Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 27, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send me thoughts and feelings to email@example.com.
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What you need to know
- There are 12 new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland, of which two aren’t yet epidemiologically linked.
- The vaccine rollout has slowed, with just 25,000 doses nationwide yesterday.
- Political poll day on TVNZ1 – the first telly poll since the delta outbreak.
6.05pm: Act surges while Collins’ personal ranking droops in new 1News poll
The dream run continues for Act and David Seymour in a new poll by Colmar Brunton for 1News. The rightwing party jumps by six points to 14%. National falls by three point to 26%, but it’s miserable reading for Judith Collins in the preferred prime minister stakes, where she falls to just 5%, with less than half the backing of the much smaller Act Party’s leader, Seymour, on 11%. Labour takes a knock, too, down three points to 43%.
The results, which would likely see a Labour-Green government if reflected in an election, look like this:
Labour 43% (-3)
National 26% (-3)
Act 14% (+5)
Green 8% (No change)
NZ First 3% (+2)
Māori Party 2% (NC)
And the preferred PM numbers:
Jacinda Ardern: 44% (-4)
David Seymour: 11% (+5%)
Judith Collins: 5% (-4)
Christopher Luxon: 3%
Simon Bridges: 2%
Don’t know: 21% (+2%)
“Of course I will be the leader in 2023, I will be the next prime minister,” Collins said of the polling. “Staying focused is really important. I think it is really clear the party has had four leaders in a very short period of time and that’s clearly not the solution.”
David Seymour said it was “a milestone on a very long journey” and “voters are responding to a pathway out of Covid”. He told 1News: “We go around the country, we hear people’s concerns, we propose better alternatives.”
Pressure mounted on Judith Collins following the publication of Taxpayers Union poll, conducted by traditional National polling company Curia, put the party on just 21.3%, with Act breathing down its next on 14.9% and Labour on 45.9%. “Polls go up and down,” said Collins in response to that result, “and most pollsters would refuse to poll during a level four lockdown.”
A Newshub/Reid poll in July had Labour on 43% ahead of National on 28.7%, with Act on 11.1%, the Greens on 8.5%, NZ First 3.4% and the Māori Party 1.9%.
5.30pm: New Auckland city location of interest
The 77 Convenience Store in Victoria Street West in Auckland’s CBD has been added to the Ministry of Health’s locations of interest list, for a six-hour period from 1pm to 7pm on Thursday, September 16.
The only other location added today was Mobil Glen Innes from 1.35am-2.45am on Saturday September 11, but eight locations were added yesterday, including several with exposure times on Thursday and Friday last week. See the full list here, and our interactive map of all locations of interest here.
5.20pm: At-home isolation could be in place early next year if trial goes well – Hipkins
“We’ll be making decisions as we go along,” Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has said of the self-isolation trial announced this afternoon, indicating there won’t be a long review period before an at-home option for returnees is introduced.
Speaking on RNZ’s Checkpoint, Hipkins said GPS smartphone technology is likely to be used for monitoring the 150 people trialling at-home isolation from October 30.
Hipkins said only people living alone or who could clearly demonstrate they could remain in a completely self-contained wing of a residence, with no shared ventilation, would be considered for the trial. He admitted this would be very restrictive, but said the system would hopefully be expanded over time.
4.15pm: Self-isolation at home trial to start next month
A pilot programme for businesses and employees wishing to self-isolate at home will start at the end of next month.
It will be capped at 150 people and focused on those who are required to travel overseas for work. Most will be from the private sector but, Jacinda Ardern said, some government officials will be involved.
They must be NZ citizens and residents and be fully vaccinated, said Ardern, and the trial will operate alongside a monitoring and testing regime.
The pilot will run through until December 8 and expressions of interest open this coming Thursday.
“The reason we are focused on work-related travel is because of the added level of protection that having an employer with some skin in the game provides,” said Ardern. “It is not our intention that self-isolation at home only be available to business travel in the future.”
The pilot “gives you a sense of where we intend to go on our borders”, said Ardern, with a wider range of options for returnees to ease pressure on our MIQ systems. Shorter periods in MIQ are also being investigated.
Travel corridor for seasonal workers to open
Ardern confirmed quarantine-free entry for RSE workers from Vanuatu will open on October 4 and for Sāmoa and Tonga on October 12. Travellers must have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and complete their vaccination while in New Zealand.
They’ll have a day zero test and remain isolated in their bubbles at their workplace until they return a negative day five test.
4.10pm: ‘We are making progress’ – Bloomfield encouraged by drop in average daily case number
Ashley Bloomfield says there is “light at the end of the tunnel” as another 12 new Covid-19 cases were recorded today.
Speaking at this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference, Bloomfield said “we are making progress. He noted that the rolling average daily cases for the past week was 15, compared to 17 and 19 for the weeks prior. “However, we know that Covid-19 and delta in particular does provide a serious risk around the world.”
Crucially, he said, this drop in the average happened during alert level three.
Another “encouraging sign” is our test positivity rate, which the WHO recommends should be under 5%, has averaged 0.2% over the past seven days. “Our response is working as intended, breaking chains of transmission and drawing a circle around the outbreak,” he said.
1.8 million New Zealanders are now fully vaccinated, representing 43% of the eligible population. 82% of eligible Aucklanders have now had their first vaccine.
3.55pm: Ardern to front post-cabinet press conference
Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield will front this afternoon’s post-cabinet press conference.
While we aren’t expecting any updates to our alert levels – those are due next Monday – the update comes after a dozen new Covid cases were recorded in the community today.
As always, follow along with our live coverage or tune in below.
3.45pm: John Key was right, says Winston Peters
Former deputy PM Winston Peters has thrown his support behind a John Key opinion post published over the weekend.
In the post, Key advocates for vaccine passports and calls for the government to stop ruling by fear.
Peters told The Country our Covid response now lagged behind the world. “John Key is right about this. The massive loss financially is just building up our debt,” he said. “It’s one thing to talk about the safety and the health of New Zealanders, which is a major priority, but we could handle both – had we got the rollout fast enough.”
Key labelled New Zealand a “hermit kingdom” – a phrase Peters claimed as his own. “I hate to say this but on Q&A a whole week ago I used that phrase … but anyway I saw John Key using it over the weekend so I thought, well, at least somebody heard,” said Peters.
3.15pm: Police in isolation, unit closed, after positive Covid test
Ten Auckland police staff are isolating after a woman who was held in custody later tested positive for Covid-19.
According to the Herald, the woman was arrested on Thursday spent time in a police custody unit in Henderson. That unit has now temporarily closed. In addition to officers being forced to isolate, some have reportedly been reprimanded for failing to wear the correct PPE while transferring the woman.
“Police were notified by corrections of this positive case yesterday afternoon,” said Waitematā district operations manager Jason Edwards. “When the officers arrested the woman for a breach of bail and burglary related offences she was asymptomatic and went through a health screening test before she was brought into the custody unit.”
2.10pm: How the outbreak is tracking
The number of new daily cases is trending slightly upwards a week out from the decision on whether Auckland can shift to alert level two. But what’s arguably of more note is the infectious in the community graph, with 10 of yesterday’s cases infectious while out and about during level three.
And you can see these graphs and 18 more on The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker here
1.25pm: It’s poll day!
It’s been ages since the last telly political poll. There certainly hasn’t been one since the delta outbreak.
But, at 6pm tonight, that all changes: TVNZ will share its next Colmar Brunton poll with political editor Jessica Mutch-McKay leading the coverage.
Since delta, there have been a smattering of online polls from the likes of Curia that have shown a further decline for National, a rise for Act, and a slight drop among Labour’s numbers. If tonight’s poll shows National heading for the teens, it could be a major worry for Judith Collins as rumours of a leadership challenge circle. Just last week, Collins said she would never resign – but that doesn’t mean her caucus won’t try to make it happen.
We’ll have those numbers for you at 6pm.
1.00pm: Delta outbreak grows by 12, two yet to be linked
There are 12 new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland, pushing the outbreak total up to 1,177. Of these, 965 people have now recovered.
Ten of today’s 12 cases have so far been epidemiologically linked to the outbreak, while all have been in isolation at home or in an MIQ. Seven cases from the past fortnight remain unlinked.
Of yesterday’s 18 cases, 10 were infectious while in the community and have exposure events.
There are now 13 people in hospital with Covid-19 while four remain in intensive care.
On the testing front: 3,873 were processed in Auckland over the past 24 hours while 6,906 were processed nationwide. “Testing continues across Auckland with a particular focus on Clover Park, Māngere, Favona, Ōtara, Manurewa and Mount Wellington/Sylvia Park,” said the Ministry of Health.
“In some cases, public health staff have been sending mobile testing units to areas where there have previously been cases and encouraging residents to get tested at their home.” If you do receive a knock at your door, the ministry “strongly encourages” you to take up the opportunity to get tested and, if needed, get vaccinated at the same time.
Speaking of vaccines, it was a slow day: just 24,710 were administered yesterday. While numbers are always lower on a Sunday, that is a particularly woeful figures. However, the number of second doses given out yesterday was roughly double the number of first doses. Overall, more than 1.8 million people have now been fully vaccinated.
The next update will come at 4pm from Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield at today’s post-cabinet press conference.
12.45pm: FYI – there is no 1pm presser
It’s a press release not a press conference at 1pm today so keep this page refreshed for all the latest Covid data.
Hopefully, the Ministry of Health update will land in my inbox promptly at 1pm but they can sometimes be a bit late.
As for when you will hear from the PM and Ashley Bloomfield, the pair will be speaking at the 4pm post-cabinet press conference. We’ll have a stream of that for you later this afternoon.
12.30pm: The difficulty of making vaccine passports mandatory
Talk of vaccine passports has escalated over the past few days with John Key calling for proof of jab to be a requirement for people attending events like Rhythm and Vines.
But, as RNZ’s Ben Strang reports, it may not be that simple. According to his report, it would be legally difficult to make vaccine passports mandatory at eateries or at large events. Instead, the onus could be on business owners to determine if they’ll accept unvaccinated patrons.
The Restaurant Association’s head Marisa Bidois said that would be a big ask. “I think it is a lot to ask for a small to medium business owner or any business for that matter, to potentially police this sort of system,” she said. “Many were quite reluctant to implement something like this unless it was mandated, you know, unless they weren’t required to do so.”
As reported by The Spinoff’s Justin Giovannetti, the government intends to roll out vaccine passports before Christmas this year.
12.00pm: Extremely Online – Is your phone actually listening to you?
Do our phones really listen to us and serve us ads based on the things we’re talking about? Do they even need to? This week’s episode of Extremely Online, from the team at Shit You Should Care About, looks at how our online ads get so specific.
11.30am: NZ charities struggle throughout Covid – new research
New research from across both years of the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the toll the virus has had on charity services.
The Catalytic Foundation study saw New Zealand charities surveyed at three different periods across Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. From 560 responses, the research identified that “practically all charities” have been affected by the pandemic and many experienced an increased demand for services this year, according to foundation CEO Teresa Moore.
“As community charities and not-for-profit organisations seek to address major social issues, most of them lack the resources, secure funding or even volunteers to help them work effectively and Covid-19 has only added to this strain,” she said.
The three most pressing areas of concern identified by charities were generally unsurprising: housing, financial security and mental health. Housing was identified as an area of concern almost twice as much as any other issue.
10.05am: Trial under way for soldier charged with espionage
A pre-trial hearing begins at Linton Army Base today for a soldier charged with espionage.
It follows 17 charges being laid last year, including four of espionage, two of attempted espionage, two of possession of an objectionable publication, and one of doing an act likely to prejudice service discipline or bring discredit on the service.
9.00am: National to release reopening strategy this week
The National Party will this Wednesday release its plan for reopening the border – at least that’s according to John Key.
The former PM’s been on the media circuit this morning after publishing an op-ed over the weekend scathing of the government’s response to the pandemic.
Speaking to RNZ, Key said he was unaware that National would be releasing its strategy when he wrote his opinion piece but spoke to party leader Judith Collins yesterday. “They’re gonna come out on Wednesday, I haven’t seen [the plan],” he said. “But they’ve got some very smart people in there and I’m pretty sure you’ll find they will come out with some fairly clear things that they want to say – and some leadership.”
8.35am: First international concert announced for Eden Park
Rock gods Guns N’ Roses will headline the first international concert at Auckland’s Eden Park.
The country’s largest venue has for years been off-limits to performers due to concerns over noise by local residents who chose to live next to a giant stadium. But, earlier this year, local group Six60 became the first band to hold a concert at venue.
Guns N’ Roses will perform one show (advertised as being three hours long) on Saturday, December 10 next year. A Wellington gig, postponed from later this year, will take place two days earlier on December 8.
8.20am: So what exactly did John Key say?
PM Jacinda Ardern is facing questions everywhere she goes this morning about an op-ed written by John Key.
So what exactly did the former prime minister call for? Here are his five key points:
- Give Māori and Pacific health providers a financial incentive for every person they get vaccinated in the next six weeks.
- Give every person aged between 12-29 a $25 voucher of their choice if they get vaccinated before December 1.
- Allow only vaccinated people into licensed premises (and maybe park the Shot Bro bus outside a few nightclubs as an incentive).
- Tell New Zealanders when borders will reopen. It might incentivise more people to get jabbed.
- Stop ruling by fear. Instead, reassure people that living with the virus is possible, as long as you’re vaccinated. Take positive actions like funding Pharmac to invest in therapies proven to help fight the virus, build up our hospital capacity and workforce, use saliva testing for Covid, subsidise home-testing kits for Covid and order booster shots now.
And you can listen to Key speak on Newstalk ZB this morning here.
8.00am: Ardern denies ruling ‘hermit kingdom’ by fear
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern does not believe she is ruling a hermit kingdom by fear, nor does she believe comparisons to North Korea are valid.
Those comments came from Sir John Key who has been on a whirlwind media tour over the past 24 hours, publishing an op-ed across a range of media outlets and appearing on breakfast programmes and the evening news. In his piece, the former prime minister provided five ideas for reopening New Zealand, including financial incentives for vaccinations and providing a date for opening up our borders. But he also asked the government to stop leading with fear and to provide a definitive strategy for the public.
Speaking to RNZ this morning, Ardern said she “absolutely” did not believe she was ruling by fear. “I see a very big difference between providing the information that we’ve been receiving from experts across different fields,” she said.
There was also no valid comparison between New Zealand and North Korea, she said, almost laughing at the assertion. “We have border restrictions, so do many other countries. Even those who are operating domestically with fewer restrictions are often still running border restrictions,” said Ardern. “We have talked about our reopening plan, we are this year trialling self-isolation as a pilot so that we have more options for people to isolate at home… Of course, we need more people vaccinated.”
Bringing Covid modeller Shaun Hendy to a 1pm briefing last week was not to generate fear, Ardern said. “I don’t believe that has been a strategy… Modellers around the world are trying to make estimates of likely impacts based on the efficacy of vaccines and whether or not immunity wanes,” she said.
Vaccination rates were also the key message pushed by Ardern on The AM Show, where she was also asked to comment on Key’s plan. “With those good high vaccinations we should be able to avoid stay-at-home orders… that is our plan,” she said.
7.30am: From The Bulletin
Massive shout out to Mad Chapman for taking on the reins of The Bulletin today. Here’s an extract from this morning’s edition:
A weekend scrap: Sir John Key has written a critique of the government’s Covid-19 response plan. Covering all bases, Key’s op-ed was published in multiple outlets and compared New Zealand’s continued border closures to North Korea before suggesting a few ways New Zealanders could be incentivised to get vaccinated (including parking the Shot Bro bus outside a few nightclubs). Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins disagreed with Key’s assertion that New Zealand was a “smug hermit kingdom”.
“I think that’s an insult to New Zealanders who have actually achieved some of the highest rates of freedom in the world by going hard and going early when we’ve needed to,” he told Jack Tame on Q&A.
The Covid numbers: 18 new community cases were reported yesterday in Auckland and 50% (8) of the previous day’s total were in the community while infectious. This brings the total number of community cases in this outbreak to 1,165.
The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.
The five million mark. New Zealand has now administered more than five million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. In August, when vaccinations started up again after a brief closure in level four, daily vaccine doses peaked at more than 90,000 a day. This month the daily figure is closer to 50,000. Chris Hipkins has thanked all those who “rolled up their sleeves” and urged all eligible New Zealanders to get vaccinated now, in order to “keep our collective feet firmly on the accelerator as our vaccine rollout continues”.
New Zealanders love homes, even ones that are destined for the sea. Stuff’s Eloise Gibson reports on the the waterside homes that are still selling for top dollar despite strong evidence suggesting they’ll be uninsurable, if not unliveable, within two decades thanks to coastal erosion. The phenomenon is the product of interplay between property speculation, council bureaucracy and misplaced optimism.
From the garage to Vegas. Dan Hooker has had a rough couple of months. When Auckland went into level four lockdown, the UFC lightweight formed a bubble with his City Kickboxing gym-mates (with the gym as their home) in order to keep training for his scheduled fight this past weekend. The bubble was broken up by police, and broken up again when he moved to his own gym, until Hooker was left training alone in his garage for a pivotal fight in his career. Visa troubles ensued and he wound up arriving in Las Vegas twelve hours before his weigh-in with opponent Nasrat Haqparast. After all that, Hooker won the bout in clinical fashion, and is now looking to move his career to the US along with his team mates, including middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
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