People getting on a bus in Auckland wearing masks (Getty Images)
People getting on a bus in Auckland wearing masks (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Country waking up to heightened alert levels

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: 72 hours of lockdown incoming for Auckland, vaccinations of border workers to begin imminently, and hospo businesses facing a difficult week.

A new set of three Covid-19 cases in the community has been found, and the alert levels have shifted as a result. The cases are all part of a family group – a mother, father and teenage daughter. The mother works at LSG SkyChefs, an airport laundry and catering facility, and is part of a regular testing cycle, though her case was not picked up through that process. She sought a further test when she became ill, which Dr Ashley Bloomfield said was the right thing to do. The new cases are reportedly the UK strain of Covid-19. Further live updates over the course of Monday can be found here.

There are a significant number of locations of interest. Our live updates people have done an excellent job wrapping them, along with a range of other developments from last night. According to the health ministry, Pak’n’Save Manukau and Papatoetoe High School are on the list. Everyone who attended Papatoetoe High last week is being told to get tested, reports the NZ Herald. There are also quite a few locations around New Plymouth from Waitangi weekend, because two of the individuals were there. If you need a test around the Auckland region, locations can be found here.

What about the Auckland lockdown? This will apply to Auckland for three days, after the experience of several Australian states showed it can be an effective period of time to halt any spread, and gather information about whether further spread has taken place. Genome testing will be crucial for that, because it will help establish a chain of transmission. If that chain is short, then the lockdown might well be too – and if a chain can’t be established, we could see this lasting longer. As PM Ardern said, “we don’t yet have a complete picture,” and so at this stage it’s hard to predict where we’ll be at the end of the week. The Australian experience also shows a lockdown up front tends to be over quicker than delayed action, which can result in it all dragging on for a long time.

Level three means schools are closed, working from home is now the rule, and businesses have to move to contactless services. A full explainer can be found here. There will once again be a border up around the Auckland region, though people currently visiting will be able to get out (and vice versa for Auckanders currently out of town.) Supermarkets will remain open, along with other essential service shops. As with other lockdowns, normal shopping is advised. If I might also add, there’s no need to shame people for rushing out to the supermarket last night – it’s a stressful time after all – but remember to socially distance and wear a mask while you’re there.

What should we all be doing in the meantime? If you were in the locations of interest at the specified times, self-isolate and monitor yourself for symptoms. And if not, the advice is the same now as it is every other time – scan in everywhere and keep track of your movements, wear a mask if you’re out on public transport, and wash your hands regularly. We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again.

Vaccinations of border workers are to begin imminently, the government announced on Friday. The NZ Herald reports they’ll start this weekend, with Pfizer vaccines arriving early in the country. That rollout is expected to take up to three weeks, with the families of border workers next in line, followed by health workers. It is not expected to be affected by the lockdown. Vaccinations of the general public will start in the second half of the year.There was an interesting discussion with minister Hipkins yesterday on Q+A yesterday about how to overcome vaccine hesitancy, and which groups the government wants to reach.

Hospitality businesses around Auckland are once again facing the prospect of an income hit from a lockdown. Stuff’s Susan Edmunds has hit the phones to see how people are faring – some will be able to pivot to a click and collect system, but many restaurants won’t be able to open at all, and bars are right out. The Auckland Chamber of Commerce is pushing for a wage subsidy to be put in place, but at this stage no economic support has been flagged by the government. There’s an important detail in this morning’s story on Politik – “many small businesses will have to close for three days, and because none of the various Government forms of assistance start till the lockdown has exceeded 72 hours, they will not be eligible for any assistance if it ends on Wednesday night.”

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It isn’t necessarily a sign that the system is being abused, but hundreds of people have flown on to Australia after going through NZ’s MIQ. Stuff’s Eugene Bingham reports 549 people have crossed the Tasman within 60 days of touching down in New Zealand, potentially taking advantage of the periods in which a one-sided travel bubble has been in place. Minister Hipkins has asked officials to review whether abuses have been taking place. Meanwhile, Australia has suspended the ‘green zone’ of travel with New Zealand, reports Radio NZ in this morning’s news bulletins.

Criticisms are being made of the secrecy and suppression of information around the inquiry into the March 15 terrorist attacks. Writing on The Spinoff, former race relations commissioner Joris de Bres has outlined how much of the most important information will not be made public until 2050 – particularly that relating to all evidence given by state agencies, like the spies. De Bres argues this raises questions about whether justice will be seen to be done, and the lack of transparency sets a bad precedent.

Southern DHB has denied pushing for secrecy with regards to lead contamination in the water of two towns. Radio NZ’s Tess Brunton has followed up the claims, which has seen Dunedin mayor Aaron Hawkins in a disagreement with Southern DHB. More than 1000 tests have now taken place for people who may have suffered lead contamination.

The Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board by-election has turned out to be a pretty wild ride, for people who are into that sort of thing. Local democracy reporter Justin Latif has been following the campaign, and went to the final meeting for candidates to make their pitch. Allegations of dirty politics have dogged the campaign, and it will be fascinating to see if they end up having an impact on the final outcome.

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(Photo: Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: Jihee Junn writes about the relationship between spam meat and Asian communities. Justin Giovannetti reports on the Te Kūiti High School acting assistant principal pumping out Covid misinformation to principals across the region. Rebecca Howard calls for empathy and understanding towards those who need to travel overseas at the moment. Louise Fisher writes about Seacliff, a former Otago hospital that is now considered the most haunted place in the country. Stephen Day writes about some of the ‘trail angels’ who help people survive the Te Araroa trail. Steph Matuku writes about the thriving and sometimes bitterly competitive world of houseplants and succulents. Ben Fahy talks to The Mind Lab’s Saskia Verraes about teaching humans how to use technological disruption to do good. Sherry Zhang writes about the art of curating the perfect breakup playlist. And Sam Brooks looks back on all of the ridiculous things to happen on cult classic TV show The OC.

For a feature today, a piece I went into expecting to vehemently disagree with and came out of pleasantly surprised. Writing on The Spinoff, Charlotte Muru-Lanning has broken down why people are so dark on Valentine’s Day (guilty!) and why they might just be thinking about it all wrong. Here’s an excerpt:

In a world that is so unsettling, might it not be the perfect time to affirm these kinds of emotions that are truly ongoing and universal? You may be thinking; it’s a bit late now, all the restaurants are booked out, all the flowers at the florist are sold out, I’ve got $10 to last me till pay day on Wednesday, so there’s no way I can afford an expensive present. Or even just – I’m single.

None of these things are barriers to celebrating Valentine’s Day. The beautiful thing about Valentine’s Day is that unlike a lot of other more prescriptive annual celebrations, it’s incredibly flexible. While films and advertisers might have told us otherwise, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a day for dramatic grand gestures featuring diamond bracelets and white tablecloth dinners. It’s a lot more enjoyable if you instead set it aside as a day for sweetness and tenderness. It’s about “e iti noa ana nā te aroha” – a small thing given with love.

In sport, the Canterbury Magicians are Super Smash champions after one of the greatest rearguard partnerships you’ll ever see. The Wellington Blaze had reduced them to 60-6 in the 14th over, chasing 126 and miles away from getting close. But then Kate Ebrahim combined with Lea Tahuhu, the former taking full control of the chase and the latter bashing some big sixes to keep them in the hunt. Stuff has a match report which captures what a wild game it was, which included a hattrick from Amelia Kerr. Best of all, more than 5000 people packed the Basin Reserve to see it all go down. The provincial balance was restored later that afternoon, with the Wellington Firebirds cruising home against the Canterbury Kings, thanks to yet another Devon Conway masterclass.

In terms of the rest of the summer of cricket, it all steps up from here with England’s tour starting this week with warm-up games. From there, they’ll play three ODIs and three T20s against the White Ferns. If yesterday’s warm-up against a scratch NZ XI is anything to go by, England will be strong. Keep an eye on Nat Sciver in particular, who scored a run-a-ball 75 in England’s surprisingly narrow win. That is, if the tour goes ahead – no announcements have been made either way yet.

Finally sticking with cricket, this is a wonderful piece about how the Black Caps made it to the top of the test world. Michael Appleton has crunched the numbers that show how the success was built over most of a decade, by identifying and then sticking with the players who could put up consistently excellent numbers, and creating a side that makes the absolute most of the limited available resources.

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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