Live updates, October 23: Nine new cases of Covid-19; Shane Jones deletes his Facebook

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 23. All the latest New Zealand news, updated throughout the day. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The day in sum

Nine new cases of Covid-19 were announced: eight in managed isolation and one linked to the “marine employee cluster”.

The Malt pub in Greenhithe closed its doors for a fortnight after being told all staff needed to self-isolate due to Covid-19 concerns.

A Browns Bay gym has closed for a five day deep clean after a confirmed Covid-19 case visited the facility.

Labour’s Peeni Henare said he wants to be health minister this term after serving as associate health minister in the last government.

Trump and Biden faced off in the second and final live presidential debate. Before the debate, Trump released the full, unedited footage from his upcoming 60 Minutes interview – just days before it was set to go to air.

5pm: Have we seen the last of Shane Jones, MP?

Little has been heard from former provincial growth fund czar Shane Jones since he badly lost the battle for Northland and was bundled out of parliament, along with the rest of his colleagues in NZ First. But while a former NZ First researcher gamely made a decent case for the party’s importance earlier this week, this afternoon came a cryptic but potentially telling sign that Jones might not be along for a crack at a return. Jones’ public facing Facebook page as an MP appears to have been deleted, suggesting that the New Zealand public may have heard the last of one of its most entertaining and infuriating orators.

Or maybe Jones is still feeling the way he looked in David White’s iconic morning after image.

3.10pm: I’ve lost it

I’m meant to be blogging but this is very hard and this is how I feel:

2.50pm: ‘I’m not a typical politician’ – Trump

Joe Biden has taken an opportunity to speak directly to the American people, pivoting away from a question about his relationship with China.

Looking directly down the camera, Biden talked about how this upcoming election matters for the American people, particularly middle-class people in places like Scranton where he grew up.

Trump criticised this, saying it was a “typical politician” response by Biden.

“I’m not a typical politician, that’s why I got elected,” Trump said.

2.40pm: How we’re all feeling right now

Even Russian-affiliated media is getting in on the joke.

2.15pm: ‘The vaccine is ready’ – Trump claims victory over Covid-19

The second and final presidential debate has started with both candidates being questioned on Covid-19.

Trump, speaking first, unsurprisingly proclaimed his administration had responded strongly to the virus. He said a vaccine “is ready” and will be announced “within a manner of weeks”.

Despite an ever-rising death toll, Trump said “we’re rounding the corner… it’s going away”.

Biden claimed Trump had no plan to counter the coronavirus and that the US would be heading into a “dark winter”.

“Anyone who is responsible for [200,000 deaths] should not remain president of the United States,” said Biden.

We’re still on the first topic, but so far the debate is a lot more polite than in the first debate. That’s thanks in part to the two candidates having their microphones controlled by a backstage team.

Trump said he takes “full responsibility” for his response to Covid-19, but not for it coming to the United States – continuing to blame China for allowing that to happen.

The president has repeatedly claimed that if Biden is elected, he will shut down the country. Biden, in response, said he will “shut down the virus” instead of the economy.

1.55pm: Trump and Biden facing off in final presidential debate

With our election over, it’s time to focus on the next. President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be facing off in the second and final live presidential debate in just 15 minutes time. You can tune in and watch it live on TVNZ Duke, and we’ll try and have some live coverage here this afternoon.

After the clusterfuck of debate one, Trump and Biden will have their microphones muted at certain moments to ensure their opponent gets a fair opportunity to speak. It all sounds like total madness.

If you’re after a US election read that’ll be far more interesting than Trump shouting over the top of Biden, read Spinoff deputy editor Catherine McGregor’s take on this morning’s RNZ debate preview featuring two Trump-ites (and just two Trump-ites).

Here’s an extract:

Together, Schow and Harsanyi supplied Morning Report with nine minutes of Trump talking points, their focus largely on allegations concerning Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son. Schow likened the Bidens to the mafia and claimed that Joe Biden had “used his son in order to enrich himself”. Harsanyi chimed in to agree. “There is a lot of evidence that Joe Biden could have benefitted from the things that Hunter was doing,“ he said.

Read the full piece here

1.40pm: Some good news before the presidential debate…

We’re about to shift from Covid-19 to the US election, so I thought I’d slip in something a little more light hearted before then.

A male kūaka/godwit is the talk of the global ornithological community after setting what appears to be a new world record for a non-stop migration marathon from Alaska to the Firth of Thames, according to DOC.

The adult godwit, fitted with a transmitter last November, was tracked across the Pacific Ocean, and covered more than 12,000kms in just over nine days days, touching speeds close to 100km/h.

The bird is named 4BBRW – after the bands on its legs – and was tracked by satellites, DOC said. Its estimated flight time was 224 hours.

Keith Woodley, the manager of the Pukorokoro-Miranda Shorebird Centre on the western coast of the Firth of Thames, said the it’s being hailed as a record by bird watchers around the world.

“We think it’s the distance record – a bird named E7 did 11680km back in 2007, and we think this bird has gone a bit further than that,” he said.

1.00pm: Nine new cases of Covid-19, one linked to ‘marine employee cluster’

Updated

There are nine new cases of Covid-19 today, Ashley Bloomfield has just announced. Eight of these cases are in managed isolation, and one a household contact of a confirmed case in the newly named “marine employee cluster”.

Seven of the new imported cases are part of the group of fishing crew in the Sudima facility, recorded at day six testing. “We do expect there may be more positive cases as the balance of the tests are processed today,” Bloomfield said.

The other case in managed isolation is a person who arrived on October 19 from Iran via Dubai, and tested positive on day three testing and is now in quarantine.

There are 66 active cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,567. Yesterday, 6,053 tests were processed, bringing the grand total 1,054,047.

The Auckland DHBs will increase testing capacity over the long weekend, said Bloomfield. Bloomfield reminded anyone who went to the Malt pub and their household contacts to be tested and stay in isolation. There were 270 tests at the Greenhithe pop-up centre yesterday.

Very few people who were at the Malt on Friday night had used the app, said Bloomfield as he issued a plea to people to do so.

In a rather stern message to media, Bloomfield said a “media representative” twice went to the house of a positive case in the marine employee cluster, who is in isolation with his family, thus risking infection themselves. “I greatly appreciate the role that the media has played in our supporting our efforts but please respect the processes in place and the privacy of individuals,” he said.

Hipkins paid tribute to John Ombler, who was all-of-government controller of the Covid response at the start of the outbreak, whose last day it is today as he enters retirement.

Asked why scanning the QR code at venues could not be made mandatory, Hipkins said it was simply too difficult, especially at alert level one. It is possible this could be introduced at a higher alert level, he said. Hipkins gave an example of how time consuming it would be for someone to check everyone signed in outside a busy supermarket.

Meanwhile, Hipkins said a team of doctors flew onto the Ken Rei, the ship that’s off the coast of Napier, to test crew, and all the tests have come back negative. The first case in the marine employee cluster had been on this ship when it was in New Plymouth after having worked on the Sofrana Surville, which is still believed to be the most likely source of infection.

The number of port workers being testers has been reducing as the ports are taking active measures to limit the number of people at risk, said Hipkins. “Those test numbers are going down but that’s for a good reason. Thousands of people interact with our ports every day but the number of people at risk is low, and they’re being tested regularly.”

Following the revelation that eight workers who flew into New Zealand from the Philippines to work on the Sofrana Surville stayed in MIQ for only a short period and weren’t tested, Hipkins said in future, arrivals in this category will be tested for Covid-19.

The ports are looking at ways to keep better track of who’s been on which ship, such as each ship being issued with a QR code, said Hipkins.

‘Continue to use the Covid tracer app’ – health minister’s message ahead of long weekend

It’s now been seven months since the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in New Zealand, health minister Chris Hipkins said. In that time, New Zealand has processed “more than a million tests” and developed one of the most comprehensive managed isolation schemes.

There’s no room for complacency, however, said Hipkins, warning New Zealanders to stay on alert.

The fact that we’re managing new cases at level one is reassuring, he said, but a reminder that Covid-19 is still with us and still rampant around the rest of the world.

“If you are sick, or you are showing symptoms, please stay home and seek medical advice. If you have Covid-19 symptoms, please call Heathline and arrange to get a test,” Hipkins said.

“Everybody should continue to use the Covid tracer app or keep some other record of their movements.”

If you are unable to keep physical distance, such as on public transport, Hipkins said we should continue to wear face masks. This afternoon all Covid Tracer app users will receive a reminder notification to use it. Businesses should continue to easily display QR codes, Hipkins added.

“We know how to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in New Zealand, we’ve done it many times, but we all need to continue to play our part.”

Hipkins said 150 PhD students had been approved to enter the country to study, under a recently announced government scheme.

12.00pm: Hipkins, Bloomfield to give 1pm Covid-19 update – What will they discuss?

It’s a 1pm Covid-19 update double-header, with the health minister Chris Hipkins joining Ashley Bloomfield for today’s media briefing.

The presence of the health minister is somewhat foreboding, but here are the questions we think could be answered at 1pm.

  1. When did the man who went to the Malt bar in Greenhithe get infected with Covid-19?
  2. Have any Malt patrons tested positive for Covid-19?
  3. What about anyone else in Greenhithe? And what about Browns Bay?
  4. Yesterday Hipkins said there was no reason to move back up alert levels. Is there reason now?

We’ll have everything you need to know, updated, throughout the afternoon.

Watch below:

10.45am: Peeni Henare wants to be the next health minister

While we’re likely at least a week away from knowing more about the shape of the next government, one Labour MP has already put himself forward for a top position.

Peeni Henare, who won back his Tāmaki Makaurau electorate on Saturday, has been associate health minister over the last term of government.

In a post on Instagram, Henare said he’s put his “hand up for the top job”.

“We can turn many statistics around with positive change, system reform and investment. I’m always inspired by people like Dave Letele, Tiare Tāwera and so many others who share their knowledge and wisdom to turn the lives around of so many of our whānau,” he said.

It’s unusual for an MP to so publicly express their interest in a top position ahead of formal discussions. Over the past week, Labour ministers like Kelvin Davis have avoided questions about what role they might have in the next government.

On Twitter this morning, Stuff’s Henry Cooke has looked at what roles could be allocated to Labour MPs this term. Foreign minister Andrew Little, anyone?

9.25am: Pub at centre of Covid-19 scare closes for 14 days

The Malt pub in Greenhithe has closed its doors for a fortnight, after being told all staff need to self-isolate due to Covid-19 concerns.

Kevin McVicar, who runs North Shore pub, told the Herald he was informed by the Ministry of Health that his staff have to self-isolate for 14 days since an infected patron’s visit last Friday night. Initially, only staff working on the day of the visit were told to stay away from work.

Staff who test negative can return to work, McVicar said, but eight of his 16 staff were working that night and will have to self-isolate for the entire 14 day period regardless of their test results.

8.35am: Trump releases 60 Minutes interview before it airs

An increasingly unhinged President Trump has released the full, unedited footage from his upcoming 60 Minutes interview – just days before it was set to go to air.

Trump has been lashing out at the interview on Twitter for most of the week, accusing reporter Leslie Stahl of being biased. The footage released reveals no such prejudice against the president. Instead, Stahl questioned Trump on his response to Covid-19 that’s left upwards of 200,000 Americans dead.

8.15am: Auckland gym closes for Covid-19 deep clean

A Browns Bay gym has closed for a five day deep clean, after a confirmed Covid-19 case visited the facility.

Snap Fitness closed yesterday, after the positive case visited the gym between last Saturday morning. The visit has been deemed as low risk, according to the Herald, and the Ministry of Health was chasing up close contacts of the person from their gym session.

Meanwhile, Greenhithe residents are adopting Covid-19 alert level three rules, after revelations a recent confirmed case visited the area. A positive case visited the Malt pub last Friday night, reportedly while infectious.

It has led to a swarm of patrons visiting a nearby barber for fear of missing out on a trim during another lockdown. It also alerted me to this man wearing what appears to be a tinfoil hat. Know more? Are you tinfoil hat man? Email me: stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7.45am: How representative is our new parliament?

A report this morning from Massey University sociology professor Paul Spoonley explains that while our new parliament is far more representative than the last, there are still areas where it is lacking.

Māori constitute 16.5% of the total population but as Spoonley said, it’s likely Māori will make up 20% of MPs in the next parliament. That’s a slight drop from 23% in 2017 – in part due to the departure of New Zealand First.

The next largest ethnic group in New Zealand is those from Asian countries, at 15.1%. Spoonley said that only 5% of our MPs fit broadly into this category, well below the proportion of the population.

“Of course, the designation Asian is far too broad and really quite unhelpful in terms of the mix of the various Asian communities in 2020. In this regard, Chinese constitute 4.9% of all New Zealanders and Indians (4.7%). Both are under-represented in the new Parliament,” Spoonley said.

Read the full report here

7.40am:  Top stories from The Bulletin

It’s now been five days since we learnt that Covid-19 was back in the community, and the missing pieces of the puzzle are gradually falling into place. With hundreds of community tests taking place in Auckland’s Greenhithe suburb yesterday – following the news a man who went on to test positive spent an evening in a pub there while he may have been infectious – we should have a good idea today if it’s spread any further. Some pretty big questions still remain, however.

Jamie Morton of the Herald has delved into how New Zealand’s 1,530th case of Covid-19 came to be, and highlights a point earlier covered by RNZ: the 27-year-old marine  technician boarded the Sofrana Surville on Tuesday, October 13, the same day as eight crew members who had flown in from the Philippines a few days before, and had isolated at the Novotel facility for only “a brief period”. None had been tested. Public health experts are asking why crew in transit like these aren’t subject to the usual border rules, and the Ministry of Health has promised to review its measures. All crew of the Sofrana Surville, which is currently moored off Queensland, have now been tested, and this afternoon results revealed three crew members were at different stages of infection – something health minister Chris Hipkins yesterday told Checkpoint “lends itself to the idea that the virus had been circulating around that ship”.

On Wednesday, it emerged that two workplace contacts of the technician had tested positive. While one was a close contact and already in quarantine, the other was considered only a casual contact as he had spent just a few minutes in the same room with the technician on the Friday. Health experts such as Siouxsie Wiles had expressed surprise that someone could be infected in such a brief period.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

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.

Read yesterday’s live updates




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