Live updates, July 12: Vaccine to be made mandatory for 1800 more border workers

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 12, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

3.40pm: Funding for mob-led programme a ‘sick joke’ – National

The government has faced questions today after it was revealed it had given $2.75 million to a Mongrel Mob-led meth rehab programme over four years.

According to Stuff, the scheme has participants work on a community garden on the property of the gang’s “Notorious” chapter. The funding was provided through the Proceeds of Crime Act after a successful application by the Ministry of Health.

National’s Simeon Brown called it a “sick joke”.

“While we all acknowledge that meth is a scourge on our community and getting people help to get off it is vitally important, funding a programme run by the Mongrel Mob sends all the wrong messages,” he said in a statement this morning.

“If we want to get their members off drugs we should be funding organisations like the Salvation Army who have a proven track record with working with gang members to help them get off meth. They also have proper measures in place to ensure the accountability of any government funding.

Speaking at a post-cabinet press conference, Jacinda Ardern defended the funding. “I for one want to stop victimisation,” she said.

3.15pm: Ardern to chair virtual leaders meeting attended by Biden, Putin

Jacinda Ardern will be chairing a virtual APEC leaders meeting this coming Saturday.

The United States’ Joe Biden and Russia’s Vladimir Putin are two of those who have confirmed they will be taking part.

Speaking at a post-cabinet press conference, Ardern said the meeting will focus on Covid-19 and its economic effects.

“This is the first time in APEC’s history that leaders have held an additional meeting at leaders’ level, and it reflects our desire to navigate together out of the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis,” Ardern said.

“APEC economies have suffered their biggest contraction since the second world war over the past year, with 81 million jobs lost. Responding collectively is vital to accelerate the economic recovery for the region.”

3.00pm: Vaccine to be mandatory for 1800 more border workers

Another 1800 people will be required to get a Covid-19 vaccine as a result of their work at the border, the government has announced.

A new public health order will make it mandatory for airport and port workers who are “at the greatest risk of exposure to Covid-19″ to get the jab.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the vaccination of MIQ workers had been successful but more needed to be done to keep our borders secure. “Of the active air border workers, 82% are fully vaccinated and 2% have received a single dose and await their second,” he said.  

“However only 54% of active port workers have been fully vaccinated and we need to see this number increased to avoid the risk of Covid-19 entering the country via our ports.”

A further 1800 unvaccinated border workers will be covered by the new health order, Hipkins said. “This is necessary to lift the uptake of the vaccine among the wider border workforce and strengthen our ongoing response to Covid-19.”

All government employees covered by the order must have had their first dose by August 26, while privately employed border workers must have had their first dose by September 30. New workers covered by the order will need to have their first dose before starting work.

“Border workers who remain unvaccinated after the requirements come into effect will need to discuss options with their employer. They will not be able to continue working in a high-risk border environment until they are vaccinated,” Hipkins said.

NZ now last in the OECD for vaccinations – National

The National Party has once again criticised our vaccine roll-out, with new statistics putting us at the bottom of the OECD.

Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop said it proved the roll-out was a failure. “Whichever way you cut it – New Zealand is now the slowest in the developed world. We are clearly not ‘at the front of the queue’ as we were promised,” he said.

“Our largely unvaccinated population is highly vulnerable to Covid-19 in the community, which is a serious possibility with Delta spreading around the world and causing mayhem in New South Wales. 

“It’s very simple – the best way to protect New Zealand against future lockdowns and future community transmission is to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

2.30pm: Sydney Covid cluster soars

New South Wales has recorded 112 new cases of Covid-19 – once again breaking its daily record for new cases in 2021.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said while the “vast majority” of new cases could be linked to existing cases that had been in isolation, a number were infectious while in the community.

“Can I stress that is the number that we need to see go down to as close to zero as possible before we can get advice from health to say the lockdown can end,” she said.

Based on current numbers, Berejiklian said it was “almost impossible” that the lockdown would end this Friday.

As a result, the The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is to be made available to all residents in New South Wales aged 40 and over.

1.50pm: Auckland bar owner plans 2022 run at mayoralty

Leo Molloy, owner of Auckland bar Headquarters, has announced plans to run for mayor in 2022.

The controversial businessman has never been far away from the headlines. Earlier this year, he was fined for breaching the name suppression of Grace Millane’s killer. He’s also been criticised by the LGBTQI+ community for offensive Facebook posts.

Announcing his potential shift into politics, Molloy said he had two key policies. “Get rid of the bloody road cones, and get Auckland moving again, which of course means sorting those lunatics at Auckland Transport out,” a post from the Headquarters account said.

A long list of policy positions were also provided, including “pro housing growth”, “pro Covid vaccination” and “anti Labour loonies who don’t deliver, e.g. [Phil] Twyford”.

Back in 2019, The Spinoff’s Duncan Greive profiled Molloy. “[Molloy’s] come for racing officials and MasterChef contestants, astrologers and journalists, on and on, stretching back for decades, vicious invective sprayed at anyone who crosses him,” Greive wrote at the time.

Leo Molloy in his Viaduct lair (Photo: Tina Tiller)

1.10pm: Ship with pair of infected mariners docks in Wellington

Fishing ship the Viking Bay has docked at Wellington’s Queens Wharf with a quarantine perimeter put up around the vessel.

The ship has two Covid-positive mariners on board, one of whom has been confirmed to have the delta variant of the virus.

A mobile health unit has been set up. The crew will disembark later today and be tested.

According to a Ministry of Health spokesperson, seven of the 20 crew will remain aboard to meet maritime safety requirements. “The remaining 13 crew – which includes the two crew who last week tested positive for Covid-19 – will be transferred to a Wellington quarantine facility using infection prevention and control protocol, including the use of appropriate PPE,” said a spokesperson.

“The risk assessment has been reviewed and this situation remains to be considered a low risk to public health.”

Quarantine-free travel with Queensland to resume

The Ministry of Health has confirmed quarantine-free travel with Queensland can resume from 11.59pm tonight. An announcement about the travel bubble was planned for 3pm today, so it appears the ministry may have jumped the gun.

Meanwhile, the travel bubble with New South Wales is still paused while the state grapples with a growing cluster of Covid-19 cases.

“Travellers who have been in NSW on or after 10.30pm on June 26 are not permitted to travel back to New Zealand from other parts of Australia,” said a spokesperson. “Travel histories will be checked at the airport before flying.”

Crew of Playa Zahara to get tested after ‘flu-like symptoms’

Spanish shipping vessel the Playa Zahara has applied for permission for a change of crew at Port Taranaki.

Health authorities will provide testing for crew members on the ship shortly after it berths tomorrow. The ship will then depart from the onshore quarantine place of inspection and will remain off shore until test results are available on Thursday.

If the results show there is no evidence of Covid-19 onboard, then the vessel will be permitted to dock for a crew change.

Today’s numbers

There are no new community Covid-19 cases, with one case reported in managed isolation. Two previously reported cases have now recovered and the number of active cases in New Zealand is 33.

12.20pm: Emergency flights out of NSW sell out

And just like that, all of the tickets for the first fortnight of special Air New Zealand flights from Sydney to New Zealand were snapped up.

According to the Herald, 40 to 60 seats were made available, on a first-in basis, for two weeks of flights starting tomorrow. After going on sale at 10am, they were all gone by 11.30.

A call centre has been set up for New Zealanders with an “urgent or exceptional need” to return home.

12:00pm: Extremely Online on the rise of the robot influencer

The first episode of Extremely Online, a new web series from Shit You Should Care About, is available to watch now on The Spinoff. This one’s about Miquela, an Instagram influencer and pop star with over three million followers, who’s also not real – she’s a robot.

Is this the future? Are robot influencers going to put our hard-working human influencers out of work? How afraid should we be?

Read more about Extremely Online from The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive here

11.30am: Stranded New Zealanders able to return back from Sydney

Air New Zealand has launched its timetable of flights for New Zealanders stuck in Sydney.

From tomorrow, those stranded in the Covid-ravaged city will be able to return to New Zealand for a mandatory two-week stay in managed isolation. Green zone flights planned to bring people back have been scrapped amid rising Covid-19 cases.

While more than 2500 New Zealanders are thought to be in Sydney, just 1000 rooms have been set aside in MIQ.

The government today revealed that anyone with an urgent need to return home may be able to qualify for an emergency slot in MIQ. According to RNZ, the criteria included cases where travel is required to:

  • Reduce serious risks to health and safety for the traveller or their dependants.
  • Provide appropriate care and protection for children.
  • Provide critical care to a dependent person in New Zealand.
  • Access treatment or support for a serious medical condition, and not accessing it would put the person in serious financial hardship.
  • On compassionate grounds such as visiting close relatives with a critical medical condition.

10.55am: Staff shortages to blame for lack of permanent MIQ facilities

Staff shortages are behind a lack of new – or longer term – managed isolation facilities.

Briefings released to the Herald under the official information act revealed that while officials have been considering purpose-built quarantine facilities since July 2020, there simply are not enough health and security staff available.

Ideas included over the past 12 months included “barrack-style accommodation”, campervans, cruise ships or smaller “bespoke” arrangements. All were scrapped due to staffing problems.

A “key constraint for increasing capacity for MIQ is the availability of workforce to provide wrap-around services, such as health care workers and security guards,” one of the documents read.

Over the last week, the idea of expanding our MIQ scheme was once again floated. Chris Hipkins, the Covid-19 response minister, said that the government will be “canvassing a range of options”.

“It might be that we buy one or two of our existing facilities and do more work to convert them so they’re more fit-for-purpose. No decisions have been made at this stage,” he said.

9.25am: Fiji’s Covid outbreak worsens, three more deaths recorded

Fiji recorded another 485 Covid-19 cases through until yesterday morning, pushing the nation’s total above 10,000 cases. Of those, more than 8000 are active.

Three more deaths were recorded: a 77-year-old woman, a 75-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman. There have now been 55 deaths due to Covid-19 in Fiji, with 53 of these during the outbreak that started in April this year.

Fiji is in a race against time to vaccinate as much of its population as possible, with the nation’s leadership refusing to consider a lockdown. Almost 50% of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

8.05am: Muslim community reacts to ‘awful’ leaked script for mosque attack film

A leaked script for planned Hollywood film They Are Us is causing shock and distress within New Zealand’s Muslim community.

The 124-page draft – released in part by Newshub’s Patrick Gower – revealed the horror of the 2019 Christchurch terror attack will play out almost in real time, with several named victims of the gunman set to be featured. And, despite one of the film’s producers claiming they spoke to victims’ families, no one has yet come forward to say they were consulted.

Anjum Rahman from the Islamic Women’s Council told Newshub the details from the script were “awful” and “not appropriate”.

“It’s really disrespectful and it shows [the producers] are more about the film and marketing a product than the families and communities traumatised by the event,” she said.

Gower’s report explained that while the gunman would not be shown onscreen, the violent aftermath of his actions would be.

“The movie is just like the livestream,” said Salwa Mohamad, who lost her husband Khaled and son Hamza Mustafa at the Al Noor Mosque. “It’s worse – worse than the livestream. It would encourage others to do the same, or even to make it better, to avoid the mistakes the terrorist made.”

Newshub claimed to have spoken to “several people” who lost family members in the shooting – none of them had been consulted.

The film still has no formal funding but Australian film star Rose Byrne has been lined up to play Jacinda Ardern.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The Covid situation in New South Wales went from already-worrying to much more dangerous over the weekend. 9News reports 77 new cases were reported yesterday, the sort of number that suggests spread is going in multiple different directions all at once. State premier Gladys Berejiklian said she expects that number of new cases to be above 100 today. The cluster has also resulted in the death of a 90 year old woman.

The state border between New South Wales and Victoria has been shut, reports The Age. And green zone flights for New Zealanders, which were previously expected to start over the weekend, were canned by the NZ government at late notice on Friday, with the risk deemed too great Radio NZ reports New Zealanders may be able to start getting back from Tuesday, provided they also do a stint in MIQ, but many stuck there are still worried about when exactly they’ll be able to get home.

How did it end up like this? Basically, delta. The Guardian reports the variant has been able to get past the lower level of measures NSW had in place, reflecting the increased virulence delta has. Lockdowns were delayed in the hope they might be prevented. In this context, it makes the recent scare in Wellington that didn’t result in an outbreak look incredibly lucky.

Hundreds of MIQ rooms are ending up unoccupied, at a time when there’s huge demand for space, reports Andy Fyers for (paywalled) Business Desk. That’s based on the difference between allocation in government figures and actual occupancy. In response, an MBIE spokesperson said the below-expected occupancy was the result of positive tests and flights from higher risk areas being suspended.

But many are struggling simply to get through, with a punishing booking process. In fact, a market of sorts has sprung up around the bookings, with some sites promising to secure one for a fee. Stuff’s John Anthony reports that those fees have jumped since it all came to light. It seems fair to say any system aimed at the public good which can be gamed and profiteered like this probably isn’t working as it should be.

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