Morning Briefing August 6: Is NZ ready for a second wave of Covid-19?

It’s been nearly 100 days since New Zealand recorded community transmission of Covid-19, yet fears of a second wave of the virus are building as experts – including the Director-General of Health – say it’s not a matter of if, but when the virus returns to our communities.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Source: Getty

Dr Ashley Bloomfield says community transmission in New Zealand is inevitable and is urging Kiwis to be vigilant in keeping a record of where they’ve been for potential contact tracing purposes. 

The country’s ability to quickly trace contacts in the event of an outbreak has also been called into question again this week.

The Government’s business advisor Rob Fyfe says New Zealand is “highly vulnerable” to a new outbreak of Covid-19.

He says the Government’s contact tracing app is “completely ineffective” and testing levels are currently at one of the lowest levels in the OECD.

Mr Fyfe says building rapid testing and rapid tracing systems should be a priority.

Epidemiologist Sir David Skegg has also questioned the community’s ability to contain a second wave of Covid-19. He says the population needs to prepare for mass mask-wearing

Meanwhile, test results from Queenstown’s community testing drive earlier in the week have begun to filter through.

More than 1000 people were tested on Tuesday with a third of those returning negative results so far

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New rights for renters

Two significant pieces of legislation passed in Parliament last night.

Renters’ rights have been strengthened with the passing of the Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill.

Under the new law, rental bidding is banned, as are “no cause evictions” where landlords can give tenants a 90-day eviction notice without any reasoning. Landlords will instead have to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal.

The bill to regulate vaping also passed last night.

The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Amendment Bill will limit retailers such as dairies and supermarkets to selling only tobacco and mint- and menthol-flavoured vaping products. It’s the most significant change to the Smoke-free Environments Act in 30 years.

Negligence suspected in Beirut blast

A two-week state of emergency has been declared in Beirut as the search for survivors continues more than 24 hours after a devastating explosion that shook the entire city.

The death toll currently stands at 113, however it’s feared that number will rise with more than 4000 people injured.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun says the blast was caused by the unsafe storage of thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

All port officials in the area have been put under house arrest pending an investigation into the explosion.

For anybody curious about the substance at the centre of the tragedy, Gabriel da Silva, a senior lecturer in chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne, has explained more about what ammonium nitrate is – and what would likely cause such an industrial ammonium nitrate disaster to occur.

Job market crisis looming

The drop in New Zealand’s unemployment rate isn't set to last with predictions numbers will skyrocket by the end of the year.

The rate improved in the three months to June, falling to 4 per cent from 4.2 per cent in the previous quarter, but it doesn’t mean the labour market is improving.

Stats NZ says for a person to be considered unemployed, they must be actively looking for work, which many couldn’t do during the lockdown.

The stats show 11,000 people lost their job in the past three months with 90 per cent of those women. Māori and young people were also some of the hardest hit. 

Nats pledge more tunnels

National says it will spend $4 billion on transport projects in Wellington if they win September’s election.

Their plan to tackle the capital’s congestion woes includes a second Mt Victoria Tunnel, a second Terrace Tunnel and an upgrade to the Basin Reserve.

The party is defending the expensive project, saying the existing Mt Victoria Tunnel is 90 years old.

Labour says more lanes means more cars heading into Wellington and that public transport should be prioritised first. 

When is a special a special?

Have you ever walked past something at the supermarket and wondered, “Is that really a bargain?”

Consumer NZ thought the same thing and have released a supermarket survey that found items can be on 'special' so often, shoppers have good reason to question whether the discounts are real. 

Some supermarkets were found to have certain loaves of bread on “special” for 11 out of 12 weeks.

Consumer NZ now wants the Commerce Commission to investigate the supermarket industry.

Other news of note this morning: 

Waikato Police have launched a homicide investigation following the discovery of a body on the Kopu-Hikuai Road near Thames last night.

A woman has been charged after allegedly entering a managed isolation facility in Rotorua without permission.

The Māori Party is pushing to get into TVNZ’s multi-party leaders debate set for next month.

Three Court of Appeal judges have retired to consider whether Auckland Council broke the law by denying far right speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux the opportunity to host an event at one of its venues.

A Te Reo Māori expert is urging businesses to seek advice over names following a Wellington leather store’s branding blunder

And is time ticking on TikTok? An expert weighs in on the safety of the app after New Zealand’s MPs are urged to delete it.

And finally...

Veronica Allum presenting the weather in the 70s and again in July 2020. Source: MetService

Former TVNZ weather presenter Veronica Allum picked up the latest technology like a pro when visiting MetService in Wellington recently.

Ms Allum presented the weather on New Zealand’s screens in the ‘70s and ‘80s and had to rely on using stickers, a mechanical white board and a pointer in her day.

During her tour of MetService’s broadcast studio, she was keen to give the “new” green screen technology a go.

The verdict? It’s a lot easier than a jammed-up mechanical whiteboard, that’s for sure.