Live updates, October 15: Second positive wastewater result in Te Awamutu

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 15, by Stewart Sowman-Lund. Auckland is now at step one of the alert level three pathway, Northland and parts of Waikato are in regular level three. Reach me on [email protected]

Today’s agenda

  • 1pm: The latest Covid-19 numbers will be provided via press release. There is no scheduled press conference today, with the prime minister Jacinda Ardern visiting Taranaki to help bolster vaccine uptake. Along with providing the case numbers, today’s update will hopefully provide further detail about positive wastewater results in Te Awamutu.

10.15am: Second positive wastewater result in Te Awamutu

A second positive wastewater result has been detected in Te Awamutu, with no MIQ returnees located in the Waikato town.

The positive result came from a sample taken on Wednesday and is the second positive sample taken in as many days.

Crucially, public health officials say they have not yet identified anyone who returned to the area from managed isolation and quarantine and could be shedding the virus in the area. While this does not definitively rule out an historic case, it is especially concerning when coupled with the fact two two mystery cases remain unlinked in Waikato.

“For this reason, anyone in the Te Awamutu area who has symptoms of Covid-19, or have family or household members who are symptomatic, or anyone who travels in and out of the area regularly for work, are urged to get tested as soon as possible,” said a ministry spokesperson.

Anyone who has been at a location of interest at the relevant time and is now in Te Awamutu should also get tested.

The next Covid-19 update will come via press release at 1pm.

10.00am: SFO investigating allegations of wage subsidy fraud

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating “multiple complex cases” of alleged abuse of the Covid-19 wage subsidy.

SFO director Julie Read said the allegations involved “potential fraud” and were referred to the agency following extensive investigations by MSD.  

“We are pleased to be supporting the extensive work already being undertaken by MSD in response to abuse of the Covid-19 wage subsidy by contributing the expertise of our specialist investigative teams to look into cases of a particularly challenging and complex nature,” said Read. 

Last year, the agency received funding from the government to specifically tackle fraud arising from the pandemic.

9.45am: The two businesses going for ‘no jab, no entry’

Two prominent New Zealand workplaces are set to restrict entry to double vaccinated people.

According to BusinessDesk, both PwC and Russell McVeagh will introduce the policy this year in an effort to bolster company-wide vaccination rates. PwC will start no jab, no entry from December 1, while Russell McVeagh will bring it in one month earlier.

“Our responsibility is to keep all of our people safe,” said PwC’s CEO Mark Averill. “Introducing this policy will enable our people who wish to work from our offices to feel safe coming back into the workplace as government alert levels permit.”

Anyone who doesn’t return to the office will be able to work remotely, confirmed Averill.

8.55am: Shane Reti worried about ICU space for Māori populations

National’s deputy leader is concerned ICU could hit capacity in areas with large Māori populations.

Shane Reti has been based in Northland for parts of the delta outbreak, helping to boost vaccination rates in the region. In a release, he questioned what may happen in DHB areas with slim intensive care capacity should delta cases explode. “Lakes, Tai Rawhiti and Northland DHBs have a high proportion of Māori who are at increased risk of catching Covid and ending up in ICU,” said Reti. “Several of these DHBs have had periods at, or close, to full capacity.

Reti said building new ICU capacity was urgent and criticised health minister Andrew Little for claiming the system will manage. “Little’s ICU plan is for surge management, which means stopping elective procedures, lockdowns to reduce accidents and cannibalising other critical units from elsewhere,” Reti said. “It is not sustainable. Instead of sinking millions into a pointless restructure of the health system, he should be building sustainable ICU capacity.”

8.00am: Auckland braces for daily Covid cases to hit triple figures

Auckland is preparing for Covid-19 cases to escalate rapidly.

Yesterday saw 71 new cases in the community, one of the highest new case days since the outbreak started two months ago. And health officials warned that the number was set to increase and could even double within a fortnight.

Speaking to RNZ, the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield remained confident the outbreak was under control. “We are heading for triple figure case numbers and that’s important but also what’s important is whether those people become really unwell and we know if people are vaccinated most people don’t even get symptomatic illness,” he said.

Around 4% of confirmed cases in the delta outbreak had been vaccinated and, Bloomfield said, just three of those hospitalised had been double jabbed. “The vaccination is the ticket to remaining safe when we have an outbreak,” said Bloomfield.

When we reach 180 cases a day, it was revealed yesterday the contact tracing system would become overloaded. Bloomfield said officials had moved to a “different range of processes” to reach out to people who need to isolate. This included alerts through the Covid Tracer app and using businesses whose employees have been in contact with confirmed cases.

Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB that while some experts have a view about returning Auckland to alert level four, he did not believe people needed to panic. “The future has come forward. Let’s embrace it.”

7.30am: From The Bulletin

Indoor gatherings in Auckland are causing cases to spike. That’s the deputy prime minister’s message, according to RNZ, after 71 cases were detected yesterday in the city. With few infections happing in workplaces open under level three, Grant Robertson said that people getting together indoors is causing the virus to spread. No single area of the city is to blame as infections have been detected across the width of Auckland. “Now is not the time for complacency,” Robertson warned. In return, some Aucklanders have called for more clarity from the government around the rules.

The Covid numbers: There are 33 cases in hospital and 5 in ICU/HDU. There are now 599 active cases in New Zealand, 71 new community cases were reported yesterday, all in Auckland. 68,787 people were vaccinated on Wednesday.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.

Wait, why did Stuart Nash take his shirt off? The Spinoff’s Mad Chapman called the government minister to get a straight answer on his shirtless vax picture. The vaccine portrait is usually done afterwards with a smile and thumbs up. Sometimes it’s taken during the jab, with a stoic expression. Nash did things different. After hurting his back at the gym, the minister rolled up to his second jab in a tight business shirt, and then one thing leads to another.

This is part of The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s must-read daily news wrap. To sign up for free, simply enter your email address below

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