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Morning Briefing April 20: Tears and hugs as first trans-Tasman flights touch down

grandmother met her grandchild for the first time, a 12-year-old girl finally hugged her step mum again and two brothers got to share a drink - these were some of the many thousands of stories of family and friends reuniting yesterday as the first quarantine-free flights between Australia and New Zealand began.

Families reunite as borders between Australia and New Zealand open. Source: 1 NEWS

There were emotional scenes, with tears, hugs and love broadcast from airports both in New Zealand and across the ditch yesterday.

International media including the Guardian and the BBC also shared the special moments. 

Meanwhile, Jacinda Ardern marked the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble yesterday by calling it a feat all New Zealanders should be "very, very proud of". The Prime Minister anticipated the reunification of families and friends would be likened to a scene from the film, Love Actually.  

But while a choir sang out Dave Dobbyn's Welcome Home in Auckland, there was a mix of both weird and wonderful scenes. Read about Stuff’s wrap up of the most outrageous welcomes here

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Pacific lockdown

However, while Kiwis and Aussies are living up their new freedoms, Fijian authorities are locking down cities Nadi and Lautoka for at least two more weeks after fears a Covid-positive case may have spread the virus at a funeral.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama yesterday told media it was highly likely there will be more cases of the deadly virus after a woman attended a two-day funeral, travelling in a van with others to get to the event, but did not disclose her symptoms.

In New Zealand there were two new Covid-19 cases found at the border yesterday, but none in the community.

However, officials say two Auckland managed isolation facilities - the Grand Mercure and Grand Millennium - won't host new arrivals as authorities investigate recent Covid-19 cases in border staff working at the sites. 

Samoan stalemate

In other Pacific news, it is still unknown who is next to lead Samoa.

Election results have confirmed 25 seats each for the incumbent HRPP and newcomer party Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST), with the final seat holder – an independent MP - yet to confirm allegiance.

After decades of HRPP in leadership, could the nation's first woman – Fast leader Fiame Naomi Mata'afa - step up as prime minister? Find out more about how she rose to the top here.

Alpine Fault warning

New research has revealed the chances of the South Island’s Alpine Fault generating a damaging earthquake in the next 50 years are much higher than previously thought.

A study, led by Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington senior lecturer Dr Jamie Howarth, shows the probability of such earthquake occurring before 2068 is about 75 per cent.

Scientists from Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Otago, GNS Science, the University of California, and the United States Geological Survey also calculated there is about an 82 per cent chance the earthquake will be of magnitude 8 or higher. 

NASA helicopter makes history

In what is being hailed a Wright Brothers moment, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin air on overnight, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet.

The US$85 million (NZD$118.46 million) helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward.

Other news of note this morning:

  • A fertility clinic has been asked to apologise after starting a woman on in vitro fertilisation treatment, even though she was already pregnant.
  • tumultuous court hearing for the first business owner charged with failing to display a Covid-19 QR code has ended with both the judge and defendant walking out.
  • Hundreds of migrant families separated due to Covid-19 border closures are a step closer to being reunited after the Government announced new visa exceptions.
  • A billion-tonne block of ice that was once the biggest iceberg in the world has melted away.
  • passenger train derailed in Egypt, killing at least 11 people.
  • The peculiar wish Harry Potter star Helen McCory told her husband right before she died.
  • Kiwi band Six60 are broadcasting their Auckland's Eden Park concert this weekend to 11 Pacific island nations.
Beauty pageant. Source: istock.com

And finally...

While a grandmother might not be who many expect to be a finalist in a beauty pageant, for 60-year-old Jacqueline Williams, she says making the finals of the Miss National New Zealand pageant was a “bucket-list dream”.

Find what gave the South Auckland woman the boost to fulfil her dream here.