Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 1 where we bring you the latest on New Zealand news, politics and the Covid-19 crisis, updated throughout the day.
7pm: The day in sum
A second traveller to Australia from New Zealand has tested positive for Covid-19. There are now three cases from New Zealand that have been picked up from overseas.
There were two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation in New Zealand.
Matthew Hooton has resigned from the National Party because he couldn’t justify “another seven weeks commuting to Wellington”
The Labour Party has thrown its support behind the campaign to make Matariki a public holiday.
5.50pm: Matthew Hooton resigns as National Party staffer
Another resignation in the National Party, but this time it’s not an MP. Instead, it’s Matthew Hooton, who’s decided to leave his job as a National Party staffer just months after being hired by Todd Muller and his team.
In a public post on his Facebook page this afternoon, Hooton wrote he couldn’t justify “another seven weeks commuting to Wellington”.
“I wanted to finish in Wellington and get back to family and other interests in Auckland,” the former media commentator wrote.
“I thanked [Judith Collins] and Gerry Brownlee for the opportunity and support they had given me, especially after Todd Muller’s demise … I’m pleased to have contributed to getting some of National’s basic messaging done, including the standard stump speech, and also to have helped kickstart the A-to-Z policy process again. I still think the Te Puna speech I wrote for Todd was pretty good.”
For more on Hooton, who’s regarded as one of the most polarising characters in New Zealand politics, read Toby Manhire’s fascinating interview with him from last year here.
4.20pm: Victoria reports 397 new cases; three Covid-19 related deaths
Across the Tasman, Victoria has recorded another 397 new cases of Covid-19 overnight – down from the state’s highest-ever daily tallies of 723 and 627 from the past two days, ABC News reports.
Three deaths were also reported: a man in his 80s, a woman in her 80s and a woman in her 90s.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says there’s growing concern around the number of infections being transmitted through the community. He says in recent days, 49 cases had been recorded as “mystery cases” or community transmission.
“Forty-nine doesn’t necessarily seem such a large number but 49 mysteries when it could be much more than that because you can’t find who that original case was, that is a significant concern to us.”
In the past 24 hours, a total of 168 fines were issued by police to people breaching public health orders, including 31 for not wearing masks, 9News reports.
Victoria’s police minister Lisa Neville expressed outrage at some of the “appalling” reasons people were breaching lockdown rules. She revealed one person was fined by police for driving an hour-and-a-half for “fresh air”, while another was booked for driving three-and-a-half hours “to have a Big Mac”.
3.30pm: How the three travellers from NZ could’ve picked up Covid-19
With reports from South Korea and Australia of travellers from New Zealand testing positive for Covid-19, Dr Siouxsie Wiles – in her latest piece for The Spinoff – outlines four explanations for how this could’ve possibly happened.
The first scenario she points to is that they’re false positives, the second scenario is that they indicate a past infection, the third scenario is that the virus was caught in transit, while the fourth (and worst case) scenario is that the travellers were infected in New Zealand from within the community.
To read Siouxsie’s full explanations on all four points, read her full piece here.
1.20pm: Two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation
There are two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation in New Zealand today, according to the Ministry of Health.
Both new cases are two women in their 20s who were travelling together. They arrived from Pakistan via Dubai on 27 July. Both have been in managed isolation in the Sudima in Rotorua and are now being transferred to the quarantine facility in Auckland.
The total number of active cases in New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine facilities is 22, unchanged from yesterday.
It’s now been 92 days since the last case of Covid-19 was acquired locally from an unknown source.
Yesterday, 3,002 tests were completed of which 2,606 swabs were taken in the community, and 396 were taken in managed isolation and quarantine facilities. That brings the total number of tests completed to date to 468,068.
Traveller to South Korea
The Ministry of Health says there continues to be no evidence of any transmission in New Zealand involving the traveller who tested positive for Covid-19 on arrival in South Korea.
Further contact tracing is taking place around their travel within New Zealand, including their visit to the Queenstown area in early July, the South Auckland area where they were based and Christchurch where they departed from.
So far, all domestic contacts of this case tested have returned negative results.
This weekend, the ministry will be doing targeted surveillance in Queenstown, South Auckland and Christchurch which are locations connected to the case in South Korea.
This person was in South Auckland from June 20–July 20, Queenstown from July 1–4, and in and around Christchurch Airport on July 20 and 21.
Travellers to Australia
The ministry says the two Covid cases who currently being reported in the media (see 8:40am) both involve female passengers who travelled from Auckland to Sydney last month.
The first involves a woman who transited through Auckland from Los Angeles to Sydney on July 6. At this point, there are no close contacts who need to be traced or tested but enquiries continue with both the airline and airport.
The second involves a woman who travelled from Auckland to Sydney on July 20. The ministry says it has already talked directly with the person concerned and that it appears the person may have been a previously unconfirmed case from March which is likely to have led to the positive test result.
The ministry says it will fully investigate the circumstances of this positive result, including travel history. Auckland Regional Public Health is now following up with household contacts in Auckland and other contacts as appropriate.
12.10pm: Labour party supports Matariki becoming a public holiday
The Labour Party has thrown its support behind the campaign to make Matariki a public holiday, reports Stuff.
Minister for Māori development and local government Nanaia Mahuta says that celebrating Matariki with an official holiday would positively acknowledge Māori astronomy, knowledge and practices. She says the party would first need to seek advice to consider the most appropriate date before making it official.
Calls to make Matariki a public holiday have been building over the last month with two petitions – which collected over 30,000 signatures – presented to Labour MP Paul Eagle last week to be presented at a relevant select committee meeting in the near future.
The Green Party also supports making Matariki a public holiday. Meanwhile the National Party opposes the idea arguing the timing is inappropriate for businesses and the economy post-lockdown.
9.50am: Winston Peters on diplomat accused of sexual assault
On Newshub Nation this morning, Winston Peters was asked if former South Korean diplomat Hongkon Kim, who’s alleged to have sexually assaulted a male New Zealand staffer in 2017, would be held to account here. A warrant for the diplomat’s arrest was issued this year, but currently, the South Korean government is refusing to arrange his return from the Philippines where he now currently works.
“He did it in New Zealand, that’s the allegation, so it’s over to the Korean government and for them to allow him to waive diplomatic immunity and return him to this country,” Peters said.
“This is now at the highest level. It’s with [South Korean] President Moon, it’s with Jacinda Ardern who’s raised this with him. I don’t think we can do any more than wait upon them to give us a response.”
8.40am: Second positive Covid case on Auckland to Sydney flights
A New Zealand woman says she’s tested positive for Covid-19 after flying from Auckland to Sydney just over a week ago, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Taking Air New Zealand flight NZ103 on July 20 to Sydney, she went straight into quarantine on arrival where she was tested for Covid-19.
After hearing the news of the South Korean traveller, who tested positive for Covid-19 upon arrival from New Zealand, the woman decided to ring New Zealand’s health hotline to make sure New Zealand authorities had been alerted to her positive test. It turned out they had no idea.
“I thought the countries would alert each other but it turns out they don’t talk at all.”
The woman’s positive result comes after another passenger also revealed to have tested positive to Covid-19 after flying from Auckland to Sydney on July 6.
8am: England postpones easing lockdown
Due to come into effect this weekend, England is set to have another two weeks of lockdown restrictions reports the BBC. This means live indoor theatre and concert venues will remain closed, as will casinos, ice rinks and bowling alleys. Pilot sporting events featuring a limited number of spectators will no longer be allowed to ahead, while wedding receptions with up to 30 guests have also been put on hold.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was time to “squeeze that brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control”. He also announced face coverings would be mandatory in more indoor settings, such as cinemas, museums and places of worship.
7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories
An inquiry found serious failings by the NZ Defence Force in the wake of 2010’s Operation Burnham raid which killed a number of civilians, but judged its actions in Afghanistan as lawful.
There were no new cases of Covid-19.
Auckland’s Sylvia Park shopping centre shut its food court for cleaning after it emerged a South Korean man who later tested positive for Covid-19 had visited on July 16. The rest of the centre underwent the same deep cleaning overnight.
The volume of returnees was vastly underestimated by the government, documents relating to the pandemic response revealed. A maximum of 32,000 were expected by October; in reality 33,000 have already arrived.
Judith Collins said she was “not at all worried” about the 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll that showed National more than 20 points behind Labour.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.