Live updates, April 27: WA travel pause to be lifted; ‘Very weak positive’ Covid-19 result in Auckland wastewater

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 27, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

Top stories:

5.15pm: Travel pause with Western Australia to be lifted tomorrow

The pause in travel from Western Australia, put into effect on Friday night after community cases were detected in Perth, will lift from midday tomorrow, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins has announced.

“The government is satisfied the risk is low, based on the advice of the director-general of health, and that the Trans-Tasman Bubble is working largely as planned. The advice is that the Perth cluster appears to be contained and the post-lockdown transition response measures the Western Australia government introduced will provide an additional layer of assurance,” he said in a statement.

It excludes those identified as close contacts, who will “need to complete 14 days of self-isolation and provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 test before departure for New Zealand”, said Hipkins in a statement.

“All casual contacts – those who were at the locations of interest at the published time – will need to self-isolate for 5 days and receive a negative test. An additional New Zealand requirement means they will need to continue to monitor their symptoms in place and will not be allowed to travel to New Zealand until 14 days after they were at the location of interest.

Meanwhile Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has just announced the Australian government is suspending flights to and from India until May 15 in light of increasing concern about the severe Covid-19 outbreak in India.

3.40pm: Northland opens walk-in Covid-19 clinic ahead

Northland residents over the age of 50 are able to get their Covid-19 vaccination today, with no questions asked.

A post on the Northland District Health Board Facebook page said that walk-in clinics were open today in Kaitaia and Whangārei.

“These clinics are open to anyone in the community who is over 50 years of age and wishes to be vaccinated against Covid-19. These are walk in clinics and you do not need to register first,” the post said.

“This will not be the only opportunity for this group to be vaccinated – further community clinics are planned shortly.”

According to the Ministry of Health, the general population is not set to get vaccinated until the middle of the year – meaning this walk-in clinic is well ahead of schedule.

2.50pm: Former Dunedin mayor Dave Cull dies

Former Dunedin mayor Dave Cull has died after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

The 71-year-old had been receiving treatment since his diagnosis last year. He did not seek re-election to the mayoralty in 2019 and, as Stuff reports, stepped down as chairman of the Southern District Health Board last year.

Cull also had a long television career, appearing in front of the camera on programmes like Maggie’s Garden Show and Master Builders House of the Year.

2.00pm: Australia considers India travel ban after Perth lockdown

Australia looks set to introduce tougher restrictions on international travellers after revelations the recent three-day Perth lockdown was sparked by a traveller from India.

According to local media, PM Scott Morrison will today meet with the national security committee to consider increased restrictions on arrivals from India as the country continues to record more than 350,000 Covid-19 cases a day. It’s possible Australia could follow New Zealand’s travel ban, although Morrison is apparently reluctant to totally pause flights from India.

“We’ll be instructing the border force to ensure only in very urgent circumstances would an exemption be permitted for someone to travel to a high risk country,” Morrison said.

Australian health minister Greg Hunt said he is waiting for official advice before moving to ban flights.

“If those additional measures are recommended, we will take them with the heaviest of hearts but without any hesitation. But we remember the agony that our own Indian community is faced with and I think it is very important that we are sensitive to the suffering that they face.”

1.10pm: Perth traveller made it to Northland despite lockdown; ‘very weak positive’ result detected in Auckland wastewater

Updated

A person travelled to Auckland from Perth yesterday, despite the city being in a Covid-19 lockdown. The individual then travelled on to Northland, the Ministry of Health has revealed, before self-isolating.

Immigration’s Border Operations became aware of this person’s arrival during routine passenger screening checks after they arrived in Auckland.

“Any person who enters New Zealand who is ineligible for Quarantine-Free Travel is required to isolate for 14 days and is subject to penalties,” a spokesperson said.

“While the public health risk has been assessed as low, it serves as an important reminder that our public health response relies on accuracy and people fully complying with the safety measures that have been put in place by both countries. The actions of one person could jeopardise Quarantine-Free Travel with Australia for everyone.”

An Immigration NZ investigation is underway as to how the person was able to come into the country.

New Zealand health officials remain in contact with their Australian counterparts and are closely monitoring the situation in Western Australia.

“All people who have been in Perth or Peel between 17 April and 26 April should watch for symptoms for 14 days after leaving these areas and if symptoms develop they should stay home and get a test.”

As per our framework, travel to the rest of Australia will continue. If you’re booked to travel between New Zealand and Western Australia in the next few days, check what you need to do with your airline.

‘Very weak positive’ Covid-19 result detected in Auckland wastewater

A “very weak positive” Covid-19 result has been detected in a wastewater sample at the Eastern Interceptor (Central and Eastern Auckland). According to the ministry, that’s the same area where ten recovered people have recently returned, after spending time in the Auckland quarantine facility.

Seven of these people were released within 1-2 days prior to the sample being taken. Another sample is being taken today with results expected later this week.

The recovered cases are no longer infectious and there is no evidence that the wastewater is infectious.

“We know that people who have recently had Covid-19 may continue to shed fragments of the virus for some weeks after they have recovered, without being infectious to others,” a spokesperson said. “Wastewater sampling can detect these fragments, which are not infectious and their presence is not considered a risk to the community.”

Wastewater testing in New Zealand is being increased, and when unexplained detections occur this will help support prioritisation of surveillance and testing of potentially infectious individuals.

Eight new Covid-19 cases in managed isolation

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in the community to report today, but eight have been detected in managed isolation.

Four of these arrived in the country from Pakistan via the UAE, with two from Japan, one from the US and one from Germany. The seven-day rolling average of new cases detected at the border is two.

Five previously reported cases have recovered. The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 36. Our total number of confirmed cases is 2,253.

All 39 close contacts of the border worker who tested positive last Tuesday have returned negative test results. The close contacts will continue to self-isolate and they will be retested.

12.45pm: Six60 at Eden Park – neighbours call gig a ‘nightmare’

New Zealand band Six60 made history over the long weekend with a sold out concert at Auckland’s Eden Park stadium.

The venue had long been off limits to bands due to objections from residents, but was recently given the ability to hold six gigs each year. More than 50,000 were in attendance for Six60.

One resident, Lambert Hoogeveen​, has lived near Eden Park for more than 30 years and told Stuff the concert was a nightmare.

“None of this was necessary, that band that played on Saturday night could have played at Western Springs, like they always do, or at Mount Smart,” he said, naming venues that also have neighbours and have also dealt with noise complaints.

“I don’t think this concert was an indication of what we will experience when we get a major international act.”

Another neighbour, Frank Guzzo, told Stuff it was the bass that caused the most issues. He called the gig “annoying, but bearable”, and said he expected worse.

“The problem is that they have six concerts beyond what already goes on there,” he said.

Six60 perform at Western Springs in 2018.

12.15pm: So where the bloody hell are you? Tasmania opens its doors to NZ tourists

The Spinoff’s deputy editor Catherine McGregor has been galavanting around Tasmania. She filed this report: 

What did you do this long weekend? I went to Australia and back again, and the oddest thing about the whole experience was how intensely normal it all felt. That could be down to my specific destination, I’ll admit – I flew to Tasmania, which hasn’t had a single Covid-19 case in more than four months – but I still had to make an effort to remind myself how unthinkable my trip would have been until very recently.

That’s not to suggest things are entirely back to normal. There are Covid safety measures in place, of course, and the differences between the two countries’ precautions are small but fascinating. We had to wear masks inside the airport, but not inside a ferry taking a group of us to MONA, the superb private art museum on the outskirts of Hobart. As in New Zealand, you’re asked to scan in everywhere – but entering the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in Hobart was the only time I’ve ever been stopped by a staff member checking I’d actually done it. Most noticeable is the Tasmanians’ ongoing love affair with hand sanitiser – the stuff is absolutely everywhere, and most people seem happy to sanitise every time they enter and leave a building. Top tip for travelling to Australia: take hand cream or be prepared for wizened claws by the end of day three.

I flew to Hobart on the very first direct flight from New Zealand in 23 years – which also made it Tasmania’s very first international flight in just as long, save the odd non-commercial flight to Antarctica. Hobart Airport was buzzing for our arrival, with scores of high-viz-clad staff out on the tarmac to take photos as our Air New Zealand A320 taxied to a stop. Inside, there were celebratory speeches from dignitaries including Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein, who is going to the polls this Saturday in an attempt to win a third term for his Liberal state government (they’re forecast to romp home).

Prior to Covid around 17,000 New Zealanders visited Tasmania each year, and Tourism Tasmania expects the new twice-weekly Air NZ service to increase those numbers by 30-40%, dramatically upping tourism to Australia’s smallest state. Return flights take place on Thursdays and Sundays, departing Auckland at 9am and Hobart at 12:30pm (both local times).

11.40am: 12 more cases recorded in locked down Fiji

Fiji has recorded a further 12 Covid-19 cases following recent breaches at a managed isolation facility.

Considering just over 100 cases of the coronavirus have been detected in the Fiji community since the pandemic first took hold, 12 is a fairly significant number of new cases to register.

As RNZ reports, eight of the cases were relatives of a recent case, including the husband of a 29-year old female that was infected from an unknown source.

Parts of Fiji – including the capital Suva – are in lockdown for the next fortnight as the number of active Covid-19 cases grows.

11.10am: NZ no longer the best place to be during Covid-19 – Bloomberg

Singapore has swooped in to grab the top spot in Bloomberg’s Covid-19 resilience ranking. 

New Zealand had previously been considered the best place to be during the pandemic, but has now dropped into second position – losing out to Singapore by just 0.1 points.

According to the report, Singapore is in first place due to “a combination of nailing the virus and rolling out vaccines at once of the fastest rates in Asia”.

Bloomberg said that New Zealand, while being a virus eliminator, was “lagging” in its vaccine roll-out.

9.15am: Decision on Perth travel due today

An update on whether quarantine-free travel with Perth can resume after the city’s snap lockdown is due out today.

The lockdown, which kicked off on Friday night, will end as anticipated this evening, officials have confirmed. It put a halt to trans-Tasman travel less than a week after the launch of the bubble.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins confirmed to Stuff the government would consider further advice from health officials today and make an announcement during the day.

“Our risk assessment remains that the public health risk to New Zealand is low,” Hipkins said in a statement.

8.00am: Emergency housing ‘inhumane’, people made to feel ‘barely human’ – Davidson

A co-leader of the Green Party has taken aim at the government she is part of, condemning some emergency housing as “inhumane”.

Marama Davidson, who is an associate housing minister, also said it was “unacceptable” for motels to make “quick money” with no strings attached.

Speaking to RNZ, Davidson said one of her primary concerns was for children. Some were forced to live in “inhumane conditions … not suitable for any humans but certainly not suitable for young people,” she said. Emergency housing, Davidson added, was not “fully safe for everybody” and some people were made to feel “barely human, seen primarily as a way for commercial motels to make quick money”.

Last week, social development minister Carmel Sepuloni deflected the matter to MSD when asked if she believed people in emergency housing were safe.

“I’m satisfied that if they don’t feel safe and they contact MSD, then MSD will work with them to ensure that they are put into more appropriate accommodation,” she said.

Around $1 million a day is currently being spent on emergency and transitional housing.

Read the full report here

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The purview of  the Royal Commission into abuse in state care has been significantly cut back. The changes will remove the ability to look into recent cases and modern care providers – in other words, it will be historic abuse only. Radio NZ’s Katie Scotcher reports the justification for this decision from the government is that modern organisations – Oranga Tamariki – are currently being scrutinised through other inquiries. That is causing some alarm from the Commission, who put out a statement expressing concern at the narrowing of their scope:

“This independent commission still has a lot of work to do in revealing the full extent of the abuse, neglect and injustices suffered by survivors in the past and this important work will continue throughout the Inquiry’s duration. We are hearing from survivors that this abuse is still happening.”

Cost overruns appear to be a major part of the decision. Radio NZ’s Katie Scotcher (today’s Bulletin will draw on her work a lot) reported that the initial budget has been used up. It was already forecast to be the largest inquiry in New Zealand’s history, and Internal Affairs minister Jan Tinetti said the problem wasn’t mismanagement – rather it just got even bigger on everyone. It turned out there ware far more survivors of abuse coming forward than anyone thought.

One wonders if that has implications for the decision to no longer investigate modern cases, and if there are more people in that position too.Scotcher again reports that survivors are warning that the changes will damage the credibility of the final report produced by the commission. As one put it, “it will come as a great shock to many survivors because the two biggest things that survivors want from this process is acknowledgement and recognition as to what’s happened historically to them and others and to know that what happened to them isn’t going to happen to those who are in care now and who will go into care in the future.”

Just on this topic generally, a lot of the commission’s work has taken place quietly, even if it has been largely in public. Sam Brooks went to see a day that included testimony about religious organisations, particularly the Catholic church. A really telling aspect of that piece is that it explores why organisations went to such lengths to cover up abuse, rather than bring perpetrators to justice.


Early Childhood centres are closing at a rate of one a week around the country, with funding pressures starting to take a toll. The Early Childhood Council (which represents centres, rather than teachers) told Newstalk ZB that the closure rate is increasing, and that pay parity for ECE teachers can’t be reached without further government support. They’re also concerned about a teacher shortage, which has persisted for years.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here




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