Live updates, November 20-22: Nine new Covid cases at the border; ‘Look in the mirror’, John Key tells National

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 20-21. Reach us at info@thespinoff.co.nz.

1.00pm: Nine new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation

The Ministry of Health has just released its daily Covid-19 update by email. Here’s what it says:

There are 9 new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today, all in recent returnees in managed isolation. There are no new cases in the community.

Of these recent returnees:

  • One person arrived from France on 17 November and tested positive at around day 3. They are now in the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived from the Netherlands on 17 November and tested positive at around day 3. They are now in the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived from Dubai on 17 November and tested positive at around day 3. They are now in the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived from the United States on 19 November and tested positive at around day 3. They are now in quarantine in Christchurch.
  • One person arrived from the United Kingdom on 14 November and tested positive following routine surveillance at around day 7. They are now in the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • Two people, who were travelling separately, arrived on the same flight from Bangladesh on 10 November and tested positive at around day 12. They are now in the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived from Spain on 16 November and tested positive at around day 3. They are now in the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived from Italy on 16 November and tested positive at around day 3. They are now in quarantine in Christchurch.

The varied origins of these cases is a clear reminder that as COVID-19 continues to batter countries and jurisdictions around the globe, mandatory isolation and testing will continue to be of critical importance as high numbers of New Zealanders return home before the holiday period.

The Ministry of Health again wants to thank all staff at the managed isolation and quarantine facilities for their efforts in keeping New Zealand safe.

In other updates today, we can report that genome sequencing of Case F reported yesterday has confirmed a direct link to the November quarantine cluster.  Case F has been isolating since 7 November as a close contact of Case B.

There is one additional recovered case, meaning there are 50 active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand today.

Our total number of confirmed cases is now 1,672.

Yesterday our laboratories processed 6,504 tests for COVID-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,230,901.

This continued strong level of testing as well as the prompt identification, tracing, testing and isolation of close contacts provides continued reassurance that this cluster is contained at this stage.

The Ministry continues to encourage anyone who visited a location of interest during the relevant time period for the November cluster to get tested,  to ensure we can quickly identify anyone who may have been infected.

As part of this enhanced surveillance we continue to have two pop up testing facilities in central and east Auckland today. Both locations are walk-in and don’t require a pre-booked appointment.

The central Auckland pop-up testing location is on High Street close to a number of the ‘Locations of interest’.   The east Auckland location is at 292A Botany Road (Spectrum House). These and other testing locations are available on the ARPHS website.

We have the best chance of staying ahead of COVID-19 if everyone who becomes unwell with cold or flu-like symptoms stays at home and seeks a test quickly, and all New Zealanders are keeping track of where they’ve been and who they’ve seen.

NZ COVID Tracer app

NZ COVID Tracer now has 2,377,600 registered users.

Poster scans have reached 122,763,982 and users have created 5,031,296 manual diary entries.

Please continue to use the app to scan into locations displaying a QR code – you never know when you will need to call on your contact tracing diary. The more every person scans, the safer we will all be.

11.30am: John Key to National: We have to take responsibility

Former prime minister John Key has spoken of the disunity within National for a second day, appearing on Newstalk ZB this morning to warn the party against blaming outsiders for its election loss.

“If we blame the media or go and blame other people, we’re going to forget to actually look in the mirror and we have to take responsibility

“We have to take responsibility for our own actions. We failed in a series of different ways, from leadership changes to leaking to disunity. All of those get punished very strongly by an electorate.

“If we want to be silly enough to continue with the sorts of games that have been played recently, then [the media] are going to report them and we’ve only got ourselves to blame.”

His comments were in response to party president Peter Goodfellow’s speech yesterday to National’s AGM. Rather than focusing on the problems within the party, Goodfellow castigated the media for its “clickbait” coverage of the election and the government for the “tyranny” of its Covid-19 response.

For an opposition party, trying to hold a celebrity government to account for their decisions and policies it was suddenly a crime to ask legitimate questions for comment and daily broadcasts became televangelistic, like a gospel to the masses,” Goodfellow told delegates.

Key also spoke at the AGM but struck a very different tone to Goodfellow. As with his comments today, Key warned the party against passing the buck on its election failure.

“We have to be honest enough to admit that our own failings played a part in our defeat,” Key said yesterday. “I know it sounds hard, but it’s true. If we don’t acknowledge that, if we don’t take responsibility for it, then we won’t learn from it.”


1.10pm: Six new cases of Covid-19 in MIQ

The Ministry of Health has just issued the following release detailing today’s Covid-19 numbers:

There are six new cases of COVID-19 to report in New Zealand today, five in recent returnees in managed isolation and one in a border worker already in quarantine for the past two weeks.

Of these recent returnees:

Two people arrived from Qatar on 17 November. They returned a positive result to routine day 3 testing and are being today transferred to Auckland’s quarantine facility.

One person arrived from Germany via Qatar and Australia on 10 November. They returned a positive result following a series of previous tests returning inconclusive results.  The person has now been transferred to quarantine at our Auckland facility.

Two people arrived from the United States on 14 November. They have now returned a positive test and are now in quarantine in Christchurch.

We are also reporting a positive case in a close contact of one of the existing positive cases (case B) in the November quarantine cluster. This person was self-isolating at home from 7 November, and chose to transfer to managed isolation on 11 November. They had a negative day 5 test and are now confirmed as a case today after returning a positive test at around day 12. They remain in the managed isolation facility in Wellington.

All close contacts of case F have been followed up, tested and returned negative results

There are four additional recovered cases, meaning there are 42 active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

Our total number of confirmed cases is now 1,663.

Yesterday our laboratories processed 7014 tests for COVID-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,224,397.
This level of testing as well as the prompt identification, tracing, testing and isolation of close contacts provides reassurance that this cluster is contained at this stage.

The Ministry continues to encourage anyone who visited a location of interest during the relevant time period for the November cluster to get tested – to ensure we can quickly identify anyone who may have been infected.

As part of this enhanced surveillance we are continuing to have two pop up testing facilities in central and east Auckland. Both locations are walk-in and don’t require a pre-booked appointment.

The central Auckland pop-up testing location is on High Street close to a number of the ‘Locations of interest’ and will be open today and tomorrow (Saturday and Sunday).  The east Auckland location is at 292A Botany Road (Spectrum House) and will be open both days. All testing locations are available on the ARPHS website.

We have the best chance of staying ahead of COVID-19 if everyone who becomes unwell with cold or flu like symptoms stays at home and seeks a test quickly, and all New Zealanders are keeping track of where they’ve been and who they’ve seen.
Results of genome sequencing for case F are expected Monday.

NZ COVID Tracer app

NZ COVID Tracer now has 2,376,400 registered users.

Poster scans have reached 121,835,143 and users have created 5,003,971 manual diary entries.

Please continue to use the app to scan into locations displaying a QR code – you never know when you will need to call on your contact tracing diary. The more every person scans, the safer we will all be.

12.05pm: Donald Trump Jr has Covid-19

First the coronavirus came for his father, then his stepmother, half-brother and girlfriend. Now Donald Trump Jr has tested positive, reports Jennifer Jacobs, the Bloomberg News journalist who has been first to report almost every White House Covid-19 case this year.

10.10am: Ardern takes over leadership of APEC for 2021

The prime minister took over leadership of APEC, the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, in a speech to members earlier today. Her speech was the final event of the Malaysia-hosted 2020 summit, which was held using digital platforms due to Covid-19. Next year’s summit, originally planned to take place in Auckland, will also be all-virtual.

“Delivering an innovative and well-run virtual APEC will demonstrate New Zealand’s digital and creative capabilities, along with our commitment to continued and effective diplomacy. In a Covid-19 world it is more important now than ever,” Ardern said in her speech.

“This is not just one single meeting. It takes on a full year of work and is an opportunity for New Zealand to lead on the world stage and to play a role in shaping the future for the Asia Pacific region.

“We look forward to providing all APEC delegates with a warm, virtual welcome from Aotearoa New Zealand very soon.”

The New Zealand-hosted APEC summit will take place in November 2021.

9.20am: National delegates gather for post-trouncing AGM

Just over a month since their party suffered one of the worst election losses in its history, National faithful are gathering at Te Papa in Wellington for their annual general meeting/airing of grievances. The highlight of the day will be this afternoon’s vote on the board of governors, with three positions newly available – two board members, including current president Peter Goodfellow, must defend their seats, while a third, Roger Bridge, resigned in August following revelations he called late night talk radio under the alias “Merv”. Among those throwing their hats in the ring for the positions is former speaker David Carter.

This week Carter told Stuff he wanted to depoliticise the board, and stay out of candidate selections,

“The previous board has been a bit too political and politics should stay with the caucus. The board’s role is to govern,” Carter said. ”Look at some of the candidate selections – in particular Auckland Central – that has annoyed a lot of members.”

If Goodfellow doesn’t win re-election – and there’s a decent chance of that, given the party’s disastrous election result – the new president will be selected from among the board’s ranks. Should Carter win election to the board, he’s in a prime position to take the top job too.

Party luminaries including Goodfellow, Judith Collins and John Key will address delegates this morning.


2.30pm: Harsh South Australia lockdown ends early after revelation it was sparked by a lie

The strict lockdown in the state of South Australia will end ahead of schedule after it was revealed it was based on a lie told to contact tracers by a Covid-19 positive worker at an Adelaide pizza shop.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, effective immediately, South Australians will be now allowed to exercise outside their homes as the rules are relaxed.

“The lie was the person claimed that they had purchased a pizza from the pizza shop, where in fact they were working there and had been working there for several shifts,” South Australia’s police commissioner Grant Stevens said.

“That clearly changes the circumstances and had this person been truthful to the contact tracing teams, we would not have gone into a six-day lockdown.”

The South Australian premier Steven Marshall is “fuming”, telling media the “selfish actions” of this person have put the state in a difficult situation – but there’s no way to punish him.

“His actions have affected businesses, individuals, family groups and it is completely and utterly unacceptable,” he said.

No new Covid-19 cases emerged in South Australia yesterday following the state’s intense six day lockdown starting earlier this week. More than 20,000 tests for the coronavirus were carried out over a 48 hour period in the state.

According to Australian media, authorities are now racing contact trace anyone who may have come into contact with the Covid-positive worker at the Woodville Pizza Bar who lied to contact tracers.

2.00pm: Joe Biden wins Georgia… again

The only thing better than winning is winning twice, especially when it means Donald Trump has lost twice. Joe Biden has officially won the state of Georgia in the US presidential election, for the second time.

As CNN reports, Georgia has concluded a statewide audit of the presidential race, resulting in a conclusive victory for Biden. He beat Trump by 12,284 votes, according to the final results – a slight drop compared to the pre-audit results.

The state had already been called for Biden by media, adding to his overall electoral college victory against the president.

Officials have said repeatedly that the audit confirmed there was no widespread fraud or irregularities in the election, despite any conspiracy theories pushed by Trump and his team.

Trump has tweeted more than once today with false claims that Georgia will flip once new votes are uncovered, regardless of the audit’s outcome.

Meanwhile, CNN is continuing to cover the trainwreck Rudy Giuliani presser from earlier today (see 8.00am update) with admirable bluntness.

(I swear, this is not fake)

1.20pm: Tauranga mayor resigns, trying to take Council down with him

Alex Braae writes:

Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell has resigned, and he could take the rest of his dysfunctional council down with him. The resignation brings an end to a year of turbulence, since Powell was voted in at the 2019 elections.

After a harshly critical report into the council was released this week, councillors today voted to install a Crown Manager, by a margin of 5-5, with Powell casting the deciding vote in favour.

Even though he got his preferred outcome, Powell resigned regardless, and on the way out the door called on local government minister Nanaia Mahuta to appoint a commissioner instead. Powell reportedly informed Mahuta of his decision to resign in advance of today’s meeting, but did not tell other councillors.

If that were to happen, councillors would all lose their jobs. The move is rare, with the most notable recent example being the board of Environment Canterbury getting the chop in 2010.

Powell was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer, but he said his resignation was not related to that. Previously, he had been planning to take a period of time off for surgery and recuperation, before returning in the new year.

His time in office has been marked by controversy and in-fighting, with critics blaming Powell’s aggressive and confrontational style. Powell, in turn, has derided his opponents as undermining his leadership and the work of the council, to the detriment of one of New Zealand’s fastest growing cities.

If Mahuta decides against appointing a commissioner, a by-election for the position of mayor will be held. It is unclear if it would be held alongside the upcoming Otumoetai/Pyes Pa Ward by-election, which is taking place over January and February after the resignation of councillor Jako Abrie.

1.00pm: Three new Covid-19 cases, in managed isolation

There are three new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today, the Ministry of Health has announced. All of the new cases are recent returnees in managed isolation, with no new community cases today.

Of these recent returnees:

  • One person arrived from Romania (via Qatar and Brisbane) on November 3. They were already in the Auckland quarantine facility as a contact of three previously confirmed cases. They returned a positive result to routine day 12 testing;
  • One person arrived from Dubai on November 15. They returned a positive result to routine day 3 testing and are being transferred to quarantine at the Auckland facility; and
  • One person arrived from Qatar via Brisbane on November 17. They returned a positive result to routine day 3 testing and are being transferred to quarantine at the Auckland facility.

There are no new recovered cases today, meaning the number of active cases of Covid-19 rises to 40. The total number of confirmed cases is now 1,657.

Yesterday our laboratories processed 9,292 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,217,383.

A ministry spokesperson said this is a good number of daily tests. “It reflects the commitment of New Zealanders to getting tested, and also the hard work of those involved in taking and processing the tests,” they said.

“We continue to encourage anyone who visited a location of interest during the relevant time period for the November cluster to get tested – to ensure we can quickly identify anyone who may have been infected.”

Two pop up testing facilities remain open in central and east Auckland. Both locations are walk-in and don’t require a pre-booked appointment.

The central Auckland pop-up testing location is on High Street close to a number of the ‘Locations of interest’ and will be open on Saturday and Sunday, said the ministry. The east Auckland location at 292A Botany Road (Spectrum House) will be open until at least Monday.

“We have the best chance of staying ahead of Covid-19 if everyone who becomes unwell with cold or flu like symptoms stays at home and seeks a test quickly, and all New Zealanders are keeping track of where they’ve been and who they’ve seen.”

Continued close contact testing around the confirmed cases in the November quarantine cluster has not identified any further confirmed cases, the ministry said.

12.00pm: Two extra tweets Jacinda Ardern might regret

Yesterday, I wrote a cheeky lil’ listicle for The Spinoff acknowledging the fact that a lot of Jacinda Ardern’s old tweets were being dug up by people keen to point the finger at a perceived hypocrisy in the government’s lack of action on key issues.

It was silly, but I had fun doing it. There was also quite a lot of you who were angry at me. Nevertheless, here are two more tweets I missed for yesterday’s piece that I simply had to share today.

‘Best chat of the weekend’

Nine years ago, a Labour backbencher called Jacinda Ardern spoke in support of a capital gains tax. Jump forward to this week, and Ardern has said the New Zealand public ruled out a CGT being implemented (despite her being the one to rule it out for the entirety of her tenure as PM).

‘Most caring government’

The PM this month ruled out increasing benefits before Christmas.

On The Spinoff: A guide to defending garbage people on Facebook

This morning on The Spinoff: Another week, another scandal hits a lowly ex-reality TV idiot. But what of those who rush in to defend Pete Evans, and people like him? Emily Writes outlines the tried and true formula.

Here’s an extract:

Welcome to the first ever guide to defending D-grade celebrities who share Nazi imagery online. Before we start, you might be wondering why you’d bother defending a man who gets kicks out of upsetting already marginalised groups of people and who looks like a burnt sausage with teeth. Well, the answer is why not?

Are you not bored? Do you not have a Facebook account? Are you not an angry incel? Come down the rabbit hole and turn your imagined victimhood into a degree in defending a horrible dipshit keto enthusiast online.

Follow this guide and you’ll be on your way to contributing absolutely nothing to actual free speech discourse but you’ll feel like a big man and an intellectual so that’s enough.

Read Emily’s full piece here

10.15am: Hipkins unveils South Island school upgrades

The education minister has unveiled an extra $32 million of funding for schools in the South Island, as part of a multimillion dollar nationwide investment in classroom developments.

Of the $32 million announced, $20 million is set to go toward a brand new primary school in Rolleston East – an area Chris Hipkins said is on the fastest growing in the country.

“$5 million will be used to fund short term classrooms at schools in the South Island facing severe pressure from rapid roll growth. The other $7 million will deliver permanent roll growth classrooms at four schools to ensure that schools have the space they need,” Hipkins said.

Yesterday, Hipkins announced $132 million for school upgrades in the North Island.

8.00am: Trump legal team continues to promote voter fraud theory

The legal team for president Donald Trump – led by Rudy Giuliani – has held another press conference in an effort to expose voter fraud in the recent US election.

Unlike the last conference hosted by Giuliani, today’s did not take place in the parking lot of a landscaping firm. Instead, Trump’s lawyer took on the “fake news” from Capitol Hill.

According to Fox News, Giuliani alleged that there was a “centralised” plan to carry out voter fraud around the country.

“Various acts of voter fraud specifically focused on big cities and specifically focused on big cities … controlled by Democrats,” he added.

“What I’m describing to you is a massive fraud.”

On RNZ this morning, correspondent Simon Marks described the press conference as “unhinged” and said that Giuliani’s hair dye started to sweat off under the spotlights.

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani perspires as he speaks during a press conference (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

In a bizarre turn, one of the Trump defence team also implied that former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013, was in part responsible for the election being won by Joe Biden.

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

A massive wave of bank branch closures is coming, with BNZ shutting down 38 locations over the next year. They’re in both cities and towns, and cover the whole spread of the country. As Stuff reports, it breaks an earlier pledge from the bank to not make any closures until 2022. However, the bank says Covid-19 has accelerated trends that it was already seeing in banking, and plans had sped up as a result. People may lose jobs as a result, though the bank has assured staff that everyone will be offered a new position. As Interest reports, it follows news of ASB closing 23 branches as well. BNZ announced a $762 million profit this year, while ASB was closer to a billion.

To give a sense of the scale, consider the fate of the Waipukurau and Dannevirke branches. The two towns are a bit over half an hours drive away, with several towns in the middle. And both branches will go in 2021, meaning there will be basically nothing between Palmerston North and Hastings – a two hour drive. People live in all those places in between.

Stories have been written about the impact this will have on individual places. The Otago Daily News picked up on the four closing around the lower South Island. Radio NZ reports the disappointment from the Thames-Coromandel mayor about the Coromandel township branch going. And the mayor of Stratford told the Taranaki Daily News that it was symptomatic of a culture of profit over social responsibility. “While the BNZ justifies its decision by quoting all sorts of reasons supported by carefully crafted media releases, in reality it is simply a withdrawal of service from those communities.”

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

Two new cases of Covid-19 were reported in managed isolation. There are now just 37 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

The prime minister was among those marking a decade to the day since the Pike River Mine Disaster.

BNZ announced it would close 38 branches across the country, beginning on Christmas Eve.

The government announced a $164 million investment in school upgrades nationwide.

Jacinda Ardern was awarded a $150,000 prize from Harvard University honouring her leadership throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

New mandatory mask rules for Auckland public transport came into effect.

The government unveiled new rules mandating more regular Covid testing for border workers.

Read yesterday’s updates here




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