Jacinda Ardern at the Labour Party campaign launch in August 2017. (Photo: Dave Rowland/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern at the Labour Party campaign launch in August 2017. (Photo: Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

SocietyJuly 5, 2020

Live updates, July 3-5: Three new cases of Covid-19; Ardern addresses Labour faithful

Jacinda Ardern at the Labour Party campaign launch in August 2017. (Photo: Dave Rowland/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern at the Labour Party campaign launch in August 2017. (Photo: Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

For all The Spinoff’s latest coverage of Covid-19 see here. Read Siouxsie Wiles’s work here. New Zealand is currently in alert level one – read about what that means here. For official government advice, see here.

The Spinoff’s coverage of the Covid-19 outbreak is made possible thanks to donations from Spinoff Members. To support this work, join The Spinoff Members here

7.00pm: The day in sum

Three new cases of Covid-19 were detected in managed isolation. All three originated on the same flight from India, and the cases are now in quarantine in Christchurch.

Jacinda Ardern marked the unofficial start of the Labour election campaign with a speech to party members at Te Papa.

It was revealed that a woman escaped managed isolation in Auckland on Saturday night and spent around 90 minutes in the CBD before being apprehended by police.

3:30pm: Indian solidarity protestors gather in Aotea Square

A small group of protestors have gathered in Auckland’s Aotea Square to stand in solidarity with those who have been persecuted and imprisoned by the Indian government. Crackdowns on dissenters, journalists and protestors have intensified in India amid the spread of Covid-19 and the rise of right wing Hindu nationalism led by the ruling BJP party. The protest speakers read out the names of those imprisoned, and appealed for their immediate release.

India solidarity protestors in Aotea Square, Auckland (Photo: Michael Andrew)

2.45pm: Today’s data, charted

1.30pm: Ardern addresses Labour faithful at Te Papa

The prime minister has just started addressing the Labour Party Congress, delivering a speech that in an election year is traditionally considered an unofficial preview of the party’s campaign. The speech is built around a “five point plan” for New Zealand’s economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. “It’s about investing in our people, it’s about jobs, preparing for our future, supporting our small businesses, entrepreneurs and job creators and positioning ourselves globally,” Ardern says.

Contrary to some expectations, the speech itself is relatively short on new policy, with most of the measures highlighted having been announced as part of the Budget or during the first months of the Covid response. The sole new announcement aimed at the struggling business sector is that the small business loan scheme will be extended to the end of this year. The scheme, which provides access to zero interest loans underwritten by the government, had been due to close for applications on July 24.

The speech’s other major announcement is a package of 23 environmental projects “that will clean up our waterways and deliver over 2,000 jobs,” Ardern says.

“These projects will help restore our wetlands, rivers and streams, regenerate native bush and control pests while creating much needed meaningful work in the regions.”

1.20pm: Woman escapes from Auckland managed isolation

A woman is in police custody after absconding from managed isolation last night, reports the NZ Herald. According to the report, the 43-year-old woman left the Pullman Hotel on foot “shortly before 6.20pm last night” and was located a couple of blocks away on Anzac Avenue around 8pm.

The five police officers who came into contact with the woman while apprehending her must now have Covid-19 tests and will also have to self-isolate. The police are still considering whether to lay charges.

1.05pm: Three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation

There are three new cases of Covid-19 today, all originating from the same flight from Delhi, India, to Christchurch. The Ministry of Health’s statement is as follows:

Today there are three new cases of Covid-19 to report in managed isolation and quarantine facilities in New Zealand. There continue to be no new cases in the community.

This means the number of active cases in New Zealand is 21, all of which are in managed isolation or quarantine facilities.

Our total number of confirmed cases is 1,183, which is the number we report to the World Health Organization.

One person remains in Auckland City Hospital in a stable condition on a ward.

One significant cluster remains open and is due to close on Monday 6 July.

Yesterday’s lab testing figures have been delayed by an IT update and will be provided as soon as possible.

Case details

All three cases we are reporting today arrived into Christchurch on 30 June on a flight from Delhi. Their flight had transited at Singapore but they did not leave the plane there.

All have been in managed isolation since their arrival in Christchurch and their cases were detected during our day 3 testing. All are now in quarantine at the Chateau on the Park facility.

The first case is a woman in her 30s. The second case is her husband, a man in his 30s. Their close contacts include two daughters who will be tested today and who have also been moved into the quarantine area.

The third case is a man in his 70s, travelling with his wife who is regarded as a close contact.

Globally, the latest reporting from the WHO is of 212,326 new cases of Covid-19 – the largest daily increase on record.

This figure and the cases reported here today continue to reinforce the critical importance of our border controls in keeping New Zealand and New Zealanders safe.

Every person who arrives in New Zealand must be isolated from other people in New Zealand for a minimum period of 14 days. They must also test negative for Covid-19 or if a case be cleared by health authorities before they can go into the community.

Our 14 day period will continue to be vitally important as a key protection measure during the global pandemic.

11.10am: Trans-Tasman bubble will come first, says Ardern

Speaking to TVNZ’s Q& A this morning, the prime minister said the government was still working hard on setting up a trans-Tasman bubble despite recent surges in Covid-19 cases in parts of Australia. Once the bubble was up and running it would “act as a framework” for future reopening to other nations that are handling the pandemic well, such as Taiwan, Vietnam and South Korea. While a vaccine would clearly be the best-case scenario for full reopening, Ardern said that two other factors could also speed up border plans: fast and reliable international testing at borders, and the development of a proven effective treatment for Covid-19. Despite being pressed by host Jack Tame for a timeframe, Ardern refused to be drawn on when the border could open to hard-hit countries like the United States in the absence of a vaccine.

Asked about the Greens’ push for a new top-tier tax rate, Ardern said such debates tended to ignore New Zealand’s tax transfer system which helps families on lower incomes, and argued that income tax is just “one small part” of the tax system. However, she conceded that the country needs a “fairer tax system”.

The government’s relationship with Winston Peters came under scrutiny, with Tame wondering what Peters’ proud position as the “handbrake” on policy would mean for Labour’s ambitious rebuild plans. Dismissing Peters’ comments as largely “electioneering”, Ardern said she’d be seeking a strong mandate when the country goes to the polls. She nonetheless rejected Tame’s suggestion that Labour could only be “transformational” without NZ First as its government partner.

Later today Ardern will address the Labour Party congress at Te Papa, marking the unofficial start of the party’s election campaign.

1.45pm: Today’s numbers charted

1.10pm: No new cases of Covid-19

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, according to the Ministry of Health.

The number of active cases in New Zealand remains at 18, all of which are in managed isolation or quarantine facilities. There are no cases of Covid-19 in the community.

One person remains in Auckland City Hospital in a stable condition.

Yesterday, 2,900 tests were completed, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 411,932. The seven day rolling average of tests is 3,500.

One significant cluster remains open and is due to close on Monday.

The NZ COVID Tracer has now recorded 588,000 registrations with 76,312 posters created by businesses. There have been 1,331,803 poster scans to date.

11.30am: Labour Party campaign slogan revealed

In 2017, it was “Let’s do this”. In 2020, it’s…

You can watch the full video of the announcement here.

10.50am Ardern rejects ‘lack of depth’ frontbench charge

The resignation of David Clark as health minister was, unsurprisingly, one of the main topics of prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s Newshub Nation interview this morning. With Chris Hipkins appointed to replace Clark in the role, adding to an already burdensome collection of portfolios including education, Ardern was asked whether this revealed a lack of depth in the front bench. There was a “breadth of talent” in the Labour ranks, she said, name-checking as strong performers Damien O’Connor, Stuart Nash, Grant Robertson, David Parker and Chris Hipkins as members of “a solid team who have driven change through some very trying times”.

Hipkins is coming into the health role in the wake of the Simpson report which recommended a major reorganisation of the health system, an overhaul which chair Heather Simpson said needed to be done wholesale. Asked whether Hipkins had the capacity to respond to report given his newness in the role and his other responsibilities, Ardern said his state services background would be key to his success. “He has a very good understanding of what it takes to transform the way our agencies and public sector works,” she said.

10.30am: Details of active Covid-19 cases leaked

In a massive privacy breach, personal details revealing the identity of New Zealand’s 18 active Covid cases have been leaked, reports RNZ. These details include full names, addresses, and the names of the hotel and one hospital the 18 have been quarantining in.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins said the breach was totally unacceptable and has now ordered an investigation. “I have been advised by the Ministry of Health that at this stage it cannot be confirmed beyond doubt whether a deliberate leak was involved or if this was simply human error.

“Ultimately, if there are avenues available to us to pursue somebody who’s done this maliciously then we’ll certainly be exploring those. This is not the sort of thing that I am willing to let go,” he said, noting that the investigation could result in criminal charges, depending on the outcome.

Details of active Covid-19 cases are held by a number of agencies and by some involved in the management of managed isolation and quarantine facilities. Hipkins said at this point, they couldn’t say at which point in the process the information ended up being released. An “impartial” party will now be brought in to carry out the investigation, which may involve forensic analysis of IT systems.

National Party leader Todd Muller described the privacy breach as “shabby” and “quite staggering”.

“If they can’t manage personal information, bluntly, they can’t manage the border and they can’t manage the country,” he said.

10.15am: Clare Curran on the trauma of her brutal sacking

In an exclusive interview with Donna Chisholm on The Spinoff this morning, sacked Labour Cabinet minister Clare Curran speaks for the first time about the brutal end to her political career – and what she calls the toxicity and bullying that marked her years in parliament. Curran was sacked from Cabinet after failing to disclose a meeting with tech entrepreneur Derek Handley, and resigned as a minister a month later immediately after a question time train wreck in parliament centred on her use of her personal Gmail for official business.

“It was the worst nightmare in front of everyone,” Curran says now. “I remember a sensation of pressure that built up, and quite honestly, during those first few days I felt like I was literally going to die. I felt physically that I was going to die because the stress had got so much and there was nowhere else for it to go.”

Read the full story here.

9.55am: Labour candidate Kurt Taogaga removed from list for anti-Islamic tweets

Auckland Labour candidate Kurt Taogaga has been removed from his position at number 68 on the party list after anti-Islamic tweets from 2013 were uncovered by Newshub. The tweets were made in support of NZ First MP Richard Prosser’s infamous “Wogistan” article, calling Prosser’s position “brave” and arguing that “we need to see Islam for what it really is”. Following a Newshub interview with PM Jacinda Ardern during which she was challenged on the tweets, the Labour Party announced Taogaga had been removed from the list.

In a tweet thread this morning Taogaga said the comments “do not reflect the views and values I hold today. I offered my apology to the Party and my name has been withdrawn from the Party List. I take full and one hundred per cent responsibility for those tweets from 2013. I will do better in future.”

3.15pm: Steven Adams and his ‘farmer’s tan’ back in US

Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams has opened up to US reporters about lockdown in New Zealand, ahead of his return to the NBA, saying he “got a farmer’s tan”.

“I think it’s everyone’s first instinct when there’s a world crisis going on, you wanna be near family and stuff… In case anything happens, you wanna be there.”

Stevens returned to New Zealand after the 2019-2020 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 due to the pandemic, and spent time on a farm outside Tauranga and in Wellington. He said he’d managed to play a couple of pickup games in New Zealand because “everything had opened up… everything was back to normal.”

He joked that he’d also been practising “boxing out cows”.

NBA officials have now approved a “single site campus” and 22 teams are heading to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida next week to resume the season.

Dubbed the ‘Orlando bubble’ only three courts will be used once play begins on July 30, but some teams are bringing their home courts down for practice and workouts, and setting them up inside the convention centre at Disneyworld.

Games will be played according to strict health and safety protocols, with no live audience.

2.20pm: Today’s numbers charted

1.45pm: Unemployment figures looking bleak, says MSD data

There are now more than 200,000 people on unemployment benefits in New Zealand, Stuff is reporting.

“New data released from the Ministry of Social Development on Friday showed that 56,000 of those people had requested support since March 20,” Stuff revealed.

10,579 people were receiving the 12-week Covid-19 payment, for those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and the balance are receiving the Jobseeker Support benefit.

Back in May, Ministry of Social Development documents leaked to RNZ showed the welfare agency were “preparing for an increase of approximately 300,000 applications for benefits”.

At the time, MSD deputy chief executive Viv Rickard said the ministry’s “central planning scenario” was “in line with Treasury forecasts, which would see an increase in main benefit levels of 200,000 by January 2021”.

The number of ads being posted to job website Seek is currently at 57% of pre-Covid levels, according to another report from Stuff, with trades and services jobs at 59.2% and office support jobs at just 43.2% of their normal levels.

1.05: No new cases of Covid-19

There are no new cases of Covid-19 to report in New Zealand today, the Ministry of Health has just announced.

The number of active cases in New Zealand remains at 18, all of which are in managed isolation or quarantine facilities. There are no cases  in the community.

The total number of confirmed cases remains at 1,180, which is the number reported to the World Health Organisation.

One person remains in Auckland City Hospital in a stable condition on a ward, and one significant cluster remains open and is due to close on Monday 6 July.

Yesterday, laboratories completed 3,703 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 409,032. The seven-day rolling average of tests is 4,396.

Of the 2,159 people who left managed isolation between June 9 and 16, there are still 277 people the ministry has not been able to contact despite attempts via phone call and text. The ministry is appealing to them to contact Healthline immediately.

12.30pm: No media stand-up today

A message from the Ministry of Health says there are currently no live media stand-ups scheduled.

Dr. Ashley Bloomfield is taking some well-deserved time off. The Ministry says it will continue to provide its regular written updates at approximately 1.00pm daily and “will review media stand-ups the week commencing 13 July”.

11.40am: $126 million to redevelop schools

A big chunk of spending has been announced to redevelop four schools with ageing classrooms.

Education minister Chris Hipkins made the $126 million announcement at Northcote College, which will itself receive $48.5 million.

The other schools that will benefit are Wanaka’s Mt Aspiring College, Twizel Area School, and Spotswood College in Taranaki.

Funding for the redevelopment is coming out of a decade-long programme of work which has about $1.3 billion budgeted towards it.

Hipkins said the projects were about both getting classrooms in better condition, and in providing the building industry some certainty around future work.

“The investment is vital to improve learning through higher quality classrooms. But there is another huge benefit from today’s announcement.

“Critically, this funding and our approach to look 10 years ahead sends a strong signal to the construction sector that we’ve got a full book of work lined up, and we’ll need a skilled workforce to do it.”

Meanwhile in education, the NZEI is celebrating a win in the Early Childhood sector, relating to contracts for teachers employed by Evolve Education.

The union described the contracts that were offered as “unlawful”, and says the backdown from Evolve as “a win for all early childhood teachers, and a win especially for Evolve’s staff. In coming together to raise the alarm and stand up for their pay and conditions, they have shown other early childhood teachers just how powerful collective action can be.”

10.50am: Date set for mosque gunman sentencing

The man who carried out the March 15 mosque attacks will be sentenced on Monday 24 August.

In March of this year, he pleaded guilty on 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder, and one charge under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

8.55am: Walker say racist comments based on “fact”

Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker is defending a press release he sent yesterday that said up to 11,000 people could be heading south for managed isolation.

“These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea.”

“I’ve already had many calls, texts and emails from residents who do not want people in quarantine in Queenstown,” it reads.

Walker said his comments weren’t racist because those are the countries infected New Zealanders will be coming from. He told RNZ his source was informed by “the DHB”.

“That is fact, nothing more than that,” he said.

Cabinet minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb only yesterday announced feasibility studies into Dunedin and Queenstown as isolation centres. Woods says she has no idea where the 11,000 figure came from, and joined now-health minister Chris Hipkins and Dunedin mayor Aaron Hawkins in describing Walker’s comments as a “racist dogwhistle”.

Hawkins wrote on his Facebook last night, accompanied by a picture of the press release:

“Hey Hamish Walker MP for Clutha-Southland: how about you leave Dunedin out of your racist dog whistle eh?

“And you spelled “citizens” wrong.”

8.05am: Gluckman ‘We have to open the border eventually’

The border can’t stay closed forever, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman told RNZ’s Corin Dann this morning. In a paper published this week, titled Reengaging New Zealand with The World, Gluckman, former Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Air New Zealand chief Rob Fyfe look at strategies for opening up the border, as well as how politics are affecting Covid messaging and the likelihood of a vaccine.

Gluckman, founder of the Liggins Institute and former science advisor to the prime minister, said that one or two cases in the community was “inevitable”. He said unless New Zealanders are prepared to stay in isolation for two years, we’re going to have to find solutions to opening the border.

He recommended a similar system to Taiwan’s: “They test people before they get on the plane… they have to have a Visa to come… they test after they’ve flown. They ascertain whether they’ve come from a country like New Zealand, which has low spread, and then they determine how many days in quarantine they require, whether it’s five, seven or 14. And they continue with testing and contact tracing after that.”

Gluckman admitted New Zealand’s contact tracing systems aren’t strong enough yet to carry such a system and suggested we look overseas once more to solutions such as the Covid Card.

7.35am: Highlights from today’s Bulletin

It has been a day of reshuffling at parliament, with both major parties making significant moves. We’ll start with Labour, because theirs involves the government. David Clark is no longer the health minister, after resigning yesterday morning. It was a resignation that everyone sort of knew would be coming sooner or later, truth be told, after the transgressions during lockdown meant he was on borrowed time. And he went out with dignity, thanking frontline health workers and ministry staff for their service.

Clark will still be standing in the Dunedin constituency at the election. And there is hope from his predecessor in that seat Pete Hodgson that Clark could one day make a return to cabinet, reports the ODT. He believed that despite the high profile blunders, “he has been, in my view, a very successful minister of health”. In particular, Clark’s colleagues are highlighting the work he did to increase mental health support in the health system. Our political editor Justin Giovannetti has done an excellent job explaining the politics of it all, particularly the strangeness of the health minister having to go after what for all intents and purposes was a pretty successful government effort on Covid-19.

The new health minister – until the election at least – will be incumbent education and state services minister Chris Hipkins. Why him, when he’s already rather busy? Newshub reports that PM Ardern says it’s basically a case of him being a safe pair of hands – “the reason I chose Minister Hipkins is in part because of the experience he has with an operational ministry of significant scale but also his role in state services,” to use her exact quote. Hipkins told Checkpoint that he believes it is possible to do both jobs, but certainly won’t be doing both forever.

After New Zealand MP’s criticised the draconian new security law imposed on Hong Kong by China, a warning has come back from the embassy, reports Amelia Wade for the NZ Herald. Foreign minister Winston Peters expressed serious concerns about the legislation, saying it is “a critical moment for fundamental human rights and freedoms protected in Hong Kong for generations”. In response, the Chinese embassy in NZ told the country to “stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs”. Hundreds of arrests of protesters have been made in the city since the law passed, and we’ll have much more coverage in today’s edition of the Bulletin World Weekly for Spinoff members.

The long investigation into the culture of Oranga Tamariki has continued, with a team of Newsroom’s investigative journalists releasing another deeply troubling feature. The piece looks at how social workers are pushed to toe the line and not speak out against issues they encounter, with flow-on effects that hurt children already living in hardship. A key quote: “Stand up and you stand alone,” as one Oranga Tamariki staffer explained, “it’s way easier to just keep your head down and not make yourself a target”. Māori leaders are furious at what has been uncovered, reports Te Ao News, and there have been calls for those at the top to be removed so that the organisation’s culture can be overhauled.

I’m bumping this story up to the news section from sport, because it’s starting to get very big and hairy. The NZ Herald reports the government has suspended funding to Emirates Team NZ while various investigations are undertaken. There wasn’t much more to the statement than that because of reasons of commercial sensitivity and not wanting to undermine the investigations, but it shows MBIE are getting increasingly worried about the situation. Meanwhile, NZME has been served an injunction against publishing details of a report commissioned by the Crown into the spending of public money, which the media company says it will fight on the grounds of public interest.

Rough sleeping was virtually eliminated during the Covid-19 lockdown, so could the problem actually be fixed for good with the right political will? That’s the question addressed by this fascinating episode of The Detail, which draws on the knowledge of NZ Herald social issues reporter Isaac Davison and NGO worker Aaron Hendry. It was one of those situations that showed that it isn’t inevitable for people to suffer terribly, and perhaps should have to suffer in the future either. It was also another example of how New Zealand’s Covid-19 response was far more humane than many comparable countries.

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

Two new cases of Covid-19 were detected in managed isolation facilities. Six cases have recovered, so the total number of active cases is now 18.

David Clark resigned from his role as the minister of health. Chris Hipkins, the minister of education, will take over the portfolio until the election in September.

The government signalled it would reinstate compassionate exemptions from managed isolation facilities as soon as next week.

National Party leader Todd Muller announced a minor party reshuffle, with Shane Reti promoted to 13th position and former leader Simon Bridges to 17th. Bridges has also been given the party’s foreign affairs portfolio.

School principals called for border exemptions for overseas teachers, warning of a potential teacher shortage next year if not. Education minister Chris Hipkins said he wasn’t writing the idea off.

The quarantine facility housing most of New Zealand’s active cases of Covid-19, Jet Park Hotel, was evacuated after a steam cleaner set off the fire alarms.

Read yesterday’s live updates here

Keep going!