Health minister David Clark and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament on May 13 (Photo: Mark Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images)

Live updates, June 24: Clark says responsibility lies with Bloomfield on missed tests; one new case of Covid-19

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.

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6.40pm: The day in sum

One new Covid-19 case was reported in New Zealand – a woman in her 60s who had recently returned from India. This is a separate case to the Rotorua person, who is yet to be officially confirmed.

David Clark refused to accept any responsibility for failures in testing of people granted isolation exemptions, saying it was an operational matter, and one for Ashley Bloomfield.

One of the Rotorua hotels acting as a managed isolation facility went into lockdown, after a positive Covid-19 test was returned by someone staying there.

Auckland light rail plans were killed after “government parties were unable to reach agreement on a preferred proposal”.

Covid-19 testing centres were inundated with people wanting to be swabbed, with wait times of at least two hours.

It was revealed that only four of 55 people who left managed isolation early were tested, despite new rules being in place that they had to be.

New research revealed Covid-19 has led to increased racism towards Asian people but it’s lower in NZ than other countries.

Broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi told MPs the development of RNZ’s new youth music station has been “put to one side” because of the Covid-19 crisis.

It was announced that AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand will receive $10.2 million of funding as part of the $400 million tourism sector recovery package.

The Reserve Bank held the official cash rate at a record low 0.25%.

5.40pm: Clark refuses to accept any responsibility for testing void

On RNZ Checkpoint, Lisa Owen has been grilling the health minister over the revelation that almost all of those granted exemptions to leave managed isolation after mandatory testing was introduced were not in fact tested. In a tense exchange, David Clark acknowledged the system had failed, saying he had “expressed incredible frustration on behalf of New Zealanders that this hasn’t worked”. A taste of the interview that followed:

Lisa Owen: But whose responsibility is that?

David Clark: The director general has accepted responsibility on behalf of the system and is setting about fixing it.

Owen: So, do you then take no responsibility as health minister for this?

Clark: Well, I think as the prime minister outlined in parliament yesterday, there were separate assurances that the system was in place, that people were being tested.

Owen: But I’m asking you, the health minister, do you take any – any – responsibility for this mistake, or are you putting it all at Dr Bloomfield’s feet?

Clark: This clearly is an operational error. That has been acknowledged. Dr Bloomfield has taken responsibility for it and is setting about fixing it. I of course want assurances that that is on track, and at this stage I can see that the ministry is indeed getting on with fixing the problem.

Owen: So can you give me a clear yes or no on this. Do you take no responsibility for this at all?

Clark: The responsibility for this sits at an operational level.

Owen: So that’s a no?

Clark: Immediately I found the system was not working, I suspended any compassionate exemptions, immediately I found that system was not working as ministers were led to believe it was.

Owen: Why can’t you just state that simply, you don’t take any responsibility, that’s what you’re telling me, isn’t it?

Clark: Lisa, I have responsibility for sorting it out.

Clark was later asked for assurances that the public is being kept safe from infection by international air crews, particularly those arriving from India, the source of a number of recent positive cases. Arriving air crews either immediately return back overseas after landing or stay overnight in hotel self-isolation.

Clark said he was unaware whether they stay in the same hotels being used for self-isolation for returning New Zealanders, but that there are strict protocols for making sure they don’t come into contact with other people. There is no suggestion that they’re not following the rules, he said. As overseas citizens, they can’t be compelled to take Covid-19 tests, “unless they present a genuine public health risk”.

3.00pm: Greens co-leader says NZ First breached coalition agreement by axing light rail; PM says ‘that’s MMP’

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says NZ First is breaching its coalition agreement with Labour by axing Auckland light rail this term, reports Stuff.

The transport minister, Phil Twyford, confirmed the end of the Auckland light rail project earlier today, citing government parties being unable to reach agreement on a preferred proposal. The derailment of the project – which has been a thorn in the side of the Labour Party – has been put down to New Zealand First’s unwillingness to back either of the two proposals tabled (see 11.30am update).

In a statement following Twyford’s announcement, Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter welcomed the decision, saying light rail can now proceed through the public service.

Before going into parliament this afternoon, however, the party co-leader, James Shaw, called NZ First’s killing off of the project a “slap in the face of Aucklanders”, reports Stuff, adding that it breached the coalition agreement between Labour and NZ First. He also refused to say whether he would go into government with NZ First again.

The prime minister, meanwhile, responded to claims from National leader Todd Muller that the government “was tearing itself apart”, reports the Herald. Jacinda Ardern admitted she was frustrated the project won’t get under way before the election. “That was a policy that we campaigned on that we have worked really hard on because we believe it will make a difference to congestion issues in Auckland,” she said this afternoon.

“This is an MMP government. This just happens to be one [area] where we were unable to form a consensus.”

NZ First leader Winston Peters, meanwhile, denied he was blocking light rail, telling reporters “we’re just making sure the policy is a sound, commercial proposition in fairness to the contractual laws in this country”.

When pressed, Peters said the issue with the light rail process was the fact the Canadian firm was involved, reports the Herald. “As a fiscal proposition, with offshore proprietorship, it did not work,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Auckland Business Chamber has also criticised the end of the process, saying that referring it to the Ministry of Transport until after the election sends a frustrating “mixed message” to Aucklanders.

“When government has a credible proposal for moving Auckland forward, surely it should be able to make a decision to progress it,” said chief executive Michael Barnett.

2.45pm: OCR kept at 0.25%

The Reserve Bank has held the official cash rate at a record low 0.25%. The central bank cuts its rate to its lowest-ever level on March 16, as an emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Economists expect the rate to stay there for the rest of the year.

In its statement, the Reserve Bank said the stronger New Zealand dollar had “put further pressure on export earnings”. The bank has said it expects the decline in annual GDP this year to be the largest in at least 160 years, yet the New Zealand dollar, after slumping to US57c on March 20, has rallied strongly, trading today at US65c.

2.30pm: Today’s data, charted

Including two new charts on the locations of people in managed isolation and quarantine, and details of managed isolation exemptions.

1.30pm: One new case of Covid-19 detected in managed isolation, plus one new case in Rotorua yet to be counted

There is one new case of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has announced. The case is a woman in her 60s who arrived on June 18 from India on Air India repatriation flight AI1316. She had been staying at Pullman hotel in Auckland and was tested on day three of her managed isolation. She has now been moved to quarantine at the Jet Park hotel.

Bloomfield also said he was aware of a new case of Covid-19 in a Rotorua managed isolation facility which is now in lockdown (see 12.25pm update) that has not been counted as part of today’s numbers as it was detected too late in the day. He said he wasn’t concerned about the way the person had been transferred from Auckland to Rotorua because Air Commodore Webb and his team had assured him very strict protocols had been followed.

Yesterday, 9,174 tests were carried out, the highest number to date, which includes both testing done in managed isolation and in the community, which brings the total to date to 357,996. Since June 16, when the first new cases in several weeks were detected, there have been more than 45,000 tests completed in New Zealand, Bloomfield said. 

Deputy director general of health Keriana Brooking joined Bloomfield at the briefing to discuss why only four of the 55 people granted compassionate exemptions from managed isolation between June 9 and June 16 were tested before being allowed to leave (see 7.50am update).

Thirty-five of the people not tested in managed isolation were tested after leaving, most while in self-isolation, said Brooking. Eleven of the 55 will not be tested, which is an increase of four from yesterday, due to a “family being unable to be tested”. Three are awaiting results, and one person has been tested but has not been returning calls since. “This has been referred to enforcement,” said Brooking. Bloomfield said some of those 11 believed they had already been tested, but authorities hadn’t been able to verify this.

Since June 9, when testing was rolled out at managed isolation facilities on day three and day 12, 2,159 people had left managed isolation facilities, said Bloomfield. This included most of the 55 people granted compassionate exemptions, though some had returned to managed isolation and left finally after the 16th.

The Ministry of Health is following up on these people and referring those who haven’t been tested to be tested, said Bloomfield. So far, 1,010 have been contacted and tested negative. Of those, 800 were tested before leaving managed isolation, which constitutes 37%. The remaining 210, or 10%, were tested after leaving managed isolation, and 239 people have been referred for a test but don’t have results yet. Most of the remainder, 791 people, are being contacted, but 119 people, or around 5% of the total, won’t be tested because either they’re a child, they are ship crew and have left the country already, or they are refusing to be tested.

“The reason I haven’t provided you with the numbers is not because I’ve been trying to hide anything, I simply haven’t had them,” said Bloomfield.

Quarantine facilities are being set up in Rotorua and Christchurch for people who test positive in those locations, said Bloomfield, in addition to the current quarantine facility at the Jet Park hotel in Auckland.

1.20pm: Bloomfield about to speak to media – watch live

1.15pm: AJ Hackett Bungy to get $10.2m recovery support

AJ Hackett Bungy New Zealand will receive $10.2 million of funding as part of the $400 million tourism sector recovery package, tourism minister Kelvin Davis announced.

The funding will comprise a grant of $5.1 million in the first year, with a loan of up to $5.1 million in the second year, if required, through the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme. The company has 13 sites across New Zealand.

AJ Hackett receives by far the biggest amount of any tourism company to date, with other businesses given funding from the recovery package including Whale Watch Kaikōura, which has been granted up to $1.5 million, and Discover Waitomo, with up to $4 million. Thirty-one regional tourism organisations received up to $20.2 million.

1.00pm: RNZ youth music station ‘put to one side’

Broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi has told MPs the development of RNZ’s new youth music station has been “put to one side” because of the Covid-19 crisis, reports Stuff.

RNZ had been expected to launch the channel on FM in August in a bid to expand the broadcaster’s appeal beyond its traditional listener base, but Faafoi today told parliament’s Social Services and Community select committee that Covid had intervened.

“Because RNZ is in the position that most media companies are in, they decided during the Covid experience to put to one side their plans around their youth music network to focus on their core business of news and current affairs,” he said.

The planned youth station attracted controversy when it was announced earlier this year because it was set to replace Concert FM on the FM channel.

12.25pm: Rotorua isolation hotel in lockdown

One of the two hotels housing returnees in Rotorua has gone into lockdown, the NZ Herald is reporting. A woman at the Ibis hotel said guests had this morning received a notice titled “lockdown procedure” instructing them to stay inside their rooms until further notice.

Over 200 returning New Zealanders were bused to Rotorua from Auckland International Airport on Saturday night. Most passengers were not wearing masks for the 200km journey, the Herald reported.

12.10pm: Greens call end of light rail project a ‘victory’

The Greens, who are enthusiastic supporters of light rail and made work on the Auckland project a condition of their governing agreement with Labour, called today’s decision to kill the project (see 11.30am update) a victory.

According to party spokesperson Julie Anne Genter, light rail can now proceed through the public service and a proposal from pension funds is dead. “Detailed planning work on light rail can continue and key design and financing decisions can be taken quickly after the election,” she said.

The government had been looking at two proposals to build light rail from downtown to the airport. One, by the NZ Transport Agency, would have built a more traditional system of trams running at street level. That plan would have slower trains that required drivers, but would be cheaper. The second plan came from a partnership of the NZ Super Fund and the pension fund for the Canadian province of Quebec. That plan would have borrowed heavily from a system under construction in Montreal by the Quebec fund.

Montreal’s Metropolitan Express Network is a 26-station system of fully automated trains running on an elevated track connecting the city’s downtown with the airport. The partnership had proposed a similar project in Auckland, with a mixture of tunnels downtown and elevated rails through the suburbs to avoid traffic.

Winston Peters and NZ First had expressed concerns about turning to a Canadian pension fund to help develop and operate one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff, meanwhile, said he was disappointed with the outcome, reports the Herald. “It is frustrating that after three years, disagreement within the coalition has held this process up,” he said.

The opposition says the demise of the project highlight’s the government’s incompetence. “This government talks big, but delivers little,” National leader Todd Muller said in a press release. “Light rail will now join KiwiBuild as the prime examples of its epic failure to deliver on its promises to voters.”

11.45am: Clark and Bloomfield facing health select committee

Health minister David Clark and medical director of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield are currently being grilled by the health select committee on a range of topics relating to the Covid-19 response. Clark said the health ministry had so far spent more than $400 million on the Covid-19 response, with about $285 million of that on PPE. He admitted that meant some tradeoffs had been made in the health budget as a result.

Clark also spoke about a recent report from the auditor-general into the supply and distribution of PPE during the initial stages of Covid-19. The report, which has widely been described as critical of the ministry, was characterised by Clark as an “overall positive” document. This is because while the report criticised the state of PPE supplies and planning before the outbreak, it also praised how the response was delivered when it mattered.

The live stream of the committee can be watched here.

11.30am: Auckland light rail process is dead – Twyford

The long and often agonising process around promised plans for Auckland light rail has been sent to its grave, transport minister Phil Twyford has confirmed. “Despite extensive cross-party consultation, government parties were unable to reach agreement on a preferred proposal. The future of the project will now be decided by the government following September’s general election,” reads a statement from Twyford’s office.

The derailment of the project – which has been a thorn in the side of the Labour Party – has been put down to New Zealand First’s unwillingness to back either of the two proposals tabled.

“I’d like to thank NZ Infra and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency for their work and innovative proposalsm,” said Twyford.

“Either would have created hundreds of jobs and resulted in an Auckland metro that offered Aucklanders a 30-minute trip from the CBD to the airport.”

He continued: “The Ministry of Transport and the Treasury will report back after the general election on the best option for this project to be delivered by the public sector.”

It is unknown whether Labour will campaign again on light rail, but Twyford hinted it would be: “Auckland Light Rail will be New Zealand’s most complex infrastructure project in decades and it’s vital we get it right for future generations.”

11.00am: Long wait times at Auckland testing centres

Cars wait at the entrance to the testing centre at White Cross St Lukes (Photo: Alex Braae)

A huge queue of cars has built up leading towards White Cross St Lukes, which is the main Covid-19 testing centre in central Auckland. This just in from Alex Braae, our reporter on the scene:

As of 10.30am, it stretched along St Lukes Road from the clinic down to the intersection with New North Road, and from there along to beyond the intersection with Sainsbury St. In total, that is a bit less than a kilometre of cars, taking up the entirety of a lane along St Luke’s Road.

One man who was close to the front of the queue had been in it for about two hours. He had been told by Healthline to come down and get a test, because he has symptoms.

Arguably, he was lucky in how early he got in. At the other end of the queue, a woman who had brought her son down for a test had been told it would be at least two and a half hours. She had taken the week off work as a precaution, in case the test came back positive.

A security guard had been posted at the intersection of St Luke’s Road and Taylors Road, to prevent people from cutting in line. He said this week had been like the start of lockdown all over again, after a month in which everything had been much calmer.

At the centre itself, a warden said they were averaging about 45 tests an hour, but couldn’t answer further questions because it was too busy.

Lines at the Langimalie Health Centre in Panmure are also understood to be very long, with local residents saying dozens of cars were lined up already by 7.45am – before the centre even opened up.

A spokesperson for the Auckland region’s DHBs told RNZ that in the week to June 21, 17,247 people in the region were swabbed for Covid-19, just shy of its biggest week ever, 17,921. That was the week ending May 10, just before cabinet was to decide whether to move to level two.

RNZ also reports that Whangārei ran out of testing swabs yesterday as a result of high demand. The region’s medical officer of health, Dr Jose Ortega, sought to ease fears yesterday by issuing a public statement that there are no active, confirmed or probable cases of Covid-19 in Northland.

Whangārei GP Geoff Cunningham told Morning Report that most doctors around the country were seeing a surge in viral respiratory tract infections, and had been told to these patients should be tested for Covid-19.

“We’re swabbing people who are genuinely symptomatic and we’re not swabbing anyone who just wants to have a Covid swab, people do have to have symptoms.”

10.40pm: Bloomfield to speak at 1.30pm today

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will be speaking to media at the later time of 1.30pm today, due to other commitments. We’ll have the live stream and be providing running updates – expect him to reveal whether any more cases have been detected among new arrivals, and to get a grilling on how only four people out of 55 who were granted compassionate leave from managed isolation in the week before it was suspended were tested (see 7.50am update)

10.15am: Covid-19 has led to increased racism towards Asian people, but it’s lower in NZ than other countries

A Massey University research team examining the relationship between social media use, prejudice towards Asians and foreigners and beliefs about Covid-19 in 16 countries, including New Zealand, has found racism towards Asians here is lower than elsewhere.

An online questionnaire gathered data on demographics, social media use and sentiments about Chinese people. “We measured how threatened people from the dominant culture felt by Asians during the Covid-19 pandemic – and New Zealand scored significantly lower on measures of both symbolic and realistic threat,” Professor Stephen Croucher, who led the research, said in a press release.

“New Zealand respondents also scored significantly higher on their level of contact with Asians when compared to those living in US, Italy and Spain, so the prejudice levels towards Asians in New Zealand during the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly been lower than in the other three nations.” 

Croucher believes the study’s results reflect the fear generated by the much higher infection and death rates in the US, Italy and Spain, and the strong and inclusive messaging from the New Zealand government. In the US, for example, the most common response to the question “Who is to blame for the spread of Covid-19”, the most common response was “the Chinese”, followed by “Trump”. For New Zealanders, the top three answers, in order, were “tourists”, “not closing borders early enough” and “the Chinese”.

“These differences clearly mirror the media coverage and political rhetoric in each nation,” Croucher said. “In the US, political rhetoric has been focused on the ‘Wuhan virus’ and blaming China. While in New Zealand, the blame for the spread of the virus has largely been attributed, by both politicians and the media, to tourism, borders, and China.”

10.00am: A new vision for the future of Māori media

Bailey Mackey, the creator of some of Māori Television’s biggest hits, lays out his vision for the future of Māori media on The Spinoff today – and there’s no place for Māori Television in it. Mackey, CEO of Pango Productions, writes in response to the government’s proposal to amalgamate all the diverse Māori news media into a single entity within Māori TV, a proposal he says is bad.

Read the full story on The Spinoff

9.15am: A New Zealander writes from quarantine in Australia

Today on The Spinoff, a glimpse of how tough it is for anyone entering Australia right now. Trevor McKewen travelled to Queensland to visit his gravely ill brother, hoping he would be allowed to self-isolate at his mother’s house. Instead he was sent to quarantine in a hotel room with no balcony and windows that can’t open, and he is strictly confined to that room for two weeks – no fresh air, no exercise, no exceptions.

Read the full story on The Spinoff

8.10am: Tennis star has Covid-19, under fire for hosting tournament amid pandemic

Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, has tested positive for Covid-19, days after hosting a tournament that’s been widely criticised for its lack of social distancing protocols. The Serbian 33-year-old released a statement revealing both he and his wife have tested positive for the virus, after a number of other players who participated in the Adria Tour in the Balkans also tested positive. “I am extremely sorry for each individual case of infection,” said Djokovic in the statement. “I hope that it will not complicate anyone’s health situation and that everyone will be fine.”

Serbia has 13,092 registered cases and 263 dead due to the pandemic but both Serbia and Croatia eased lockdown measures weeks before the tournament, reports RNZ via Reuters, and players were not obliged to observe social distancing rules in either country. Stands were packed and players hugged at the net, posed for pictures, attended press conferences and partied at nightclubs together.

7.50am: Only four of 55 who left isolation early tested, despite new rules being in place

The Ministry of Health last night revealed how many of the 55 people allowed to leave managed isolation in the period after mandatory day three and day 12 testing was brought in and before compassionate exemptions were suspended were in fact tested: four.

Of those four, two were tested on the same day as leaving, meaning results wouldn’t have been known when they actually left isolation. All of the four returned negative tests, as have the 35 who were tested after leaving managed isolation. Seven will not be tested either on the basis of health, because they are children or because they have left the country, four are awaiting results and the ministry is working with the remaining four to get testing. One of the people counted had their application approval withdrawn before they left isolation.

On RNZ’s Morning report this morning, National leader Todd Muller called the numbers a “national disgrace”. “Every day more examples emerge pointing to a government that’s lost control of the border management system,” he said.

“It’s a cumulative insight into a system that is now broken and the minister of health must step down. The prime minister seems incapable of showing leadership that New Zealand would expect at a time like this.”

Muller told TVNZ’s Breakfast he suspects there is undetected community spread in New Zealand. “I suspect what we’re going to find is it is out more in our community than what we have been told.”

On the director general of health yesterday denying the veracity of a widely reported story that a homeless man posed as a new arrival to stay in managed isolation at an Auckland hotel for two weeks, Muller said he backed his MP Michael Woodhouse, who was the source of the claim. He suggested the government was trying to debunk the story to distract attention from the testing failures. “To distract attention for a day they try and suggest that Michael Woodhouse’s story doesn’t add up. Well, he’s a great man, he’s got fantastic sources. If that’s what he got told by a source I back him.”

7.30am: Updates from today’s edition of the Bulletin

Every person known to have Covid-19 right now is in quarantine, including the two new cases at the border yesterday. With that said, Radio NZ’s Rowan Quinn reports the new cases over the last week mean that community testing centres have had to keep going. This story, and a follow-up on Checkpoint, indicate that demand is very high right now for tests – partly because people are more likely to be getting colds right now, and partly because of the concern around new cases – which to reiterate are all related to the border.

As our live blog reported yesterday, the country’s overall testing regime will be stepped up, particularly targeted at those who work in and around airports and quarantine hotels – but also for anyone presenting with related symptoms. It’s part of a new testing strategy unveiled by health minister David Clark. The community testing of anyone with symptoms is described as “important for surveillance purposes” by Clark, in other words, ensuring that there is no community transmission taking place.

There won’t be any change to the policy of testing of people in managed isolation on days three and 12 of their stay. There has been some conjecture that everyone should be tested the moment they step off the plane, but that wouldn’t necessarily help as it may still be too early in the incubation process for the virus to show up, and even if a positive test came back it’s not like we could just chuck returning New Zealanders on a flight back out, or take them anywhere other than the facilities that already exist.

There has been some concern about the new testing strategy from health experts, reports Newshub. The worry is that by taking in everyone with symptoms – regardless of overseas travel links or close contacts with an infected person – too much of a limited resource will be diverted away from where it is most needed. Otago University’s associate professor Lynn McBain said it was a good step to enhance testing of anyone connected to the border, because at this stage it’s still by far the most likely source of Covid-19 cases. But she was also concerned that the community testing guidelines were too broad. Opinion on this point isn’t necessarily unanimous, but it underscores one point – it is very unlikely that there is undetected community transmission out there.

Are there other means of testing that can be used? To a degree, but they’re not necessarily useful for detecting whether an individual has Covid-19 at a particular moment. This Newsroom article has some interesting details around two such methods. The country’s national laboratory service ESR is able to test sewage, which overseas has been a useful mechanism for determining whether undetected outbreaks are happening. And Dr Ashley Bloomfield also cast doubt on the “rapid, point-of-care tests that can return a result for individuals in 15 minutes to an hour” that have also been used overseas, on the grounds that they aren’t accurate enough for what New Zealand needs – they’re more useful if there is already widespread community transmission.

Otago regional councillors will throw down at a meeting today over whether former MP Marian Hobbs should remain as chair. The ODT’s Molly Houseman reports that a challenge is going to be mounted, with deputy chair (and another former MP) Michael Laws saying it is because of an irredeemable clash of personalities between Hobbs and the rest of the board. Hobbs, by contrast, says those attempting to oust her are doing so to block efforts to observe national policy statements on freshwater quality. One of Hobbs’ few councillor supporters, Alexa Forbes, spoke to Crux and backed that view up. According to the ODT report, it looks like the numbers are against Hobbs, but rest assured, we’ll definitely be updating this yarn tomorrow.

The PM has called reports from earlier in the week about a resolution being close at Ihumātao as “inaccurate”, reports Newshub. She wouldn’t confirm that particular report, and also questioned the reported timing of when she got involved with the negotiations, saying that happened much earlier. “When we have an announcement to make we’ll obviously make it,” she said, meaning that anything final could still be a while away. Or it could also be very close, as it’s an issue that hasn’t panned out according to earlier predictions.

Following up on yesterday’s story about Auckland’s drought and water shortages, there’s some bad news about one potential saviour. The NZ Herald has reported on a new long-range forecast, which is picking the second half of the year to also be drier than average. Given that any water from the Waikato would still be a long time away, it means there’s really only one solution to the problem – much lower water use.

A big story in the world of cyber crime: Interest reports that the police have restrained $140 million in funds relating to the Canton Business Corporation, a shell company involved in a bitcoin exchange platform. The charge is that the platform was allegedly being used for money laundering of the proceeds of crime. The case is an international one, with a range of charges also filed in the US.

The Opportunities Party has announced a plan to abolish the provisional tax system if it’s elected in September. A release on the tax plan can be found here, but effectively the party’s view is that it’s “unfair, disliked and misunderstood by the majority of small business owners”. They’re also reiterating their call for a universal basic income, which has increasingly become one of the main planks of the party’s policy platform.

A few points of clarification: Earlier in the week, a number of 2,400 was given for how many people had left managed isolation without being tested. We don’t actually know if that number is true or not, because according to Dr Ashley Bloomfield, nobody knows the actual number. One would think it would be an important thing to find out, and by all accounts MOH staff are doing so. And as for the allegation made by National MP Michael Woodhouse that a homeless man enjoyed two weeks’ free room and board in a quarantine hotel – Bloomfield says the MOH can’t find any evidence of that. Stuff reports Woodhouse is standing by his story, and says it came from a reliable source. Minister Megan Woods has since asked for proof, which to be honest probably wouldn’t be forthcoming anyway because of source protection, so surely that’ll be the end of the matter.

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

There were two new cases of Covid-19, both men in their 20s and both caught in managed isolation.

Air crew and airport staff will be tested regularly under an enhanced Covid testing strategy. The new regime also allows health providers to offer testing to anyone with possible symptoms, no contact with overseas travel necessary.

The story of a homeless man who allegedly posed as a new arrival in the country and stayed in managed isolation at a five-star hotel in Auckland for two weeks was “probably an urban myth”, said Ashley Bloomfield.

There are now more than 9 million confirmed cases worldwide, with more than 2.2 million of those in the US alone. More than a dozen countries have now crossed the 100,000 case mark.

Jacinda Ardern rejected claims an Ihumātao deal is imminent. Media had reported that a deal was about to be struck, with the land potentially to be acquired under the Housing Act.

Read yesterday’s updates here.



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