Election Live, September 23: Three new community Covid-19 cases

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for September 23, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other NZ news. The essential campaign dates are here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here. Explore the parties’ pledges at Policy. I’m on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7pm: The day in sum

There were three new community cases of Covid-19, all linked to a previously reported Christchurch to Auckland chartered flight.

Six historical cases dating back to February were announced, one confirmed and five probable. These cases present no risk to the public, according to the Ministry of Health.

The Reserve Bank held the official cash rate at 0.25%.

Labour announced its $50 million plan to reduce costs for farmers and growers.

More than one million people tuned in for the first leaders’ debate, according to TVNZ.

5:40pm: Further info on today’s three new Covid-19 cases

The Ministry of Health has confirmed that the three new community cases reported today were on the Christchurch to Auckland chartered flight. They were tested because they were known contacts of the original chartered flight case, having been on the same flight, but are not related as family members.

The ministry also confirmed the three new cases were part of the same family group: two had been in managed isolation in Christchurch and were returning home, while the third is a household contact.

3.50pm: More than one million tune in for first leaders’ debate

The first leaders’ debate between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins drew in a massive crowd, TVNZ is reporting.

The network said 1.15 million watched the TV broadcast, while an addition 61,700 live streams were watched on demand. As Stuff’s Henry Cooke tweeted, that’s a massive turn-out considering only 2.6 million people voted last election.

Next week the two leaders will face off on Newshub, before a final debate again on TVNZ the week of the election.

3.00pm: Māori don’t exist according to our political leaders

Right now on The Spinoff, you can read an incredibly eloquent rant about last night’s TVNZ leaders’ debate from our Ātea editor Leonie Hayden.

Here’s an excerpt:

Last night I settled in on the couch with a beer and takeaways, and watched an engaging, rambunctious and focused political debate. It was entertaining but also challenging and informative, and covered the critical issues facing Aotearoa and te ao Māori in 2020.

I’m talking, of course, about The Hui’s Waiariki candidates debate expertly moderated by Mihingarangi Forbes.

Meanwhile, over on TVNZ, you’d be forgiven for thinking Jacinda Ardern, Judith Collins and John Campbell’s ancestors sailed to these shores and settled on pristine, empty lands.

All three spent the entire debate in a blissful, alternate, Māori-free universe.

Read Leonie Hayden’s full article here

2.50pm: OCR held at 0.25%

The Reserve Bank has stuck to its word and held the official cash rate at 0.25% today.

Back in March, the central bank said it would cut the OCR by 75 basis points down to the current level and that it would keep it in place for at least 12 months.

1.00pm: Three new community Covid-19 cases, linked to flight

Updated

There are three new community cases of Covid-19 to report today, the Ministry of Health has confirmed, all linked to a previously reported Christchurch to Auckland chartered flight. They are a family group and have been in self-isolation over the last three days.

They are not linked to the Auckland August community cluster, the ministry said.

There are 37 people isolating in the Auckland quarantine facility from the community, which includes 17 people who have tested positive for Covid-19 and their household contacts.

Three people are in hospital with Covid-19 – one each at Auckland City, Middlemore and North Shore hospitals. All three patients are in isolation on a general ward.

Since August 11, contact tracing has identified 4,014 close contacts of cases, of which 4,006 have been contacted and are self-isolating or have completed self-isolation.

There are three additional previously reported cases now considered to have recovered from Covid-19, taking the total number of active cases to 62. Of those, 28 are imported cases in managed isolation facilities, and 34 are community cases.

The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is now 1,468.

Yesterday, 6,938 tests were processed, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 924,637.

Contacts from Auckland flight continuing to be tested

It’s still not known how a man who left managed isolation in Christchurch subsequently tested positive for Covid-19 in Auckland.

There were 86 people on this charter flight. All have been contacted and are either in the process of being tested or have been tested.  63 have returned a negative test, the ministry said.

In tracing this man’s history and how he became infected, the ministry said that one of two remaining cases from his earlier Delhi-Fiji flight has now been sequenced and been shown to be a close match.  The second result is still pending.

Six new ‘historical’ cases to report

There are also six historical cases, dating back to February. Of these cases, one is a confirmed historical case and there are five probable historical cases linked.

These cases present no risk to the public, the ministry said.

This infection occurred in late February following exposure to an infected person from Italy (another family member). At the time the family member was visiting New Zealand, they became ill with symptoms consistent with Covid-19, and the wider household then also became ill.

At the time, they did not meet the case definition for testing for people with defined symptoms who had travelled from or transited through China. Italy had not at that point been identified as a country of concern. This meant the New Zealand household was not tested at the time.

Today’s historical confirmed case is a man who recently developed a sore throat and sought testing. The weak positive result, combined with serology test results and case history, is consistent with an old infection.

At this stage, only the man will be counted as a confirmed case as he has returned a weak positive result on the PCR test. The other family members will be recorded as probable cases.

This would mean that the infected family member from Italy is effectively now the first case we are aware of in New Zealand, as they have reported having symptoms on arrival on February 21, a week before our first reported case on February 28.

Consequently, the other household cases would represent the first locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, given the onset of symptoms from February 29 for the confirmed case.

Further investigation will continue, the ministry said. As part of this, close contacts of this man during his recent mild illness have been tested as a precaution and have returned negative tests.

12.45pm: Press release incoming about new Covid-19 cases

Today’s Ministry of Health Covid-19 update will be arriving in my inbox today, with no scheduled press conference. Yesterday, there were no new cases of the coronavirus to report.

From midnight tonight, crowds of up to 100 will be permitted in Auckland as the city shifts down to full blown alert level two.

12.20pm: Politics podcast – the best and worst of last night’s debates

Gone by Lunchtime is back for another week, as we inch closer towards the election on October 17.

This week, Toby, Annabelle and Ben are here to talk Tuesday night’s two big debates. The Hui’s livestreamed Waiariki candidate debate between Hannah Tamaki, Rawiri Waititi and Tāmati Coffey, and TVNZ’s leaders’ debate between Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern. One was raucous, robust, interesting and entertaining. The other was the leaders’ debate.

Download now, subscribe through Apple Podcasts, or visit Gone By Lunchtime on Acast or Spotify.

11.50am: Robertson calls on National to ‘rip up economic plan’

Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson has called on the National Party to release its fiscal workings, after another hole was revealed last night.

National’s economic plan has now blown out by almost $8 billion, pushing it closer toward the famous $11.7 billion fiscal hole allegedly in Labour’s plan before last election.

In a scathing press release, Robertson called National’s plan “chaotic” and “a shambles”, and said the economic costings are now “in tatters”.

“It’s time for Judith Collins to tell Paul Goldsmith to rip up the plan and start again,” he said.

“It looks like National have given NZIER the wrong numbers. National needs to release the workings they provided to NZIER so New Zealanders can assess the true magnitude of their mistakes and see if there are any more.

11.00am: Labour promises ‘integrated farm planning’

Jacinda Ardern’s on the campaign trail in the Waikato today, where she’s announced Labour’s plan to reduce costs for farmers and growers.

The $50 million plan would involve “integrated farm planning”, which sounds as exciting as it is.

It means, according to Labour, farmers will be provided a single framework to use for key parts of their operation, including environmental management such as freshwater and climate mitigation, labour, biosecurity, animal welfare, and health and safety.

It comes after last night’s leaders’ debate, which saw Ardern and Collins go head-to-head on farming and environmental policy.

“By partnering with the industry we will create a single planning framework that will reduce costs for every farmer and grower, reduce the burden of compliance and help our agrisector get greater economic returns for their products,” Ardern said in a statement.

“New Zealand’s farmers and growers are creative, innovative and always look to improve their practices. A single farm plan will help them to capture all of their compliance requirements in one place, achieve their economic goals and support the transition to a clean, green carbon neutral New Zealand.”

On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today:

  • Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern is in the Waikato today, with stops in Mangatawhiri and Hamilton.
  • National Party leader Judith Collins is in Matamata today, meeting with the man who recently got a tattoo of her likeness. She’ll be fronting media at midday.
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is in the North today, visiting Kaitaia and Kaikohe.
  • Act Party leader David Seymour is on the road in the South, visiting Arrowtown and Wanaka.
  • Greens co-leader Marama Davidson is participating in a series of Zooms today, while James Shaw is participating in an election debate in Wellington.

8.20am: Third test for ‘some groups’ worth looking at – Bloomfield

A third test for people who have left managed isolation is worth considering, Ashley Bloomfield has said.

The Ministry of Health is setting up a way of standardising the way weak positive cases of Covid-19 are managed and reported.

Yesterday, it was reported that a person had been moved into a managed isolation as a precaution, after giving a weak positive result.

Ashley Bloomfield told RNZ that, at this stage, there have been just a handful of cases like this.

“What we have had, is two or three people who have had a previous positive test,” Bloomfield said, although a few more have been detected at the border after having the virus overseas.

Regarding the case that tested positive for the virus after leaving managed isolation, Bloomfield said it appeared they contracted the virus on their flight into the country. That means there was an unusually incubation period for the virus, as it took more than 14-days to present.

Bloomfield said it warranted considering a third test for “some groups” who have left isolation after testing negative, for example people who travelled to New Zealand from higher risk countries.

Read more: How to strengthen the post-isolation Covid rules

7.50am: Collins claims she won first televised debate

It was a big night for TVNZ last night, with the release of the latest Colmar Brunton poll ahead of the first showdown between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins.

There’s enough recap in last night’s Election Live and below in The Bulletin, but I thought I’d pick-up on comments made by the two leaders following the debate.

National’s Judith Collins certainly thinks she came out on top, telling media: “I certainly didn’t feel like I was losing.” She later posted on social media to say she enjoyed the experience and that it could have gone on for another hour.

Jacinda Ardern, meanwhile, wouldn’t pick a winner. The Labour Party leader said that “politics is not a blood sport” and that the debate felt like more of a “contested conversation”.

As detailed in The Bulletin, the general consensus seems to be that Collins did, in fact, claim the victory last night – at least in the second half of the debate.

Mike Hosking told listeners this morning that while Ardern made no mistakes, Collins won because she owned the last portion of the debate.

Most of Hosking’s regular morning vitriol was directed at moderator John Campbell. In 2014 and 2017, it was Hosking who hosted the TVNZ debates.

“If John Campbell learned to stop thanking people over and over and…over again, if he trimmed his question from a lengthy tedious dissertation and stopped summing up each section with a lot of ‘this is a good debate’, ‘gosh it’s good to have you here’ and then tossing in an inexplicable series of huffs and puffs, they could have saved at least 22 minutes,” Hosking said this morning.

“Between him and the commercial realities, a lot of time was wasted.”

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin here

The top-line figure is clear – Labour still has a massive poll lead over National, more than a month after the last one was taken. But as the latest One News Colmar Brunton survey shows, both major parties have taken a bit of a hit, with minor parties capitalising. Labour is down five points to 48%, and National is down one point to 31%, which is still the sort of massive gap that will be hard to pull back with just under a month to go. In terms of the preferred PM stakes, well, you can probably guess that Ardern is still miles ahead of Collins.

However, Act and the Greens both appear to be gaining over the campaign. Act has surged two points to 7%, which if that holds will be among their best ever election results. And the Greens are up a point to 6%, giving them a narrow but crucial buffer against the risk of dropping under the MMP threshold. NZ First meanwhile are languishing on 2%, equal with the New Conservatives. The Opportunities Party and Advance NZ have both gone up a point to 1%, where the Māori Party are also sitting. In terms of the complexion of parliament, Labour would be in a position to govern alone, but would potentially be able to call on the Greens in a pinch. An interesting detail: 14% of those surveyed either didn’t yet know who they’d be voting for, or refused to answer. Those aren’t necessarily the sort of numbers that could change the outcome, but depending on how they break it could certainly change the makeup of parliament.

For the New Conservatives and TOP, the result isn’t quite enough to get them into the minor party debate, which will be bitterly disappointing. That required a poll result of 3%, or an MP in parliament over either of the last two terms. It means that debate will be contested by NZ First, the Greens, Act, the Māori Party, and Advance NZ (who qualify through former National MP Jami-Lee Ross.)

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.00am: Yesterday’s headlines

Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins went head-to-head in the first election debate.

Labour could govern alone according to a new TVNZ poll.

That same poll showed Act had surged up to 7%, two points higher than the last poll.

There were no new cases of Covid-19.

The Crown won’t be appealing the Southern Response case.

Read yesterday’s top stories here.



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