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PoliticsOctober 17, 2021

Live updates, October 17: 51 new community Covid-19 cases, four in Waikato


Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 17, by Alice Neville. 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

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7.15pm: Super Saturday saw 2% rise in first doses, 3% in second, and boosted Māori vaccination rates by 5.4%

According to updated data from the Ministry of Health, yesterday’s big vaccination push saw first dose rates rise by 2%, meaning 85% of New Zealanders have now had their first jab. Second dose rates rose 3%, bringing the proportion of fully vaccinated New Zealanders to 65%.

Māori vaccination rates jumped 5.4% since last Sunday, and now 65% of the Māori population (375,000 people) have now had their first dose, with 250,000 of those fully vaccinated.

By ethnicity, Māori also had the highest proportion of first doses on Super Saturday, with 50% of all Māori vaccinations being the first dose.

The Kawerau district began the day with the lowest first dose rate in the country, but by the end of yesterday, had the biggest daily percentage increase for first doses given.

Māori vaccinations in Hawke’s Bay rose 3% on Super Saturday, with over 1,100 getting their first dose. The Super Saturday vaccine centres with the highest first dose vaccination rates were Park and Fly at Auckland Airport, Pak ‘n Save Napier and Christchurch Arena Carpark.

4.10pm: It’s one year since the 2020 general election and all these good dogs

Today marks exactly one year since the 2020 general election, when Labour swept to a landslide victory, NZ First got turfed out of parliament, Chlöe Swarbrick took Auckland Central and, most importantly, a whole lot of dogs hung out at polling booths.

On October 17, 2020, The Spinoff converted its live updates to a dogs-at-polling-booths extravaganza of which I was in charge. We called for voters to send in their snaps and the nation embraced the kaupapa to such an extent that I had no choice but to compile a follow-up post the next week.

For a wholesome reminder of that brief Covid-minimal but canine-heavy time, I recommend a soothing Sunday afternoon scroll of both election pooch compilations.

3.45pm: Footage of party allegedly held on North Shore last night angers Aucklanders

Footage of a party allegedly held on Auckland’s North Shore last night in breach of alert level three restrictions has been shared on social media multiple times, angering commenters and mayor Phil Goff.

In a statement, Goff told the Herald anyone attending a party in level three was undermining the hard work of Aucklanders to suppress the virus and putting themselves and the wider community at risk.

“After a fantastic Super Saturday that saw record numbers of Aucklanders doing the right thing, it’s a shame to see a small minority of selfish people choosing to behave like idiots.”

A police spokesperson told the Herald multiple reports of the party had been made through the non-emergency line but it was too early to know whether police would investigate.

2.30pm: How case numbers are tracking

2.20pm: Yesterday’s vaccine numbers

Canterbury topped the charts on Super Saturday with just over 17,000 doses, with Counties Manukau close behind on 16,570. The combined total across the three Auckland DHBs was more than 40,000.

Yesterday’s 90,971 second doses was by far the highest daily total to date.

1.50pm: Victoria’s lockdown to lift as state nears 70% fully vaccinated

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has announced the lockdown in place in Melbourne and parts of regional Victoria will end this week as the Australian state nears its 70% double vaccination target earlier than predicted.

Currently, 65.5% of Victorians have had both vaccine doses and the state is expected to reach 70% by Thursday, said Andrews. For first doses, it’s expected to pass 90% tomorrow or Tuesday.

In metropolitan Melbourne, the curfew and the 15-kilometre travel radius will be lifted, but travel restrictions between Melbourne and regional Victoria will remain.

A staggered return of school students will commence on Friday, 10 visitors will be allowed in people’s homes per day, and outdoor public gatherings of up to 15 people in Melbourne and 20 in regional Victoria will be allowed.

Hospitality venues will be allowed to have up to 20 fully vaccinated people inside for seated service, and up to 50 outside. 

Victoria recorded 1,838 new Covid-19 cases and seven deaths today.

1.15pm: 51 new Covid-19 cases in the community, four in Waikato

There are 51 new community cases today, with 47 in Auckland and four in Waikato, the Ministry of Health has announced.

As at 9am today, 23 of the new cases are yet to be linked to an existing case, with 28 linked and 18 of those household contacts. There are 127 unlinked cases from the past 14 days.

Of yesterday’s 41 cases, 19 were infectious in the community, with 22 in isolation during their infectious period.

There are 29 people in hospital with Covid-19, 14 of whom are in Middlemore, 11 in Auckland and four in North Shore. Five people are in ICU.

Two more unlinked cases in Waikato 

Of the four new cases in Waikato, two are yet to be linked to the outbreak – one in Hamilton and one in Kihikihi, near Te Awamutu. “It is possible that the Kihikihi case is the source of the wastewater detections in Te Awamutu, however this has not yet been confirmed,” said the ministry, referring to two positive wastewater detections in the town last week.

The other two Waikato cases (one in Hamilton and one in Raglan) are known contacts of existing cases, including one who was already in managed isolation.

Cases confirmed in Wellsford after positive wastewater detections

There is one household in Wellsford with Covid-19 cases, the Ministry of Health has confirmed, following two positive wastewater detections in the Northland town that sits inside Auckland’s alert level boundaries.

“Wellsford residents are urged to remain vigilant and get tested if they have any symptoms,” said the ministry, adding that a pop-up testing centre is open in Warkworth today until 4pm, and another will be operating in Kaiwaka from 10am to 5pm from tomorrow. For other testing locations, visit the Healthpoint website.

More than 130,000 people vaccinated on Super Saturday 

The official number of people vaccinated yesterday has tipped over 130,000, with a final count of 130,002 people getting the jab.

“People across the motu embraced Super Saturday like their communities’ lives depended on it,” said director general of health Ashley Bloomfield in the statement. “It was inspiring to witness as we know the Covid-19 vaccine is key to our efforts to control the virus.

Auckland had its biggest vaccination day ever, with 41,081 people getting the jab – 9,039 first doses and 32,042 second doses.

“They’ve hit 89% of their eligible population who have had their first dose and are tantalisingly close to reaching 90%,” said Bloomfield. “I continue to urge everyone in Auckland who hasn’t received their first vaccination to get vaccinated as soon as possible. And remember, we’re not stopping at 90% – the higher, the better for everyone.”

In Auckland, 20,360 more people need to get their first dose for the region to hit the 90% milestone. Over the past week, Auckland averaged about 4,000 first doses daily, so if that trend continues Auckland is likely to reach 90% this week.

A more detailed breakdown of vaccination numbers by district health board will be released shortly, according to the ministry.

12.50pm: Latest Covid-19 case numbers expected at 1pm

We’ll be getting the latest information on the delta outbreak in Aotearoa in an emailed statement from the Ministry of Health at around 1pm, including the number of new cases (and how many of those are not yet epidemiologically linked), and the official vaccination numbers from yesterday’s “Super Saturday”.

12.00pm: Australia resumes green zone flights from South Island for fully vaccinated travellers

From early Wednesday morning, people in the South Island will be able to travel across the ditch without having to quarantine on arrival, the Australian government has announced.

Covid transmission in the North Island means flights from all cities there will remain classified as “red zone”, meaning arrivals must complete 14 days’ hotel quarantine, until the end of the month.

Travellers from the South Island will have to show evidence of a negative pre-departure PCR test within 72 hours of the departure time as well as evidence of being fully vaccinated. They must also not have been in the North Island during the past 14 days.

New Zealand’s pause on quarantine-free travel for arrivals from Australia remains in place until at least mid to late November.

11.15am: Shaw defends new emissions reduction plan

Climate change minister James Shaw has defended the draft emissions reduction plan released by the government last week. 

As reported by The Bulletin on Thursday, the discussion document was labelled “udder bullshit” by Greenpeace – a reference to its silence on agricultural emissions – while others criticised its alleged lack of clarity and lack of ambition. Shaw has said there is a separate programme under way for the agricultural sector. 

Shaw will be taking the document with him to the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow at the end of the month, but when challenged by Jack Tame on TVNZ’s Q&A this morning about whether it was worthy of the gravity of the climate change crisis, he stressed that it wasn’t a plan in itself, but “one of a number of inputs into a plan” that will be released next year alongside the budget. 

On the document being used as a starting point for wider discussion with the public, Tame asked why more consultation was needed, and whether it was time for the government to instead make some bold calls. 

“If it was up to me I wouldn’t have gone out again,” said Shaw, “but the government does have an obligation to consult people where we have policies that affect their lives and livelihoods,” adding that elements of the document had not been consulted on before. 

Asked whether in Glasgow he would be embarrassed of New Zealand’s recent “highly insufficient” ranking on the Climate Action Tracker, Shaw said “to a point”, but that the tracker hadn’t taken into account some recent decisions. “If you look at our record over the last 30 years it has been woefully inadequate.”

On whether the agriculture sector could be trusted to make changes of the magnitude required to meet the crisis, Shaw said, “They’ve got to – none of us have any choice in this matter. The science on this is accelerating and it’s compounding and every new report we get suggests that things are moving much faster in the direction we don’t want it to.”

He said he was “frustrated” that in recent years, science-based changes could have been rolled out more extensively to decrease farm emissions and increase productivity. “They could have been doing a lot more on that in the past few years.”

10.00am: Organisers of yesterday’s anti-lockdown protests likely to be prosecuted

Police say charges will be laid against the organisers of yesterday’s anti-lockdown protest in Auckland and Whangārei in the coming days, reports the Herald.

In breach of alert level three restrictions, about 2,000 people gathered in the Auckland Domain and 1,000 in Whangārei’s Kensington Park yesterday to protest the government’s Covid-19 restrictions and vaccination. Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki, who is facing charges for his role in organising an earlier protest, spoke at the Auckland event.

“While those in attendance generally conducted themselves in a calm manner and adhered to rules around mask wearing and distancing between smaller separate bubbles, the gathering was by its very nature a significant breach of Covid-19 alert level level requirements,” Auckland city district commander superintendent Shanan Gray told the Herald.

“No arrests were made today. However, police confirm that they will be taking prosecution action against a number of individual organisers in the coming days. Police will provide updates when available.”

9.45am: The week ahead: goodbye to alert levels?

As reported in yesterday’s live updates, the government is proposing to replace the current alert levels with a traffic light system that would align the risk of Covid in the community with red, amber and green. Details of the new system were not received well among health experts on a Zoom call on Thursday, according to reports, but it’s expected to be announced in the coming week – possibly at tomorrow’s post-cabinet press conference.

Cabinet already has some big calls to make tomorrow, including whether Northland and parts of the Waikato can shift out of level three. Last Wednesday, it was decided to extend the regions’ lockdowns until at least Tuesday night. As of yesterday, no further cases had been detected in Te Tai Tokerau but the Ministry of Health revealed a third woman had been travelling with the two cases whose rule-breaching road trip put the region in lockdown, who has also now tested positive. It’s believed she wasn’t infectious while in Northland, however.

There was one new case in Waikato yesterday, a household contact of an existing case who was already in quarantine. Yesterday’s statement had no update on the two unlinked cases reported on Wednesday, or on the two positive wastewater detections in Te Awamutu last week, so we’ll be hoping to learn more about both those issues today.

Then there’s the question of whether Auckland can progress from step one of its pathway out of level three (double-bubble picnics, outdoor exercise classes and early childhood education, basically) to step two, which would entail retail opening (with distancing and masks) alongside pools, libraries and museums, and outdoor gathering limits increasing to 25. Initially pencilled in for last Monday, the move to step two was pushed out a week, and given the trajectory of case numbers in the past couple of weeks – especially all those unlinked ones (see 7.15am update) – Aucklanders are probably not holding their breath that much will change tomorrow.

7.15am: Will the Super Saturday afterglow last? What to expect today 

It’s likely to be a little less exciting than yesterday’s Super Saturday Vaxathon*, but there are a few things to look out for today. Around 1pm, the Ministry of Health’s daily Covid-19 update will arrive in my inbox and I’ll have all the pertinent info here for you just as quickly as I can copy and paste.

As well as case numbers and the like, the official numbers from yesterday’s massive vaccination drive will be revealed. As of 10pm last night, the total number of arms jabbed across the motu yesterday was 129,995 – 39,024 first doses and 90,971 second doses. It was the biggest ever day for Māori vaccinations, with 10,941 first doses and 10,874 second doses, and the biggest vax day for Auckland – 8,957 people got their first dose and 31,686 people their second. That means 89% of the eligible population of Tāmaki Makaurau have now had at least one dose. Nationwide, 85% of the eligible population have had at least their first jab, and 65% are fully vaccinated.

There were a relatively low 41 cases yesterday, but just over half (21) were yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. Those unlinked cases have risen sharply: there are now 124 from the past 14 days. Compare that to a week ago, when unlinked cases from the preceding 14 days totalled 30.

*If you missed yesterday’s eight-hour televised Vaxathon extravaganza or simply want to relive the highlights (Ashley Bloomfield dancing! Lorde talking about apple turnovers! Marlon Williams singing ‘Purea Nei’ in a food court!), I thoroughly recommend Alex Casey and Tara Ward’s recap.

Keep going!