Live updates, October 22: ‘Dust off those masks’ – Bloomfield advocates for level ‘one-plus’

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 22. All the latest New Zealand news, updated throughout the day. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7.30pm: The day in sum

There were two new cases of Covid-19 at the border.

Meanwhile, two members of crew on the Sofrana Surville tested positive while at anchor off the coast of Australia, lending credence to the hypothesis that the port worker who tested positive on Saturday contracted the virus while working aboard the ship.

Ashley Bloomfield urged people to keep checking in with the Covid Tracer app, and to continue wearing masks on public transport and flights, despite it not being compulsory at alert level one.

Documents showed that recently ousted MP Winston Peters loaned his party, New Zealand First, $60,000 just 10 days out from election day.

Lack of support for National in the South Island during the recent election will be part of the party’s post-election review, said Judith Collins.

4.35pm: Two cases of Covid-19 aboard Sofrana Surville

Two more people have tested positive for Covid-19 aboard the ship Sofrana Surville, believed to be the source of the infection of a port worker on Saturday. The ship is currently at anchor off the coast of Mooloolaba, Queensland, and all 19 crew aboard the ship have now been tested, said Queensland health minister Steven Miles.

Before departing for Australia, the Sofrana Surville had travelled from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands to Brisbane, then to Tauranga and Auckland, where eight crew joined it from the Philippines on October 13.

Genome sequencing of the New Zealand case, an engineer who worked aboard the ship on October 12 and 13, revealed that he was infected with a strain of Covid-19 that had never been seen before in Australia or New Zealand.

4.20pm: Streaming service Quibi to close

Barely six months after launch, the mobile-only TV streaming service Quibi is shutting down. It began with a lot of fanfare and a roster of celebrity-driven shows (many with truly wtf premises – a personal favourite was the one where a cannon blasted a dish into the faces of blindfolded contestants, who then had to race against the clock to recreate it) but immediately struggled to attract subscribers. Despite the deep pockets and best efforts of founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, former head of Walt Disney Studios, the viewing public never warmed to paying for shortform TV shows which could only be viewed on a mobile phone.

As tech blog The Verge explains, a number of factors contributed to the platform’s demise: “the launch of a mobile-only streaming service at the height of a global pandemic when users were stuck at home; the lack of any real breakout content that was compelling enough to tempt subscribers; or the fact that shortform video content has a nearly infinite amount of free competition in the form of YouTube, TikTok, and other platforms.”

3.30pm: Team NZ ‘outraged’ over removal of courses with best public viewing

Team New Zealand is “outraged” after Luna Rossa, the challenger, successfully campaigned to “destroy” the opportunity for spectators to watch the America’s Cup races from land.

Overnight, the America’s Cup Arbitration Panel have issued a ruling cancelling the use of the “inner harbour stadium race courses” for all racing of the Prada Cup and America’s Cup.

Team NZ is outraged about the decision (Image : Twitter)

Team New Zealand says the decision has “considerable and negative repercussions” to the accessibility of the event for the public, the safety of the event and the reliability of the racing.

Luna Rossa argued because some restrictions may apply on some days to the courses in question, they shouldn’t be used it all.

Read more here

3.00pm: No plans to shift alert levels ‘at this point’ – Robertson

Labour MP and finance minister Grant Robertson has told a radio station that there are no plans to move Auckland back up to alert level two or three “at this point”.

That’s despite growing concern around the possible spread of Covid-19 from a port worker, who is believed to have contracted the virus through the border.

Robertson told Magic Talk the situation is currently “under control”.

“We are monitoring it extremely closely and this is where the contact tracing system swings into action,” he said.

Robertson said the government is still trialling Bluetooth technology solutions – like the Covid Card – and that in the meantime New Zealanders need to continue using the existing tracer app.

2.05pm: Rudy Giuliani claims compromising Borat footage is ‘fabricated’

Moving away from Covid-19 news now, to a story that’s blowing up in the US.

Trump’s lawyer and confidante Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, is defending shocking footage of himself in the new Borat movie.

Hidden camera footage shown in the film shows Giuliani reaching into his pants while lying on a bed next to an actor playing Borat’s daughter, who is meant to be just 15-years-old.

In a series of tweets, Giuliani claimed he was simply tucking in his shirt.

Having seen the film, which officially releases tomorrow, I can say that whatever Giuliani was truly doing – there is nothing “fabricated” about this.

We’ll have a full review of Borat 2 later in the week.

1.00pm: Two new cases of Covid-19, both in managed isolation

Updated

There are two new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, Ashley Bloomfield has announced. Both are imported cases that were detected in managed isolation.

The first case arrived on October 19 from the Netherlands via Dubai, the second arrived on October 21 from Doha. They were both tested on arrival as had developed symptoms on their flights. There are 58 active cases, and 1,558 confirmed overall.

No change to case numbers in Sudima Hotel cluster

The number of confirmed cases in the Sudima Hotel managed isolation facility in Christchurch remains at 18, Bloomfield said. All the arrivals from Russia and Ukraine – a large group of fishermen in isolation at the hotel – will be tested again tomorrow, on their sixth day in managed isolation. This test is in addition to routine day three and 12 testing, Bloomfield said.

Genome sequencing on the cases will be back on late Saturday.

Asked about whether the next flight of fishermen from Russia, which is due to arrive in early November, would be delayed, Bloomfield said the decision was MBIE’s and MPI’s, but would probably depend on whether the current intake have their MIQ stay lengthened. He said it was likely they’d have to stay for at least three more days.

Bloomfield said the testing of the fishermen before they boarded the flight appeared to be “gold standard”, but it may not always find people who are incubating the virus.

Latest on Covid-positive individual who visited Auckland pub

Bloomfield repeated the information reported last night about The Malt pub in Greenhithe, saying two additional community testing centres had been opened on the North Shore in response to the case having been in the community.

The person became symptomatic on Sunday night, Bloomfield said. The ministry was exploring the possibility that the person, who only had brief exposure to the original Sofrana Surville case, had contracted the virus while working on the ship on October 12, rather than from the brief exposure with the original case.

Test results from others on the Sofrana Surville, which is now in Australia, are expected later today.

A family member of one of yesterday’s two new cases, who had tested negative, briefly attended Rangitoto College rather than remaining in isolation after receiving the negative result, said Bloomfield. The student had had very little exposure to the positive case so the risk to the community is believed to be low.

Keep wearing masks on public transport, flights – Bloomfield

The Covid-19 tracer app remained important, Bloomfield emphasised, with the rise in new cases of the coronavirus. As we approach a long weekend, Bloomfield urged people to scan QR codes. We’re currently averaging only 500,000 scans a day, while under level three it was several million.

“The value of a push notification is only there if people scan the codes,” said Bloomfield.

Further, the director general encouraged people to continue wearing masks on public transport and flights, despite it not being compulsory at alert level one. He said he’s heard of people feeling embarrassed if they are the only person wearing a mask, but said it’s important to remain vigilant. “Dust of those masks,” Bloomfield said.

Finally, a person on a ship in Port Chalmers in Dunedin had returned a weak positive result, Bloomfield said, but this has now been confirmed as a historic infection that was reported at the time in India, so is not of concern.

No need to move up alert levels, says Bloomfield

Bloomfield said there was no need yet to move up alert levels.

In response to a question from The Spinoff’s Justin Giovannetti, Bloomfield said rather than level 1.5 he liked to think of it as level one plus, meaning he’d like to see New Zealanders be a bit more flexible and be ready to take a few more precautions such as wearing masks.

“We are looking at options for how we could require people to use them,” said Bloomfield of the decrease in people scanning the Covid Tracer app QR Codes, which businesses are required to display.

The director general reiterated that maintaining the usual measures (using the app, hand washing, getting tested etc) was the best way to prevent the need to move up levels.

Health minister Chris Hipkins has asked Bloomfield to present evidence for and against a national mandate to wear masks on transit and flights going forward under all alerts levels. Bloomfield said work is underway on preparing that.

Overall, 7,083 tests were processed yesterday, bringing the total to 1,470,994.

12.55pm: Ashley Bloomfield to give Covid-19 update

The director general of health Ashley Bloomfield is about to provide an update on Covid-19 in New Zealand, following the news a student at Rangitoto College has gone into self-isolation after a family member contracted the virus.

Last night, it was confirmed patrons at an Auckland pub were also asked to isolate, after a Covid-positive individual visited the Greenhithe venue.

Watch below:

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12.30pm: Rangitoto College student in isolation after family member contracts Covid-19

A student at Rangitoto College – the country’s biggest school – has gone into isolation after a household contact became sick with Covid-19.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has moved to reassure parents and staff, suggesting “there is very little risk” posed.

An ARPHS spokesperson said letters informing staff and families of the situation have been issued explaining that a student has been only briefly at school since the family member tested positive.

The student is “not considered a close contact”, as they had minimal exposure to the person while the person was infectious.

The student is well and has had a negative test result.

Ashley Bloomfield will be providing an update at 1pm.

Read the full statement from the ARPHS here

11.55am: Low support for National in South Island part of review – Collins

National Party leader Judith Collins has acknowledged the lack of support the party received in the South Island during the recent election.

During an interview on Newstalk ZB, Collins said the full review of the recent election campaign would look at why so many South Island seats turned red.

“You can see the party vote went up for Act, they took a chunk of what we would normally consider our vote,” Collins said.

“Whether they [South Island] went as red as it looks like if you compare the centre-right vote together, it’s not so much.”

Gerry Brownlee, the party’s deputy, lost his long held Ilam seat on Saturday. Despite this, Collins expects him to remain a voice for Christchurch from within National.

“I think some people would look at the rebuild and say, ‘oh it should have done better’ but I know he gave the biggest effort of anybody into that rebuild.

“In the fullness of time, I think he will be treated much better by history,” Collins claimed.

11.15am: Ministry of Health confirms another 1pm press conference

It’s been a while since we’ve had a string of 1pm media conferences by Ashley Bloomfield, but the Ministry of Health has just sent out an advisory confirming the director general will be fronting media today.

As always, we’ll cover it live and break down anything you need to know.

Today’s press conference follows confirmation that a Covid-positive man visited an Auckland pub last week, and also comes amid an outbreak from within a managed isolation facility in Christchurch.

10.55am: National MPs continue to blame leaks, leadership issues

National MPs have had almost a week now to dissect the party’s devastating loss on election night.

The general consensus among the remaining members of the party’s caucus is that a series of leaks and leadership issues culminated in the significant drop on support on Saturday night.

Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey told Newstalk ZB the result could partially be put down to a lack of “internal discipline”.

“You can go back to Jami-Lee Ross, Hamish Walker, Andrew Falloon, we had a leak just before the election, leadership issues,” he said.

Outgoing Northcote MP Dan Bidois said this morning that the leaker “should go”, backing a call made by several other National MPs earlier this week.

9.25am: Winston Peters loaned NZ First $60k before election

New documents show recently ousted MP Winston Peters loaned his party, New Zealand First, $60,000 just 10 days out from election day.

Newsroom’s reporting that the Electoral Commission’s register of party loans exceeding $30,000 shows the party declared the loan from a “W R Peters in Whananaki”, which would suggest it came from Peters (who shares the same initials and has a retreat in Northland).

The documents show Peters lent the party $50,000 on October 6, and another $10,000 the following day. New Zealand First has to repay the loan by October next year, with 2% interest, Newsroom reported.

7.45am: ‘Contact tracing system working’ – Hipkins

The health minister does not believe there’s any reason for Auckland’s alert level to change, following news an infectious Covid-19 case visited a pub on Friday night.

It’s now known one of the two latest cases – linked to a port worker – visited the Malt pub in Greenhithe between 7.30pm and 10pm on Friday evening.

“Any Covid-19 case is a concern… but at this point the contact tracing system is working as intended, as it was designed to,” Chris Hipkins told RNZ.

“We’re not seeing information at this point that would suggest changes to alert levels… we’re monitoring it very, very closely.”

Hipkins said the person was most likely exposed to the index case, the port worker, on Friday – the same day they went to the pub. “So that’s a fairly tight time frame, they became symptomatic and got tested over the weekend,” he said.

Push notifications have been sent out to those who used the Covid-19 tracer app at the pub last Friday, Hipkins said. This event in the pub is a timely reminder to continue using the app, said Hipkins, as the number of QR code scans has rapidly declined in recent weeks.

Of the eight staff members employed by the bar, three are isolating – because they were working on Friday – but the bar owner is concerned about the pub being packed out again on Sunday, for the rugby.

A pop-up testing area will be set up today in the Greenhithe area, so anyone who is concerned can easily access a test.

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

How lucky is the Green party, to have so many people giving advice and suggestions right now? As talks continue around the formation of the government, there’s no shortage of people weighing in. That’s fair enough of course, everyone has the right to an opinion. But the interesting point is of it all is that the party now finds itself in the position of considering what it should be going forward, and that has implications for what the government as a whole will be.

We’ll start with two former MPs. Catherine Delahunty told Radio NZ the party would be better off sitting in opposition, and pushing on the government from that direction, particularly given the Labour majority. “I think we’re going to need them to push this large monolith further to the left because the messages we’re hearing from Jacinda Ardern indicate a very centrist government.” Kevin Hague, by contrast, tweeted that much more could be accomplished from a place of government. “I believe the Greens should definitely seek to join government. I’m acutely aware of the urgency of the climate and biodiversity collapse crises. Action is needed now, not in 3 years.” If you’ll forgive the slightly sarcastic tone at the top of the piece, it’s fair to assume both of these points are made in good faith.

Not everyone is quite so keen on the idea of Labour bringing the Greens in. The Employers and Manufacturers Association spokesperson Alan McDonald said that “businesses” won’t want to see the Greens in government, reports Radio NZ, because in his view they would push too hard and fast on employment law changes. In a twist, co-leader Marama Davidson is sort of in agreement with the EMA, reports the NZ Herald, saying that a Labour government wouldn’t go as far as the Greens would want them to. From the right, commentator Matthew Hooton wrote in the NZ Herald that either choice will contain difficulties in holding the party’s internal coalition together. This one may not be written in quite such good faith, but it is a fair point.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

There were 25 new cases of Covid-19, with 23 imported cases and two contacts of a port worker who had previously tested positive.

It emerged that one of the cases visited an Auckland pub on Friday night, while infectious, and patrons who were there at the same time have been asked to self-isolate.

The Greens held “fruitful discussions” with Labour over their potential role in the next government.

National leader Judith Collins said her controversial pre-election comments about obesity could have been “shut down” more quickly.

The Electoral Commission revealed the cost of its lovely smelling hand sanitiser and polling booth pens.

Read yesterday’s live updates




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