Live updates, July 26: Just 160 people in New Plymouth tested yesterday after Covid scare

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 26, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

3.30pm: Olympics wrap – what to watch tonight?

I’m about to head off for the day so I’ll leave you with this evening’s Olympic schedule (if you’re not glued to The Block NZ/Love Island).

Here are the times when you can catch us in action. Remember, TVNZ1 is airing coverage of every New Zealander!

  • 5.12pm: Surfing – Billy Stairmand
  • 6pm: Cycling (mount biking) – Anton Cooper
  • 6.30pm: Tennis – Marcus Daniell and Michael Venus
  • 8.30pm: Rugby sevens – All Blacks v Argentina
  • 10.05pm: Swimming – Erika Fairweather (women’s 200m freestyle heats)
  • 11.08pm: Swimming – Hayley McIntosh and Eve Thomas (women’s 1500m freestyle heats)
  • 11.45pm: Hockey – Black Sticks v Japan

2.30pm: Erika Fairweather finishes eighth in 400m freestyle

New Zealand swimmer Erika Fairweather has missed out on a medal in the 400 metre women’s freestyle. The 17-year-old from Dunedin made the final yesterday after swimming a personal best in her heat.

Australian Ariarne Titmus grabbed the gold and her coach, as seen below, reacted completely normally.

1.40pm: 160 people in New Plymouth tested yesterday after Covid scare

Just 160 Covid-19 tests were taken in New Plymouth yesterday, despite the city’s Covid-19 scare.

Wastewater testing confirmed late on Friday that Covid-19 had been detected in Taranaki from samples taken on July 20 and 22, despite no confirmed cases in the community.

According to the Ministry of Health, all test results currently processed for New Plymouth from Friday, Saturday and some of Sunday are negative. There remain “a number of results” that are pending from swabs taken yesterday that are expected later today.

Preliminary results of further wastewater testing have come back with no further Covid-19 detected, the ministry said. Results from samples taken over a wider area in Taranaki are expected tomorrow.

“In order to determine whether there are any undetected cases the ministry is recommending anyone in Taranaki, or who has visited recently, and who has symptoms to get tested,” said a spokesperson.

According to reports, it was “likely” the delta variant detected in New Plymouth’s wastewater.

The latest numbers

There are no cases of Covid-19 to report in the community or in managed isolation in New Zealand today. Five previously reported cases have now recovered. The number of active cases in New Zealand is 54.

The situation onboard the Mattina and Playa Zahara ships has not changed, the ministry said, but 14 of the 20 crew are back on the Viking Bay in Wellington.

12.25pm: Isis-linked woman to return to NZ with family

An Isis-linked woman and her two children will be deported to New Zealand from Turkey, the government has announced. The three have been in immigration detention since crossing the border from Syria earlier this year.

Suhayra Aden was a dual citizen of both Australia and New Zealand, but the Australian government revoked her citizenship earlier this year.

“As most New Zealanders know, I made very strong representations to Australia that she should be permitted to return there,” Jacinda Ardern said. “Her family moved to Australia when she was six and she grew up there before departing for Syria in 2014, on an Australian passport. Unfortunately, Australia would not reverse the cancellation of citizenship.”

New Zealand was not able to remove citizenship from a person and leave them stateless, Ardern said. As citizens, New Zealand was the only place for Aden and her family to legally live.

“While negotiations with Australia have taken place, extensive contingency planning has been underway involving the police and several other agencies and the government wants to be as upfront with people as it can be about the planned return,” Ardern added.

Australia would “proactively consult” on future cases like this, Ardern added.

According to the Herald, Aden had been referred to by Turkey’s defence ministry as an Islamic State terrorist prior to her detention.

Islamic Women’s Council: NZ ‘obligated’ to provide new life for Aden and family

In a statement, the Islamic Women’s Council said it’s “proud” to be part of a country that commits to upholding its international responsibilities.

“Together, as New Zealanders, we are obligated to provide a chance for a new life for this family to integrate and to flourish in society,” said a statement. “Quality, long-term solutions are never simple, and it takes time and effort to raise children and rebuild lives.”

12.00pm: Extremely Online – Are we training racist robots?

In 2013 the Chicago Police knocked on Robert McDaniel’s door. They told him that their artificial intelligence technology had predicted he would be involved in a shooting. The thing is, they couldn’t determine which side of the gun he’d be on – he could be the shooter, or he might get shot. Either way, their data knew he was at risk. But how can data predict someone’s future? And how can it be racist?

Shit You Should Care About finds out in the new episode of Extremely Online, made with the support of NZ On Air.

11.25am: NZ wins first 2021 Olympic medal

New Zealander Hayden Wilde has taken out a bronze in what looked like a gruelling men’s triathlon. It’s the first medal for New Zealand at this year’s Olympics.

Speaking to media after the event, Wilde described taking out third place as “pretty awesome” but said he “didn’t have enough for the gold”.

Wilde was about 20 seconds behind the event’s winner Kristian Blummenfelt from Norway who collapsed at the finishing line.

9.50am: Is it time for private managed isolation facilities?

David Seymour has argued it’s time for privately operated managed isolation facilities for high paying returnees.

The Act Party leader’s made the pitch as part of a wider economic policy announced this morning, according to the Herald.

Seymour’s idea is to allow certain hotels that have lost business due to the pandemic to open as private facilities, in a move he claimed would ease pressure on the current system. His proposal would see vaccinated people allowed to pay a higher rate for their stay in MIQ, with regular testing in place to stop Covid-19 spreading into the community.

“Private MIQ capacity will be an essential tool when bubbles pop and suddenly thousands need to isolate on repatriation,” argued Seymour. “The simple question for the government is, do they want to safely reconnect with the world or keep us in crisis mode forever?”

The private facilities could also act as overflow if an influx of returnees needed a spot in MIQ, such as now with the Australia travel bubble closing.

The idea of private MIQ was floated last year but ultimately rejected by the government.

9.20am: First stars announced for Treasure Island 2021

The first wave of cast members for this year’s Celebrity Treasure Island have been announced, with comedians, actors and a former All Black captain making the cut.

The reality competition will return to TVNZ 2 in September, hosted once again by Matt Chisholm and Bree Tomasel.

In a press release this morning, TVNZ confirmed Angela Bloomfield, Buck Shelford, Chris Parker, Jess Tyson, Joe Daymond (read my interview with Joe here) and Lana Searle would be going head-to-head for the $100,000 charity prize.

Read more here about the cast here

8.05am: PM confident all stranded NZers in Australia will make it home this week

The prime minister has made a commitment to New Zealanders in Australia who are trying to get home, saying they will all be able to make it home before a mandatory quarantine order kicks in.

On Friday, Jacinda Ardern announced that the trans-Tasman travel bubble would be suspended for eight weeks due to a surge in cases of the delta variant of Covid-19 in Australia. Anyone who returned before Friday this week (except from New South Wales) would be able to avoid a spot in managed isolation.

Ardern told TVNZ that the government was confident that all New Zealanders in Australia who wanted to return home this week would be able to do so.

“For us this was about shutting down the risk entirely,” Ardern said of the decision to pause the bubble entirely.

On RNZ, the PM said that if people could not make it home this week, despite trying, the government was open to extending the time before mandatory quarantine was required. “It’s been difficult for us to ascertain how many of the roughly 21,000 New Zealanders who have left New Zealand for Australia since the bubble opened want to return,” she said.

“Early suggestions are that we will be able to meet demand,” she said.

Officials will check in on the number of returnees on Wednesday this week before a decision on extending the timeframe is made.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

In the eyes of the international community, Sāmoa has a new government. It’s a strange way of stating the importance of events in recent days, but reflects a significant milestone in the legitimacy of governments when elections are contested. Stuff reports PM Ardern has congratulated PM Fiame Naomi Mata’afa’s FAST party on having their election victory approved by the courts, and said she looked forward to “working with Samoa’s new government in the spirit of partnership”. The Samoa Observer (paywalled) reports it has been recognised by the Pacific Islands Forum, and the Sydney Morning Herald reports congratulations have come from Australian PM Scott Morrison.

The recognition comes after a court decision that the controversial outdoors swearing in ceremony in May was legitimate. At the time, FAST were barred from entering parliament. Samoa Global News reports the new government has started their work, holding meetings with department heads. Parliament will convene next week, and the government will attempt to pass a budget to keep services functioning, after a long delay. That story included a section on the economic priorities FAST campaigned on, including export growth and lower service costs.

Long serving but defeated PM Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi may not go quietly.RNZ Pacific reports he refused to concede defeat over the weekend, saying the court’s decision was unconstitutional. However, the Samoa Observer’s Soli Wilson reported that PM Tuila’epa had started to pack his things up in his government office, perhaps suggesting he is getting ready to go after 23 years in charge.


The travel bubble with Australia closed on Friday, and will be so for at least eight weeks. The Air NZ “managed return” flights out of Sydney are already sold out, reports Radio NZ, and many families will once again have to face the prospect of being split. The bubble as a whole was closed over concerns that the worst outbreaks wouldn’t be limited to just the state of New South Wales – hard luck for those in Tasmania who haven’t had a skerrick of Covid in months. But across the rest of Australia, the delta variant is now doing real damage, with the 7-day average of new cases nationwide up to 141 as of yesterday.

Deputy PM Grant Robertson said yesterday that the calculation for New Zealand had changed significantly, when he appeared on Q+A. What hasn’t changed though is the government’s risk-averse overall approach. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder analysed the call through the lens of previous policy, and whether a hypothetical delta outbreak could be contained using the same tools that have worked with previous outbreaks, particularly with vaccination rates in both countries still low.

It’s very hard to know if Australia will be able to get a handle on this outbreak – and equally whether the general public is willing to do what it takes. I haven’t seen recent polling to rely on – in May at least, the public was broadly supportive of the government’s strategy. But there were attention grabbing anti-lockdown protests in Sydney over the weekend, and 1News reports thousands attended without masks. Some guy punched a police horse, to give you a sense of how tense the situation is.

Meanwhile, testing in Taranaki hasn’t hit particularly good levels after a positive Covid result from wastewater, reports Radio NZ. They were just wastewater traces, and it’s possibly just someone “shedding” the virus after recovering. But even so, if you’ve got the symptoms, please do get a test. Because as some exclusive new Stickybeak/The Spinoff polling shows, only about half the country has confidence in the contact tracing system.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here



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