Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 9, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.
What you need to know
- There are 125 new delta cases across Auckland, Northland and Waikato.
- There are 59 mystery cases among today’s total, with 695 cases from the past fortnight now unlinked.
- Covid-related hospitalisations have dropped slightly to 79 with nine in ICU.
- Thousands of anti-vaccination protesters have converged on parliament.
- Auckland will move to alert level three, step two, at 11.59pm tonight.
5.10pm: Police considering ‘follow-up action’ against Wellington protesters
Police have been monitoring protests against Covid-19 lockdowns and vaccine mandates across the country today, and say while the events were mainly peaceful, “it is disappointing that so many people chose to ignore various alert level requirements designed to keep us all safe”.
According to a media release, while no arrests were made in connection from the protest march from Civic Square to parliament in Wellington today, “follow-up enforcement action will be considered by police in coming days”.
Meanwhile, police were also aware of and in some cases actively monitoring protest gatherings today in Auckland (outside Government House in Epsom), Invercargill, Balclutha, Tauranga and Whangārei. There were “no significant issues”, and “any identified offences will be followed up as appropriate”.
3.30pm: Anti-vax protesters ‘not representative of the vast bulk of New Zealanders’ – Ardern
Anti-vaccination protesters gathered at parliament do not represent the bulk of New Zealanders, said prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
As many as 5,000 people marched through the capital today, mainly in protest at the government’s decision to mandate vaccinations for certain groups. However, a number of more fringe ideas were also being represented – including the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Speaking to media, Ardern said her message was not to the protesters, but instead the New Zealanders who had already been vaccinated. “Thank you for being vaccinated, thank you for doing what it takes to look after one another,” Ardern said.
“What we saw today wasn’t reflective of you and of New Zealand.”
Ardern will be in Auckland tomorrow for her first visit to the city since it entered lockdown in mid-August.
2.05pm: The race to 90%
The country is now 79% fully vaccinated against Covid-19, on the same day protesters marched to parliament against the government’s vaccine mandates.
Just 21,192 doses were administered yesterday, comprising 5,103 first doses and 16,089 second doses. Auckland has now hit 92% for first doses across its three DHBs with 84% now double jabbed.
Check our how your DHB is doing below:
1.35pm: Today’s key Covid numbers
Here’s a look at how the outbreak’s tracking on the final day of Auckland’s stint in alert level three, step one.
For more, visit The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker here.
1.15pm: Second Auckland care home faces Covid scare
A second Auckland care home has experienced a Covid-related scare.
Testing has been carried out for residents and staff of the Rosaria Rest Home in the suburb of Avondale after one resident tested positive for Covid-19. All results received for other residents and staff are currently negative, with four further tests results expected later today.
“Auckland public health officials are assisting the privately-owned facility to support residents and staff and reduce any further risk of transmission,” said the Ministry of Health. “The transmission route has yet to be established.”
As reported yesterday, 20 residents and four staff members from the Edmonton Meadows Care Home in Henderson have tested positive. Seven of residents remain in hospital.
1.10pm: 125 new delta cases across Auckland, Northland and Waikato
There are 125 new community cases of Covid-19 across the North Island today, a drop from yesterday’s total.
Of today’s cases, 117 are in Auckland, six are in Northland – although four of these were reported yesterday – and two are in Waikato. There are 59 mystery cases among today’s total, with 695 cases from the past fortnight now unlinked to the wider outbreak. Of yesterday’s 190 cases, 49 were infectious while in the community.
The number of Covid-related hospitalisations has dropped slightly to 79, with nine people now in intensive care.
All six Northland Covid cases have been in self-isolation at home. The six-week-old baby reported yesterday as being hospitalised has now been discharged.
One of the two new Waikato cases remains unlinked to the outbreak.
Finally, in Auckland: there are now 1,199 confirmed Covid cases self-isolating at home across 934 households. Suburbs of particular concern, where the risk of unidentified cases is higher, include Ranui, Sunnyvale, Kelston, Birkdale, Manurewa and Mangere.
12.55pm: Covid-19 numbers due
There’s no 1pm press conference today with the latest Covid-19 numbers due via a press statement from the Ministry of Health.
Today’s numbers are the final set before Auckland eases its current restrictions and moves, from midnight, into alert level three step two.
I’ll have those numbers for you when they arrive – so keep this page nice and refreshed.
And while you’re here: Have you considered joining The Spinoff Members? The support of members has been crucial for our coverage of Covid-19 and the delta crisis. To find out how you can help myself and the rest of The Spinoff’s news team for as little as $1 – click here.
12.40pm: Foreign minister to make first international trip since Covid-19
Foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta will leave the country this week for a 17-day tour, visiting her international counterparts and strengthening diplomatic ties.
It’s the first international trip by a New Zealand foreign minister since the pandemic took hold in March 2020.
Mahuta will visit Sydney, Singapore, Jakarta, the United Arab Emirates, Doha, Washington DC and Ottawa. While in the UAE, Mahuta will support New Zealand’s exhibition at Expo 2020 and host Te Aratini – the Festival of Indigenous and Tribal Ideas.
“Expo2020 provides a significant platform to demonstrate our indigenous values and trade opportunities on the world stage,” said Mahuta. “My visit also offers the opportunity to further deepen our strong bilateral relationship with the UAE which is critical for our connectivity and supply chains and an important partner for Aotearoa New Zealand in the Middle East region.”
While in the US, she will hold a meeting with US secretary of state Antony Blinken. “Aotearoa New Zealand works side by side with the United States on issues that matter to both of us, including the prosperity, security, and sustainability of the Indo-Pacific, and in particular Pacific Island countries,” Mahuta said.
Mahuta and her delegation of two will complete the required MIQ period upon their return to New Zealand on November 28.
12.15pm: Protesters reach steps of heavily guarded parliament
Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports from inside the parliamentary precinct:
“Freedom” they bellowed outside a tightly secured parliament, thousands of protesters calling for an end to lockdowns and the cancellation of vaccine mandates.
“You cannot tell us that our freedom is in the jab,” a man told the crowd, most of whom weren’t wearing masks. Many of the signs were about the prime minister and the NZ media, with protesters yelling at nearby reporters and filming them.
Protest organisers called on people to go on social media and avoid the country’s newspapers and television networks.
While the protest has not yet reached the same size as rallies over the environment or the foreshore and seabed debate, today’s has been met with the most security ever seen at the precinct.
11.30am: ‘Freedom’ rally on the move to parliament
Josie Adams reports from Wellington:
The crowd at Wellington’s Civic Square has been gathering all morning. Telegram was estimating 50,000 people; it’s probably closer to 5,000, which is still a large number. Lawyer and Outdoors Party leader Sue Grey – who has been at the forefront of the anti-vaccination campaign – is rallying them. “We’ve not here to be obedient to some hypothetical statistic,” she said. “We are not obedient. And you know what, isn’t it fun?”
The roar of the crowd is football stadium level – they’re drumming, stamping, and rattling things. “Look how much power there is when we do this.”
There are a few people protesting the protestors with signs advocating for flat earth theory and asking the crowd to “get vaccinated, dipshit”.
They’re getting an extended Damien de Ment experience: protestor after protestor is stopping and filming them while asking if they’d force someone to get an abortion, or if they know exactly how many people have died from the vaccine.
11.15am: Lifeline for summer festivals
A lifeline to organisers of some of New Zealand’s largest music festivals.
The government will offer new financial support to organisers in response to uncertainty created by Covid-19. Under the scheme, 90% of unrecoverable costs for paid, ticketed events with audiences of more than 5,000 vaccinated people will be covered – if organisers are forced to cancel or postpone due to Covid-19 public health measures.
Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash said organisers of large events now had to make tough decisions about whether or not to proceed. “There aren’t insurance options in the market to cover this so the government is stepping up as a type of underwriter,” Nash said.
“Events typically only generate revenue on the day or weekend they take place, yet incur significant costs in advance. A quick shift in public health measures could see an event cancelled with no opportunity to recoup costs or generate revenue.”
Big summer events were crucial for our economic and social wellbeing, said Nash. “We are in a unique period of transition from the alert level system to the new protection framework which relies on 90% vaccination rates. An immediate solution is needed this summer.”
The scheme will go live this week and organisers must apply through MBIE. To be eligible, the event must be using Covid-19 vaccination certificates and take place between December 17 and April 3 next year.
11.05am: Police officer bitten by protester at Auckland checkpoint
A police officer has been bitten by a protester attempting to block a state highway checkpoint north of Auckland.
Around 50 protestors arrived from the northern side of the boundary on state highway one at Te Hana, blocking traffic in both directions for over an hour.
Police said a “number” of vehicles were towed off the roads, while officers intervened to physically move people off the road. It was during this altercation that an unidentified protester bit an officer.
“Actions like this are totally avoidable and poses unnecessary risk to our staff who are simply trying do their part in preventing the spread of Covid-19,” said a police statement. “All protestors have dispersed from the checkpoint and we will continue to monitor for any further activity today.”
10.45am: National Party will not front anti-vaccination protestors
Judith Collins said none of her MPs will front at today’s large anti-vaccination protest heading for parliament.
Speaking from safely within parliament, Collins said she had never seen parliament locked up like today.
“I am worried about what might be planned for today,” she said. I hope that the protest will be peaceful and our concerns won’t be needed.” Collins said she felt safe inside and had told her MPs it was best to stay within the parliamentary precinct.
“It is a very unusual situation,” she said, indicating she had told her MPs it was “not the right thing” to go outside and front to the protest. “If it is simply a peaceful protest then often we do go out and see them but I think this is very much an anti-vaccination protest and we don’t want to be seen with it.”
Last week, Whānganui-based National MP Harete Hipango was snapped at an anti-lockdown gathering by two media outlets. When questioned, she said she believed the protest was for another issue.
Meanwhile, Collins played down speculation she may be set to face a leadership challenge. A rule change at parliament has today allowed MPs based in level three areas to return to Wellington.
Former leader Simon Bridges, who is rumoured to be planning another run at the top job, stoked the fire when he failed to give reporters a straight answer on whether Collins would still be leader in 2022.
10.00am: ‘Freedom’ protest prepares to march to parliament
A rally in central Wellington is preparing to march to parliament in protest of the government’s vaccine mandates and Covid-19 restrictions.
A livestream viewed by The Spinoff shows hundreds gathering outside the Michael Fowler Centre, near Civic Square. Protesters can be seen waving pro-Trump flags, the the tino rangatiratanga flag and the United Tribes flag.
Few are wearing face masks. In fact, more people can be seen wearing the “Guy Fawkes” mask popularised by online hacktivist group Anonymous.
The individual live-streaming said he was doing the job of the media, singling out Newshub and 1News. He said he “couldn’t find” the anti-vaxxers being referenced by mainstream media. “I’m here to do the fake news’ job for them cause they’re not doing it properly,” he said.
Many of the protestors can be seen holding “pro-choice” placards while one reads “stick your mandate up your ass”.
In preparation for the arrival of the rally, security at parliament has been beefed up. The Spinoff’s political editor Justin Giovannetti, who is at parliament, said he’s never seen security such as there is today. “There are guards at every door and barricades around the precinct,” he said.
According to Stuff’s Henry Cooke, today is the most locked down the parliament precinct has ever been in response to a protest.
Trevor Mallard told me Parliament has never locked down this heavily in response to a protest in all his years here. He was elected in 1984. (And once arrested himself during a protest at Parliament.)
— henry cooke (@henrycooke) November 8, 2021
9.30am: Waiheke Island records second ever Covid-19 case
Waiheke Island has recorded its very first community case of Covid-19 – and only the second to ever appear on the island.
The individual was tested last week on the island and later received a positive result. Close contacts have been notified and it this stage no locations of interest are known.
“Just as we welcome our wonderful local shops opening again, and following our second positive Covid-19 wastewater test result in the weekend, I am sorry to confirm that we now have our first positive local Covid case, tested at the Ostend Medical Centre,” wrote local board chair Cath Handley.
An earlier case of Covid detected on the island about a fortnight ago had tested positive on the mainland.
8.35am: Protestors block northern Auckland checkpoint
Protestors blocked Auckland’s northern border this morning, preventing legitimate travellers from making their way into the city.
According to Stuff, the protestors – part of the so-called “hīkoi of truth” movement – blocked the Te Hana checkpoint early this morning. Police have since managed to clear many of the protestors off the road, with traffic starting to move again at about 8am.
While the protest was initially about 40-strong, it’s reportedly dropped down to around 10 people now.
It’s understood similar protests are planned for around the country, including at parliament.
7.55am: No jab, no fly – Air NZ moves to tighten domestic travel rules
Our national airline will soon require all domestic travellers to be fully vaccinated, or have tested negative for Covid-19 in the days before flying.
Air New Zealand said the move followed “overwhelming feedback” from customers and employees calling for more protection during travel. “We’re making this change so we can all travel our beautiful country over summer and fly with a peace of mind that everyone onboard is seated shoulder-to-shoulder against Covid,” the airline’s chief executive Greg Foran said.
The policy will kick in on December 14 until at least March 31 next year and apply to all passengers aged 12 or older.
Those not fully vaccinated will be able to provide evidence of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours before departure.
“Customers will be flying this summer for a number of reasons, and it’s our role to get them there. We don’t want to leave anyone behind, which is why we’re giving customers the choice to either be fully vaccinated or present a negative test,” said Foran.
Vaccination mandates were already in place for customer-facing Air New Zealand staff along with all international travellers.
Yesterday’s alert level decisions + 1pm update, summarised
- Auckland will move to alert level three, step two at 11.59pm tonight.
- This will next be reviewed on November 15.
- The parts of Northland in level three will move back to level two at 11.59pm on Thursday night.
- Auckland is on track to move into the traffic light system by the end of November.
- There were 190 new community cases of Covid-19 – the second highest on record.
- Of those, 182 were in Auckland, seven were in Waikato and one was in Northland.
- A person with Covid-19 died in hospital.
7.30am: From The Bulletin
Auckland and upper Northland to ease restrictions, while booster shots have been approved. As The Spinoff’s live updates report, Auckland will enter level three, step two at midnight. While the city is experiencing the largest, most widespread outbreak in the country’s history, the prime minister said high vaccination rates justify the move. Upper Northland should move back to level two on Thursday. According to RNZ, boosters for the Pfizer jab are also coming for everyone aged over 18, at least six months after their second dose, after approval from Medsafe.
The Covid numbers: There are 81 cases in hospital and 7 in ICU/HDU. There are now 2,718 active cases in New Zealand. 182 new community cases were reported in Auckland yesterday, 7 in Waikato and 1 in Northland. 14,280 people were vaccinated on Sunday.
The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.
The 90% vaccine target could be dropped as government eyes making life harder for unvaccinated. As Jo Moir reports for Newsroom, the prime minister is considering a shake-up of future alert level plans as vaccination levels have flat-lined outside Auckland. It’s November and first doses in some DHBs are still just above 80% of eligible people, as life under level two feels quite regular for the unvaccinated. The traffic light system has permanent restrictions on the unvaccinated, even at the lowest alert setting. Auckland is very likely to move to the traffic light system on or right after November 29. Cabinet is now discussing moving the whole country over as well, adding vaccine certificates to daily life.
MIQ poses less risk than an Auckland supermarket trip. The case for the country’s border facilities is growing weaker after a group of prominent academics, including Michael Baker and Nick Wilson, have concluded vaccinated travellers should be allowed to skip MIQ and enter Auckland. As Stuff reports, the Auckland border does a lot of heavy lifting keeping Covid-19 out of the rest of the country. It’s astounding that the group, which is generally quite conservative when it comes to risk, finds Countdown to be riskier than 14 days in the Pullman.
Auckland council is headed to court over 600 trees. Over the past decade, the city has chosen not to add more trees to its protected register citing “resources”, and the Tree Council has had enough. These are tall, notable trees, the ones most people see value in protecting. Council is being brought to court and according to Stuff, the group warns 1000 trees are being felled weekly in urban Auckland.
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