Live updates, October 20: ‘Major’ Covid-19 outbreak at Christchurch isolation facility

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 20. All the latest New Zealand news, updated throughout the day. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7.45pm: The day in sum

The official Ministry of Health 1pm media release announced one new case of Covid-19 at the border.

A few hours later, media reported that at least 11 overseas fishermen at a Christchurch managed isolation facility had tested positive for Covid-19, with 14 other possible cases under investigation.

Whoever is deputy leader of Labour will become deputy prime minister, Jacinda Ardern revealed. The current deputy leader is Kelvin Davis.

National will hold an internal review of its dismal election performance, Judith Collins announced.

Several National MPs called for the leaker of an internal email to come forward. The email from MP Denise Lee, leaked in early October, was highly critical of Judith Collins’ leadership.

Police have called on sexual assault survivors to come forward following allegations of a sex assault ring operating in a Wellington music community.

4.50pm: Wellington sexual assault survivors encouraged to come forward

Sexual violence survivor advocate Louise Nicholas has made an appeal to victims of sexual assault in Wellington to come forward and speak to police, assuring them they are “extremely safe to do so”.

“A couple of the survivors who we met today would like to say, to those that have endured similar to what they have – please they are asking you to come forward,” she told media in a press conference this afternoon.

Police are investigating a “small number” of complaints, dubbed Operation Emerald, in response to more than 50 allegations of sexual assault in a Wellington music community that were circulated on social media yesterday.

Those affected can call the police directly on 105, and reference Operation Emerald. They were also encouraged to call Wellington HELP if they need support on 04 801 6655.

3.30pm: ‘Major outbreak’ of Covid-19 at Christchurch isolation facility – report

Updated

It’s understood 11 overseas fishermen at the Sudima managed isolation facility have tested positive for Covid-19, with 14 others under investigation.

The Sudima’s chief operating officer this afternoon told Stuff the hotel was in lockdown after a staff member had contacted him to tell him there were a “number of infections”. He’s “concerned” and is expecting an update from health officials at 4pm.

Stuff had previously reported that about 440 fishermen from Russia and Ukraine were due to arrive on two flights chartered by fishing companies – the first of which is thought to have touched down from Moscow via Singapore on Friday. Many of the 237 people onboard have been isolating at the Sudima Hotel, near Christchurch Airport, since their arrival.

It’s being reported that today’s positive cases were detected as part of routine testing on day three of the group’s stay in managed isolation.

Only one imported case of Covid-19 was announced at Tuesday’s 1pm media briefing (see earlier update).

Just asking questions…

2.00pm: Judith Collins fronts after first National caucus meeting; Gerry Brownlee won’t stand down

Judith Collins has thanked her outgoing National Party MPs at a media conference following the party’s first caucus meeting.

Collins has pledged to remain leader of the party following the catastrophic election defeat on Saturday. Deputy leader Gerry Brownlee has today confirmed he too will be staying on with the party, however would not commit to remaining in the same role.

Christchurch needs a National Party representative, Brownlee said. It’s not up to him, he said, if he’ll stay on as the party’s deputy leader.

While today’s caucus meeting was sad, Collins said she was struck by the “immense loyalty” to the National Party of the outgoing MPs.  “I thought it was a very, very constructive caucus meeting,” she said. “Inspiring… onwards and upwards for us.”

She promised that National will be the very best opposition, pledging to remain focused on holding the government to account.

National’s Judith Collins and caucus colleagues (Photo : Justin Giovannetti)

Collins said she expects to be leader of the party for the 2023 election, but admitted it’s not up to her. “My view is that the best person should be there for the job,” she said.

As part of the party’s review of the election results, it’ll also look at deeper issues in the party. That could include how it selects candidates, which this year has resulted in a caucus whiter, older and more male than it was in 2017.

Asked whether any MPs will be retiring ahead of the next parliamentary term, Collins said she expects not. Nick Smith, she claimed, would likely be staying on despite losing his Nelson seat.

Collins said she hopes the leaking against her stops, saying “we have such good people here”.

“Nobody wants the Greens in government but it sounds like they will be,” said Collins, with a bit of the old campaigner coming out. She also said she’d heard from certain media that farmers voted Labour to stop the Greens as an explanation for how National lost the party vote across much of the rural heartland, including the entire South Island.

In an awkward interaction to conclude the press conference, Denise Lee was asked by a reporter whether she had any comments about the internal email that was leaked to media. Lee said all her comments will be reserved for the party review, and not provided to media.

1.00pm: Ministry updates on ships in NZ waters; One new imported case of Covid-19

There is one new imported case of Covid-19 today and are no new community cases, the Ministry of Health has reported.

Meanwhile, the latest information has been released on a number of ships in New Zealand waters following Sunday’s border incursion case.

The Sofrana Surville is believed to be the source of this infection. The vessel arrived in Brisbane last night, and New Zealand officials are following up with public health officials in Australia on the health of those on board. Australian authorities are conducting testing and serology on all 19 crew members.

They will share these results when received and conduct genome sequencing on any positive results that are returned, the ministry said.

The New Zealand-based ship the Moana Chief will have its crew tested tomorrow. The ministry considers this ship unlikely to be the source of the infection of Sunday’s case. The ship is today moving from Marsden Point to Tauranga, and testing of the crew will take place tomorrow to rule it out as the source of infection.

The Ken Rei remains anchored off Napier, the ministry said. Officials are determining with the ship’s owners the next move for the Ken Rei, in conjunction with public health units and port authorities. Testing arrangements will be made once a decision about future movements has been made.

We continue to conduct daily health checks for all 21 crew members on board. All are currently well and not reporting any symptoms of Covid-19, and have been symptom-free for seven days.

New imported case

Today’s imported case arrived on October 7 from Kenya via Dubai and was taken to a managed isolation facility in Auckland. They tested positive at routine testing around day 12 of their stay and have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

The total number of confirmed cases is now 1,531, with just 33 cases active.

There are 30 community close contacts identified in relation to Sunday’s port worker case, and all of those have been contacted and are self-isolating.

All the test results returned from close and casual contacts of the case announced on Sunday are negative to date.

Yesterday our laboratories completed 2,715 tests for Covid-19, bringing our total number of tests completed to date to 1,034,603.

12.50pm: Ministry to provide latest Covid-19 update

We’re expecting a press release from the Ministry of Health today, at around 1pm. Yesterday, there were no new confirmed cases of Covid-19, but a suspected historic case was under investigation.

The lack of a scheduled press briefing is possibly a good sign, but we’ll bring you all the news when we get it.

12.15pm: Deputy PM Kelvin Davis?

Whoever is deputy leader of Labour will become deputy prime minister, Jacinda Ardern has revealed.

That would suggest Kelvin Davis – the party’s current deputy – is on track to take up the job. Davis has been a regular foil for opposition attacks, most recently drawing ire for his election night poem (which we’ve kindly republished on The Spinoff, so no one can forget just how bizarre it was).

As the Herald reports, Ardern has not expressed any intention to move Davis from the deputy leadership, but said it’s up to caucus.

“When it comes to the deputy leadership within the Labour Party, I have no intent in changing that. However, all of the role allocation I will work through over the next two weeks – those do go to a vote with our caucus.”

Davis told reporters that he had spoken with Ardern about the role, but no decision had been made yet.

10.15am: National MPs call for leaker to come forward

Updated

As National MPs return to Wellington for a sombre caucus meeting, several surviving MPs have called for the leaker of an internal email to come forward.

Leader Judith Collins revealed after the election that National’s internal polling dropped by 5% after an email by MP Denise Lee was leaked, showing her being critical of Collins.

Barbara Kuriger, who is returning to parliament after winning back her Taranaki-King Country seat, told media today that the caucus remained united behind Collins.

“I think there is no room in our caucus for anyone that is leaking,” she told Newshub. “I stand in front of staff yesterday as the whip and say, ‘look our resources are cutting down’. Some of them have lost their bosses. I just think some of those leakers don’t think about that sort of stuff.”

Kuriger added: “Just stop it, shape up or get out… We have got no room for that sort of behaviour. We are only going to win if we are a team. I am focused on 2023. Everyone who remains in that room needs to be focused on 2023. That’s where we have got to go.”

Northland MP Matt King also urged the leaker to “front up”, according to the Herald.

“Tell us who you are, so we can kick you out,” he said. He said the leak had definitely been a factor in National’s devastating election night result, but it was not the only reason for it.

Melissa Lee, who scraped back into parliament off the list, teared up this morning while talking to media about her fallen colleagues.

“I’m not quite sure if I can actually celebrate because so many of my good colleagues are leaving. I’m getting emotional,” she told TVNZ.

Lee reflected the views of her caucus colleagues by expressing her anger at leaks from within the party. “New Zealanders will be very disappointed at us. We just look like politicians that can’t actually sort of keep it together,” she said.

“Really disappointed whoever it is. Hopefully it will stop.”

Lee claimed she had know idea who was speaking out to media. “You just feel like an entitled MP and I think you just need to shut up,” she said.

National’s caucus room blocked off

While Labour is celebrating the arrival of its enlarged caucus, National is in crisis talks this morning.

And media will have no chance at glimpsing in, with the room blocked off with a screen. It evokes memories of the day Simon Bridges was rolled, although there’s no suggestion as of yet that any changes in the party’s line-up will occur today.

National is meeting behind closed doors (Photo : Justin Giovannetti)

9.30am: Trump calls Dr Fauci an ‘idiot’

We’re counting down the days until the US presidential election, and things are starting to get weird. Yesterday, we had bizarre footage of Donald Trump dancing and today he’s labelled his infectious disease expert “a disaster” and an “idiot”.

The US is continuing to record countless cases of Covid-19, with over 200,000 people having died since the virus took hold.

The comments about Dr Fauci were made on a conference call with campaign aides, where Trump claimed he would win the 2020 election. He admitted he was less confident about his chances when he was recently hospitalised with Covid-19.

Dr Fauci recently said he was not surprised that Trump contracted the virus after holding large rallies, with no social distancing, and without wearing a mask.

8.30am: Expert warns about complacency around tracer app

A top modelling expert is concerned about a major decline in use of the government’s Covid-19 tracer app. There’s less than a million QR code scans a day, compared to a peak at about 2.5 million.

Shaun Hendy told RNZ people are becoming more relaxed about using the app. “That’s a little bit concerning. It is one the important tools we have to control an outbreak,” he said.

“I’ve found it quite easy to find the QR codes, but I’ve not been prompted by businesses to scan the code,” Hendy added. “I’ve not been asked if I’ve scanned the code.” Hendy suggested that businesses should take some responsibility around the QR code and make sure customers are scanning it.

The app, Hendy said, is “not a silver bullet” but it could help prevent a further outbreak.

While there were no confirmed new cases of Covid-19 yesterday, the Ministry of Health is investigating a possible new case connected to the Ports of Tauranga. There is also further testing regarding the ship engineer who tested positive over the weekend.

We’ll bring you all the latest at 1pm today.

7.40am: Election 2020 – what’s next?

Election day might be over, but there’s still a lot that could happen over the coming days.

The newly re-elected prime minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday held preliminary talks with the Green Party, but any discussions about a coalition are still to come. The Herald reports that Ardern and her chief of staff, Rajesh Nahna, met with James Shaw, Marama Davidson and the Green Party’s chief of staff Tory Whanau yesterday, after returning from Auckland.

Meanwhile, the National Party caucus is expected to meet today, in what former leader Don Brash has described as a “wake”. It’ll be the first opportunity for the caucus to evaluate what went wrong on Saturday night, and farewell departing MPs.

In an interview with the Herald’s Claire Trevett, Collins has warned her remaining MPs against working against her.

“It is clear to me that when people see a leak, a major leak, against a party in the last two weeks of the campaign that they view that dimly. As did I,” she said.

“When an opposition decides it wants to win, people start working together as a team.”

It’s possible we could see at least two more casualties from the National Party in the coming days, with long-serving MPs Gerry Brownlee and Nick Smith considering retirement after losing their electorate seats.

National will now hold a review into the campaign, including the campaign strategy, with a reshuffle also possible in the coming weeks.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

A clarification on the new case of Covid-19 announced on Sunday – it was not in fact a case of community transmission. Rather, it was a case in the community related to the border. For more details, read The Spinoff’s live updates from yesterday. The man who tested positive is a shipworker, and according to Dr Ashley Bloomfied, “we believe the most likely source of the man’s infection is a ship that he worked on in Auckland on the 12th and 13th of October, the Sofrana Surville, which had travelled from Brisbane to Tauranga and then on to Auckland, where eight crew joined from the Philippines.” Widespread contact tracing and testing is now underway.

A different ship with those close contacts is now the subject of some controversy. Nobody on board the ship is symptomatic, but Napier Port does not want it to dock as previously scheduled, to manage the risk of any possible cases spreading. Newsroom has a story on what is unfolding, with the option of either sending the boat back to Auckland, or having public health officials fly out via helicopter to conduct the required tests. Because of the close quarters nature of ship life, it’s potentially quite a dangerous situation if anyone does actually have the virus, though to reiterate, nobody on board is as yet displaying symptoms.

It appears there is something of a gap in testing, which the ministry is now looking to fix. Radio NZ reports ship crews in transit aren’t routinely tested, which Auckland University public health expert Collin Tukuitonga said shows there are still holes Covid can get in through. “Even if you contain these people coming in from overseas, but obviously there’s potential interaction with people either on the ship or on the wharf, that’s why I would’ve thought that testing would be mandatory.”

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

Yesterday’s key stories

There were no new cases of Covid-19, the day after a shipworker tested positive outside of managed isolation.

A suspected historical case detected in a crew member at the Port of Tauranga is under investigation by the Ministry of Health. They are not believed to be infectious.

The Greens hosted a caucus meeting ahead of a formal meeting with Labour sometime later this week. Co-leader James Shaw said he remained hopeful for a coalition.

National Party leader Judith Collins believes she will remain leader, despite the historic defeat over the weekend. The party will hold its first caucus meeting on Tuesday.

TVNZ revealed that 1.4 million people (above the age of five) tuned into its election night coverage on Saturday.

The government has deployed an Air Force “maritime patrol aircraft” to help with imposing UN sanctions against North Korea.

Read yesterday’s live updates.




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