Live updates, December 18: 10 new imported Covid-19 cases; Ministry of Health responds to damning review

Welcome to The Spinoff’s final live updates for 2020. It’s December 18. You can reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

3.25pm: Grace Millane’s killer keeps name suppression, for now

The identity of the man convicted for the murder of British backpacker Grace Millane will continue to remain a secret, after a last minute appeal request to the Supreme Court.

The man had his bid to overturn his conviction and sentence rejected by the Court of Appeal, but made an eleventh hour bid to the country’s highest court.

As the Herald reported, the Court of Appeal ruling described the killer’s actions after Millane’s death as “indicative of a degree of wholly self-regarding wickedness”.

In a statement, Millane’s family said they were pleased that their daughter’s killer had his appeal rejected.

1.50pm: Covid-19 case numbers surge in NSW

A further 10 community cases of Covid-19 have been reported in New South Wales overnight, as the state deals with a renewed surge of the coronavirus.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said there were now 28 cases associated with the new “Northern Beaches cluster”.

As 7 News reported, of the 28 cases, 26 are linked to the Avalon RSL., the Avalon Bowlo, or both. Berejiklian said it indicated the Avalon RSL, which was identified as a venue of concern for anyone who attended on December 11, appeared to be a place of “signficant seeding”.

1.00pm: 10 new Covid-19 cases in managed isolation; Ministry of Health responds to damning review

There are 10 new cases of Covid-19 to report in managed isolation since the Ministry of Health’s last media statement on Wednesday. There are no new cases in the community.

Two previously reported cases have now recovered bringing the total number of active cases in New Zealand to 51. The total number of confirmed cases is 1,754.

  • One case arrived on December 4 from Netherlands via Singapore. This person tested positive at routine testing around day 12 and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One case arrived on December 5 from Italy via the United Arab Emirates. This person tested positive at routine testing around day 12 and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • Two cases arrived on December 10 from the United States. These people tested positive at routine testing around day three and are now in quarantine in a facility in Christchurch.
  • Two cases travelling separately arrived on December 12 from India via the United Arab Emirates. They both tested positive during day three testing and have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One case arrived on December 13 from Germany via the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. This person tested positive at routine testing around day three and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One case arrived on December 13 from the United Kingdom via the United Arab Emirates. This person tested positive at routine testing around day three and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One case arrived on December 13 from the United Kingdom. This person tested positive at routine testing around day 3 and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One case arrived on December 13. This person’s travel itinerary is still being confirmed. This person tested positive at routine testing around day three and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,363,124.

Ministry responds to Surveillance and Testing Report and Contact Tracing Addendum

Of the 13 recommendations in the Surveillance and Testing Report, all have been addressed, and actions have either already been implemented or are underway, said the ministry in a statement.

The Contact Tracing Addendum includes 15 recommendations and a response to each recommendation is underway.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the health system had responded on an unprecedented scale at speed to eliminate Covid-19 from our communities.

“The response has not been without flaws, but the ministry and wider system have learnt, reviewed and adjusted along the way to continually improve our response,” said Bloomfield.

“New Zealanders should have confidence that we have responded to four outbreaks since the Auckland August cluster without needing to change alert levels – this is a reflection of the strengthened systems that have adapted since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Infection prevention and control audits of managed isolation and quarantine facilities

The Ministry of Health has today released the results of two audits into infection prevention and control (IPC) at all 32 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities around New Zealand.

IPC measures include physical distancing, use of PPE, testing, daily health checks, and cleaning and maintenance processes.

The IPC requirements are captured in a set of Standard Operating Procedures used by all the MIQ facilities, taking into account their individual circumstances.

The requirements are continually updated to reflect our evolving understanding of how the virus works and the latest expert health advice.

The majority of recommendations for improvement in both audits were addressed within two weeks of the findings. These audits will serve as a baseline for future audits, which will be conducted regularly.

The audit results are available on the ministry’s website.

10.35am: Independent review of WorkSafe over Whakaari response

An independent review of workplace health and safety regulator WorkSafe and its response to the Whakaari disaster has been ordered by the government. The review, the minister for workplace relations, Michael Wood said, would “assess the adequacy and appropriateness of WorkSafe’s actions in relation to Whakaari White Island and whether further steps should have been taken. It will also identify whether any changes to WorkSafe’s systems, processes and practices are necessary or desirable.”

The announcement comes as the government releases the first stage of a “targeted review” of adventure activities regulations. It finds that since the regulatory regime came fully into force in 2014, safety has improved significantly but that the “regime could be strengthened to help operators better identify and manage natural hazard risks, through changes to the safety audit standard and the certification scheme”.

“We’re committed to consulting on the report’s findings to improve safety standards in the first half of 2021 and making the appropriate changes afterwards,” said Wood.

The independent review will be led by David Laurenson QC.

10.10am: No charges in Falloon scandal

A police investigation into unsolicited images sent by former National MP Andrew Falloon has ended with no charges being laid.

Police said while the material sent was distressing for those who received them, Falloon’s actions did not meet the threshold for prosecution.

The investigation started after allegations were raised by National Party leader Judith Collins and the recipient of the images.

At the time, Collins said: “”I have spoken to police. Police, in light of the new information, have advised me that they are likely to reopen their first investigation and I have also spoken to them about the safety of Andrew Falloon and they are taking the matter very seriously.”

10.05am: Health ministry heavily criticised in border testing report

The health ministry has been heavily criticised by a report into failings in border testing.

The report, conducted by Sir Brian Roche and Heather Simpson, recommended that health’s responsibility for the border be diminished.

Speaking in response, Covid-19 minister (and former health minister) Chris Hipkins said that the government has started implementing the recommendations, and has committed to putting them all through.

An extra $2.86 billion has been put towards the country’s testing and border response.

The report’s release was notable for delays. After the report was commissioned urgently, it was delivered to the government in September. However, it was not put out to the public until the last Friday before Christmas.

A note from me

Hello readers, thanks for popping by. Today is the final live updates for 2020. We’ll be back towards the end of January. Of course, if any major news breaks over the summer period you’ll still be able to find everything you need to know on The Spinoff.

Today’s live updates are going to be a little different, at least for the next few hours. I’m going to trawl back through the archives and recap the biggest news day from each month I’ve been at The Spinoff (since July).

Full disclosure: this note was written two days ago and I’m probably sleeping now, but I am around today so feel free to get in touch and if news breaks throughout the day, this is still the best place to find it.

See you in 2021! Stewart

July: The fallout from the Andrew Falloon saga

Remember the name Andrew Falloon? Neither did I until a moment ago. On July 22, the National Party was in crisis mode following revelations earlier in the week that the backbench MP had sent an inappropriate message to a young woman.

Not long after, Judith Collins revealed she had received a tip-off about a high ranking Labour MP, later revealed to be Iain Lees-Galloway, the now former immigration minister.

It was the culmination of a series of high profile scandals/dramas from within the halls of parliament, and July 22 proved to be the most read live updates of the month.

August: Auckland moves to Covid-19 alert level three

On August 11, four cases of Covid-19 from an unknown source were reported in Auckland, the first from an unknown source in 102 days. At noon the following day, Auckland shifted up to alert level three, while the rest of the country was moved to level two.

A couple of days later, on August 14, almost 100,000 of you jumped onto the live updates to learn the latest regarding our Covid-19 alert levels. It was the biggest updates day of the month, with the news that Auckland would be remaining under level three restrictions for a further 12 days.

Also on this day, we learned it was possible that the election could be delayed (ultimately, it was) and the wage subsidy was extended nationwide.

September: More Covid, the ‘Green School’, and DDOS attacks

Recapping the past few months has reminded me of some news stories that, in isolation, seemed massive but upon reflection were little more than a blip on a landscape dominated by the coronavirus.

On September 1, you flocked to the live updates to read James Shaw’s public apology for using $12 million from the government’s “shovel ready fund” for a Taranaki “Green School”.

“The decision to support this project was an error of judgement,” Shaw said on this day. “If I was making the same decision again I would not support the project.”

Meanwhile, there were another 14 Covid-19 cases, five linked to the Auckland cluster (remember community transmission?) and we learned that the number of MIQ staff being tested was up to 97%.

Another bizarre news story from September was the wave of DDOS cyber attacks. On September 1, MetService was targeted, following a sustained multi-day attack on the NZX and failed attempts to bring down RNZ and Stuff.

October: ‘Election Live’ launches, Ardern and Collins debate

Ah, October – the month where politics was all I had to think about. In this month, the live updates were renamed “Election Live” as all heads turned to the war of words between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins.

The biggest day was October 6 – more than a week out from election day – with the leaders facing off in the third leaders debate. It was on this day that the iconic phrase “DON’T DISRESPECT SĀMOA” was born and where we learned neither Ardern nor Collins could determine the price of a leg of lamb. Go figure.

While not live updates, I think I’ll humbly brag that my biggest piece of the month was actually a post-election recap of the moment Tova O’Brien absolute destroyed Jami-Lee Ross on live TV.

November: Joe Biden swoops to victory, Trump has a tantrum

From one election to another – November was all about Joe Biden vs Donald Trump.

November 5, the day after the US election, was by far the biggest post I’ve published in my time at The Spinoff. Well over 100,000 of you clicked through to read about the ongoing drama spiralling out of Washington, with news that Donald Trump was refusing to accept that the presidency might be slipping away from him.

December: Australia travel bubble on the horizon

There’s no avoiding the fact that, after the year from hell, December has been a “slow news month”. But, nevertheless, there was a lot of interest earlier this week when the prime minister announced a rough timeline for a travel bubble with Australia.

Quarantine-free travel with Australia is expected to be permitted in the first quarter of 2021, Jacinda Ardern announced. A commencement date for the travel bubble will be revealed in the new year. I’ve got tickets to see Hamilton in Sydney on April 10 – so my fingers are crossed painfully tight that I’ll be able to travel.




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