blog upd oct 22

PoliticsOctober 22, 2021

Live updates, October 22: Two Covid cases confirmed in Northland; another triple digit day with 129 delta cases confirmed

blog upd oct 22

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 22, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz. Help support our Covid coverage – join Members today.


Today’s key headlines

  • There are 129 community cases of Covid-19 – our second triple digit day in a row.
  • Nine of today’s cases are in Waikato, all linked.
  • There are also two new cases in Northland, confirmed at 3pm.
  • There are 65 new mystery cases with 195 unlinked from the past fortnight.
  • Covid-related hospitalisations have risen to 51 with five in ICU.

The traffic light system, in brief

  • A new three-tiered traffic light system will be introduced when each DHB region hits 90% fully vaccinated.
  • Auckland will be able to move earlier: once its three DHBs hit that same 90% doubled jabbed milestone.
  • At green and orange, businesses previously considered high-risk can fully open to vaccinated customers.
  • At red, businesses will be able to operate with some restrictions.
  • The South Island may move to the new framework earlier – but only if all its DHBs hit 90% double vaccinated.
  • Still confused? Read our handy explainer here.

7.00pm: Northland locations of interest added following today’s two positive cases

A number of locations of interest in Northland have been added to the Ministry of Health’s website following this afternoon’s confirmation of two positive cases in Kaikohe (see 3.25pm update).

They are GAS Kaihu in Dargaville (Sunday October 17, 4.15pm-4.30pm), Mobil Kaikohe (Tuesday October 19, 5.15pm-5.45pm) and Countdown Kaikohe (Tuesday October 19, 4.15pm-5.30pm).

A number of locations in Te Awamutu have also been added this evening after nine new cases in Waikato were reported today. People in Te Awamutu were today urged to get tested if they have symptoms as the Waikato DHB is trying to determine if there is any undetected spread in the area.

The Te Awamutu locations are Countdown for different times on Thursday October 14, Saturday October 16 and Monday October 18 and FreshChoice (Tuesday October 19, 12.40pm-1.46pm). FreshChoice Leamington in Cambridge was also added (Sunday October 17, 10.30am-11.40am).

Numerous locations across the Auckland region were also added today, including Long Bay beach on the North Shore for 12pm-4.30pm on Saturday October 16, and several bus trips between Constellation Station and Smales Farm on the North Shore on Saturday October 16 and Monday October 18. People who were on any of the bus trips at the relevant times should stay at home, test immediately as well as five days after exposure, and stay at home until a negative result is returned.

5.15pm: Auckland hospitals ready for increasing numbers of Covid patients, say DHBs

Hospitals in Auckland are well placed to care for increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases requiring their care, according to the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC).

Covid-19 hospitalisations reached a new high of 51 today, with all but one of those spread across three Auckland hospitals (24 in Auckland City Hospital, 18 in Middlemore and eight in North Shore Hospital). Five of those are in ICU. According to a press release from the NRHCC sent this afternoon, there are 129 resourced ICU/HDU beds across the region, which are currently at 86% capacity in the Auckland DHB catchment, 50% in Waitematā and 44% in Counties Manukau.

In the press release, NRHCC lead Margie Apa said hospitals had been proactively increasing negative pressure capacity and improving ventilation within ED, ICU and a number of wards for “many months”. “Work currently being carried out across all hospitals to build more negative pressure rooms is part of the long-term planning as part of future-proofing capacity,” she said.

Apa said intensive care bed spaces may be used as dedicated Covid-19 patient areas, while other areas across the region will continue to be used for non-Covid-19 patients who may need intensive care.

“As part of resilience and surge planning, the DHBs plan for a range of potential scenarios and continuously upgrade and improve facilities. DHBs never stop improving facilities, and that is obvious
right now as the hospitals continue to build negative pressure capacity.”

Concerns around New Zealand’s ICU capacity have been raised frequently since the delta outbreak began, especially since cases and hospitalisations in Auckland have continued to rise.

5.00pm: Whakaari defendants to face trial in 2023

The 13 defendants accused of health and safety breaches in the lead-up to 2019’s deadly Whakaari eruption will go to trial in 2023, reports RNZ.

In November last year, just before the first anniversary of the disaster that killed 22 and seriously injured many others, WorkSafe announced it was laying charges against 13 organisations and individuals: the island’s owner Whakaari Management Limited and its directors Andrew, James and Peter Buttle; GNS Science; the National Emergency Management Agency; White Island Tours Limited; Volcanic Air Safaris Limited; Aerius Limited; Kahu NZ Limited; Inflite Charters Limited; ID Tours New Zealand Limited; and Tauranga Tourism Services Limited.

The charges do not relate to events on the day of the eruption, or the rescue efforts.

All defendants have pleaded not guilty. At a virtual court hearing this morning, judge Evangelos Thomas set a date for a four-month trial beginning in July 2023, saying delays and pressure on the courts caused by Covid-19 meant it was unlikely the trial could be held any earlier. It’s not yet been decided where the trial will be held.

3.45pm: A worthwhile read

We now know what it will take to move the country out of the alert level system and into the new traffic light framework: 90% double vaccinated across all DHBs. But, the government has come under fire for choosing not to set a separate Māori vaccination rate.

In an essay for The Guardian published earlier this week, Morgan Godfery said: “In Kawerau one thing impedes the effort to vaccinate Māori – New Zealand’s history”. That piece feels especially pertinent today.

Here’s an extract:

Over 130,000 thousand New Zealanders made their way to a vaccination centre over the weekend, smashing the government’s goal and lifting Auckland’s vaccination rate to just shy of 90%. But underneath that success, shocking inequities remain. The vaccination rate for Pacific peoples still lags the rate for Pākehā, or European New Zealanders, and the Māori rate lags further still. Only 63% of Māori have had their first shot. For Pākehā, it’s 84%. This is partly due to geography. If you inspect the government’s vaccination map, a national register laying out every vaccine centre in New Zealand, you might notice something startling: there are barely any vaccine centres in rural Māori communities. This essay asks why.

Read the full piece here

3.25pm: Ministry of Health confirms two Covid-19 cases in Northland

Two Covid-19 cases in Northland have officially been confirmed by the Ministry of Health after earlier reports in the media.

It comes just two days after the region returned to alert level two after more than a week under level three restrictions.

The new cases are isolating near Kaihohe after visiting the area from Auckland under a travel exemption. The two cases are contacts of a recently diagnosed case in Auckland. They are not linked to the earlier reported cases who visited Northland.

According to the ministry, the pair were tested on October 20. However, their positive results were not included in today’s case numbers as their test results were received after the Ministry’s daily reporting period. A case investigation is under way and so far it has identified a limited number of close contacts. These individuals are currently being tested.

Interviews are also being undertaken to determine any locations of interest. People living in the Kaikohe area are asked to monitor the Ministry of Health’s locations of interest page which will be regularly updated.

Additional testing in the area is being arranged and details will be available on the Healthpoint website.

The ministry reminded those in Northland to get vaccinated this weekend if they are not already.

2.50pm: Two Covid cases reported in Northland

Two Covid cases have been confirmed in Northland today, according to a Facebook post from the Ngāti Hine Health Trust.

Northland District Health Board confirmed the two positive cases today, says the post.

“Locations of interest are currently being determined but whānau between Kaikohe and Kaitaia are being urged to get tested.”

According to the post there is a third possible case at Parua Bay in Whangārei Heads.

Northland moved from alert level three to level two on Tuesday night after no further cases were found following two Covid-positive women travelling through the region.

Parua Bay Tavern has posted on Facebook that a family member of one of its staff members has tested positive and it is closing as a precaution.

2.30pm: The Friday Quiz!

It’s been a big day so sit back, relax and test your knowledge of the week that’s been with The Spinoff’s now famous Friday News Quiz.


Quiz not working on mobile? Click here.

2.15pm: Today’s key numbers, charted

Another milestone in daily cases and hospitalisations today.

Here is how the outbreak’s looking through some of the charts from our Covid Tracker page, available here.

1.50pm: Third Pfizer dose approved for immunocompromised

Immunocompromised people over the age of 12 will now be able to access a third primary dose of the Pfizer vaccine, confirmed the Ministry of Health.

The move was signalled earlier in the week but was awaiting final sign off.

“Individuals who are severely immunocompromised are at a higher risk of severe outcomes from Covid-19 and might not produce a sufficiently strong immune response after two doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine,” said the national director of the Covid-19 vaccination programme Jo Gibbs. “A third primary dose may be beneficial and can be administered at least eight weeks after the second dose,”

Individuals who meet the eligibility criteria will need to be prescribed a third dose by their GP or other specialist and present the script when accessing the third primary dose.

This announcement is distinct from an announcement on booster doses for the general population, clarified Gibbs. Boosters have not yet been approved by the government but it’s expected they will be soon.

1.10pm: Another triple digit day with 129 delta cases confirmed

Another grim record on the Covid front with 129 new delta cases announced in the community. That’s the biggest daily case count across the entire pandemic and the second triple digit day in a row.

Of today’s cases, 120 are in Auckland and nine are in the Waikato. So far, 65 cases remain unlinked to the outbreak. There are now 195 mystery cases from the past two weeks. All of today’s Waikato cases have been linked to the outbreak, however there remain four unlinked cases in the region.

“Waikato DHB is continuing to carry out testing throughout the region, to help determine any undetected community spread of Covid-19,” said the Ministry of Health. “We are urging anyone in Waikato – in particular, people in Te Awamutu – to get tested if they have symptoms.”

Of yesterday’s 102 cases, almost half – 48 – were infectious while in the community.

We’ve also hit a new record for the number of Covid-positive people in hospitals. There are now 51 hospitalised with Covid-19, including five still in intensive care.

The latest vaccine and testing numbers

There were 27,831 tests nationwide yesterday, with 13,763 of those processed in Auckland and 4,476 swabs taken in Waikato.

Meanwhile, on the vaccine front, 41,294 doses were administered nationwide yesterday consisting of 10,066 first doses and 31,228 second. The nationwide counter now sits on 69% fully vaccinated, well off the 90% target needed to move down to the new traffic light system.

In Auckland, the target is slightly closer: 74% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated.

Suburb of North Shore party focus of Covid testing drive

Testing in Auckland is now focused on areas with higher positivity rates and where the risk of unidentified cases is higher, said the Ministry of Health, singling out Redvale on the North Shore.

That’s the suburb where last weekend’s well-documented and alert level breaching party took place, although no cases have yet been linked to that. According the ministry, Redvale has a high positivity rate of more than 7%.

“We are asking Redvale residents with symptoms, no matter how mild, to get tested as soon as possible, even if they are vaccinated. We are also encouraging testing in New Lynn and the North Shore suburbs of Rosedale and Bayswater.”

Testing is available at:

  • Eventfinda Stadium, 17 Silverfield, Wairau Valley – open 8.30am to 4.30pm
  • North Harbour Stadium, Oteha Valley Road in Carpark B – open 8.30am – 4.30pm
  • Northcote Community Testing Centre, Corner of College Road and Kilham Avenue – open  6.30am – 6.30pm
  • Health New Lynn, Totara Health Services, McCrae Way, New Lynn – open 8.30am – 4.30pm

No Covid-19 detected after Waikato traveller visited Hawke’s Bay

No positive Covid-19 results have so far been detected in Hawke’s Bay after a man from Waikato visited the region and later tested positive.

Just the one location of interest – Kmart Napier – has so far been identified and anyone there between 3:53pm – 5:13 pm on Friday October 15 is asked to monitor their symptoms for 14 days and if any develop, get tested and stay at home until a negative test result is received and they have been symptom-free for 24 hours.

There have been no positive detections for Covid-19 in the most recent wastewater samples collected from Hastings , Napier, orWairoa (15 and 19 October). Further samples from these sites will be collected next week.

12.50pm: A message from The Spinoff publisher Duncan Greive:

There’s no 1pm press conference, just a press statement. So while we wait for that to arrive, here’s Duncan:

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.

12.40pm: Traffic light system a ‘Squid Game’ for Māori

Today’s announcement of a new traffic light system is akin to Netflix series “Squid Game”, said the Māori Party.

In the show, contestants are forced to engage in simple children’s games where the losers are executed.

“On every single Covid indicator, Māori are significantly behind every other ethnicity. On every single indicator, Māori are likely to take the biggest hits from a Delta outbreak; vaccinated or not” said the party’s co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

“The fact that the government has been absolutely resistant to setting Māori targets right from the outset is a problem. The fact they have ignored all Maori health expert advice right from the outset is a problem. The fact that they have ignored Iwi and Māori providers all along is a problem. The fact that they haven’t updated their Māori Covid response strategy in over a year is a problem. The fact that the government refuses to have a Māori vaccination target is a problem.”

Rawiri Waititi said it’s clear that when Jacinda Ardern said “no one will be left behind” what she really mean was Māori would be. “Let the Squid Games begin,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Greens also agree that losing our alert level framework is likely to put lives at risk. “The proposed vaccination targets are insufficient to protect the most vulnerable, and risk opening up before everyone is safe on an equal basis,” Green Party Covid response spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said.

11.35am: ‘Staggered, disgusted, heartbroken’: Collins responds to traffic light system

Judith Collins appeared on the verge of tears during a press conference held in response to the government’s new traffic light framework.

Speaking from parliament, the opposition leader’s voice broke as she rubbished the new proposal and said she was shocked the prime minister would even announce it. “Aucklanders in particular have been living in very severe restrictions and they have now been for 10 weeks. There is no hope for them out of this announcement. They are being held in this prison.”

The country was set to be “held to ransom” by DHBs that lagged behind on the vaccine rollout, she said. “The government is now pitting New Zealander against New Zealander.”

Collins said she was heartbroken for business owners who would have to shut up shop due to the new plan. “I speak for many… who have had enough,” she said. “Everything they have saved for, worked for – gone. It’s an utter disgrace. Am I disgusted by it? Yes I am.”

She added: “I am staggered at the incompetency. I am reiterating my call to the prime minister: go to Auckland. Listen to the heartbreak.”

We were now in a sprint to get vaccines in arms, said Collins, but it was clear we should have been at this point earlier. “Where was this sprint earlier this year when New Zealanders wanted to get vaccinated but couldn’t?” This was an indictment on the prime minister, Collins said.

“I don’t have any faith in the government. I just hope that the DHBs are more competent,” said Collins. The government had an inability to organise anything except a press conference, she added.

Collins did not mince her words about finance minister Grant Robertson either, saying she was appalled by his lack of care for businesses. “How can he threaten businesses like this when they have no certainty around this vaccine certification turning up on time? He needs to get off his high horse and listening and visiting people whose businesses are going down the tube. Why doesn’t he just do his job?”

11.05am: How will domestic travel work for Aucklanders?

Will Aucklanders be able to leave the city when it is in the traffic light framework and the rest of the country remains under alert level restrictions? Jacinda Ardern did not yet have an answer. But, she said the government was working on a system which would require vaccine certificates and a testing regime.

“It is a considerable logistic exercise … but we are determined to try and find a way,” she said.

New Zealand had never had hard land borders such as may now be required, she added.

11.00am: Is Auckland’s existing level 2.75 dead?

Currently, Aucklanders are sitting in a form of level three limbo. The first step of the previously announced three step exit plan now leads to the “red setting” of the new Covid-19 protection framework. But – does the new framework mean the second and third steps of the exit plan are now on ice? Nope.

“We have a collective goal now – but in the meantime, we will keep assessing the settings we have, and if it’s safe to do so, use the step downs we have already talked about,” said Jacinda Ardern during her speech.

Responding to a question on the subject, Ardern added: “Until Auckland moves we’ll keep using [the steps]. So we won’t have a situation where Auckland is just waiting for this framework.”

The next review of the current exit plan is due on Tuesday, after the long weekend.

10.50am: Is this the end of lockdowns? Not quite

Lockdowns will still be in the Covid-19 toolkit once the country shifts to the new traffic light framework, Jacinda Ardern announced.

At today’s marathon press conference, the prime minister said that while nationwide lockdowns were now off the table, smaller shutdowns were possible.

“Rather than use general nationwide lockdowns, if we have cases that start to climb and are in areas where we have lower vaccination rates for vulnerable communities, we can use more highly targeted and very localised lockdowns if we need to,” said Ardern.

Other existing Covid tools like testing, contact tracing and isolation will continue as well.

Read more: Jacinda Ardern reveals new traffic light system for Covid response – here’s how it works

10.45am: New business support measures

Alongside the new “traffic lights” Covid framework, the government has announced a revised set of business support measures.

Top of the list is a doubling of the resurgence support payment, which is designed to help businesses cover wages and other expenses over the time their operations were diminished by Covid restrictions. From November 12 the RSP will be paid fortnightly, at a rate of $3,000 per business and $800 per full time employee and up to a maximum of $43,000 per business.

The wage subsidy will continue “through the transition period” to the traffic light system.  The extension of the wage subsidy together with the boosted RSP is expected to cost close to a billion dollars every fortnight, which will come from the Covid response and recovery fund. Finance minister Grant Robertson acknowledged it would need topping up by “at least a couple of billion dollars for all the things we are announcing today”.

There is also a $60 million regional package and mental health support programme.

“The enhanced RSP will be available until Auckland moves into the new framework. The Wage Subsidy will continue to be available on the current criteria while areas of the country are still in Alert Level 3,” said Robertson.

Support will not on the whole be available under green or orange settings. The wage subsidy and RSP will be “reworked to a new targeted payment at the red level of the new framework,” he said.

Read more: Jacinda Ardern reveals new traffic light system for Covid response – here’s how it works

10.40am: Income limits for hardship support temporarily lifted

The government has today announced new measures of assistance for low income workers.

Minister for social development Carmel Sepuloni said income limits for hardship support have been temporarily lifted.  “Cabinet has agreed to make it easier for low income workers to receive assistance for items such as food and other emergency costs,” she said. “We know the extended Covid-19 restrictions are having an impact on low income households who tend to have less certainty of work.”

As it stands, a single person working 30 hours per week on the minimum wage is not eligible for hardship assistance from Work and Income. That limit will now be lifted to 40 hours at the minimum wage, or $800 per week and $1600 per week for a couple with or without children.

The change in eligibility criteria will come into force from November 1, and last for four months, until February 28, 2022.

“This is an investment of $9.6 million into low income workers,” said Sepuloni. “We expect there to be up to 25,000 more grants made by MSD to people not currently receiving help from MSD, for needs such as food, clothing and additional costs for electricity.”

Read more: Jacinda Ardern reveals new traffic light system for Covid response – here’s how it works

10.30am: $120m announced to boost Māori vaccination rates

Today’s major Covid-19 announcement includes a $120 million boost to accelerate Māori vaccination rates.

The “Māori Communities Covid-19 Fund” will directly fund Māori, Iwi, community organisations and providers to deliver local vaccination initiatives for whānau, and support Māori and communities to prepare for the new protection framework.

The funding breaks down into two phases: $60 million will go towards accelerating Māori vaccination rates and a further $60 million will support Māori and iwi-led initiatives to protect their communities against Covid-19.

Phase one will begin next week and focus on areas where Māori vaccination rates are low: Counties Manukau, Lakes District, Taranaki and Tairawhiti, Northland and Bay of Plenty DHB areas. It will align with priority groups identified by the Ministry of Health, including rangatahi, tangata whaikaha, and whānau in remote communities.

Phase two funding will begin next month. Examples of activities that might be funded include support for testing and other public health measures under the new framework, community outreach and mobilisation of resources to support rapid responses to any outbreak or support for diagnosis and home-isolation.

Associate health minister Peeni Henare said Māori are still lagging behind most New Zealanders, particularly in the younger age groups. “We need to pull out all the stops to ensure whānau are protected when the new protection framework is put in place. We know the recent lift in vaccination rates is the direct result of funding Māori providers and of Māori leadership efforts at a regional and national level,” he said.

Read more: Jacinda Ardern reveals new traffic light system for Covid response – here’s how it works

10.00am: Auckland to remain in alert level three until city hits 90% double vaccinated

UPDATED

Auckland will move to a less restrictive Covid-19 framework once the city gets to 90% fully vaccinated for the eligible population.

The prime minister this morning unveiled the new “traffic light” framework that will, eventually, replace our existing alert levels. As teased, that new framework involves three parts – green, orange and red.

“Auckland will move into red as soon as all three DHBs hit the 90% vaccination target,” said Jacinda Ardern.

A target of 90% fully vaccinated across each DHB region has been set as the milestone to trigger moving the country into the new system, with the country expected to move straight to orange. But, Auckland will be able to move earlier into the red setting. “This target ensures good regional spread across the country and will also help address equity issues within each region,” said Ardern.

The new traffic light framework will allow businesses previously considered high-risk to fully open to vaccinated customers at green and orange and continue to operate with some restrictions at red. Businesses that choose to open to the unvaccinated will face restrictions in order to suppress the virus amongst those most likely to have it.

Read more: Jacinda Ardern reveals new traffic light system for Covid response – here’s how it works

“Fully vaccinated people will be able to reconnect with family and friends, go to bars and restaurants and do the things they love with greater certainty and confidence. The framework also provides businesses greater certainty to plan and grow,” Ardern said. “We need to give everyone, and especially Aucklanders, certainty about when it will be safe to move to a new system, where there are more freedoms for those who are vaccinated”.

The new requirements were a strong incentive for those who still haven’t had their first dose to do so quickly, said Ardern. “The choice is clear for anyone who wants to go to a bar, restaurant, gym or to attend gatherings.”

Ardern promised that Aucklanders will be reunited with friends and family outside the city by Christmas.

The framework maintains the ability to move up levels when needed to control an outbreak, but is more flexible than the current alert level system.

Cabinet will review the progress that Auckland, and the rest of the country, has made on November 29 to see if anything needs to change. “We are open to moving the South Island before the rest of the country, if all the DHBs in the south hit their targets before others,” she said.

Today’s announcement was addressed to “all New Zealanders”, said Ardern. “Our plan of elimination kept us free from Covid for much of the past 18 months,” she said. “Our economy held up well and unemployment stayed low. We can rightfully be proud of what our world-leading response has achieved.”

Delta’s “tentacles” have made it hard to maintain elimination, Ardern said. The vaccination, however, came along at the same time as delta began to become unmanageable.


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9.45am: Watch – PM set to reveal new ‘traffic light’ system, vaccination target

It’s arguably the most important day in our Covid response since Jacinda Ardern’s address to the nation in March 2020 when she unveiled our now well-used alert level system.

At 10am, the prime minister is expected to launch a “traffic light” framework that will form the next part of our Covid-19 response once vaccination rates hit a target. We’re also expecting a business announcement from Grant Robertson and a Māori health announcement from Peeni Henare.

Follow along with the press conference below, or keep this page update for live coverage from myself and The Spinoff team. We’ll also have a full explainer available once we know what it is we’re explaining.

9.25am: Auckland women who caused Northland lockdown denies wrongdoing

One of the women whose journey into Northland plunged the region into alert level three has denied any wrongdoing.

Health officials said the woman used a false exemption to travel north, subsequently testing positive for Covid-19 and then avoiding authorities.

Instead, she told the Herald she was in daily contact with a public health nurse and was not hiding from authorities. “I felt it made sense to self-isolate,” she said. “I wasn’t hiding, I fully informed them where I was.”

She said there were only locations they visited in Northland and denied misleading health officials. “There were only five places: the motel, the dairy beside the motel, the gas station to get food, the gas station to get petrol and the public toilet,” she said.

And the rumours of gang links or that the pair were sex workers? “Funny.”

“It’s not true, we have no link to gangs and I’d quite like to know where that information came from,” she said.

The woman admitted her friend may have been less cooperative as she felt she was in trouble.

8.55am: Brian Tamaki making money off Covid vaccination, testing centre

Anti-lockdown protestor Brian Tamaki is earning money from a Covid-19 testing and vaccination centre.

The Destiny Church leader has been threatened with prison time over his involvement in two mass gatherings during Auckland’s alert level three.

His wife, Hannah Tamaki, told Newstalk ZB this morning that the couple are leasing buildings the owned by the church to a medical clinic giving out vaccinations and using a car park to do Covid tests. “They asked us at the beginning of the Covid and back in February whether they could actually lease because they wanted to set up a testing station in South Auckland,” said Tamaki.

“We lease it out to a school, to an early childhood centre and a gym. Now if the medical centre is part of our lease, who are we as the lessee to actually decline them the right to run, what they’ve been asked to run.”

Tamaki said the couple were anti-lockdown, not anti-test or anti-vax – however she would not disclose whether her or Brian had been vaccinated.

8.00am: PM poised to launch alert level replacement

Jacinda Ardern will today reveal the future of New Zealand’s Covid-19 response, unveiling a replacement framework for the alert levels that have served us since March last year.

Dubbed the “traffic light system”, it’s expected to have three tiers and be introduced at a point in the near future when vaccination rates are high enough. Yes, vaccination targets are finally on the way.

Justin Giovannetti, writing for this morning’s Bulletin, has 12 questions he hopes are answered once the new system is announced – a sort of “traffic light announcement bingo” if you will. Those include whether there will be a separate vaccination rate for Māori, with numbers currently lagging well behind the median. Will restrictions be regionalised? Does it depend on a vaccination passport being available?

Meanwhile, Stuff’s Luke Malpass deemed today “the biggest day for the government since the first day of the first lockdown”. Like on Justin’s bingo card, Malpass wants to know whether separate vaccination rates will be introduced. “The government has been under significant pressure to ensure that the Māori vaccination rate in particular – as well as rates in other specific communities – also hit a high level before restrictions are eased,” he said.

One element expected to be missing from today’s announcement is some form of “freedom day” – a set date for reopening. The National Party this week suggested December 1, with an earlier reopening triggered if vaccinations hit a target. The Herald’s Derek Cheng said the government will likely find that “too risky”, especially with daily case numbers now hitting triple digits. Cheng also questions whether regions could launch the traffic light system at different times, proposing the highly vaccinated Dunedin as a frontrunner.

Jacinda Ardern – joined by Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins and Peeni Henare – will officially make their announcement at 10am. We’ll have a livestream and full coverage for you.

Yesterday’s headlines

  • There are 102 new community cases of Covid-19
  • Of these, 40 remain unlinked and there are now 199 mystery cases.
  • Eight of the cases are in Te Awamutu, with one unlinked.
  • 46 people are now in hospital with Covid-19. Seven are in ICU.
  • There were 43,087 vaccine doses administered and 26,669 tests conducted on Wednesday.
  • Parts of Waikato will remain at alert level three until Wednesday, 11.59pm.
Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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