Test tubes with samples of blood being tested for COVID-19 (Photo: Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Live updates, June 5-7: No new cases for 16th day straight

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 two – read The Spinoff’s giant explainer 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.

9.00pm: The weekend in sum

New Zealand recorded no new cases of Covid-19. One active case remains.

NZ First released the top tier of its party list for this year’s election, and Shane Jones announced he would run in Northland

Brazil stopped publishing its Covid-19 deaths as its toll surpassed Italy’s

Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were poisoned by Russian agents in a London park in 2018, have begun a new life under assumed identities in New Zealand, according to the Sunday Times

A second Black Lives Matter protest was announced for June 14 in central Auckland, with stronger social distancing precautions in place

1.45pm: Today’s data, charted and graphed

1.05pm: No new cases of Covid-19, one active case remains

The Ministry of Health has just issued its regular weekend 1pm media release:

There are no new cases of Covid-19 to report in New Zealand. It is now 16 days since the last new case was reported.

Our total number of confirmed cases remains at 1,154, which is the number we report to the World Health Organization. Our combined total of confirmed and probable cases remains at 1,504.

The number of recovered cases is unchanged at 1,481. One case remains active. There are no additional deaths to report.

There is no one in New Zealand receiving hospital-level care for Covid-19.

Yesterday our laboratories completed 2,054 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 294,048.

Eight significant clusters have closed, this is unchanged from yesterday. A cluster is considered to be closed when there have been no new cases for two incubation periods (i.e. 28 days) from the date when all cases have completed isolation.

NZ COVID Tracer app

The NZ COVID Tracer app has now recorded 517,000 registrations – that’s an increase of 5,300 since this time yesterday. We continue to encourage as many people as possible to download and use the app. This will support our contact tracing efforts including when we move to Level 1.

Similarly, businesses are encouraged to also create a unique QR code – we’ve simplified the process for this in response to feedback.

Find more details on QR codes

The number of posters created by businesses will be updated on Monday. And there is an email address that you can use to contact our team if you need help – that is app@tracing.min.health.nz

12.50pm: Daily Covid-19 case numbers coming

There is no media briefing today but a Covid-19 update from the Ministry of Health is expected at 1pm. We’re still waiting for the news that New Zealand is officially coronavirus free – will today be the day we get to zero active cases? We’ll have all the details here.

 


1.55pm: Shane Jones to run in Northland

As had been widely predicted, NZ First list MP Shane Jones has announced he will contest the Northland electorate in September’s election. In 2017, Jones was soundly defeated in Whangārei, while the party leader, Winston Peters, was unsuccessful in Northland.

As the minister in charge of the Provincial Growth Fund, Jones, a former Labour MP, has styled himself as “the champion of the provinces”. Speaking in Kerikeri today, Jones said: “I will deliver an exciting policy vision for Northland … I have a strong and determined team up here. We look forward to telling our story of continued government investment into rail, water storage, roads, digital connectivity, tourism and health after nine years of neglect by the last National government.”

In 2017, Peters lost to the National candidate, Matt King, by fewer than 1,500 votes, but in the party vote, NZ First won less than half the support of National. Jacinda Ardern has ruled out a repeat of the deal in the 2015 byelection, when Labour encouraged its supporters to vote for Winston Peters.

1.30pm: Today’s data, charted

1.05pm: No new cases of Covid-19, one active case remains

For the 15th consecutive day, there are no new cases of Covid-19 to report in New Zealand. Only one case remains active.

The total number of confirmed and probable cases remains at 1,504. The number of recovered cases is also unchanged at 1,481.

Yesterday, 3,007 tests were conducted, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 291,994.

Eight significant clusters have now closed, unchanged from yesterday. Eight clusters remain open. The remaining active case forms part of the St Margaret’s rest home cluster in Auckland.

Masks

The Ministry of Health says it welcomes the latest guidance from the World Health Organization on the use of masks which is consistent with the Ministry’s current advice.

The WHO emphasises that masks should be part of “a comprehensive strategy” in the fight against Covid-19. Much of its updated guidance relates to countries with a high degree of community transmission. Where physical distancing is difficult, such as on public transport or in shops, the general public is advised to wear masks.

Masks should also be worn by those working in clinical areas of a health facility (not just workers dealing with Covid-19 patients) and those aged 60 years or over or those with underlying conditions.

Fortunately, the ministry says it’s confident there is no community transmission in New Zealand which supports the ongoing move down through alert levels.

NZ Covid Tracer app

The NZ Covid Tracer app has now recorded 511,645 registrations, according to the Ministry of Health. That’s an increase of 10,645 since this time yesterday.

New Zealanders are still being encouraged to download the app to support contact tracing efforts, including when we move to level one. Similarly, businesses are being encouraged to also create a unique QR code for the app to scan.

The number of posters created by businesses will be updated on Monday.

12.50pm: Daily Covid-19 case numbers coming

There is no media briefing today but a Covid-19 update from the Ministry of Health is expected at 1pm. Will today be the day we get to zero active cases? We’ll have all the details here.

 


3.50pm: Experts respond to Lancet study retraction

Three authors of a study on hydroxychloroquine that led to the WHO putting medical trials on hold have retracted the study following “serious concern” about the veracity of data provided by US private company Surgisphere. The authors published their study on May 22 in The Lancet, and a similar article in the New England Journal of Medicine on May 1. Both claimed to have found a strong link between the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (and chloroquine) and increased rates of mortality and serious heart problems among Covid-19 patients.

Professor Chris Chambers of Cardiff University told the UK Science Media Centre that it was right to retract the articles. However, he had concerns around what their original publication means for the journals’ standards. “The failure to resolve such basic concerns about the data during the course of normal peer review raises serious questions about the standard of editing at the Lancet and NEJM — ostensibly two of the world’s most prestigious medical journals,” he said. “If these journals take issues of reproducibility and scientific integrity as seriously as they claim, then they should forthwith submit themselves and their internal review processes to an independent inquiry.”

Dr Rhian Salmon, deputy director at the Victoria University’s Centre for Science and Society, said the authors should not have submitted the article if they had any doubt about the data’s robustness. “It would have been an extremely important contribution to this research area and I hope they find a way to access and re-evaluate their data,” she said.

3.20pm: First NZ First list announcement

In Friday afternoon political news, NZ First has announced the top tier of its party list ahead of September’s election. The most interesting part is not who is in, but who isn’t: Clayton Mitchell, list MP based in Tauranga, will not seek re-election. He has “decided to pursue other passions in my life and spend a lot more time with my family”. Some people want to spend more time with their families; Mitchell wants to spend a lot more.

The “first tranche of candidates” is: Darroch Ball, Shane Jones, Jenny Marcroft, Ron Mark , Tracey Martin, Mark Patterson, Winston Peters, Fletcher Tabuteau.

3.00pm: More job cuts could be coming, Air NZ staff warned

Air New Zealand’s chief executive, Greg Foran, has told staff $150m needs to be cut from the airline’s wages bill, which could mean further job cuts in addition to the 4,000 redundancies already made in response to Covid-19. “We are open to explore all options with unions that help meet our cost saving goals, but I do want to be clear that we need to brace ourselves for more discussions around leave without pay, reduced hours, job share, voluntary exits with redundancies as the last option,” wrote Foran in a letter sent to staff today, reported by Stuff. The global reduction in travel hit the national carrier hard, resulting in a 90% loss in revenue. In today’s letter, Foran outlined an 800-day recovery plan aimed at getting the airline back to ”healthy profits’,’ even though it may be only 70%, reports the Herald. 

1.50pm: Senior MediaWorks source denies sale imminent

A senior MediaWorks source has emphatically denied a report in the NZ Herald that a sale of the company’s TV arm is imminent. They maintain there are live talks with multiple parties. A denial of the story has been circulated via email to all staff at MediaWorks. The source suggested that prior to any sale, there would be a period of exclusive negotiation, and that no such period has commenced. The intention is to have the process completed in 2020, they said, but said they would be shocked if it was concluded in the coming days.

Read the full report on The Spinoff

1.30pm: Wage subsidy extension revenue drop threshold lowered

The government has changed its criteria for the eight-week wage subsidy extension, lowering the required revenue drop threshold from 50% to 40%. A response to business feedback, the change will open the extension up to an extra 40,000 businesses. Up to 230,000 businesses are now forecast to be eligible for the new scheme from June 10, covering up to 910,000 workers. The initial three-month wage subsidy scheme required businesses to show an actual or predicted 30% drop in revenue in order to be eligible.

In a media briefing this afternoon, finance minister Grant Robertson suggested further changes to the scheme were likely, saying, “We will move quickly to make changes to wage subsidy scheme based on regular engagement with the business community.”

He said lowering the threshold would cost the government an extra $700m, taking the total cost of the scheme from $3.2bn to $3.9bn. He expected the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors to benefit most from the lowering of the threshold.

Robertson also announced that the closing date for applications to the small business cashflow loan scheme was being extended from June 12 to July 24. He said $1.189bn had so far been lent to more than 70,000 SMEs.

1.05pm: No new cases of Covid-19 for two weeks straight; World Hereford cluster closes

For the 14th day in a row, there are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. One active case remains. The total number of confirmed cases remains at 1,154, and the combined total of confirmed and probable cases is 1,504.

The number of recovered cases is unchanged at 1,481. There are no additional deaths to report and no one in New Zealand is receiving hospital-level care for Covid-19.

Yesterday, laboratories completed 2,813 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 288,987.

Seven significant clusters have now closed, which means there have been no new cases for two incubation periods (ie 28 days) from the date when all cases have completed isolation. The World Hereford Conference cluster, to which 39 cases were connected, closed today. Eight clusters remain open. The remaining active case forms part of the St Margaret’s rest home cluster in Auckland.

The NZ Covid Tracer app has now recorded 501,000 registrations, an increase of 6,000 since this time yesterday, and 32,073 posters have been created by businesses. The total number of poster scans to date is 583,674.

12.50pm: Daily Covid-19 case numbers coming

There is no media briefing today but a Covid-19 update from the Ministry of Health is expected at 1pm. Will today be the day we get to zero active cases? We’ll have all the details here.

12.45pm: Second and third waves of unemployment expected

New Zealand share prices have risen across the week, reflecting a change in spending behaviour. Kiwibank senior economist Jeremy Couchman told RNZ spending levels had rebounded along with every drop in alert level. “Given we are likely to go to level one, we might get further rebounds in that kind of spending,” he said.

Job losses slowed down as lockdown ended, but experts speaking to Stuff believe a recent increase in Jobseeker benefit applications heralds a second wave of unemployment. Economist Shamubeel Eaqub said three waves of unemployment were likely, with the second hitting in June as the first wage subsidy tranche comes to an end. The wage subsidy extension will run from June 10 through to September 1, but businesses will need to reapply for it once their current 12-week subsidy ends.

12.10pm: MediaWorks TV to be sold to US giant Discovery – report

The NZ Herald is reporting that MediaWorks’ TV arm is set to be sold to US media company Discovery Inc. which employs over 9,000 people around the world and operates the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Food Network, and more.

Discovery has been active in the local market lately picking up Top TV (Choice, HGTV) last year. Discovery also has a close partnership with Sky TV.

MediaWorks would not deny or confirm the speculation.

“The sale of TV is still progressing. We will update you when there is something to share,” a spokeswoman said.

10.45am: Significant holes in the data from Armed Response Team trials

Police in the Armed Response Teams failed to record their callouts properly, an RNZ report has found.

The six month trial, which ended in April, saw armed teams of police officers in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury. Officers were expected to record and submit data on every single call-out, but in the first two months, data from five out of every six callouts was missing.

Read the full story on RNZ

8.55am: Gisborne council backtracks statues

Gisborne mayor Rehette Stoltz has admitted that the the Gisborne District Council was wrong to approve the installation of two replicas of Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour without public (and specifically iwi) consultation. The decision was passed 11 to three last week.

Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust spokesperson Amohaere Houkamau told RNZ this morning she was “amazed and then appalled” it could have happened, especially as the council had been working closely with all four local iwi on the area’s Covid response.

“I was surprised that the council would be foolhardy in not discussing the issue with us. But it’s no surprise really, that after they thought about it they overturned their original decision,” she said.

An Extraordinary Operations Committee Meeting next Wednesday will be held to officially rescind the idea.

8.30am: Online psychic’s dangerous health claims

New Zealand-based “psychic healer” Jeanette Wilson has made spurious claims about how to treat Covid and other medical issues, according to a video captured in a private online group. Wilson asserted that an untested supplement could “line the lungs” to prevent Covid-19, and that the virus could be treated with antibiotics.

She defended her claims to The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire, read the full report here

8.00am: International headlines overnight

The four officers involved in the death of George Floyd now face charges. Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, is charged with second degree murder. The two officers that helped restrain him and one officer that stood by were not charged initially, but now face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

During his eulogy at a memorial service for Floyd, civil rights leader Reverend Al Sharpton announced plans for a march on Washington August 28 and talked about his death being a catalyst for change. You can watch the full memorial service here.

While the US protests over police violence continue, Covid cases are still rising steadily, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard. There are now 1,861,966 cases in the US, 584,016 in Brazil, 440,538 in Russia and 283,075 in Britain. The global death toll is 371,041, with more than 100,000 of those in the US.

The total, which records confirmed cases and so significantly under-counts the true spread, now stands at 6,573,286.

Thousands of Hong Kongers defied a police ban to gather mark the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Contrasted with recent weeks where police have used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse gatherings, police reportedly stayed out of sight for Thursday’s vigil.

7.40am: Updates from today’s edition of The Bulletin

It’s Friday, and there hasn’t been a lot of it recently, so we’re going to start with sport today. Don’t worry, it’s really more a story about the allocation of resources. Millions of dollars worth of government support has been divided up by Sport NZ, and while it is an initial spend of much more to come, some have done much better than others out of it. And one sport has missed out, right at a time that it would have really helped.

The big traditional codes have done well out of the allocation. In domestic competitions, Netball NZ has got $2.2 million for the ANZ Premiership, and NZ Rugby has got $1.25 million for Super Rugby Aotearoa. That money is tied to restarting the competitions, and as Stuff’s Mark Geenty reports, it is causing a rethink for netball’s major competition taking place behind closed doors. In overseas leagues, the Phoenix and Warriors have got $950k and $200k respectively. Stuff’s Mark Geenty (again) reports that for the Phoenix especially, the money was probably the difference between staying or folding. Even though the club was in a much more stable position within the competition before Covid-19, the halt to a promising season put extreme pressures on the finances.

Rugby’s finances are extremely tight, but Super Rugby Aotearoa is now offering a glimmer of hope. There have been major job and wage cuts throughout the system, the whole Heartland Championship is off for the year, and the great money maker of the All Blacks is looking shaky. The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Chris Keall had an indicative piece: NZ Rugby owns a smaller share of Sky TV than it once did, because they didn’t participate in a recent capital raising share sale put on by the broadcaster. But the thing is, they both now have something the other is desperate for – a competition that people actually care about. And games will start taking place right when people are (probably) allowed to go into stadiums again, suggesting the competition could become a real phenomenon.

But basketball has once again missed out. It is a rapidly growing sport here, and has a ginormous international profile. Newshub reports the National Basketball League will basically be taking place as a pay per view TV event, out of one venue. The idea is to cash in on overseas leagues being suspended. ESPN’s game-breaker Adrian Wojnarowski reports that a 22 team NBA is being proposed, to start as late as July 31, meaning the NBL would have a clear run from late June. Their fault with Sport NZ was not having a finalised competition in place at the time of asking.

The basketball community might have reason to feel aggrieved at that. Stuff’s Marc Hinton reports the situation has been heavily criticised by NZ basketball boss Iain Potter, who is alleging “historical and institutional bias” against his sport. He’s got a point – even with only seven teams the NBL is a competition with a lot of history. Not all of it is proud, but a lot of it is, and that success has often been overlooked by the various gatekeepers of sport in this country.

The finances of sporting organisations will also be being hit by a loss of TAB revenue. That organisation itself is facing massive cuts, but it is also a source of funding for sport, as a share of money bet on competitions goes back towards the relevant national sporting organisation. That was raised as a major issue during the Epidemic Response Committee, Radio NZ reported at the time, with Netball NZ’s Jennie Wyllie saying that model needs a rethink.

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

New Zealand saw its 13th consecutive day of no new cases of Covid-19.

All arrivals into the country will be tested for the coronavirus starting next week, it was announced.

Opposition leader Todd Muller continued to criticise the government for not moving to alert level one quicker, after a leaked cabinet paper showed it had now been more than 28 days since the last case linked to potential community transmission.

Deputy prime minister Winston Peters said the creation of the trans-Tasman bubble is currently in Australia’s hands, and that he didn’t agree the government’s contact tracing app should be mandatory for businesses.

The government announced new measures to help resolve commercial rent disputes, but the hospitality sector said the new legislation didn’t go far enough.

Discover Waitomo was allocated $4 million of the government’s Covid-19 tourism relief fund to safeguard its operations as the first round of funding was distributed from its tourism and sports packages.

Air New Zealand said it will introduce more domestic services in July and August, and Jetstar signalled its intention to begin flying again from next month.

The Blues announced the signing of rugby legend Dan Carter ahead of the start of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season next weekend.

Read yesterday’s live updates here



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