Live updates, September 28: Ardern ‘not worried’ by anti-vaxxers targeting her Facebook; eight new delta cases

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for September 28, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Send me thoughts and feelings to stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


Help us keep you informed on Covid-19 – click here to learn how you can join The Spinoff Members.


Today’s numbers

  • There are just eight new community delta cases, all in Auckland.
  • Of these, one remains unlinked: a person who presented to Waitākere hospital last night.
  • There has been a positive wastewater result detected in Tauranga.
  • 40,706 vaccine doses were administered nationwide yesterday.
  • Just under 10,000 tests were processed nationwide over the past of 24 hours.

5.45 Update on trade minister Damien O’Connor’s trip to the US and Europe

More information emerged about trade and export growth minister Damien O’Connor’s pending international travels. He will depart this Thursday for Europe, followed by the United States, with the intention “to advance New Zealand’s trade and economic interests with key partners.”

A press release issued this afternoon details his itinerary, including visiting Sweden, France, Ireland and Italy in the hopes of working towards a free trade agreement between New Zealand and Europe. He will then visit Washington DC, marking the first visit to the US by a New Zealand minister since the start of the pandemic. 

This update comes as National Party spokesperson for trade and export growth Nicola Grigg calls for O’Connor to secure a free trade deal with the United Kingdom before returning home. “We want to see an agreement with our sixth largest trading partner that is as good, if not better, than that which Australia has secured,” she said in a press release. 

Upon his return, O’Connor and his small delegation will complete 14 days in an MIQ facility, and all have been fully vaccinated ahead of the trip.

5.05pm Chart shows vaccination rates of positive cases

This afternoon Ashley Bloomfield provided more information on the vaccination status of the 1,185 people who have tested positive in the current delta outbreak. The chart below excludes 260 children under the age of 12, who are not eligible for vaccination.

4.35pm Trade minister Damien O’Connor to make free trade negotiations trip this week

Trade minister Damien O’Connor will be travelling to the United States, London and possibly Brussels later this week. The announcement of the trip has come at unusually short notice and by way of United States’ chargé d’affaires in New Zealand Kevin Covert, who simply tweeted it out this afternoon.  

O’Connor said that there will be another announcement made to detail the trip before he departs. “There is nothing secret here, but we do have to respect those people we want to meet with that we agree to those meetings before we go out and make those announcements,” he told media earlier today.

In June this year, O’Connor travelled to the UK and the EU to negotiate the free trade agreement, settling on a deadline to conclude talks with UK trade secretary Liz Truss by August. That deadline has since passed, and Truss has moved on from the role. 

 “There have been a huge number of meetings done [virtually]; with a lot of trade negotiation it comes down to some really tricky issues. Last time I visited, we were able to progress a number of those issues. We’re back into that situation again now; we believe that’s necessary to go and travel,” O’Connor said.

4.05pm 1News Colmar Brunton Poll reveals name change preference

A new Colmar Brunton Poll from 1News has revealed that 58% of people believe the official name of our country should remain the same and 41% would support a name change to Aotearoa or Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Of those who supported the change, 9% of people preferred a full replacement of the name with Aotearoa, and 31% preferred the double-barrel option of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The poll comes after the Māori Party introduced a petition to parliament earlier in the month calling for the name of our country to be officially changed to Aotearoa, and for the te reo Māori names of all towns, cities and place names to be restored by 2026.

“Tangata whenua are sick to death of our ancestral names being mangled, bastardised, and ignored. It’s the 21st century, this must change,” said Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi at the time.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern told 1News that she supports the use of both names. “I’d like to continue to see it used interchangeably and therefore whether or not there needs to be an official name change really becomes a bit of a moot point.”

3.35pm: Routine vaccines now able to be administered at the same time as Covid jab

New Zealanders can now receive most other vaccines at the same time as their Covid-19 jab.

Until now, people vaccinated against diseases like the flu then had to wait at least two weeks before getting the Pfizer vaccine.

Director of public health Caroline McElnay said this change will help get routine vaccinations back on track while also ramping up the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

“The Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group has recommended that most routine vaccinations such as MMR, HPV and the influenza vaccine may be administered before, after, or at the same time as the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, without concern for spacing,” said McElnay. “The exception to this is the shingles vaccine, which has a recommended seven-day gap.

However, McElnay said that the recommended standard six-week gap between dose one and dose two of the Pfizer jab remains.

3.25pm: Key’s early vaccine claim ‘incorrect and baseless’ – Pfizer

Pfizer has denied that the government could have paid $40 million to speed up the delivery of Covid jabs.

The claim was made by John Key during an interview on RNZ yesterday, following on from his scathing op-ed published by several media outlets over the weekend.

“The government wouldn’t pay $40 million to Pfizer to get us the vaccines that we deserved,” alleged Key. “Instead, they’d rather pay a billion or a billion-and-a-half a week to be in level four lockdown.”

According to Newsroom, that’s simply untrue. A New Zealand spokesperson for Pfizer said: “the notion of any national government paying a premium for priority dose delivery is incorrect and baseless”.

2.50pm: Tracking the outbreak

Just how good are today’s eight cases looking on this graph?!

For more graphs like this, check out The Spinoff’s Covid Tracker page here

2.05pm: Businesses offered rent relief – but rent freeze not on the cards

Businesses unable to meet the full costs of their rent as a result of Covid-19 have been offered a helping hand by the government.

An amendment will be made to the Property Law Act to allow a “fair proportion” of rent to be paid where a tenant has been unable to fully conduct their business in their premises due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

Justice minister Kris Faafoi said landlord and tenant would need to agree on the amount of rent that is fair. “They could also agree that the clause does not apply,” Faafoi said.

Meanwhile, minor changes will also be made to residential rent rules. “The Residential Tenancies Act changes will enable restrictions against residential tenancy terminations to be switched on and off by ministerial order – making the new changes flexible and responsive,” said associate housing minister Poto Williams.

1.40pm: Ardern ‘not worried’ by anti-vaxxers targeting her videos

Jacinda Ardern says she isn’t concerned with her Facebook live videos getting hijacked by anti-vaxxers.

As first reported by The Spinoff last week, videos published on the platform by the prime minister have been targeted by groups attempting to spread vaccine misinformation.

At today’s 1pm briefing, Ardern said “all are welcome” to join her Facebook livestreams. “I’m not particularly worried by it,” she said.

“I hope others know there is a bit of a concerted campaign so [they should] not assume what’s happening there is just regular members of the public.”

Ardern said it’s simply the nature of the environment at the moment and she would rather “push on through” and be available for people rather than stop live streaming.

1.20pm: The latest vaccine and testing numbers

Vaccines

On the vaccine front: 40,706 doses were administered nationwide yesterday. Of these, roughly 12,600 were first doses while more than 28,000 were second doses. Second dose numbers appear to now be consistently higher each day than first doses.

Overall, 1,834,406 people are now fully vaccinated.

At today’s presser, Jacinda Ardern said that Auckland not reaching 90% vaccination in time for next Monday’s alert level decision won’t impact the decision on whether to drop the city down to level two.

Testing

Just under 10,000 tests were processed nationwide over the past of 24 hours. Of these, 7,562 were in Auckland alone. A reminder: six suburbs of interest remain the focus of testing. These are Clover Park, Māngere, Favona, Ōtara, Manurewa and Mount Wellington/Sylvia Park.

And a reminder for those in Tauranga: people should get a test if they have symptoms or if they have been at a location of interest in Tauranga, Waikato or Auckland.

1.15pm: Changes to Auckland border rules announced

From 11.59pm tonight people will be able to leave Auckland and into a level two environment under certain circumstances, Jacinda Ardern has announced.

To qualify for this flexible arrangement, you must:

  • Be relocating permanently;
  • Have shared caregiver duties; or
  • Be returning home from alert level three to an alert level two environment.

For those permanently relocating or returning home, you must have a negative test within 72 hours of departure. Those with shared caregiver duties must have a test within seven days of each crossing. Everyone must travel proof of why they’re travelling and must not be sick.

Meanwhile, an extra 3,800 MIQ rooms will be released between 5 and 6pm tonight, Ardern said. These are for October, November and December.

1.05pm: Eight new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland

Updated

There are eight new community cases of Covid-19, all in Auckland.

Of these, seven are known contacts of existing cases while the remaining unlinked case presented to Waitākere hospital last night. They have been transferred to North Shore Hospital, which Ashley Bloomfield said was normal procedure. Five staff members from the Waitākere ED have been stood down and eight patients are being treated as contacts.

Meanwhile, an unexpected positive Covid result has been detected via a wastewater sample taken in Tauranga on September 23. A follow-up sample was taken today and results for this are expected on Thursday. People in the greater Tauranga region should get a test if they have symptoms, said Bloomfield, or if they have been at a location of interest in Tauranga, the Waikato or Auckland.

Essential workers who have been crossing the boundary from Auckland into Tauranga should check they’re up to date with their regular testing.

There are several locations of interest in Mount Maunganui and Tauranga for Saturday September 11 and Tuesday September 14, relating to a truck driver who travelled there from Auckland as an essential worker. Tauranga is relatively vulnerable to a Covid outbreak given its density and older population. The Bay of Plenty DHB has New Zealand’s third lowest rate for two doses of the vaccine.

In Auckland, people who have returned to work at level three are being asked to get two tests five days apart as part of surveillance testing. There’s a particular focus on construction, retail and hospitality.

Workers with no symptoms who are being tested don’t need to isolate while they wait for a test result.

There now three active sub-clusters, down from four yesterday. In three sub-clusters, it’s been a month since there have been any active cases. “Two of the sub-clusters are groups of linked houses, with people who have been moving between the houses,” said Bloomfield. “The third is associated with people in temporary or transitional accommodation arrangements – that’s one that’s just come in the last week or so.” Ardern later clarified this was a boarding house.

The total outbreak has grown to 1185 cases. Of the 925 cases eligible to be vaccinated, 718 have had not received a single vaccination dose, while 4% were fully immunised. The remainder had had one dose or a second dose less than 14 days before they were infected. 260 children have been infected and aren’t able to be vaccinated.

On National saying, under its Covid response plan, fully vaccinated New Zealanders would be able to travel before Christmas, Ardern said: “Our priority is New Zealanders having the best summer possible, and that does mean working very hard to get our vaccine rates up to work on a framework that takes into account vaccination and that moves away from lockdowns. Anything else that you add in to the mix too soon and before you’re well prepared could risk summer. We want to prioritise getting those domestic settings right for people.”

12.50pm: Ardern and Bloomfield to update on new delta cases

Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield will front today’s 1pm show, with the latest Covid numbers and an update on the vaccine rollout.

Yesterday saw 12 new community cases in Auckland, with two unlinked at the time of the press briefing.

Here’s today’s livestream or keep this page nice and refreshed for our live coverage.

12.35pm: Brian Tamaki met with top police chief to discuss upcoming anti-lockdown rally

The police commissioner met with Destiny Church’s Brian Tamaki over his plans to host an anti-lockdown protest this weekend.

According to the Herald, Andrew Coster and his deputy Wally Haumaha discussed health and safety measures with Tamaki so as to ensure the upcoming rally can be held safely.

“The three of us had a Zoom meeting and they recognise it is a part of the Bill of Rights for people to protest,” Tamaki said. “We are trying to be responsible, and they said it is something they can’t stop. We agreed to cooperate and we will make sure we are Covid responsible.”

One condition formally requested by Coster was for masks to be worn by those attending. Tamaki agreed, saying that’s a small compromise.

Read more here

At a press conference, PM Jacinda Ardern said she was aware the meeting took place but: “Ultimately, I need to leave [the police] to do their job.”

Bloomfield added: “I do have confidence in the police to take an approach that is appropriate to minimise any risk there might be.”

Brian Tamaki (Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King)

12.00pm: TikTok celebrates one billion (!!) monthly users

Social media platform TikTok is celebrating one billion monthly users (yes, you read that right).

Launching just over three years ago, the video sharing app has quickly surpassed other social media sites like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat and is well on the way to matching Facebook’s immense user share.

“At TikTok, our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy,” said a statement. “Today, we’re celebrating that mission and our global TikTok community.”

Until this current lockdown I smugly held my avoidance of the platform over peoples’ heads. Sadly, no more.

11.25am: Dame Patsy Reddy ends five year term as governor general

Dame Patsy Reddy has today completed her five year term as governor general. She will be succeeded by Cindy Kiro who will begin her tenure from October 21.

In a release, prime minister Jacinda Ardern thanked Dame Patsy for her service. “Dame Patsy has met thousands of people and celebrated the achievements and contribution of extraordinary New Zealanders in every walk of life,” Ardern said. “She has found new and creative ways to connect with people during the Covid pandemic, using distanced and virtual meetings to highlight the work of those supporting the nation’s response.”

A number of unprecedented events have occurred during Dame Patsy’s tenure, said Ardern. “As well as Covid, she stood with us all as we grieved the terror attacks on the Christchurch mosques, the Kaikōura earthquake, and the eruption at Whakaari-White Island.”

The state farewell planned for earlier this month will take place once Covid restrictions loosen.

(Photo: Getty)

10.30am: National would see NZers travelling in and out of the country by Christmas

Judith Collins has held a press conference to tease details of National’s plan for a post-Covid world, but won’t release the plan in full until tomorrow.

Just an hour ago, Act unveiled its five step “Covid 3.0” roadmap which would see the end of lockdowns and the zero case strategy dropped.

Speaking at parliament, Collins labelled National’s plan the “most complete, comprehensive and well-researched blueprint” for moving forward after the current lockdown. It would see New Zealanders travelling in and out of the country by Christmas, said Collins, and end nationwide lockdowns.

While the full details will be released tomorrow, National’s Covid response spokesperson Chris Bishop suggested double vaccinated New Zealanders abroad will benefit from the plan.

Asked about John Key’s opinion piece released over the weekend, in which he proposed another vision for post-Covid, Collins said he was simply expressing a “very deep frustration” regarding the lack of planning from the government.

We’ll have full details of National’s plan here and across The Spinoff tomorrow.

9.15am: Covid 3.0 – Act releases its plan for reopening the country

It’s battle of the Covid plans this week. Act has today dropped its five point “Covid 3.0” plan for reopening the country, scooping National a day before it is expected to reveal its peer-reviewed alternative. John Key, despite not being a politician anymore, beat the pair and released his own set of ideas over the weekend.

Act Party leader David Seymour said the plan is about preparing for life after lockdown. “We can’t keep living with the uncertainty that we could be locked down again at any moment,” he said. “It’s time to look to the future with a renewed sense of confidence.”

The plan calls for the end of the Covid-19 eradication strategy, a move away from “chronic fear” and for lockdowns to be scrapped and replaced with a system of “personal isolation”.

The five steps:

  1. Recognise that eradication no longer stacks up. We must move to a policy of harm minimisation. This policy should aim to reduce each of transmission, hospitalisation, and death from Covid at the least possible cost of overall wellbeing.
  2. Move from isolating whole cities to isolating only those who it makes sense to isolate. Personal isolation should be restricted to three groups, those who are medically vulnerable and require special protection, those who have recently arrived in New Zealand and are privately isolating, and those who have tested positive as part of widespread surveillance testing.
  3. Move from chronic fear and uncertainty and get on a clear path to restoring freedom. We should settle when the vaccine roll out is ‘complete’ and aim to get Kiwis home for Christmas.
  4. Move from a government-knows-best approach to an approach of openness, and host all in “sprints”. In each sprint, the business community and all of society are invited to help reach clearly identified goals of lower transmission rates, hospitalisations and deaths, in time for reopening.
  5. The entire tone of New Zealand’s Covid response should shift from fear and a singular focus on public health to a focus on maximising overall wellbeing.

9.00am: Gang members charged after disruptive Auckland funeral

16 gang members and associates have been charged after a funeral procession in Auckland earlier this year.

They’ve been charged in relation to dangerous driving and antisocial behaviour, after the June funeral caused widespread disruption around the city.

According to a statement from police, the “majority” of those partaking in the procession behaved within the road rules, however at times some of the group drove dangerously putting themselves and others at risk.

Police defended the decision not to intervene on the day, citing public safety. “Police decision making when it comes to these types of events will always be about community safety,” said inspector Jacqui Whittaker.

Along with the drivers facing charges, police have impounded two motorcycles and issued 12 infringement notices for breaches of the Land Transport Act.

8.25am: Poll result puts Act on track to change the government, says Seymour

Act and David Seymour will have popped the champagne last night after being the only real winners of the latest TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll.

The party was up five points to a record 14%, with David Seymour now the second most popular leader on 11% – more than double Judith Collins on 5%.

Speaking to RNZ, Seymour called the result “very encouraging” for both the centre-right and New Zealand. “It puts us on track for not just a change of government but a change of direction which is sorely needed,” he said. “Act and our team have been playing good old fashioned honest politics, getting out and listening to people on extensive tours of the country, hearing their concerns and reflecting back solutions for a better tomorrow.”

Asked whether he has now become the de facto opposition leader, Seymour said his focus is not on personalities. “My focus has always been on policies and people.”

Political commentator Ben Thomas said the poll showed National had failed to capitalise on the “softening” of Labour’s election night support. “Over 10% of the vote has left Labour since the election and if National has picked up any of that they’ve lost even more to Act,” he said.

A reminder of those poll numbers

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%)

8.00am: Childbirth injuries to be covered by ACC

The accident compensation scheme will soon cover injuries experienced by women during childbirth.

As many as 18,000 women will benefit from the changes, said the government, with 85% of all childbirths in New Zealand causing injuries.

“A small number of these injuries are severe and share similar features to other physical injuries covered by ACC so it’s only fair that they are covered too,” said ACC minister Carmel Sepuloni. “Enhanced ACC cover will improve the support available to birthing parents suffering childbirth injuries, and in particular, more timely access to surgeries and to pelvic physiotherapy.”

The changes, which are dependent on an amendment bill passing later this year, have been called for by MPs from across the house. More than 35,000 people signed an online petition by the Greens arguing for childbirth injuries to be covered by ACC. National’s Stuart Smith also backed change in an opinion piece for Stuff.

Sepuloni said ACC will become more equitable, with women currently making less claims than men. “This is an important change, the first of its kind, and one that aims to improve gender balance, fairness and equity in the ACC scheme, making support more accessible to those who need it,” she said.

7.30am: From The Bulletin

The country’s most popular opposition leader is David Seymour. One News reports on its latest Colmar Brunton poll showing that Seymour, at 11%, is more popular as preferred prime minister than Judith Collins, Christopher Luxon and Simon Bridges combined. Overall, both Labour and National have shed some support, to 43% and 26% respectively, while Act has moved up to 14%. According to an analysis from Stuff, the result shows Collins’ leadership remains on borrowed time and will raise some concerns in Labour now that it is well into its second term. In late 2019, a political lifetime ago before Covid-19, Act was polling around 2%.


Vaccine certificates could be at the centre of a ‘classic Kiwi summer’. The prime minister has confirmed that certificates, also known as vaccine passports, are likely to be a regular feature at large events this summer, according to Newshub. Jacinda Ardern’s office has said the passports, which are either displayed on an app or a printed QR code, should be ready by December. Businesses are a little worried about how they’ll enforce the passports and the tough, awkward conversations that could create at the door, RNZ reports.


The first espionage case facing a soldier in modern times is almost underway. One News reports that a judge at the Linton military camp suppressed the name of the country a soldier with far-right links is alleged to have spied for. The judge said revealing the name could damage the “defence and security of New Zealand”. Most of the relevant information at the court martial, which is still in pre-trial hearings after the solider was arrested last December, is covered by a suppression order. It’s an unusual trial and the first espionage case prosecuted under the Crimes Act of 1961.


The mysterious case of the Covid-positive kiwifruit. Zespri entered damage control after Covid-19 was detected on a sample of kiwifruit in China, according to RNZ. The company said further tests it conducted came back negative and it doesn’t expect the initial result will impact business. The fruit was sent before the latest delta outbreak and spent a month in transit. The evidence that Covid-19 can live on packaging is very slim. The prime minister said yesterday she’d received no indication that something deeper was at play—China has a history of using unexpected customs findings to stop imports from countries that have angered its leadership. That likely hasn’t happened.

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



The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.