Election Live, September 25: Two new Covid-19 cases, one linked to community

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for September 25, 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

The day in sum

Two new cases of Covid-19 were announced, with one linked to the original Auckland cluster (the “bereavement sub-group”) and the other imported from overseas.

The movements of a family who later tested positive for Covid-19 “not ideal”, according to director general of health Ashley Bloomfield.

National’s finance minister Paul Goldsmith defended his party’s economic plan after repeated attacks from Labour over a “fiscal hole”.

Parliament announced it would be installing solar panels on the roof of the house to help parliament cut carbon.

2.55pm: National MP defends posting false Ardern quote on Facebook

National’s Whanganui candidate Harete Hipango has defended posting a doctored quote by Jacinda Ardern on her Facebook.

The quote claims that Ardern said “dairy farming is a world of the past” during the first TVNZ leaders’ debate earlier this week. 

In fact, Ardern was responding to a comment by Judith Collins that farmers “feel they’ve got the weight of the world on them” to which she said  “that feels to me like a view of a world that has passed”.

When questioned about the false quote, Hipango said it was “a construction of key words aligned with Jacinda Ardern”.

She added that it could not be a “false” quote because, in fact, it was not a quote at all.

“Her… statement diminishes the reality of the farmers ‘world’ she iterates as a ‘view of the world that has passed’,” she told the Whanganui Chronicle.

Hipango also said the Facebook post was not “depicted properly as a quote with quote marks”, quote clearly disproven by the post itself.

2.25pm: Solar panels to be installed at parliament

New measures are being announced to help parliament cut carbon, speaker of the house Trevor Mallard has announced.

Parliament will be installing solar panels on the roof of the house and LED lighting throughout the buildings.

It’s estimated this will reduce parliament’s carbon emissions by around 1,690 tonnes over the next ten years. Parliamentary Service will receive $1.3 million in support from the clean-powered public service fund and will contribute $0.960 million from its own budget towards the project.

1.10pm: Two new Covid-19 cases, one linked to ‘bereavement sub-group’

There are two new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has announced, with one linked to the original Auckland cluster.

This person is a household contact, epidemiologically linked to the Auckland August cluster bereavement sub-group, that was connected to the Mount Roskill Evangelical Church.

There’s also one imported case: a man in his 40s who returned from Russia on a flight via Turkey and Malaysia on September 19. He returned a positive result on day three during his stay and is now at the quarantine facility in Auckland.

There are 35 people isolating in the Auckland quarantine facility from the community, which includes 15 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 4,053 close contacts of cases, of which 4,050 have been contacted and are self-isolating or have completed self-isolation.

The total number of active cases is now 60, with 29 imported case and 31 community cases. The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is 1,473.

Yesterday, 6,465 Covid-19 tests were processed, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 937,244.

An update on the three family members linked to charter flight

Public health services continue to contact trace, test and isolate close contacts of the three community cases reported this week, the Ministry of Health said.

As we have previously reported, these three people are part of the same family group – two had been in managed isolation in Christchurch and returned home on a chartered flight, while the third is a household contact.

There are now a total of 35 close contacts associated with these cases. Eight have returned negative test results and the remaining have been or are in the process of being tested. All are now self-isolating, the ministry said.

Public health services in the relevant regions have been in contact with businesses where individuals may have visited while infectious and will be issuing information to the public as appropriate. Yesterday, it was confirmed that a number of businesses were “locations of interest” connected to the three cases, including St Lukes Mall in Auckland.

The National Contact Tracing team will continue issuing exposure notices through the Covid Tracer App. Yesterday, 15 push notifications were issued via the app.

Anyone receiving an app notification as having visited a place of interest should be vigilant of their health and get tested if they develop symptoms.

Update on the flight contacts

More details have been revealed about the flight which carried the man who left managed isolation in Christchurch before testing positive for Covid-19 in Auckland.

The Ministry of Health said 86 people were on that flight, with 75 testing negative for Covid-19. Six were previously reported positive cases that do not require further testing, three are recently reported positive cases, one is pending and one is “under investigation”.

Additional testing centres established

Following the news that the family of three visited locations outside of Auckland, and met with people from around the North Island, three additional testing centres have been set up: one in Taupō and two in Rotorua.

12.30pm: Do we have new Covid-19 cases? Ministry to update

The Ministry of Health will be providing an update on new Covid-19 cases around 1pm today, via press release.

Yesterday, it was revealed three confirmed cases had holidayed in Taupō with 18 other people, before they tested positive.

I’ll have all the details for you as soon as they arrive.

11.05am: New Covid-19 cluster has top expert concerned

There’s concern from some experts about a possible new cluster of Covid-19 cases.

The country’s second current cluster now consists of six people and 31 close contacts. It’s connected to a man who was found to have the coronavirus after he completed his isolation period and twice tested negative, and then travelled back to Auckland.

Yesterday, it was revealed three confirmed cases had travelled to Taupō before they tested positive for Covid-19, where they met with 18 other people from around the North Island.

Epidemiologist Professor David Skegg told RNZ the newest cluster has the potential to be very serious – and we cannot be complacent.

“This is just a reminder that elimination is a process, not a destination,” he said.

“We shouldn’t think that we’ve beaten this thing, we haven’t, it’s raging around the world and it’s going to keep cropping up in New Zealand from time to time.”

However, modeller Shaun Hendy told RNZ he’s not expecting many secondary cases of this cluster.

“We have caught this relatively early so the contacts of these cases, they’ll be just entering the period about now when they’ll be infectious.”

The next Ministry of Health update is expected about 1pm, I’ll have all the latest for you here.

On The Spinoff: The Real Pod’s BACK

If you need a distraction from Jacinda Ardern, Judith Collins and all the rest, there’s a brand new episode of The Real Pod to keep you going (it’s very long, so it really will keep you going for quite some time).

After a mega hiatus, Jane, Alex and Duncan are back behind the microphones to recap the acclaimed (panned) 2008 vampire romance Twilight.

*PS: I’m not just putting this in the updates because I was taunted in the first few minutes of the pod*

Read more and listen here

On the campaign trail

Here’s where our political leaders are today:

  • Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern is on the West Coast today, opening the Te Nikau Hospital in Greymouth before heading to Westport.
  • National Party leader Judith Collins is also on the West Coast, visiting Westport in the morning (to avoid a political clash with Ardern) and then heading to Punakaiki and Runanga.
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is in Ōrewa today on his giant bus.
  • Act Party leader David Seymour is nowhere today…? He must be somewhere. I’ll try find him.
  • Greens co-leader Marama Davidson is speaking at a Greens fundraiser in Wellington tonight. James Shaw is appearing on a Wellington Central panel this morning, before later attending a candidates evening in Te Aro.

8.20am: Covid-infected family’s travels ‘not ideal’, says Bloomfield

The movements of a family who later tested positive for Covid-19 show they went against advice for Aucklanders to bring their alert level with them when leaving the city.

As detailed in yesterday’s Election Live, the family travelled from Auckland to Taupō and met up with a group of more than 10 people. Aucklanders were allowed to travel under alert level 2.5, but were urged to follow the same rules.

“There was a total of 18 people amongst the group they gathered with in Taupō, so yes, not ideal in this situation in that they did meet up with a group bigger than 10 which was the maximum gathering size for people in Auckland,” Ashley Bloomfield told RNZ.

“But I would say, my sense is there wasn’t any intent on their part and also they were very assiduous in using the contact tracer app so it’s really helped us identify where they have been very quickly.”

A total of 31 close contacts had been identified so far, Bloomfield said. We’ll likely know more about the family’s movements, and whether anyone else has caught the virus, at 1pm today.

7.50am: National defends economic plan after Labour attacks

National’s finance minister Paul Goldsmith has defended his party’s economic plan, after repeated attacks from Labour over a “fiscal hole”.

Last week, Goldsmith admitted he’d made a mistake of around $4 billion in the plan. A later media report since claimed the hole was in fact twice that – an allegation National denied.

Today, Goldsmith remained defiant over his plan, however confirmed he’d made another correction after using Budget figures for the 10-year ‘Existing Capital Allowance’ instead of the pre-election update. That $88 million error has now been corrected online.

Labour has continued to hit out at National over its economic plan, with Grant Robertson labelling the party “shambolic”.

Goldsmith rejects that: “What we have is a $31 billion ambitious infrastructure plan… and it is funded by a number of different sources and all of them add up and get us to the figure that we need to have – and that’s been independently verified by NZIER [New Zealand Institute of Economic Research].

“Originally we were planning to take some money out of the Covid Fund for the infrastructure plan at the start and we’ve decided instead to use that for the stimulus tax cuts over the next 16 months,” he said.

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

For a lead story today, a look at the various farming policies that will be taken into the election. In the post-Covid economy, it’s a pretty crucial sector, and in economic, social and environmental senses it covers a lot of areas. I spent a big chunk of yesterday driving around Southland in a van with a bunch of people – some of whom were farmers, and that’ll inform a bit of the commentary here.

First, the Labour Party plan: Radio NZ reports the party intends to put $50 million towards environmental change efforts and reducing compliance costs on farmers. That second part is important – basically what is being offered is a streamline process that will fold various compliance requirements into one integrated farm plan. That could take away some of the headaches for farmers – as one put it yesterday, a 5 minute job can sometimes result in 45 minutes of paperwork. Apparently one of the booming industries in the agricultural sector right now is compliance consulting, because of the complexities. In terms of the big dollar figure, that is less than the $300 million being pitched by the Greens to introduce more environmentally friendly and regenerative practices.

National meanwhile are promising to reduce that burden by simply repealing a lot of the more onerous regulations. Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva has looked it over, and one area in particular is around freshwater standards that have recently been introduced. They’ve also focused their policy around RMA reform, and on introducing a new ‘primary sector visa’ for skilled workers. It remains a crucial voter base for National to turn out in big numbers if their vote share is going to go up. Act also released an agriculture policy this week, which included their pitch to repeal both the Zero Carbon act and the emissions trading scheme, along with reforming how methane emissions are measured.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here 

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

There were three new cases of Covid-19, all in managed isolation.

It was revealed that yesterday’s three new community cases had visited a number of stores in Auckland’s St Luke’s Mall, travelled to Taupō and met with people from around the North Island before testing positive.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw rejected a claim made by Green MP Julie Ann Genter that a wealth tax would be a bottom line for the party in any negotiations after the election.

Short-lived National leader Todd Muller wrote about the “waves of anxiety and dread” he experienced in the job, in an opinion piece for the Bay of Plenty Times to coincide with Mental Health Week.

Read yesterday’s top stories here.



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