Live updates, September 22: Chris Bishop ‘dishonest’ to claim vaccine deliveries were slowed, says Hipkins

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 22, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Say hello at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.


Today’s numbers

  • There are 23 new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland.
  • Of these, just one has not yet been epidemiologically linked.
  • 80% of eligible Aucklanders have now had at least one vaccine dose.
  • Yesterday, 54,000 doses were given out nationwide.
  • A bonus 12-16 NCEA credits are up for grabs in Auckland.
  • Another 3000 MIQ rooms will be made available next Tuesday night.

6.15pm: Vaccinations at KFC being considered

Would you like Pfizer with that? Restaurant Brands – which operates KFC, Pizza Hut and Carls Jr in New Zealand – has received word from the government about possibly setting up vaccination stations in their carparks. Queues for the KFC drive thru are always long, even when not in level three, and Auckland councillor Josephine Bartley wrote to Restaurant Brands suggesting they utilise their popularity and large carparks in the vaccination effort. The brand responded that the government had “reached out” to them “to discuss the potential of this concept”.

Speaking to Checkpoint this evening, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins supported the initiative, or at least considered it. “Those decisions are made by the people who are rolling out the vaccine,” he told Lisa Owen. “My advice to them is when creative approaches are on offer, I’d encourage them to explore those.” With customers currently waiting in the drive-thru for hours on end, there’ll be no issues when it comes to the required 15 minute rest and monitoring period after receiving a dose.

5.25pm: Court date set for Wānaka absconders

The police investigation into an Auckland couple that allegedly used essential worker exemptions to travel through an Auckland checkpoint and fly to Wānaka has been completed.

The 26-year-old woman and 35-year-old man have been charged with failing to comply with the Covid-19 health order and are expected to appear in the Papakura District Court on October 14.

The couple’s breach has been the most publicised of this lockdown, with collective anger reaching its peak as they sought, and then abandoned, name suppression. The case will be heard by a Wellington judge to limit any perceived conflict of interest due to a relative of the man charged working in the Auckland courts.

4.55pm: New locations of interest added

The Ministry of Health has added a number of new locations of interest today. They include Pak’nSave Clendon Park on multiple days, Countdowns in Manurewa and Māngere, and Pak’nSave Māngere.

If you were at these locations of interest during the times stated, following the accompanying health advice.

See all locations of interest sorted by exposure time and date of listing on The Spinoff’s interactive map.

3.25pm: Greens want NZers stranded abroad to be able to vote

The Greens want New Zealanders stranded overseas due to the pandemic to be able to vote in next year’s local elections and the 2023 general election.

The party’s electoral reform spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said the three-year renewal timeframe should be extended. “The limit imposed by our law has always favoured those with the financial means to come home most often,” she said. “For families with young children or young New Zealanders studying overseas, these rules can result in them being excluded from voting because they cannot afford to travel as often. Covid has redoubled this avoidable inequity.”

Questioned in parliament this afternoon, justice minister Kris Faafoi remained coy on whether a law change would be considered. “Obviously New Zealanders choose to live overseas for a variety of reasons, but the government does understand this doesn’t mean they lose issues that affect their friends and loved ones that still live in New Zealand,” he said.

3.05pm: The Spinoff eats Auckland

With level three comes takeaways and Aucklanders have leapt at the opportunity.

According to reports (and TikToks) people were not just queuing but literally camping out overnight for KFC ahead of doors opening this morning. One customer spent the night in his car outside the Manukau KFC, arriving at about 8pm last night.

Meanwhile, some eateries took advantage of the 11.59pm move to level three and opened their doors at the strike of midnight. The Spinoff’s Mad Chapman popped down to Tipene’s Takeaways in Kingsland in the early hours of this morning where she enjoyed a feast of a steak pie with chips and gravy, onion rings, and a deep fried brownie (I’ve got no idea why either).

Kieran, Ajit, Tipene, and Stephanie in front of Tipene’s (Image: Madeleine Chapman)

This morning, I headed down to my Ellerslie local Pastrami and Rye where I enjoyed my first barista coffee in five weeks, along with a delicious Reuben sandwich and, for some reason, a large chocolate brownie. It was delicious. The crowds weren’t too bad in my suburb but the roads were noticeably busier – including on the motorway. I presume everyone is just driving to get food.

(Image / SSL)

Out West, the queue for McDonald’s in Te Atatu caused a slight bit of traffic mayhem, according to The Spinoff’s Chris Schulz. “The queue is so long even the queue has a queue and is blocking people from leaving the Peninsula,” he said. On a later drive-by, he said about 25 cars were pouring out onto the road.

“Everything out here has opened early: Pizza Landing has an Eftpos machine and table set up outside the front door so no one can enter, while the smell of coconut milk curries drifts down the street from Khawhom Thai Restaurant,” said Schulz. That all sounds incredible.

The Macca’s queue (Image / Chris Schulz)

The Spinoff’s resident coffee fanatic Alice Neville suspiciously had a day off today, quite possibly so she could enjoy as many barista-made delights in the shortest time possible. “As soon as I took the first sip of my first flat white this morning, a sense of euphoric calm came over me,” she said. “It just hits different. I’ve since had a second and feel more alive than I have for weeks. Big shoutout to all the baristas out there saving our lives.”

One person not saving lives was this person who chose to hold their mask in their hand while ordering. Don’t be this person. Wear a mask, Auckland.

Don’t be this person (Image / The Spinoff)

2.20pm: Bishop ‘dishonest’ to claim vaccine deliveries were slowed

A war of words between the two Chrises – Hipkins and Bishop – has continued today over the vaccine rollout.

Covid response minister Hipkins yesterday accused his National counterpart Bishop of spreading misinformation.

Today, he doubled down after Bishop claimed the government had slowed down the rollout.

“A May 21 document from the Ministry of Health, leaked to National, shows the Ministry [of Health] expected 650,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be delivered per week from July onwards, with delivery completed by the end of September,” said Bishop.

“Somewhere between May and now, while delta was in our MIQ and causing countries around the world to lock down, the government decided to slow down delivery of vaccines and slow down our rollout, an inexplicable decision given the nature of delta and threat we were facing.”

At today’s 1pm presser, Hipkins strongly pushed back. “That is a claim that Chris Bishop has made repeated times despite being told repeatedly that it isn’t true, so the fact that he continues to make it I think is a poor reflection upon him,” Hipkins said. “The document that he purports to have would have been one of a number of models that the Ministry of Health put together when vaccine supply in terms of exact delivery dates was uncertain.”

Hipkins said it was “absolutely dishonest” for Bishop to continue arguing the deliveries were slowed down on purpose.

1.45pm: How the outbreak looks on the first day of level three

A slight bump in new cases today, with 23 announced in Auckland. However, as you can see in the below graph, the three day average is still edging downward.

Check out more fancy graphs like this on The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here

1.30pm: Further NCEA support for Auckland high schoolers

Further support has been announced for Auckland high schoolers facing at least another fortnight of home learning.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins, who is also in charge of education, revealed a boost for NCEA credits would be on offer. One “learning recognition credit” will now be available for every four credits achieved through assessment in the 2021 school year, rather than one for every five.

“It means students in Auckland will have a fair opportunity to attain NCEA, despite the additional disruption they have experienced,” Hipkins said.

The bonus credits will be capped at 16 for NCEA level one, and 12 for levels two and three. “These changes are a full reactivation of the support provided to Auckland in 2020, following their second lockdown,” said Hipkins.

1.20pm: An overview of vaccinations

Covid response minister Chris Hipkins offered an overview of vaccination rates at this afternoon’s presser.

Three-quarters of eligible people over the age of 12 had now had one dose, he said. A total of 40% have had both doses.

Among the Maori population, however, the respective numbers are 52% and 26%. Among Pacific peoples, 67% and 36%.
“We continue to have an equity challenge that we need to work on,” said Hipkins.

Among over-65s, 91% have had the first dose, and 79% both.

Hipkins said they were exploring the possibility of mandating vaccination among health workers. It would reflect similar rules in place for MIQ and port workers, and include workers in aged care facilities. Consultations are under way, he said. “We do need to ensure that the workers most likely to come into contact with Covid-19 are as protected as possible and that they in turn are protecting the most vulnerable.”

Starting today’s conference off with “good news”, Hipkins said 80% of eligible Aucklanders have now had at least one dose and challenged the rest of the country to match this level of uptake.

Yesterday saw just under 54,000 vaccine doses administered nationwide.

1.00pm: 23 new community cases, all in Auckland, on day one of level three

Updated

There are 23 new community cases of Covid-19, all in the Auckland region. The outbreak now totals 1108, although more than 800 of these have recovered.

Of today’s new cases, Ashley Bloomfield 22 have so far been epidemiologically linked to the wider outbreak with 11 coming from within one household. Yesterday’s single unlinked test is still under investigation, confirmed Bloomfield. From the past fortnight, just seven cases remain unlinked to the outbreak.

There has been a good response to testing in upper Hauraki, said Bloomfield. The region is facing its own Covid scare after a positive case crossed the Auckland border and infected three of their household contacts. More than 400 tests were conducted at a testing site yesterday. All so far have returned negative.

Those results mean that the Upper Hauraki will now move to usual level three restrictions, said Bloomfield. For the past 48 hours, the region has been within its own “bespoke” level four restrictions.

Testing levels across Auckland also remain high: 9,780 test swabs were taken in the city yesterday.

Of yesterday’s 14 cases, seven were infectious while in the community.

The number of people in intensive care with Covid-19 has halved, down to just two. Thirteen people remain in hospital with the virus, all across Auckland.

Meanwhile, 80% of Auckland’s eligible population has now received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, said Covid response minister Chris Hipkins. This was a benchmark that the rest of the country should try match, Hipkins added.

Another release of around 3000 MIQ rooms will begin at 6pm next Tuesday, with the virtual lobby opening an hour earlier at 5pm.

12.55pm: Case numbers due on first day of level three

It’s Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield fronting today’s 1pm Covid-19 presser. On the first day of level three for Auckland, we’re keeping fingers crossed for another day with low case numbers. We’ll also hear whether any viral spread has occurred in Hauraki, where four community cases were detected earlier this week.

Watch below or follow along with our live coverage from 1pm.

12.45pm: Melbourne hit by magnitude six quake

Melbourne has been struck by a magnitude six earthquake – the largest on land tremor to hit Australia since 1997.

According to Geoscience, the earthquake was 10km below the surface and about 150km east of Melbourne itself.

12.00pm: Major NZ employer starts vaccine incentive

The Warehouse Group has offered its 11,000 staff a cash incentive to get both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.

All employees across the group (which includes retailers The Warehouse, Noel Leeming and Torepedo7) who are fully vaccinated by November 26 will receive a one-off payment of $100.

“The delta variant has highlighted the need to be proactive in doing what we can to eliminate this virus from Aotearoa,” said Warehouse Group chief executive Nick Grayston.

11.30am: 10-year plan to address mental health

A 10-year plan to tackle mental health has been announced by the government.

Called “Kia Manawanui”, the plan sets out a pathway that targets the cause of mental distress. “The mental wellbeing of New Zealanders will be better supported through this programme as it requires government agencies to work together to promote and protect mental wellbeing,” said health minister Andrew Little.

“We have heard loud and clear the need to place greater focus on promotion and prevention, as well as providing specialist support for those with complex needs.”

Kia Manawanui sets out short, medium and long term actions to be taken across government, Little said, with a focus on key areas such as technology, workforce, and investment to make transformative change.

The minister has also appointed an external oversight group chaired by Professor Judy McGregor that will ensure the government continues to meet its mental health goals.

Watch live:

11.15am: Watch – Hipkins, Bloomfield, appear before select commitee

Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins are facing scrutiny before a Zoom-hosted health select committee.

10.40am: Police set for funding boost, new frontline teams

The police are set to receive a $45 million funding boost, touted as “one of the largest investments in frontline safety”, after attention over violence towards officers.

The announcement, made this morning by police minister Poto Williams, includes over $15 million for a new “tactical response model” and an additional 78 constabulary staff and 28 intelligence analysts.

While that new model may sound similar to the controversial armed response teams, Williams claims it is distinct. “These officers will wear standard police uniforms, drive standard police vehicles, and will not be armed in their day-to-day duties,” she said. “They will support frontline investigation and prevention teams and will focus on high–risk offenders, firearms, methamphetamine, and organised crime groups.”

National’s Simeon Brown was unconvinced, tweeting ahead of the announcement to claim it was a stealthy return of armed response teams.

The model will include tactical prevention teams, tasked to undertake warrants and other work involving moderate risk. Two-person dog teams will also be introduced. Tactical training for frontline staff will more the double up to seven-and-a-half days per year.

“The government is committed to ensuring police have the resources they need to keep themselves and our communities safe,” said Williams. “That’s why we are providing immediate funding to accelerate police’s new tactical response model that will increase the training and capability of frontline staff.”

Police minister Poto Williams (Image / Getty Images)

10.00am: Concern over possible quarantine facility in Rotorua

There’s concern over possible new MIQ facilities being opened in Rotorua.

The current delta outbreak has seen Auckland’s main quarantine facility – the Jet Park – hit capacity quickly with a second hotel brought in to meet demand.

According to Waiariki MP and Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi, the government is considering two additional MIQ facilities in Rotorua including one that will house infectious cases of Covid-19.

“The addition of a quarantine facility in Rotorua keeps and brings those infectious, to our community,” he said. “This only increases the potential for a MIQ breach leading to a community outbreak. It adds more pressure on the local health system and ultimately means more lockdowns. This would be disastrous for Rotorua, and especially Māori who make up 45% of the Rotorua population.”

There have been calls throughout the pandemic to build MIQ facilities outside of Auckland, with our biggest city suffering the most due to community spread of Covid-19. Waititi said purpose-built quarantine facilities could be a good idea.

“This is not about stopping MIQ and we understand the urgency at which whānau overseas want and need to return to Aotearoa. But the government need to look at investing in the infrastructure to support this effort,” he said. “If it means building purpose-built facilities or upgrades to Queenstown’s hospital – so be it.”

Te Arawa iwi have not been consulted, said Waititi. Both Ngāti Whakaue and Tūhourangi-Ngāti Wāhiao have written letters in opposition of additional MIQ facilities, with Waititi’s backing.

8.45am: Collins drops out of morning interview over question line

National’s Judith Collins pulled the plug on her usual Wednesday morning interview with RNZ after the broadcaster said it would be asking her about recent staff departures.

Three senior staffers have quit the National Party’s parliamentary office over the past few weeks, reported Stuff this week, coinciding with a serious drop in the polls. Those who have left include press secretary Julia Stewart, along with the party’s digital director and head of data.

While Collins was unwilling to appear on RNZ, she did front for a livestreamed interview with Stuff’s Henry Cooke. 

8.10am: Newshub shake-up will see AM Show line-up change

Morning TV will look a little different in 2022, with Newshub announcing Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson will leave The AM Show at the end of the year.

The pair have been with the show for the past five years alongside former host Duncan Garner who left suddenly last month.

“Amanda and Mark have been an important part of the success of The AM Show over the last five years and will remain an important part of Newshub and Three going forward,” said Newshub’s news director Sarah Bristow.

Gillies will move into a national correspondent role with Newshub while Richardson will make regular appearances on The Project and continue his role hosting The Block NZ.

“Looking ahead to 2022, we have an exciting opportunity to reinvigorate the format of The AM Show,” said Bristow. “Our focus remains unchanged – to deliver a best-in-class product that sets the news agenda of the day – and evolving the existing format of the show is a natural progression. We look forward to sharing more with you in the coming months.”

Current host Ryan Bridge will remain with the revamped programme, Bristow confirmed. Meanwhile, ex-host Garner has started a new columnist role with the NBR.

Richardson and Gillies

7.55am: Elimination does not mean zero cases, says Bloomfield

The director general of health has admitted that total elimination of the delta variant may be impossible.

Currently, there are under 300 active cases in the country – all in a managed quarantine facility.

Speaking to RNZ, Ashley Bloomfield said we may never get to zero cases. “The important thing is we’re going to keep finding any infections and basically continue to contact trace, test, isolate people so that we stop the virus circulating in the community, and that is the aim.”

The latest numbers

  • There are 14 new community cases of Covid-19.
  • Of these, 13 are in Auckland one is a household contact in upper Hauraki.
  • 10 cases remain epidemiologically unlinked (including one case from today).
  • More than 50,000 vaccine doses were given out nationwide on Monday.
  • Auckland has moved to alert level three for a two week period.



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