Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 14, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Auckland is now at step one of the alert level three pathway, Northland and parts of Waikato are in regular level three. Reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org
5.25pm: Another Aucklander charged after travelling to Wānaka
A man who travelled from Auckland to Wellington and then on to Wānaka has been charged with failing to comply with a Covid-19 order.
The 36-year-old allegedly left Auckland and travelled to Wellington on October 8, then to Wānaka on October 12, a police spokesperson told Stuff. The man is due to appear in Queenstown District Court on October 18.
It’s not clear how the man got through Auckland’s boundary but he’s understood to have returned a negative Covid test before leaving Auckland, reports Stuff.
A number of people have left Auckland and travelled to the Queenstown Lakes District since the city’s alert level restrictions came in, the most high profile being a couple who used essential worker documentation to drive to Hamilton, fly to Queenstown then drive to their Wānaka holiday home on September 9. They have been charged with failing to comply with a Covid-19 public health order.
Meanwhile, two women who were arrested in Blenheim yesterday after travelling there from Auckland (see 12pm update) have appeared in court in the Marlborough town via video link. The pair, who are believed to be sex workers, have been charged with failing to comply with a Covid-19 public health order and bailed to their home addresses in Auckland.
3.45pm: Ron Brierley sentenced to 14 months in prison
Disgraced businessman Ron Brierley will spend 14 months behind bars in Sydney for possesion of child abuse material.
After an investigation in 2019, 84-year-old Brierley pleaded guilty to possession of more than 46,000 images – some of children as young as four.
Brierley’s knighthood was stripped earlier this year.
3.20pm: Second poll of the day brings more good news for Act
The second political poll of the day once again shows Act sitting pretty on 16%.
The Curia poll produced for the Taxpayers’ Union has Labour down a point to 44.8%, with National trailing on 22.5% (though up 1.2%). Act’s in third, followed by Greens on 6.4% and a rising New Zealand First on 3.6%.
In the preferred PM poll, Jacinda Ardern’s on 47.2% though down a few points from the September survey. David Seymour is once again in second position, up three points to 12.3% and roughly seven points ahead of Judith Collins. A handful of National MPs are also in single digits, nipping at Collins’ heel. Christopher Luxon, Chris Bishop, Simon Bridges and even former PM John Key all make an appearance.
2.20pm: Has the government lost control of the Covid response?
At the end of today’s 1pm press briefing, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson was asked a simple question from Newshub’s Tova O’Brien: “Has the government lost control of the Covid response?”
Here is his response, in full:
Absolutely not. Where we are today is we are in one of the trickiest bits of Covid-19, but we still have in place some of the strictest alert level restrictions in the world. We’re still able to stand up here each day and tell you how many cases there are [and] that those cases are being followed up. We have one of the lowest hospitalisation rates in the world, we have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world. We are at a very difficult point in Covid as we transition to a framework where vaccination provides us all with that personal armour and we can move forward from there. During this period we need people in Auckland to obey the alert level three restrictions and that is what will make sure we keep the outbreak under control.
2.00pm: Pandemic the ‘responsibility of all’ – Robertson
Grant Robertson has been asked to clarify comments he made earlier in today’s press conference after an almost instant backlash on social media.
The deputy PM described a question about Māori being at the centre of this outbreak as an “interesting fact” and said “this is not an issue for any particular group”. Within minutes, those comments had been shared – and criticised – on Twitter.
Grant Robertson just now on Māori being at centre of the outbreak “while those facts might be interesting … this is not an issue for any particular group”. I can’t believe the Deputy Prime Minister just said that.
— Jack McDonald (@tautokai) October 14, 2021
Later asked to explain his remarks, Robertson said there was no offence intended. “The point I was making was I don’t want this to become a situation where we’re ascribing a particular part of the pandemic to a particular community. This is the responsibility of all Aucklanders to be able to deal with it,” he said.
“We are well aware of the fact there are groups in our community who are more vulnerable to Covid, we constantly think about that.”
1.45pm: Today’s key numbers, charted
These three charts from The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker paint a pretty bleak picture of Auckland’s delta outbreak, almost two full months after the first case was recorded.
As you can see, today’s 71 new cases isn’t far off the same peak we hit in the second week of the outbreak in late August. Today, officials said we could expect the number of new cases to double within a fortnight taking else well beyond that August high.
Meanwhile, the hospitalisation rate is also on the rise and while the number of cases infectious within the community has dropped slightly, it’s significantly up on September.
1.30pm: ‘Doubling’ of cases expected in next fortnight – McElnay
Director of public health Caroline McElnay has issued a sober warning for Auckland: case numbers aren’t just set to rise, they’re expected to double – and within two weeks.
Speaking at today’s 1pm briefing, McElnay said that prediction was based on current trends. There were 71 new cases today, almost as high as at the peak of the outbreak in late August. “We’ve been working with Auckland district health boards to make sure they’re prepared,” said McElnay.
Our hospitalisation rate remains relatively low, said Grant Robertson. “ICU capacity is fine at the moment but people need to prepare for the prospect that it might grow.” Earlier today, the health minister Andrew Little echoed this message and said capacity within our hospitals could cope with increased demand.
On contact tracing, McElnay said a large number of cases can be coped with but the detail of investigation into those cases would decrease. 170-180 cases a day would start to put pressure on the system, she said. “We’re looking at ways to prepare.”
Robertson remained coy when asked if Auckland could still hope for an alert level change on Monday. He said cabinet would take the latest health advice into account.
1.25pm: The total number of active cases has doubled in nine days
Below, the number of active cases in the current delta outbreak. As you can see, the recent surge in Covid-19 cases has resulted in active case numbers doubling in just over a week.
1.10pm: Positive wastewater result in Te Awamutu
A positive Covid-19 wastewater result has been confirmed in Te Awamutu, prompting new pop-up testing.
Waikato DHB staff are investigating whether the wastewater detection represents a new current case or an old case who may be shedding the virus. "In the meantime, anyone in Te Awamutu who has Covid-19 symptoms or has visited a location of interest should get tested immediately," said the Ministry of Health.
A positive result was also confirmed in a sample taken from Raglan on Tuesday, following earlier detections form samples taken last week. Anyone in Raglan with symptoms or has been at a location of interest at the relevant time is being asked to get tested.
Vaccination rates in Waikato remained high yesterday with 6,327 people getting a dose. There were 3,680 swabs taken in Waikato yesterday.
1.05pm: Jump in new cases with 71 confirmed in Auckland
There are 71 new community cases of Covid-19, across "many parts" of Auckland.
"Today's new case numbers are sobering, but not unexpected," said public health director Caroline McElnay. "As we see numbers increase it’s even more important that people get tested if they feel unwell and get vaccinated if they are yet to be."
Of today's cases, 32 cannot yet be linked to the wider outbreak but interviews are currently under way. Twenty-one of yesterday's 55 cases are still unlinked, while 25 were infectious in the community.
There are now 33 people in hospital with Covid-19, including five in intensive care.
There are no new cases of Covid-19 in Waikato, confirmed McElnay, but the two unlinked cases from yesterday remain a mystery. Whole genome sequencing is expected back for those cases today.
Very few of the cases we’re seeing are arising from transmission in workplaces, said deputy prime minister Grant Robertson. They’re still coming from within households, some in health settings and a large number from gathering inside people’s homes.
He reiterated that the virus is in all parts of Auckland. “Now is not the time for complacency,” he said. Auckland vaccination rates are at 87% for the first dose and 66% for the second dose, said Robertson, but the first number hasn’t budged much in the last few days and still needs to rise.
“As vaccination rates increase, we will get to the other side of this outbreak without the carnage that other countries have experienced. We just need to stick to the tried and true measures that have worked for us before while we reach those high levels of vaccination," said Robertson.
McElnay warned that they expect there could be a doubling of cases over the next fortnight.
Finally, on vaccinations and testing. Nationwide, 28,646 tests were processed nationwide with roughly 14,000 of these in Auckland alone. Just under 69,000 vaccinations were administered yesterday comprising 15,704 first doses and 53,083 second doses.
12.55pm: Watch – Latest Covid-19 numbers due
The latest Covid-19 case numbers will be released at the final scheduled press conference of this week. We're anticipating an update on the Northland and Waikato lockdowns after they were extended yesterday, along with the latest "mystery case" tally for Auckland.
As always, watch along below or keep this page refreshed to follow our live coverage.
12.45pm: A special note from The Spinoff publisher Duncan Greive
While we wait for the 1pm update, a note from The Spinoff’s managing editor Duncan Greive:
Without wanting to get too Bernie Sanders-meme with it, I am once again asking you to consider donating to help The Spinoff. The delta outbreak struck just as we had made a major investment in new hires to grow what we can bring you on The Spinoff. These live updates have been a huge part of our work to make key news more accessible, and their editor, Stewart Sowman-Lund, is one of a clutch of new writers and editors we have appointed over the past year, including Reweti Kohere, Madeleine Holden and Chris Schulz. We also now have a CTO, working on a new site, and a head of data creating powerful charts to map the spread of the virus and rollout of the vaccine.
They are all creating important work under highly constrained circumstances — as are the rest of our 20-strong editorial team. Unfortunately delta has had a significant impact on our partnership work, which makes us more reliant than ever on the support of our audience.
So — if you’re part of The Spinoff Members, thank you, from all of us. If you’re not, and can donate, please do so today using this link — to keep on keeping on, we need you right now.
(A reminder: Every dollar donated through The Spinoff Members is ring-fenced to create more of our homegrown and independent journalism.)
12.00pm: Pair arrested in Blenheim after breaching Auckland lockdown
Two women have been arrested in Blenheim after travelling from Auckland without valid exemptions.
According to the Herald, the pair also failed to produce a negative Covid-19 test before departing Auckland.
It's the latest in a string of concerning border breaches, including the couple who fled to Wānaka last month and recent incidents in Northland that plunged the tip of the country back into lockdown.
It's understood the two women are sex workers and were located at a motel by police, two days after they were first tipped off about the absconders.
"The women, aged 48 and 49, have both been charged with failing to comply with the Health Order and are due to appear in the Blenheim District Court today," police said in a statement.
"Police and the Ministry of Health continue to investigate the women's movements, including when and how they have managed to travel to Blenheim."
Further information may be provided at today's 1pm Covid briefing.
11.40am: New Raglan and Hamilton locations of interest confirmed
A public toilet in Raglan has been linked to the delta outbreak.
Waikato's lockdown was extended yesterday after two mystery cases were confirmed.
Other new locations include a Supervalue supermarket in Hamilton, Countdowns in Onehunga and Greenlane, and the Life pharmacy in Birkenhead.
The full list is available here
11.15am: Act narrows gap with National in new poll
The Act Party has inched even closer to overtaking National, according to a new poll.
It's sitting on a record 16%, reports the Herald, just six points below National on 22%. Labour's up one point to 46% and, coupled with the Greens on 7%, would comfortably return to power were this result to be replicated in 2023.
The numbers are reportedly drawn from the Talbot Mills monthly Insight survey, the results of which are widely distributed by the polling firm (formerly UMR, which also does polling for the Labour Party) to corporate clients.
Once again, David Seymour is the de facto opposition leader. He's sitting seven points ahead of Judith Collins, 16% to 9%. Jacinda Ardern remained the preferred PM with a whopping 51%, although that's a sizeable drop from the 65% she recorded at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
10.30am: Rapid testing to be rolled out to 25 workplaces
Rapid Covid-19 tests will be rolled out across a group of roughly 25 workplaces, the associate health minister has announced.
The government signalled last week it had partnered with the business community to investigate introducing the less accurate antigen tests into the Covid-19 response. Now, the green light's been given and 300,000 tests have been ordered.
“Some of the businesses in this group are already using rapid antigen tests successfully overseas, and their international experience has helped develop this New Zealand scheme," said Ayesha Verrall. "We will continue to refine, learn and iron out any issues in this first phase, before we look at how this testing can be rolled out as part of our wider Covid-19 response."
While this announcement is welcome, it's long overdue. The introduction of antigen testing has been called for by some business groups and the opposition for months and, over a year ago, the Roche report suggested rolling out alternative testing as a priority. The government defended its approach, saying PCR testing was most appropriate for an elimination strategy.
“To begin with, businesses will use nasal swabs. Rapid antigen testing can provide a result within around 15 minutes. But they tend to be less sensitive at detecting cases, so PCR tests will remain the mainstay of Covid-19 testing in most situations," Verrall clarified.
Auckland Airport's chief executive Adrian Littlewood said rapid testing is a vital added layer of protection to help identify chains of transmission. “Businesses are focused on protecting the health and safety of their teams, as well as ensuring their critical work sites can continue to operate when there are cases of the virus in the community," he said.
10.10am: Health minister 'confident' with ICU capacity
Health minister Andrew Little has denied claims that New Zealand's lacking intensive care space.
Currently, there are six people with Covid-19 in Auckland ICUs but this number could grow significantly should the outbreak continue to worsen.
Little, speaking at a press conference, said there were roughly 340 ventilators in New Zealand with 16% currently being used. "So in terms of capacity to respond for additional patients, I'm confident the capacity is there," Little said.
8.40am: Full trailer drops for Peter Jackson's Beatles doco
Peter Jackson's upcoming three-part (of course) docuseries about The Beatles has released it's first full length trailer. After being pushed back due to Covid-19, the long-awaited documentary will finally drop on Disney+ next month.
Edited together from 57-hours of restored, unseen footage, The Beatles: Get Back follows the band as they prepare for an historic concert in 1969.
8.00am: Home isolation coming sooner rather than later
Positive cases of Covid-19 could soon be allowed to self-isolate at home rather than being moved into a managed quarantine facility.
That's according to the minister in charge of our pandemic response, Chris Hipkins, and comes in the face of rising daily case numbers in Auckland.
Hipkins told RNZ that moving away from MIQ was necessary to stop facilities being overwhelmed. "Fairly soon [you will] see us having to move to more of a home isolation model for those positive cases, rather than converting more and more of our MIQ facilities to cope with domestic cases," he said.
"The last peak that we saw a couple of weeks back, I think we went to the peak of what we could do in terms of MIQ, and I don't envisage that we will go above and beyond that."
While the lockdowns in Waikato and Northland are largely continuing to pursue the elimination strategy, Auckland's ongoing level three seems to be more about suppression of the virus. Currently, there are 75 "mystery" Covid cases in the city with latest modelling suggesting each could spread the virus to 1.2-1.3 other people, leading to a growth in numbers.
Hipkins said that home isolation has been done before, successfully. "We've done that before in our first lockdown last year, we did isolate positive cases within their own homes by and large," he said.
The opposition are in support of the move, with National's Chris Bishop saying it was clear MIQ space was running out. "We're going to have to look at alternatives and the only feasible alternative is home-based isolation," he said. The Act Party are similarly supportive – but want a more immediate change. In a press release, leader David Seymour said that if MPs are allowed to leave locked down Auckland so long as they test negative and isolate for five days, nurses and skilled migrants should be allowed to do the same.
“If that sort of arrangement is ok for them, why not everyone else? How come speaker of the house Trevor Mallard can move faster and more sensibly than the Jacinda Ardern government?" questioned Seymour
- Northland and parts of Waikato will remain in alert level three lockdown for another five days.
- This will be reviewed on Monday, October 18.
- There are 55 new delta cases in the community, including two in Waikato.
- The Waikato cases have not yet been linked.
- Four people – two patients and two staff members – have now tested positive in the North Shore Hospital dialysis unit.
- An Auckland ECE teacher has tested positive, with six children deemed close contacts.
- A truck driver who visited Northland has tested positive.