An elderly man wearing a face mask, pushes a shopping cart in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 25, 2020. (Photo by Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto)
An elderly man wearing a face mask, pushes a shopping cart in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 25, 2020. (Photo by Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto)

The BulletinAugust 12, 2020

The Bulletin: Resurgence plan triggered by Covid-19 community transmission

An elderly man wearing a face mask, pushes a shopping cart in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 25, 2020. (Photo by Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto)
An elderly man wearing a face mask, pushes a shopping cart in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 25, 2020. (Photo by Sanka Vidanagama/NurPhoto)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Resurgence plan triggered by Covid-19 community transmission, questions about what it will mean for the election, and Christchurch rest home lockdown appears to be unrelated.

The first new cases of Covid-19 outside of managed isolation have been announced, triggering a resurgence plan from the government. There are four confirmed cases of Covid-19 within a family, which has come from an unknown source. As of midday today, the Auckland region (defined as anywhere within the SuperCity) is at alert level three – here is what you need to know. The rest of the country is at alert level two – here are the rules for level two. Note – on the 2nd article, the dates apply to the last time we were in this position, however the new alert levels will be in place for three days, until midnight on Friday. A full report of last night’s 9.15pm press conference can be read here. You can also be assured that our live updates will get every important development to you over the course of the next few days, so keep an eye on the site.

To reiterate the most important bits of level three for Auckland: All non-essential workplaces will be required to either close, or work from home. According to the PM, schools will be closed except for the children of essential service workers. Non-essential travel in and out of the region will have to stop – the exceptions are if you need to leave Auckland to get home, or get back into Auckland to get home. All mass gatherings will be cancelled. A reminder too – level three is one of those levels in which people need to stick to their bubbles.

Outside of Auckland, social distancing measures will apply, and mass gatherings will need to be limited to fewer than 100 people. For everyone, it’s important to keep track of where you’ve been. It is also important that everyone, everywhere, goes back to hard out hand hygiene at all times. Masks will also need to become part of the mix this time around, particularly if you’re on public transport.

There have been widespread reports of huge queues at supermarkets. The PM last night was very clear on this point – all supermarkets and pharmacies will stay open, and will have stock on the shelves. We saw this same situation last time around – provided people shop normally, the supermarkets themselves are able to replenish normally.

A mass testing programme will now be put in place to try and uncover any further cases, and trace contacts of those who have been infected. Dr Ashley Bloomfield encouraged anyone with symptoms to come forward and get a test, and there will be additional capacity put on, particularly in Auckland. He also said it was very unlikely that Covid-19 had been in the community this whole time, because previous mass testing efforts had not uncovered cases.

Finally, this is a time to listen to the scientists. In that spirit, I encourage you to read Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris on why moving back up the alert levels is the right course of action in this instance. We’ve also republished a selection of expert commentary from the Science Media Centre. The top line summary of their collective views is this: we know what works, we’ve beaten this before, and we can do it again.

The election campaign has been thrown into confusion by the announcement. National’s campaign launch, previously scheduled for this weekend in Auckland, is now off, and several parties have announced that they will be suspending their campaigns for the time being. Statements from National and Act can be read here. The Electoral Commission has made a lot of preparations to allow for voting to continue in the event of this sort of situation, but as for the campaign itself – well, it’s hard to see a lot of previously scheduled public meetings going ahead.

As for how this could affect voter preferences, that’s anyone’s guess, but Ben Thomas has had a crack at sorting through some of the potential outcomes. There will be legitimate questions to ask about the systems that were in place to prevent this scenario, and whether they were adequate.

Two rest homes in Christchurch are currently in lockdown, however health officials believe it is highly unlikely that residents have Covid-19, reports Stuff. It comes after several residents came down with symptoms of a respiratory illness, which is more likely than anything else to just be seasonal illnesses. Tests of residents are taking place regardless.

The health ministry may have misled the public over whether there was a shortage of flu vaccines, a One News investigation has uncovered. You might remember these stories from earlier in the year – well, this development has uncovered documents through the OIA that confirm there were serious issues. The investigation also uncovered that 1000 vaccines were sent to the wrong city during the worst of the issue, and by the time the mistake was discovered they were useless.

A content warning on this story: It includes discussion of harassment, stalking and violence. Emily Writes has reported on the case of a woman who complained for years to police about a man stalking her, even to the point of taking out a repeatedly breached restraining order. But little action was ever taken, and eventually the man’s pattern of behaviour escalated to the point that he killed the boyfriend of a different stalking victim. It is a must-read story in that it raises important questions about whether police complaints about dangerous men are taken seriously enough.

A long term injustice against a former soldier has finally been corrected. Defence minister Ron Mark has announced that a payout will be made to George Nepeta, who was left a tetraplegic after an accident in 1989. A formal apology will also be made. For a background on the story of Nepeta and his brother Damien – also injured in an army accident – I’d encourage you to read this Stuff interactive feature by Carmen Parahi.

A clarification around yesterday’s lead story on the Cook Islands travel bubble: While many Cook Islanders clearly and reportedly have concerns, it isn’t necessarily fair to draw a distinction between hotel owners and the Cook Island people, as Cook Islands News editor Jonathan Milne explains:

“You report that hotel owners want an air-bridge but pose the question, “do the people?” Here in Rarotonga, the people mostly are the hotel owners. All land here remains in ownership of the original Maori families, and all the hotels are built on that land. The resorts, too, are mostly Cook Islands-owned – no big hotel chains here. They range from big operations like The Rarotongan, owned by Tata Crocombe, down to hundreds of BnBs and small three-unit sets of villas, owned by the families on whose land they sit. There are few Rarotongans I know here who don’t own or operate some kind of tourist accommodation.” 

In any case, it’s probably a bit academic now anyway. All of a sudden, it becomes much harder to see the travel bubble getting off the ground in the near future.

Something to watch: Alice Snedden’s Bad News is back. You can watch the first episode here, which focuses on the sex work industry, and why migrants aren’t allowed to take part in it. We’re very proud to be co-presenting this show at The Spinoff, which was commissioned by RNZ and made possible by the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund.

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(Photos: Getty Images-edited)

Right now on The Spinoff: Stewart Sowman-Lund looks back fondly at the 22 hour political career of a psychic healer. Consumer NZ’s Belinda Castles looks at sales and discounts at supermarkets, and whether they measure up to the hype. There’s a new episode of Gone By Lunchtime, which has continued the fine tradition of being very funny and informative only to rapidly go out of date. And Gareth Shute profiles a company that helped a thousand small businesses survive the chaos of Covid on their HR departments.

For a feature today, a look at the situation in Kashmir – the contested Indian province where many of the residents would rather be part of Pakistan. This opinion piece from Al-Jazeera certainly takes that perspective, so read it as such. But what I think is really worth reading about it is that it goes into how economic marginalisation of locals happens, often under the guise of development. Here’s an excerpt:

Earlier in June, a majority of sand mining tenders along the river bed of Jhelum and its tributaries were bagged by non-locals for the first time. The bidding process was held online with local contractors disproportionately disadvantaged, as high-speed internet connectivity remains restricted in most parts of Kashmir. Until last year, only local contractors held rights for the extraction of minerals.

The abrogation of Articles 370 and 35(a) has set the foundation for companies from big urban centres to lay their footprint in Kashmir which, in absence of legal safeguards, could lead to the exploitation of the local population and the extraction of natural resources, with profits being moved out of the region.

Under the guise of unleashing Kashmir’s development potential, indigenous Kashmiris are being squeezed out of economic gains reaped from their land. Hand in hand with demographic changes in the region, these neoliberal ambitions reinforce the nexus between colonialism and capitalism, which is hurting Kashmiri livelihoods. 

The news is a few days old now, but the Women’s Cricket World Cup scheduled for 2021 in NZ has been postponed. The NZ Herald has a report on why the decision was made – it wasn’t anything to do with New Zealand, said event CEO Andrea Nelson. Rather, other teams haven’t been able to play the necessary qualifying matches, with three spots still open. As well as that, most teams aren’t able to assemble and prepare right now, which would have made it an unfair playing field. The government has said it is committed to continuing support for the event, which has now been pencilled in for 2022. Meanwhile, Mediaworks has picked up radio commentary rights for the international summer, which as of the pre-community transmission announcement was still expected to proceed with a full schedule.

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