Election Live, September 17: Third day with zero community Covid-19 cases

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for September 17, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other NZ news. The essential campaign dates are here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here. Explore the parties’ pledges at Policy. I’m on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7pm: The day in sum

New Zealand had its third day in a row with zero new cases of Covid-19 in the community. However, there were seven new cases in managed isolation.

All staff and students at Auckland’s Chapel Downs Primary School are being urged to get tested after a student there was found to have Covid-19.

A man in managed isolation in Rotorua escaped on Wednesday and was reportedly missing for about half an hour.

New Zealand is officially in recession with the country’s GDP shrinking by a record 12.2% in the June quarter.

The treasury revelaed it printed the wrong pre-election update which was given to reporters and economists on Wednesday.

4.50pm: All staff and students at Auckland school asked to get tested

Following yesterday’s news that a student who later returned a positive test for Covid had visited Chapel Downs Primary School for half an hour on Monday morning, Auckland Regional Public Health Service is now asking all students and staff to get tested.

In a statement, ARPHS said testing was encouraged despite the fact “the vast majority are considered casual contacts”. The school, in Flat Bush, south-east Auckland, closed yesterday and will remain so for the rest of the week. A “very small number of people are close contacts, and will stay in self-isolation for 14 days until the end of Monday September 28.”

The statement continued: “The vast majority of the school are being asked to stay away from others outside the home until they are tested and receive a negative result. The parents and siblings of these school children do not need to stay at home. While casual contacts are at very low risk of developing Covid-19, Public Health has requested everyone at the school get tested and watch for symptoms.”

Responding to concerns from members of the school community about the timing of the revelations, ARPHS said: “Public Health received further information on Wednesday morning that a child had been at school on Monday 14 September from 8.30am until 9.00am, before they received their positive test result. ARPHS investigated this information and the school community was told Wednesday afternoon that a child with Covid-19 had attended school for 30 minutes. Understandably some parents may be upset that they did not hear until Wednesday, however this information was shared as soon as events were confirmed on Wednesday.”

It added: “ARPHS decided to close the school while it investigated the movements of the child and the risk to others. ARPHS also needed to identify any close contacts who are at higher risk and need to be in self-isolation. The child who was briefly at school was not symptomatic, but was waiting for results from a Covid-19 test from September 13. The child left school before children began classes for the day, further reducing the risk to the school community.

“ARPHS has liaised with the family closely to communicate the importance of staying in self-isolation. The family has been cooperating with Public Health and members have been tested and have stayed in isolation until this event.  Please respect the family’s privacy. It is important that during their self-isolation and recovery they get support and understanding.”

2.30pm: Third day in a row with zero community Covid cases

As explained in the 1pm update, today marked the third day in a row with no new cases of Covid-19 in the community.

Below, a chart of the latest Covid-19 community figures. Enjoy.

2.00pm: NZ First MP’s impossible road back to parliament

Sitting New Zealand First MP Jenny Marcroft’s facing an incredibly steep uphill battle if she wants to return to parliament after next month’s election.

Marcroft’s been dropped to 17 on her party’s list, meaning it would take a result almost twice that of the last election to see her retain her spot in parliament. She’s currently number nine on the New Zealand First list, making her the lowest ranked MP from her party be elected last term.

David Wilson and Talani Meikle round out the new top nine, replacing Marcroft and outgoing MP Clayton Mitchell.

1.00pm: Seven new Covid-19 cases – all in managed isolation

Today is the third day in a row with zero new cases of Covid-19 in the community. However, there are seven new cases in managed isolation.

The new cases are:

  • A woman in her 30s who arrived from the United States on September 12 and was in managed isolation in Wellington;
  • A man in his 60s who arrived from India on September 12 and was in managed isolation in Hamilton;
  • A man in his 30s who arrived from India on September 12 and was in managed isolation in Hamilton;
  • A woman in her 20s who arrived from India on September 12 and was in managed isolation in Hamilton;
  • A man in his 40s who arrived from Indonesia on September 12 and was in managed isolation in Christchurch;
  • A child aged between one and four-years-old who arrived from India on September 12 and was in managed isolation in Hamilton; and
  • A woman in her 50s who arrived from Uzbekistan on September 14.

With the exception of the arrival from Uzbekistan, all new cases were detected as a result of day three testing and are now in quarantine. The woman from Uzbekistan was tested in Hamilton after appearing symptomatic, the ministry said.

Four people are in hospital with Covid-19 – one each at Auckland City and North Shore hospitals and two in Middlemore. All are in isolation on a ward. There are no cases in ICU, meaning two people have left intensive care overnight.

There are 54 people linked to the community cluster who remain in the Auckland quarantine facility, which includes 23 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and their household contacts.

Since August 11, contact tracing team has identified 4,043 close contacts of cases, of which 4,036 have been contacted and are self-isolating.

With today’s new cases and 9 additional recovered cases, the total number of active cases is 77. Of those, 33 are imported cases in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, and 44 are community cases.

New Zealand’s total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is now 1,458.

Yesterday, 8,185 Covid-19 tests were processed – a big boost from testing numbers earlier in the week – bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 889,717.

Covid tracer app making ‘real difference’ in contact tracing, says Bloomfield

There are now 2,228,300 users registered of the government’s Covid tracer app. The app has recorded a total of 62,533,146 poster scans, and users have created 2,984,321 manual diary entries.

The ministry said the app has been making a real difference to the work of contact tracers, and a total of 18 contact alerts have been issued through the app to let people know they may have been exposed to Covid-19 so they can take appropriate steps to protect themselves.

This includes four related to the recent case involving a health worker at the Auckland quarantine facility.

App uptake was also a key factor in the decision to ease physical distancing requirements for public transport, the ministry said. so it’s great when people have it, and use it.

“It’s been great to see wide uptake and use of the app over recent weeks,” said Ashley Bloomfield.

“It’s vital people continue to do so as we move down alert levels – it needs to be part of our daily routines.”

12.45pm: Will it be a third day with no community Covid cases?

The Ministry of Health will be delivering a handy press release straight to my inbox around 1pm today, outlining any new Covid-19 cases.

The last two days have seen no new cases in the community, with Ashley Bloomfield yesterday claiming the Auckland cluster is ringfenced. 

However, there remain questions around a Covid positive case who attended an Auckland school earlier this week, as well as the potential for spread from a healthcare worker who visited a gym and some shops last week.

I’ll have all the details for you here as soon as they arrive.

12.20pm: Opposition take aim at record GDP drop

Today’s news that GDP has shrunk by a record 12.2%, plunging the country into recession, has provided excellent pre-election fodder for the opposition.

National’s finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said it’s proof the government has failed to keep our economy progressing.

“The numbers reveal a smaller economy with thousands of Kiwis out of work, businesses failing and a massive drop in New Zealand’s income,” he said.

“The lack of pragmatism and a clear plan from Labour has made the economic hole deeper and the impact harder than it needed to be.

Similarly, the Act Party’s leader David Seymour said the GDP figures show the government has failed to balance its approach to Covid-19.

“It’s been too busy lecturing New Zealanders from the podium and hosing money at dubious projects when it should have been asking ‘what economic activity can we safely allow?’,” Seymour said.

11.50am: Man escapes managed isolation in Rotorua

It’s been a while, but New Zealand has another managed isolation absconder.

A man made a late night dash from the Sudima Hotel in Rotorua yesterday and was missing for about half an hour. He was first reported missing at 11pm last night, sparking a search by defence force staff.

Police are now investigating the incident and checking CCTV security footage to establish exactly where the man went during that time.

In a statement, air commodore Darryn Webb said there is no information to suggest the man came into contact with any other person while he was outside the facility. The public health risk is low, Webb said.

Due to concerns for the man’s wellbeing he was taken to hospital where he is receiving support and assessment.

11.40am: Treasury printed wrong pre-election update, contained billions worth of errors

Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports:

The treasury has revealed that the printed copies of the pre-election economic and fiscal update (Prefu) given to reporters and economists yesterday was a draft version containing over 100 errors.

In an email to reporters, the treasury said it had received an apology from the printer for not printing the final version.

The draft printed instead did not contain data reflecting the government’s latest economic forecast. The errors don’t appear in the online or digital versions of the document.

The list of discrepancies between the printed version and the correct one is 10 pages long.

The errors includes a number of spelling and typographical mistakes, but more worryingly, the economic numbers provided are off over a number of pages. In some cases, the data is off by billions of dollars. As an example, the printed version provided yesterday said debt after 2020 would increase by around $23.5 billion annually. The correct figure is $29.4 billion annually.

10.45am: NZ officially in recession, GDP figures confirm

New Zealand has officially entered recession, Stats NZ has confirmed. The country’s GDP shrank by a record 12.2% in the June quarter, as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown and border closures.

That’s the second successive quarter of negative growth – the technical measure of a recession. It marks the first recession since the great financial crisis more than a decade ago.

“The 12.2% fall in quarterly GDP is by far the largest on record in New Zealand,” Stats NZ national accounts senior manager Paul Pascoe said.

(Image : Stats NZ)

Though a record drop, today’s figures are squarely where many economists (and at least one person in The Spinoff office) were predicting.

The June quarter started while the country was in nationwide alert level 4 lockdown, with strict restrictions on the activities of both households and businesses. It took until June 8 for the shift into relative normality, at level one.

“While level 4 restrictions were in place for most of April, the gradual return to level 1 over the course of the quarter meant that businesses were able to open up again and many people returned to places of work,” Pascoe said. New Zealand’s borders have been closed since March 19.

Covid-19 has led to historically large GDP falls around the world. However, our drop of more than 12% puts us above Australia with -7%, Japan with -7.9% and the United States with -9.1%.

“Industries like retail, accommodation and restaurants, and transport saw significant declines in production because they were most directly affected by the international travel ban and strict nationwide lockdown,” Pascoe said.

“Other industries, like food and beverage manufacturing, were essential services and fell much less.”

Annually, GDP fell by 2.0% – the first annual decline since the March 2010 quarter.

On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today: 

  • Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern is in the metropolis of Palmerston North, visiting FoodHQ science park and later walking about in the Square.
  • National Party leader Judith Collins is in the bustling hub of the Hutt Valley and in Wellington, where she will be responding to the release of GDP figures.
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is ticking off the three Ts today: Taupō, Turangi and Te Kuiti.
  • Act Party leader David Seymour is sailing (or more likely flying) from Wellington down to the South today. He’s in Kaikōura and Blenheim on his election tour.
  • Greens co-leader James Shaw is participating in a political forum in Wellington this evening while Marama Davidson is going to a hangi at Ōtara Kai Village and later attending Waiata Anthems Live in Auckland.

Today, we’re also expecting the latest GDP figures to be released which will show the full extent of the economic damage brought by Covid-19.

9.40am: Government boasts new record level of women on boards

The minister for women is celebrating new statistics showing the government has reached its target of having 50% women on state sector boards and committees.

The target was set in 2018, to be met by next year.

“I am also very pleased to report that women in public service senior leadership has also increased from 49.6% in 2019 to 53.2% in 2020, which is the highest level since measurement began in 2001,” Julie Anne Genter said.

The latest Ministry for Women quarterly update shows that, as at June 2020, there are 1340 women and 1339 men appointed to boards.

8.10am: Chinese data leak ‘business as usual’ – commentator

A tech commentator has put to bed concern that a Chinese data leak with the details of notable New Zealanders is anything sinister.

Information about 800 New Zealanders, such as politicians and journalists, were collected by Zhenhua, which has been linked to Chinese military and intelligence.

But Paul Brislen told RNZ this morning it appeared to be “business as usual”.

The list was probably nothing more than just the company “building a dossier on people you might want to talk to or engage with at some point, using publicly available sources”, Brislen said.

“It’s quite common. I was doing it earlier this week – pulling information down from the Beehive website about recent speeches a minister had given, a little bit of a bio about the minister, and comments that they had made in public – for a client. So it’s all publicly available.”

7.45am: Frustration over delay in finding out Covid-positive child attended Auckland school

Some parents are expressing their frustration and confusion that it took two days for an Auckland school to close for Covid-19 cleaning, after being visited by a positive case on Monday.

As reported last night, a student at Chapel Downs School in Flat Bush, south-east Auckland, attended school for a short time on Monday morning, before testing positive for the virus later that day. It’s since been confirmed the case was reported by the Ministry of Health on Monday.

However, the school remained open on Tuesday and Wednesday, despite the new case.

The school posted the news on Facebook yesterday, prompting an outpouring of support – but also some concern from those in the school community.

“Why are we only being notified days later?” one wrote, with another questioning why they weren’t informed of the news earlier in the week. Many were wanting more information so they could determine whether they should get their child tested for Covid-19, such as the child’s year group or classroom.

The school will reopen on Monday.

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

It was a policy conceived in an emergency, was deployed rapidly, and prevented a total economic disaster from crashing over the country. But now serious questions are being asked about the wage subsidy, whether it was abused by some of those getting it, and what should be done about that now. To give some context around it, around 1,650,000 jobs were covered by the original scheme, and just under half a million covered in the extension. Stuff recently reported the views of an economist who said it had “completely masked” the state of the labour market, but that was sort of the point – it was always meant to prevent unemployment rates going over a cliff.

It was announced earlier in the week that the office of the auditor-general would be looking at the management of the scheme. In a release, the OAG said “our work will provide the public and Parliament with an independent view on how well the Scheme has been managed. We expect to identify the challenges in operating high-trust models and lessons for decision makers.”

Audits have been taking place of some claimants – see for example this One News story from July. And several hundred million dollars have been paid back. Many businesses who initially feared being wiped out by Covid-19 received the wage subsidy, only to discover that the hit to revenue was not nearly as bad as expected, so paid it back to the government. A disclaimer I should include here – the Spinoff was one of them.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

A 54-year-old man with Covid-19 has died in Waikato Hospital. It’s New Zealand’s 25th coronavirus-related death.

An Auckland primary school has closed for the rest of the week after a student tests positive for Covid-19.

There was one new case of Covid-19, related to the border.

New Zealand’s economy shrank by 16% in the quarter between April and June, making it the sharpest economic contraction in the country’s history.

National pledged more Pharmac funding in its health policy.

Top politicians have been targeted by a firm with links to the Chinese military.

Read yesterday’s updates in full here.




The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.