blog nov 10

PoliticsNovember 10, 2021

Live updates, November 10: Ardern wraps whirlwind Auckland trip; more positive wastewater results in Stratford

blog nov 10

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 10, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.

What you need to know

  • There are 147 new delta cases across Auckland, Northland and Waikato.
  • A man has died in Glen Eden while isolating at home with Covid-19. Investigations are under way to determine if his death was Covid-related.
  • All schools in Auckland and Waikato will be able to return to on-site learning from November 17 (see here for FAQ)
  • Auckland is now in alert level three, step two (see here for FAQ)

5.25pm: More positive wastewater results in Stratford ‘very concerning’

Covid-19 has been detected in Stratford wastewater two or three more times since a “strong positive” result was returned in the Taranaki town late last week, reports the Herald.

Taranaki DHB’s public health unit today confirmed to the Herald that “two or three” further wastewater results taken in Stratford came back positive. While samples on Saturday and Sunday included positive results, no viral fragments were detected among samples on Monday.

Taranaki DHB’s medical officer of health, Dr Jonathan Jarman, told the Herald the results were very concerning, given they pointed to an infected person being in the area since early November.

“We are working on the assumption that the positive result was probably an infectious visitor or visitors to the region from an area where there is Covid-19,” Jarman said. “The alternative is we have undetected community transmission in Stratford, but this seems less likely.”

Jarman said a number of visitors were in the region for the Taranaki Garden Festival last week, and the public health unit was working with the Ministry of Health to send push notifications to users of the Covid-19 Tracer App who were in the region at selected events over the last 10 days.

“We’re also asking every garden owner who took part in the festival to monitor their health closely over the coming days and if they develop any cold or flu-like symptoms, even if they’re mild, to please go and get tested,” he said.

4.00pm: The delta outbreak, visualised

There were 147 new community cases today.

Sixty-three of today’s cases are yet to be linked, bringing the total for the last 14 days to 692.

There are now 81 people in hospital for Covid-19, including 11 in ICU.

Yesterday, 22,178 vaccines were administered, comprising 5,874 first doses and 16,304 second doses.

2.30pm: Ardern defends decision not to visit small Auckland businesses

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has wrapped up her whirlwind Auckland trip with a pledge to return to the city in the near future.

After a morning visit to a manufacturing plant in Avondale, Ardern this afternoon headed south where she was welcomed to a vaccination clinic in Māngere.

“I came here for one reason. To say thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have been doing over so many months,” Ardern told those at the Pacific youth-led vaccination centre.

Jacinda Ardern in Māngere
Jacinda Ardern in Māngere (Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Ardern’s trip to Auckland did not include any official visits to small businesses most impacted by the lockdown, nor did it involve any public walkabouts. The PM defended her decision to focus on just the two engagements. “Today was a chance to meet with not just one business, but business representatives,” Ardern said. “But I will also be back: this will not be my only visit to Auckland.”

The PM said she took the chance to “informally catch up” with some local businesses that were only just reopening today due to lockdown restrictions, but would not name which businesses she visited. “There is no way that you can replicate from afar the experience of having been through this lockdown for its entirety,” said Ardern. “But throughout, I have remained in touch with business representatives.”

Act’s David Seymour labelled Ardern a “stealth prime minister” for avoiding the public during her visit. Ardern rejected that title: “I am very publicly available and it’s a little bit difficult in a level three setting. I’ve got make sure I’m following the rules like everybody else,” she said.

Jacinda Ardern in Māngere
Jacinda Ardern in Māngere (Photo:  Stewart Sowman-Lund)

1.15pm: All schools in Auckland and Waikato can return to on-site learning from November 17

Auckland and Waikato students in years 1-10 can return to face-to-face learning at schools and kura from November 17, education minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

For all of your school questions, see The Spinoff’s handy explainer.

“Lockdowns can be stressful for children and young people, so returning to some on-site learning will mean they can reconnect with their teacher and friends. Starting this month will provide certainty ahead of the Christmas break and before the new school year starts,” Chris Hipkins said.

Measures will be taken to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission such as mask wearing for students in year four (age seven and eight) and up, limiting the number of students on site, and ventilating classrooms.

“Each school and kura will decide what works best for their learners and their community,” said Hipkins. “That might be by alternating days or half weeks – through year levels, or through whānau groupings. Full-time learning will continue on-site for students whose parents have needed it, for example to go to work.”

While most students in years one to eight will be returning part-time, years nine and 10 will be able to return full time alongside those already back at high schools in years 11 to 13.

All teachers are required to have at least one Covid-19 vaccination by Monday, November 15, two days before all schools can return. Children aged under 12 years cannot currently be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Hipkins added that health advice has said that the risk of reopening schools “is outweighed by the benefits of kids re-engaging with their learning face-to-face in this context”.

1.05pm: 147 new community cases of Covid-19

There are 147 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today. Of these, 131 are in Auckland, 14 in Waikato and two in Northland.

Death of man with Covid-19 overnight

The Ministry of Health has reported the sudden death of a man in his 60s who had Covid-19 and was isolating at a home in Glen Eden.

The cause of his death will be determined by the coroner, including whether it may have been Covid-19 related. Any deaths which might be Covid-19 related are fully investigated, whether they occur at home or in a hospital setting.

This man’s death is not included in today’s numbers.

AstraZeneca to be made available for some people

Ashley Bloomfield has announced that for the few hundred people who may not be able to have the Pfizer vaccine, AstraZeneca will soon be available for those aged 18 and over. More details, including timing and availability, will be announced next week, but it will likely be in late November. “Pfizer remains the mainstay of our vaccine programme,” he said.

Waikato update

There are 14 new cases in Waikato being reported today. Of these, 10 are from Ōtorohanga – including six people in one household who are known contacts of cases – three from Hamilton and one from Ngāruawāhia.

There are seven pop-up and dedicated testing sites operating across Waikato today in Hamilton, Ngāruawāhia, Huntly, Ōtorohanga, Te Awamutu, and Te Kuiti.

Waikato public health staff are supporting 62 people who are considered active cases to safely isolate at home.

Two new cases in Northland

There are two new cases in Northland, an adult and a child from the same household in Dargaville, who have links to known cases. There are now 12 cases isolating at home in the region.

Northland moves to alert level two at midnight on Thursday, and anyone with symptoms, especially in Dargaville, is encouraged to get tested.

Auckland rest and care homes

There are now 21 residents and four staff members of Edmonton Meadows Care Home in Henderson who have tested positive for Covid-19.

One further resident of Rosaria Rest Home has tested positive since a resident returned a positive test late last week. Results for all residents and staff have now been received and at this stage all others are negative.

The transmission route has yet to be established.

12.50pm: Level three school reopening announcement imminent

Education and Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield are set to announce when students in years one to 10 can return to school in alert level areas, along with today’s Covid-19 case numbers. You can watch below, and we’ll have rolling updates here.

12.20pm: Rise in coal use sends greenhouse gas emissions soaring to record high

Seasonally adjusted greenhouse gas emissions from industries and households rose by 4.8% in the June 2021 quarter, following a 1.4% increase in the March 2021 quarter, according to Stats NZ.

The largest industry contributors were electricity, gas, water and waste services, which were up 16%; transport, postal and warehousing, which rose by 19%; and agriculture, forestry and fishing, which were up by 0.9%.

In a statement, Stats NZ environmental economic accounts manager Stephen Oakley said the electricity, gas, water and waste services industry reached a record quarterly level of 2,927 kilotonnes of GHG emissions (seasonally adjusted), up 412 kilotonnes on the March 2021 quarter. “This is mainly due to a large increase in coal use for electricity generation,” he said.

In July, it was reported that New Zealand was importing higher-than-ever amounts of coal and burning it at record levels.

10.35am: PM begins Auckland trip with factory tour

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern has arrived in Auckland for her first visit to the city since delta plunged it into lockdown three months ago.

Her single-day itinerary began in Avondale, where Ardern toured a manufacturing plant accompanied by ministers Michael Wood and Carmel Seupoloni, along with EMA chief executive Brett O’Riley.

Ardern visits JMP Engineering
Elbow bumps only (Photo / Stewart Sowman-Lund)

The visit was far from the calls by opposition leaders for Ardern to spend her day chatting with small business owners most impacted by the extended lockdown. JMP Engineering operated throughout the delta crisis, supplying for clients that include Fonterra.

However, the location also ensured the prime minister could avoid any risk of protest; the factory was down a long driveway off the main stretch of road.

Only one more stop remains on Ardern’s official Auckland schedule. She’s due to help boost vaccination efforts by visiting a local clinic this afternoon.

Jacinda Ardern at JMP Engineering
Jacinda Ardern at JMP Engineering (Photo / Stewart Sowman-Lund)

10.00am: National calls for immediate reopening of schools

National is calling for schools in level three areas to reopen immediately so students can have at least a month back before the summer break. 

Its new education plan, “Back on Track”, was released this morning ahead of the government’s announcement at 1pm, when education minister Chris Hipkins will reveal whether the planned phased reopening of primary schools will go ahead on Monday. Most kids in Auckland have been learning at home since the region went into lockdown nearly three months ago, and children in parts of the Waikato and Northland have also had long periods off school. 

Beyond the immediate reopening, National’s plan calls for “an absolute focus in 2022 on attendance, catching up for lost time and getting students’ education back up to speed”. This would involve attendance targets, funding for catch-up initiatives, and a focus on reading, writing and maths. It would also pause the government’s curriculum overhaul for two years to enable schools to focus on catching up. 

“Children have missed out on too much critical class time and the risk of children not going back to school – the disengagement, loss of social connection and significant milestones now outweighs the risk of reopening schools,” said National leader Judith Collins in a statement. “Online learning can never replicate the full benefits of education that come from attending school in person,” added education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith. “With its week-by-week strategy, this government has no plan to address the damage done to children’s learning.”

8.55am: PM returns to Auckland for the first time since delta hit

Jacinda Ardern will visit Auckland today for her first trip to the locked down city since delta hit in mid-August.

However, while the PM’s visit comes on the first day of new found freedoms for Auckland in level 3.2, it also comes with risks. Just yesterday, thousands of people flooded the parliamentary precinct in protest against the government’s vaccine mandates (among other issues). Ardern has also faced hecklers during her vaccination tour of the regions.

Ardern told media yesterday she intended to visit business representatives while in Auckland, but remained coy on whether her trip would include any public appearances. “I’ll look for some other opportunities within the rules to be able to talk to other workers who’ve been operating at level three,” she said.

Act Party leader David Seymour has been one of those calling for Ardern to travel to Auckland. He said the prime minister needed to visit those hardest hit by the extended lockdown. “If Jacinda really wants to understand Aucklanders’ situation, her visit needs to be real,” he said. “She needs to walk the streets and meet real people, not just go to friendly stage managed meet ups.”

Seymour said hairdressers and hospitality businesses – who cannot operate until restrictions ease even further – should be on the itinerary.

I’ll be on the road with the PM today and will have live coverage of her visit to Auckland.

8.00am: Schools wait to learn if – and when – they can reopen

An announcement on whether students in years 1-10 will return to school is due at 1pm today.

The government had earlier signalled that they hoped classrooms in level three areas would reopen on November 15 – next Monday. However, with that date rapidly approaching and no announcements having yet been made, parents and teachers may have a quick turnaround period to get ready.

Next week also marks the date by which all teachers are required to have had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, with a second dose needed by January 1. According to the Herald, it’s still unknown just how many teachers will quit over the vaccine mandate. Principals, however, estimate that “thousands” of their staff may be vaccine-hesitant.

National’s Judith Collins said her party’s policy on schools would be announced at 10am today. She told RNZ she was worried about how long children have been away from the classroom. “Kids have missed out on so much education and if you’re in the Auckland region it’s probably about 22 weeks over the last 18 months,” said Collins. “One of the things [we would do] is that we would put a stop, for at least the next two years, on any curriculum changes.” These would require too many new teacher-only days, Collins said.

She added: “Kids are missing out on the ability to have a decent education. And for our most deprived children, it’s even more concerning. We have some schools reporting that 60% of their kids they don’t expect will come back to school at all.”

Yesterday’s headlines

  • There were 125 new delta cases across Auckland, Northland and Waikato.
  • There were 59 mystery cases among the 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 converged on parliament.
  • Auckland moved to alert level three, step two, at midnight.

7.30am: From The Bulletin

Christchurch family has ‘closure’ after fifth person arrested in killing of teen. The parents of Connor Whitehead, 16, urged a suspect to turn himself in after the fatal shooting of their son. He’d been on the run for four days. An hour later, he was in police custody, according to The Press. The man has now been charged with murder. Police say the teenager was an innocent bystander in an argument between two men that turned violent, while three other people have been charged for trying to shelter the men from arrest.

The Covid numbers: There are 79 cases in hospital and 9 in ICU/HDU. There are now 2,794 active cases in New Zealand. 117 new community cases were reported in Auckland yesterday, 2 in Waikato and 6 in Northland. 21,192 people were vaccinated on Monday.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.

Disinformation ‘is increasing, widening, and deepening every week’ in New Zealand. Stuff reports that there’s been a dramatic escalation in the volume of conspiracy theories being shared online since the delta outbreak began in August. Far more has spread in a few months than through the first year-and-a-half of the pandemic. Disinformation has also shifted from vaccine hesitancy to vaccine resistance, while researchers warn that there’s now a seed of hateful and dangerous speech in many of the groups they are studying.

The government is backing an insurance scheme for summer events. Up to 90% of costs for large events cancelled over the summer will now be paid out by government, RNZ reports. It should give organisers more certainty to put on shows and try to get the crowds out. It’s also gives New Zealanders something nice to look forward to, which we all need at the moment.

Far from Glasgow, Wairarapa looks at the mounting cost of climate change. The ocean is chewing into the region as the coasts erode faster, hammered by more frequent and severe floods. The Wairarapa Times-Age reports that once-in-a-century floods and weather events could soon happen every five years. Unusual weather will become usual within two or three decades, according to estimates, a tipping point into an uncertain climate future far closer than many expect. Local officials are already looking at what roads and coastal communities are in the most danger.

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

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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