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 two – read The Spinoff’s giant explainer about what that means here. For official government advice, see here.
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8.00pm: The day in review
There was no change to any of the main numbers, with no new cases for the eighth day in a row and one active case remaining.
US president Donald Trump followed through on threats to withdraw from the World Health Organisation, saying China had “total control” over the global health body.
Covid-19 testing centres began closing their doors, with GPs expected to take over the majority of testing in the next couple of weeks.
National’s Covid-19 response spokesperson Amy Adams joined the chorus of politicians calling for a quicker move to alert level one, hours after epidemiologist Sir David Skegg was quoted in the Weekend Herald as saying “people who advocate a move to level one straight away are either ignorant or indulging in political posturing”.
The New Zealand Warriors became the country’s first major professional sports team to return to competition following the Covid-19 shutdown, playing the St George Illawarra Dragons in Australia – and making NRL history in the process with a spectacular 18-10 victory.
4.30pm: Covid-19 testing centres closing
With no new cases of Covid-19 in more than a week and just one active case remaining, community-based assessment centres (CBACs) are beginning to close their doors or reduce hours. According to a Ministry of Health update sent to media this afternoon, as of yesterday, there were 64 active CBACs operating around the country and 105 designated practices, including mobile clinics, providing assessments and swabbing. District health boards would be making their own decision on how best to provide testing in the coming weeks, said the update, which may involve a mix of CBACs, mobile services, primary care and other community-based testing.
“The ministry has requested that DHBs continue to ensure equitable access to testing for those who have symptoms consistent with Covid-19,” said the update.
Testing numbers are likely to drop from now, as sentinel testing shifts to focus on the border and only symptomatic people are tested. Cabinet will consider an updated testing strategy next week.
RNZ reports that general practitioners are hoping the test remains free of charge, with College of GPs medical director Dr Bryan Betty saying they expect to take over the majority of testing in the next couple of weeks. “At the moment Covid testing is free – we expect that situation to continue if the patient fits what we call the case definition.”
2.15pm: Today’s Warriors game free on Sky
After 10 long, almost entirely sportless weeks, the New Zealand Warriors return to NRL action tonight with a game against the Dragons. To celebrate this milestone, Sky has made it free to watch the game, which kicks off at 5pm New Zealand time, as well as any other sporting content you can binge in the 24 hour free-for-all window. It’s just like the olden days, when every so often Sky would unscramble the signal and you’d end up watching golf just because it was free. To take advantage, head to skysportnow.co.nz, click on BUY PASS in the top right hand corner, then choose the ‘Day Pass On Us’ option.
1.10pm: No new cases, still one active case
For the eighth day in a row, there are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health has announced.
The number of active cases is also unchanged from yesterday, with just one active case remaining in the country.
The total number of confirmed and probable cases is still 1,504; 1,481 of those have recovered and there have been 22 Covid-19 related deaths.
Yesterday laboratories completed 3,020 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 278,872.
The NZ Covid Tracer app now has 458,000 registrations, an increase of 12,000 since this time yesterday.
12.30pm: Daily update coming soon
The Ministry of Health’s daily briefing on Covid-19 numbers is expected to arrive via press release around 1pm today. In the past seven days there have been no new cases in New Zealand, and attention has turned instead to the number of active cases, which as of yesterday sits at just one.
11.30am: Contact tracing benchmark still not being met
The latest Ministry of Health contact tracing data shows it failed to meet one of the benchmarks set for isolating close contacts. In the period from April 13 to May 11, the Herald reports it took nine days to isolate 80 percent of close contacts from the first symptoms of the index case. At the start of May that number had been down to five days, almost at the benchmark of four days set by Dr Ayesha Verrall in her audit. But the ministry says the lower number of cases in the past month meant the one or two which had taken a long time had had a bigger impact on the data. It was continuing to ramp up contact tracing capacity towards the goal of being able to trace 500 cases a day by the end of June.
10.30am: Amy Adams joins chorus calling for quicker move to level one, epidemiologist disagrees
National’s Covid-19 response spokesperson Amy Adams has told Newshub Nation that New Zealand should be moving to alert level one much sooner than is planned. “It’s not good enough for the prime minister to say we’re thinking about it in four weeks,” she said on the current affairs show this morning. “I think we should be looking at level one now – businesses need clarity and certainty.”
On Monday, Jacinda Ardern announced that cabinet had decided to keep the country in alert level two for four weeks, with June 22 the earliest date for a potential move down to level one. On Wednesday, deputy prime minister Winston Peters criticised the decision, telling Newstalk ZB the country should be in level one now. Today the veteran business columnist Fran O’Sullivan joined the chorus with a New Zealand Herald column headlined, “Enough is enough – the time for level one is now”.
A few pages back in the same edition of the Herald, however, esteemed epidemiologist Sir David Skegg warned that to do so would risk an undetected carrier sparking a widespread transmission. He told the paper: “People who advocate a move to level one straight away are either ignorant or indulging in political posturing.”
Adams, who was planning to retire from parliament after the upcoming election but changed her mind to stay on as number three behind Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye in the new National lineup, also defended Muller’s shambolic first few days as leader to Newshub Nation host Ryan Bridge, rating her new leader’s first week in the job “a strong eight and a half” out of ten.
9.45am: Wall withdraws from Manurewa seat
Labour’s Louisa Wall has announced she will not contest the Manurewa seat she has held since 2011 in this year’s election. Instead the MP will be standing for the party list, RNZ reports. In a statement, Wall said she was withdrawing her nomination “in order to bring to an end disagreement over the contested nomination process for the South Auckland seat”. The MP had been pursuing legal action against her own party over a late nomination.
9.00am: New Zealand on verge of joining ‘Covid-free club’
New Zealand is on the verge of having zero active cases of Covid-19, after case numbers were updated yesterday there was just one remaining active case in the country and no new cases recorded for a full week. Today’s daily update is due at the usual time of 1pm.
The country’s first case of Covid-19 was recorded on February 28th, and at the peak there were 929 active cases. If and when that number returns to zero, New Zealand will join a small group of countries in the “Covid-free club”. On The Spinoff this morning, Josie Adams looks at who else is in that club, and how New Zealand compares.
8.45am: Monkeys steal Covid-19 test samples
Like something from the start of a pandemic movie, a gang of monkeys in India mobbed a health worker and stole blood samples from coronavirus tests, the Guardian reports. The monkeys scampered up nearby trees, where they were filmed and posted to social media. The three stolen blood samples were later recovered undamaged, the superintendent of Meerut Medical College told AFP. “We don’t think there is any risk of contamination or spread,” they said.
8.30am: South Korea closes schools again as new cases spike
More than 250 South Korean schools have been forced to close again just days after reopening following the country’s largest daily spike in new cases in two months. The BBC reports 79 new cases were recorded in South Korea on Thursday, most of which could be traced to an outbreak at a distribution warehouse in the city of Bucheon, near Seoul. Schools in Bucheon closed again as a result, with others in Seoul postponing their reopenings.
8.15am: Trump withdraws US from WHO, lays blame for pandemic with China
Donald Trump has announced he is terminating the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organisation, saying China has “total control” over the global health body. In a nine-and-a-half-minute address, the US president blamed the Chinese government’s “cover up” response to Covid-19 for the spread of the virus which has now caused over 100,000 deaths in the United States.
“We have detailed the reforms that [the WHO] must make and engaged with them directly but they have refused to act,” Trump said. “Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organisation and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.”
7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories
There were zero new cases of Covid-19 and only one remaining active case.
The government announced a $175 million package to help the arts and music industry recover from the effects of Covid-19, including an iteration of the disestablished PACE scheme, or the ‘artists’s dole’.
National announced a bold new policy that would award a cash payment to businesses that hire new staff of $10,000 per new employee, capped at $100,000 per business. The scheme would run from November 2020 to March 2021.
A new study is being rolled out in the Southern DHB region of a Covid-19 blood test that can check for past exposure to the virus by indicating if a person has antibodies from previous infection. Scientists expect the test to reveal some cases of Covid-19 that were missed because of initial rules around swab testing.
Despite reporting an increased first-half-year profit on last year, Tower Insurance are proposing 108 job cuts of their 700 staff due to a self-service platform.
At noon yesterday the maximum group size for social gatherings under alert level two changed from 10 to 100.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.