Sep 2, 2021 • 13M

Dawn Chorus: Auckland faces four more weeks at level four

Modeller says Auckland may need four more weeks at level four as mystery cases mount to 65; MIQ and isolation breaches mount; Expats angry at Hipkins' dismissal of Xmas holidays

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Bernard Hickey
Bernard Hickey and friends explore the political economy together.
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TLDR & TLDL: Morena! The signs are growing that Auckland faces another four weeks with level four restrictions, despite what appears to be a peaking of new cases. Modellers point to infections still happening at level four, including 65 ‘mystery’ cases not connected through a household or clear contact to another case.

“It's possible we could see a shift out of level four in two weeks time, more likely something like three to four weeks.” Auckland University’s Sean Hendy told Thomas Coughlan in the NZ Herald

Officials and the PM are still worried about mystery cases popping up that aren’t linked to households or other clear cases. There are now 65 such cases, Henry Cooke reported this morning via Stuff.

Continuing ‘mystery’ community cases mean it will be weeks before Auckland joins the rest of the country in a lower alert level. Photo: The Kaka

Meanwhile, the pressure on MIQ places is growing. Andy Fyers reports via BusinessDesk-$$$ this morning local community-acquired cases are now occupying almost half of MIQ’s specialised quarantine rooms, while various moves to improve safety and set aside 500 rooms for Government allocations has reduced capacity by a quarter since March.

Expats were heartbroken and frustrated overnight about Chris Hipkins’ announcement about a freezing of new voucher allocations for weeks to come and his plea for Kiwis overseas not to come home for summer holidays. (Stuff)

My view: The pressure from businesses and expats is growing in intensity as Fortress NZ gets more ‘fortressy’ and it dawns on people the Auckland lockdowns won’t end fast, and will no doubt return for another couple of months in the next six months.

Elsewhere, MIQ slots are drying up and there appears little ability to expand the number of places because the hotels available don’t have the right format or ventilation, or enough staff.

Questions looking for answers today:

  • Who is getting in through the Government’s allocation to itself of 500 rooms?

  • What are the conditions for Auckland to shift from level four to level three?

  • How many more mystery cases will there be today and what is the percentage of new cases caught outside households or known contacts?

  • Can Queensland and Western Australia hold on to their elimination strategies in an Australian National Cabinet meeting later today?

  • Would the PM relax elimination before under 12s are vaccinated, even though that isn’t approved anywhere yet?

  • At what level of vaccination rate can our emergency care departments handle inevitable outbreaks?

  • When will the Government green-light new permanent MIQ facilities that are custom-built for Covid, as the Australians have?

Scoops and news breaking elsewhere this morning

In covid news locally:

  • A third student was found to have flown to Wellington illegally during lockdown (Stuff);

  • The shirtless man with Covid who escaped from an Auckland MIQ facility yesterday had previously also breached a self-isolation order (Newshub);

  • Novotel Ibis Ellerslie hotel staff have been forced to isolate last night after a woman with Covid in isolation stormed down to reception to demand food for her kids (NZ Herald);

  • National proposed a points system for MIQ places and said booking bots should be banned (RNZ).

In global Covid news:

  • New South Wales is scaling down its contract tracing efforts and relying on automated apps to contacts in locations of interest to notify potential covid cases, and it also loosened rules around outside exercise. (SMH);

  • NSW reported 1218 new cases yesterday. Victoria, which gave up on elimination this week, reported 176 new cases;

  • Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk pledged not to open up her state until under-12s had been vaccinated too - Queensland and Western Australia are now at loggerheads with the rest of Australia, sticking with their elimination strategies when the rest have given up. (Guardian);

  • Almost one million people had long Covid in the UK in the four weeks to August 1, the Office for National Statistics has said;

  • Italy will eventually make Covid vaccination compulsory, PM Mario Draghi said overnight (Reuters).

In the global economy:

  • China announced it would create a new stock exchange in China. This extends China’s pivot to moving listings of big companies away from New York and follows President Xi Jinping’s ‘common prosperity’ edict aimed reducing inequality (NikkeiAsia);

  • Initial US jobless claims fell to a new Covid-era low ahead of key Non-Farm Payroll figures for August later tonight (ABC).

In global markets:

  • US stocks rose 0.4% ahead of tonight’s key US jobs data;

  • Oil rose another 2.4% to US$73.38 a barrel after Opec + agreed to increase production by less-than-hope;

  • Bitcoin broke back above US$50,000 after a report Twitter would allow users to tip tweeters with bitcoin;

  • The NZ dollar rose 0.6% overnight to 71.1 USc.

In local business news:

  • The Reserve Bank of Australia joined the Bank for International Settlements’ (BIS) ‘Project Dunbar’ to test a new form of digital currency to improve international payments. The test includes central banks from Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa, but not the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (BIS);

  • National Australia Bank, which owns BNZ, is considering mandating vaccination for all its staff in Australia (The Australian);

  • Nestle is believed to be in the running to buy Ziwipeak, a New Zealand pet food company said to be worth A$1b and being sold via PwC (The Australian).

In global business news:

  • Apple announced overnight it would loosen strict payment rules for app developers, including Netflix and Spotify, so they could include links to their websites to allow buyers to bypass Apple’s 30% fees. It followed a probe by Japan’s Fair Trade Commission and legislation in South Korea to allow app buyers to pay developers directly, rather than through Apple or Google. Apple also relaxed a restriction on developers that stopped them from offering discounts via other channels. (YahooFinance)

  • Al­ibaba promised to spend US$15.5b ‘fos­ter­ing so­cial equal­ity’. It is the latest Chinese tech behemoth to fall into line behind President Xi Jinping’s widespread policy shift towards “com­mon pros­per­ity.” (Reuters)

  • A US judge approved a $4.5b compensation deal overnight that sees Purdue Pharma declare bankruptcy in a way that shields the Sackler family from prosecution. (Reuters)

Quote of the day

“You are going to have death. You have death with the flu ... 50 people every day lose their lives to heart disease. Death is horrible. So, we also need to put things into perspective. Because at the moment, there are eight million citizens who don’t have a choice of how they spend their free time, who don’t have a choice about what they can do, when they can leave their homes. That is no way to live.” NSW Premier Gladys Berjiklian yesterday.

Chart of the day

Signs o’ the times news

Useful longer reads

Some fun/ thought-provoking things

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