Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for January 28, keeping you up to date with the latest local and international news. Reach me on email@example.com
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8.20pm: The day in sum
Genome sequencing linked the pair of new Covid-19 cases – an adult and a child – to the same strain of the virus detected at the Pullman Hotel.
The Ministry of Health said it had found no evidence of community transmission from the new Covid-19 cases. Investigations are continuing into how they caught the virus.
The prime minister said “extra requirements” were being considered for people who leave MIQ.
Australia again placed a 72 hour halt on quarantine-free travel from New Zealand. At this stage quarantine-free travel across the Tasman will recommence on Sunday night.
Trade minister Damien O’Connor reportedly ruffled feathers in the Australian government by advising them to speak with ‘more diplomacy’ when dealing with China.
The Māori Party announced it would not attend Waitangi this Waitangi Day “on iwi advice” following the emergence of Covid-19 in Northland over the weekend.
The Sounds like Summer Festival set to take place in Matakana this weekend has been cancelled due to the ongoing Covid situation.
The government unveiled a suite of climate pledges including a promise to fully decarbonise buses by 2035.
8.00pm: List of North Shore locations of interest updated
The Ministry of Health has this evening updated its list of locations visited by the father and daughter who have tested positive for Covid-19. The additions to the list are an ASB bank in Wairau Valley and DaHua Supermarket in Northcote. New times have also been added to some existing locations. The full list of locations is:
ASB Wairau Valley, 10 Link Drive, Wairau Valley
DaHua Supermarket, 35 Pearn Crescent, Northcote
BBQ King, 4A/270 Oteha Valley Road, Albany
Pak n Save Silverdale, 20 Hibiscus Coast Highway, Silverdale
Caltex Orewa, 70 Grand Drive, Orewa
Hickeys Pharmacy, 16 Moana Avenue, Orewa
Farmers at Westfield Albany, Don McKinnon Drive, Albany
Tai Ping Supermarket Albany, 92 Rosedale Road, Rosedale
New World Orewa, 11 Moana Avenue, Orewa
Tai Ping Supermarket Northcote, 2 Kilham Avenue, Northcote
More details, including the times of interest and when you should get tested if you are affected, can be found here.
4.10pm: Wellington water woes worsen
A torrent of water has erupted out of Aro Street in Wellington – in the same week the CBD has been dealing with water restrictions and burst pipes in the CBD.
Social media is awash with photos of the latest incident, with many questioning why they continue to live in the city anyway.
Here we go again….Aro Valley Road this time pic.twitter.com/fXCc0fqKmP
— Andrew Perry (@AndrewPerryNZ) January 28, 2021
The burst main in Aro Valley pic.twitter.com/vAgyUJnEN2
— Joel MacManus (@JoelMacManus) January 28, 2021
3.50pm: Australia extends travel restrictions at last minute
Australia has once again placed a 72 hour halt on quarantine-free travel with New Zealand – even after some people had checked into their evening flights across the Tasman.
The last set of restrictions were announced on Monday, following the Northland case of Covid-19 being announced.
At this stage, quarantine-free travel will be able to recommence on Sunday night.
According to local reports, 12 people who were in quarantine at the Auckland Pullman hotel at the same time as the latest Covid-19 cases then flew to Sydney before border restrictions were imposed.
Three went on to Hong Kong, two to Queensland, and the remaining seven are being followed up in New South Wales.
3.20pm: Trade minister says Australia should speak with ‘more diplomacy’ when dealing with China
Trade minister Damien O’Connor has reportedly unsettled senior members of the Australian government over his comments suggesting the country mishandled its relationship with China.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald claims O’Connor said Australia should follow New Zealand and speak with a “little more diplomacy” when dealing with the Chinese government.
O’Connor said New Zealand had a “mature relationship with China and we’ve always been able to raise issues of concern”.
But members of the Australian government are unhappy with the comments and believe New Zealand has relied on Australia to do the “heavy lifting” in standing up to Beijing.
Australian Liberal MP Dave Sharma said: “I don’t see this advice from New Zealand as particularly insightful or helpful.”
2.15pm: Australia keeps NZ hanging on quarantine-free travel
The Australian government’s suspension of quarantine-free travel is set to end in under three hours time – and no decision has yet been made on whether to extend it.
The rationale for the initial 72 hour pause on “green zone” travel was to allow for more information about the Northland Covid-19 cases to be released. Since then, two further cases have been linked to the same returnee.
Australia is leaving its border decision to the last minute. The suspension of Green Zone travel from NZ ends in under three hours and a decision hasn't been made if it will be extended. How frustrating for anyone flying out of NZ tonight not knowing if they can or can't fly.
— Emma Cropper (@EmmaRoseCropper) January 28, 2021
1.55pm: Māori Party not attending Waitangi ‘on iwi advice’
The Māori Party has announced it will not be attending Waitangi commemorations next weekend due to the latest developments around Covid-19.
Co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said in a statement that the party will “err on the side of caution” and “continue to do so until our people are vaccinated and we can minimise the risk of spreading the virus.”
She added: “Last week I called on government to reduce border numbers and bring forward the vaccination schedule. Aotearoa is currently at greater risk than we’ve ever been of another significant outbreak.”
Co-leader Rawiri Waititi called the decision a “real shame” but added that “there’s nothing more important than the protection of whakapapa and ensuring we don’t increase the risk of community transmission”.
1.00pm: No evidence of community transmission from new Covid-19 cases; investigation continuing into how they caught virus
The two latest Covid-19 cases are a father and young daughter, Ashley Bloomfield has confirmed. A close contact – the mother of the child – has continued to test negative for the coronavirus. The pair are both in the Jet Park quarantine facility.
Genome sequencing has linked the two confirmed cases to the original Pullman hotel “source case”, with the South African strain of the virus.
Bloomfield confirmed there was a single chain of transmission between the original case in MIQ, the Northland case and the two new Auckland cases. There remained no evidence of any community transmission.
The list of locations of interest will “develop and change” as more information is received, he said. Bloomfield confirmed that the father had not attended his workplace and the child had not been to any childcare centre.
The several day period where there were no locations listed may change, he said
There are now 11 close contacts that have been identified – all are isolating. At least five of the close contacts have received negative test results already.
Over the last 24 hours, 8,306 tests were processed, said Bloomfield, with 36,230 over the last seven days. Since Sunday, there were 17,179 tests in the Auckland and Northland regions.
Asked why there are locations of interest after the time when all Pullman guests had been asked to isolate, Bloomfield said: “My clear understanding is that once contact was made, the pair who tested positive did what was asked of them.”
Bloomfield did not say whether people should still leave Auckland this weekend for the long weekend, saying that there will be a better picture this time tomorrow.
Pullman hotel closed to new guests, will be emptied out for investigation
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins confirmed that the Pullman hotel has been closed to any new arrivals while an investigation is underway. “Once those who are currently there complete their stay, the Pullman hotel will be empty for a period of a time,” Hipkins said.
In relation to how the two new cases contracted the virus, Hipkins confirmed that the source case – who was taken to the Jet Park quarantine facility – had been out of their room at the Pullman at the same time as the latest cases, although for different reasons. An investigation is ongoing, he said, to establish whether they may have been in any common areas at the same time, like an elevator.
“It does appear there could be some circumstantial conditions in which the virus has been able to pass between them,” Hipkins said.
All returnees will, from Saturday, have to stay in their rooms after they’ve completed their final test as an interim measure, said Hipkins.
Despite the developments this week, Hipkins said the Pullman has been an excellent managed isolation facility.
At the end of next week, Hipkins said he will receive advice on how rooms are allocated, including whether changes are needed to how the arrival and departure of guests is staggered. Spot checks are under way in other MIQ facilities around the country
Hipkins reiterated that since the time these new cases would’ve been infected, new changes have been implemented including day zero testing.
219 staff at the Pullman have been contacted, with 201 tested, 199 returning negative and two awaiting results.
Of the 353 guests who were there at the time concerned, 301 have been tested and received returned negative tests (apart from the North Auckland pair). Results are awaited from the remaining 52, but Hipkins was unable to say how many of those had not been tested or they were unable to contact.
Hipkins said there have been increasing complaints about QR codes not being prominently displayed. He asked businesses to display the codes prominently and preferably in multiple places.
CCTV upgrades had not been completed at the Pullman so visibility isn’t as good as at other MIQ facilities, Hipkins said. He couldn’t guarantee that every communal area was visible. “It is unfortunate that the Pullman is one of the last to get that update.”
12.45pm: Watch – Hipkins, Bloomfield to provide latest Covid-19 details
Today’s 1pm Covid-19 press briefing will be given by the director general of health alongside minister Chris Hipkins.
It follows the news overnight that two new community cases of Covid-19 have been detected. The pair will likely face questions on contact tracing and testing following the new cases, especially given the current list of locations of interest includes a four day gap.
12.15pm: Hone Harawira ‘pissed off’ after police shut iwi checkpoint
An iwi checkpoint south of Kawakawa in Northland has been closed by police this morning.
According to the Herald, members of the Tai Tokerau Border Control have been running an “information centre” in Waiomio, using cones to divert traffic off the road where they were given Covid-19 information.
The checkpoint was closed about 11.20 this morning by police, although officers had previously been assisting with stopping vehicles the site.
One of those assisting at the checkpoint was former MP Hone Harawira, who said he was “pissed off” that police could stop vehicles for any reason but won’t allow his members an opportunity to do something worthwhile for their community.
11.45am: ‘Extra requirements’ for people who leave MIQ being considered – Ardern
The government is teasing that new restrictions could be placed on people leaving managed isolation, following three new cases all linked to the Pullman hotel.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern is taking questions for the first time about the new cases – two of which were confirmed overnight.
Ardern told reporters that she wants to “get to the bottom” of what allowed for transmission of the virus at the Pullman hotel, saying “something has happened, an event of some description”.
She added: “One of the things we’ve also talked to our health officials about is… whether we need to limit their movement once they’ve had that final test.”
Ardern said it was possible that further restrictions could be put in place for people who are set to leave managed isolation.
“We’re always looking for extra assurance for everyone, so if that means adding in some extra requirements once you leave, that’s absolutely what we’re looking at,” she said.
Asked about the pace of testing of other Pullman guests, Ardern said she has asked questions about the lag between getting a test and getting a result.
11.15am: North Auckland music festival canned over Covid fears
A Matakana music festival has been cancelled following news of two more Covid-19 cases in the Auckland community.
The Sounds like Summer Festival was set to see around 1500 attendees head north of Auckland this weekend, to watch performers including The Black Seeds.
Festival spokesperson Jade Atkinson told 1News the decision was largely influenced by having many of the festival-goers coming locally, likely from areas which may have been visited by the recent Covid-positive individuals.
“After consulting with the Ministry of Health as well as other interested groups, we felt it would be irresponsible to operate a festival and gathering of this size on the boundary of the Northland region,” said Atkinson.
The festival is set to go ahead at a to-be-determined later date.
11.00am: Government unveils suite of climate pledges; promises to decarbonise buses by 2035
The government has announced it is following through on several of its key environmental pledges made before the 2020 election.
It includes mandating a lower emitting biofuel blend across the transport sector, only purchasing zero emissions public transport buses from 2025, and committing to pass “clean car import standard” legislation later this year.
“We’re also committing $50 million to help councils fully decarbonise the public transport bus fleet by 2035,” said transport minister Michael Wood. “By meeting our target to decarbonise the bus fleet, we can prevent up to 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which will make an important contribution towards meeting our climate targets.”
Jacinda Ardern, who is making the announcement south of Auckland today, said: “Transport makes up our second highest amount of emissions after agriculture, so it’s important we reduce emissions from our vehicle fleet.”
The import standard is set to start next year, Wood said, which will prevent up to three million tonnes of emissions by 2040. It will be phased in through annual targets and see a reduction in imports of gas guzzling vehicles . Wood also claimed it will give families an average lifetime saving of nearly $7000 per vehicle.
“The government will also consider options for an incentive scheme to help Kiwis make the switch to clean cars,” he added, announcing that “further announcements” will be made in the coming months.
The Green Party are taking some of the responsibility for the policy announcements, saying it delivers on the cooperation agreement signed with Labour.
“I am proud to have led the work for the clean car standard last term as the Green associate transport minister, and to now see it implemented on its original timeframe,” Julie Anne Genter said.
“The announcements today are an important move in the right direction, and will increase the supply of efficient new and used vehicles into New Zealand.”
10.30am: Covid-infected pair visited Auckland mall
The Ministry of Health has updated its locations of interest page to specify that the new Covid-19 cases visited a Farmers shop inside the Westfield Albany complex.
Previously, the page just listed a Farmers in Albany – but locals pointed out that there are in fact two branches in the area.
To get into the Westfield Farmers, you need to walk through the often bustling mall as it cannot be accessed from the carpark. Anyone who visited the store between 12 noon and 1pm on January 24 is asked to stay home, call Heathline and seek a test.
It’s not yet known whether the entire Westfield is now deemed a location of interest and whether or not it will need to be closed for cleaning.(Image : MOH)
10.00am: How worried should we be about the South African variant of Covid-19?
We now know that two more cases of the South African Covid-19 strain have been located in the north Auckland community, both linked to the Pullman hotel.
But how worried do we need to be about the new strain? Siouxsie Wiles explains:
In terms of the pandemic, the theme for January 2021 has been the emergence of what are sometimes being called “variants of concern”. First it was B1.1.7 (also referred to as 501Y.V1, or VUI-202012/01) which emerged in the UK, then B.1.351 (501Y.V2) identified in South Africa – the variant that has been contracted by the Northland woman – and more recently P1 in Brazil.
The important thing to understand though, is that it’s not really the variants themselves that are of concern, but the set of mutations they each have. Sets of mutations that can give a particular variant of the virus an advantage. From lab experiments, we are starting to understand which mutations, or combinations, can improve the ability of the spike protein to interact with the receptor the virus uses to enter host cells. In other words, which mutations have the potential to make the virus more infectious. Also from lab experiments, we are starting to get an idea of which mutations can impact on the ability of host antibodies to neutralise the virus. In other words, which mutations might help the virus evade the current vaccines, or at least make them not as effective.
What we are now seeing is those advantageous mutations, and combinations of advantageous mutations, appearing in the real world. Importantly, these mutations can arise in any variant in any lineage, if the conditions are right. And in many countries, conditions are perfect right now. The more community transmission, the more chances of variants with different and worrying combinations of mutations arising. In essence, what we are watching is evolution in action.
9.20am: Covid-19 cases – what happens next?
A 1pm press conference with Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has been confirmed, after two new community Covid-19 cases were confirmed overnight.
The absence of the prime minister – and the fact the presser is being held at the regular time of 1pm – is potentially good news for Aucklanders worried about being in lockdown for the upcoming anniversary long weekend.
Meanwhile, testing of close contacts will continue today along with contact tracing to establish who may have come into contact with the two new cases. Hipkins this morning said he believed the new cases had been good with their use of the Covid Tracer app, and the adult from the pair had not been at work since leaving managed isolation.
More details on locations of interest and testing locations can be found below.
7.30am: Testing links new Covid-19 cases to Pullman hotel
Genome sequencing has linked the pair of new Covid-19 cases – an adult and a child – to the same strain of the virus detected at the Pullman Hotel.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins announced the news on Newstalk ZB, saying he had just got off the phone with Ashley Bloomfield. While the infection has been linked to the Pullman Hotel, it is not yet confirmed if they contracted the virus from the same returnee as the Northland woman. However, Hipkins confirmed it is the South African variant.
There are six close contacts in total, Hipkins said, and the first test results have come back negative – including a third person in the pair’s bubble.
At this stage, there is no change to our alert levels – but Hipkins said “everything is always under review”.
He added: “There does appear to be something at the Pullman hotel.” No new returnees will be taken to the Pullman Hotel – “to empty it out for a bit” – and staff will not be allowed to move between facilities, said Hipkins. The ventilation will also be flushed out to rule out the possibility that the virus spread in that way. It’s understood the Northland case and the new pair were not on the same floor of the hotel.
The pair’s movements since leaving managed isolation were revealed last night, showing a number of locations around the north Auckland area.
Testing of close contacts will continue today and Hipkins said that a number of returnees who left the Pullman Hotel after the original Northland case returned home have yet to be tracked down for follow-up testing.
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.”
7.00am: Yesterday’s key stories
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.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.