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blog final oct 21

PoliticsOctober 21, 2021

Live updates, October 21: Parts of Waikato to remain in level three until Wednesday; anti-vaxxers making bogus bookings

blog final oct 21

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 21, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.

Today’s key headlines

  • There are 102 new community cases of Covid-19
  • That’s the highest number of daily cases from across both years of the pandemic.
  • Of these, 40 remain unlinked and there are now 199 mystery cases.
  • Eight of today’s cases are in Te Awamutu, with one unlinked.
  • Another grim record with 46 people now in hospital with Covid-19. Seven are in ICU.
  • There were 43,087 vaccine doses administered yesterday and 26,669 tests conducted.
  • Parts of Waikato will remain at alert level three until Wednesday, 11.59pm.

7.35pm: Parts of Waikato to stay at alert level three for next six days

The parts of Waikato that have been in alert level three will remain at that alert level till Wednesday, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today via a press statement.

“Based on the latest public health information, maintaining level three in those parts of the Waikato continues to be the most prudent course of action,” Hipkins said.

Alert level three will continue till 11.59pm on Wednesday, October 27 and will be reviewed on that day.

“I know this will be frustrating for people in these areas. It’s clear that people in the region as a whole have been following the rules, but the eight new cases today, all in the Te Awamutu area, show how stubborn delta can be,” he said.

“Seven of these cases are linked to known cases, and the other is still being investigated. This follows four cases reported yesterday and seven on Tuesday. While most of these have been household contacts or people linked to known cases, there is a risk the virus will spread further, which means we are taking a cautious approach.

The alert level decision comes days before a long weekend, and residents in those parts of Waikato are being urged to stay home in their bubbles.

“People in the Te Awamutu should get tested if they or anyone in their household has symptoms, or if they have travelled out of Te Awamutu over the past week for work or other activities, regardless of whether they have symptoms.”

7.25pm: Location of interest in Hawke’s Bay

The Ministry of Health has updated its list of locations of interest, including Kmart in Napier. With more than 100 new cases announced today, the days of individual itineraries for positive cases being read out at press briefings are long over. But it is understood the person travelled from Waikato and tested positive on their return. Two of the person’s close contacts in Hawke’s Bay returned negative tests on day six (results came back this afternoon).

For the full list of locations of interest, see here.

5.20pm: Anti-vaxxers sabotaging vaccination effort with bogus bookings – report

A rush of false bookings have been made in recent days in Tairāwhiti, suggesting anti-vaxxers are targeting low-vaccination areas to sabotage the roll-out, Royal NZ College of General Practitioners president Sam Murton has told RNZ. One small vaccination centre is said to have had 90 fake bookings across a couple of days.

“To the people who are trying to book in it just looks like, ‘oh this is hopeless’. And how many times do you try when the bookings are full up all the time?” she told RNZ. “That’s really devastating in areas where there are vulnerable people, and where there is a whole lot of effort put in to try to get people to get vaccinated.

The Ministry of Health said fake bookings “were extremely irresponsible and disappointing”, but also “relatively rare”.

4.05pm: Traffic lights tomorrow. What to expect?

Toby Manhire writes:

At 10am tomorrow, Jacinda Ardern, together with a trio of ministers (Hipkins, Henare and Robertson) will announce what they’ve teased as a new “Covid-19 Protection Framework”. According to people consulted in the preparation, that framework, like New Zealand’s greatest mocktail, takes its inspiration from a traffic light.

It has nothing to do with the traffic light system cabinet agreed to implement for trans-tasman travel, but which never saw the light of day. This one is designed, at some to-be-determined point in the future, to replace the alert level system and move beyond lockdowns. Given the alert level system was in part based on the Singaporean Dorscon (Disease Outbreak Response System Condition) system, are there any international precedents for the red/orange/green option? (Or red/amber/green, whatever you prefer.)

Boris Johnson was widely reported to be on the verge of a traffic light option ahead of last winter. The Covid-19 Winter Plan for England ended up having three tiers, without trafficky illumination.

Some of those tier rules:

(The Brits more recently had a traffic light system for incoming visitors. That’s been ditched now.)

Elsewhere, Mexico has embraced the traffic light approach since the middle of last year. I am not an expert on traffic controls in Mexico, but I did notice with interest that they have four lights. This one is designed, however, very much with the Covid risk across regions of the country in mind, and vaccination rates are part of the mix.

3.50pm: More charges over Auckland anti-lockdown protest

Police have charged two more organisers of recent anti-lockdown protests in Auckland.

A 44-year-old woman and a 36-year-old man will appear in the Auckland District Court next month. They will be appearing on charges relating to organising and attending mass gatherings held on October 2 and 16, in breach of alert level three restrictions.

Enquiries are ongoing and police will not out further enforcement action being taken in this matter.

Yesterday, destiny church leader Brian Tamaki was charged for his involvement in the October 16 and for a breach of bail relating to a charge relating to the October 2 protest.

3.35pm: Māori Party call for government to hand over vaccine rollout

The Māori Party want government to step aside and hand over the reins of the vaccine rollout directly to Māori. They’ve called for Māori health providers to be given the funding, data and decision-making authority to lead the remainder of the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

“Our message to the government is very clear – step aside and let Māori lead. The survival of our people depends on it,” said co-leader Rawiri Waititi. “Government outreach to our people isn’t working, and is actually making it harder. They must hand over all necessary resources, data and power to tangata whenua, and then step aside and let our people lead.”

It’s a “disgrace”, Waititi said, that vaccination data hasn’t yet been given to Māori providers and that Whānau Ora have had to take legal action to try and access it.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said DHBs were undermining the Māori response. “What we are seeing is the direct impact of prime minister Jacinda Ardern and her government continually ignoring the advice of our Māori health experts since the first outbreak last year,” she said.

3.10pm: Light rail, new Mount Vic tunnel, proposed for Wellington

Light rail from Wellington railway station, along with a second Mount Victoria tunnel, are the centrepieces of a series of proposed transport plans for the capital.

The Herald has been leaked details of the long-awaited Let’s Get Wellington Moving project. According to the report, four proposals will be put up for public consultation.

The first includes light rail out to Island Bay, along with a priority bus route to the airport and eastern suburbs, and a new Mt Vic tunnel – with dedicated lanes for cars and buses – running diagonally from the Basin Reserve.

Other proposals include converting the existing Mt Vic tunnel into a walking and cycling connection, introducing rapid transit instead of light rail, and grade separation around the Basin so traffic going in different directions can move more freely.

The finalised proposals are expected to be released early next month.

We’re hiring: Māori politics reporter and Pacific communities editor

The Spinoff is currently accepting applications for two new editorial positions, both of which signal our ongoing commitment to publishing journalism that reflects the many voices of Aotearoa. Both new roles – a Māori politics reporter and a Pacific communities editor – have been made possible by NZ On Air’s Public Interest Journalism Fund.

Click here to find out more about the roles and how to apply.

2.40pm: Auckland Santa parade cancelled over Covid uncertainty

Auckland’s iconic Santa parade has been cancelled for the first time in decades, owing to the ongoing Covid situation.

Parade chair and Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett said it was disappointing the parade had become a “victim of the virus” but pledged it would be back “bigger, better, and Covid free” in 2022.

“Santa is so sorry, but he too has to follow Covid restrictions,” said Barnett. “His busy schedule getting everything ready for his deliveries on Christmas Eve and delays in shipping meant he couldn’t book his slot in quarantine earlier even as an essential worker.”

2.20pm: The key numbers, charted

A pair of fairly unpleasant milestones in our Covid response today, with new records for daily case numbers and Covid-related hospitalisations.

Here are a few of the key numbers from today’s 1pm update from our Covid Tracker page.

1.45pm: Source of the delta outbreak still unknown

More than two months on from the first community case of delta appearing in Auckland, health officials have given up on the search for the source.

Ashley Bloomfield said that the “trail went cold” after officials determined what MIQ hotel the virus escaped from and what day this happened. He said it was never determined how delta made it out of Auckland’s Crowne Plaza in August.

1.40pm: Update on Waikato lockdown due today

An update on whether parts of Waikato will remain in lockdown is anticipated this evening, deputy PM Grant Robertson said.

A group of cabinet ministers will consider health advice this afternoon and an update is expected via written statement later today.

The lockdown in the region is currently due to expire tomorrow night and Jacinda Ardern previously signalled the decision on whether it would be extended would come tomorrow as well.

Eight new Waikato cases of delta were confirmed today, all in Te Awamutu. Over the past week or so, roughly five mystery cases have cropped up in the region along with a handful of positive household contacts.

1.25pm: Physio, osteo and more to resume under level three

Physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths are among those now able to resume work under alert level three restrictions.

The Ministry of Health has updated its guidance for Allied Health professionals working in settings outside DHBs, clarifying they can all provide services under level three. There are more than 43 different Allied Health professions overall.

“The ministry has worked with the sector on maintaining a balance between protecting patients and maintaining their general wellbeing,” said a statement. “The change will enable roughly 2000 allied health professionals in Auckland alone to continue to see patients, ensuring more people are treated in the community, and preventing some trips to primary care or hospital settings.”

Providers must still screen patients, and practice all Covid-19 measures such as appropriate distancing, strict use of infection, prevention and control measures, PPE use and scanning in. Providers should also continue to offer telehealth services if this is an appropriate alternative.

1.05pm: Covid cases hit triple digits with 102 confirmed


For the first time, the number of new daily cases has hit three figures. There are 102 new community cases – 94 in Auckland and eight in Waikato. That’s the highest number of new cases recorded on our shores across the entire Covid-19 pandemic, topping the 94 announced earlier this week.

Of these, 40 remain unlinked with investigations continuing to help determine their connection to the outbreak. “The sharp rise in case numbers is a reminder of the infectiousness of Covid-19, and particularly the Delta variant, and the importance of vaccination as the best protection,” said the Ministry of Health.

Te Awamutu focus of Waikato outbreak

All of today’s Waikato cases are in the Te Awamutu area, said Ashley Bloomfield. So far, seven have already been linked to known cases, and public health officials plan to speak with the remaining case today. The ministry has not clarified whether the previously announced mystery cases in Waikato have yet been linked to the outbreak.

One of the Waikato cases undertook permitted travel to Hawke’s Bay last Friday prior to becoming confirmed case, said Bloomfield. The case returned to Te Awamutu before testing positive. Both contacts have been tested and have returned negative day six results.

Twenty of yesterday’s cases remain unlinked and there are now 199 mystery cases from the past 14 days.

Highest number of people in hospital with Covid-19

There are now 46 people in hospital with Covid-19, the highest number to date. There are seven in intensive care. Fully immunised cases make up just 4.5% of the total number, with 1.6% of hospitalised cases double jabbed.

Speaking at today’s press conference, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson acknowledged the fluctuation in cases was an “emotional rollercoaster” but said it had been anticipated. “The bottom line here though is that the vaccination is the key to keeping you and your community safe,” he said. “We are in a strong position but we do need to build on that and see more people vaccinated.”

Robertson called the hospitalisation rate more critical than the daily case numbers at this point in the outbreak. The issue is “making sure the health system can cope,” he said.

The latest vaccine and testing numbers

And on the vaccine front: there were 43,087 doses administered yesterday, comprising roughly 10,000 first doses and 32,000 second doses.

There were 26,669 tests conducted yesterday across the country, including more than 12,700 in Auckland and 3160 in Waikato.

1.00pm: Watch – Robertson and Bloomfield to give Covid update

We’re due to hear the latest Covid-19 case numbers as Grant Robertson and Ashley Bloomfield front today’s press conference. Today’s presser is the last briefing before the launch of the new traffic light system tomorrow, so expect to see some teasers of what we might expect.

Tune in below or follow along with our live coverage.

12.55pm: A message from The Spinoff publisher Duncan Greive:

We’re rapidly approaching 10 weeks in lockdown here in Tāmaki Makaurau, and still unsure when a more recognisable form of living will resume. Which means that for the foreseeable future our staff will be working to bring you the latest from the delta outbreak – and to distract you from it – in a situation with a considerably reduced commercial foundation. This makes us more reliant on our Members than ever. To those who have contributed, a huge thank you from all of us.

To readers who enjoy our work and have yet to join The Spinoff Members, please consider doing so today if your circumstances allow it. Head here to donate, or to find out more.

12.35pm: Keep calm and watch this wholesome Vaxathon supercut

Missed Saturday’s eight-hour Vaxathon but want to see the highlights? We’ve got you covered.

11.50am: Household spending tops incomes

Household spending is well above incomes, new stats reveal.

The June 2021 quarter recorded a negative saving of $225 million.

“After high levels of saving through 2020, impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, households have spent more than they have earned during the first half of 2021,” said Paul Pascoe from Stats NZ.

11.20am: Opposition welcome new UK free trade deal

The National Party has welcomed this morning’s announcement of a new free trade deal with the UK, calling the immediate elimination of almost all tariffs “unprecedented”.

“We want to see New Zealand do well in the world and trade is our best opportunity to do that,” said the party’s trade spokesperson Nicola Grigg. “The National Party congratulates trade minister Damien O’Connor, his predecessors, and the many officials and industry participants who have worked so hard to bring this agreement to a conclusion.”

The Act Party was similarly pleased with the announcement. Brooke van Velden, the party’s deputy leader and trade spokesperson, called it “fantastic” news. “The access is comparable to that of Australia, so it meets the first test. The second test will be ensuring the provisions come true over the coming years, and the trend is towards further liberalisation,” she said.

11.05am: Guac, don’t run, to this Hastings supermarket

I assumed camera trickery was at play when I first saw this photo – but avocados really are just nine cents each at Pak ‘n Save Hastings.

A Spinoff reader sent in this photo of an overloaded stand of hass avocados, on sale at what must surely be a record price for just one day.

Get smashing, Hastings (Image / Supplied)

The Hastings supermarket might seem familiar – it’s the same Pak ‘n Save that was selling tomatoes for nine cents a kilogram earlier this year.

How much is a house in Hastings?

10.30am: NZ-UK free trade deal agreed

A free trade agreement between New Zealand and the UK has just been announced, with Jacinda Ardern hailing “a substantial and historic” deal, one which trade minister Damien O’Connor said had been achieved despite “some wariness and a little paranoia from farmers over there”. Our political editor Justin Giovannetti was at the announcement. Read his report here. The major points in the agreement, expected to be finalised and signed in the early part of next year:

  • NZ will drop tariffs on all UK goods the day the deal is signed.
  • That should mean cheaper British clothes, gin and cars.
  • The UK will drop restrictions on NZ beef and lamb over the coming 15 years.
  • Tariffs on NZ wine and honey will be removed when the deal is signed.
  • NZ’s copyright laws will be extended by 20 years.
  • Both countries will start talks to increase the length of working holiday visas.
Photo : Supplied

10.00am: Watch – Dame Cindy Kiro sworn in as governor general

Cindy Kiro will officially be sworn in as governor general at a ceremony at parliament this morning. You can watch a livestream of the proceedings below.

The Spinoff needs your vote! Show some love by voting for your favourite podcast in the Listener’s Choice category at the New Zealand Podcast Awards. Click here to vote for Gone by LunchtimeThe Real PodWhen the Facts Change or any of your other favourite podcasts from The Spinoff Podcast Network.

9.30am: Auckland Hotel latest to introduce vaccine mandate

An inner-city Auckland hotel will only allow fully vaccinated guests from next month, despite no mandate for hospitality being announced.

According to RNZ, the Hotel Britomart and its restaurant Kingi will introduce their own vaccine requirement in order to keep staff and guests safe. “We’re mandating that all our suppliers and contractors and visitors whether they be guests or restaurant patrons also are double dosed and able to provide evidence of that before setting foot on our property,” said general manager Clinton Farley.

Further government-ordered mandates are expected to be announced in the coming weeks but so far just school teachers, the health sector and prison staff have been ordered to get the jab.

8.45am: Crew asked to isolate onboard despite 18-day voyage

The New Zealand crew of a boat off the coast of Taranaki will have to isolate onboard for a fortnight – despite being at sea for 18 days.

The MMA Vision has been undertaking survey work of the sea floor for the new Southern Cross cable.

All 18 crew members tested negative for Covid-19 before boarding in Auckland. However, on the return trip to New Plymouth, the vessel has been advised that they must complete a 14 day isolation period because the boat left the “economic exclusion zone”. The crew have not left the vessel for the entire 18 day period.

According to the NZ Seafarers group, the New Plymouth DHB agreed that an exemption should be granted for the crew however The Ministry of Health declined the application citing safety concerns. “The government did not cite any safety concerns when 23 crew from the Interislander ferry Aratere were granted a full exemption from MIQ after being in dry-dock in Sydney this month, allowing the entire crew to walk off the vessel straight into Wellington after a 12 day trip,” said an NZ Seafarers spokesperson.

“For the 18 crew onboard the MMA Vision it seems there is one rule for private companies, and another for government owned companies.”

The spokesperson said it was “absurd” that crossing an “imaginary line” was all that prevented the crew from being able to return to the mainland.

8.05am: Andrew Little defends hospital capacity – again

The health minister has once again defended the capacity of our ICU system to cope with a rise in Covid-19 cases, despite concerns from workers.

Middlemore Hospital is predicting 20 Covid cases a day in its emergency room by next month and nurses say they are already stressed.

“I understand there’s a sense of anxiety around the nursing workforce – those in ED – because we’re at that point where things are starting to change,” Andrew Little told RNZ. “The whole way that this government has managed the response to Covid, right back to last year, one of the critical issues we’ve had in our mind is the impact on the health system, and making sure that the decisions we take in what we do minimises that impact so that we don’t see overwhelmed hospitals.”

Little said the government was aware that health workers were stressed and was trying to address that. “The surge capacity is available. We’ve trained nearly 1400 nurses to work in an ICU environment.”

Last week, Little said the country’s hospitals can surge up to 550 ICU beds in the coming weeks if needed as the delta outbreak worsens. The group representing those who actually staff the beds said it was more like 186. Little said he gets a daily update on hospitals and was keeping a very close eye on number.

“Some of the modelling is some of the worst case scenario modelling but at the moment the hospitalisation rate is roughly 5%,” he said.

More health workers will arrive from overseas in about a month, said Little, with a special allocation of MIQ rooms set aside to help this happen. More than 120 nurses have already been brought to Auckland from other parts of the country since the start of this outbreak.

On the return of senior students to school next week, Little said the age group returning were able to be vaccinated and most were already jabbed. Other measures were also being taken at schools to stop Covid spread and prevent hospitalisations, he claimed.

7.45am: Yesterday’s headlines

  • 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.

7.30am: From The Bulletin

National proposes a Covid economic plan and hard reopening date. The opposition is calling for tax cuts for small businesses, a bigger wage subsidy and $100 vouchers for the fully vaccinated, according to Stuff. It’s largely a collection of policies seen overseas. While the economic message might speak to National’s base, the party’s reopening plan has attracted more attention. The South Island would immediately return to level one and lockdowns would end when either 85-90% of the population was vaccinated or December 1, whichever comes first. Reopening in six weeks would be disastrous and isn’t based on science, Newsroom has concluded.

The Covid numbers: There are 43 cases in hospital and 5 in ICU/HDU. There are now 769 active cases in New Zealand. 56 new community cases were reported in Auckland yesterday and 4 in Waikato. 42,809 people were vaccinated on Tuesday.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.

The chief Ombudsman is investigating the MIQ booking system. There have been hundreds of complaints to the chief Ombudsman that the managed-isolation booking system is unfair, unlawful and broken, so Peter Boshier is going to investigate, One News reports. Tens of thousands of people have entered weekly lotteries without luck to return home. The government responded in a statement that the system is working as designed.

However, according to the Dominion Post, members of the country’s diplomatic corp have been sending hundreds of frantic messages trying to get into MIQ. At least 14 diplomats are now overseas at the end of their postings unable to come home.

A challenge to the grocery duopoly. Consumer NZ and the NZ Food and Grocery Council don’t really get on, but the two have formed an alliance as the Commerce Commission is investigating what to do about the grocery market. As One News reports, the two say it’s time to do something about the massive amount of power wielded by the two companies that dominate groceries because prices are far too high.

In a sign of that power, New World and Pak’nSave are set to remove most of Sealord’s range of frozen products. According to Newsroom, the company’s market share could collapse from 80% to 20% with the decision. Foodstuffs, which owns both brands, said it would bring in imported fish in a move that will increase profits.

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