Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 10, 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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- There are 11 new Covid-19 cases in the community.
- There are now 27 people in hospital today, with four in the ICU.
- Yesterday was the biggest day ever for the Covid Tracer app: more than 2.5 million scans.
- Auckland will remain in alert level four until at least next Tuesday.
7.00pm: New locations of interest added
The Ministry of Health has added a number of new Auckland locations of interest today, in addition to the source investigation locations announced at the 1pm press conference (see 1pm update).
This afternoon, the Caltex truck stop at Ōtāhuhu was added for two time periods on August 31 and September 2 6pm, as was Countdown Sunnynook on August 27. This evening, meanwhile, a number of supermarkets appeared on the list for time periods in the past week, as did a couple of laundromats, a pharmacy and a Z petrol station. The two most recent exposure events were Clendon Pharmacy and Chatters Laundromat, both in Manurewa, from 11.30am-12.35pm and 2-4pm respectively.
3.30pm: Police fly in back-up for Auckland border
Police are flying in reinforcements to help at the Waikato/Auckland boundary checkpoint.
A total of 45 staff will arrive in Hamilton this evening from around the country before moving border on the southern edge of Auckland.
32 of those will travel on a specially chartered Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules set to land in Hamilton at 5pm. They are the first of three groups of that will rotate in to provide relief for checkpoint staff, and ensure level four rules are enforced.
2.55pm: Thousands of doctors sign letter backing Covid vaccine
More than 4000 New Zealand doctors have signed a letter backing the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The open letter, penned by group Doctors Stand Up For Vaccination, aims to combat misinformation around the vaccine rollout. "We know that anti-vax groups are very good at getting their message heard. We want our message to be heard: vaccines are safe," a spokesperson told The Spinoff.
According to the letter, those who have signed "overwhelmingly support vaccination against Covid-19 and other public health measures such as mask use in public areas, physical distancing and hand hygiene".
2.10pm: Join us for the first ever Spinoff News Quiz!
At 3pm today, head to The Spinoff's Instagram page for the inaugural, and hopefully weekly, Great News Quiz. Questions have been painstakingly prepared by me and will cover some of the top stories from the past week (plus some pop culture fun as well).
2.00pm: A personal account
The Spinoff's Charlotte Muru-Lanning writes about her experience with Heathline:
This afternoon, a flatmate and I realised we were at a location of interest posted on the Ministry of Health website. We followed the clear instructions to call Healthline. During our call, the Healthline worker wasn’t aware of the location of interest in question, couldn’t find the location in their database, and we had to direct them to the locations of interest website through Google.
At the end, we were told we could get a test "if we wanted to" and “that it would probably be a good idea to get one”. The operator was friendly, but we felt less informed after the call than we did beforehand. We’ll both be getting tests, but could imagine walking away from that conversation with our own interpretation of the advice which is worrying.
1.40pm: The delta outbreak, in summary
We've nearly hit single figures with just 11 new delta cases announced today. Here's a look at how we're tracking.
1.25pm: Wage subsidy pays out almost $1.7b
Finance minister Grant Robertson has revealed that over 404,000 applications for the wage subsidy payments have been approved, totalling almost $1.7 billion in pay-outs.
That gets pushed up to more than $2.2 billion when combined with the resurgence support payment. A second round of the resurgence support payment will be opened, with applications beginning next Friday.
This will be available until one month after the return to alert level one. "We estimate the new payment will cost $430 million," said Robertson.
1.15pm: Locations of interest for unlinked cases revealed
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: Delta outbreak grows by 11 – but six cases are unlinked
There are 11 new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland. This pushes the total number of cases associated with the current delta outbreak up to 879. Of those, 288 have recovered have now recovered.
Speaking at parliament, Ashley Bloomfield said that 29 cases have not yet been linked to the wider outbreak. Six of today’s 11 are so far unlinked.
All of yesterday’s 13 cases are contacts of known cases, 12 being household contacts. Just one was infectious in the community, said Bloomfield.
Several new locations of interest have been published today as part of the source investigation into two of the unlinked cases. One of these is the Crowne Plaza vaccination centre, said Bloomfield, with the mystery case linked to the outbreak (not MIQ). The date of potential exposure is August 23.
The advice for people who visited these latest locations is to get tested immediately.
Genome sequencing has shown there may be another person in between two cases in the household and other cases that they’re linked with, said Bloomfield. “Both these two cases in the same household have two different mutations. It can happen rarely, but it suggests there could be an intermediate case between these two," he added.
There are now 27 people in hospital today – a drop from yesterday – with four in intensive care and requiring ventilation.
On the testing front, 14,181 swabs were processed yesterday with almost 8000 of these in Auckland. Another testing pop-up has been opened at an Auckland supermarket today, for staff. Testing numbers continued to be instrumental in determining whether the outbreak is under control, said Bloomfield.
"This weekend it is critical that we get high testing numbers. Anyone who is symptomatic, particularly in Tāmaki Makaurau, please do go and get a test," the director general said.
Regarding the Covid-positive person who presented at Middlemore Hospital last night, Bloomfield said they will be transferred to quarantine today and are currently in self-isolation. Public health staff will be interviewing them today to determine if there are any known links to cases or exposure sites.
“This is one of the small handful of cases we’re particularly concerned about finding what the link is to the existing outbreak,” said Bloomfield. He was confident the person was open and honest about their lack of symptoms. Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy today suggested that mystery cases such as this could prevent Auckland leaving level four next week.
And some good news: yesterday was the biggest day ever for the Covid Tracer app, with more than 2.5 million scans.
12.55pm: Robertson and Bloomfield give 1pm update
Grant Robertson and Ashley Bloomfield are set to provide today's Covid-19 update. We're hoping for a further drop in new delta cases after just 13 were recorded yesterday. Could it be the day we hit single figures?
12.30pm: Vic Uni vice-chancellor Grant Guilford to retire
Victoria University's vice-chancellor Grant Guilford has announced he will retire in March next year. Guilford has held the role for eight years, during which he initiated a proposed name change that was blocked by the government.
In an email to staff and students seen by The Spinoff, Guilford said his tenure as vice-chancellor been a privilege. "As we approach our 125th anniversary, I am confident that Wellington’s university will continue to thrive over the many decades to come. Similarly, I am sure that the city and region will continue to benefit from the incredible staff and students of this institution who year-in, year-out, enrich the life of the capital while making the world a better place."
After my more than two decades in senior leadership roles, Guilford said he and his wife were looking forward to putting more time into their "native forest restoration projects".
11.55am: Spanish vaccine shipment arrives
An additional 250,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have touched down in Auckland this morning after travelling from Madrid.
The shipment followed a deal with Spain that will allow us to keep our vaccine rollout running at record levels. A second deal is expected to be announced within the next week.
Additional Pfizer vaccines purchased from Spain are on their way to New Zealand today. 💉✈️ Thank you @sanchezcastejon for the great cooperation to support our vaccine programme - much appreciated! Thanks too to the EU for helping to coordinate. 🇪🇸 🇪🇺🤝🇳🇿
— Jacinda Ardern (@jacindaardern) September 9, 2021
11.00am: One-way travel for Pacific seasonal workers to start in October
One-way quarantine-free travel for seasonal workers from Sāmoa, Tonga and Vanuatu will start next month, the government has confirmed.
Travellers will be required to have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine before departing, undertake day zero and day five tests, and complete a self-isolation period of seven days.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the government is taking a cautious approach. "RSE workers come to New Zealand in a cohort, and stay in employer-arranged accommodation. This helps mitigate any additional risk from Covid-19 by ensuring they go into self-isolation in a pre-organised place immediately upon arrival.”
This is just the first planned stage of a travel corridor with the Pacific. Agriculture minister Damien O'Connor said officials will keep a close eye on the system when it opens. "Our intention remains to broaden eligibility for quarantine-free entry to New Zealand from these countries and Tokelau when we can be sure it is safe to do so," he said.
10.50am: Police officers isolating after Middlemore case contact
Seven police officers have been stood down, and are in self-isolation, after coming into contact with person who later tested positive for Covid-19 at Middlemore Hospital.
According to Stuff, the officers were all from the Counties Manukau region and had interacted with the confirmed case the day before they tested positive. “It was established officers had dealings with this individual and another family member on Wednesday morning. During this interaction, face coverings were worn,” said district commander superintendent Jill Rogers.
More than 30 patients and visitors at Middlemore Hospital have also been deemed contacts of the case.
10.40am: Happy Birthday to The Spinoff!
We're turning seven today! The Spinoff's managing editor Duncan Greive has marked the occasion:
Today marks seven years since we hit publish on the first post on The Spinoff. Back then it was just two people, both still here, somehow, and our focus was squarely on television. I look back on those days – writing this in bed, as the delta lockdown enters its fourth week – and am charmed by the naive confidence with which we carried ourselves. We knew almost nothing – had no social media strategy, no research, no sales expertise, no clue about anything, really.
Read his full emotional flashback here
10.10am: Why Lorde pulled out of performing at the VMAs
Homegrown popstar Lorde was all set to perform at this year's MTV Video Music Awards (the VMAs). And then, suddenly, she wasn't. Fans were worried – but as Lorde explained in her latest newsletter, everything is OK:
I saw some people were very concerned about me pulling out of the VMAs, you’re so sweet, I’m totally fine! It’s just that we were planning this insanely amazing many-bodied intimate dance performance, not fully understanding the (very necessary!) safety protocols that are in place, and the masking and distancing just meant it wasn’t gonna be what I dreamed, and you know I can’t make something less than outstanding for you guys. I hope you understand. There will be many more TV performances, don’t you worry.
Meanwhile – in case you somehow missed it – Lorde dropped a surprise mini-album last night, entirely in te reo Māori. Called Te Ao Mārama, the EP contains five songs from her third album Solar Power re-recorded. The Spinoff bagged the world exclusive album announcement and you can read all about it here.
9.25am: Wofs, vehicle regos, extended due to lockdown
A pause will be put on the expiry of driver licences, warrants of fitness, certificates of fitness, vehicle registration and licence endorsements as a result of the delta outbreak.
Any of the above that expired on or after July 21 will now be valid until November 30.
Transport minister Michael Wood said extension will officially be in force from next Wednesday. “Like last year’s extension, we’re providing this extension to give certainty to the public that they won’t be issued infringement notices for using their vehicles appropriately during higher alert levels," he said.
“Lockdown is stressful. People shouldn’t have to worry about getting fined for having a recently expired WoF if driving to access essential services or as an essential worker."
9.05am: RuPaul's Drag Race returns to NZ
A second season of RuPaul's Drag Race Down Under, filmed in New Zealand, has been confirmed by TVNZ.
The local spin-off of the Emmy Award-winning reality TV show broadcast its first season earlier this year, with local queen Kita Mean snatching the crown.
In a press statement, TVNZ confirmed RuPaul herself would return to film the second season. “I am thrilled to produce and host a brand-new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under. We’ve only just begun to shine a worldwide spotlight on the charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent of Australasian queens," said RuPaul.
According to TVNZ, the first season was streamed over half a million times and was one of the top 10 local shows this year.
Casting is open now and season two will air in 2022.
8.50am: Latest location of interest visited twice this week
The latest location of interest – a Countdown supermarket in Manurewa – has been linked to a confirmed case of Covid-19 twice over the past week.
According to the Ministry of Health, the supermarket was visited on both Tuesday and Thursday for about half an hour each time.
The same store was also linked to a case a week earlier, on September 1.
8.00am: Questions after mystery new case of Covid-19 at Middlemore Hospital
Auckland's Middlemore Hospital is once again the centre of attention after a mystery case of Covid-19 was reported late last night.
According to the Ministry of Health, the person tested positive after initially visiting the hospital for a non-Covid-related issue. 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. But, after agreeing to a Covid swab, it was later confirmed they did in fact have the virus.
"The patient has now been informed of the positive result and is isolating under the management of public health," said the Ministry of Health last night.
According to the Herald, 36 patients at the hospital may have been exposed, along with a small number of visitors. The patients are all deemed contacts, although not all are being treated as "close". Seventeen remain in hospital while the others have been discharged.
Staff who met with the person all wore PPE, according to Middlemore's chief medical officer Peter Watson, and none have been stood down.
Health authorities are now trying to determine the person's movements in the days leading up to their positive test.
The new case follows another patient at Middlemore testing positive for the virus at the weekend. Twenty-nine staff were stood down and isolated. All have so far tested negative, as have the patients who shared a room with the man.
7.30am: From The Bulletin
Some of today's top stories:
A new case at Auckland’s Middlemore hospital. The ministry of health reported late last night that a patient in the emergency department came in with a non-Covid issue and then self-discharged. However, they took a Covid-19 test at the hospital and it later came back positive. As reported in The Spinoff, the patient said they had no contact with anyone exposed to Covid-19 and hadn't been to a location of interest. While the risk at the hospital is low, the local public health unit will be trying to figure out where the mystery case originated today to see if any undetected spread is happening in Auckland.
The Covid numbers: 13 new community cases were reported yesterday and 40% of the previous day’s cases were active in the community while infectious. All the cases were in Auckland. 868 cases have now been detected in the delta outbreak. 265 people have now recovered. 66,935 people were vaccinated yesterday.
New Zealand coal use surges ahead of government climate change announcement. RNZ reports that coal imports hit a record high earlier this year, with 632,000 tonnes entering the country from April to June. It's a reflection of the country's low lake levels behind hydro dams and ongoing gas shortages, but sends the wrong message in 2021. After a blackout in early August, it raise more questions about whether the country's electrical system is fit for purpose.
Decarbonising the country’s electrical system is sure to appear in the government’s climate change plan, which is due before the end of the year. According to the NZ Herald, climate change minister James Shaw will fly to Glasgow in November to attend climate talks. Record imports of coal won't help burnish the country's image.
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