Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for January 27, keeping you up to date with the latest local and international news. Reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org
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10.40pm: Contact tracing locations and new testing sites revealed
Following the decision to treat the two other Pullman-linked cases as confirmed infections (see below), the Ministry of Health has provided a list of locations of interest and pop-up testing sites.
Locations of interest
BBQ King, 4A/270 Oteha Valley Road, Albany, 17 January, 11 am-2 pm
Pak n Save Silverdale, 20 Hibiscus Coast Highway, Silverdale, 17 January, 2 pm-2.30 pm,
BBQ King, 4A/270 Oteha Valley Road, Albany, 17 January, 5 pm-9 pm,
Pak n Save Silverdale, 20 Hibiscus Coast Highway, Silverdale, 18 January, 12 noon-12.30 pm,
BBQ King, 4A/270 Oteha Valley Road, Albany, 18 January, 12.30 pm-3 pm,
Caltex Orewa, 70 Grand Drive, Orewa, 18 January, 1 pm-1.30 pm
BBQ King, 4A/270 Oteha Valley Road, Albany, 18 January, 5 pm-9 pm
Hickeys Pharmacy, 16 Moana Avenue, Orewa, 23 January, 12.30 pm-1.30 pm
Farmers Albany, Don McKinnon Drive, Albany, 24 January, 12 noon-1 pm,
Tai Ping Supermarket Albany, 92 Rosedale Road, Rosedale, 24 January, 12 noon-1 pm
New World Orewa, 11 Moana Avenue, Orewa, 25 January, 1 pm-2 pm,
Tai Ping Supermarket Northcote, 2 Kilham Avenue, Northcote, 26 January, 12.30 pm-1 pm
More details, including when you should be tested if you visited one of the locations above, can be found here.
Pop-up sites will be located at Victor Eaves Park in Orewa and at North Carpark B, North Harbour Stadium. For address details and opening hours, and other sites across Auckland, see here.
The ministry advice on seeking a test as as follows: “People who have visited those locations during the time period, and as ever, anyone in Auckland with symptoms, are asked to isolate and call Healthline to arrange a test and remain isolated until they receive their result.”
10.20pm: New Covid-19 cases linked to Pullman confirmed
The Ministry of Health has now reported as confirmed the two new Covid-19 cases, earlier classified as probable. Both are returnees who stayed in isolation at the Pullman hotel at the same time as the Northland woman whose positive test was reported on Sunday.
The two returnees had initially been classified as “under investigation”. A second positive test with a higher CT value has prompted the decision to threat them as confirmed cases.
“While we still can’t categorically rule these out as historical infections, test results so far indicate the two people may have contracted Covid-19 towards the end of their stay in managed isolation, after returning two negative tests each during their stay”, said the director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, in a statement.
“It’s too early to early to make a firm conclusion. Genome sequencing results, which are expected tomorrow, and serology results expected the following day, will help develop the picture further.”
The cases were being treated as confirmed current infections owing to “an abundance of caution”.
The Ministry of Health website has posted a list of exposure events which include a location, date and time.
The ministry advises: “People who have visited those locations during the time period, and as ever, anyone in Auckland with symptoms, are asked to isolate and call Healthline to arrange a test and remain isolated until they receive their result.”
Bloomfield said: “It’s important the right people isolate and get tested, so we don’t overwhelm testing centres. We understand that many will be anxious, but it’s important to remember we are carrying out these measures as a precaution. There is no evidence so far that suggests community transmission – but we need the right people to isolate and get tested.”
A third person in the family’s bubble has tested negative. The two family members who tested positive are in the process of being moved to Auckland’s quarantine facility. The two positive cases completed quarantine on January 15 and have been residing in North Auckland since. “Further interviews are being carried out to determine the family’s detailed movements since they left managed isolation to identify close and casual contacts,” the ministry advised.
New steps have been put in place at the Pullman, including a deep clean of commonly used areas, tighter restrictions on movement of returnees, increasing hotel ventilation, requesting returnees who’ve recently left, to not fly, to stay home and have an additional test within 48 hours, restricting staff from working at other sites and tighter restrictions on movement of returnees including no arrivals or departures from the facility.
8.00pm: The day in sum
Two further returnees who stayed at the Pullman Hotel’s MIQ facility tested positive for Covid-19, and the Ministry of Health said urgent retesting was under way.
All the close contacts of the woman who tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving MIQ have now tested negative, it was announced.
Former Auckland mayor John Banks was axed from Magic Talk after making racist comments about Māori.
Climate change minister James Shaw had a phone call with John Kerry, US president Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate.
Following chief executive Grainne Moss’s resignation last week, an advisory board was appointed to Oranga Tamariki.
6.00pm: Urgent retesting under way following two positive Covid-19 tests in community – Ministry of Health
The Ministry of Health has released a brief statement in response to the reports of two more people testing positive for Covid-19 after leaving managed isolation at the Pullman Hotel (see 5.40pm update).
The ministry confirmed the pair were at the Pullman at the same time as the Northland woman who tested positive on Sunday, but say it’s yet to be confirmed whether their infections are recent or historic. Here’s the statement in full:
Two other former returnees who completed their managed isolation in the same facility and at the same time as the Northland case are now under investigation.
The two former returnees both returned a positive test for COVID-19, however it is yet to be confirmed if they are recent or historic infections. Further urgent testing is being carried out this evening.
The two people are asymptomatic and have already completed their managed isolation and previously returned two negative tests.
Both individuals are currently self-isolating at home.
As a precaution, Public Health staff are checking details with the individuals about their movements since they left managed isolation to identify close and casual contacts if contact tracing is required.
5.40pm: Two new community Covid cases, both linked to Pullman MIQ facility – report
The Herald is reporting that two more people in the community have tested positive for Covid-19, with both having recently left managed isolation at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.
“It’s understood two people who have recently left the Pullman Hotel have tested positive and are being re-tested,” says the report. “The results are expected tonight and if the second tests are also positive, there will be a press conference.”
The people have been isolating since Sunday night, reports the Herald.
Earlier, former MP Hone Harawira told Newstalk ZB there were two new Covid-19 cases in the community in Auckland’s Ōrewa.
On Sunday, the first community case of Covid-19 since November was announced – a woman who tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving managed isolation. It has now been determined she contracted the virus from another returnee at the same facility, the Pullman Hotel.
5.10pm: Lotto pulls Six60 scratchies
Lotto is pulling the Instant Kiwi scratchies it released in collaboration with band Six60 after a public outcry.
“Following feedback from Six60 fans and the wider community, Lotto NZ and Six60 have mutually agreed to remove the Six60 Scratchie from sale. We apologise for any concern caused by this ticket,” Lotto NZ said in a statement.
Six60, who have a large, predominantly young fanbase, initially defended their involvement with the scratchies, after a flood of social media comments condemning them for promoting gambling.
In a statement to RNZ yesterday, the band said they were aware of the possibility of criticism when approached by Lotto NZ to do a scratchie, but the decision was based on the fact that Lotto’s proceeds go towards supporting community groups and organisations.
On The Spinoff: Calls to can John Banks over Māori ‘stone age culture’ comments on Magic Talk
Here’s an extract from Alex Braae’s report:
In an alarming segment of talkback radio, former Auckland mayor John Banks endorsed the views of a caller who described Māori as a “stone age people with a stone age culture.”
The comments have prompted major advertiser Vodafone to announce that it suspending advertising on the station.
Banks, who has also been an MP and had a long career in media, is currently filling in for Peter Williams on Magic Talk’s morning show.
The comments were made on Tuesday’s show, and were captured by a TikTok user, who posted a video of them being made.
A caller, identified as Richard, said that Māori were “victims of their own genetic background. They’re genetically predisposed to crime, alcohol, and underperformance educationally.”
With Banks declining to interject, Richard continued, saying he was not interested in learning about, or having his children learn about “their stone age culture.”
When Banks next spoke, he said “your children need to get used to their stone age culture, because if their stone age culture doesn’t change, these people will come through your bathroom window.” The comments have been widely condemned on social media.
3.30pm: Republican congresswoman showed support for executing top Democrats
A Republican congresswoman who has shared conspiracy theory posts, including about QAnon, on her social media had previously showed support for executing prominent Democrats.
A CNN report revealed that Marjorie Taylor Greene, who represents Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, liked a 2019 comment about putting a bullet in house speaker Nancy Pelosi’s head.
In other posts, Greene liked comments about executing FBI agents who were part of the “deep state” working against Trump. In 2018, Greene said the “stage is being set” to execute Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton by hanging.
After being approached by CNN, Greene did not reject the claim she had liked posts or made offensive comments, instead saying that she’s had “teams of people” manage her social media.
“Many posts have been liked. Many posts have been shared. Some did not represent my views. Especially the ones that CNN is about to spread across the internet,” she told the outlet.
2.00pm: Climate change minister James Shaw speaks to John Kerry
James Shaw has had a phone call with Joe Biden’s special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry – the former secretary of state and presidential hopeful.
It’s the first official conversation between the Biden administration and New Zealand’s government since last week’s inauguration. Biden himself previously spoke to Jacinda Ardern after winning the presidential election in November.
“I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Mr. Kerry this morning about the urgency with which our governments must confront the climate emergency,” Shaw said in a statement. “I am grateful to him and his team for taking the time to speak with me about how to ensure the strongest global response to the climate crisis.”
Shaw added: “I shared with Mr. Kerry how pleased I was that one of president Biden’s first actions was to re-join the Paris Agreement. There is no question that having the US back at the table will make a big difference to international efforts to deal with the climate emergency.”
1.00pm: All close contacts of Northland Covid case test negative
All of the close contacts of the 56-year-old Covid-positive Northland woman have now received negative tests, the Covid-19 response minister has announced. “It provides more reassurance around how the response to the case has been managed,” said minister Chris Hipkins.
More than 10,000 tests were processed yesterday, he said. “Each one of those tests, including the tests from Northland, is helping to keep the community safe.”
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said that while the Northland case was originally believed to have 16 close contacts, that number has since been reduced to 11.
“The initial response to a case like this does present logistical challenges but it’s the swift actions of those involved, including those who followed the public health messages, that ensures the response is successful in heading off any community transmission,” said Bloomfield. “There are encouraging signs in Northland… but we’re not breathing out just yet.”
Bloomfield said the Northland woman was now considered recovered; it’s been 10 days since she first started having symptoms, and she had been symptom-free for 72 hours.
The 11 genuine close contacts will all remain in isolation until 14 days has passed since they last had contact with the index case, said Bloomfield.
There are 353 guests who departed the Pullman Hotel between January 9 and 24, said Bloomfield. January 9 is the date when the Northland woman first arrived at the facility. “Of these 353 guests, all have been contacted and 255 have returned a negative test so far.”
Meanwhile, Bloomfield said there are four new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation. All of these are linked to the border and not the Northland case. There is also one historical case and one previously reported case is now “under investigation”.
“Yesterday we had initial test results that came back positive on two people, and further investigation was able to demonstrate that one of those test results was a historical case, and one was not a case,” said Bloomfield.
There’s been increased use of the Covid-19 tracer app, Bloomfield said, with almost a million scans in the past 24 hours. Several hundred thousand people have now turned on Bluetooth. “Please do do that,” said Bloomfield.
Using bluetooth and scanning the QR codes complement each other, Bloomfield said, and people should continue to use both functions.
Vaccination rollout to be ‘year long’ – Hipkins
Speaking after yesterday’s announcement about vaccinations, Hipkins reiterated that the vaccine rollout was on track. If it goes through the necessary approval processes, the Pfizer vaccine could be approved by next Wednesday, February 23. “I want to reiterate very, very clearly that the thorough process Medsafe has been through has in no way delayed the arrival of any vaccine here in New Zealand. Unless, of course, they decline it,” said Hipkins.
The rollout will be “year long”, he said, and will begin with jabs being available to targeted, priority groups. “When we start vaccinating, vaccinations will not be available to the public at large.”
Hipkins added: “We do hope to take our first delivery of Pfizer vaccines as soon as we can.”
The minister’s aspiration is to have all New Zealanders vaccinated by the end of the year, with the main public rollout commencing around June.
“We’ve got a diversified portfolio,” he said. “We’ve got four vaccines.” Hipkins said this should limit risk around shortages or travel limitations.“This is an international crisis we’re dealing with, there will be very heavy demand.”
12.45pm: Watch – Hipkins, Bloomfield, to front 1pm Covid-19 update
It’s just like 2020: Ashley Bloomfield will be fronting another Covid-19 press briefing today alongside Chris Hipkins.
This morning, Bloomfield said it was highly unlikely that the Northland case of Covid-19 was contracted through air conditioning in managed isolation. However, it is believed the woman caught the virus off a fellow returnee shortly before she was allowed to leave isolation.
We’ll have live coverage of today’s 1pm press briefing here.
10.25am: Advisory board appointed to Oranga Tamariki after chief’s resignation
The appointment of a new Oranga Tamariki advisory board is being welcomed by the children’s commissioner.
The four person board – that will report to the minister for children Kelvin Davis – comes after the resignation of the agency’s chief executive Grainne Moss last week, following controversy over child uplifts.
Matthew Tukaki, Dame Naida Glavish, Shannon Pakura and Sir Mark Solomon are on the board and, as RNZ reports, will focus on the ministry’s relationships with families, whānau, hapu, iwi, and Māori.
“The child rescue model that Oranga Tamariki has inherited doesn’t work and has led to too many pēpi and tamariki being separated from their whanau, their identity and their culture,” children’s commissioner Andrew Becroft said.
“Our review of care and protection, Te Kuku o te Manawa, shows that mokopuna Māori, like all children, have the right to be both safe and with their wider whānau. It is not one or the other. Efforts to fix the system need to understand that.”
9.10am: NZ, China sign upgrade free trade agreement
This story broke during the PM’s press conference yesterday, so I’m flagging it for anyone who may have missed it.
New Zealand and China have signed an upgraded free trade agreement that will remain up to date for “at least” another decade.
Minister for trade and export growth Damien O’Connor signed the upgrade in a virtual ceremony with China’s minister of commerce, Wang Wentao, yesterday.
“This upgraded agreement comes at a time of considerable global economic disruption due to Covid-19. The upgraded free trade agreement is part of the government’s Trade Recovery Strategy, in response to the economic shock of Covid-19,” O’Connor said in a statement.
“China is one of New Zealand’s most important relationships. Signing this agreement today builds on the significant benefits both countries have enjoyed as a result of our existing FTA.”
According to the government, the upgraded deal included new rules that will make exporting to China easier, along with bringing in environmental considerations. The upgrade will also mean that 99% of New Zealand’s almost $3 billion wood and paper trade to China will have tariff-free access to China, said O’Connor.
7.50am: ‘Really unlikely’ Covid-19 spread through Pullman ventilation
The director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has all but ruled out the possibility that Covid-19 was spread through air conditioning at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.
The only existing community case of Covid-19, a Northland woman, is believed to have contracted the virus during a stay in managed isolation after returning from overseas.
Speaking on Newstalk ZB, Bloomfield said the Pullman Hotel was audited yesterday. “We’ve expedited a look at the ventilation system. The ventilation system is really unlikely, we haven’t seen that as an issue around the globe, but we are not leaving any stone unturned,” he said.
Pushed on when the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in the country, Bloomfield said he remained confident it would be here before the end of the first quarter of the year. The Pfizer vaccine could receive provisional approval by mid-next week.
“We are confident of getting the vaccine when we said we’ll get it,” said Bloomfield.
The director general told RNZ that he was aware of reported delays with the vaccine out of Europe. “We have seen those reports out of Europe where there have been some delays in delivery from Pfizer and in some respects it’s not surprising,” he said.
“These manufacturers are standing up basically new facilities to manufacture the new vaccine at scale, so there are some delays, but my understanding is that those delays in Europe are for a few weeks rather than sort of long term.”
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
In front of a Rotary Club at the Ellerslie Racecourse in Auckland, National leader Judith Collins yesterday set out her party’s priorities for the year. Both Justin Giovannetti and I went along, and he put together a piece that captured the somewhat glum mood of the room. Her speech – a serious address delivered to a mostly silent crowd – focused heavily on the argument that border security needed strengthening so as to avoid the economic and social costs of further lockdowns. That’s been well canvassed already, but there was plenty of new stuff to get into around housing and regulation.
Namely, Collins made a pitch to the government to put through a temporary law change, which would allow central government to override local government zoning. This in turn would be used to free up greenfields for development, and encourage intensification. The plan is based on that used after the 2011 Canterbury earthquake, which allowed a lot of fast-tracking. Interestingly, it used the language of an ’emergency’ around housing – language National typically uses pretty sparingly – which reflects the prioritisation the party intends to give the issue.
Her housing pitch included a letter sent to the PM, offering to support the government if it used National’s plan. As Newshub reports, the response from the PM was polite indifference – a ‘thanks but no thanks’. Analysing the speech as a whole though, Politik saw the policy suggestions and the way they were framed as a move to the centre.
7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines
The Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine could be given the green light as soon as next Wednesday, the government announced.
Fifteen people identified as close contacts of the Northland woman who has tested positive for Covid-19 returned negative tests.
Two new cases of Covid-19 were reported in managed isolation.
National Party leader Judith Collins made her state of the nation speech in Auckland, calling for emergency housing legislation.
The article of impeachment against former US president Donald Trump was officially brought to the senate.