Morning Briefing August 7: Kiwis told to get masks ready after Government U-turn

New Zealand households have been told to add masks to their emergency supply kits in case there’s another outbreak of Covid-19 in the community.


It’s the first time the Government has recommended Kiwis keep face masks handy for any move back to Alert Level 2.

Auckland University medical professor Des Gorman told TVNZ’s Seven Sharp the Government’s U-turn on masks is a matter of being precautious. He says the science is more robust now in terms of how protective masks are.

Masks have been a source of contention in some countries throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anti-maskers have cropped up in Australia where wearing masks in Victoria is compulsory. A police officer was allegedly attacked by a woman earlier this week when she was approached about not wearing a mask.

And Americans have long been feuding over wearing masks, with some refusing to wear one out of principle.

An estimated 12 million masks are available to buy in New Zealand; however, some are calling for the Ministry of Health to share more information on how people can make their own effective masks. 

Meanwhile, the Government has also confirmed a new CovidCard trial as it looks for effective ways for digital contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.

Around 250-300 people in Rotorua will take part in the trial. 

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Baby uplifts criticised

An investigation by Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier has found many baby uplifts by Oranga Tamariki were carried out “without expert advice or independent scrutiny” and without support for the trauma and grief of the situation. 

Five inquiries were launched last year after Newsroom released footage of an attempted uplift of a newborn at a maternity ward in Hawke’s Bay.

Mr Boshier’s investigation looked at 74 cases and concluded Oranga Tamariki removed newborn babies from their parents without notice "more by routine than exception".

His report also found there had been a "significant breach" of the Disabilities Convention in cases involving parents with disabilities. The full report can be found here.

Oranga Tamariki says they have brought in changes in social work practice following their own report into last year’s Hawke’s Bay incident.

'This is now very real'

Family members who lost loved ones in the Pike River Mine disaster have welcomed the retrieval of a 20-tonne loader from the mine.

The loader was being driven by Russell Smith deep inside the mine at the time of the explosion 10 years ago.

Mr Smith says the investigation into the blast is becoming very real now

“The loader is like the door to the vault, everything beyond it is unseen and holds new evidence,” he says.

The Pike River families were on site to witness the loader being recovered. Police have now taken possession of it as part of their ongoing investigations. 

Beirut residents vent fury

French president Emmanuel Macron has been mobbed in Beirut as he toured a neighbourhood devastated by this week’s explosion.

Beirut residents used his visit to vent their fury at Lebanon’s leaders. They say Wednesday’s blast was the final straw following years of corruption and political mismanagement.

President Macron promised to press Lebanese politicians for reform. France once governed Lebanon as a protectorate and maintains close ties with the nation. 

Satellite before-and-after images released yesterday showed buildings in Beirut's port areas have now been reduced to rubble.

Video from a bride’s wedding day shoot that was interrupted by the blast also emerged yesterday and again shows the devastating power of the explosion. 

New Zealand's Government has announced $500,000 in aid for the Red Cross’s efforts in Beirut.

School's out for MPs

The election campaign is about to begin in earnest now that the Government has been officially dissolved.

Yesterday was the MPs’ last day in Parliament’s debating chamber and, much like the end of school, there was a hefty dose of silliness in the air. Their lively last debate saw jabs about pixie dust and jokes about eyebrows

MPs will now swing into election mode with early voting just a few weeks away – and you can follow all the developments in the campaign at

Other news of note this morning: 

Newsroom reports the search for National’s Auckland Central candidate has taken another turn for the worse, with one contender threatening legal action.

Grace Millane’s murderer was back in court yesterday to appeal his conviction and sentence

The High Court has blocked former National Party MP Jami-Lee Ross from publishing sensitive documents that were inadvertently sent to him.

The offenders responsible for an explosion at a Hamilton shopping centre yesterday are still at large.

New York's attorney general has announced a lawsuit aimed at dissolving the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).

Actor Alyssa Milano reveals she’s had Covid-19 and says she "felt like she was dying".

And scientists have discovered 11 new emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica - by spotting their poo from space.

And finally...

Martina, a woman stranded in NZ during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo by Maria Memet. Source: Supplied

What’s it like to be stranded in New Zealand?

Photographer Maria Memet has asked seven travellers exactly that as they’re forced to sit out the Covid-19 pandemic far away from home.

While being stranded has been a beautiful experience for some of them, others have struggled for a variety of reasons. You can read their stuck-in-New Zealand stories here.