The 1pm update, summarised
- There are 60 new delta cases in the community, with 22 unlinked to the outbreak.
- Four of today’s cases are in Waikato, including two mystery cases in Te Awamutu.
- There are now 166 mystery cases from the past fortnight.
- Senior students in level three will be able to return to school from next Tuesday, October 26.
- NCEA and scholarship exams will go ahead, even in level three areas.
6.20pm: Schools reopening poses ‘significant risk’ – modeller
Sending senior students back to school next week represents a “significant risk” for increasing case numbers, according to Dr Dion O’Neale, principal investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini.
As those in their teens were the last age group to gain access to vaccines, they have among the lowest rates of vaccination, with around 60% double vaccinated in Auckland and just 40% in Waikato, said O’Neale in comments via the Science Media Centre. As in the general population, rates for Māori and Pacific students are much lower.
Modelling suggests that most of the extra infections that come from schools reopening will show up in non-school settings, as a result of students subsequently infecting other people in their households or in other community interactions, he said.
Mandating masks is “a good start”, but easy and affordable access to high-quality, well-fitted masks will be crucial, said O’Neale. He added that requiring classrooms to have good ventilation seemed “highly aspirational” in the short term, and introducing rapid antigen tests would be a good way to reduce transmission risk.
O’Neale said the expectation that students or staff at higher risk of severe illness will simply not return to school “presents a significant equity issue unless schools are able to offer both online and in-person teaching”.
“While reopening for students presents opportunities for some, it risks making things worse for more vulnerable students with underlying health conditions, who we know are over-represented in some communities.”
6.00pm: Hundreds of Tamaki supporters protest outside police station
Hundreds of supporters of Brian Tamaki gathered outside Henderson police station in west Auckland this afternoon, where the Destiny Church leader was being held on charges relating to the weekend’s anti-lockdown protest he allegedly organised. Chanting “free Tamaki”, the supporters jostled with media and spilled on to the street, according to reports.
Talking to media, Tamaki claimed he was charged because of “political and media pressure”.
5.30pm: Reopening level three schools next week ‘reckless’ – PPTA
Secondary teachers are “dismayed and angry” at the government’s decision to next week reopen schools in level three areas for students in years 11 to 13, according to the PPTA Te Wehengarua.
“We’re not sure who Minister Hipkins consulted before he made his announcement, but he certainly didn’t talk to PPTA,” said PPTA president Melanie Webber in a statement, in reference to education and Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins’ announcement at 1pm (see 1.15pm update).
Webber said the secondary teachers’ union has strongly supported public health advice throughout the pandemic, but had not seen any such advice that enabled today’s decision.
“It’s beyond belief that in the very week the case numbers in this pandemic in New Zealand have reached an all-time high and are expected to increase significantly, coupled with the fact that young people aged between 12 and 19 have the lowest vaccination rates, that the government would open up secondary schools to hundreds of thousands of students.
“The government seems to have gone from acting out an abundance of caution to a reckless disregard for the consequences in the blink of an eyelid.”
Webber said requiring teachers to teach both face to face and online would have “huge implications” for their workloads. “While they will try to do the very best they can, it will be impossible to deliver quality teaching when they’re flicking between channels trying to cater for everyone.”
Webber also criticised the decision for exams to go ahead for years 11 to 13 in level three areas, when the PPTA’s advice was for only year 13 exams to continue. “This would have been the safer option and would have considerably reduced anxiety for many students,” said Webber. “Indeed, with the increasing nervousness in Auckland around rising case numbers, the fact that students are being required to sit external exams will significantly add to their anxiety levels.”
5.10pm: North Shore partygoers fined, police call for others to come forward
Following the court summons issued to the man accused of organising a lockdown-breaching party in the North Shore suburb of Redvale at the weekend, police have begun issuing infringement notices to attendees.
According to a statement, so far six infringements have been issued, as well as one referral to Youth Aid, and further infringements are expected to be issued. Anyone who receives an infringement notice is fined $300.
“Police are advising those who were present at this gathering that rather than wait for police to come to them, there is an opportunity to take accountability for their own actions and contact police about this matter,” said the statement. Those people can contact police through 105 and quote the file number 211017/9625.
“Police reiterate that we will not tolerate this type of breach of alert level restrictions and would like to thank those members of the public who reported the matter to us.”
4.30pm: How are vaccination rates in your suburb tracking?
Our nifty vaccination map has been updated with the latest numbers, plus a searchable table so you can find your suburb more easily and an uptake trends feature that shows you how rates have changed – have a look to see what effect Super Saturday had in your area.
4.15pm: Brian Tamaki released on bail
Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki has appeared in court for the second time in a week, today facing charges in relation to the second lockdown protest he allegedly organised at Auckland Domain on Saturday.
Tamaki pleaded not guilty to charges of breaching bail and breaching lockdown rules governing mass gatherings and was released on bail to reappear in court next week. The bail breach relates to charges he’s facing over an earlier lockdown protest on October 2.
Today judge Josephine Bouchier warned Tamaki if he was charged again, he “was in peril” of being remanded in custody, reports RNZ.
3.50pm: MIQ absconder hands herself into police
A woman alleged to have absconded from MIQ last night has handed herself into police.
According to police, the woman is being transported back to the facility. She will face charges under Covid-19 health rules and appear in court at a later date.
The woman fled from her home after being permitted to return there to collect belongings while en route to the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Hotel last night.
4.05pm update: The police have since sent an updated statement saying the woman is being taking directly to the Auckland district custody unit at Mt Eden Prison and will appear in the Manukau District Court tomorrow via video link on a charge of failing to comply with a health order.
3.45pm: Locations of interest confirmed in Te Awamutu
A pair of locations of interest have been confirmed in Te Awamutu linked to a confirmed case of Covid-19.
Two cases were announced in the Waikato town today – both currently have no links to the wider outbreak.
The locations are a Fresh Choice supermarket and College Superette.
Auckland park reclassified as ‘exposure event’
Meanwhile, New Lynn’s Shadbolt Park has been reclassified as an exposure event rather than as a location of interest and has now been taken down from the Ministry of Health website list of locations of interest.
“Public health staff have looked into the event more carefully and assessed it as an exposure event as it is small and involved only a handful of people, who have all been identified and are in the process of being traced and tested,” said the ministry. At this stage no one else is being sought in relation to the event.
2.50pm: Yes, the Queen on Zoom is a mood
Ever wanted to see the Queen on Zoom? In the Covid age, even monarchs need to conduct virtual meetings.
Overnight, the Royal Family’s Twitter account published an excerpt from a chat between the Queen and our incoming Governor General Cindy Kiro.
☀️🌙 Good evening, @GovGeneralNZ!
🇳🇿Yesterday, The Queen spoke to Dame Cindy Kiro, who will this week be sworn in as the new Governor General of New Zealand.
🎖The Queen invested Dame Cindy with the traditional Insignia of the Governor General. pic.twitter.com/q1VhI5ReYQ
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) October 19, 2021
2.15pm: Investigation launched into MIQ booking system
The ombudsman has launched an investigation into the MIQ booking system after receiving “hundreds” of complaints.
The “virtual lobby” system, which places people into a queue, has been widely dubbed a lottery with criticism over the lack of rooms available for the number of people trying to come home.
Chief ombudsman Peter Boshier said he had identified common themes from about 200 complaints. “The complaints fit into four broad categories – they claim the allocation system is unlawful, unfit for purpose, unfair, and poorly managed. I have decided to do my own independent investigation into them all,” he said.
“One of the specific complaints is that disabled people are being disadvantaged. I have concerns about whether the online booking system is accessible and whether suitable alternatives are being offered for those who have difficulty using this digital platform.”
The agency in charge of the booking system, MBIE, has been notified of the investigation. “I want to give the public some assurance that the MIQ booking system is working as well as it should,” said Boshier. “While I could investigate each of these complaints in turn, I don’t believe this is the most efficient way of addressing any underlying issues. That is why I am looking at them together.”
Each new complaint made will be assessed to determine if it should be looked at individually or as part of the group investigation. Boshier said since this will be a broad investigation, it will not directly result in anyone being granted a voucher right now or given priority in the queue.
2.05pm: The Ladyhawke song Christina Aguilera nearly (maybe) covered
The singer-songwriter tells us about a notorious Wellington flat, a tantalising rumour and more in this week’s episode of FIRST.
1.55pm: Today’s key numbers, charted
Here’s how the outbreak’s looking in handy chart form. As you can see, the daily case numbers are back up around where they were at the peak in August, with yesterday being a new record.
The number of hospitalisations has also risen, but fortunately the number of mystery cases has decreased (although it’s still sitting at 166)
All these graphs – and a whole heap more – on The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker here.
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1.40pm: No positive cases linked to North Shore party – yet
The infamous party on Auckland’s North Shore has not yet resulted in any positive cases of Covid-19.
That’s despite the suburb where it was held – Redvale – cropping up on a list of areas where locals are asked to monitor for Covid symptoms. Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said that was “coincidental” and more related to low testing in the suburb and therefore a higher “positivity rate”.
In response to a question from The Spinoff’s Justin Giovannetti on how the contact tracing model has changed, Bloomfield said, “Having learnt from our experience to date, we’re not actively following up people who previously we would have classified as casual contacts, so that category has sort of been dropped.”
Contact tracers are also prioritising high-risk people, such as essential workers, and “moving to an approach where that first interaction will be done in a very timely way through a triaging phone call”, after which public health teams will follow up with people considered to be highest risk.
1.15pm: Senior students to return to school in level three
Students in years 11, 12 and 13 will be able to return to school in alert level three areas after the upcoming Labour Weekend, education and Covid response minister Chris Hipkins has announced.
Face coverings on school transport will be mandatory and in the classroom. NCEA and scholarship exams will proceed, including in alert level three areas. “In regions experiencing Covid-19 disruption in term four – when students are normally preparing for exams – NZQA has confirmed these students will be eligible for an ‘Unexpected Event Grade’, recognising the work they have done,” said Hipkins
“This is a complex issue requiring difficult trade-offs between improving education and increasing potential health risks for children and young people,” said Hipkins.
“Learners in this age group are able to be vaccinated and are required to wear masks, and staff and volunteers working on site will need a negative test before attending.”
The situation is “more difficult” for students in lower years, said Hipkins. “We can consider things like rostered attendance, outdoor education in the warmer months,” he said. However, a return to schools during level three was not being ruled out. Cabinet will consider the latest health advice for students in years 1-10 next Tuesday, Hipkins said.
The requirements for secondary schools, in full:
- Staff and children who are unwell must stay at home and get tested for Covid-19;
- Children at higher risk of severe illness remain home, where possible;
- Staff who are not fully vaccinated and at higher risk of severe illness must remain home;
- Mandatory mask wearing for staff and students in years 9 – 13;
- Only essential visitors will be permitted onsite, and all visitors on-site will need to wear a face covering;
- Good hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette;
- Classrooms to be well ventilated;
- High touch surfaces will be cleaned and disinfected each day;
- Physical distancing will be adhered to wherever practicable, particularly between adults;
- Physical distancing of two metres will be in place from people you don’t know;
- QR code posters for the Covid app will be displayed;
- A contact tracing register in place for everyone coming onsite including students and staff, through the attendance register, timetable and visitor register;
- Face coverings will be required on school transport for people aged 12 and over;
- Time outdoors for students and staff will be maximised, including breaks, lunchtime, before and after school (unless the weather does not allow), and rooms will be aired during breaks;
- Exercising and singing will take place outdoors; and
- Groups meeting indoors, including assemblies or staff meetings, will be avoided.
1.10pm: People in Wellington given expired vaccines
Around 15 people in Wellington were given expired vaccines, the Ministry of Health has announced
Jo Gibbs, the national director of the Covid-19 vaccination and immunisation programme, said the vaccines were roughly 24 hours expired. No one has been harmed from receiving the expired doses.
Capital & Coast District Health Board has contacted the affected people and is encouraging them to get vaccinated again.
Meanwhile, while six people in the Bay of Plenty were given a low dose of the Pfizer jab. They have been contacted and offered vaccination.
1.00pm: Delta outbreak grows by 60, with 22 unlinked
There are 60 new community cases of Covid-19 to report today – 56 in Auckland and four in Waikato. Of these, 22 remain unlinked to the wider outbreak with investigations continuing to help determine their connection.
It follows a new daily record yesterday when 94 cases were announced. “It is a drop from yesterday, but numbers will bounce around, and we do expect the overall trajectory of numbers to continue to rise,” said director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.
Two of today’s Waikato cases are in Te Awamutu. Investigations are under way to determine how these cases are linked to the outbreak.
Across the past fortnight there are now 166 mystery cases, 17 less than yesterday. Of yesterday’s cases, 36 were infectious in the community. The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 has risen to 43, with five people still in intensive care.
The R number remains between 1.2 and 1.3, meaning cases are expected to double around every 10-12 days, said Bloomfield
People in New Lynn and the North Shore suburbs of Rosedale, Redvale, and Bayswater – either vaccinated or unvaccinated – are asked to get tested as soon as possible if they have even mild symptoms. Redvale is the suburb where a widely documented party occurred over the weekend, although no cases have yet been linked to this.
“This testing will help to provide assurance that any undetected spread of Covid-19 in these communities is identified as quickly as possible,” said the Ministry of Health.
From Thursday, healthcare workers in MIQ will be allowed to work in other healthcare facilities without the need for a 48-hour stand-down and negative test requirement.
Bloomfield said the Waiheke Island case, announced yesterday, is an essential worker who was exposed and they are isolating alone on the island.
Finally, on testing and vaccinations. There were 26,330 tests taken nationwide yesterday with over 11,600 of these in Auckland. And 42,809 doses were given out, including 10,392 first doses and 32,417 second.
12.50pm: Hipkins to reveal school reopening plan, latest Covid numbers
We’re about to hear from Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins, along with director general of health Ashley Bloomfield, who will reveal today’s Covid case total. After a record 94 were announced yesterday, it’s possible we could hit the triple digit mark today.
At the same time, Hipkins is due to unveil further details around the plan to reopen schools.
Watch below or keep this page updated for live coverage
A special note from The Spinoff publisher Duncan Greive
Before we hear from the prime minister, a note from The Spinoff’s Duncan Greive:
It’s a little overwhelming to be sitting here, a week on from when I wrote my Bernie-esque plea for new members, to write to you about the response. It was instant and humbling. It has been the biggest surge in new sign-ups since the freaky days of April 2020. We also saw many existing members raise their ongoing contributions, which was also hugely impactful.
To be blunt, we needed it. And still do, so if you can join up, or have been meaning to, please do so today. We are still a long way from knowing when this period will end, which means our commercial funds remain highly constrained. We remain highly dependent on our members for everything from live updates, to data visualisation to cultural coverage. But we’ve had a really heartening week, and the whole organisation is very grateful for it. So if you are a member, or have donated – please take a moment to feel the immense gratitude radiating out from all of us here.
12.40pm: 300 MIQ spots opened up for health workers
Three hundreds spots in MIQ will be set aside for workers in the health and disability sector.
While healthcare workers are already able to get entry into the country under the “time sensitive travel” category, they are still required to compete with other critical workers. That’s now set to change, confirmed health minister Andrew Little.
“Whether it’s bringing doctors or nurses in from other places or New Zealanders bringing their skills home, we need to be able to get them into the country and into the workforce,” said Little.
“Health managers need to be able to bring the people they need into the country and know that they can get them places in MIQ.”
The Ministry of Health will work with DHBs and primary health organisations to allocate the MIQ slots to the people needed here fastest. Health and disability workers who are not citizens or permanent residents will still need proof of a job in New Zealand and must meet immigration requirements.
The new system comes into effect on November 1.
12.25pm: Man charged over latest Auckland lockdown protest
A 63-year-old man has been charged for breaching bail conditions, along with breaking Covid-19 health restrictions, in relation to an anti-lockdown protest held in Auckland over the weekend.
He has been taken into custody and is due to appear in court today via audio visual link.
Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki, who is 63, announced yesterday on a livestream that he had not been charged for a breach of bail over his involvement in Saturday’s protest. “The lawyers are still going through the evidence on what happened on Saturday,” he said.
He along with another individual are already facing charges over organising an earlier lockdown protest also held at the Auckland Domain.
Police said three others have also been charged over similar events in Waikato and Northland.
11.50am: Covid-positive person on the run after escaping from MIQ
A person who absconded from an Auckland Airport managed isolation facility is still at large.
Three people fled the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Hotel last night, with the first two apprehended roughly five minutes after leaving the facility.
In a second incident, another person – who had tested positive for the virus – escaped at approximately 9.55pm after arriving from hospital. They had requested to return home briefly to retrieve personal items, care for a pet, and lock their house in south east Auckland. A security escort was set up to allow this to occur. They were given 10 minutes to do what they needed to, however disappeared from the property during this time. Police were immediately notified and this individual has yet to be found.
MIQ head brigadier Rose King called the incidents “disappointing and unacceptable”.
“These facilities are not prisons and these individuals have wilfully absconded. There are rules in place for every single returnee from overseas and now the positive community cases, and we expect people to follow these during their stay in managed isolation or quarantine. This is so they can return to the community safely, while ensuring the safety of all New Zealanders.
“Deliberate breaches like this can put the wider community at risk.”
Police and the Ministry of Health are leading the work on gaining an understanding the movements of these individuals since they left the facility.
11.15am: Man charged after Auckland MIQ escape
There’s been another MIQ absconder in Auckland, reports the Herald.
A 26-year-old man has been charged for breaching Covid-19 health restrictions after escaping from a facility yesterday.
He will appear in the Auckland District Court today.
11.05am: Vaccine mandate extended to prison staff
All prison staff will need to be fully vaccinated by December 1, according to a Newshub report.
The mandate will cover all Corrections’ psychologists and many contractors that service prisons, but not visitors.
Staff have just 10 days to get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and then another month to be fully vaccinated. An internal email sent by acting Corrections chief executive Topia Rameka, and seen by Newshub, said the move was in order to improve staff safety. Prisons have already faced several Covid scares in the current outbreak.
“Internationally many prison staff and prisoners have become very unwell and have died as a result of Covid-19 outbreaks in prison. A Covid-19 outbreak would also disproportionately affect Māori in our prisons,” said Rameka.
10.00am: Hospo vouchers and tax changes in National’s economic plan
Hospitality vouchers, tax changes and a “freedom day” all form part of National’s newly announced economic plan.
Dubbed “Back in Business”, the party believes it would keep businesses afloat and “unleash” our economy post-Covid.
“Businesses need support to address the immediate costs that this and previous lockdowns have imposed on them, and certainty that by the end of next month at the latest, we will be in a position to reopen our economy and our borders,” said leader Judith Collins.
Part of the plan, as teased earlier, would involve a hard deadline for reopening the country – December 1. If vaccination rates hit 85-90% before that date then the reopening would be triggered earlier. “We need to give businesses certainty and clarity about when restrictions will lift, and when our businesses can get back to work,” said Collins.
Any area with at least a 70% full vaccination rate and no Covid in the community would be able to move to level one.
Every fully vaccinated adult would also be given a $100 “dine and discover” voucher to be used at hospitality or tourism venues nationwide. National’s tourism spokesperson Todd McClay said that would help boost revenue, support local businesses, and keep people in jobs. Restaurants and bars would also be able to temporarily extend their outdoor seating into public areas
On the tax front, National would introduce a new small business tax rate of 17.5% for two years and lift the 10.5% personal income tax threshold from $14,000 to $17,000. “Fiscal discipline” would also underpin the Covid recovery. National’s finance spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said the party would reconfirm a commitment to the 15–25% range for debt-to-GDP and ensure the Covid-19 response fund is used only for direct Covid response measures.
“Greater fiscal discipline and lower debt will also significantly ease the current high rate of inflation which is hurting families through higher food, fuel and housing costs,” said Woodhouse.
The government is set to unveil the next steps in our Covid response, including vaccination targets, on Friday.
9.15am: Masks likely to be mandated in the classroom
Auckland students remain in education limbo, with the first week of term four spent learning from home.
While the initial plan had been for schools to reopen this week, that was put on ice due to the ongoing spread of delta.
Education minister Chris Hipkins told RNZ that a plan for schools was coming today that should provide clarity. “Secondary schools are our number one top priority… they can be vaccinated and they’ve got exams coming up,” he said.
It was likely masks would be required in the classroom, at least when schools first reopen. “We’re more certain around where masks are and aren’t required,” Hipkins said. Students could also be bubbled up in the classroom.
The announcement will include detail of examination logistics for secondary schools, Hipkins said, with NZQA working through the finer detail.
Hipkins told Newstalk ZB that primary schools could feasibly reopen this year as well. “Primary are going to be the highest concentration of unvaccinated people in the country when they reopen,” he said. “We are being very careful but I wouldn’t say that primary schools won’t reopen.”
8.20am: National calls for reopening date – December 1
December 1 would be freedom day if the National Party was in charge of the current delta response.
The opposition want a defined date for when lockdowns will end and the economy can reopen. If the vaccination rate hit 85-90% before December 1, then the country should open up even earlier, the party said.
“The undeniable fact is that we cannot allow things to continue as they are. Our largest city has been in lockdown for almost 10 weeks and there’s still no end in sight,” said leader Judith Collins. “We have a plan and we have targets – targets everyone can rally behind and commit to. Targets that can give hope to many, many New Zealanders who have almost given up.”
Asked by RNZ would happen if the country reopened and Māori vaccination rates remained low Collins said: “I think the Māori population will want to get itself vaccinated, and we’ve already seen an uptake with some of the efforts we’ve seen recently.”
National will release its new economic plan, containing the above target, this morning.
7.55am: Daily case numbers could get into the ‘high hundreds’, says Hipkins
The Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has signalled yesterday’s number of new cases may not be the peak of the outbreak.
There were 94 cases of Covid-19 in the community – our highest ever daily total across the entire two years of the pandemic.
Hipkins told Newstalk ZB while he hadn’t seen today’s number, he believed we were heading closer to hitting 100. “We’ve got to look at some of those other metrics – degree of hospitalisations, for example,” he said.
Over on RNZ, he added that latest modelling showed we could hit 200 a day, or even higher, doubling every fortnight. “We are in a part of this response where we’re likely to see case numbers increase,” Hipkins said. “I wouldn’t want to put a specific number on it… it could be into the high hundreds.” Vaccination rates have stopped the case numbers from going even higher, he added.
The next Covid-19 update is due at 1pm.
- There are 94 new community cases of delta.
- That’s the highest daily number of Covid-19 cases ever recorded in NZ.
- Of today’s cases, 53 are unlinked to the outbreak.
- There remain four mystery cases in Waikato.
- Northland will move to alert level two at 11.59pm.
7.30am: From The Bulletin
Becoming Yimby nation. Labour and National have set aside their differences for a cross-party bill to increase housing density across New Zealand. As Justin Latif reports for The Spinoff, it’s the first time since the 2007 “smacking bill” that both parties have shared the stage for a policy announcement. They’ve now signalled to councils that the housing crisis requires real attention, with legislation allowing nearly all sites to house three homes of up to three storeys each, without requiring a resource consent. Act leader David Seymour came out against it, arguing that it’s not the right fix for housing. As the NZ Herald noted, it’s an odd stance for a libertarian leader who typically doesn’t defend red tape.
A new report finds that a third of households spend more than 30% of their income on housing. The Royal Society Te Apārangi concludes that high housing costs mean budgets for food, electricity and housing are being cut to compensate. For people facing that situation, there won’t be relief in the legislation. Housing minister Megan Woods and environment minister David Parker took pains yesterday to repeat during a press conference that the new housing bill won’t lower housing prices, but is only expected to slow the rate of increase. National’s Nicola Willis described the bill’s impact as one for “the next generation” and that’s how long it might take.
The Covid numbers: There are 38 cases in hospital and 5 in ICU/HDU. There are now 715 active cases in New Zealand. 87 new community cases were reported in Auckland yesterday and 7 in Waikato. 42,793 people were vaccinated on Monday.
The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.
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