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New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern admits nation can’t get rid of coronavirus | TheHill – The Hill

Posted: October 7, 2021 at 4:17 pm

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday acknowledged thatthe country cant completely get rid of COVID-19,The Associated Press reported.

Ardern made the remark while announcing plans to ease lockdown restrictions in Auckland, allowingresidents to be able to meet up with loved ones from one other household and go to the beach starting Tuesday. Early childhood education centers will also reopen.

For this outbreak, its clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases, Ardern said. But that is OK. Elimination was important because we didnt have vaccines. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things.

Since the beginning of the global pandemic, New Zealand pushed a zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus by implementing strict lockdowns and aggressive contact tracing.

While slowly returning back to normal life, the country experienced a new COVID-19 outbreak in August.

Ardern said that the seven-week lockdown in Auckland helped control the current situation, the AP reported.

The recent outbreak has led to more than 1,300 cases, with 29 new infections being detected on Monday.

Sixty-five percent of New Zealanders have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with 40 percent of citizensnow fully vaccinated.Vaccination rates have slowed after initially rising in response to the current outbreak, the AP noted.

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Steven Joyce: Jacinda Ardern Government getting too big for its bossy boots – New Zealand Herald

Posted: at 4:17 pm

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament. Photo / Getty Images

OPINION:

In 1979 an academic lawyer at Victoria University wrote a book about New Zealand politics called Unbridled Power. I was at school and bought a copy which I still have.

It was a story of New Zealand's then rather unique form of government. Its message was summed up in the title of a chapter called "The Fastest Law in the West".

With only one chamber of Parliament, no provincial or state governments, and a first-past-the-post voting system, the description was very apt.

Between three-yearly elections, the government of the day could do pretty much whatever it wanted. And from the 1970s to the 1990s a succession of governments did exactly that.

Laws were changed frequently, often in a few days, without meaningful discussion outside of ministers talking amongst themselves. Many law changes bore a loose or no relationship with what a government promised to do at an election.

There were so few checks and balances our system was often described as an elected dictatorship.

Rob Muldoon was the first Prime Minister who really took advantage of this unique governing system. He made himself both the nation's leader and its finance minister and then proceeded to treat Parliament as his personal rubber stamp.

As the world economic situation deteriorated he took more and more outlandish decisions that impinged on people's liberties and livelihoods, until the public finally threw him out.

Then followed two governments that, while in many ways doing necessary things, managed to betray their voting bases. The Lange/Douglas Government, which included the book's author Geoffrey Palmer, turned its back on the Labour faithful with its economic reforms, and the Bolger Government did the same for its base with the superannuation surtax.

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Both governments did things they explicitly promised not to do before they were elected.The public had had enough, and when given the opportunity, chose a new voting system which would favour coalition governments rather than unbridled power. Our current system of MMP was born.

MMP has not been perfect. It has often frustrated governments and their supporters and prevented them from doing things they sought mandates to do. One of my biggest regrets about the Government in which I served was we were not able to secure enough votes for fundamental RMA reform.

Yet MMP has created stability and relative prosperity. Over a period of 20 years New Zealand has made solid incremental progress, without the wild lurches and rough edges that characterised government decision-making in the previous 30 years.

Until last year. As a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, voters did what many did elsewhere and re-elected an incumbent government with a significantly increased majority.

However, only in New Zealand, with its single House of Parliament, did we effectively return to our old system of "elected dictatorship".

On election night, the Prime Minister trotted out the tired old trope about "governing for all New Zealanders". Since then her Government has become increasingly high-handed.

The first overt sign was the decision to remove the public's say on the provision of Mori wards on local councils. Whatever the merits of Mori wards, voters had been clear in referendum after referendum they didn't want them.

The Government rode over the top of that, without saying so in the election campaign.

Next was the grand health centralisation.

Despite a taskforce floating the idea before the election, the Government refused to reveal its hand until afterwards, in the sure knowledge that losing control of local hospitals would not be popular in regional New Zealand. Now we are creating a giant health edifice run from Wellington, mid-pandemic, using mostly the same people who have been so sluggish on the Covid response.

But the Government was just limbering up. The pending return to industry-wide centralised wage bargaining, which before the election was to collectivise workplaces for the most vulnerable workers like cleaners and bus drivers, became after the election about every workplace; and needing only 10 per cent of affected workers in an industry to make it happen.

This week, under urgency in Parliament and using the excuse of Covid 19, they introduced a law that will alter many thousands of existing legal contracts between commercial landlords and tenants all over the country.

Rather than the Government compensating companies who can't afford to pay their rent because of government-induced lockdowns, it decided to legally require people who own the properties to do so instead.

This is an eye-watering precedent with far-reaching consequences to the sanctity of commercial contracts.

For good measure the same bill will give minister Chris Hipkins the unfettered right to postpone next year's local government postal elections for up to a year.

But the biggest over-reach of all so far is minister Nanaia Mahuta's threat to confiscate water infrastructure assets owned by ratepayers without fair payment, in order to create four new corporate water entities around the country.

She is also refusing to provide shares in or direct oversight of those entities back to local councils.

That is a travesty.

There are good arguments for water reform, and some amalgamations into regional entities that can borrow money to invest in assets makes sense. But confiscating the assets of any organisation not owned by central government is going several steps too far.

These are all signs of a government getting too big for its boots. The impression is worsened by the expensive wall-to-wall propaganda, sorry advertising, being employed to sell the water reforms and other contentious policies like the gold-plated tram for Auckland's inner west. Covid-19 publicity is legitimate, political propaganda is not.

A year after being handed an old-style first past the post result, and having possibly developed a taste for bossing people around during the Covid response, the current Government is regularly behaving like its Muldoon-style predecessors.

I'm not being partisan. Any government, left or right, handed this much power will tend to overreach. New Zealanders are reasonable people but they don't like ministers whose power goes to their heads.

They gave the Government a cold shower this week in the latest poll and they'll likely reach for the fire hose again if the "my way or the highway" attitude continues.

We do still have an MMP voting system after all, and that makes it far easier to "throw the bastards out", or seriously nobble them, even without a dominant Opposition party.

- Steven Joyce is a former National MP and Minister of Finance.

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Claire Trevett: What happens to Labour after Jacinda Ardern? – New Zealand Herald

Posted: at 4:17 pm

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently described having at least 90 per cent of the country vaccinated as a "golden ticket" which would mean no, or less restrictive lockdowns in future. NZ Herald's Claire Trevett sits down to discuss what a 90 per cent-plus vaccination rate could look like for New Zealand. Video / Mark Mitchell

OPINION:

In the leadup to the 2014 election, the NZ Herald did an article on the toll the stress of the job took on the Prime Minister.

It was indelicately headlined "The ageing of John Key" and accompanied by an equally indelicate photo essay. He was a good sport about it.

He even did an interview for it pointing to the 100-hour weeks and the similar effect on then US President Barack Obama. He later told me his wife, Bronagh, put it on their fridge to keep him humble.

In that article, Key said he was oozing energy and when the day came he was no longer excited about the job he would walk away.

That day came two years later, and despite the warning, Key's retirement took most people by surprise.

A similar piece would not be done on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Yes, that may be a double standard but I do not care - we would be crucified.

However, eventually Labour too will have to confront the reality of a future without Ardern.

While everybody is wondering how long Judith Collins will rule the National Party and speculating on her successors, nobody is really thinking about how long Ardern will rule the Labour Party or who would succeed her.

This is not motivated by any inside information or speculation that the Prime Minister is planning to stand down and work at the UN or whatever the latest rumour is.

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I have no idea when that might be or what Ardern might end up doing.

However, Ardern will never be rolled as leader.

She will leave one of two ways: either she will do a Key and leave while still Prime Minister, or she will lose an election. She has already said she would resign if she lost an election.

The Labour Party is moving now to change its rules to cater for the possibility that Ardern does follow the lead of Key.

It might not surprise people if she eventually did that, but it would surprise people if she did it this term.

The rule change would allow caucus to bypass a vote of party members and union affiliates and elect a new leader themselves. That could happen if more than two thirds of the caucus supported that person.

There are already jokes (mine) about the new clause being called the Grant Robertson Clause.

That is because if Ardern did step aside while still PM, it is almost certain she would want the job to go to Robertson. That would also make it almost certain Robertson would get the caucus vote required.

That is because of the same reasons Key wanted English to take over from him: because the public trusted him. Robertson is the one most likely to be able to keep things on an even keel without Ardern and to hold up the vote for Labour.

Labour's rules needed to make any such transition easier.

Its current process is protracted, cumbersome and unpredictable. Without a quick, clean leadership change, there is the prospect of the country sitting and waiting for weeks on end while Prime Minister wannabes strut their stuff to party members and trade union affiliates and then those members and unions chose the next Prime Minister.

Until now, the only way to get out of process and let caucus alone elect a leader was in the three months prior to an election as happened with Ardern in 2017.

The changes will be voted on in November at the party's conference.

It is being done now because the best time to make such changes is when an incumbent leader is safe and the party is stable.

The best time to do it is when nobody else is being talked about as a leader.

But that is also a problem for Labour, and a critical question it will eventually have to face.

Labour has a strong leader now. But will it too face another carousel of changing leaders when it goes back into Opposition?

The Robertson option is far less likely if Ardern leaves after losing an election. At the moment, that does not seem likely but Ardern herself has seen how public sentiment can turn quickly.

Robertson would likely want to go with her, rather than back into Opposition. That was what the late Sir Michael Cullen did after the Clark government ended.

Robertson has ruled out another go at the leadership after being twice thwarted by Labour's current leadership processes.

It remains possible Robertson could be prevailed upon to stay on anyway to hold the caucus together as it adjusted to the difficult life of opposition. That was what Phil Goff did in 2008 after Clark.

However, history has not been kind on first term opposition leaders.

When a leader is as commanding as Key or Ardern, little attention is paid to thinking about who might come after.

There are two approaches.

One is the senior caretaker leader Labour tried with Goff. The other is to move straight to the next generation of leadership, as National did with Simon Bridges after 2017.

Ask Labour insiders who might take over after a Labour loss and there are blank faces.

Some come up with names for the future: Kiri Allan or Kieran McAnulty, maybe Michael Wood, who has strong support among the Auckland members and unions.

But there is no real consensus around any particular person.

As for the more distant future, sometimes leaders are pointed out early and sometimes they eventually come into focus.

In National's intake of five new MPs, Christopher Luxon was dubbed a leadership prospect very early on.

In Labour's intake of 23 new MPs, not a single name has been pointed to as yet.

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Covid-19: ‘Prepare for the inevitability of community transmission’ – Stuff.co.nz

Posted: at 4:17 pm

The Government's new suppression strategy risks overwhelming the health system if the virus gets into under-vaccinated communities or if overworked public health officials can't keep up, Marc Daalder reports.

ANALYSIS: The Government has called time on elimination, 18 months and four days after Ashley Bloomfield embraced the strategy at a select committee hearing held under level 4 lockdown conditions.

As she announced a roadmap for Auckland's path out of lockdown on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Covid-19 cases would be present in the community but kept to low levels.

What I'm indicating is that in spite of not having reached zero, that doesn't mean that we are not able to successfully continue our work to keep people safe in the long-term and take an aggressive approach to Covid, she said.

Pool/Getty Images

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a three-step road map for Aucklands path out of lockdown.

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Vaccinations will help us. Our contact tracing will continue to play a role. We'll still isolate every case. And in the future, public health measures will still be part of the mix as well.

Experts say New Zealanders should prepare for the presence of Covid-19 in the community under the new approach, even if the Government is striving to keep cases down and the health system from being overwhelmed.

This relaxing of restrictions will see more spread and more Covid cases in the community over the coming weeks, Te Pnaha Matatini Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy said.

This isn't just the case in Auckland, either. Hendy's fellow modeller, University of Canterbury mathematics professor Michael Plank, said we should expect to see the virus outside of the city.

The Auckland boundary will remain in place for now. But if, as is likely, case numbers continue to grow, it will become progressively harder to keep the outbreak contained to Auckland, he said.

The rest of New Zealand should prepare for the inevitability of community transmission. Regions that experience outbreaks may need to be put under restrictions like those in Auckland.

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Te Pnaha Matatini Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy. (File photo)

Abandoning elimination does not mean the Government will wave the white flag and surrender to the virus. Auckland is still at level 3 and the initial step in loosening restrictions will add relatively little risk of onward transmission.

Ardern was at pains to emphasise that the strategy won't look that different from elimination. We will still rely on contact tracing, testing, masking and other public health measures, as well as tougher restrictions like lockdowns while vaccination rates remain low, to keep transmission low.

But the mere fact that the end goal is different that the Government is now satisfied with low levels of community transmission rather than none at all raises new and potent risks.

Experts have previously said a suppression strategy like that adopted by the Government on Monday would see restrictions in place for weeks to months. University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker highlighted that again on Monday evening.

Step 1 is pretty much Level 3 and Steps 2 and 3 are versions of level 2, he said.

When could Auckland move to those Level 2-style restrictions?

You need to see that case numbers are not increasing. I don't think you could ever expect that we'd be moving out of Step 1 anytime soon. Just from what we know of the experience of Victoria and New South Wales and what we've seen here.

Auckland's exit strategy is now vaccination rates, with Ardern targeting 90 per cent of the eligible population double dosed. But only 84 per cent have had their first dose thus far. Even if the remaining 6 per cent (around 86,000 people) went out and got jabbed today, it would still be six weeks before their second dose and another two weeks before they're considered fully protected. Clearly, suppression means Auckland is in lockdown for the long haul.

In the meantime, the Government's goal is to keep transmission low enough that the health system isn't overwhelmed. While successful elimination looked like reaching zero cases and returning to the freedoms of level 1, successful suppression sets a much lower bar of ensuring our hospitals are not overflowing with Covid-19 patients although the consequences of failing to achieve that bar are much more serious with suppression than with elimination.

There are three major and interconnected risks to the Government's ability to keep the health system standing.

The first is the outbreak taking off in under-vaccinated populations. Schools are tentatively slated to reopen from October 18, but children under 12 aren't eligible to be vaccinated. While children pose relatively little threat to one another, they're more likely to be infected by their adult teachers and other school staff members. Currently, however, teachers aren't required to be vaccinated, masks aren't mandated for students in schools and New Zealand's schools have notoriously poor ventilation.

We need to immediately take steps to ensure that schools open in the safest way possible, Jin Russell, a developmental paediatrician at the University of Auckland, said.

One of the best ways we can protect children and re-open schools safely is to aim for 100 per cent of teachers and staff, and 100 per cent of eligible students, to be vaccinated. Overseas experience also shows that by implementing a suite of measures including improving ventilation, taking activities outside, masking, and other measures, schools can drive the risk of Covid-19 transmission to very low levels.

Children aren't the only under-vaccinated group, however. Mori and Pasifika vaccination rates have lagged behind those of the general population. In Auckland, fewer than a quarter of Mori were fully vaccinated by last Tuesday.

As of Sunday, nationwide, just 56.7 per cent of Mori and 73 per cent of Pasifika had received a first dose of vaccine, compared with 80.3 per cent of white New Zealanders.

Unvaccinated people are also likely to be clustered into the same communities, raising the risk of an outbreak. All of the 11 district and city council areas with the greatest proportion of Mori residents are also among the 15 least vaccinated council areas. More than a third of the eligible population in 11 council areas is unvaccinated and populations in nine of these 11 are more than 16 per cent Mori.

These communities are exposed to outbreaks of the virus. If suppression slips up in ptiki district for example, where the population is 44 per cent Mori and where 38.3 per cent of the eligible population is unvaccinated, the outcomes could be grievous.

Jin Russell/Supplied

Jin Russell, a developmental paediatrician at the University of Auckland. (File photo)

That brings up the second risk to the success of the suppression strategy: The capacity in our public health system to ensure suppression doesn't slip up.

New Zealand's public health officials have spent 18 months testing for Covid-19, tracing the contacts of new cases and planning for new outbreaks, all while chronically underfunded and unable to carry out their non-Covid-19-related public health work.

While they were already gearing up to manage a greater burden of new cases after the country reopens next year, an expected period of rest and preparation has now been overrun by the current Delta outbreak. It took the Government six days at the start of the outbreak to start re-tasking other public servants with contact tracing, at which stage less than two thirds of more than 20,000 known contacts had even received a phone call from tracers.

Despite four critical reviews urging the Government to resource the contact tracing system to be able to deal with the contacts of up to 1000 cases a day, the Ministry of Health never did so. Now, it is not impossible that we do see case numbers in the hundreds, even though that could overwhelm our current tracers.

New Zealand would struggle to maintain high system performance of contact tracing for a prolonged period with 100-200 cases per day, one such review, commissioned by the Government, warned after the February outbreak. And this didn't account for the transmissibility of the Delta variant which we are now dealing with.

If contact tracing collapses, then suppression at our current vaccination rates without harsh lockdowns becomes almost impossible. The response is now contingent on the most crucial part of our public health system which has been consistently ignored and under-resourced over the course of the pandemic.

The third risk is that we might not know our contact tracing has failed and the health system is threatened until it is too late.

The suppression strategy is the result of a March 2020 modelling paper from the Imperial College London, which found that mitigating the virus (flattening the curve) would see hundreds of thousands of deaths in places like the United Kingdom or United States because hospitals would be unable to care for all of the grievously ill patients.

Suppression involved stamping the virus to extremely low levels and then progressively loosening restrictions. Inevitably, the virus would resurge and when that renewed outbreak began to threaten the capacity of the health system, new restrictions would be imposed.

In the United Kingdom, the trigger for a new lockdown was to be 100 cases in ICU in a week. The UK's health system had significantly more capacity, but these new cases in ICU would be the result of infections that happened weeks ago. Even after locking down, the modelling showed, ICU admissions would continue to rise, perhaps doubling or tripling above the 100-patient threshold, but not overwhelming the hospital system.

A similar concept may be used with the new roadmap for Auckland, which is set to be reviewed on a weekly basis to discern how the virus situation has responded to each loosening of restrictions. The problem for New Zealand is that we have so little capacity in our health system that we will hit our trigger point with just a handful of ICU cases. By the time an obvious trend starts to emerge, it could be too late to stop ICU capacity from being exceeded.

We'll have to really look at the trend very carefully and if we see signs it's going up, we may have to revisit what we do with these levels or stages, Baker said.

That's backed up by the view of Te Pnaha Matatini researcher Dion O'Neale.

One of the factors that makes outbreaks so difficult to control is the fact that often by the time we know we are on a trajectory of sharply growing case numbers we may already be past the point where interventions like contact tracing or quarantine facilities are able to catch up, he said.

This is because there is a delay between when people become infected or infectious and when we are likely to become aware of them.

In other words, once cases in ICU start to rise, we must immediately respond.

That could even include strengthening the restrictions in place in Auckland or wherever else the virus ends up, both Baker and Plank said.

It will be crucial to remain adaptable and responsive to changes in the number of cases and the healthcare demand they will generate. It may yet be necessary to adjust or tighten restrictions to prevent cases spiralling out of control, Plank said.

The Australian state of Victoria has gone from around 20 cases per day to 1500 in just 6 weeks, and there are currently 96 Covid patients in ICU. This could happen here and it would put immense pressure on our hospitals.

Up until now, New Zealand has enjoyed the benefits of no widespread community transmission of Covid-19 something nearly unique in the world. While that may never have been sustainable in the long-term once the borders reopened, the opportunity to cleanly end elimination has been taken out of our hands. Instead, we are messily transitioning to a suppression strategy while vaccination rates remain too low to, on their own, prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.

When speaking to Newsroom about the Imperial College London paper in March 2020, Baker issued a prescient warning about the burden of the suppression strategy.

Its one thing to hear about it and see it happening at a distance. Its like watching a Netflix series from overseas, but actually, that will be us if we dont contain it, he said at the time.

Its a new way of living thats pretty foreign. Its pretty obvious that no one alive today has seen a pandemic like this.

After 18 months of keeping it at bay, that new way of living has now arrived on New Zealand's shores at last.

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To keep the faithful, Jacinda needs to be clearer on the plan – Stuff.co.nz

Posted: at 4:17 pm

Stuff

Jacinda Ardern and John Key. Verity Johnson voted for one, but was impressed by the other last week.

OPINION: I thought about John Key a lot last week.

Its weird. Im a young, relaxed left, Jacinda voter. (You know, that type of leftie who has a keep-cup but cant be arsed harassing you into getting one.) So I cant remember ever agreeing with him on anything before. Hes always given off that helpful-dad-in-Bunnings vibe to me. Someone whos perfectly nice, and will help you find laminate flooring, but I really dont want to hear his thoughts on immigration.

So I was staggered to find myself listening to his Covid commentary comeback tour last week. Especially because most of it was like an 80s band reunion concert, designed to get a certain type of middle-aged man fired up again.

But he shot me through the heart with the line hope isnt a strategy.

READ MORE:* Covid-19 NZ: National and ACT say Kiwis should be able to travel freely by Christmas* Covid-19 NZ: John Key dramatically re-enters political spotlight, Jacinda Ardern fights back* Covid-19: Prime Minister Jacinda Arderns most difficult decision explained

With that one quip, the golden oldie showed he still had it. He hit upon the faultline of confusion that is running through heartland red-green voters like me.

Because what exactly is our Covid strategy?

I dont know. And for gods sake, dont say elimination. I know you dont know what that means any more either. I used to think it meant we had to get to zero cases, because the word eliminate has Dalek-like exterminate everything connotations to it. But now were being told it doesnt mean that, it means we can have controlled outbreaks.

So, is that a suppression strategy? A managed risk strategy? Are we trying to just stay at level 3 until everyone gets vaccinated? Can someone please tell me whats up.?

RNZ

Covid-19 elimination is possible but that does not mean New Zealand will necessarily get to zero cases, the Director-General of Health says.

And this confusion over the name of the strategy is just the start of it.

Jacinda & co know that they need to step up. Hence the Auckland roadmap, the one that, as I write, is due to be announced at 4pm on Monday. But this is also much bigger than just giving Auckland a plan.

So far, theyve been vague on what were doing about national vaccination strategies, vaccination passports, hospo, travel and tourism business revival, increasing ICU nurses availability, MIQ... and the hinting-and-flirting-but-never-quite-revealing approach is making even faithful reds restless.

Were sinking into the mindset of an overtired toddler at 3pm. Were irritable, irrational, and in desperate need of a nap. Can someone just tell us, preferably with a picture book and some biscuits, what the future will look like?

In 2020, they were good at spelling out that if we go hard, go early, well get back to level 1. But in 2021, there hasnt been the same level of clarity. Thats why JK was a smash hit last week. He articulated clearly what his plan would be. I didnt agree with it, but I did understand it.

Robert Kitchin/Stuff

Verity Johnson: Can someone just tell us, preferably with a picture book and some biscuits, what the future will look like?

Its made worse because theyve messed around like this before. Labour won the last election by saying, Hey, we nailed Covid! So do you really care that much about our plans for transport or housing? Well, yes. Look, I still voted for Jacinda, but I was grumpy about being fobbed off with such lax forward planning.

And now it just feels like the same thing is happening again. The Government is in danger of proving the recurring criticism that its great at being reactive but not proactive.

But heres the thing. I still trust them. I still want to do my part. And I really dont want to side with the opposition and yell, screw it!, storm off the pitch, give up all our progress and let a riot kick off. Thats like giving up at half-time.

What I want is a clear, well thought out plan from the team captain on what winning looks like.

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To keep the faithful, Jacinda needs to be clearer on the plan - Stuff.co.nz

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New Covid-19 testing regime to be announced today – RNZ

Posted: at 4:17 pm

The government will today announce how it plans to roll-out a much wider, "rigourous" Covid-19 testing regime.

Jacinda Ardern says the new regime will be central to the strategy going forward. Photo: Pool / Stuff / Robert Kitchin

A report was delivered to Cabinet on Monday, from the University of Otago's professor David Murdoch, who leads the government's testing advisory group.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said professor Murdoch's work will " form the basis of a new, rigourous testing regime that will be central to our strategy to control the virus, going forward".

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has signalled that rapid antigen testing will play a much bigger role in the new regime.

Hipkins said PCR testing of saliva or nasopharyngeal swabs remains the best way the identify early cases of Covid-19, but it only takes 15 minutes to process a rapid antigen test.

"One of the reasons why we have been reluctant in New Zealand is that they are good at detecting acute infection, but detecting early onset infection, not so good," he said.

These tests could give people false comfort, he said.

However, Hipkins added that rapid-antigen testing has been used during this outbreak and will become a bigger part of the country's Covid-19 response "fairly soon".

Twenty-five of the biggest companies, such as Mainfreight and Foodstuffs have called for emergency approval to import and use rapid Covid-19 antigen tests at critical work sites.

The wanted to jointly import 370,000 rapid antigen tests, to be introduced on work sites around the country within the next week, but needed the government's permission to do so.

However, Hipkins said that will be unlikely within the next week.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern fires up at ‘rushed and risky’ COVID-19 reopening proposals by National, ACT – Newshub

Posted: September 29, 2021 at 6:45 am

The Government revealed its plan in August for reopening to the world. A self-isolation pilot will soon get underway for 150 vaccinated arrivals, and next year returnees deemed "low-risk" won't need to spend two weeks in managed isolation.

"The difference between the Government's plan is that we have talked about high vaccination rates in the first quarter of 2022. We have also prioritised New Zealanders here not facing undue and unnecessary additional restrictions to manage what would inevitably be a rate of cases at the border," Ardern said.

"I refer them to Canada. They removed all border restrictions for citizens who are double vaccinated and in some cases they are facing a significant fourth wave and it has meant that they have domestic restrictions.

"There is no free lunch. You do have to make tradeoffs. We've decided to prioritise domestically trying to get the settings as low as possible for New Zealanders, and in time we will see changes at our border."

National leader Judith Collins asked how Ardern could reconcile with Kiwis overseas "being forced to watch dying family members take their final breaths by Zoom because her Government was so slow to get the vaccine rolled out".

Ardern acknowledged how "incredibly difficult" it is for people stuck overseas, and for Kiwis desperate to travel overseas to visit dying loved ones, for example, but haven't been able to secure a room upon their return.

Almost 4000 more rooms were released on Tuesday night but those desperate to book a space found themselves logging on to join an impossibly long queue of more than 30,000.

"Every member in this House will have sympathy for family members who have been separated by COVID the world over," Ardern said.

"We do have a process that enables, in those situations, New Zealanders to get to the top of any waitlist to be able to make it home to see their family members."

Ardern said it's important the Government is "ensuring you've got your domestic settings right and protecting New Zealanders at home. The member instead wants to open the floodgate without getting it right first. That is rushed and it is risky".

ACT leader David Seymour asked Ardern why domestic settings to control COVID-19 were still being worked on after 18 months since coronavirus emerged in the world.

Ardern said the Delta variant changed the game.

"If the member thinks domestic settings based on Alpha would be any good right now then obviously he hasn't looked at what's happening around the world. In fact, the settings for vaccines under Alpha are vastly different to now.

"You have to adapt and the benefit of the New Zealand approach is that we've done that and we've done it very successfully."

Seymour asked: "Has the Prime Minister only just realised that there are new variants of COVID, and if not, why is she so unprepared for them?"

Ardern wasn't impressed.

"Mr Speaker, do I even have to answer that?"

House Speaker Trevor Mallard said he could have ruled out Seymour's remarks as ironic, but he settled on Ardern being "absolutely capable of answering".

"Of course the entire global community is aware of the range of variants that exist," Ardern said. "But if the member is suggesting that we can base a research and evidence-based approach on a variant where most of the research around transmissibility, around infectivity, around hospitalisation, has only emerged since the latter part of the year."

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Mike Munro: In Jacinda Ardern Kiwis trust as National left trailing – New Zealand Herald

Posted: at 6:45 am

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's 1pm press conferences have become comforting and reassuring in uncertain times. Photo / Mark Mitchell

From the left: Jacinda Ardern's former chief of staff Mike Munro joins the Weekend Business Herald as a monthly columnist from today.

OPINION:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern offered another masterclass in crisis communications as she advised Aucklanders on Monday that they faced just two more days at level 4 lockdown. Or, more pertinently, two more days until they could enjoy a takeaways fix.

Her adroit performance at the post-Cabinet press conference was what we've come to expect. From the moment she reached the lectern, de-masked and apologised for being delayed by a frozen computer, it was textbook stuff.

Her trademark empathy and keen intuition were on show as she gently coaxed her million-plus audience to hang in there.

Aucklanders were applauded for their "tireless" work in the face of "strict and hard" lockdown rules. She beseeched everyone to be stay mindful of the seriousness of the current situation. Businesses resuming trade were urged to watch out for the welfare of staff. And throughout she kept beating the vaccination drum.

In these uncertain, Covid-19 times, the (mostly) 1pm press conferences have become the equivalent of Franklin Roosevelt's fireside chats. Ninety years ago the US President introduced his radio broadcasts to calm national anxieties over the many issues vexing Americans at the time, in particular a banking crisis. He was able to reach out to voters directly, his words unfiltered by media. Roosevelt would be comforting and reassuring, praising the people for their fortitude in troubled times.

For Ardern and her Government, the daily briefings are serving the same purpose. Press conferences have long been an essential part of the communications mix in political life. But in the grip of this pandemic, with national life severely disrupted, anxiety levels rising and so many questions arising, they assume an even greater importance.

In the political domain, media scrutiny is but one of a suite of accountability mechanisms that also include the Opposition, the Official Information Act, judicial reviews and, most critically, elections.

Opposition MPs like to believe they're the ringmasters when it comes to keeping the Government honest. We saw this when Ardern citing reservations about the safety of MPs and parliamentary staff travelling during lockdown recently suspended Parliament for a week. Some reacted as if she was emulating Guy Fawkes and plotting to detonate the place.

24 Sep, 2021 05:00 PMQuick Read

24 Sep, 2021 05:00 PMQuick Read

The bellyaching included: the PM is stopping the Opposition from fulfilling its democratic function. We're not taking democracy as seriously as we should. A virtual sitting of Parliament is no substitute for the "real thing".

This flood of crocodile tears overlooked a stark reality. As the Government grapples with the pandemic, the most important accountability forum in town, by a wide margin, is the daily Covid-19 press conference in the Beehive theatrette. It is there, and not in Parliament's debating chamber, that the Government is being held to account, exhaustively and rigorously, over its pandemic decision-making.

Ardern and her able stand-ins, Grant Robertson and Chris Hipkins, are bombarded with journalists' questions on the whole gamut of pandemic-related topics: vaccines, the elimination strategy, mystery cases, lockdowns, alert levels, MIQ failings and much more. No Covid rock is left unturned.

What is noticeable when Parliament sits is that the Opposition is reduced to re-heating questions already asked by journalists at the 1pm briefings.

Not once in the nine parliamentary Question Times since the August 17 lockdown has the Opposition scored a hit on the Government. They are simply picking over the bones after the media has feasted.

The fact that massive audiences are tuning in to the daily briefings, and seeing Ardern and her lieutenants handle the crisis so adeptly, will be adding to the despair of a battered National Party.

It is possible as many as 2 million people were following the Government's briefings during the early weeks of the current outbreak. On August 20, TVNZ's peak day, it had an average audience of 908,000, while TV3 attracted 226,572 add to that the numbers watching the New Zealand Herald and Stuff livestreams, plus RNZ's radio and online audiences, and you have vast numbers tuning in.

The PM's media activity elsewhere also helps to deepen trust in the Government's ability to handle the pandemic. Her weekly appearances on the likes of breakfast television, RNZ's Morning Report, Maori TV and Mai FM means she is constantly answering for her Government's decisionmaking.

Recent polls illustrate the political upside that flows from Ardern's competent and calm leadership being perpetually on display. UMR, Labour's pollster, scored Ardern's preferred PM rating at 55 per cent, a rise of five points.

Curia, National's pollster, also had Ardern as the runaway leader in the preferred PM stakes, her rating nudging 51 per cent. Everyone else was in single figures. Curia's soundings also showed a chunk of the true-blue brigade has switched camps, with Ardern now the preferred PM of 7 per cent of National voters.

Governments instil voters with greater confidence when their approach to media scrutiny is "bring it on". With its most gifted communicator leading the charge, that formula is working for the government right now.

As Newshub's recently returned UK correspondent Lloyd Burr observed, 16 months of enduring Boris Johnson's blather at Covid-19 briefings made him realise how refreshing Ardern's communications approach is.

The latest polls tell us most New Zealanders are thinking the same thing.

- Mike Munro is a former chief of staff for Jacinda Ardern and served as chief press secretary for Helen Clark.

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Invercargill invoked to question Govt’s plan – Otago Daily Times

Posted: at 6:45 am

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National Party leader Judith Collins clashed in Parliament yesterday on the question of why Invercargill is at Alert Level 2.

During question time, as usual, Ms Collins asked Ms Ardern a range of Covid-related questions.

Things got feisty when she asked if there was a plan to keep the Delta outbreak in Auckland away from Invercargill which did not involve the South Island being at Level 2.

Ms Ardern replied yes, and hopefully it involves that member being regularly tested.

Ms Collins lives in Auckland but has been out of the city for several weeks so she can attend Parliament; while Parliament was in recess she visited several southern cities, including Dunedin and Queenstown.

Ms Ardern had to defend her comment, calling out to barracking National MPs that she was not being nasty.

Ms Collins asked if the prime minister thought South Islanders would think she was being funny, when they are stuck at Alert Level 2 and they havent seen Covid-19 for almost a year.

The prime minister replied her comment was a reference to the need for Aucklanders who might have essential worker exemptions to be regularly tested.

They may have the ability to move about to other parts of the country, and to reduce the risks to other parts of the country they have a seven-day testing cycle.

If we do have the emergence of a case, rather than having to put that area, be it Invercargill or anywhere else, into a higher alert level, we give ourselves a better chance to be able to contact trace without heightened restrictions.

Ms Collins told the Otago Daily Times Ms Arderns comment was flippant and suggested she was under pressure.

Im sure there are plenty of South Islanders writing in and telling her what they think about still being at Alert Level 2.

A lot of people are certainly contacting me about it and I am going to keep on standing up for South Islanders.

All eight South Island National MPs signed a letter to Ms Ardern last week, calling for the island to revert to Level 1 immediately.

Ms Ardern said she thought most people understood why the Government was keeping the South Island at Level 2.

If you ask, Would you rather be in Level 2 and be cautious, or run the risk of a case and going into a lockdown?, I suspect many would opt for that cautious approach.

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ScoMo and Jacinda share a steamy kiss on the latest episode of SPITTING IMAGE – TV Blackbox

Posted: at 6:45 am

In the Love Island-esque sketch, ScoMo & Jacinda, along with other G20 world leaders such as Vladimir Putin (Russia), Xi Jinping (China), Emmanuel Macron (France) and Boris Johnson (United Kingdom) are relocated to a 2.5 star resort in Ibiza, where they are depicted to be having a drunken time, to ensure global financial stability, form trade alliances and, most importantly, find love.

In the scene opener, the Morrison and Ardern puppets toast each other with champagne, closely followed by the pair sharing a steamy passionate open mouthed kiss.

The 3:58 second clip ensures ScoMo and his policy decisions arent spared by the masterful writers ofSpittingImage;his puppet is seen looking awkwardly away while the gathering of worldleaders are set a challenge to negotiate a 3% reduction in carbon emissions.

An appearance by Joe Biden sees the AUKUS alliance announced to other key leaders, taking many (including Macrons puppet) by surprise. Chinas Jinping is spotted mercilessly mocking the three nations calling Australia and the UK Americas two chickennuggets. This is the first major appearance for Morrison onSpittingImagewith ScoMo making his fleeting debut in puppet form at the end of the first season.

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ScoMo and Jacinda share a steamy kiss on the latest episode of SPITTING IMAGE - TV Blackbox

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