Live updates, December 10: US hits grim new Covid-19 record; new vaccine causes allergic reaction

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 10. Get me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7.15pm: The day in sum

For the first time in nine months, no Covid-19 update was released by the Ministry of Health. Going forward, updates are to be released on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

An investigation is underway after two UK health workers suffered allergic reactions on the first day of the country’s mass vaccine drive.

The United States recorded its worst day for Covid-19 fatalities since the pandemic began.

Otago Polytechnic postponed the day’s graduation ceremonies due to a security threat, a day after the University of Otago was forced to do the same.

2.50pm: Robertson rules out commercial rent relief – despite NZ First handbrake out of the picture

The finance minister has ruled out revisiting the issue of commercial rent relief, responding to an anonymous letter from a small business owner published by The Spinoff this week.

“Now that NZ First is no longer in your government, we are asking you to urgently review and implement those initial amendments to the Property Law Act as Australia has done – requiring the financial burden of this crisis to be shared equally between tenants and landlords,” the letter reads. “At the very least, it should place a limit on personal guarantees so that a landlord cannot sue a small business owner for the full term of their lease.”

But Grant Robertson said the government isn’t looking at any form of relief – unless we return to lockdown again.

“Obviously it was a situation where people couldn’t get into their premises and obviously if we ever return to that situation we’d want to be in a position to do more than we were able to do in the last Government,” he told Newshub.

“What we are saying though is should we ever return to a situation where people couldn’t enter their premises, we do believe we should be able to do more there.”

2.10pm: US hits grim new Covid-19 record

More than 3000 people died from Covid-19 in the US overnight – the highest number of deaths in a single day.

According to the Covid Tracking Project, another record was also broken, with 106,688 Covid-19 patients in US hospitals. Overall, there were 210,000 new cases.

1.00pm: Whānau-centred programme for young mothers launched in Rotorua

There’s no 1pm Covid-19 media update today, so the government has taken the opportunity to make an announcement.

A pilot programme in Rotorua has been launched today – titled Tiaki Whānau – aimed at providing better support for young parents who most need extra help.

Jacinda Ardern said the pilot takes a whānau-centred approach to helping young parents. “A whānau-centred approach to supporting young parents is vital to improving outcomes. Supporting young parents is an area that we have to get right, and it’s a priority for this government, and for me,” she said.

Health minister Andrew Little said the pilot is based on a 2011 trial in Hawkes Bay which resulted in improved health outcomes for young mothers. “It was clear that this approach could have positive outcomes for young parents around the country,” said Little.

Two other pilots are planned in Counties Manukau DHB and Hauora Tairāwhiti and are expected to get under way early next year.

11.30am: Otago Polytechnic next to fall victim to threat

Just a day after Otago University was forced to postpone its graduation ceremonies due to an unspecified threat, the nearby Otago Polytechnic has done the same.

As RNZ reports, the polytechnic said it made the “devastating decision” to delay tomorrow’s ceremony, along with pre-grad ceremonies for today and tomorrow, following advice from police.

“Many, many people are affected, included those who work so hard to organise graduation ceremonies. However, the safety of students and staff is Otago Polytechnic’s number one priority,” Otago Polytechnic chief executive Megan Gibbons said.

10.45am: Bluetooth now available on Covid Tracer app

The government’s Covid-19 Tracer app has now officially been updated, allowing for automatic bluetooth functionality. It will allow for a “digital handshake” between devices with the function switched on, helping with the contact tracing process.

Yesterday, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins rejected any concerns around privacy, saying that the app will not record locations and that QR code scanning remained important.

9.40am: Border exemption granted for 88 Netflix crew members

At a time when there are still reports of New Zealanders unable to return home to reunite with family members, the government has allowed almost 90 crew members for a Netflix TV show to enter the country.

As Stuff reports, 88 cast and crew for the upcoming adaptation of Cowboy Bebop have been allowed into the country, along with three people working on a new David Attenborough documentary.

A spokesperson for Immigration NZ told Stuff that 71 people involved with the show have been determined to be “critical workers”, along with their 17 dependents.

7.50am: UK warns of possible allergic reaction to new Covid vaccine

An investigation is underway in the UK after two health workers suffered allergic reactions on the first day of the country’s mass vaccine drive.

According to the BBC, the reactions were both suffered by NHS health workers who have since recovered after treatment.

They are understood to have had an anaphylactoid reaction, which tends to involve a skin rash, breathlessness and sometimes a drop in blood pressure, the BBC said. Both individuals have history of serious allergies and carry adrenaline pens around with them.

Reactions like this are uncommon but not unheard of, and do happen with other vaccines like for the regular flu.

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

For today’s main story, there’s a really interesting bit of high stakes business brinkmanship going on at the moment that’s worth unpacking. Massive infrastructure investment Infratil is currently the subject of a takeover bid from the AustralianSuper fund. Infratil, for those who haven’t heard of it, are a behind the scenes powerhouse – they own a big chunk of Vodafone NZ, Wellington Airport, quite a bit in the electricity and energy space, and have operations outside of New Zealand. As of yesterday morning, Stuff reported that the takeover bid had been rejected. It is considered something of a hostile takeover, and Infratil’s response was reasonably hostile right back.

However, it is expected that there’s some way still to go on this. Because as BusinessDesk’s (paywalled) Dan Brunskill reports, AustralianSuper appears to be building up support among shareholders to have another crack at the company, probably with an enlarged offer in place. And as the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Hamish Rutherford reports, ACC seems pretty keen on at least seeing Infratil’s directors sit down with and hear out the AustralianSuper bidders.

Why does this matter? Because in this particular world, there could end up being a bit of a national interest test on such a takeover. That’s partly because of the infrastructure assets Infratil owns a share of – Wellington Airport being a particularly critical one. But it’s also because it is widely seen as a distinctively New Zealand company – as the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Liam Dann put it, “under the stewardship of its founder – the late and much loved Lloyd Morrison – Infratil was unapologetic in its sense of national pride, its belief in the value and importance of a strong local capital market. Losing it would be a devastating blow to the NZX.” For context here, the NZX has had a tough few years with very few new listings.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

A ceremony was held in Whakatāne to mark one year since the Whakaari eruption that claimed 22 lives.

Parliament adjourned for the year.

There were three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation facilities.

A police review into how the agency handled the March 15 mosque shootings has found the response was “exemplary”.

University of Otago postponed the day’s graduation ceremonies in response to a security threat.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates




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