Air Commodore Darren (Digby) Webb, the assistant chief of defence, has been put in charge of the self-isolation and quarantine system

Live updates, June 19-21: Two new cases; Webb and Wood defend last-minute changes

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

6.15pm: The day in sum

There are two new cases of Covid-19. One is the young child of the couple announced yesterday as having tested positive; the other is a 59-year-old woman who arrived from Delhi on June 15 and had been in managed isolation. She has now been transferred to quarantine.

Two new managed isolation facilities were activated last night in Rotorua as a result of capacity being reached Auckland. The move comes after yesterday’s last-minute decision not to use the Stamford Plaza Hotel due to contamination concerns.

Defending the about-turn, minister Megan Woods said it was an example of the system working as it should. But Rotorua MP Todd McClay said it was “outrageous” that the passengers were bused into his electorate “under the cover of darkness”.

5.05pm: Today’s charts

4.45pm: Webb and Woods defend managed isolation changes

Air Commodore Darryn “Digby” Webb and Labour minister Megan Woods have been speaking to media about the decision-making process that led to Auckland’s Stamford Plaza Hotel being stood down as a managed isolation facility and two Rotorua hotels being brought online. The apparent 11th hour decision not to use the Stamford Plaza saw 232 people who arrived on international flights loaded onto seven buses yesterday evening and transported to the Ibis and Sudima hotels in Rotorua.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb said that two areas the Stamford Plaza shared with permanent residents – an air bridge and a fire exit – meant that the hotel was not currently suitable for managed isolation purposes. However the hotel may be able to make changes to ensure the building is fit for purpose in the near future.

He also said that police presence had been stepped up at all managed isolation hotels, with a total of 36 police staff on duty yesterday. “While these extra staff will be able to help with ensuring returnees follow the requirements of their time in managed isolation, I must stress again the importance of personal responsibility for those in facilities to ensure they are doing what is required of them.”

He said the government had been “working with Rotorua for quite some time”, and was planning to begin using accommodation in the town later this week. The decision to move returnees there yesterday meant that the start date was brought forward by a few days. While efforts to source more accommodation in Auckland was ongoing, hotels needed to meet strict criteria in order to be deemed suitable. Of the around 60 Auckland hotels considered for managed isolation when border controls were initially introduced, only a quarter were ultimately selected, he said.

Megan Woods defended yesterday’s abrupt change of plans. “What you saw yesterday was the system working. We needed to make a decision about how to most keep New Zealanders safe.”

She dismissed concerns that the returnees had expected to be accommodated in Auckland. “These are people who are returning to New Zealand with an expectation that they are going into managed isolation. This is the sacrifice we’re asking the people who are rejoining the team of five million to make. Being in managed isolation shouldn’t matter whether you’re in Auckland or in Rotorua because you are isolated.”

Meanwhile, Rotorua MP Todd McClay has said it is “outrageous” that the newly arrived international passengers were bused into his electorate “under the cover of darkness”.

“Rotorua citizens woke on Sunday morning to learn that these passengers arrived in up to four buses between 10pm and midnight last night and have been given zero assurance about health and safety. There are reports that hotel workers were not even informed that quarantine passengers were arriving,” the National MP said.

“The public have lost confidence in the shambolic quarantine system. Rotorua needs answers now.”

3.15pm: Digby Webb and Megan Woods to speak to media

Air Commodore Darryn “Digby” Webb and Labour minister Megan Woods, who are overseeing the government’s managed isolation and quarantine systems, will hold a joint media conference at 4pm. Expect lots of questions on the status of Auckland’s Stamford Plaza Hotel and the new Rotorua facilities that opened this weekend (see 1.45pm update). We’ll have coverage here as it happens.

2.10pm: Two new cases of Covid-19, bringing total to seven

There are two new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, the Ministry of Health has announced. Here’s the full text of its media statement:

Today there are two new confirmed cases of Covid-19 to report in managed isolation facilities in New Zealand. As with the five other cases reported in recent days, these two cases were recent arrivals from overseas and both were detected within our managed isolation facilities.

Neither involves community transmission.

Today’s first case is the young child of the couple announced yesterday as cases who have recently arrived from India. We are pleased to report that all family members are doing well at the Jet Park Hotel, the quarantine facility in Auckland.

We will not be providing exact details of the child’s age but can say they are under two years old.

Today’s second confirmed case is a 59 year old woman who travelled from Delhi and who arrived in Auckland on 15 June on flight AI1316. She was tested while at the Grand Millennium managed isolation facility and was travelling with her partner who has also been tested and whose result is pending. Active follow up is now underway. An update will be provided on Monday on this case and the follow up of other cases from last week.

This couple are also now in quarantine at the Jet Park.

Everyone who was at the Grand Millennium while these people were there has or will be tested as part of the testing at around days 3 and 12 that is now routine at all managed isolation facilities. This result was picked up in the woman’s day three test and is an example of the new testing regime working as it should.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has reiterated that we were always expecting to get new cases at our border as Kiwis return home from overseas.

“It is good that the systems are in place to detect these cases. Testing, particularly at the border, will continue to be an important part of our Covid-19 response.

“Yesterday New Zealand’s laboratories completed 5,950 tests, bringing the total completed to date to 341,117. This is a very high Saturday total, which again underscores the high capacity of our laboratories and the testing that continues in the community and across our managed isolation facilities.”

Numbers

Our total number of confirmed cases is now 1,161, which is the number we report to the World Health Organization.

Our combined total of confirmed and probable cases is now 1,511. The number of recovered cases remains at 1,482.

There are no additional deaths to report. There is no one in New Zealand receiving hospital-level care for Covid-19.

Follow-up on earlier cases

Extensive follow-up continues for the cases we reported earlier this week.

For the two cases who travelled from the UK, out of 386 people being followed up and tested as part of a precautionary approach, 288 negative tests have now been recorded. 25 people are still being contacted.

For the case who travelled from Pakistan, 207 people were identified for follow up as part of a precautionary approach, including those on the same flight. Of those, 25 people have been tested (who hadn’t already been or were to be tested as part of managed isolation protocols) with 15 negative test results to date.

177 further people will be captured by testing around day 12 in the managed isolation facility. To date, 94 of these people have been tested.

Efforts continue to follow up the small number of people who we have not managed to reach yet.

NZ COVID Tracer

NZ COVID Tracer has now recorded 573,000 registrations ‐ that’s an increase of 2,000 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 in Level 1.

It’s great news that more and more businesses and organisations are displaying their official QR codes. The number of posters created by businesses is now 63,160.

There have been 1,146,569 poster scans to date.

App fix

We’ve found and are fixing an issue which meant the app stopped scanning posters properly on android devices, after a user had been logged in for more than 30 days.

If a user’s phone is set to automatic updates, the fix will be applied over the next few days. Users can resolve the issue right away by logging out and logging back in on the ‘my profile’ screen. If they have forgotten their password, they can use the password reset function.

If a user downloaded the app 25 days ago or less, the bug won’t affect them. If you are having problems, we definitely don’t advise deleting and reinstalling – that will cause all recorded locations to be deleted.

There are email addresses to contact our team if people need help. The mailbox for app feedback is tracingapp-feedback@health.govt.nz. The mailbox for businesses/organisations who want help with their QR codes is app@tracing.min.health.nz.

1.45pm: Two new Rotorua facilities opened, daily case numbers to come

Two new managed isolation facilities have been activated in Rotorua this weekend as a result of capacity being reached Auckland.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb also announced the use of Auckland’s Stamford Plaza Hotel is on hold until he is “satisfied it is a suitable as a managed isolation facility”. Residents of the building, which also includes apartment units, had expressed fears about plans to use it for managed isolation. Many of the building’s permanent residents are older and at higher risk of Covid-19 complications.

There are currently 4,272 people in managed isolation, and international flights are expected to deliver hundreds more people into hotel facilities this week.

In a statement, Air Commander Webb said that a total of 232 returnees were transferred by dedicated bus from Auckland International Airport to Rotorua following their arrival on three flights from Australia yesterday.

“The buses had a bathroom stop at Waharoa. Protocols were put in place to ensure the bathroom facilities were cleaned after the stop.

“On arrival in Rotorua, returnees were moved off the bus in groups and were greeted by government and health staff. As part of the arrival process, returnees were given a briefing, completed medical forms, seen by a nurse, received food, and then taken to their rooms. As in other facilities, it was emphasised the requirement for returnees to keep physical distance from others.

“Today, returnees will receive more detailed instructions, and will have the opportunity to seek welfare support and to ask any questions they have.

“I acknowledge that those arriving on this flight had an expectation they were completing their managed isolation in Auckland. However, an increase in arrivals returning to New Zealand has required alternative plans to be put in place.”

We’re still waiting for the daily numbers to arrive in our inbox, but will have those for you as soon as we can.

10.00am: Almost 4,000 in managed isolation

Yesterday’s Ministry of Health release included a set of new statistics on managed isolation and quarantine. As at 1pm there were 3,821 people in managed isolation facilities, with 498 due to leave yesterday. There were 197 in quarantine, with 44 due to leave yesterday. A total of 735 tests were done in managed isolation facilities on Friday.

Presuming this data is to be a new regular feature of the daily release, we’ll have the latest updates on these numbers at 1pm today.


5.10pm: Webb on Stamford hotel and isolation process

Air Commodore Darryn Webb has confirmed that Ashley Bloomfield was incorrect in stating earlier today that the Stamford Plaza Hotel in Auckland was already in use as a managed isolation hotel. The site has attracted controversy, including from many permanent residents in the building, over the prospect of it being used as part of efforts to deal with the strain on the existing facilities in the face of the number of people arriving from overseas.

“I can confirm that the Stamford Hotel has not been used as a managed isolation facility,” said Webb, who was appointed head of managed isolation and quarantine following the appearance of several breaches of the agreed protocol in the system, in a statement. “ I can also confirm that, as part of our normal process to assess the suitability of a hotel as a facility, the Stamford is being assessed as a facility. However, no final decisions have been made.”

He added that the new cases announced today “have shown us the importance of ensuring these tests are undertaken, and the results received before authorising anyone to depart a facility”.

Webb said: “Our measures at the border and in managed isolation and quarantine are our last line of defence while we remain in a global pandemic. As I reiterated yesterday, both publicly and to staff on the ground, no one is to leave without a negative test result on day 12 of their 14 day managed isolation period.”

He also detailed the process for moving a confirmed positive case from a managed isolation facility to the Jet Park quarantine facility. Those are:

  • The returnee is isolated in their room, whilst a dedicated quarantine transfer vehicle is sent from the quarantine facility.
  • The vehicle is crewed by a driver and an assistant in PPE.
  • Upon arrival of the transfer vehicle at the managed isolation facility, the returnee(s) is moved to the vehicle, with luggage placed in a trailer.
  • Upon arrival at the quarantine facility, the returnee(s) is processed by facility and health staff in PPE.
  • Following departure from the managed isolation facility, the positive case(s)’s room is sealed for 10 days, after which time it is given a deep clean.

3.50pm: National says travellers arriving at Stamford Plaza pose ‘a grave risk’

Residents at Auckland’s Stamford Plaza Hotel are concerned that travellers are being quarantined in the building. According to RNZ, 12 busloads of people are set to arrive at the hotel today where it is currently home to around 300 people who live at the top of the eight-floor building, many of whom are older and at higher risk of Covid-19 complications. Residents say they were only informed that quarantined travellers would be arriving yesterday.

In a press release, National’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse has criticised the government’s “shambolic management of quarantine at our border”, adding that he’s been “inundated with messages, both from those in managed isolation and guests and residents of the hotels”.

“The mixing between people in quarantine facilities who have arrived at different times and from different parts of the world creates a grave risk that Covid-19 will spread and must stop,” says Woodhouse.

“These hotels are meant to be a form of level four lockdown while the rest of us are at level one … It’s unbelievable to most New Zealanders that this situation can be allowed to occur. It puts all our efforts over lockdown in jeopardy.

“The government claimed it had patched up this dire situation. But no one has been held accountable. And nothing seems to have changed.”

A statement addressing the Stamford Plaza situation from Air Commodore Digby Webb is expected later this afternoon.

3.30pm: Today’s numbers, charted

2.15pm: Ardern favoured to manage pandemic and economic recovery – survey

A new survey has found Jacinda Ardern is seen by large majorities of New Zealanders as the best parliamentary party leader to manage Covid-19 and its fallout.

It found that 66% of adult New Zealanders thought she was the best person to manage the pandemic response, and 53% of adult New Zealanders thought she was the best person to manage the economic recovery.

The survey of 1,636 adults was conducted nationwide by Horizon Research between June 10 and 14 which was before quarantine system failures had emerged with two women, who’d been permitted to leave managed isolation on compassionate grounds, later testing positive for Covid-19.

Results for other party leaders showed National’s Todd Muller favoured by 14% to best manage the pandemic response and 24% to best manage the economic response. NZ First leader Winston Peters was favoured by 3% and 4%, ACT leader David Seymour was favoured by 4% and 3%, and Green Party leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson were favoured by 1% and 2% each.

10% said none of the six leaders of the five parties currently in parliament were best fit to manage the response.

Source: Horizon Research

1.10pm: Two new cases of Covid-19 announced

The Ministry of Health has announced two new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand. They are a couple who returned to New Zealand from India, arriving here on Friday, June 5.

The couple was on repatriation flight Air India 1306 direct from Delhi to Auckland. Everyone on the flight they travelled on will now be tested.

The couple is in their 20s and travelled with an infant. Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says the infant has not been tested due to its age and that officials are deciding whether to classify the child as a probable case.

He says the couple were tested as part of the day 12 swabbing process at the quarantine facility they were staying in. They were at Grand Millennium Hotel and have now been transferred to the Jet Park Hotel.

He says health and welfare checks were conducted every day and did not uncover any issues. The couple did not have any symptoms.

Yesterday, 7,707 tests were conducted, making it the second-highest day of testing since the crisis began. The total number of tests is now 335,167.

Bloomfield says every person who has exited isolation since June 9 now has been tested for Covid-19, either in the facility or subsequently. That’s a total of more than 2,000 people, all of whom had tested negative so far, with a couple of hundred results yet to come.

As a precaution, there would be no check-outs from the hotel where the couple were staying “until we’ve done the case interview and checked there’s been no interaction between this couple”, he says.

Bloomfield notes that additional cases of Covid-19 at the border are expected as the virus continues to rage offshore and the WHO warning that the pandemic was accelerating.

“There’s an increased likelihood we’ll see a lot of Kiwis coming back, especially in countries where there are high rates of infection like India,” he says. “We also earlier in the week saw those two Kiwis return from the UK … This explains why we’re now detecting these cases at the border.”

Bloomfield says the vast majority of 400 tests relating to contacts of the two women who arrived from the UK on Monday and were granted an exemption without a test had now been completed. He says all tests have returned negative.

Bloomfield concedes there is “a lot of pressure on our facilities”, with one planeload arriving today being redirected to Christchurch owing to capacity issues.

12.45pm: Bloomfield to speak at 1pm

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will hold a media briefing at 1pm today to update New Zealand’s Covid-19 case numbers.

11.55am: Police looking for woman related to Massey shooting

A 30-year-old woman is currently wanted by police in connection to the fatal shooting of Auckland police officer Constable Matthew Hunt.

Police have issued warrants to arrest Natalie Bracken on several charges, including accessory after the fact to the murder of Hunt, as well as driving charges. Bracken has “previous history for a possession of a knife” according to police, and is known to associate with people that have affiliations to “a number of gangs”.

Police have warned anyone helping Bracken could also face criminal charges.

Read more on the story on RNZ here

9.25am: Swarbrick to campaign to win Auckland Central

Chlöe Swarbrick has revealed in an interview with The Spinoff that she will fight to win the Auckland Central constituency in the September election. Green candidates typically campaign pretty much exclusively for the list vote, and convention requires they get clearance from the party to go full tilt for the electorate vote. Swarbrick reckons she has a realistic chance against the new deputy leader of the National Party, Nikki Kaye, and the Labour candidate, Helen White. Read the full interview here.

That’s the first of two Alex Braae political scoops this morning. The other involves the Mana Movement, born out of Hone Harawira’s split from the Māori Party. Turns out this time Mana, whose historic collaborations include an ill-fated marriage with the Internet Party of Kim Dotcom, is throwing its weight behind the Māori Party. Read more here.

8.45am: Murder charge in Massey shooting

Last night police announced a 24-year-old man had been arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder and dangerous driving causing injury. He is expected to appear in the Waitakere District Court today.

Police said the investigation was ongoing and other people may face charges.

This morning police have revealed the name of the officer killed yesterday.

He was Constable Matthew Dennis Hunt, 28, of Auckland.

Constable Matthew Dennis Hunt

The police statement reads: “Constable Hunt started with Police as a member of Wing 312 on 30 October 2017. He spent the majority of his career working frontline at Orewa and Helensville Stations before recently moving to work in our Waitemata Road Policing Team based at Harbour Bridge Station.

“Our Police family across New Zealand are mourning the tragic and senseless death of Constable Hunt and our priority remains on supporting his family at this tragic time.

“Along with this, we are also ensuring the welfare of all other Police staff who attended the incident as well as the other injured officer and injured member of the public.”

A statement from the family reads: “Matthew was raised on the Hibiscus Coast by his mother Diane, with his sister Eleanor.

He attended Orewa College and it was his life-long dream to be a police officer. Before joining the New Zealand Police, he completed a BA in criminology and worked at Auckland Prison as a Case Manager. He also spent time living in the United Kingdom before he returned to New Zealand to join the police.

“Matthew was a person of great integrity. His closest friends were like his brothers and sisters and they along with his family are absolutely heartbroken by what has happened. He was passionate about sport and his physical fitness and was thrilled to enjoy the recent Blues game at Eden Park with his mates.

“We ask that media please respect our privacy at this time and allow us the space to grieve the sudden loss of our son, brother and friend.”

June 20, 8.30am: Concerns over air crews mixing

The revelations around holes in New Zealand’s Covid-19 border control measures have turned the spotlight on another area of concern: flight crews, who are not required to isolate in the way others arriving the country are.

Now Stuff has reported that some Air New Zealand cabin crew have been rostered on both international and domestic flights. Tom Pullar-Strecker writes:

“Air New Zealand is risking spreading Covid-19 in New Zealand by rostering cabin crew who have flown internationally on to domestic flights just days later, a concerned flight crew member says.

“An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said there would be ‘an incredibly limited number of A320 and 787 crew who may have been rostered on to fly both domestic and international routes throughout the alert levels’.

“The crew member believed it was ‘almost certain’ at least one of the cabin crew on board a flight from Brisbane on June 7 that carried two British women who were subsequently diagnosed with Covid-19 would have later crewed domestic flights without first being tested.”

 


June 19

5.35pm: Commissioner Coster updates on police shooting

A firearm has been located, and police are “speaking to two people of interest”, said the police commissioner, Andrew Coster, in a press briefing under way in Auckland, following the fatal shooting of a police officer this morning.

The shooting, which has seen one police officer die and another injured, with a member of the public injured after being hit by the offender’s car, followed a police attempt to stop a vehicle in Massey, west Auckland. The drivers fled, crashing the vehicle, and fleeing the scene. Another car used by the pair was subsequently found abandoned.

A general arming order was in place across Auckland and will “remain in place as a precaution” until they were confident the offenders were in custody. Coster said he did not believe people had great cause for concern about danger to public safety.

More to follow

2.10pm: Housing minister announces plans for border and isolation measures

Housing minister Megan Woods, who now has joint oversight of isolation and quarantine facilities, introduced Air Commodore Darryn ‘Digby’ Webb this afternoon in a live media update.

Webb’s new role will make him responsible for testing in isolation, management of supply chains (including PPE), standing up of new facilities, and coordination of repatriation flights.

From October 1, the overall responsibility for quarantine and self-isolation would move from the Ministry of Health to MBIE. Woods has been given ministerial responsibility for the process as a whole.

“The reality is we’re living in a world where we’ve seen over eight million cases, and 440,000 deaths,” said Woods. “It is clear that the virus will continue circulating for some time to come.”

Woods said recent revelations around holes in the isolation system were unacceptable, they “did not meet our expectations and did not meet the expectations of New Zealanders”.

The changes would see “a single point of accountability, and that person is Darryn”. Woods added that those staying in the facilities had “obligations and responsibilities” of their own.

“What I will guarantee is that we will have robust systems in place and there will be consequences for people who break the rules.”

Webb began by crediting the Ministry of Health staff that have stood on the frontline in protecting the border from Covid-19.

“However as recent events have shown we have not been 100% successful in our management of our isolation facilities. There have been a number of situations that have highlighted this,” he said.

Webb said he had commissioned an end-to-end review of the isolation and quarantine process. That review will be conducted in coming days and a report presented to him next week, led by Commodore Tony Miller from the Royal New Zealand Navy. He said that yesterday he had ordered a doubling of defence force staff, from 36 to 72, to be involved in operating and monitoring the facilities, many of whom are already onsite. Police presence at isolation facilities will also increase.

Any hotel used for self-isolation could no longer host any private function, said Webb.

927 people are due to leave managed self-isolation over the weekend. Echoing Ashley Bloomfield’s earlier comments, he said they would all be required to return a negative test before departure.

Woods said 20,151 people have been through a quarantine or managed isolation facility, and 626 staff have worked in them. “This isn’t just checking into a hotel and getting a test on the way in and the way out,” said Wood of the facilities’ high resource use. “It requires not only the accommodation, it requires the food, the wraparound services, the logistics, the health services such as testing and security.”

“It’s why we need to proceed with such caution, and making sure we’re matching our capacity with our ability to receive people coming into the country.”

1.50pm: Police confirm an officer has died

Police commissioner Andrew Coster has confirmed that a police officer was fatally shot in an incident this morning in Massey, west Auckland.

“At around 10.30am the officer concerned performed a routine traffic stop on Reynella Drive in Massey. The attending officers were shot, and a member of the public was hit by the vehicle,” Coster told media, speaking from the Wellington airport police station.

“From the information we have this was a routine traffic stop, the kind of work our officers undertake every day to keep the public safe.” he said.There were two people in the fleeing vehicle.

The second officer and a member of the public hit by a car are in hospital. The second officer has serious injuries, understood to be injuries to the leg, and the bystander’s injuries are considered minor.

Officers in Auckland are currently armed, said Coster. “There’s a heavy police presence in west Auckland at the moment. We have closed some schools as a precaution and we have an Armed Defenders Squad present, supporting an investigation team as we search for the offender.”

“It’s far too early to speak to what would have made a difference to this situation, if anything,” said Coster. He said did not believe the current situation was relevant to the question of armed response teams. A controversial pilot on armed response teams came to end recently and Coster has said it would not be repeated.

“This is a shocking situation. It is the worst news that police and police officers’ families can ever receive,” said Coster.

No details about the officer will be released until family have been notified.

1.15pm: No new cases of Covid-19

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has just announced.

Yesterday 6,223  tests were processed, “the biggest number for some time”, bringing the total to 327,460. Given the scale of testing “it is very reassuring that we have no new cases”, said Bloomfield.

Two more significant clusters have closed, said Bloomfield – the Bluff wedding and the Rosewood wedding clusters. Only the St Margaret’s rest home cluster in Auckland remains open.

Yesterday 1,061 tests were completed across managed isolation facilities. A further 700 were scheduled for today.

“We are undertaking significant, what I would call very precautionary testing,” said Bloomfield. “I think the results of the testing to date have been very reassuring.”

Prior to last week, testing was only done on symptomatic people in isolation. Now, both symptomatic and asymptomatic people will be tested. Bloomfield reiterated that no one is leaving managed isolation without first returning a negative test result. People can refuse the test, but may be required to stay in isolation for another 14 days.

“Since April, anyone who is symptomatic when they come across the border, or who develops symptoms during those 14 days in isolation is then taken to the dedicated quarantine facility where they are tested and their symptoms managed. And since April, we’ve had 37 positive cases at the border, with just the three of those in the last few days.

“From June 9 to June 16 a total of 55 people were granted leave from managed isolation on compassionate grounds, the vast majority have been tested and returned a negative result.”

A number of those, he said, were on a “short leave pass” for only a few hours.

From June 16, leave on compassionate grounds has been suspended. Bloomfield said 401 people were now being “followed up” in connection to the two women who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week, but emphasised the only person considered a close contact remains the women’s father.

The 401 people comprise four air crew, 97 hotel and health staff from the Novotel facility, 71 hotel guests, and more than 250 current guests of the Novotel. So far 174 of those have returned negative results, and the others are pending.

When asked about culpability in letting two cases slip through the net, Bloomfield said he had apologised to the prime minister. “I’ve taken responsibility for the fact that not everything was in place. As the prime minister said, it was a system issue, and I’ve taken responsibility for sorting that out.”

“I think that the progress made in the last few days shows I’m taking it seriously,” he added.

1.10pm: Police commissioner to give statement on Massey shooting

From the RNZ live update: “Police Commissioner Andrew Coster will speak to media today at 1:45pm at the Wellington Airport Police Station concerning the critical incident in Massey.”

12.35pm: Reports that a police officer has died

The NZ Herald and TVNZ are reporting that one of the police officers shot in an incident in Massey has died from their injuries. A police spokesperson has told RNZ they are unable to confirm the media reports.

12.05pm: More details on police shooting

Two officers have been shot in Massey, west Auckland, and a member of the public has been hit by the vehicle of the suspected shooter, who remains at large.

It began with “a routine traffic stop” on Reynella Drive at about 10.30am, said NZ Police.

Shots were fired at police officers, leaving two “seriously injured”. A member of the public was “hit by the vehicle and has been injured”.

Police have advised the offender has “fled the scene in a vehicle and police have a large presence actively searching for the offender. Cordons are in place and schools in the immediate area have been advised to lockdown.

Public are urged to avoid the Massey area, particularly around Don Buck Road, Waimumu Road, Hewlitt Road and Triangle Road.

11.55am: Bloomfield, Digby Webb, Woods to speak to media

The director general of health will be back in front of media this lunchtime, at the slightly later time of 1.15pm. His stand-up will be followed by an appearance by Air Commodore Digby Webb and housing minister Megan Woods, who now have joint oversight of the isolation and quarantine facilities. We’ll have coverage of both conferences as they happen.

11.40am: Shooting in Auckland

A police operation is under way in the suburb of Massey, in north-west Auckland, with reports of gun shots and a helicopter, numerous police cars and ambulances being dispatched. Police are describing it as a “critical incident”. The NZ Herald is reporting that a police officer has been injured in a shooting, and the Armed Offenders Squad is involved. Massey High School and Don Buck primary school have been locked down, but the incident is not reported to be related to them.

11.30am: Housing minister Megan Woods to oversee isolation, quarantine

Oversight of the isolation and quarantine facilities at the border is being given to housing minister Megan Woods. Air Commodore Digby Webb, put in charge of the facilities earlier this week, will work alongside the minister. The shakeup follows the revelation earlier this week that two women left the facilities under compassionate leave only to later test positive for Covid-19. The oversight role is new and sees Woods, along with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, take over a responsibility that had rested with the government’s emergency response since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. The plan, according to a government spokesperson, is to prepare the border for the long-term operation of the facilities.

8.30am: Ron Mark defends Digby Webb double appointment

After a number of high-profile mistakes at the border, the prime minister announced on Wednesday that the military would be taking charge of New Zealand’s border control, and isolation and quarantine facilities. A report on RNZ’s Checkpoint revealed last night that Air Commodore Darryl ‘Digby’ Webb, the military official leading the unit, had in fact already been in the role for a month. Checkpoint reported that he was in charge when the decision was made to grant a compassionate exemption to two sisters with Covid-19 who were released from managed isolation, although it was ultimately decided by the Ministry of Health.

Minister of defence Ron Mark appeared on RNZ this morning and defended Webb’s recent appointment as a “new role”.

“Primarily he was involved in repatriation. He has never been involved in testing or the decision around compassionate exemption or any other aspect of the health response.”

“He’s been given total charge and responsibility now.”

Webb is expected to hold a news conference later today.

7.50am: No tsunami threat from quake

A 7.4 magnitude earthquake recorded off New Zealand’s east coast last night was felt widely in Gisborne and the Hawke’s Bay, but there is no tsunami threat, says Civil Defence. There is still a chance of strong currents or unusual tides throughout the day on the east coast.

Geonet scientists report the activity was picked up by seismometers as far south as Rakiura/Stewart Island.

7.35am: Updates from today’s Bulletin

It was another difficult day for the government yesterday, with new developments and assurances that problems would be fixed. Our political editor filed a report to our live blog yesterday outlining the comments from PM Jacinda Ardern, who said that she shared the disappointment of the country at gaps in testing of those in quarantine. “To find out that was not happening of course was hugely disappointing for all of us, we’ve all been let down and our job is to fix it,” she said. The ministry of health’s Dr Ashley Bloomfield also fronted a press conference to apologise for the failings, adding “I want to reiterate, I’ve taken responsibility to make sure the system is sorted and we’re getting on and doing that.”

Among the biggest questionswho’s in charge right now? There was a was a detail-heavy story around military involvement, in which Checkpoint reported that Air Commodore Digby Webb – the military officer that Ardern said was taking over facilities at a press conference on Wednesday – was actually already in charge of the unit that granted an exemption to the two sisters who later tested positive. Interest’s Jenée Tibshraeny had a similar version of the story with slight differences – in this one, it was noted that Ardern had failed to mention that Webb had already been involved, though clarified that it was more a case of a promotion to oversee the health side of isolation/quarantine, rather than just managing the operations and logistics. And Politik got right into the details of what would change, but here was a key line from their piece: “In essence, the military has taken over the management and running of the isolation and quarantine facilities at the expense of the Ministry of Health who have now been confined to an advisory role.”

Further stories have also emerged which show all was not working as it should have. One News‘ Kristin Hall reported that several people in quarantine were flown down to Christchurch from Auckland on a public flight, without first being tested. And Newshub‘s Patrick Gower reported that a wedding took place in the ballroom of a quarantine hotel, which had also been used as an exercise facility for quarantining guests. The guests at the wedding weren’t aware of this.

There was also a curious story of a homeless man getting a fortnight of free meals and a bed in a quarantine hotelthe NZ Herald had a report on that, after an allegation was made by National MP Michael Woodhouse. The point of this isn’t that a homeless guy managed to beat the system – good on him, quite frankly. The point is that it shows whoever was holding the clipboard at the front door didn’t know who was on the list and who wasn’t, which is a worry when you’re talking about a facility for quarantining people who might have a highly infectious disease.

Parliamentarians ended up drawing a lot of the focus over the day. The NZ Herald reported on the episode that made that happen – it turns out National MP Chris Bishop advocated on behalf of a compassionate exemption for the two people who later tested positive for Covid-19. Bishop responded by saying he didn’t expect they would be let out without being tested first, and that for the government to bring it up was a “desperate smear.”

If it seems like everything has fallen apartthat’s not the case at all. Another case emerged yesterday, the man with Covid-19 was spotted at the border, and is now in a quarantine facility. He wore a mask on the flight, and close contacts are also in quarantine. The system can work really effectively – we know this by the fact that the country had several weeks of no new Covid-19 cases at all. But the thing about a system like this working – those running it have got to get it right every time, or it can all go wrong.

New GDP figures are out, and they show a big drop over the first quarter of 2020 – down 1.6%, which is the biggest fall in decades. As Radio NZ reports, the figures only go up to the end of March, and the next quarter is going to be much worse, because that’s when most of the level four lockdown took place. It’s probably also worth noting though that the economic damage of Covid-19 didn’t exactly begin on the first day of lockdown – there had already been serious consequences through February for the tourism, international education and rock lobster industries. We’re also yet to see detailed numbers on where unemployment is right now, which will be a very important number to watch – we do know for sure that tens of thousands of people have joined the Jobseeker benefit since February.

ACC has been pouring millions of dollars every year into funding acupuncture treatments, despite their being little hard proof of efficacy. The Spinoff has published a new investigation by Jonathon Harper and Daniel Ryan, which has dived deeply into the scientific literature, and questioned why such funding is taking place here. What’s the potential harm of ACC funding acupuncture treatments? On top of the potential for public money to be wasted, some patients may end up getting that treatment instead of something proven to work.

A second round of gun law reforms has passed through a final reading in parliament, reports Stuff. This one will create a firearms registry, along with a warning system to determine whether someone is a ‘fit and proper’ person to own a gun licence. There will also be changes to allow farmers to own prohibited firearms for pest control purposes. The law was delayed after heavy wrangling between Labour and NZ First – the latter say one thing they ended up negotiating is a post-enactment review, so expect that wrangling to continue afresh after the election.

The number of people being denied benefits because of their relationship status has skyrocketed, reports Radio NZ. The rules say that if Work and Income determine someone is in a relationship, and that their partner’s income meets a certain threshold, then their Jobseeker benefit can be cut to nothing. Campaigners – and the government’s own Welfare Expert Advisory Group for that matter – say those rules are stupid and dangerous and should be changed.

A hilariously silly political story to end the week on: The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) David Fisher reports that Todd Muller’s team brought in a safecracker after taking over National, so they could get access to documents hidden in a safe in the leader of the opposition’s office. The funniest part about it – a member of outgoing leader Simon Bridges’ team had already sent through the combination – it just hadn’t reached who it needed to. As it happens, the safe had been almost entirely cleared out by Bridges’ team on their way out the door.

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

There was one new case of Covid-19 discovered at New Zealand’s border, a man in his 60s who arrived from Pakistan last week.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield apologised for the series of lapses in the country’s border quarantine system which led to two women being released from managed isolation who later returned positive for Covid-19.

It was later revealed in parliament that National MP Chris Bishop had written a letter lobbying for the early release of the two women. In a statement, Bishop said the revelation was a “desperate smear” by the government.

A homeless man spent two weeks in managed isolation at a five-star Auckland hotel after pretending to be a recently-returned overseas passenger, National MP Michael Woodhouse claimed.

The military official whom the PM announced as a new appointment to oversee the quarantine and border controls system was in fact in the role when the two women were granted compassionate leave, RNZ reported.

Leading epidemiologist Sir David Skegg slammed the border system as “totally slack” and warned there could be unidentified clusters emerging around the country as a result.

Deputy prime minister Winston Peters remained adamant the border failures would not set back the opening of a trans-Tasman bubble.

New Zealand’s economy shrank by 1.6% in the first three months of the year, new figures revealed. This represents the largest decline in GDP in 29 years.

Read yesterday’s live updates here



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