Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 12, bringing you the latest news throughout the day. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
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4.25pm: Unvaccinated border worker was not vaccine hesitant – Hipkins
The minister in charge of the Covid response, Chris Hipkins, says he is confident that the MIQ worker who contracted Covid-19 after missing vaccination appointments is not “vaccine hesitant”. The 24-year-old worker at Auckland’s Grand Millennium hotel missed two Covid-19 vaccine appointments prior to testing positive on Thursday, but Hipkins said the missed appointments were for personal reasons, and not due to suspicion of the vaccine itself. He declined to give any further details about the worker’s reasons.
4.15pm: Prince Philip memorial to be held next week
A state memorial for Prince Philip, who died over the weekend, will be held in Wellington at 3pm on Wednesday April 21, with dignitaries including prime minister among attendees, the PM has announced. Flags will fly on half mast on that day, and on the day of the prince’s funeral service on April 17, UK time
3.35pm: What’s happening with Australia’s vaccine roll-out?
While all our eyes have been firmly fixed on New Zealand’s roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine, Australia has been dealing with its own problems.
Australian PM Scott Morrison has, over the weekend, announced that the country’s vaccine targets have been scrapped and admitted that not all Australians may get the jab before the end of 2020.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Morrison’s government confirmed recently that 20 million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine would arrive in the last quarter of 2021. While that would be enough doses for everyone to receive at least their first dose, Morrison said it might not happen before the start of 2022.
“While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved,” he said. “We will just get on with the job of working together to produce, distribute and administer the vaccines as safely and efficiently as possible.”
This latest setback followed the Australian government’s announcement that the AstraZeneca vaccine – which Australia can produce locally – was no longer preferred for people aged under 50 due to rare blood clots linked to the vaccine. The country has since announced that the Pfizer vaccine was the preferred choice for its citizens – the same as here in New Zealand.
Writing for The Guardian, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd labelled the vaccine roll-out an “epic fail”.
“The prime minister has displayed a breathtaking level of political complacency that borders on professional negligence,” the article begins. “The daily reality of the vaccination rollout strategy reveals a litany of policy and administrative failures.”
What’s on The Spinoff this afternoon?
The battle for political control in Sāmoa is not yet resolved, but what is clear is this is the dawn of a new chapter for Sāmoan parliamentary democracy, writes Mata’afa Keni Lesa from Apia. Here’s an extract:
Nobody could have scripted the preliminary results. Although the signs had been ominous for the powerful Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) – who perhaps thought they were going to waltz back to power at the Maota Fono, Ti’afau – not many, if any, would have given the new kid on the block, Fa’atuatua I le Atua Sāmoa ua Tasi (FAST) Party, a fighting chance of toppling the establishment as soon as this year.
Sāmoa is now at a fascinating juncture in its political journey. There is a breeze of fresh air after Friday’s general election, although there is a lot to get through before a victor is declared. Irrespective of what becomes of the battle for political control, however, it is safe to say that what is happening in Apia is in many ways the dawning of a new chapter for Samoa’s parliamentary democracy.
Also on The Spinoff today:
- Jack Marshall: Why drug dealers are plying their wares on Instagram.
- Pokémon Go it’s not. But from swirly success icons and live stats to a flashlight option, Andrew Chen explains what’s changed about the Covid Tracer app – and why.
- With Popstars returning to our screens tonight, Alex Casey and I turn back the clock and relive some of New Zealand’s most memorable talent show stars.
- The temporary halt on travel from India to New Zealand is unprecedented. But so is the state of Covid-19 in India, writes Siouxsie Wiles.
2.10pm: Māori Party referred to police over donations
The police have been asked to investigate after the Māori Party failed to declare more than $300,000 in donations before last year’s election.
As RNZ explains, any donation of over $30,000 must be declared to the Electoral Commission within 10 working days of it being received. However, these donations – made between March and October 2020 – were only recently declared.
John Tamihere – who was running as co-leader in 2020 before failing to win his seat – donated a total of $158,000 last year, Aotearoa Te Kahu donated $120,000 and the National Urban Māori Authority donated a little under $50,000.
1.00pm: Latest Covid-19 case unvaccinated, but ‘very closely linked’ to Cases A and B
Our newest community case of Covid-19 had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus, despite working in our largest managed isolation hotel.
Genome sequencing has confirmed that Case C – the latest Covid-19 case linked to the Grand Millennium MIQ facility – is “very closely linked” to Cases A and B, Ashley Bloomfield said.
Case A is a cleaner at the facility that tested positive last month with Case B a security guard that tested positive last week.
Case C is a co-worker of Case B, also a security worker, making them close contacts, Bloomfield said. “This latest case and their partner are now at the Auckland quarantine facility.” The partner has tested negative.
Genome sequencing suggests it’s unlikely there was an intermediary between the cleaner who tested positive last month, and the security worker who tested positive last week. Security footage is now being looked out to try and determine how the virus may have spread.
Bloomfield said that Case C had not been vaccinated against Covid-19. He said he understood that the man wanted to get the jab but was unable to due to being in isolation after being linked to Case B. 10 out of 11 “close plus” contacts of Case B have all tested negative for Covid-19, with the 11th being Case C.
The security worker had not been tested since at least mid March – although even this is currently unconfirmed – despite Case A’s positive test last month. Jim Bliss, the head of MIQ, said the fact it was unclear when the security guard was last tested was a concern. “We’re going back to check the testing regime,” he said. Asked if he knew exactly when Case B was tested, he said: “we are concerned that it wasn’t in accordance with that 14-day testing regime”
Asked about the lack of frontline workers who have been vaccinated, Bloomfield defended the slow roll-out. About 20% of those on the front line remain unvaccinated. “You can’t immediately withdraw 20% of your workforce,” said Bloomfield. “We are now working to ensure they are vaccinated by the end of the month.”
There are no new community cases to report with seven positive cases in managed isolation. Three of these are close contacts of previous cases.
Update on Grand Millennium hotel investigation
An audit of the Grand Millennium MIQ hotel has been undertaken as a result of the latest positive Covid-19 cases linked to the facility.
Jim Bliss said “no significant findings” have so far come from the audit that are giving officials any cause for concern.
Tomorrow, the technical advisory group will meet to make any recommendations about the operation of the facility outside of this audit, Bliss said.
The facility, our largest MIQ hotel, has stopped taking new arrivals.
12.45pm: Bloomfield to speak after new Covid-19 locations of interest revealed
Ashley Bloomfield is set to provide a Covid-19 update alongside MIQ head Jim Bliss.
It comes after three new locations of interest were announced today linked to a security guard who tested positive for Covid-19 before the weekend.
12.25pm: Three more Covid-19 locations of interest announced
Three new locations of interest linked to a Covid-positive hotel security guard have been revealed, with two dating back a fortnight.
The new locations are:
- Local Barber Mt Roskill South, April 7;
- Terminus Dairy, March 29; and
- Funtech, March 29
Funtech is on Queen Street in Auckland’s CBD, making it the first location linked to these new cases to be outside the suburb of Mount Roskill.
We’re set to get an update on the latest Covid-19 cases at 1pm from Ashley Bloomfield and MIQ head Jim Bliss.
11.45am: More coup rumours swirl around Judith Collins
National’s leader Judith Collins has been forced to publicly denounce rumours that Christoper Luxon and Simon Bridges are vying for her job.
The rumours started last week via a NZ Herald premium column from Claire Trevett who said there had been talk of Bridges returning to the party’s top job with newbie Luxon as his deputy.
This morning, appearing on Newstalk ZB, Collins said the talk of an impending leadership challenge was nonsense.
“I’m not in trouble and I’m actually very focused on doing my job, and that’s why I’m not wasting any time on it,” she told Mike Hosking. “The media starts the week saying this is the convo, they end the week saying it’s probably not the convo.”
Over on The AM Show, Duncan Garner chimed in to say Collins was a “dead woman walking” – and suggested Luxon would take the leadership with Bridges as his number two.
“Is Bridges keen? You bet – he has little love for Collins, and as he walked from The AM Show studio recently he said to me: ‘I’ll give her as much support as she gave me as the leader’,” Garner wrote of Bridges.
11.00am: Broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi on The Fold
This week on The Fold, Duncan Greive talks to broadcasting and media minister Kris Faafoi about Māori and Pasefika representation in New Zealand media, the public interest journalism fund and the proposed RNZ/TVNZ merger. Faafoi also talks about media consumption and the rapid shift from linear television to on demand and international online offerings that are now taking over viewing habits.
9.20am: National calls for unvaccinated border workers to be removed
The opposition wants all border workers who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 to be removed from the front line.
It follows the news that the security guard who tested positive at an Auckland MIQ hotel over the weekend had not been given the jab. Jacinda Ardern this morning said just 79% of First Security guards had been vaccinated.
Chris Bishop, National’s Covid-19 response spokesperson, said things need to change. “We’re now at mid-April. People have had more than enough time and I think the rule should be if you’re on the front-line working at the border you should be vaccinated and if you don’t want to be vaccinated then you can’t work on the front line,” he told RNZ.
“It’s going to be done in two weeks, we’d prefer it was done now, but it’s good that we’re moving to that redeployment stage.”
Ashley Bloomfield said there is a “clear expectation” that those working at the border get vaccinated.
“This week the process starts to follow up with those who haven’t, very actively, and look at other options if they can’t or won’t be vaccinated,” he said.
8.00am: Four locations of interest after third MIQ worker tests positive for Covid-19
A third worker (Case C) at Auckland’s Grand Millennium managed isolation hotel has tested positive for Covid-19.
They are a close contact of the security guard (Case B) that tested positive before the weekend who is in turn genomically linked to a cleaner (Case A) who tested positive at the hotel more than two weeks ago.
The long gap between the individuals testing positive prompts the question: is there an intermediary case that we don’t know about yet? The Ministry of Health said an investigation is ongoing into how Case B contracted the virus as the genomic link does not mean they caught it directly from Case A.
In a statement, the ministry said that there was little risk to the public despite the third confirmed case. The new case “has been self-isolating at home since being identified as a close contact late last week,” said the ministry. “They returned an earlier negative test before returning a positive test [yesterday].”
It’s also been revealed today that just 79% of First Security staff – of which the MIQ guard was one – had been vaccinated against Covid-19. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern told TVNZ that was not good enough: “Everyone [working] in MIQ has to be vaccinated,” she said.
The next ministry update is expected at 1pm today.
Four locations of interest identified
The Ministry of Health has updated its contact tracing webpage showing four locations of interested linked to the new Covid-19 cases, visited multiple times. Those locations, all in the suburb of Mount Roskill, include a bakery and dairy.
The ministry’s advice to those who may have been at the locations is to monitor their symptoms for 14 days.
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
The balance of power could be shifting in an important country in our neighbourhood, after a big election swing. The dominant Human Rights Protection Party may end up losing power in Samoa after decades in office, with the newly formed Faatuatua i Le Atua ua Tasi (FAST) taking a surprisingly large share of the vote. FAST was founded last year by MPs who split from HRPP, in large part over a controversial land ownership reform bill. RNZ Pacific reports unofficial results show the split between the two big parties is so close, it is likely to come down to a kingmaker independent MP. Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio, told the Samoa Observer that he wants to see change in the way politics is done, with less corruption and higher standards of conduct.
Right now, both FAST and the HRPP appear to have 25 out of 51 seats – to give a sense of the swing, that would mean a loss of 11 seats for the HRPP compared to the 2016 election. Final results are still pending, so that could change in two weeks when the official count is completed. And there has been controversy in the aftermath. RNZ Pacific reported late last night that PM Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has accused FAST of “blatantly violating election laws”, while the Electoral Commission chief has been in the news staunchly defending the integrity of the counting process.
But it’s worth noting just how unlikely this (preliminary) result is. The power of the HRPP has led to Samoa being a de-facto one-party state for generations, and PM Malielegaoi has been in office since 1998. As this editorial in the Samoa Observer put it, the country has seen something of a political awakening.
On the ground these past few months, we have seen our fellow countrymen and women slowly come out of their political shells. A year ago you would be hard pressed to find a F.A.S.T. supporter in your daily travels. But this year? It has been a game changer.
The campaign was marked by some astonishing allegations made against the opposition. Members of FAST were accused of “treason” by the PM, over speeches and campaign activities. Samoa Global News reports there were warnings put out to supporters of competing parties to “stay clear” of voting booths, to allow voters peace and quiet to cast their ballot without intimidation. In the end, it appears the election was carried out perfectly peacefully.
Meanwhile, the Samoa Observer reports that a quota system for women MPs will not need to be activated, after a sufficient number of women won seats outright. And for the first time ever, Samoa might end up with a female PM. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa is the leader of FAST, and is herself a former deputy PM – if her party is confirmed as having a majority in parliament she’ll take the top job. If you want to get a sense of who this politician is, she’ll be interviewed on TV One’s Breakfast show at 7.40am today.