Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 15, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.
6.00pm: Labour slips as Collins flails in new poll
Labour’s popularity has fallen in a 1News Colmar Brunton released this evening, down 2% since the last poll in September to 41%. Jacinda Ardern has also taken a hit as preferred prime minister, down 5% to 39% – her lowest rating in two years.
National rose 2% to 28%, still not enough to govern, even with the help of Act’s 14%. The Greens rose 1% to 9%, with NZ First steady on 3%. Te Paati Māori dropped one to 1%, with TOP and the New Conservatives also on 1%, as well as Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis.
Today’s poll numbers would give Labour 53 seats and the Greens 12, with National getting 36 and Act 18.
In the preferred prime minister stakes, Judith Collins garnered just 5% support, with Act leader David Seymour well above on 11%. Collins’ National colleague Christopher Luxon nabbed 4%, with Green Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick on 2%.
4.10pm: Pfizer booster doses to be rolled out from November 29
Booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will start being rolled out from the end of the month.
In a statement, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said that following Medsafe’s decision last week to approve third Pfizer shots, they will be made available from November 29. Bookings will open on November 26.
“Booster doses will be available free for anyone in New Zealand aged 18 or older who has completed their two dose course more than six months ago,” said Hipkins.
“I’m also confirming that the Pfizer vaccine will be used for boosters, regardless of which vaccine was used for earlier doses. It’s the same Pfizer vaccine used for the first two doses in the vaccination rollout.”
Hipkins said there was no rush for people to get their booster dose. “The science shows fully vaccinated people remain really well protected from infection, and from being seriously ill if they do get Covid-19,” he said.
Healthcare and border workers are will be first in line for the third Pfizer dose as they were the earliest to receive their initial vaccine doses and are on the front line against Covid-19. “We will also be making sure older people including people in residential care have good access to booster doses when they become eligible,” added Hipkins.
4.05pm: Waikato moves to alert level two
The parts of Waikato currently in alert level three will move out of lockdown and into alert level two from midnight tomorrow.
Speaking at parliament, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said there have been 239 cases in the Waikato since it moved to level three six weeks ago. “The people of the Waikato have helped to keep those numbers low and spread has been mainly in households,” said Ardern.
The shift to level two is a temporary decision, said Ardern, before moving into the Covid protection framework.
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the move to level two, rather than to the third step of the level three exit pathway, was appropriate. “[Health officials] looked at either 3.3 or alert level two and felt that it was more simple and consistent with the rest of the country to move to level two,” he said.
Auckland will remain under alert level three, step two.
3.50pm: Booster shot announcement expected at 4pm
Jacinda Ardern will front this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference in which an announcement on Covid-19 booster shots is expected to be made. We’re also expecting an update on any alert level changes for Auckland and the Waikato.
As always, follow along with our live coverage or watch the livestream below.
3.40pm: AUT announces new vice chancellor
Pacific scholar Dr Damon Salesa will take up the role of vice chancellor at AUT, it has been announced.
He’ll replace Derek McCormack who announced his retirement in March 2022 after 18 years in the role. “For twenty years AUT has been the most remarkable story in Aotearoa New Zealand tertiary education, showing how the pursuit of excellence can be set on a foundation of service, inclusion and close relationships with our communities, businesses and stakeholders,” said Salesa.
“I am excited by the opportunity to lead AUT on the next leg of its journey of excellence, te Tiriti partnership, equity and service to our city, nation, region and the world.”
Salesa is a prizewinning historian and former Rhodes Scholar. He’s currently the pro vice chancellor Pacific at the University of Auckland.
2.15pm: Today’s key Covid-19 numbers
Here’s the shape of the outbreak today, according to The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page.
Today saw a slight drop in the overall number of cases but the number of regions facing individual Covid scares increased after a case was confirmed in Masterton.
Meanwhile, hospitalisations are sitting around the 90 mark consistently at the moment and the number of mystery cases continues to grow.
1.50pm: The race to 90%
There were 14,638 first and second vaccine doses administered yesterday, made up of 4,645 first doses and 9,993 second doses. To date, 90% of New Zealanders have had their first dose and 81% are fully vaccinated.
Take a look at how your region is doing below:
1.25pm: Delta outbreak grows by 173 cases; Covid spreads to Wairarapa
Covid-19 has spread to yet another region with one case confirmed today in Wairarapa.
The Masterton case was confirmed after 9am this morning and has therefore not been included in the official Ministry of Health tally. Local public health officials believe this case was found early in the course of their infection, said the ministry. They are carrying out interviews with the person today to identify any close contacts and exposure events.
There are 173 additional new cases of Covid-19 today, including 163 in Auckland. Other new cases include seven in Waikato, two in Northland and one new case in the Lakes DHB region. Of these, 110 remain unlinked to the wider outbreak with 861 mystery cases across the past fortnight.
Covid-related hospitalisations have hit 90 with seven people in intensive care.
The new case in the Lakes region is in Taupō and is a household contact of a known case and is isolating at home. It follows two cases being announced in Rotorua yesterday.
The two new Northland cases are both are in Kaitaia and linked to known cases. However, the ministry is also encouraging anyone who visited Sacred Heart Dargaville church on November 7 between 9am and 10.30am to get tested today, and isolate at home until you receive a negative test result.
In Waikato, two of the new cases so far remain unlinked to the outbreak. One of these is in Huntly and, as they undergo regular surveillance testing, isn’t thought to explain the recent positive Covid-19 detection in wastewater in the area. “However, interviews with the case today will also help discover any other potential cases in the area,” said the ministry.
There are no new cases to report in Taranaki today, said the ministry, and testing levels remained high in the region over the weekend.
In Auckland, one further resident of the Rosaria Rest Home in Avondale has tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of residents at the facility who have contracted the virus to four.
12.50pm: A message from The Spinoff’s new editor Madeleine Chapman
Like any good door-to-door salesperson, I’m about to cheerily introduce myself and then, in the very next breath, ask you for money. Hi! I’m Madeleine (or Mad) Chapman, previously an intern at The Spinoff, then a staff writer, senior writer and now editor. It certainly wasn’t the plan to step into this role in the middle of a delta outbreak, nor did I think my first weeks on the job would unfold alongside New Zealand’s largest city slowly coming out of stagnation. But despite the strange and unfortunate circumstances, The Spinoff team has stepped up once again, working tirelessly (and mostly from our bedrooms) to bring you the most important news when you need it, and the lighter moments when things are looking a little bleak. We’ve been able to continue this work because of the ongoing contributions from our members, and I can’t thank you enough.
But I can boldly ask that you consider becoming a member if you aren’t one already. If you’ve read something on our site recently that you enjoyed or appreciated, consider it a koha for that alone, because every dollar donated through The Spinoff Members is used to create more of the work you see every day. And with Christmas around the corner (which I’m finding genuinely hard to believe), there’s no such thing as shipping delays on a membership of The Spinoff bought for whānau and friends.
12.40pm: Latest Covid-19 numbers due at 1pm
Today’s Covid-19 numbers will come via a written statement from the Ministry of Health. I’ll have them for you as soon as they arrive in my inbox.
We’re expecting updates on whether delta has spread further around the North Island, following scares in Tauranga and Masterton over the weekend. Today’s numbers are the final figures that will be considered by cabinet before this afternoon’s alert level announcement.
12.10pm: Extremely Online – What is the dark web?
Did you know only 4% of the internet is discoverable through Google search? The rest is what’s known as the deep web, and beyond that there’s the dark web. What is it, why was it created and who uses it? The Shit You Should Care About team explains in this week’s episode of Extremely Online.
11.50am: New fund to help build ‘comprehensive historical account’ of the Dawn Raids
Applications are now open for a new fund led by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and forming part of the government’s Dawn Raids apology.
The Teu le Va – or Dawn Raids History Community Fund – will support initiatives that generate, preserve, raise awareness and pass on knowledge of that time in New Zealand’s history.
Pacific peoples minister Aupito William Sio said successful applicants will receive a grant to support initiatives enabling individuals, artists, historians, and community groups to tell their own stories and experiences of the Dawn Raids. “This gesture is part of the reconciliation process, which will also help us capture a comprehensive historical account of the Dawn Raids,” he said.
“[The fund] allows for a healing process to take place, through storytelling, for those impacted by the Dawn Raids. It also assists to increase understanding and appreciation of the history of Pacific communities in New Zealand.”
10.00am: Act calls for testing alternative to vaccine mandates
The Act Party says vaccine mandates for the likes of school teachers should not automatically see staff forced to walk off the job.
From today, all student-facing school workers must have had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in order to keep their job.
David Seymour said routine testing should be available as an alternative. “Act is pro-vaccination; we are frustrated by those who are refusing the vaccine. But the issue has now become divisive and mean spirited,” he said. “It’s time for the government to apply the approach of the Danish government, Air New Zealand, and its own requirement for teachers to all mandates – testing every 72-hours for the unvaccinated.”
Seymour said no sector can afford to lose staff at the moment and regular testing would still provide reassurance to people encountering essential workers that they are safe. “From mid-December, Air New Zealand’s official policy for domestic travel will be to require either vaccination or a negative test within 72-hours to fly. If it is good enough for Air New Zealand passengers flying around the country, is it not good enough for your midwife?”
9.00am: November 29 is not freedom day
After some confusion and misinterpretation, Jacinda Ardern has clarified that November 29 will not necessarily mark a sudden reopening of the Auckland border.
That date, which will see cabinet meet to consider when to introduce the new traffic light system, was misunderstood by some to be the day when alert level restrictions would drop in Auckland.
Speaking to Newshub this morning, Jacinda Ardern said that’s not guaranteed. “We gave a very strong signal that, at that meeting, we will be making decisions to flip Auckland into the new framework soon after. Nothing’s changed,” she said. “We make the decision on the 29th, we announce that decision on the 29th and then there’ll be a date that we then flip in.”
Ardern also reiterated her promise to allow Aucklanders to travel for Christmas and signalled that an announcement will be coming on Wednesday. No further details are known, but the Herald has reported that one option could see checkpoints imposed around areas with low vaccination rates.
8.00am: Ardern not concerned by rapid spread of delta around North Island
The prime minister isn’t concern by the recent rapid spread of Covid-19 around the North Island.
Over the past few days, new community cases of delta have cropped up in Rotorua, the Tararua district and Taupō, while Masterton is on high alert after a confirmed case visited the town.
Jacinda Ardern told RNZ it was not unexpected. “The fact that we have for such a long period of time managed to keep this outbreak predominantly to Auckland [and] the Waikato, which has allowed time for people to continue to be vaccinated, that speaks to the huge effort at the border,” she said.
“For the most part, there is either a link or a strong theory as to how it’s come to be in those places, mostly linked back to Auckland.”
Ardern said that elimination remained the goal outside of Auckland, yet lockdowns were not likely to be used. “We are continuing to heavily contact trace and manage to try and extinguish cases, because we have the ability to do so,” Ardern said. However: “we are less and less using [lockdowns] because we feel they are fairly contained.” The high levels of vaccination meant that restrictions were not as necessary, she said.
Yesterday’s headlines, in brief
- There are 207 new community cases of Covid-19 – the highest on record.
- Of those, 192 are in Auckland, seven in Waikato, two in Northland, four in the Lakes district, and two in the Tararua district.
- There are 90 people in hospital with Covid-19, including seven in ICU.
- A resident of Edmonton Care Home has died in North Shore hospital with Covid-19.
7.30am: From The Bulletin
The Black Caps lost another final (sorry). This bulletin was written while ignoring, then watching, then wishing I could unsee the Twenty20 final between Australia and New Zealand. I asked The Offspin host Simon Day to send through his thoughts in “a couple lines” and he sent me three paragraphs. Here they are:
When Australia beat Pakistan in the second semi final I pretended to be excited by the opportunity for the Black Caps to prove themselves against the one team that continues to dominate them. Honestly, I was terrified.
Sadly, the inevitable happened. Despite a genius innings from Kane Williamson the Black Caps always seemed a step behind. And then David Warner (of all people) and Mitchell Marsh took the game away by the end of the ninth over of the Australian innings and never gave it back.
To be finalists in all three formats of the game is a huge achievement for the New Zealand cricket team. Being a Black Caps fan in 2021 is an entirely different experience to the first 30 years of my life. But the horrible feeling of losing to the Australians remains intensely familiar.
The Covid numbers: Sunday’s total of 207 new confirmed cases was the highest since the pandemic began. There are 90 cases in hospital and nine in ICU/HDU. A woman in her 90s has died in North Shore hospital with Covid-19. She was a resident of Edmonton Care Home where there has been an outbreak with 25 cases among staff and residents.
The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.
Covid-19 is making its way around the North Island. On Friday there were confirmed cases in Auckland, Waikato, Northland and Taranaki. By Sunday, there were new cases found in Rotorua, Taupō and the Tararua district. With the virus also detected in wastewater samples from Tauranga and Mount Maunganui on November 10 and 11, the Bay of Plenty DHB has been preparing for Covid-19 to arrive any day now, reports NZ Herald (paywalled). “Both hospitals (Tauranga and Whakātane) are both pretty full at the moment … so we’re having to be really thoughtful about how we will react to outbreaks and make sure we’ve got multiple plans for different scenarios,” said DHB chief executive Pete Chandler.
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