Dawn Chorus: Calls to end elimination grow

ACT's David Seymour calls time on the Covid elimination strategy; Malaghan vaccine chief also challenges elimination; PM again declines elimination threshold, but hopes summer festivals can proceed

  
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TLDL & TLDR: The pressure is growing on the Government’s elimination and hard lockdown strategy, which was extended for at least a week yesterday for Auckland and potentially longer for the rest of the country.

ACT leader David Seymour last night called for an end to the elimination strategy, while the Malaghan Institute’s Professor Graham Le Gros has again challenged the sustainability of the strategy.

I asked the PM last night how high New Zealand’s vaccination rate would need to be to ensure the health system could cope with inevitable outbreaks if the borders were opened. She again declined a threshold figure, but rejected suggestions the health system couldn’t cope even if vaccination got over 90% of the total population. She also declined to say if summer festivals could be held, but was hopeful they could be. The exchanges are replayed in the podcast above.

My view: The Government is in a bind and is doing its best to buy as much time as it can before inevitably being forced to open up next year when vaccination rates are headed over 70% towards 80%. It hopes there will be better vaccines by then because our health system can’t cope for an extended period with the thousands of hospitalisations and hundreds of deaths expected each year, even with vaccination rates over 90%.

I remain of the view we won’t be able to travel easily until late 2023, given the danger of Covid delta and future variants getting through the border, and because Australia is unlikely to have its pandemics under control next year.

Questions for ministers today:

How high does the vaccination rate of everyone (not just adults) need to go to ensure more open borders and fewer ongoing restrictions don’t lead to outbreaks that overwhelm our health system?

When will new MIQ vouchers for non-emergency cases start being issued again by MBIE?

What is happening with the Government’s deliberations on weekly resurgency payments, an events insurance scheme, ongoing weekly wage subsidies, and some sort of rent relief for small businesses?

What assumptions did Cabinet make to say Auckland could drop to level 3 from next Tuesday night? IE Did it assume no new mysteryy cases?

I welcome your suggestions for questions to ministers in the comments below.


News breaking this morning locally

ACT leader David Seymour called for an end to the elimination strategy and said Auckland should be allowed to stay at Delta level 2 (RNZ Checkpoint)

Meanwhile, Auckland University’s Professor Rod Jackson said Aucklanders should have been told they would have to stay in level 4 lockdown for at least two weeks, rather than one. (RNZ Checkpoint)

The Malaghan Institute’s Professore Graham Le Gros, who is leading New Zealand’s own vaccine research programme, again challenged the sustainability of the elimination strategy.

The Auckland couple who used an essential worker exemption to drive to Hamilton and then fly to their holiday home in Wanaka got name suppression last night and their QC is set to apply for an even longer one. (Stuff)


Globally overnight

China’s latest Covid outbreak in Fujian province was started by a returnee from overseas who had completed a full 21 days in isolation. (CNN)

China’s Government announced it would force the breakup of Alipay to ensure it controlled the data used by its consumer credit card and personal loan business to do credit scores. The move drove the Hang Seng down 1.5% overnight. (Reuters, FT-$$$)

Traders in litecoin issued a fake press release last night saying their cryptocurrency would be accepted by Walmart, which caused an initial 30% spike. Walmart then denied it and litecoin gave up those gains and fell more than 2%. (CNBC)

The oil price rose 1% to a six-week high of US$73.51/bbl of brent crude after OPEC issued a surprisingly upbeat oil demand forecast for 2022. It saw demand rising almost 1m bbl/day to 100.8m bbl/day next year, which would be above pre-Covid levels. (Oilprice.com)

Congressional Democrats proposed an increase in the US corporate tax rate to 26.5% from 21% and an effective increase in capital gains taxes. (Reuters)

The WSJ-$$$ reported from a trove of leaked documents how Facebook had created a so-called’ ‘XCheck’ list of VIP users who did not have to comply with the social network’s rules to combat misinformation.


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Ka Kite ano

Bernard