.
With luck Craig will now have the time to properly solve the mystery of who hacked his Twitter account in 2013.
4.10pm: Lorde drops surprise mini-album in te reo Māori
Lorde has taken a leaf out of Beyonce’s book, and dropped a surprise release on fans – Te Ao Mārama, five songs from Solar Power re-recorded in te reo Māori.
“I was writing an album about the spiritual power of the natural world, specifically in the context of where we’re from, and I realised; oh, there’s a word for this – it’s kaitiakitanga.”
The singer worked for months with a team of mātanga Māori to bring the songs to life.
3.25pm: Bloomfield calls report of sexual encounter in hospital ‘high risk’
Ashley Bloomfield has responded to claims a patient at an Auckland hospital had sex with a visiting guest during lockdown.
According to the Herald, Auckland DHB is facing criticism for the high number of visitors it has allowed to see patients during alert level four. Among the concerns raised were reports of people visiting patients in groups and without masks.
Asked about the reported sexual encounter, Bloomfield said: “I think it is a high-risk activity potentially however I don’t know any of the details about that interaction.” Jacinda Ardern added: “regardless of the Covid status that kind of thing shouldn’t generally be part of visiting hours”.
1.40pm: The delta outbreak, in summary
It’s starting to look suspiciously as though we have flattened the curve, as you can see from the below chart.
1.15pm: Vaccine deal confirmed with Spain; 250,000 Pfizer doses on their way
Jacinda Ardern has confirmed New Zealand will receive over 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in a new deal with Spain.
The new stock is in addition to our currently ordered stock, said Ardern, but will allow the vaccine rollout to continue at "record or even higher" levels.
A second, even larger, deal with another country will be announced in the next week or so.
“It’s been heartening to see so many New Zealanders getting vaccinated recently and the additional doses that we have purchased from Spain will help us provide additional capacity and walk-in sites through September,” Ardern said. “We’re vaccinating well ahead of plan and these additional vaccines will ensure we can continue to ramp up our vaccination programme."
Ardern thanked Spanish president Pedro Sánchez for his support in securing this deal. “We are deeply grateful to Spain for their cooperation and agreement to sell these doses to New Zealand," said Ardern.
The new shipment departed Madrid at 1am and was due to arrive in Auckland tomorrow morning, said Ardern who has been following its progress on Flight Tracker.
“We expect to receive a total of 1.8 million doses from Pfizer throughout the month of September, in addition to the doses purchased from Spain. This means we don’t have any plans to slow down the rollout," added Ardern.
A paid message from our partner Te Taura Whiri/ the Māori Language Commission: Join us in celebrating te reo Māori at 12pm on Tuesday 14 September. Sign yourself and your workplace, whānau and flatmates up to our Māori Language Moment. Kia kaha te reo Māori, kia kaha Aotearoa!
1.00pm: Just 13 new delta cases – but 30 mystery cases still unlinked to outbreak
There are 13 new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland. The total number of cases in the outbreak is now 868, although more than 200 of these have now recovered.
Speaking at parliament, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said there remains 30 mystery cases that have not yet been epidemiologically linked to the wider outbreak. However, of the 13 new cases today, over half have already been linked.
Of yesterday's 15 cases, 12 were contacts of other cases and nine were household contacts. Six were infectious in the community, meaning that nine were already in self-isolation when they tested positive.
The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has dropped down to 31, with five now in intensive care and three on ventilators.
On the testing front, 17,684 swabs were processed yesterday with 8472 in Auckland. Surveillance testing is being rolled out to essential workplaces, such as pop-up testing at Auckland supermarkets for staff.
Of the 38,126 people identified as contacts of confirmed cases, 87% have had tests. There was a big jump in scans using the Covid Tracer app as most of the country moved to level two yesterday, with 1.6 million, said Bloomfield.
12.50pm: Watch – Ardern and Bloomfield to reveal latest delta cases
Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield are about to speak after new delta cases yesterday dropped down to just 15.
Along with today's numbers, we may possibly get an update on the multi-country vaccine deal teased by the PM earlier in the week.
12.25pm: Collins calls for inquiry into New Lynn terror attack
Judith Collins has written to Jacinda Ardern calling for a public inquiry into last week's New Lynn terror attack.
In a speech, the National Party leader said the attack highlighted vulnerabilities in our immigration and counter-terrorism law. "It is important a public inquiry is conducted so that the interoperability of government agencies can also be examined," she said. "Cases like that of this terrorist interact with the state across agencies and more cooperation is required."
Collins said she called for the inquiry herself as it had become apparent the government was not prioritising the recommendations from the Royal Commission into the 2019 Christchurch terror attack.
"No work has been done on establishing a Counter-Terrorism Agency as is a key recommendation of the Royal Commission," said Collins. "The purpose of which is to establish clear leadership and accountability as well as ensure cross-agency cooperation."
Senior National MP Mark Mitchell has also been given a new portfolio of counter-terrorism spokesperson, announced Collins. This will see him shadow Andrew Little – the minister in charge of the Royal Commission.
11.40am: Air NZ launches direct Kerikeri to Wellington service
Northlanders feeling isolated by the alert level border with Auckland have been given a temporary lifeline from Air New Zealand. The national carrier has launched a new flight connecting the top and the bottom of the North Island.
With Auckland still in level four lockdown, Northland has become isolated from the rest of the country (although you are allowed to drive through Auckland in some circumstances).
The new flight, available initially from September 13 to 21, will link Kerikeri with Wellington.
“We want to help keep our northern neighbours connected to the rest of the country," said the airline's chief customer officer Leanne Geraghty. "With transit rules through different alert level regions limiting domestic leisure travel, this service will go a long way in supporting Northland and its local economy and community."
If Auckland stays in level three beyond September 21 – which is a definite possibility – Air New Zealand would look to extend the service, said Geraghty.
Northland mayor John Carter said he was delighted by the announcement. "This means that people will be able to travel safely between alert level two regions," he said.
More info on the schedule can be found here
11.25am: Lorde X Vogue
Our very own pop superstar Lorde has graced the cover of Vogue Magazine – marking the first time a New Zealander has appeared on the front of the US edition of the fashion mag.
The photoshoot and interview are off the back of Lorde's third album Solar Power, released last month.
Vogue’s October issue stars @Lorde! The pop star opens up about her blissed-out comeback with her new album, #SolarPower, a celebration of the natural world, and an update on her life since our last glimpse of it.
— Vogue Magazine (@voguemagazine) September 8, 2021
Lorde also performed a stripped back cover of Britney Spears' Break the Ice, exclusively for Vogue.
11.10am: ANZ offline for a second day after DDOS attack
ANZ is facing a second day of online outages after yesterday's DDOS attack saw several banks and other companies targeted.
The ANZ online banking app is unaccessible this morning, with the bank asking its customers to be patient.
Kia ora, as you'll be aware we are still experiencing outages in channels, all hands on deck are working on this!
We appreciate your patience and understanding, FYI our phone lines will be very busy too.
Keep an eye on the Facebook post and here for updates.
— ANZ New Zealand (@ANZ_NZ) September 8, 2021
In a statement yesterday to the Herald, security agency CERT said: "We are monitoring the situation and are working with affected parties where we can."
10.45am: Government ‘pressing on’ with opening-up plan, says Robertson
As Justin Giovannetti explores in this morning’s Bulletin, the delta outbreak here and abroad presents challenges to the “Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World” strategy laid out last month by the government. Integral to that plan was the classification of other countries according to risk. Recent events meant “we actually have to consider whether that’s an appropriate thing to do”, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday.
This morning on Newstalk ZB, the deputy prime minister insisted that they were undeterred in pursuing the strategy. “We will tweak that plan, but we’re pressing on,” Grant Robertson told Mike Hosking. The pilot scheme to allow people who meet strict criteria to self-isolate at home, bypassing MIQ, “might be delayed by a week or two”, he said, but “it will definitely be this side of Christmas ... All the work carries on.”
The reopening plan as a whole was “all about vaccination, all about making sure that we get as many people as possible vaccinated and then the options open up”, said Robertson. He resisted, however, putting a number on it. “We’re not in the business of setting a percentage target that lets a proportion of the population off the hook … The percentages are looking good.”
10.05am: Pasifika man in MIQ offered Panadol after asking to go to hospital
A Pasifika man who struggled to get admitted to hospital from MIQ, despite having Covid-19, has spoken out about his ordeal to the Herald.
Tuala Tagaloa Tusani and his partner tested positive for the virus last week and were sent to the Ellerslie Ibis in Auckland. He spent two nights at Middlemore Hospital before being told he was well enough to return to MIQ, despite still having a fever.
His condition then worsened and both he and his partner were struggling to breathe. When he asked staff to take his partner to the hospital, Tusani was told "she's fine".
"I ring downstairs and they come up and they said 'we'll give you a Panadol' and I said look I really need an ambulance I'm struggling," he said.
He eventually called an ambulance himself and was able to return to hospital.
Speaking to media this morning, deputy PM Grant Robertson called Tusani's account "distressing".
9.20am: 'Scandalous' that we haven't ordered Pfizer booster shots – Bishop
National's Chris Bishop has called the government's lack of movement on Covid booster shots "a scandal".
Follow-up Covid jabs are expected to be rolled out next year, but the government has remained coy on whether or not the Pfizer vaccine will be used.
Speaking to TVNZ's Breakfast, Bishop said vaccination remained key to maintaining our elimination strategy. “We’ve got to order boosters – frankly, it’s scandalous that we haven’t ordered any booster shots yet for the Pfizer vaccine," he said. “I’m not being political when I say I think it is scandalous in our vaccine rollout generally and our failure to order booster shots."
Bishop said the government had not done enough work before this outbreak to ensure we were prepared for the delta variant. "Delta turned up in our MIQ system in April, but we haven’t really made the improvements we should have seen in the last six to nine months to deal with delta," he said.
In a subsequent media statement, Bishop said delta wasn't even mentioned in the government's two most recent Covid-19 plans. “Across the ditch in NSW, the delta outbreak started in June and should have been a warning to New Zealand about the risks of an outbreak here in New Zealand to get prepared," Bishop said.
7.50am: Bullet dodged as Middlemore patients closest to Covid case test negative
Three patients on a Middlemore Hospital surgical ward, who shared a room with a confirmed case of Covid-19 for most of a day, have tested negative. Of course, this is just a negative day three result and they will need to be tested again 12 days after the possible exposure.
The trio were left in the shared room for hours while a man with Covid-19 symptoms awaited the result of his test, which later showed he had caught the virus. Since then, 29 staff at the hospital have been stood down with about 80 patients potentially exposed as well.
Middlemore Hospital chief medical officer Pete Watson told RNZ he was relieved none of the closest patients had tested positive. Air flow in the room, along with mask use, may have stopped the virus spreading. However, Watson said the three patients put at risk wanted to know why they were put in that position.
"They were understandably anxious, upset, confused and wanted some explanation," he said.
Of the four neighbouring wards closed earlier this week, one has now reopened.
7.30am: From The Bulletin
Some of today's top stories from The Bulletin, our daily news wrap:
Truck drivers are warning that Covid-19 tests for the Auckland border will cause delays. All essential workers who cross the boundary around Auckland from Friday will need to show a negative swab at least weekly. RNZ reports the ministry of health says the testing order won't be enforced for a week, but drivers are already turning up at public testing stations to get tested. There have been cases where they've been turned away because they don't have symptoms. About 4,000 truck drivers cross the city's southern border daily, along with more essential workers.
The Covid numbers: 15 new community cases were reported yesterday and 25% of the previous day’s cases were active in the community while infectious. All the cases were in Auckland. 855 cases have now been detected in the delta outbreak (one case was removed from the count because it was reclassified as border-related) and 218 people have recovered. 72,893 people were vaccinated yesterday.
Another cyber attack took down a number of New Zealand websites. Both ANZ and Kiwibank experienced issues yesterday, along with the NZ Post and MetService in the latest in a series of attacks on the country's digital infrastructure. The websites were taken offline by distributed denial of service attacks, which are designed to annoy and disable websites, not necessarily to steal information. According to BusinessDesk, the number of attacks has been mounting in recent years. The NZ Herald (paywalled) reports the surge in attacks could be related to a global awareness of level four lockdown, because people are at home and more digitally-dependent.
Why couldn't we just send the Auckland terrorist back? It's a question parliament is grappling with right now and Otago University professor Andrew Geddis has looked at it in a blog post. With the government considering a review of immigration law to allow it to deport refugees like the Auckland terrorist, Geddis writes that it really wouldn’t be so easy. Not only was he a protected person, but he faced a threat of torture in Sri Lanka. Deporting him would have broken international obligations. If that’s the case, do you detain him until the threat of torture passes?
“In other words, this form of detention could very easily morph into indeterminate imprisonment of foreign-born terror suspects under the guise of immigration law,” he writes.
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
Yesterday's top stories
- There are 15 new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland
- 37 people are in hospital with Covid, including six in the ICU.
- A cyber attack has crashed online banking, NZ Post and other businesses.
- Judith Collins has distanced herself from David Seymour over his Māori vaccination comments.