Live updates, February 4: New Covid-19 case linked to recent community group; new Matariki holiday date announced

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for February 4. Reach me at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz. Keep The Spinoff ticking by donating here.

7.00pm: The day in sum

The first annual Matariki public holiday will be celebrated on Friday, June 24, 2022, Jacinda Ardern announced from Waitangi.

The mother of the young child who contracted Covid-19 in managed isolation in Auckland last month has now tested positive herself.

A person died from a non-Covid-related medical incident at the Crowne Plaza MIQ facility in Auckland.

New Covid-19 restrictions were reintroduced in Victoria after a worker at a quarantine facility tested positive for Covid-19.

A number of people had to be tested for Covid-19 twice during the recent Northland scare due to an “error in the system”, confirmed Ashley Bloomfield.

3.00pm: Judith Collins promised Waitangi speaking slot in 2022

National’s deputy leader Shane Reti spoke on behalf of the party at Waitangi today – but made the case for leader Judith Collins to be given that honour next year.

Reti – delivering his address in te reo – said the National Party was “saddened” Collins was not able to speak on the marae.

“Why was that the case? Perhaps she is a woman. We must not forget the mana, the power of women who house life. So I must express these matters for you, the local people, to take consideration of that,” Reti said, according to the Herald.

During his response, Waihoroi Shortland said it was a shame women had not been given the opportunity to speak. “Next year you will get that opportunity.” Collins gave a thumbs up.

1.55pm: First Matariki public holiday date announced for June 2022

The first annual Matariki public holiday will be celebrated on Friday, June 24, 2022, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced from Waitangi.

Ardern is in Northland this week ahead of Waitangi Day commemorations on Saturday.

“Matariki will be a distinctly New Zealand holiday; a time for reflection and celebration, and our first public holiday that recognises te ao Māori,” Ardern said.

The Matariki Advisory Group will advise on the exact timings for the annual holiday, which will shift each year like Easter. It’s expected, Ardern said, that Matariki will always fall on a Friday or Monday.

“It’s great to have the date locked in for next year. This will be a day to acknowledge our nation’s unique, shared identity, and the importance of tikanga Māori. It’s going to be something very special, and something uniquely New Zealand.

Ardern said next year’s date will “break up the lag” between public holidays scheduled for June and October – despite the first Matariki taking place less than three weeks after Queen’s Birthday on June 6.

“The reappearance of the Matariki stars in our sky each year marks the beginning of a new year, and in recent years has become a time of celebration not just for Māori, but for many people across Aotearoa,” Māori Crown relations minister Kelvin Davis said.

The members of the Matariki Advisory Group are: Professor Rangiānehu Matamua (chair), Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr, Rereata Makiha, Victoria Campbell, Dr Pauline Harris, Dr Ruakere Hond, and Jack Thatcher.

“This group will ensure that mātauranga Māori is at the forefront of decision-making about the public holiday. Each of the members are recognised experts in te ao Māori and mātauranga associated with Matariki and the maramataka,” Kelvin Davis said.

Legislation will be introduced later this year to amend the Holidays Act and add in the additional public holiday.

1.30pm: New Covid-19 case linked to recent community group

Updated

A new Covid-19 case has been linked to the recent Auckland community cluster, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has just announced.

The person is being referred to as “Case D” and is the mother of one of the known North Auckland cases, a young child now referred to as”Case C”.

The woman was tested on January 27 and 30 and received negative results but on the 30th began having symptoms, so was tested again on February 1 and 2. The February 2 test came back positive, said Hipkins.

“This is not a separate case from the recent Auckland cases, it’s associated with the existing Auckland group,” he added.

“This is an example of the testing system operating exactly as it should.” The person has been in isolation the entire time, and is now being moved to the Auckland quarantine facility.

Hipkins said that 5,130 tests were processed yesterday – a strong figure that reassures us there is no unseen transmission in the community. The risk of public exposure is being considered very low.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said in addition to the new Auckland case, there are six new cases in managed isolation.

Following the recent cases of transmission there, the Pullman hotel will be empty by Saturday, said Hipkins, and there will be a period of at least a week where upgrade work and cleaning will be undertaken. Changes to operating procedures can be made at this time. Hipkins said tomorrow he will be receiving advice on whether to make changes to the way we “cohort” people in managed isolation facilities.

In light of the lag between Case D’s last contact with the other cases and her testing positive, Bloomfield was asked whether any further positive results were expected. He said no, and all other close contacts were isolating nonetheless.

1.00pm: Covid-19 press conference delayed

Today’s schedule Covid-19 update with Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins will now take place at 1.30pm.

At this stage, there is no indication the briefing will bring bad news, with Jacinda Ardern still set to announce the new Matariki public holiday from Waitangi this afternoon.

We’ll have everything live as it happens. And not to rely on the reportings of a competitor, the lovely Henry Cooke has sent the following vague tweet:

Watch below:

12.10pm: Person dies in Auckland MIQ hotel

A person has died from a non-Covid-related medical incident at the Crowne Plaza in Auckland.

According to the Herald, the person had arrived in New Zealand from Vanuatu. A MIQ spokesperson said an ambulance was called to the Crowne Plaza at about 7.30pm last night.

11.40am: New Matariki public holiday date to be announced

Stuff has teased that the prime minister will today be announcing the date of the 2022 Matariki public holiday.

The outlet’s reporting that the new public holiday – an election promise by Labour – will not have a fixed date every year, but shift around like Easter.

An expert panel has been appointed to come up with dates for the holiday for the next 30 years.

10.50am: Bloomfield, Hipkins to give 1pm press conference

A Covid-19 press conference has been announced for 1pm today, despite the Ministry of Health previously saying it would be sending out a press release.

Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield will front the briefing from the Beehive theatrette, as normal.

Yesterday there were three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation and none in the community.

10.10am: Facebook page showing ‘blacklisted’ tenants criticised

RNZ is reporting that “hundreds” of New Zealand property managers are signed up to a Facebook page that shares the details – often private – of tenants that have caused problems in their rentals.

The “Bad Tenants” page has posts by landlords sharing the identities, passport details and photographs of tenants to the more than 3400 members.

Renters United spokesperson Robert Whitaker told RNZ he’s concerned. “Property managers are shortlisting by any mechanism they can. If they have to choose between 20 people, if the name’s familiar because they have been seen in this group, they are going to be struck off.”

Read the full report here

9.30am: New Covid-19 restrictions in Victoria

A number of restrictions have been reintroduced in the Australian state of Victoria after a worker at a quarantine facility tested positive for Covid-19.

Mandatory mask rules are back in place along with a cap on the number of people who can gather at home and in offices.

Premier Daniel Andrews said authorities were “assuming the worst” and acting as though the man had the highly infectious UK strain of the virus, however this has not yet been confirmed. Genomic testing is now underway to determine the cause of the infection and what strain of the virus the individual has.

9.00am: Golden Globes nominations released – and they’re on brand

The Golden Globes have never been known for their conservatism when it comes to nominations (see: The Tourist) and the 2021 awards show looks set to be no different.

While Netflix favourites like Mank, The Trial of the Chicago 7 and The Crown all snagged their deserved nominations, outliers like Music (widely seen as just… blatantly offensive), The Prom, Ratched, and Emily in Paris have all scored nods as well.

It’s exciting to see three women nominated in the best director category, including Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman (also deservedly nominated for best picture and actress in the drama categories).

However, as with every awards show – there are snubs aplenty. HBO’s acclaimed I May Destroy you was shut out of the race entirely while other POC-led works like Lovecraft Country failed to get the number of nominations they deserved.

See the full list of nominations here and read more about the snubs here

8.00am: Double testing needed for some during recent Covid scare

The director general of health has confirmed that a number of people tested for Covid-19 during the recent Northland scare had to be tested twice due to an “error in the system”.

“It does happen occasionally. We had many thousands of people get tested last week in a whole range of centres,” said Ashley Bloomfield on Newstalk ZB.

“Every now and then, and it’s just usually an error in the system… it may be just a data entry error, sometimes a label falls off a sample – this happens in hospitals as well – but the important thing is to make sure we find out whether or not the test result is there and if it’s not to retest people,” he said.

Bloomfield said he believed the recent spread of the coronavirus from within a managed isolation facility was likely the result of airborne transmission.

Meanwhile, the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine received provisional approval yesterday meaning it can be rolled out as soon as it arrives in the country. On RNZ, Bloomfield said he remained confident the first batch would arrive before the end of March.

“We are talking with them all the time to make sure they are on track,” he said.

Bloomfield said it’s “hard to know” exactly how long people would be immune to Covid-19 once taking the vaccine, but he did not anticipate people would be protected for life. “It’s likely to be a vaccine that will require a regular sort of booster,” he said.

7.45am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The latest top-line economic data shows a recovery is now well underway – however, the overall economic health of the country remains mixed. The biggest news from Stats NZ yesterday was that the unemployment rate is now down to 4.9% for the December quarter, well below what was forecast, and a sharp drop on the previous quarter – for context, any drop at all would have previously been seen as remarkable. As the NZ Herald reports, the seasonally adjusted number of employed people also rose over the quarter. That might sound tautological, but the two numbers don’t always move hand in hand.

The underutilisation rate is also down – that’s people who are working but want more. And wonder of wonders – wages are also up 1.6% in the year to the December quarter. That’s slightly slower than would be the case in a normal year, but 2020 wasn’t a normal year.

Kiwibank chief economist Jarrod Kerr was quoted in the Herald story saying it was fantastic news. “A shallower peak in unemployment means we will have less economic scarring. And the sharp bounceback in hours worked means we will see higher than expected income and consumption across the economy.” The latest Kiwibank Household Spending Tracker has details of higher than expected economic activity already taking place, with the “post-lockdown splurge” continuing.

So what’s the catch? The recovery has been uneven. As the Council for Trade Unions pointed out (in stories on Newshub and Stuff) Māori and Pasifika unemployment remains stubbornly high. In fact, both have gone up. A Māori jobseeker quoted in the Newshub story described how demoralising it is to keep going into Work and Income in Northland, with few opportunities coming through. And the unemployment rate for women generally remains higher than that for men, a hangover of the Covid economic shock. Youth unemployment is also up.

The Stuff story noted that wage increases also haven’t been shared equally – CTU economist Craig Renney said “when you dig in to that data, 55 per cent of workers recorded that they didn’t have a pay rise in the past year and that’s the highest figure that hasn’t had a pay rise since March 2010.” So while the headlines are good news, we’re still seeing evidence of the K-shaped recovery, where some are getting ahead, and others are falling further behind. And on that point, a recent release of TradeMe data described the rental market as “strong” – in other words, rental prices have gone up. If you think about who’s likely to be paying rent, that picture of people falling behind comes into sharper focus.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was provisionally approved.

There were three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation and none in the community

Unemployment dropped to 4.9% in the December 2020 quarter, down from 5.3% in September.

National leader Judith Collins said her party still had no stance on conversion therapy.

Jeff Bezos announced plans to step down as CEO of Amazon.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates




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