Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for August 13, bringing you the latest on New Zealand news and Covid-19 as it returns to the community. Auckland is now in alert level three and the rest of NZ level two. More details here. Official information here. Get me on email@example.com.
8.50pm: Case at Glamorgan Primary in Torbay, students urged to self-isolate
A child who attends Glamorgan Primary School on Auckland’s North Shore has tested positive for Covid-19. A letter from the Auckland Regional Public Health Service to parents and staff at the Torbay school, seen by The Spinoff, advises that the student was last at school on Tuesday and was not symptomatic when in attendance. It is unknown at this point whether the case is one of the cluster of 17 associated with the resurgence of the virus in New Zealand.
The school will close to all staff and students, including children of essential workers, until at least Monday.
The letter advises: “ARPHS is currently working carefully with the school to identify the close contacts of the confirmed case … Please keep your child at home in self-isolation until you receive a letter from us advising what your child will need to do next. This also applies if you are a staff member.”
A student at Mt Albert Grammar and family members of a student at Mt Albert Primary have also tested positive in the new outbreak.
The Herald is meanwhile reporting that another of the positive cases is a Manukau Institute of Technology student.
8.15pm: The day in sum
Thirteen new community cases were reported, all connected to the existing cluster. One new case was reported in managed isolation.
Eleven of the confirmed cases are linked to one site, the Americold coolstore in the Auckland suburb of Mount Wellington, and one is a student at Mt Albert Grammar School.
One of the original four Covid cases visited a Waikato aged care facility, Ashley Bloomfield said, and the family who travelled to Rotorua also went on Taupō boat trip.
Bloomfield said the virus could have been circulating in the Auckland community “for some weeks”.
Deputy prime minister Winston Peters claimed the new outbreak was due to a “breach inside our quarantine system”, and that he’d learned the news from a journalist he declined to name.
Earlier, he lashed out at National leader Judith Collins, telling her to stop “undermining democracy” with her comments about the pre-election period.
A Newshub report revealed that two-thirds of Auckland staff in border, quarantine and managed isolation roles had never been tested prior to the new outbreak.
Several New Zealand nationals recently deported from Australia have been left homeless after completing their 14 days’ mandatory isolation, Stuff reported.
7.55pm: Peters claims quarantine system breach
Deputy prime minister Winston Peters said the re-emergence of Covid-19 in New Zealand is due to a breach in the country’s quarantine system, but he hasn’t learned the development from official sources.
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield have maintained since Tuesday evening that no link can be found between the cluster of cases in south Auckland and the country’s system of managed isolation and quarantine.
“There’s been a breach inside our quarantine system,” Peters told the Australian ABC network tonight. He said the information will come out in the next day or so.
The deputy prime minister said he received a tip about the breach from a New Zealand journalist who he wouldn’t name. “You don’t always find out from officials, you don’t always find out from experts, it’s something to sort of find out from contact with other people,” he said.
Peters yesterday said that the country’s border system needs to be tightened up and undergo strict “military precision”. Testing has been increased at Auckland’s airport and port to see if any cases can be detected at the border outside the country’s isolation facilities. Ardern and Bloomfield have said that it’s unlikely the virus re-entered the country on a package, with human-to-human transmission the most likely scenario.
7.35pm: Nearly two-thirds of Auckland border staff had never been tested prior to latest outbreak
A Newshub report tonight revealed that 63.5% of frontline border, quarantine and managed isolation staff in Auckland had never been tested for Covid-19 prior to the new outbreak. According to Ministry of Health figures provided to Newshub, 1089 such workers had had a test as of August 3 – representing around a third of the total 2980 workers spread across border operations, quarantine and managed isolation facilities.
“It beggars belief that in an environment where the border is your major protection against a second wave that you are not exhausting every possible opportunity to mitigate risk,” said Des Gorman, a public health expert and professor of medicine at Auckland University.
The prime minister has said all border and isolation staff will now be tested.
6.45pm: Taupō sailing tour operator followed strict contact-tracing protocols
Alex Braae reports from Taupō:
The Taupō sailing tour company that hosted a person on Monday who later tested positive for Covid-19 has returned to the water, having followed strict procedures both before and after they learned of the case.
Peter from Sail Barbary Taupō told The Spinoff that even before the new outbreak of community transmission was known, the company had been observing contact-tracing protocols, which meant that when they were contacted by the health ministry on Wednesday, they were able to immediately get in touch with everyone who was a potential close contact.
“We’ve followed procedures religiously, at level one and obviously now at level two.”
There was one staff member on the boat for that sailing, who is now self-isolating awaiting test results. The boat itself was empty for two days, and regardless, Peter said that as a commercial operator, the boat gets cleaned every single day. Peter said he hoped it would set an example to others about operating safely in the world of Covid.
“I don’t think any business would want it to happen to them, but I’d also challenge any other business to say ‘have you got the names and phone numbers of every single person who walked into your business today?'”
“If you’re going to go to a business with traceability, it must give you a degree of confidence,” he added, saying that was particularly important for the tourism industry to follow to give their customers peace of mind.
6.10pm: A new record testing day for Auckland
Auckland saw record-high levels of Covid-19 tests yesterday, with 7,800 registered by the city’s laboratories. The number will increase as the labs continue to register and process swabs taken yesterday, according to a press release from the region’s DHBs. The previous Auckland record was 6,407 tests registered on June 23.
There are now 15 community testing centres (CTCs) across the region. From tomorrow morning, the central city CTC currently in Eden Terrace will be moved to Eden Park, where it will be set up at the stadium’s bus hub on the corner of Sandringham Road and Reimers Avenue. This will provide better flow and a safer environment for pedestrians, said the press release, and is well situated for public transport.
5.45pm: Deportees living on streets after leaving isolation
Several New Zealand nationals recently deported from Australia have been left homeless after completing their 14 days’ mandatory isolation, reports Stuff.
Auckland City Mission’s Chris Farrelly told Stuff several 501s – as the deportees have become known, after the controversial section of Australia’s Migration Act under which they can be deported if deemed to pose a threat to the nation – have ended up at the mission in recent weeks. Australia resumed deporting the New Zealanders, many who have not lived here for decades, in July, to a wave of criticism.
In light of Auckland’s alert level three restrictions, the mission is now trying to find homes for the deportees, as well as others who don’t have permanent accommodation.
4.45pm: Hotels hit with a wave of cancellations
The head of the New Zealand Hotel Owners Association, Amy Robens, has described the flood of cancelled bookings in the wake of the new Covid scare as “beyond grim”. The sector was already struggling in the absence of international travel and now is being pummelled again by both leisure and corporate travellers staying home.
Auckland is one of New Zealand hoteliers’ biggest markets, and with Aucklanders currently unable to travel the knock-on effects throughout the country are dire, Robens said.
“While we support the government’s decisive action to tackle Covid-19 community transmission, urgent financial relief including a targeted extension to the wage subsidy must go beyond Auckland with hotels throughout the country feeling the full impacts of the region’s level three lockdown.”
- There are 13 new cases of Covid-19 in the Auckland community
- Winston Peters has accused Judith Collins of ‘undermining democracy’
- Covid-19 could have been in the community ‘for some weeks’ – Ashley Bloomfield
3.35pm: 11 Covid cases now linked to one location
A coolstore in the Auckland suburb of Mount Wellington is now linked to 11 confirmed cases of Covid-19. Americold managing director Richard Winnall told the Herald test results had come back this morning confirming the new infections, taking the facility’s tally of confirmed worker infections to four. Additional cases connected to these new infections were later confirmed by the Ministry of Health.
Yesterday, it was confirmed surface testing was underway at the Mount Wellington coolstore to determine if the virus could have entered the country on refrigerated goods. In a Reuters report, it was claimed that China has had several instances of the coronavirus being detected on the packaging of imported frozen seafood in recent weeks, suggesting the virus can withstand cold temperatures.
Winnall confirmed there had been an outbreak in the past week of two cases at the company’s Melbourne facility. However, he was adamant there was no link with the Mt Wellington cases. He stressed there were no shipments from the Melbourne plant direct to the company’s Auckland factories and the positive Australian cases worked on a completely different supply chain.
The prime minister and Ashley Bloomfield have called the scenario “unlikely”.
Alice Snedden’s Bad News episode two: TERFs
In the second episode of Alice Snedden’s Bad News, Alice goes to an event at parliament to try to talk with a group of ‘gender critical’ feminists – but things don’t go quite as planned.
You’ve probably heard the term used in relation to high-profile people like JK Rowling, but what are Terfs, or Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, really all about? Why are they so afraid of trans people? And do they deserve a place in feminism at all?
3.00pm: If we’re going to lockdown, can it be different – Michael Barnett
Amid growing questions around whether or not Auckland will be heading into a full level four lockdown, the head of the Auckland Business Chamber wants to know if things would be done different this time around.
“The cost to businesses locked down and out of their livelihoods is too high,” he said. “Why can a dairy open and a supermarket sell fresh fruit and vegetables, but your local greengrocer cannot? It would be much better for the economy and wellbeing of the community to allow shops to operate if they follow the strict compliance and safety requirements that can be enforced for each alert level.”
Many small businesses, particularly in hospitality and retail, are teetering with reserves run down, jobs at risk and confidence shaken, forced to shut their doors because they are not on government’s list of essential retail and services, Barnett said.
We’re expecting to hear from the prime minister tomorrow about whether not there will be a change to our alert levels. At this stage, Auckland is in alert level three and the rest of the country level two until midnight tomorrow.
1.15pm: ‘Things will get worse before they get better’ – PM
The prime minister has warned New Zealanders that Covid-19 tends to “grow” before it slows. Today, there are 13 new cases of the virus. All are in Auckland, and all are connected to the four community cases revealed on Tuesday.
Jacinda Ardern said that, according to modelling, there are likely to be more positive cases. “Once again we are reminded of how tricky this virus is and how easily it can spread,” she said. “We do have an expectation things will get worse before they get better … but it’s heartening to see [the new cases] in one cluster.
“We know that limiting people to people contact slows the spread,” she added. “We have a plan.”
On whether the level three restrictions in Auckland will be extended past midnight tomorrow, Ardern said a decision would be made tomorrow afternoon and she wouldn’t speculate until she had the latest information. “I’ll want to make sure we’re able to make an assessment based on, for instance, whether or not we have cases based within a cluster, or if we see any we can’t link to that cluster.”
1.00pm: 13 new community cases of Covid-19 – Bloomfield
There are 13 new cases of Covid-19 in the Auckland community, all linked to the family of four who first tested positive. There is one new case in managed isolation, at the Distinction Hotel in Hamilton.
“Our priority is to make sure this virus does not take hold in the community,” the director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, said. “There is no blame or shame in having Covid-19… the virus is the problem, people are the solution.”
One of the new cases is the previously confirmed student at Mount Albert Grammar school. The student was not symptomatic while at school, Bloomfield said, and did not attend school when they developed symptoms. He said the risk of transmission from this case remains low.
Three of the new cases are employees of Americold, as reported earlier. Another seven cases are family members of these cases, Bloomfield said.
Another person is an employee of Finance Now, the workplace of the first community case of Covid-19. They were admitted to North Shore Hospital last night, but have subsequently been discharged. The final new confirmed case is a family member of that case. There remains one probable case.
“We fully expect there will be further cases, there are some symptomatic people who are in isolation,” said Bloomfield.
Surface and environmental swabbing took place at the Americold cool-store facility this morning, said Bloomfield, and they hoped to have the results later today. Ardern added that the most likely scenario is still that the virus was transmitted from human to human.
All new cases will now be housed in quarantine facilities, Bloomfield has announced, in a change in policy from when the country was previously at alert levels four and three and most positive cases isolated at home. He said this shows how seriously the current outbreak is being taken.
Yesterday 6,006 tests were processed, bringing the total number so far to 508,711.
Covid case visited Waikato aged care facility; family who travelled to Rotorua also went on Taupō boat trip
“We are also aware that one of those who tested positive has visited an aged residential care facility in Waikato,” Bloomfield announced. “The visit was to a family member resident in the centre and was not symptomatic at the time of visiting.”
It was revealed yesterday that two of the confirmed cases had visited Rotorua. Bloomfield said more information about their movements is now known.
The family checked into the Waiora Lakeside hotel at 3.30PM on August 8. We also know they visited the Herbs and Spice Thai restaurant at 8pm on the 8th. The following day at around 2.30pm they visited the Pak ‘n’ Save at Amohou St and then at 3.30pm they visited the Heritage Farm and 3D Gallery. At 4pm they then headed to the Skyline Gondola and Luge.
The following morning, on the 10th, they went to Taupō, taking a boat trip with Sail Barbary Eco Sailing. All the people on that boat trip have been identified as close contacts. At 3pm on the 10th they again visited the Heritage Farm and 3D gallery. At around 7pm they visited the Burger Fuel Redwood Centre in Rotorua and on the Tuesday they had a brief stop for fuel in Hamilton on their way home.
For those businesses visited that haven’t yet been issued an alert via the app, the advice is to monitor your health and if you’re unwell, ring Healthline, said Bloomfield.
Aside from the sailing trip, Bloomfield said that any other contact during this travel was most likely to just be “casual” contact.
On genome testing
Bloomfield said ESR was continuing the genome sequencing investigations into the new cluster, and no exact link has yet been made between the genome sequence of the positive swabs of this new cluster with any recent case in a managed isolation or quarantine facility. Not all the samples from those facilities have yet been sequenced, however, and the sequence most closely resembles the pattern from cases in the UK and Australia.
Possibility of pool testing
In response to a question from The Spinoff’s Justin Giovannetti, Ardern confirmed that they were looking at introducing pool testing. Under pool testing, which can speed up the process, multiple swabs are examined at the same time, so that large groups can be dismissed as negative, or re-examined individually if there is a positive result. “It’s something we can use as part of our capacity if we need to,” added Bloomfield.
Cost of masks
When questioned on the possibility of price gouging of masks and hand sanitiser, as was also alleged during the level four lockdown, Ardern said she would be surprised to learn of this happening in supermarkets. She said a number of supermarkets were receiving masks directly from government.
However, Ardern said she’s asking people not to capitalise on the situation New Zealanders find themselves in. She also reminded people they are not required to wear a surgical face mask, and can make do with cheaper alternatives.
False positive in Wellington
After questions from media regarding a reported case in Wellington, Ashley Bloomfield confirmed this had been a false positive.
12.50pm: Peters tells Collins to stop ‘undermining democracy’
The deputy prime minister has lashed out at National’s Judith Collins, telling her to stop “undermining democracy.”
“New Zealanders are sadly being fed a steady stream of misinformation about the pre-election period from the National Party,” said Peters in a statement.
“Its effect is to sow doubt about the legitimacy of the current government as it focuses solely on protecting the health of New Zealanders.
It follows a series of media appearances by Collins and her deputy Gerry Brownlee in which they have alleged Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield may have known about community transmission of Covid-19 before publicising it.
Collins has also claimed that the prime minister should have consulted her on the decision to shift Auckland into alert level three before making it public. But Peters is unconvinced: “There is no convention for power sharing such as Ms Collins, a trained lawyer, is claiming. She should know better. So who is giving her that advice and why is she taking it?
“The current government ‘continues to have full powers to govern until the election’.
“That is not a self-serving claim made by the government. It is a fact of stable government.
“The Cabinet Office on 29 January explained that the ‘caretaker convention’ does not apply in the pre-election period. It only commences post-election, up to and until there is either confirmation of the old government or a new one,” he said.
12.40pm: PM, Bloomfield, to reveal latest Covid information
The prime minister Jacinda Ardern and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will be addressing media at 1pm today, to discuss the latest regarding the community outbreak of Covid-19. Australian media are reporting that three close contacts of the four original cases of Covid-19 in the community have now tested positive. Earlier this morning, we reported that an Auckland high schooler had also acquired the virus.
We’ll bring you all the latest from 1pm, and you can watch the press conference below.
12.25pm: 278 new Covid-19 cases in Victoria
Another deadly day in the Australia state of Victoria. It’s recorded another 278 cases of Covid-19, along with eight deaths. Yesterday marked the highest death toll of the pandemic in Victoria, with 21 fatalities.
The ABC’s also reporting a 53rd woman in New South Wales has died in intensive care.
12.20pm: Three more Auckland Covid cases – report
There are at least three more confirmed cases in Auckland, all staff members at the Americold workplace in Auckland, ABC is reporting.
The Australian outlet reports the Americold managing director of Australia and NZ, Richard Winnall saying the three were close contacts of the man in his 50s who tested positive earlier this week.
There are now eight cases associated with the cluster.
Jacinda Ardern will be addressing media with the confirmed details at 1pm, alongside Ashley Bloomfield.
12.10pm: Heavy traffic as Aucklanders try to flee city
The transport agency’s warning Aucklanders of heavy traffic on the outskirts of the city, as people continue to try and flee the level three lockdown. At this stage, alert level three is only in place until midnight tomorrow – but the prime minister and director general of health will be making a public decision on whether it will extend sometime before then.
In a tweet, the NZTA warned travellers that transport to and from Auckland is restricted under level three, unless you are an essential service.
SH1 TE HANA & BOMBAY – THU 13 AUG
Travel to/from Auckland is restricted under Level 3. Expect delays at #SH1 COVID police checkpoints north & south of Akld today. If travelling for essential purposes please be patient & allow extra time with no alternative routes available. ^TP pic.twitter.com/fgE6CkAV4f
— Waka Kotahi NZTA Auckland & Northland (@WakaKotahiAkNth) August 12, 2020
11.25am: Hilz Baz to ‘dust off tiara’, bring back #formalfriday
In important, life-affirming news that definitely needs reporting – cool aunty of the nation Hilary Barry has confirmed she’s resurrecting #formalfriday. The social media trend went viral during the nationwide lockdown, in part due to Barry’s infectious personality but also because we were all stuck indoors with quite literally nothing else to do. And now we’re all* stuck indoors yet again!
“I’m dusting off the tiara,” Barry said in a post online.
Just like Covid #formalfriday is making a comeback!! Even if you’re not in the lockdown zone you can show your solidarity by slapping on your Sunday best and sharing a pic tomorrow. I’m resurrecting the live baking on Facebook too, 10am be there or be square.
— Hilary Barry (@Hilary_Barry) August 12, 2020
*literally just Aucklanders, but still.
10.55am: James Shaw tested for Covid-19 after developing symptoms
The Green Party co-leader James Shaw has been tested for Covid-19, after developing cold-like symptoms following a visit to South Auckland.
The four community cases of the virus are all in one family who live in South Auckland. There have subsequently been four probable cases, all linked to the confirmed cases.
Shaw said he developed “minor” cold symptoms after returning to Wellington.
“On the advice of health experts, I undertook a Covid-19 test to rule out the possibility of having the virus, and am currently staying at home while I await the results.
“I remind all of us that we must take any symptoms seriously and be tested if advised to do so by medical professionals.
“We all have a role to play in keeping COVID-19 out of our communities, and that includes following the advice of health experts.”
The prime minister and Ashley Bloomfield will be providing the next update on Covid-19 in the community at 1pm.
10.30am: ‘Health first, politics second’ – Peters talks election date
Deputy prime minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters has given his thoughts on the possibility of postponing next month’s election. As of today, the election is still scheduled for September 19.
In a statement, Peters said our concern currently must be on “the health of our team of five million”.
He said that’s why NZ First’s election campaign has been suspended. “Health first, politics second,” he said.
“When we have the information we need to better understand our health challenge then we can address the timing of the election.
“The general election, and the campaign that proceeds it, needs to be free and fair for all concerned – parties, candidates, officials, and most of all voters.”
Peters said discussion around delaying the election “is for another day” and today we need to focus on health.
Have you checked out Policy? Our complete guide to the election is live now.
8.50: Kim Hill and Judith Collins go head-to-head over Covid-19 collusion
Editor’s note: I spent most of this interview writhing uncomfortably and so my note-taking lacked somewhat
Kim Hill went head-to-head with opposition leader Judith Collins this morning, in a fiery interview over concerns her deputy has been pushing conspiracy theories. Gerry Brownlee has been questioning whether Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield knew about community transmission of Covid-19 ahead of the announcement on Tuesday night.
Earlier this morning, finance minister Grant Robertson said it was “absolutely ridiculous” and “totally irresponsible” for Brownlee to make those comments.
But just now, Judith Collins said that Grant Robertson should never “have made such an outrageous statement.”
When pushed, Collins said her party were not suggesting collusion between Bloomfield and Ardern, but did say it is right to ask how Covid-19 had come into the community.
“I have not accused Dr Bloomfield of anything, and as for Ms Ardern I’m simply pointing to the fact … it contemplates the fact that successive governments have been very careful in the way they exercise their power [prior to] an election given the fact there is an election coming.”
She said she’s written to the prime minister on the matter of whether the election should be pushed back.
“It’s actually not about me,” Collins said. “It is very clearly about the public of New Zealand.”
One of Collins’ concerns, raised in an extraordinary press conference yesterday, has been that she was not consulted on the decision to shift Auckland into alert level three. Collins has claimed that it is a convention for the government to consult the opposition on major decisions in the period before an election.
“We have a democracy, and we have an opposition and we have a government. It is important for the opposition to be able to ask questions.”
My slightly expanded explanation of the caretaker convention below. pic.twitter.com/YUmNv25lWm
— ᴅʀ ᴅᴇᴀɴ ᴋɴɪɢʜᴛ (@drdeanknight) August 12, 2020
The interview even prompted notable free speech advocate Sean Plunket to issue this scathing response.
She is one of my professional heroes but Kim Hill’s Ill tempered exchange with Judith Collins this morning was a shocker.
— Sean Plunket (@SeanPlunket) August 12, 2020
7.50am: What is genome sequencing? And how could it help?
Right now on The Spinoff, Dr Siouxsie Wiles has written an explainer on genome sequencing and how it might be able to help with the resurgence of Covid-19 in Auckland. As Wiles writes, the novel coronavirus mutates as it travels between people and around the world. By sequencing the genome, we can try to work out which case is linked with another.
Policy is back! The easy, smart way to make an informed vote
It could be easy to forget in amongst all the chaos that, at least for now, an election is still planned for September 19 – about five weeks from now.
To help you make an informed decision, Policy is back for its third edition. Strictly non-partisan, Policy lets you compare the policy offerings of all the parties. And you can do it, if you wish, with the party names and colours blanked, just to check you’re not being swayed by branding.
Check it out for yourself here – and tell your friends.
7.35am: Covid could have been in public ‘for some weeks’ – Bloomfield
The director general of health has said it’s possible Covid-19 could have been in the Auckland community “for some weeks”, after four cases with no links to travel or an isolation facility were detected on Tuesday.
But, Bloomfield said there is nothing, yet, to suggest the chain of transmission is long. “We have had a lot of surveillance happening,” he told RNZ. He also said the Ministry of Health does a “very thorough” investigation after every confirmed case.
“Anyone who is a close or casual contact has already been asked to isolate.”
Bloomfield said genome sequencing of the new cases is “well under way” but the process isn’t complete.
When pushed on the long wait for a test in Auckland yet, with reports some people waited hours to be seen, Bloomfield said it shows a “high level of public interest”.
“I thank them for their patience,” he said.
There are 15 testing centres operating in Auckland, which includes 11 pop-ups. Information on where to get a test can be found here.
Bloomfield said the government would make a decision tomorrow on whether Auckland’s lockdown would continue, and remained cagey when questioned on if it should continue beyond tomorrow night.
7.15am: ‘Ridiculous’ – Robertson criticises Brownlee for alleging collusion
The finance minister has hit out at National’s deputy leader for alleging that the government knew about community transmission before announcing it. Gerry Brownlee has, for the last week or so, been claiming he was puzzled by the government’s decision to ramp up warnings for a potential second wave of Covid-19.
On RNZ this morning, Grant Robertson said it was “absolutely ridiculous” and “totally irresponsible” for Brownlee to suggest this. He said Ashley Bloomfield, the director general of health, is an independent public servant and the idea that there’s collusion between him and the government is wrong.
7.10am: Auckland high school student tests positive for Covid-19
One of the close contacts of the four South Auckland cases of community transmission has now tested positive for Covid-19. The new case is a student from Mount Albert Grammar School.
As media are reporting this morning, headmaster Patrick Drumm contacted the school community in an email. He said Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) had confirmed a student at the school tested positive for COVID-19. The school would closely follow the Ministry of Health Advice, he said.
A letter to parents from ARPHS, seen by The Spinoff, confirmed the diagnosis and stated that close contacts of the infected student were in self-isolation.
7.05am: Top stories from The Bulletin
At this stage, the election is still scheduled to take place on September 19. But with the country’s largest city currently in level three lockdown, and level two restrictions currently in place around the rest of the country, the window to have any sort of campaign period is rapidly closing. The Electoral Commission yesterday released an update on their website saying that matters around the change in alert levels are being assessed, with more updates coming as more information becomes available. As mentioned yesterday, they have also already made extensive preparations to make the voting process itself safe and socially distanced.
Calls have been made for a delay in the election date. One particularly loud call came from National leader Judith Collins, who in a press conference with deputy Gerry Brownlee sprinkled some legitimate points in with some incorrect assertions on constitutional matters, and some strange and conspiratorial speculation about whether the government knew about the new cases long in advance. In terms of the former, she noted that National had suspended their campaign, cancelled their campaign launch for this weekend, and effectively are currently unable to freely present their ideas to the public. By contrast, the Labour Party (and particularly Jacinda Ardern) will dominate the airwaves in the coming weeks by virtue of holding the position of prime minister. Incumbency always has advantages, of course, but this is on a very different level.
7.00am: Yesterday’s key stories
Four probable cases were announced, all of whom are contacts of the four family members who were confirmed to be Covid positive on Tuesday.
One new case in managed isolation was announced, a woman in her 50s who had travelled from Pakistan.
The prime minister announced it would be mandatory for businesses to display Covid Tracer app QR codes, and for people leaving Auckland on flights to wear masks.
National leader Judith Collins called for the election to be delayed until at least November, and alleged the government was not being transparent.
The dissolution of parliament was delayed until at least Monday.
The prime minister and director general of health revealed one of four family members who tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday had travelled to Rotorua while symptomatic.
It was confirmed the possibility the virus had been imported with freight was being investigated.
There were long queues at testing centres in Auckland as residents rushed to be tested. Seven additional pop-up testing centres opened.
Nine police check points were established on the borders of Auckland.
The government strongly encouraged those in Auckland to wear masks when out and about.
At midday, Auckland entered alert level three restrictions, with the rest of the country moving to alert level two.
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