Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 27, 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
- The entire country remains in lockdown until 11.59pm next Tuesday.
- After that, everywhere south of Auckland will drop to level three.
- There are 70 new community Covid-19 cases, all in Auckland.
- The delta outbreak now totals 347. Of those, just 14 are in Wellington.
- A confirmed case in Warkworth has now been linked to the dementia ward of an aged care facility.
- Yesterday was another record vaccine day: 90,000+ doses.
5.30pm: The outbreak in three charts
Our data guru Harkanwal Singh has put together a series of charts that tell the story of the outbreak so far. First, the new delta outbreak. Hover for numbers.
And how it compares with our first, and biggest, outbreak.
And the demographic breakdown by age.
4.50pm: The Auckland border
As of Wednesday, the country will go to alert level three; apart, that is, from Auckland and Northland, which will remain in level four. Where will the boundary fall? Here's a map, via the prime minister's office.
3.00pm: Entire country to stay in lockdown until Tuesday; Auckland, Northland, to remain in level four longer
All of New Zealand, south of the Auckland boundary, will move down to alert level three at 11.59pm next Tuesday. That means the entire country will remain under level four restrictions for the next four days.
But, speaking at parliament, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said Aucklanders and those in Northland should expect to stay locked down for even longer. "Based on the size of the outbreak ... it is likely at this stage Auckland will remain at level four for a period of a further two weeks [from next Tuesday]," she said.
Ardern said the decision to keep Northland in line with Auckland "for now" was due to the confirmed case in Warkworth. "We're concerned about the potential movement of people north, and because the exposure site is a fairly large workplace," said Ardern. In the long term, it was "unlikely" that Northland and Auckland would remain under the same restrictions.
Despite the decision to stay in level four longer, Ardern said there was evidence lockdown was making a difference. "We are doing really well... but caution is still required," she said.
"By far the most effective tool we have right now is level four," said the PM. "We know from Australia that household members are almost universally becoming infected with Covid-19." If delta gets into your family, it gets everyone, she said. Family members are transmitting the virus asymptomatically, often before they know they have the virus.
Only 10 cases yesterday had new exposure events, some of them pre-lockdown, which shows that people have been at home during the most dangerous period of infection.
Ardern explained that the rest of the country will be kept at level four for a few more days so the full 14-day transmission cycle is completed and because there are cases in Wellington and contacts in the South Island. The positive wastewater result in Christchurch was also a factor, said Ardern, although health officials believe this is consistent with a MIQ case.
This will be the first time we have a level four and a level three operating at the same time, said Ardern. No one will be able to move from one alert level to another without an exemption. The boundary south of Auckland that was used in February will be reactivated and checkpoints will be in place.
If you're an essential worker living in Auckland but working outside of it, your employer will need to submit an application to allow you to continue to work. If you're not an essential worker, you're not allowed to cross the border.
We won't need a zero case day to move Auckland down from level four, said Bloomfield, as contacts of cases will be expected. In the coming days, we'll be looking for cases popping up unexpectedly.
More than 200 extra rooms in quarantine will be available for this afternoon.
The next update on lockdown decisions will be announced at 4pm on Monday.
Bloomfield unaware of reports children under 12 getting vaccinated
The director general of health said he had not heard reports that children under the age of 12 had received the Covid-19 vaccine.
Currently, children aged 12-16 can get the jab if they accompany a parent who has a valid booking. From next Friday, bookings will open up for the entire 12+ population.
Asked by one journalist whether he had heard of children getting the jab – with that information reportedly coming from some GPs – Ashley Bloomfield said he had not.
On vaccination and young people, Bloomfield said: "We are watching the evidence very closely for efficacy and safety in children under 12, and we will be moving very quickly to provide evidence to government when that evidence becomes available." As it stands, parents were strongly discouraged from seeking vaccination for under-12s, "because the evidence is not yet there".
'You know I like to hold up a good graph, just for the memes'
Holding up another one of her famous print-offs, PM Ardern said latest vaccination data showed that, per capita, New Zealand was "skyrocketing" toward the heights reached by some of the biggest nations.
2.45pm: Watch – Ardern to reveal alert level decision as case numbers grow by 70
Jacinda Ardern is set to reveal whether any parts of the country can move out of alert level four at midnight tonight.
Only Auckland is guaranteed a longer run in lockdown (until at least next Tuesday) but with close contacts still rising and locations of interest at 500 it's possible the entire country could spend a few extra days under restrictions.
2.05pm: Auckland testing rates remain high; no 'unexpected' wastewater results
The Ministry of Health said 37,020 Covid-19 tests were processed across New Zealand yesterday, with almost 18,000 swabs taken in Auckland alone.
There are 23 community testing centres available for testing across Auckland today, including six regular community testing centres, 12 pop-up sites, and five invitation-only sites for high-risk groups and to prioritise essential health care workers
In Wellington, almost 3,000 tests were processed yesterday. There are seven community testing centres operating across the region today, and around 32 GPs are providing testing.
Thank you to all the Aucklanders who are stepping up to get tested for COVID-19—almost 18,000 tests in Tāmaki Makaurau yesterday! Thank you also to the essential health workers who are performing the tests and processing the results so quickly.
— Phil Goff (@phil_goff) August 27, 2021
No 'unexpected' wastewater test results
The most recent analysis shows there continue to be positive results for Covid-19 in Warkworth, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, as previously reported.
Covid-19 was detected in a sample collected on Tuesday from Warkworth but nearby areas including Snells/Algies continue to be negative, said the ministry. In the Wellington region, the virus continues to only be detected in samples collected from Moa Point and likely reflects known cases shedding the virus.
A further sample collected from Christchurch collected on Wednesday was processed today and has returned a positive result. As reported yesterday, this result is consistent with virus shedding from those cases in managed isolation and quarantine facilities in Christchurch, however, further testing is underway from a range of sites in Christchurch.
The Amberlea Home and Hospital Care Facility has been listed as an exposure site following confirmation that a positive case in Warkworth worked in the facility’s dementia ward, the ministry confirmed.
Public health officials understand the staff member worked two shifts while unknowingly infectious. "They are fully vaccinated and adhered to strict infection, prevention and control protocol, including wearing face coverings and other PPE," said a spokesperson.
A mobile testing unit will be operating at Amberlea today and all residents and staff are being asked to have a test.
There are 70 new community cases of Covid-19 today, all in Auckland.
It pushes the total number of cases in the delta outbreak up to 347, with 14 of those in Wellington and the rest in Auckland. No cases have been recorded elsewhere in the country, including the South Island.
In a media statement, the Ministry of Health confirmed that 278 cases have been clearly epidemiologically-linked to another case or sub-cluster. A further 69 have not yet been linked.
There are currently six epidemiologically-linked subclusters identified within this outbreak. The two largest clusters are the Birkdale Social Network cluster associated with Case A (45 confirmed cases), and the Mangere church cluster (146 confirmed cases). The remaining clusters have fewer than 20 people associated with them.
Of today's 70 new cases, the ministry said 44 are Pacific peoples, 11 are Asian, six are European, six are Māori, and the ethnicity of three is unknown.
There are currently 19 community cases in hospital, including one in a stable condition in intensive care. Of those in hospital, two are in North Shore Hospital, eight are in Middlemore Hospital, and nine are in Auckland City Hospital.
For the third straight day, the country's vaccine rollout has hit a record. Yesterday saw 90,757 vaccines (including my second jab!) Of these, 65,541 were first doses and 25,216 were second doses.
More than 3.11 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to date. Of these, 2 million are first doses and more than 1.1 million are second doses.
MOH will send the email after someone says first some positive news
— Toby Manhire (@toby_etc) August 27, 2021
1.25pm: We're still waiting
I promise, those numbers are coming.
In the meantime: a piece from earlier this week that's well worth catching up on. Tara Ward checks out the IMDB reviews for the hot new show of the season... The 1pm Update.
1.10pm: While we wait...
New South Wales has recorded a staggering 882 new community cases of Covid-19. But, after a day with more than 1000 recorded, this could possibly be a sign of good news to come.
And while you're here: Every dollar our members contribute directly funds our editorial team – including these live updates. Click here to learn how you can help us keep you informed.
12.50pm: Latest delta numbers due at 1pm
There is no 1pm press conference today with the Ministry of Health set to provide an update on new Covid-19 cases via media release.
As always, we'll have that right here, in full, as soon as it lands in my inbox. Based on prior experience, it can be quite late so bear with.
We're not expecting any information pertaining to alert levels in the 1pm statement. Instead, that will come from the PM herself at 3pm.
Keep this page open and refreshed for all the latest!
12.30pm: Consumer watchdog smacks down businesses using Covid-19 to boost prices
Concerns of price fixing during the alert level four lockdown have sparked a slap on the wrist from the Commerce Commission.
Anecdotal reports of price hikes during the lockdown have since made it into the media, including on Newshub last night. During that report, one Countdown shopper claimed his weekly shop was $24 more expensive during lockdown.
In a statement, the Commerce Commission said it would not tolerate "unscrupulous businesses" using Covid-19 as an opportunity for collusion between competitors or anti-competitive behaviour.
"This includes competitors agreeing on pricing/pricing intentions, allocating markets or its customers or restricting the output of goods or services where it is not necessary in the current situation. For example, competing tradespeople should not agree the prices they will each charge for the provision of essential repair services during a lockdown," said the commission.
It added: "The Commerce Act prohibits anti-competitive agreements between firms such as agreements to fix prices, allocate markets or restrict output."
Foodstuffs and Countdown have both rejected claims of price fixing.
12.15pm: Teachers warned to avoid spreading vaccine misinformation
Teachers have been warned by the government to avoid spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine.
In a message sent out to schools last night, and seen by The Spinoff, the Ministry of Health reminded teachers that they have a "strong influence" over students.
"As members of the public service, it is not appropriate for teachers, school leaders or board members to use their position to promote their personal views," said the email from education secretary Iona Holsted. "While most teachers and school leaders understand and uphold this trusted position, we’ve heard that personal comments about Covid-19 vaccination are being posted on a small number of teachers’ social media."
Holsted reminded school staff that they have "the same right" as anyone to make a person choice about the Covid-19 vaccine, but they should not "attempt to influence" any student's viewpoint. This would "likely breach various aspects of the Code of Professional Responsibility," teachers were warned.
12.00pm: 'Power of the Dog' – First trailer released for Jane Campion's NZ-shot Netflix drama
Netflix has revealed the first trailer for Jane Campion's Power of the Dog, the New Zealand-filmed drama with Benedict Cumberbatch in the leading role.
The film was shot here before and after last year's level four lockdown, with stars Cumberbatch, Kisten Dunst and Jesse Plemons reportedly locking down in the country.
11.45am: Breaking – New Zealand has a new best chip
Two years after her fateful chip ranking was published, Madeleine Chapman has issued a correction.
And it's big. I mean, I still think it's wrong. But this is big news. I won't ruin the surprise/horror, but click through to find out the truth.
11.10am: No new locations of interest
No new locations of interest have been added to the Ministry of Health's website since 8am this morning, indicating that for the first time since the outbreak began the number of new exposure sites has slowed down.
The locations of interest list gets updated every two hours, meaning any new ones should have been added at 10am.
Of course, it's highly likely this list will continue to grow but with it now sitting just below the 500 mark it's a positive sign that the rapid increase in locations has chilled out a bit.
The next health update will come via press release at 1pm before the PM and Ashley Bloomfield speak at 3pm.
10.55am: A mood booster
It's been a tough couple of weeks, New Zealand. Thankfully, the TVNZ Breakfast team has been there to boost the mood.
10.05am: 'Despicable attack': PM to speak on Kabul bombing
Jacinda Ardern has condemned a "despicable attack" in Kabul that has left dozens, including children and civilians, dead.
In a statement, the PM confirmed the last evacuation flight by the New Zealand Defence Force had departed ahead of the bombing. No defence force personnel were in Kabul at the time of the explosions and no New Zealand evacuees were left within Kabul airport, said Ardern.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with all of those in Afghanistan who have lost lives or suffered injuries, including US forces, our other partners on the ground, and the families and friends of all who have been affected by this appalling attack,” said Ardern.
So far, 276 New Zealand nationals and permanent residents, their families, and other visa holders have been evacuated from Kabul, confirmed Ardern. Of these, 228 have already departed United Arab Emirates for New Zealand. These numbers are likely to change as processing of those on board partners flights continues.
The PM, along with the chief of Defence Force, will address media at 10.30am.
Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden has just wrapped a speech where he said those responsible for the attack would be made to pay.
9.45am: Something interesting
9.35am: Digital vaccine passport in the works
A new digital vaccine passport could soon allow New Zealanders abroad to verify their vaccination status.
Currently, as TVNZ reported, New Zealanders overseas are required to provide a letter from the Ministry of Health or their GP to prove they have received the Covid jab. But some have run into difficulties having this recognised.
The ministry said more news on the app would be revealed in the coming weeks.
9.00am: Two metre distancing 'not sufficient' to protect from Covid-19 – expert
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we've all become familiar with the concept of social/physical distancing.
But some scientists have now claimed that could be insufficient to protect against spread of Covid-19.
“Since we know that the smallest aerosol particles, the ones that will travel the farthest, are enriched with the virus, the current recommendations regarding one or two metre distancing are not – and never were – sufficient to guarantee protection against Covid-19 transmission," he said.
“This is especially relevant for indoor areas where ventilation and air flow are reduced compared to outdoor settings.”
8.00am: Lockdown decision looms for those outside Auckland
It's lockdown decision day (for those outside Auckland, anyway).
Jacinda Ardern will speak at 3pm this afternoon, where she will reveal whether any parts of the country can safely move out of alert level four at 11.59pm tonight.
So far, just 14 of the 277 community cases have been confirmed outside Auckland – all in Wellington. Locations of interest have risen to 506, with a handful of new locations announced last night.
One expert, epidemiologist Michael Baker, told the Herald a shift to level three was feasible but carried risk.
"One option could be for Wellington and/or the North Island to hold on a bit longer, and then effectively split the country into three zones with Auckland," he said.
In today's Bulletin, experts suggested a North/South Island split was another possibility. But essential travel between the two islands could prove problematic. "The Cook Strait is a lot smaller than the Tasman Sea and we don’t have 14-day quarantine for people travelling between islands," said Covid modeller Michael Plank. "So while there is a large active outbreak in Auckland, there is a risk the virus will eventually jump islands."
Something that has experts concerned about a premature shift down the alert levels is the vast number of contacts of confirmed cases. As of yesterday, 24,402 individual contacts had been formally identified. Thousands were still to be contacted at the time of yesterday's Covid-19 briefing.
Yesterday, health expert David Skegg said New Zealanders should expect next year to be no better than 2021.
"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."
At this stage, Auckland's lockdown will expire at 11.59pm next Tuesday. That's 14 full days since the first case of delta was confirmed in the community. A further update will be provided at 4pm on Monday.
7.30am: Latest from The Bulletin
An ozone-depleting gas can be used until 2033, EPA decides. Methyl bromide is used to fumigate logs for export and was meant to be phased out by 2005 under an international treaty. As RNZ reports, use has only increased in recent years as exports have soared and the EPA has extended the deadline by, give or take, 28 years.
Ian Shaw, a professor at the University of Canterbury, shared his thoughts with the Science Media Centre about the move. Please picture him shaking his head. “The way methyl bromide gas is used in our ports is highly questionable: good practice dictates that it should be vented high into the atmosphere to minimise human exposure. In NZ, it is often released into tarpaulin-covered log piles, and then because the gas is heavy it accumulates in low areas around the port. This means that human exposure is likely.”
The government's three waters package faces more opposition from councils. Farmers Weekly reports that Canterbury mayors are asking for the overhaul of the country's water systems to be paused. At the centre of the concerns seems to be the transfer of local water assets to one of four large public utilities created by the Beehive. Much of the programme hasn't been settled yet and the central government had asked councils to hold off on public consultations until everything was ironed out, but the South Island councils went ahead and held them anyways.
A different approach to the housing problem. Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly said she’s used every lever available to fix New Zealand’s housing crisis. She could look overseas for new ideas. Canada is in the midst of a federal election campaign and has seen house prices increase nearly as quickly as New Zealand. In response, The Globe and Mail (soft paywall) reports Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has unveiled a package that helps first-time home buyers save, lowers mortgage insurance, slaps a 1% annual tax on the value of underused homes and land, and expands the capital gains tax.
This is part of The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s must-read daily news wrap. To sign up for free, simply enter your email address below
What you need to know
- 68 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed yesterday.
- 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.
- There has been another record day for the vaccine rollout: 88,000 doses.