Dr Ashley Bloomfield speaking at an August 13 news conference (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: The stark reminder of Covid-19 deaths

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Two deaths have now taken place in the renewed outbreak of Covid-19, Plan B group criticised for misleading scientist quotes, and new numbers show many taking up a benefit.

After no Covid-related deaths in months, two have taken place in quick succession in Auckland. They were both people who spent significant stretches of time in intensive care, showing how long the tail of the virus can be after the initial infection.

The first death was a man in his 50s who worked at Mt Wellington coolstore Americold, reports Newshub. Alan Te Hiko was a father of four, and had been to Tokoroa before he knew he had the virus. Reportedly, he was able to have video calls with his family from a hospital bed in his final days. Other members of his family are understood to have contracted the virus. He is being remembered with much love by his friends and colleagues, reports the NZ Herald.

The second person who died was former Cook Islands PM Dr Joseph Williams, a man who lived a remarkable life of public service as a medical doctor, researcher and leader. There was an excellent obituary to Dr Williams in the Cook Islands News, which covered his many achievements and contributions to both the Cook Islands and New Zealand. A wide range of tributes have been made following his death, including this from Dr Collin Tukuitonga, the associate dean Pacific at the University of Auckland’s medical faculty, who was mentored by Dr Williams.

Both cases have acted as a sad reminder about the potential damage the virus can do. In a statement after the death of Te Hiko, Dr Ashley Bloomfield said “we have always recognised that further deaths linked to Covid-19 were possible. Although the health system has done and will continue to do everything we can to prevent them, this can be a very challenging virus to treat and for some people to recover from.” As of yesterday, there were four people currently in hospital with the virus.

Meanwhile, there was also confirmation that earlier reports of a case in Christchurch were a false alarm. It means that the Auckland cluster has still basically been confined to Auckland, but continued vigilance throughout the whole country is being urged by health officials.


The Plan B group – who call for an end to lockdowns and the elimination strategy against Covid-19 – have been caught misleadingly editing the words of scientists to make their case. As Newshub’s Dan Satherley reports, there have been two instances in quick succession, one related to statements made by a top World Health Organisation Official, and the other one took prominent science communicator Dr Michelle Dickinson out of context. Both responded to the misquoting by Plan B in strong terms, and made it clear they did not share the group’s views. Several academics are involved with Plan B, and to be honest, they should probably feel embarrassed about trying to make their case with such tactics.


We got some very useful new numbers on the number of people receiving a benefit at the end of last week, reported on by Interest’s Jenée Tibshraeny. All up, it’s about 77,000 people – 52,000 on the Jobseeker, and the rest on the Covid relief payments. Many of those on the Covid relief payments have now come off, and less than a fifth of them have done so because they’ve found a new job – mostly it’s just that their 12 week term has ended.


Something for those with an interest in monetary policy to keep an eye on (it’s more interesting than it sounds.) Warnings are being sounded that the Reserve Bank’s programme of Quantitative Easing (money printing, basically) is only serving to inflate existing assets, rather than being put towards new and productive uses to stimulate the economy. Newsroom’s Bernard Hickey this morning says a similar trend has been seen overseas, and the signs of that happening here are not promising. And Stuff columnist Damien Grant is even more forthright, saying that it is effectively acting as a massive transfer of wealth from the working and middle classes to the wealthy.


Fishing minister Stuart Nash has announced a big funding package to get cameras on boats, reports One News. Up to $60 million will be rolled out before the end of 2021, with an aim of having most of the inshore fleet monitored by the end of 2024. Nash has defended what might seem like a pretty long delay on the grounds it is “quite a complex operation”, involving difficult operating environments for the cameras, and other technical issues. “If this was easy then every boat in the world – there’s about 4,500,000 fishing boats around the world, there’s about 2000 cameras – this is not an easy process, if it was we would have done it.” In a release, Outdoors Party co-leader Alan Simmons said this excuse was a “smokescreen, when one considers modern boats all have computer servers maintaining navigation and charts and other needs.”


Local Government organisations have formally started the push for a move to four year terms, rather than three, reports Radio NZ. The reasoning behind it is that shorter terms leave Councils with less ability to make increasingly complex governing decisions, and lead to frequent reviews of previous decisions when new Councils come in. One counter-argument against the proposal might be that it would give voters fewer chances to get rid of those elected officials who aren’t doing a good job.


We’ll be doing a series of party leader interviews over the course of the election campaign. Justin Giovannetti has delivered the first one, speaking to Labour leader and PM Jacinda Ardern about her vision for what the next five years looks like, and how New Zealand will come out of the various crises currently buffeting the world around.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

Image: Getty

Right now on The Spinoff: Hayden Donnell goes searching around Auckland for the Covid transformation that has improved other decent sized cities. Toni Truslove writes about the need to welcome the NZers currently coming back from overseas. Kate Hannah and The Disinformation Project chart the sharp change in the vectors and volume of false stories that wrap around the Covid crisis, and what could be done about it. Max Rashbrooke writes about a conference that involved people speaking to power, and analyses what it means for how government is done. Liam Dann investigates the changing nature of borrowing since Covid hit. Shelly Pilkington – at number 75 on the National list – is the latest candidate in our series on those placed last by their party. Laura O’Connell Rapira writes about what the next government needs to do to be an honourable treaty partner. Josie Adams interviews actor Antony Starr on the gratuitous violence and nationalism of his hit new US TV show. And Alie Benge writes about the spark in her journey through the world of online dating.


For a feature today, an essay by one of the world’s leading thinkers about the reality of modern life. Many were sad to hear of the death of David Graeber last week, an anthropologist who sharply critiqued a whole lot of assumptions about society that were often explained away as ‘just the way things are’. Many of his essays have been shared in the last few days, but it’s worth going back and reading again one of his finest – the cutting analysis of the ‘bullshit jobs’ phenomenon. Here’s an excerpt:

I would not presume to tell someone who is convinced they are making a meaningful contribution to the world that, really, they are not. But what about those people who are themselves convinced their jobs are meaningless? Not long ago I got back in touch with a school friend who I hadn’t seen since I was 12. I was amazed to discover that in the interim, he had become first a poet, then the front man in an indie rock band. I’d heard some of his songs on the radio having no idea the singer was someone I actually knew. He was obviously brilliant, innovative, and his work had unquestionably brightened and improved the lives of people all over the world. 

Yet, after a couple of unsuccessful albums, he’d lost his contract, and plagued with debts and a newborn daughter, ended up, as he put it, ‘taking the default choice of so many directionless folk: law school.’ Now he’s a corporate lawyer working in a prominent New York firm. He was the first to admit that his job was utterly meaningless, contributed nothing to the world, and, in his own estimation, should not really exist.


The first All Blacks squad of the year has been named, but it’s not yet clear if they’ll actually play. As the NZ Herald’s Liam Napier reports, a meeting is understood to be taking place this week to figure out a test schedule, which for obvious reasons has all been a bit up in the air this year. Seven new players have been named in the squad, which reportedly didn’t really change as a result of the North vs South game.


That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme




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