Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 14, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
5.50pm: ‘Get home as soon as possible’: Hipkins’ advice as Victoria records seven new cases
The news of seven new cases of Covid-19 in the community in the state of Victoria (see 3.15pm update) has our government seeking advice from public health officials.
“There are a growing number of locations of interest that are of concern, including a sports stadium on Saturday and several pubs,” Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement this evening.
“In the meantime I want to encourage anyone with concerns about the potential of a pause to Quarantine Free Travel to organise to get home as soon as possible.
“You will still need a negative pre-departure test within 72 hours of departure, to complete a health declaration confirming you have not been at a location of interest and the Nau Mai Rā travel declaration.”
Quarantine-free travel resumed with Victoria on July 5 after it was paused with all states on June 26.
First: Georgia Lines sets the record straight about Crocs
Musician Georgia Lines tells us how Crocs made it from the top of her list of fashion don’ts to the cover of her latest single on this week’s episode of FIRST.
3.15pm: Sydney Covid cluster grows and spreads
The greater Sydney area has recorded another 97 cases of Covid-19, with the ongoing lockdown set to be extended yet again.
According to Nine News, 24 of today’s new cases were infectious while in the community. State premier Gladys Berejiklian said that number needed to drop “as close to zero as possible” if locals wanted to leave lockdown.
“I appreciate people are stressed and upset about what is going on, myself included,” she said.
Meanwhile, the state of Victoria has recorded seven new Covid-19 cases.
2.30pm: Reserve Bank keeps OCR at 0.25%, puts halt on bond buying
The Reserve Bank is keeping the official cash rate at 0.25%, but it will reduce economic stimulus by winding up its bond-buying programme, known as quantitative easing or QE.
In a statement released this afternoon, the central bank’s monetary policy committee said it would “halt additional asset purchases under the Large Scale Asset Purchase (LSAP) programme by 23 July 2021”, but would keep the OCR and the funding for lending programme unchanged.
Near-term spikes in headline CPI inflation are expected in the June and September quarters, said the statement, reflecting one-off or temporary factors. “More persistent consumer price inflation pressure is expected to build over time due to rising domestic capacity pressures and growing labour shortages”, but “uncertainties remain as to the pace and magnitude of any pass-through of costs onto medium term inflation”.
The committee agreed that the level of monetary stimulus could now be reduced to minimise the risk of not meeting its mandate.
The Herald reported that the bond-buying halt was more aggressive than the market expected and the New Zealand dollar spiked on the news. “It speaks to the confidence that the monetary policy committee has about the state of the economy and the outlook,” Hamish Pepper, fixed income and currency strategist at Harbour Asset Management, told the Herald.
1.00pm: First mass vaccination event confirmed for Auckland
A mass vaccination event will take place at Auckland’s Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau at the end of the month, with more than 15,000 people expected to get the jab across three days.
Chris Hipkins, the Covid-19 response minister, confirmed the event – set to run from July 30 to August 1– and said a follow-up event will take place six weeks later so people can get their second dose.
Despite the number of people anticipated to get the jab at this event, Hipkins said there is enough vaccine in the country already. 1.5 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine are anticipated to arrive in August, Hipkins said, an increase from the one million arriving this morning.
As of yesterday, 1.4 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed nationwide. Specifically, 839,000 people have received the first dose and 564,000 have received both and are fully vaccinated. More than 400,000 doses have been delivered across group three. Overall, the vaccine roll-out is tracking about 6% ahead of plan, said Hipkins.
16th Viking Bay mariner falls sick
Genomic testing has confirmed 12 crew members onboard the Viking Bay vessel docked in Wellington have the delta variant of Covid-19. These 12 results demonstrate that the cases are all linked, though these cases are not genomically linked to the first case on the vessel, which also had the delta variant.
None of the current cases are linked to any other confirmed cases in New Zealand.
A 16th crew member onboard the ship has been transferred to a quarantine facility after becoming unwell. The crew member had previously received a negative Covid-19 test but will today be retested for the virus. The transfer of the individual was done with the appropriate precautions in place and following advice from the local regional public health service, the Ministry of Health said.
Meanwhile, the four remaining crew members aboard the Viking Bay, who have returned negative test results to date, are expected to undergo another Covid-19 test as per the normal sequence for close contacts of a case. “These crew will have a day zero test, a day five test, followed by a day 12 test during their 14 days of isolation,” said the ministry.
MBIE advise that the Viking Bay mariners are on separate floors of the Wellington MIQ facility, and have their own fresh air and smoking areas, and a separate lift to move in while at the quarantine facility. “These mariners are also in rooms by themselves and are expected to follow strict infection prevention and control protocols developed by the Ministry of Health to manage the risks of spreading Covid-19,” said the ministry.
Today’s Covid-19 numbers
There are no cases of Covid-19 to report in the community in New Zealand today, with four new cases in MIQ. Five previously reported cases have now recovered and the number of active cases in New Zealand is 42.
12.45pm: Saliva testing finally rolled out for all frontline border staff
Frontline border workers will finally be able to opt for a less invasive saliva test, the Covid-19 response minister has announced.
Until now, anyone required to get regular tests for Covid-19 was subjected to the nasopharyngeal swab test which can be unpleasant for some people. Saliva testing will first be available to those on a 7-day testing cycle from mid-August, and be expanded over several months to include the rest of the estimated 13,000 estimated active border workers.
“The Ministry of Health’s advice is that saliva testing is an increasingly viable and reliable method for public health surveillance purposes,” Chris Hipkins said.
The government has long maintained that the nasal swab is the “gold standard” of Covid-19 testing.
“Regular saliva testing can shorten the time between someone contracting the virus and it being picked up meaning we can get on top of managing it much more quickly,” added Hipkins. “Extending saliva testing to more border workers is a key part of our overall approach to help keep our borders, and frontline border workers and their families safe.”
Hipkins, alongside the joint head of MIQ Megan Main, will front a vaccine update at 1pm.
12.10pm: Reserve Bank unlikely to adjust OCR this afternoon – but banks begin moving
Business editor Michael Andrew reports:
There’s been a lot of OCR jitters ahead of the Reserve Bank’s monetary policy statement this afternoon, and what impacts any changes may have on banks’ interest rates and borrowers’ ability to service their loans.
The RBNZ is under pressure to adjust rates in the face of a strong labour market and to keep inflation – its main responsibility – in check. However, the general consensus among economists and commentators is that the Reserve Bank will not raise the OCR from the record-low 0.25% today, focusing instead on changing policy wording ahead of an adjustment later in the year.
While economists are forecasting a quarterly increase in the Consumer Price Index to 2.8% – a 10-year high – BusinessDesk’s Rebecca Howard says it would too rash for the RBNZ to raise the OCR too soon, especially with Covid-19 still lurking and another economically-damaging lockdown only one border breach away.
However, banks are already moving ahead of the impeding changes, with ASB announcing today that it is lifting its fixed one-year rate from 2.19% to 2.55% per annum. As alarming as this sounds for those chest deep in debt, Bernard Hickey writes that it’s nothing to worry about, as most home loan borrowers have ample capacity to handle a doubling in interest rates.
11.35am: Pacific countries need to move beyond nationalism – PM
Political editor Justin Giovannetti writes:
International relations in the Pacific are at “an inflection point” where countries need to work together, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said in a significant foreign policy speech this morning.
Countries need to “let go of narrow nationalistic approaches” in the wider Indo-Pacific region, she said.
Ardern said New Zealand shares common values and interests with the US and president Joe Biden. But, she criticised China’s decision to ignore a United Nations decision that it needs to stop militarising the South China Sea while occupying territory the international community has concluded belongs to other countries.
10.55am: Emmy Award nominations announced – and they’re slightly wild
TV editor Sam Brooks has thoughts, statistics and reckons:
This morning, the nominations for the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards were announced. Apple TV’s Ted Lasso leads the nominations with 13, with Netflix’s The Crown and Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale following up at 11 nominations, and Disney+’s WandaVision trailing at 7.
Smaller, but beloved shows, like I May Destroy You, Hacks, and Lovecraft Country also picked up quite a few nominations, as did audience pleasers like The Queen’s Gambit, Mare of Easttown and Bridgerton. The Emmys are the biggest TV awards in the western world, and they honour the best of the year (though it’s worth noting their eligibility period run from June 1 of one year to May 31 of the next). They’re a bit better respected than the Golden Globes, making up the E in the EGOT acronym, but they’re not free from their share of weird choices. I’ve pulled out a few of the more notable (and straight up wild) nominees here:
- Streaming services are dominating the Best Comedy and Best Drama categories, with only 5 nominees (ABC’s Blackish, NBC’s This is US, FX’s Pose, HBO’s Lovecraft Country, I May Destroy You and Mare of Easttown) out of 21 being on broadcast or cable TV. This might not seem a big deal to us here, where all of these are available to watch on streaming, but it’s another big shift for the Emmys. It was less than a decade ago that Netflix’s Orange is the New Black surprised people by being nominated at all.
- Emmys love a tagalong nominee, and this year more than ever. Five of Ted Lasso’s cast have been nominated in the supporting actor in a comedy categories, four of the cast from The Crown in the supporting actor in a drama categories, and a whopping seven actors from The Handmaid’s Tale in the same categories (with two more in guest categories). When the Emmy’s go all in on a show, they go all in.
- However, the one thing the Emmys does right is pull one performer out of a show and rewarding them, regardless of how big the show is, like Margo Martindale from Justified a few years ago. Uzo Aduba, is the lucky one this time, being nominated for her tremendous performance in the fourth season of In Treatment, which about three people I have watched.
- This also leads to a fair bit of category fraud, which is when an actor or show is nominated in a category because they’re more likely to be nominated there, regardless of whether they belong there or not. The prevailing strategy for a network is a push a drama, in the comedy categories because it’s thought of as being easier to win there (see: Orange is the New Black, Nurse Jackie, The Big C). This year, the beneficiary of such fraud is Hannah Einbender from Hacks (not yet available to watch here), who is indisputably the protagonist of that show but is nominated for Supporting Actress in a Comedy.
- To dive down a bit deeper into category fraud or just WTF nominations, two nominees for the Guest Actor categories are nominated for roles where they literally had one scene: Claire Foy in the Crown (a previous Emmy winner) and Don Cheadle in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (a ten time nominee, never winner). While the Emmys don’t go full gaga over celebrities like the Globes do, they’re more likely to nominate an actor for simply showing up, which leads to weird nominations like this. In 2006, Ellen Burstyn was nominated for Supporting Actress in a Limited Movie or Mini-Series for a 14 second performance with 38 words of dialogue for Mrs. Harris.
- Hamilton, available to watch on Disney+, is nominated on a technicality in the “Limited Series or Movie” category, due to being a filmed version of the musical. It probably doesn’t have a huge shot of winning anything given how long ago it came out, and the tide moving slowly but surely away from the show, but it’s an interesting anomaly.
- A bit of editorialising: Justice for Marielle Heller’s gorgeous performance in The Queen’s Gambit.
You can find a full list of the nominees here.
10.15am: Special cancer treatment once only available in Melbourne now on offer in Auckland
New Zealanders who used to have to travel to Australia for cancer treatment will now be able to stay in Auckland, the health minister has announced.
Patients who required “peptide receptor radionuclide therapy” have been required to go to Melbourne – something that Covid-19 has made difficult.
Andrew Little said that the treatment will now be permanently available in Auckland for those who require it. “For many people, surgery is not an option. This treatment can give them quality time with those who matter to them,” he said.
The treatment involves attaching a radioactive medicine to a special protein and injecting it into the bloodstream, where it delivers a targeted high-dose of radiation to neuroendocrine cancers cells.
9.45am: One year of the Judith Collins National party
It’s approximately one year and two hours since Todd Muller announced suddenly he would be quitting the National Party leadership. About 12 hours later, Judith Collins had been elected as his replacement.
I only remember this because it is also 12 months since I started at The Spinoff.
There are a couple of excellent pieces about Judith Collins’ year at the top of the National Party that I thought I’d draw your attention to.
Firstly, Stuff’s Luke Malpass has written a somewhat bleak piece titled “Judith Collins: One year as National Party leader and nothing to show for it”. Here’s an extract:
The government’s vaccine programme is running behind schedule, the trans-Tasman bubble is looking decidedly deflated, it has welched on several key transport election commitments and is building a bicycle and pedestrian bridge across the Auckland Harbour Bridge that doesn’t look like it could possibly pass any sensible cost-benefit analysis.
As she has become a more proficient and professional opposition leader, Collins has also become more boring.
Meanwhile, Simon Wilson yesterday wrote a piece in which he said that it’s difficult to work out what Judith Collins wants to do with the National leadership:
Take the new “Demand the Debate” campaign, which feels like every retrograde thing we know about the National Party today, all wrapped up in one terribly tangled knot.
To start, demanding a debate is weaker than taking a position. Also, what debate are we not having? The issues Collins has identified, along with He Puapua, are the feebate scheme for electric vehicles, changes to infrastructure projects, the proposed new harbour bridge for cycling and walking, the new law to establish Māori wards and 2018’s ban on new exploration for oil and gas.
All of them are being furiously debated, in Parliament and all over the country. As are other big issues of the day, including our Covid response and vaccine rollout, unemployment and wage rate issues, health and education failings and that gnarly bundle of crime, gangs and corrections.
8.10am: Stranded pregnant woman given seat on emergency flight back to NZ
A pregnant woman stranded in Sydney will be able to return home after being given a seat on a mercy flight.
According to RNZ, Carol Taupau travelled to the Australian city for her aunt’s funeral last months. She is 26 weeks pregnant and was previously told she would not qualify for a priority seat.
But, yesterday afternoon, Taupau was told she had been given an exemption. “I am very relieved,” she told RNZ.
“I just saw the top half of the message and it said my application was approved, I was really really overwhelmed. I just couldn’t believe that I got approved.”
Jacinda Ardern yesterday said she believed Taupau would be able to get home on an emergency flight.
Yesterday saw the first flights depart Sydney since quarantine-free travel was paused last month amid rising Covid-19 cases in Sydney. All arrivals will have to go into managed isolation for 14 days.
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
A senior sufferer of RSV is warning New Zealanders to take the outbreak seriously. The Stuff piece spoke to Southlander John Scully, who had to be put into isolation in hospital with the respiratory virus. The health workers around him have had to be in full PPE. He thought he just had the flu, but then it never went away – one of the most worrying aspects of RSV is that it really lingers. It can also be deadly – the NZ Herald reported yesterday a woman in her 60s died after contracting RSV.
Outbreaks happen every winter, but this year is particularly bad. The Guardian reports that part of the reason for that is last year’s lockdown, which prevented a cohort from building up immunity. What worked against Covid also works against other viruses, after all. Stuff reports cases were continuing to climb into the end of last week. And as of yesterday, the NZ Herald reported four people were in Wellington hospital’s ICU with RSV.
And because it can hit children hard, the school holidays almost couldn’t have come at a better time. The NZ Herald reported late last week that school attendance has slumped, with some classes down by half. That wasn’t all RSV of course – there are other reasons kids end up off school – but it is thought to have been a significant factor.
Meanwhile, researchers are hoping people will participate in a trial of an RSV vaccine, reports Radio NZ. The scientists aren’t suggesting that any vaccine could be developed to stop the current outbreak, but hope that over time it could save thousands of lives around the world, particularly those of babies.
A select committee will be launching an inquiry into Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, to better understand the nature of the risks and benefits. Newshub reports that will also include looking into the environmental impacts of crypto mining (it’s terrible) and the way cryptocurrencies are used and traded. It comes at a really interesting time for the likes of Bitcoin, which is increasingly seen as a legitimate investment by New Zealanders. It’s fair to say I’m personally a bit more sceptical of it, seeing it more as a wasteful and pointless Ponzi scam. As this Stuff piece shows, tax questions are also coming up at the moment around Bitcoin, particularly because of the extremely volatile prices.
Meanwhile just on the subject generally, this is an incredible story about crypto and crime: The NZ Herald’s David Fisher reports police trying to investigate a money laundering operation (another thing crypto is great for is crime) had the tables turned on them, and instead had about $45,000 worth of Bitcoin stolen from them.
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