Morning Briefing April 8: Govt prepares for a post-vaccine New Zealand

The Government appoints a new group to help navigate NZ's post-vaccine future and employers in primary industries desperately push for a Pacific travel bubble.

Pfizer vaccines are prepared for use. Source: Associated Press

What New Zealand’s future will look like after Kiwis have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be shaped by a group of independent experts.

The new advisory group announced today will inform the Government on a range of decisions, including when to relax border settings and how to respond to any new virus variants not covered by current vaccines.

The group will be chaired by epidemiologist Sir David Skegg and include other experts in infectious diseases and public health. 

The move comes as National alleges they’ve seen a leaked document showing significant delays in New Zealand’s Covid vaccine rollout.

According to National spokesperson Chris Bishop, the document says more than 300,000 vaccines should be have been administered by now. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there have been around 90,000 Covid jabs to date.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the programme is “slighty behind schedule” and that modelling didn't factor in vaccine arrival dates.

Bloomfield says all of New Zealand’s district health boards are now operating vaccination programmes.

He says the country still has purchase arrangements with four different vaccine manufacturers, with the Janssen candidate the next in line for approval

Meanwhile, the European drug regulator now says unusual blood clots should be listed as a very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Separately, the UK’s vaccine advisory body says under-30s will no longer be offered the AstraZeneca jab.

The vaccine is still yet to be approved for use in New Zealand. 

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Māori more likely to be crime victims 

A new Ministry of Justice study has found Māori are more likely to be victims of crime than any other ethnic group in New Zealand.

The ‘Māori and Victimisation in Aotearoa/New Zealand’ report says 38 per cent of Māori are hit by crime over any given year, compared to 30 per cent of the general population.

Poor socio-economic conditions were found to be a contributing cause to those statistics.

The Ministry of Justice now hopes to use the report’s findings to improve the crime support services offered to Māori.

Push for Pacific bubble

With a trans-Tasman bubble just around the corner, employers in primary industries are now calling for a Pacific bubble to bring in much-needed labour.

Until such an arrangement can be made, they’re also begging for more workers to be allowed into the MIQ spots being freed up by the trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Businesses across multiple sectors say the pool of local workers has dried up and they’re now facing their worst ever labour crisis. One Hawke’s Bay orchardist says he’s lost 40 per cent of his gala apple crop this year due to the ongoing picker shortage.

Calls for a Pacific bubble have been supported by National leader Judith Collins, who says delays to quarantine-free travel will also hurt Pacific nations’ local economies.

Meanwhile, the travel bubble with Australia has been met with much enthusiasm, with Air New Zealand reporting a record sales day on the Tasman.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on several Australian TV shows yesterday, encouraging those across the ditch to visit New Zealand when the borders open on April 19.

But if you are one of the thousands of people booking a trans-Tasman flight, it might pay to check your passport. Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs estimates around 400,000 passports have expired since the New Zealand border closed last year.

Mental health stats slammed

National leader Judith Collins has criticised the reporting of mental health statistics in New Zealand, which were delayed over a year and show dramatic edits compared to previous years.

It comes after Stuff revealed many indicators usually included in a routine annual report of the Government's mental health services had been removed after a months-long and contentious editing process.

Collins says she plans to lay a complaint with the Public Services Commission over the data. 

Meanwhile, Stuff reports this morning that wait times for youth mental health services have increased since Labour was elected in 2017, despite significant investment in the area.

Calls for 'mana-enhancing' tests

A focus on Māoridom could help address the high rates of Māori women with cervical cancer in New Zealand, says a man whose sister died from the disease.

Women's health advocates are asking for more testing options since Labour MP Kiri Allan revealed her cancer diagnosis this week.

Eruera Keepa, whose sister Talei died of cervical cancer, says a culturally sensitive approach could help. He’s joining calls for a self-testing programme, where women can take their own swabs at home, saying the “more mana-enhancing procedure” would be a step in the right direction.

The Government says it’s actively considering the roll-out of cervical HPV self-tests

Protesters head to port

Protesters are gathering at the Ports of Auckland offices this morning to demand the resignation of chief executive Tony Gibson.

First Union will deliver a letter to executives after a recent damning health and safety report showed systemic failings.

TVNZ’s Breakfast will be at the port to speak to union officials around 7.30am today. 

Other news of note this morning:

- Brazil has reported a 24-hour tally of Covid-19 deaths exceeding 4,000 for the first time, becoming the third nation to go above that daily threshold.

- Two New York City apartment building workers have been fired for failing to help an Asian American woman as she was being violently attacked on the footpath outside.

- Political pundits and media experts are warning that artificial grassroots organisations are being used to manipulate and mobilise public opinion.

- Iwi hope that moa bones unearthed during roadworks last month will eventually be returned to the Ruahine Ranges.

- The Super Rugby trans-Tasman competition looks set to get underway as scheduled following the announcement of the quarantine-free travel bubble.

- Kim Kardashian West is officially a billionaire.

- If you’ve got time for a longer read, the New Yorker has looked at how Sweden has fared a year after deciding not to implement lockdowns when the pandemic began. 

- And it's one of the most basic human functions, but apparently most of us are doing it wrong – so Seven Sharp has investigated how best to sit on the toilet

And finally...

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Source: Getty

Look. Who among us hasn’t hopped in the wrong car thinking it was their Uber?

That’s what happened to a group of tipsy Queensland diners following a long lunch – but the man they mistook for their Uber driver just so happened to be Kevin Rudd.

The former Australian Prime Minister had dropped his family at a Noosa restaurant amid an afternoon storm when the group of people jumped in his car.

When informed they were not in an Uber, they offered Rudd money to drive them anyway, still not realising who their driver was. He agreed to give them a lift for free.

Let’s hope they gave him a five-star rating, eh?