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PoliticsFebruary 28, 2021

Live updates, February 28: ‘We won’t beat Covid by turning on each other’ – Jacinda Ardern

Hipkins Ardern Collins
Hipkins Ardern Collins

All the latest developments as the restrictions kick in and the search for a source of the latest infection continues. Get in touch at 

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6.00pm: New Covid-19 case

A new person linked to the existing cluster has tested positive, the Ministry of Health has announced. The person being called “Case O”, is a household contact of cases I, J, K and L was already in the Auckland quarantine facility.

“Case O was transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility on February 23 as a precautionary measure. The person became symptomatic yesterday and returned a positive Covid-19 test this afternoon. This means that Case O has been in quarantine for their infectious period,” said the ministry in a release. “As a result of the early precautionary measures carried out to contain potential Covid-19 spread from this household there are no new locations of interest and no risk to members of the public.”

The ministry also revealed that preliminary results from genome sequencing confirmed Case N “is similar to that of Case M and is linked to the current outbreak”.

5.30pm: Long queues into Auckland

Sunday afternoon traffic is rarely smooth returning to Auckland, but Police checkpoints have added many hours to journeys. There are reports of queues of more than an hour coming from the north, while one Spinoff reader just told me it had taken him three hours to cover the 10 kilometres from Rangiriri to Hampton Downs in the crawl towards the Waikato-Auckland border. “I’m wondering how much water everyone has,” he said. “We ran out a while ago but at least we had some to start with. It’s very hot.”

And this from another reader….


2.30pm: How do you pronounce Papatoetoe?

For whoever needs it, here’s an entertaining instructional video on how to pronounce Papatoetoe.

2.05: Auckland Arts Festival reviewing options

The Auckland Arts Festival, which was set to launch on Thursday, has issued a statement saying it is “working through the implications of Auckland’s return to alert level three for our programme, and will provide a full update of our plan for this week and beyond as soon as we can”.

It adds: “Though we will not be able to launch in the way we had anticipated on Thursday March 4, and won’t be able to deliver our planned performances in the first few days of the festival due to Auckland being at alert level three, we are energised and working swiftly in the hope that we will be able to bring some of the works to audiences in the near future.”

More here.

Auckland Pride, meanwhile, has announced the remainder of the festival will be postponed.

1.55pm: America’s Cup postponed

With the first weekend of the America’s Cup, scheduled to have taken place on March 6 and 7, foiled by Auckland’s move to level three,  racing has been bumped back at least four days. Organisers hoped as much racing as possible could take place under level one, but “to be prudent, America’s Cup Event will apply for an exemption to race under level three restrictions so as to keep as many options open as possible. However, racing will not occur before at least Wednesday March 10,” said ACE chair Tina Symmans.

“We need to understand all likely scenarios so that an updated racing schedule can be put in place whilst also ensuring the regulatory requirements are met.”

1.30pm: Possible person-to-person link for new case found; don’t ‘turn on each other’, Ardern urges

There are no new positive cases in the community, Ashley Bloomfield has announced. Case M, the young man, is now in the quarantine facility, and his mother is in the process of being moved there. Genomic sequencing, he added, gives confidence that there is only one cluster. “They are all linked,” said Bloomfield.

There is a possible person-to-person link to explain how the new cases were infected, said Ardern. “This is good news … It narrows down so many other potential chains of transmission.” It’s more than likely there will be additional cases in the community but they might not show up in test results for a few days, said Ardern.

In light of the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 crisis abroad, the “short and sharp measures” as currently under way in New Zealand remain the right plan of action, Jacinda Ardern said.

They would be monitoring people’s adherence with isolation requirements, she said. “Health workers will work with police to check in on those that we need to.” She noted that some recent cases had been going to work when they should not, and urged employers to play their part in ensuring this did not happen.

Close contacts are on daily phone calls, said Bloomfield, and if they’re not contactable, there will be house visits. He said he was confident level three was sufficient to contain the risk at this point, as long as “everyone does what they need to do”.

The prime minister noted the anger being expressed over people who later tested positive for Covid having breaching isolation rules. “I want to acknowledge the frustration I’ve seen and I’ve heard overnight, particularly coming, rightly so, from many Aucklanders,” she said. “No one wants Covid in our community. But we won’t beat it by turning on each other.”

She urged people to check in with friends and family to ensure they’re following the rules

Wastewater testing continues to not identify any wider transmission in the community, while 755 tests had been completed in Auckland by 10.30am this morning. He emphasised that anyone who does not have symptoms and wasn’t at any of the locations of interest should not get a test. “The best thing you can do as your contribution is stay home.”

Interviews continue with the two new cases and their family and identifying close contacts from the Manukau Institute of Technology is a priority, with 20 identified so far, said Bloomfield.

The new variant seems to be presenting with symptoms that are not the typical respiratory symptoms, he added. These include fatigue and aches and pains.

There are two new Covid-19 cases detected in managed isolation.

Asked about calls for the South Auckland population to be vaccinated as a priority, Ardern said that of the border workers inoculated so far, 75% are in the Counties-Manukau DHB region. “Essentially we are vaccinating a South Auckland population by virtue of the workforce we’re vaccinating.” She said when the general public roll-out began, planned for mid-year, “my expectation is South Auckland is when we’ll start.”

Ardern and Bloomfield are speaking at the Beehive on the first day of a seven-day alert level three lockdown for Auckland. The rest of the country is in level two. A livestream of the press conference is here:

11.45am: New Siouxsie

We had a terrific, reflective piece by Siouxsie Wiles ready to run this morning, to mark a year on from the first case of Covid-19 in New Zealand. With the news of a fresh shift up the alert levels landing last night, you’ll now have to wait a little bit for that one, but in the meantime, the indefatigable Dr Wiles has filed another piece on the new cases, why they mean level three for Auckland, and a plea: don’t misdirect your anger. Plus, a line or two about the year, and an entreaty to take a moment to reflect on what could have been.

Read the piece here.

11am: IRD site down as businesses seek lockdown support

With businesses in Auckland preparing to apply for the Resurgence Support Payment, the Inland Revenue website is currently unavailable, with a systems upgrade scheduled to be completed by tomorrow and phone lines unavailable.

National Party shadow treasurer Andrew Bayly has called on the IRD to “sort out their systems”. “It is essential the IRD opens to help people to calculate and lodge claims for their Resurgence Support Payment,” he said. “The latest lockdown will be a devastating blow for businesses not only in Auckland but across the country. During times of financial stress it is vital that people are able to call government officials at IRD to discuss their options. IRD needs to sort out their systems immediately so New Zealanders can access the help they need.”

For an explainer on the Resurgence Support Payment read this, by Bex Stevenson, which we’ve reprinted from from BusinessDesk.

10am: Judith Collins calls for priority vaccines for South Aucklanders

Opposition leader Judith Collins has called for South Auckland to be bumped up the queue for the vaccine, ahead even of rest homes. “I think it has to happen. We need to understand that without judging where people live or who works where, it is clear we have higher density homes in parts of South Auckland in particular,” she said on Q+A. “We also have a lot of people in South Auckland who work in border facilities, rest homes and elsewhere. We need to be realistic here and we need to say South Auckland does need something special, and that happens to be vaccinations. And then we can roll out around the rest of the country.”

She also asked whether those being asked to isolate were being adequately monitored. “Are we even bothering to check?” she said.

Earlier on the programme, Hipkins had acknowledged that South Auckland is “a setting that probably is a bit more at risk”, and “I think you will see that reflected in the vaccine rollout plan.”

Also appearing on Q+A was the public health expert Michael Baker. Asked when we might be able to measure the success of the latest alert level changes, and the likelihood of moving back down the scale, he said: “By Thursday we might have a better idea. It’s going to take a while, becausee remember the incubation period is five to six days typically, and can be longer.”  There remained, he said, the need for “a very cautious approach”.

9.45am: Hipkins on what we don’t know

Some more on the genomic sequencing (see 9.10am) and what it tells us: Speaking on TVNZ’s Q+A, Chris Hipkins has said indicates a link to the second family in the Valentine’s Day cluster, or cases E to H. “What we still don’t know, though, is what the epidemiological link is, so how did it transmit from someone in that second family grouping to the latest case, and also how far it has spread to other people.”

He added: “We still know we’re dealing with one cluster, we just don’t know how big that cluster is, or some of the chains of transmission within that cluster … And of course this particular case could well have been infectious for over a week now, and has had a number of exposure events and that significantly increases the chance that it’s already passed to other people.”

Pressed by Jack Tame on why events were allowed to go ahead last night around Auckland and the country, despite the case information reaching the minister early afternoon, Hipkins said they didn’t have all the information they needed that informed the decision until after 5pm yesterday, and the process, which included assembling a cabinet meeting, need to take place. Given all that, he said, it was “pretty fast moving”.

9.30am: Events cancelled, disrupted

Under level three, the advice is for everyone, as far as possible, to stay at home. Under level two, gatherings are restricted to no more than 100 people. Here’s an incomplete list of the events that have been affected.

Round the Bays in Auckland this morning has been cancelled. Racing in the America’s Cup proper had been scheduled to begin on Saturday. Organisers say they are currently reviewing options. 

Philip MacDonald of Stuff Events begins the pack down at the St Heliers finish line for the 2021 Round the Bays fun run which was cancelled after Auckland went into level three lockdown. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The Outer Fields music festival at Western Springs in Auckland will not be able to go ahead as scheduled on Saturday. All council-owned Auckland Live venues are closed until further notice. Pride Festival events will not be able to continue this week. Neither will the Lantern Festival

The Black Caps / White Ferns double-header will go ahead at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Wednesday. Friday’s games move from Eden Park in Auckland to Wellington. The Auckland Blues Super rugby side will not return to the city after their game last night, so they can continue to train.

All of today’s events at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival have been cancelled. A Crowded House tour was scheduled to kick off on Thursday. The Hamilton show and the Saturday night Napier show will need to be cancelled or postponed. The Auckland Arts Festival was scheduled to begin on Thursday. 

Splore Festival had already been postponed till March 26, which is hopefully far enough way that it will be able to go ahead.

9.10am: New case linked genomically to known outbreak

Some encouraging news: Case M has been linked via genome sequencing to the existing Valentine’s Day cluster, which diminishes the risk of a major undetected chain of transmission.

Stuff has spoken to the Covid response minister Chris Hipkins, who said: “The genome sequence for the latest case is showing that they’re linked to the second family group that we identified previously.” He added: “It is the UK variant and most closely linked to the second group of cases.”

There was no news of any further community cases.

Hipkins defended the decision to move out of alert level three after three days just over a week ago. He told told Stuff: “Based on all the information that we had, it would have been very difficult to have justified keeping the level three lockdown or even the level two lockdown for longer than we did … I still think the decision we made last week was a fair one. But the reality is, we’ve got new information now.”

He added: “This potentially was avoidable if everybody had done exactly what they are asking to do at the different alert levels and in their different circumstances, but it’s clear that a number of people weren’t. I don’t want to get into blame. There’s statements of fact, and a fact is a fact, what we have to do is how we’re moving forward. Blame doesn’t really help, because all it does is it makes people anxious about coming forward if they have symptoms. And we need people to come forward.”

8.30am: Locations of interest updated

The Ministry of Health has updated the list of places of interest as they gather more information from the new cases. If any of the below apply to you, and for more information, see here.

Hunter Plaza, 217 Great South Road, Papatoetoe, Feb 26, 2.55pm-5pm, 

Burger King Highland Park, 495 Pakuranga Road, Half Moon Bay, Feb 25, 8pm-9pm

Your Health Pharmacy, 488 Great South Road, Feb 23, 2.45pm-3.50pm

KFC Botany Downs – Drive-through Customers, The Hub, 451 Ti Rakau Drive, Botany Downs, Manukau, Feb 22-23, 3.30pm-12.30am

KFC Botany Downs – Customers who entered the premises for dine in or takeaway, The Hub, 451 Ti Rakau Drive, Botany Downs, Manukau, Feb 22-23, 3.30pm-12.30am

KFC Botany Downs – Households of Customers who entered the premises for dine in or takeaway, The Hub, 451 Ti Rakau Drive, Botany Downs, Manukau, Feb 22-23, 3.30pm-12.30am 

Pak n Save Manakau, 6 Cavendish Drive, Manakau, Feb 21, 5.30pm-6.40pm

Kmart Botany – Customers, 500 Ti Rakau Drive, Northpark, Feb 20, 3.30pm-10.30pm

Kmart Botany – Households of Customers, 500 Ti Rakau Drive, Northpark, Feb 20, 3.30pm-10.30pm 

Kmart Botany – Staff, 500 Ti Rakau Drive, Northpark, Feb 20, 3.30pm-10.30 pm

Kmart Botany – Households of Staff, 500 Ti Rakau Drive, Northpark, Feb 20, 3.30pm-10.30 pm

Dark Vapes East Tamaki – Customers, 30 Springs Road, East Tamaki, Feb 20, 7.00pm- 8.30pm

Dark Vapes East Tamaki – Households of Customers, 30 Springs Road, East Tamaki, Feb 20, 7.00pm- 8.30pm 

Dark Vapes East Tamaki – Staff, 30 Springs Road, East Tamaki, Feb 20, 7.00pm- 8.30pm

Dark Vapes East Tamaki – Households of Staff, 30 Springs Road, East Tamaki, Feb 20, 7.00pm- 8.30pm

Kmart Botany – Customers, 500 Ti Rakau Drive, Northpark, Feb 19, 3.30pm-10.30 pm

Kmart Botany – Households of Customers, 500 Ti Rakau Drive, Northpark, Feb 19, 3.30pm-10.30 pm 

Kmart Botany – Staff, 500 Ti Rakau Drive, Northpark, Feb 19, 3.30pm-10.30 pm

Kmart Botany – Households of Staff, 500 Ti Rakau Drive, Northpark, Feb 19, 3.30pm-10.30 pm

Dark Vapes East Tamaki – Customers, 30 Springs Road, East Tamaki, Feb 19, 2.30pm-4pm

Dark Vapes East Tamaki – Households of Customers, 30 Springs Road, East Tamaki, Feb 19, 2.30pm-4pm 

Dark Vapes East Tamaki – Staff, 30 Springs Road, East Tamaki, Feb 19, 2.30pm-4pm

Dark Vapes East Tamaki – Households of Staff, 30 Springs Road, East Tamaki, Feb 19, 2.30pm-4pm

Li’l Abners Takeaway, 320 Great South Road, Papatoetoe, Feb 19, 1.00am-1.20am 

Choice Food Bar, 336 Great South Road, Papatoetoe, Feb 19, 1.15am-1.20am 

7.00am: What to expect today

A 1pm update is scheduled for today, and what we’ll be looking especially to find out then (if not before) is, first, any information about new cases and, second, whether genome sequencing has been able to establish a clear epidemiological link between “Case M” and the existing outbreak linked to Papatoetoe High School. M’s sibling is a student at the school but, remember, has returned three negative tests for Covid-19 already.

Today will see further questions around the extent to which requirements have been complied with in the new cases, and the measures to ensure that information is getting through. As that happens it’s worth bearing in mind this from psychologist Sarb Johal:

The reasons for these breaches seem to be complex and we certainly need to understand this to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We also need to be cautious not to set up a vindictive, toxic environment where people start to become reluctant to come forwards for testing for fear of exposure to social media backlash or worse.

6.30am: Siouxsie on the return to alert level three

“No doubt Aucklanders will be surprised and shocked by the announcement that we are moving up the alert levels once again,” says Siouxsie Wiles.” The details of the new case are too concerning not to. Once again we have an unclear chain of transmission that led to case M. We know that they are a sibling of a student at Papatoetoe High who has already returned three negative tests and has not had any symptoms. Though it would be highly unusual, it is still a possibility this could be the source of case M’s infection. The serology testing may help shed some light on this as will the genome sequencing. We also have the fact that the case has been infectious in the community for as long as the last week and has visited a number of locations. Moving Auckland to alert level three and the rest of the country to alert level two puts us in the best position to get on top of this outbreak as quickly as possible.”

Read more from Siouxsie, and other experts including Shaun Hendy and Sarb Johal, here.

6am: Here we go again

Auckland is dawning damp and locked down. For the fourth time since Covid-19 virus arrived in the country – in a grim irony it was one year ago today that the first New Zealand positive case was detected – our biggest city is entering lockdown, this time at alert level three. The remainder of the country goes to alert level two. For now, these are to last seven days. Here’s a reminder of what these levels mean in practice.

The decision, taken by cabinet in an emergency meeting last night, and followed by a 9pm Beehive press conference, comes after a 21-year-old man (“case M”) whose symptoms began on 23 February with a fever and weakness, then developed loss of taste and smell the next day, tested positive. He went to a GP on Friday afternoon for a Covid test, and afterwards went to the gym. He is thought to have been infectious for about  a week.

Case M is a student at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) and also works part-time, one day a week, at Kerry Logistics (Oceania) Limited, which is located at the airport. The case had been to a number of “well-populated sites” during his infectious period, Ashley Bloomfield said last night. The latest list of locations of interest is here.

The new case, known as “Case M”, is a sibling of a student at Papatoetoe High School, which is linked to the existing outbreak that was first identified on Valentine’s Day. Critically, however, that student has tested negative three times, which means there is a real possibility that Case M contracted Covid-19 from another source. An important factor in deciding to change alert levels is the risk of undetected chains of transmission.

Jacinda Ardern expressed frustration that rules had not always been followed in the latest outbreak: “People who should have been in isolation, weren’t.”

The new case had not followed medical advice to isolate until the results of his test were known. “Obviously in this case, despite that communication over what was expected, that has not occurred here,” she said.

However she also noted that humans make mistakes and the country won’t succeed if “we turn on one another”. She said the public should keep in mind that “we are dealing with young people”.

Another person in the household of Case M has also returned a positive result. The latest case, known as Case N, is Case M’s mother and is currently asymptomatic. The three other members of the household have returned negative tests. All family members are isolating.

Read more about what we know so far here.

Keep going!