Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 16. Reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org
4.10pm: Masks mandatory on Auckland public transport and domestic flights nationwide
From Thursday morning, masks will need to be worn on all public transport in Auckland, in and out of Auckland, and on domestic flights throughout New Zealand, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has announced.
Children under 12, people travelling on school buses and charter services, tours and private transport will be exempt. Taxi and Uber drivers in Auckland will have to wear masks, but passengers will not. Exemptions will be made on some health grounds.
“Our intention is to take an educate and encourage approach in the early days,” said Hipkins. “Police can enforce the rules but it will be last resort. Bus drivers and other transport workers won’t be responsible for enforcing the new requirements.”
“We will be looking at whether mask use should be more widely applied in other settings, including on public transport around the rest of the country, and we will be getting further advice on how we can further enhance our contact tracing measures.”
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, confirmed that mandating mask use on buses nationwide would be considered.
Ardern said at the time of a port worker testing positive for Covid-19 last month, the Ministry of Health suggested bringing in masks on public transport and flights. “Our view was that short-term use in that way wouldn’t necessarily carry that preventative approach, it would perhaps be unnecessarily confusing, and so we wanted to make a decision around longer-term use.”
Hipkins said penalties were the same as for all breaches of the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act – a $300 fine – but emphasised “we are not taking a punitive approach”.
Contact tracing and NZ meat in China Covid claims
Asked if the government was looking to “gamify” the scanning of the Covid tracer app QR codes or use penalties to encourage use, the prime minister said they were considering all the options. “We are thinking creatively… we haven’t ruled anything out at the stage. A number of options have been discussed before we consider all of the consequences of some of them.”
Added Hipkins: “The Covid Tracer app at the moment means everybody stays in control of their own data. We are looking at further development of the Covid Tracer app, which would include things like GPS and Bluetooth and potentially adding that functionality. He called the privacy issues they would need to work through first “challenging”.
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