Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Quarantine announcement expected today for arrivals, John Tamihere accused of test-seeking dishonesty, and Cyclone Harold smashes Pacific.
An announcement is expected today on mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals at the border, in an effort to prevent outbreaks of Covid-19. That comes from Newshub’s political editor Tova O’Brien, and the story is written with the wording that they ‘understand’ such an announcement is imminent – in the vast majority of reported stories like this, things that are understood turn out to then happen. To back that up, Stuff reported last night that a mandatory quarantine was “on the cards”, with PM Jacinda Ardern giving more information about what it would look like in practice.
Don’t we already have this in place? Not as such, though quarantine options exists. Those who turn up showing symptoms, or who do not have adequate self-isolation plans, do already face mandatory quarantine. Police have also been carrying out face-to-face compliance checks on those arrivals who are self-isolating in recent days. However, with the largest chunk of Covid-19 cases in New Zealand still coming from overseas rather than community transmission, mandatory quarantine is probably a necessary part of a wider elimination strategy. It will likely apply to all countries of origin for arrivals, and will be modelled on the facility in Whangapāroa used to quarantine arrivals from Wuhan in February.
Why wasn’t it done sooner? This report from Newstalk ZB suggests that the reason mandatory quarantine didn’t come sooner was because the PM believed the existing system was working. As well as that, when more people were arriving, it would have been logistically impossible. However, there has been a relentless campaign from many figures for a mandatory quarantine in recent days, from epidemiologist Sir David Skegg at the Epidemic Response Committee, to the National Party, to Newshub itself through their national correspondent Patrick Gower.
Meanwhile, there’s concern that even with a tiny number of international flights taking place, some New Zealanders won’t be able to make it home. The NZ Herald reported on one such case yesterday, of a New Zealand family stuck in Germany. Even though the German government has chartered an Air NZ flight to get their citizens out of New Zealand, it isn’t at all clear whether this family will be able to get on the return leg. It’s a system the NZ government have said they’re looking at as a solution, but clearly in this instance it hasn’t yet got over the line. And in Peru, some New Zealanders have expressed disappointment at the high price of a repatriation flight home, reports Stuff – though by all accounts it seems better than the alternative of a military curfew that has been put in place over the country.
Just quickly, a message from our editor Toby Manhire:
“Here at The Spinoff, members’ support is more important than ever as the Covid-19 crisis lays waste to large chunks of our commercial work. It’s a tight time for everyone, of course, but if you’re able to, please consider joining Spinoff Members to help us stay afloat and keep producing work by the likes of Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris, whose collaborations have had a real impact in New Zealand and around the world.”
Waipareira Trust boss John Tamihere has been accused of telling staff to lie in order to get Covid-19 tests, reports Leigh-Marama McLachlan for Radio NZ. The accusations have come from two doctors at a West Auckland testing station, who say they were told by Tamihere to test his staff. When they refused to automatically test – saying instead they’d screen them and test as required – they were told that staff members had been instructed to lie so they would be tested. The doctors say they felt intimidated by the experience, and they walked out, also saying it could have put the staffers at risk. Tamihere is yet to comment on the allegation, except to say that it is an employment matter.
Cyclone Harold has inflicted a terrible toll on Vanuatu and Fiji, at a time when those countries can least afford to have people in crowded evacuation centres.RNZ Pacific has published pictures this morning of the damage, which includes totally flattened villages, roofs ripped off houses, and crops destroyed. The danger hasn’t fully passed for Fiji yet, with the storm still blowing as a category four – slightly weaker than what hit Vanuatu. The NZ government has made available an initial support package of $500,000.
Two pieces to share on questions of trust in those leading the Covid-19 response: Toby Manhire has reported on new data from polling firm Colmar Brunton, which has found overwhelming public support for how the government has handled the crisis. In fact, the figures show trust in the government response is far outstripping other countries in the G7 so far, even though New Zealanders are more likely to think that it will take more than sixth months for things to get back to normal.
On the other hand, are we really being given timely and trustworthy information from the government and top public servants? That’s the question posed by Newshub’s Michael Morrah, who has laid out a series of incidents in the message from the top being markedly different to what his newsroom’s reporters were hearing on the ground, around matters like PPE, testing swabs and flu vaccines. Morrah has also called out a tendency for answers to specific questions that end up being vague and late.
Questions are being raised about how environmentally friendly the economic recovery from the Covid-19 downturn will be. It might seem like a secondary concern to some, but as Newsroom reports, climate activists are warning that the shape of the recovery will basically be the last realistic chance to put emissions on a permanently downward trajectory.
One place that debate is playing out is around the Auckland Council table, reported in this NZ Herald article with the rather crude framing of ‘jobs vs climate change’. With the government asking councils for ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects to fund, councillor Daniel Newman has described climate change as a “boutique” concern against immediate job creation, while environment chairman Richard Hills has argued that climate friendly projects should be prioritised.
Foreign citizens who have found themselves unemployed say they’re trapped, with no access to benefits or any way back to their birth country, reports Radio NZ. The stories range from asylum seekers who have been released from detention, to immigrants who say their employers got rid of them first because it would be easier. One point made in the story is that the treatment they’re getting here is very similar to the way Australia treats unemployed New Zealanders – and we get pretty up in arms about that.
Just quickly, Easter is coming up, and there won’t be any editions of The Bulletin until next Tuesday. But don’t worry, The Spinoff will continue to cover Covid-19 over that period – you’ll be able to find all of our live blogs and articles on the subject here.
And if you’re planning on going somewhere for an easter holiday – how about this: Don’t do it! Stay at home. And as Dr Siouxsie Wiles says, don’t hang out with the neighbours over the fence either, it’s just too risky. You should of course choose to stay at home, but if you choose otherwise, the NZ Herald reports the cops will be out in force at checkpoints. So far there have been 45 prosecutions for flouting of lockdown rules, and at this stage you’d have to be pretty dumb to add to that tally.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Mirjam Guesgen reports on the technique of pool testing, and how it could dramatically ramp up our Covid testing capacity. Joshua Hitchcock writes about the impact the Covid recession will have on Māori. Dr Oliver Armstrong-Scott calls for the homophobic aspects of New Zealand’s blood donation system to be scrapped. Greta Yeoman writes about newly arrived refugees having their lives put in limbo. On the Rag records one last episode, with tips for how to cope with the current chaos. Alice Neville writes about how composting is much deeper than just being a trend. Amanda Thompson searches for the truth behind a minty mystery, with an Ōamaru sweet maker giving away a product remarkably similar to the late, lamented Snifter.
And Juliet Moses has written a piece about Passover this year, the Jewish festival that is traditionally accompanied by synagogue visits, sharing food with strangers and community. Her piece shares an important and beautiful perspective on this current situation, and I encourage you to read it. For all those people of faith who can’t observe their traditions right now, my condolences.
For a feature today, a look at how the marketing world is being changed by Covid-19. Brand communication is still happening, it’s just going out into a radically different economic and social world to even a month ago. This piece from industry journal StopPress is really interesting, because it outlines how marketers are trying to respond to that in both familiar and unfamiliar ways, particularly around automation. Here’s an excerpt:
A few months back, I registered my email on the site of a juggernaut, technology-based consumer services company. Their brand TVCs promised to be there for me when I needed them. Curious to see how they lived up to their promise, I entered my email address as requested – front and centre on their homepage. Then I waited.
And then it began. I started receiving what most of us would consider to be unsolicited, automated emails that also made some pretty big, uniformed assumptions about me and what they could sell me. It might have been polite if their first communication to me had welcomed me and asked me what I needed before their resident R2D2 starting auto-spamming me. Since COVID-19’s acceleration a month ago, that same company has gone completely silent. Now they don’t talk to me at all. Don’t they love me anymore? Don’t they want my business anymore? I’m guessing it’s simply that they don’t know what to say.
In sport, we heard yesterday about an allegation of match throwing in the world of esport Rocket League. Well, Oskar Howell for Stuff has the conclusion – the charge has resulted in a guilty verdict, and punishments handed down. Two top players have been banned for a year, which could have devastating consequences for their careers – esports players start pro careers very young, and they don’t last long at the top level. One of the players hit out at the verdict, saying they didn’t get a fair trial. If you’re confused about why this all matters so much, a major reason is that Rocket League is a code that the TAB allows betting on, so any perception of corruption has to be taken extremely seriously.
That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme. Have a wonderful few days, see you again on Tuesday.
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