Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 26, with Stewart Sowman-Lund. Want to get in touch? I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org
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What you need to know
- 68 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed today.
- The delta outbreak now comprises 277 cases – with one reclassified as a false positive.
- Jacinda Ardern said the growth in cases was to be expected.
- Yesterday was another record day for the vaccine rollout: 88,000 doses.
7.45pm: Rest home worker, Auckland uni staff member among latest Covid cases
A staff member of a rest home north of Auckland has tested positive for Covid-19, reports 1 News. In an update to residents’ families, CHT Amberlea, near Snells Beach, said the staff member had been in precautionary self-isolation since earlier this week because they’re a household contact of an earlier confirmed case.
Close co-workers had gone into self-isolation and residents who were close contacts are currently being identified, after which they’ll go into precautionary isolation too, according to an update on the company’s website.
Meanwhile, a staff member in the University of Auckland mathematics department has tested positive for Covid-19 and was on campus while infectious on Tuesday, August 17, the university has confirmed. It’s believed the person contracted the virus from a family member, rather than while on campus. The university has published two locations of interest, which at the time of writing were yet to be added to the official locations of interest page.
They are: Department of Mathematics, Building 303 (East), Level 1 Podium and Level 2 Podium, Tuesday 17 August between 9.20am and 4.00pm; Building 303, Basement, Rooms B13 and B15, Tuesday 17 August 4.00-5.00pm
7.30pm: NZ privacy commissioner John Edwards nabs top UK role
New Zealand’s privacy commissioner John Edwards will be taking the equivalent role in the UK, with the British government confirming his appointment as information commissioner today.
The Times tipped Edwards for the role a month ago, highlighting the harsh comments he directed at Facebook in the wake of the platform’s livestreaming of the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019.
7.00pm: Handful of new Auckland locations of interest
Most of the Ministry of Health’s locations of interest added this afternoon and evening have been those previously reported, but republished with slight amendments to the potential exposure times. Additions since Greenlane clinical centre (see 2.20pm update) include Unichem Bairds Pharmacy in Ōtara (1.45pm-3.40pm Tuesday August 17), Turuki Healthcare in Māngere (10.30am-12.30pm, Monday August 16) and Kowhai Superette in Ōtāhuhu (9.30-9.45am Tuesday August 17).
5.40pm: 172 NZ cases under age of 30
The latest demographic breakdown of the cases confirmed in New Zealand’s delta outbreak reveals 172 are under the age of 30; that’s more than 60% of the total.
Meanwhile 194, or 70%, of the 277 cases are Pacific peoples, says the Ministry of Health.
5.00pm: 69 people charged, 909 infringements issued for lockdown breaches
Since New Zealand moved to alert level four, police have charged 69 people with a total of 75 offences, mostly for failing to comply with the Covid-19 public health order in relation to protest activity at the beginning of the lockdown period
Over the same period, 190 formal warnings and 909 infringements were issued, the vast majority of the latter for failing to stay at home. Failing to wear a mask when required and failing to physically distance resulted in around 30 infringements a piece, with a handful dished out for obstructing a medical officer of health or failing to comply with the public health order.
An NZ Police media release said police were pleased with overall compliance during the lockdown.
4.30pm: New Zealanders should prepare for things to get worse – Skegg
Following his comments on bluetooth tracing at the health select committee this afternoon (see 3.35pm update), David Skegg had a warning for New Zealanders: if you think this is bad, there's much worse ahead.
"This is the golden year," said the epidemiologist, whose report formed the basis of the government's plan for reconnecting with the world, announced a couple of weeks ago. "When we open the border, things are going to get tough.
"When we start reopening the borders, we’re going to have outbreaks of Covid-19 and they’re going to be difficult to control," he continued. "We all need to be aware of that – this virus is not going away, unfortunately – we’re going to be in a war with this virus for years."
3.50pm: Another day, another Zoom background wrap
Two incredibly important updates on the Zoom background front. This is the third edition of The Spinoff's live updates background wrap, following the exciting backdrop changes from within the health select committee. Because how else am I going to stay entertained?
Spot the difference – again
National MP Simon Watts has reshuffled his library again, replacing a copy of Judith Collins' memoir with another political tome.
At least it's not National Identity by Simon Bridges.
In other developments, the mysterious glass featured on Watts' shelf for the past two days has disappeared – but the copy of "WINNING" still remains. Are you doing this just for me, Simon?
Chris Bishop escapes his ethereal void
For the past two days, National's Chris Bishop has been appearing in select committee from some sort of mysterious, blurred void.
Today, a major development – perhaps in support of international dog day.
3.35pm: Bluetooth has been 'of very little value' in contact tracing – Skegg
Low uptake of the government's Covid-19 Tracer app has left the bluetooth function largely redundant, said top epidemiologist David Skegg.
Speaking before the health select committee, Skegg said he had been "concerned" about the low use of the Covid app across the board prior to this lockdown. "I try and scan in wherever I go and I seem to be the only one doing it… that’s been one of our real problems – complacency.”
On the app's bluetooth function, Skegg said it has been of "very little value" so far. "You need both parties to be using it," he said. "That’s the kind of thing we’re really going to need to lift our game on… if we want to reopen our borders. I think it needs a lot more work”
Skegg said while he had no information on the government's decision-making, he expected the current lockdown would continue for several weeks. “As an uninformed person, it is unlikely the lockdown will end next Tuesday, it’ll be a matter of weeks I fear,” he said.
The Spinoff has asked the Ministry of Health for the number of bluetooth alerts sent out during the recent outbreak.
3.25pm: Mail theft continuing in Auckland suburb despite lockdown
Residents in the Auckland suburb of Ellerslie are continuing to see widespread mail theft despite the alert level four restrictions.
Earlier this year, The Spinoff reported on the "out of control" mailbox thefts in the suburb, with one resident saying it left them fearful to leave the house at night.
On Facebook, several posts over the past week have made it clear the problem is ongoing. In one post, a local complained of "envelopes torn open and letters... scattered on the floor." They had reported the issue to police.
In a statement, police told The Spinoff they were aware of the problem. "Despite alert level four restrictions police are continuing to see a number or reports of mail thefts in the Ellerslie and wider Auckland City East area," said a statement. "Police are making enquiries into the incidents and want to remind people to report these incidents to us so we can make follow up enquiries."
The Spinoff has sought exact numbers of reported thefts in the area.
3.10pm: Air New Zealand suffers multi-million dollar loss
The impact of Covid-19 is continuing to be felt on our national airline.
Air New Zealand has recorded an annual loss of $289 million. That's not quite as severe as in 2020, where the full year loss was $454 million.
Chief executive Greg Foran told TVNZ that the results weren't that surprising.
“I was expecting that we would be where we ended up. We got there a bit differently, I may add. We flew a few less passengers but did more cargo,” he said.
2.40pm: Skegg faces questions in health select committee
Another day, another select committee. David Skegg, who helped formulate the government's post-Covid roadmap, is making an appearance today.
2.20pm: Greenlane Clinical Centre listed as location of interest
Encouragingly, the newly listed locations of interest have slowed to a trickle. But the latest addition is significant: the Greenlane Clinical Centre, colloquially known as Greenlane hospital. The facility is the the main base for Auckland DHB outpatient services and day stay surgery. The potential time of exposure is Tuesday August 17 from 11am to 1pm.
The new locations of interest have all been added to our interactive map.
1.50pm: Record case number in NSW as easing of measures announced
Another record day in Australia, and a very unwelcome milestone: New South Wales has just reported 1,029 new Covid-19 cases in the 24 hours to 8pm last night. It’s the first time the count has gone into four figures, and the highest 24 hour tally in any state since the pandemic began. Three more deaths have also been reported. One is a man in his 30s.
The state has also announced new rules for people who are fully vaccinated from Monday September 13. Outside specified “areas of concern”, outdoor gatherings of up to five people will be allowed, announced Premier Gladys Berejiklian. "From the various options we looked at, that was the option that met the mental health needs and wellbeing of our community, but also provided the lowest-risk setting,” she said.
In Victoria, meanwhile, there are 80 new cases from 56,248 test results (one positive per 703 tests). By way of comparison, New Zealand today recorded 68 new cases from 41,739 tests processed (one per 613). Victoria has 36 people in hospital with Covid, 11 in intensive care.
1.20pm: Growth in case numbers 'not unexpected' – Ardern
Jacinda Ardern has provided some further detail about the delta outbreak, saying New Zealanders need to remain "incredibly vigilant" as case numbers continue to grow.
"With delta these numbers are not necessarily unexpected," said Ardern of the 68 new community cases announced today.
Of the more than 60 cases logged yesterday, there have been only three new reported exposure events, said Ardern. That tells us that people are following level four and we're beginning to reach people who have been infected since lockdown began.
37 of the cases were within households that already had a case, said Ardern. The rate of transmission within households appears to be high. The PM has previously said that delta has an R rate of six. This would need to drop below one for restrictions to drop. 16 of the cases yesterday remain under investigation.
Across the 400-plus locations of interest, 13 have generated additional cases.
"Experts have told us to stick with the elimination for now," said Ardern. "That means continuing to stamp out Covid wherever it emerges and all the while ramping up our vaccine programme."
She added: "No one wants to use lockdowns forever. And I can tell you now that is not our intention. We have new tools for managing Covid, and we will use them. But for now, while we vaccinate, elimination is the goal, and we can do it. The most important thing you can do to avoid future lockdowns is to get vaccinated."
Ending with a "few quick and important reminders", Ardern said that the ongoing growth in case numbers showed that we cannot drop the ball. "Always act as if you might have Covid." Under level four rules, people should of course not be leaving the house unless for personal exercise, essential travel or to visit a vaccination or testing centre.
1.05pm: 68 new community Covid-19 cases, outbreak total now 277
There are 68 new community cases of Covid-19, with 277 cases now part of the Auckland delta outbreak.
Speaking at parliament, director of public health Caroline McElnay said one case previously announced as part of the community outbreak had now been reclassified as a false positive. Of the total number of cases, 14 are in Wellington and the rest in Auckland.
The two new Wellington cases are household contacts and have been in isolation.
While more new cases have been announced today compared with yesterday, the slight increase indicates the lockdown restrictions have started to curb spread of the virus. Earlier today, Ashley Bloomfield indicated we may nearly be at the peak but that case numbers could continue to grow.
McElnay said six sub-clusters have been identified as part of the outbreak. The two largest are the Birkdale social cluster with 35 cases and the Mangere church cluster with 114 cases. The remaining clusters have fewer than 10 people associated with them.
On whether any people had been infected outside of their households since lockdown began, McElnay said: "we're not aware of any new cases who have been infected." Earlier today, Bloomfield had claimed that "most" new infections were within household groups.
Just three new locations of interest confirmed today
There are now 495 locations, but only three new ones added today. Two are supermarkets linked to possible post-lockdown exposure, while one rugby game is from before the lockdown.
The number of contacts continues to increase. As of 8am, 24,402 individual contacts have been formally identified. 65% of these been followed up with and are self-isolating. Around 71% of all contacts identified have had a test.
McElnay said that work is under way to contact the remaining 8,647 contacts, half of whom were identified yesterday. An additional 100 contact tracers were trained yesterday, and more are being trained today, which will bring the total to 1,400 across the country.
Yesterday marked another good day for testing. Labs processed 41,739 swabs nationwide yesterday, with 3,303 of these in Wellington and more than 20,000 in Auckland.
Whole genome sequencing has been run on samples from 152 community cases, McElnay said, with analysis confirming they were all linked to the community outbreak.
ESR has also analysed wastewater samples from 97 locations – 70 in the North Island and 27 in the South Island – covering 3.8 million people. From these, Covid has been detected from the Christchurch catchment on Saturday and Monday, said McElnay.
ESR stressed that there are three active cases in Christchurch MIQ facilities and that this finding was consistent with the virus being shedded. Further sampling is being undertaken in Christchurch today. Following a second positive detection in Warkworth, north of Auckland, more samples are being taken.
Vaccine rollout enjoys another record
Meanwhile, yesterday was another record day for the vaccine rollout with almost 88,000 doses administered. Over a million people are now fully vaccinated, or around 24% of the 12+ population. Nearly two million first doses have now been given out, or 44% of those over the age of 12.
Yesterday was also the biggest day of bookings for the vaccine, with those over the age of 30 now able to schedule a time for a jab. "Please play your part in keeping New Zealand safe from Covid-19," said Jacinda Ardern.
The vaccine team will today start sending out texts to a random sample of people to ask them to do a post-vaccine symptom check.
12.50pm: Watch – PM and McElnay reveal newest delta cases
Jacinda Ardern will be joined by director of public health Caroline McElnay to reveal the newest cases in Auckland's delta outbreak.
The pair will also likely reveal further details about the source of the outbreak, with Ashley Bloomfield today confirming a possible missing link had now been confirmed.
The latest locations of interest:
There are 495 locations of interest, with the trickle of new exposure sites slowing down over the past 24 hours.
The latest locations include The Warehouse at West City, the City Fitness gym in Wairau Park and a rugby game in Māngere.
12.30pm: Workplaces could require new staff members get the Covid jab
Vaccination status could soon be written into employment agreements.
Appearing before a select committee this morning, Paul Stocks from MBIE said employers could set specific terms they wanted new staff members to abide by.
"As people enter new employment agreements, you can of course specify the terms and conditions... and you could include vaccination status as part of that," he said.
That does not mean that all contracts will include this requirement nor does it mean that getting a vaccination will be publicly mandated. It could also be trickier with existing staff, Stocks clarified.
"The challenge is where you've got an existing employment relationship, and existing employment agreement, changing that without negotiation can't take place," he added.
Workplace relations minister Michael Wood confirmed mandatory vaccinations were not on the cards.
"It is not the government's policy outside of the orders we have put in place, to put in place a compulsory vaccination requirement across all New Zealand workplaces," he said.
12.10pm: Just, a banger
No context required. Just a pure, unadulterated, #tune.
12.00pm: Another late night Gone By Lunchtime lockdown spectacular
The Gone By Lunchtime team has returned to the Zoom to mark week two of lockdown with another late night edition of the pod. Up for discussion this week: vaccines, tests, elimination strategy, the border, The Croods.
11.40am: Possible link between index case and delta outbreak found
The director general of health has confirmed a possible link between the Sydney returnee in the Crown Plaza MIQ hotel and a case from the Māngere church sub-cluster.
If verified, this could be the missing piece of the outbreak puzzle and help officials determine if any undetected Covid-19 spread has happened.
In an exclusive interview with the Herald, Bloomfield said the earliest symptoms reported by the possible link case date back to August 10 – three days after the Sydney returnee arrived in the country.
"This is someone who is one of our quite early cases, who we think is the most closely connected to the Crowne Plaza at this point in time," Bloomfield said.
Despite recent speculation that transmission of the virus may have occurred at the MIQ facility itself – from either a public walkway or the atrium – Bloomfield revealed it did not happen at the Plaza.
"They were in a place where they may have been exposed to the virus – I don't have the detail – very early on, on the 9th or 10th [of August]."
The next official update is at 1pm where, hopefully, all will be revealed.
11.10am: National and Act both launch petitions to re-establish Epidemic Response Committee
Both National and Act have launched petitions calling for the opposition-controlled Epidemic Response Committee to be launched while the country remains in lockdown.
Since lockdown, parliament has not been able to sit and opposition MPs have criticised the Zoom select committee process for allegedly blocking hard questions from being asked.
"Labour are blocking motions, dictating which questions can be asked, and are doing everything they can to reduce the amount of time ministers and officials have to face opposition questions," reads National's petition.
"Our bottom line is democratic accountability," reads Act's. "The people elected a parliament, and they all deserve their voices heard, not just those who voted for the Labour."
10.45am: Pasifika vaccine drive has been 'appalling', says TVNZ correspondent
The vaccine rollout for the Pasifika population has been labelled "appalling" by TVNZ's Pacific correspondent.
Speaking to 1News last night, Barbara Dreaver said there had been a "huge disconnect" between Pacific leaders and the Ministry of Health. "It’s appalling how this has played out," she said. “The fact that Pacific health providers have been begging government to take the lead on this and we’ve heard the minister today saying they have a good relationship is beyond belief."
The Pasifika community has once again been caught up in a Covid-19 outbreak, making up more than half the current cases.
Meanwhile, vaccination rates for Pasifika are some of the lowest. Kiki Maoate, chair of the Pacific Medical Association Group, urged those in the community to get a jab as soon as possible. “Pasifika people and Māori are more likely to have underlying health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular heart disease, which means that if they become infected with Covid-19 and are not vaccinated the risks of them becoming seriously ill, or even dying, are higher than other ethnic groups," he said.
10.25am: Collins went 'f-ing ballistic' at MP following conversion therapy vote – report
Judith Collins reportedly went "fucking ballistic" and "completely lost it" at one of her most senior MPs after leaked messages revealed he was unhappy at voting against a ban on conversion therapy.
According to the Herald's Thomas Coughlan, Collins was angered after a private twitter exchange showing Bishop's disappointment at the vote was leaked. Another of the party's more liberal-leaning MPs, Erica Stanford, also faced Collins' wrath.
The Herald report claimed disciplinary action could be on the cards after Collins' fury at the conversion therapy issue moving from behind closed doors into the public domain.
9.30am: Locations of interest inch toward 500
A trio of new locations of interest were announced this morning, bringing the total linked to the current delta outbreak to 491.
The new locations include a high school in Otahuhu, along with a Korean barbecue restaurant and a bowling arcade.
8.45am: Silver Scroll confirms its nominees
Chris Schulz with all the details:
A level four lockdown isn't stopping plans going ahead for the Silver Scroll awards ceremony in October, with this year's top five nominees announced today.
The songs in line for this year's prestigious song-writing title include Troy Kingi's All Your Ships Have Sailed, Maisey Rika's Hiwa-i-te-rangi, The Beths' Jump Rope Gazers, Anthonie Tonnon's Leave Love Out of This, and Tipene's Tūrangawaewae.
With songwriting credits on Tipene's Tūrangawaewae, both Kingi and Rika have two chances to win. Rika's song Waitī Waitā is also nominated fo the Maioha Award. Jonathan Pearce is also a double-nominee for co-writing The Beths' Jump Rope Gazers and Anthonie Tonnon's Leave Love Out of This.
The awards, designed to announce the best song released in Aotearoa over the previous 12 months, have been running since 1965 and are judged by a panel of APRA members.
All things going to plan, the winner will be announced at a glitzy awards bash at Spark Arena on October 14, although that will, of course, depend on the country's alert levels at the time. Last year's ceremony was streamed online and played to a small group at Auckland venue The Powerstation over Covid-19 concerns.
Other awards given out on the night include APRA's Maioha award, the Sounz contemporary award, the best original music in a feature film award, and the best original music in a series award.
Recent Silver Scroll winners include Lorde's Royals, Marlon Williams' Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore, Aldous Harding's The Barrel and Benee's Glitter.
8.20am: Second vaccine botch-up confirmed
As touched on during morning media with Ashley Bloomfield, the Ministry of Health has confirmed a second possible mix-up with the vaccine rollout.
Six people in Christchurch were given a "very low dose" of the Pfizer jab. As the Covid-19 vaccination programme's national director Jo Gibbs told RNZ, the incident in Wigram was uncovered when vaccine stock did not match up with the number of doses given.
"During the full-day clinic, six vaccinations were administered with a very low dose of vaccine," Gibbs said. "As a result of the investigation into this event, we know the affected cohort in this case is only six people because records show it occurred between 1.20pm and 1.40pm that day."
All six people have been contacted, confirmed Gibbs, with a clinical plan developed for each of them.
Earlier this morning, Ashley Bloomfield denied being "busted" by the media over the vaccine botch-ups and said the delay in disclosure was so that the most accurate information could be drawn up. He said he was only made aware of the Christchurch incident yesterday but defended communication within the Ministry of Health.
7.50am: 'Decent number' of new delta infections anticipated today – Bloomfield
The director general of health does not believe New Zealand's delta outbreak has hit its peak yet, with cases expected to continue rising over the coming days.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Ashley Bloomfield said cases have been confirmed since yesterday's 1pm update – but would not disclose the actual number. "We'll expect a pretty decent number again today," said Bloomfield. "Over the next couple of days we'll be expecting it to peak and then to start to drop away."
On whether the lockdown has demonstrably worked yet, Bloomfield said there have been some post-lockdown infections – but these were "mostly" from households.
"There were a few cases from people who were infected before the lockdown and then a large number of cases coming in from people who have been infected subsequent to the lockdown. That's what is causing the number to keep going up."
Asked about reports that some DHBs do not know which staff had been vaccinated, Bloomfield said about half initially did not have that information. "What the DHBs asked us for is the ability to link their staff records to our Covid immunisation register to assist with rostering those staff."
On reports that at least five people in Auckland may have been given a saline solution or diluted vaccine instead of the actual Pfizer jab, Bloomfield said the Ministry of Health had always planned to disclose the mix-up.
"[We had] every intention of telling these people but we wanted to be in a position to tell them everything we could and what the options were," he said. He denied being "busted" by the media but acknowledged that yesterday's report forced the ministry to disclose the incident earlier than they had planned for.
Bloomfield had been unaware until yesterday of a second possible mix-up in Christchurch, where several patients may have been given a lower dose of the vaccine.
7.30am: From The Bulletin
The delta outbreak is now the biggest cluster since Covid first hit. The bad news is that 62 more cases were detected yesterday, bringing the total to 210 in the current outbreak. Early modelling had expected about 50 to 100 cases were present before lockdown. The good news is that the increase in case numbers isn’t exponential yet. That would only happen if infections started happening under lockdown and there’s no evidence of that. There are now 11 people in hospital because of the outbreak, none in ICU. RNZ has a wrap up of the day, including Ashley Bloomfield calling racists “frankly gutless.”
Jab approval for children not likely before end of year. Pfizer and Moderna, makers of different Covid-19 vaccines, are collecting trial data on kids in the US from ages 5 to 11, and there are still a number of unanswered question according to NPR, like whether small children need smaller doses. The American drug regulator could give emergency authorisation for the Pfizer jab for children by the end of the year. Earlier this week, the FDA finally granted full approval for its use in adults.
Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here
What you need to know
- There are 62 new Covid-19 cases in the community.
- 210 cases are now linked to the delta outbreak.
- NCEA exams delayed by a fortnight.
- Bloomfield optimistic after "steady... not exponential" growth of cases.
- 12 people are in hospital with Covid-19.