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Morning Briefing Aug 18: NZ back in lockdown as Delta changes the game

As NZ plunges back into Level 4 lockdown, officials race to find the source of the country's latest community Covid case.

A sign encourages masks and social distancing in Newmarket, Auckland. Source: Getty

As New Zealand again wakes up in a nationwide Level 4 lockdown, genomic sequencing for the Covid case that triggered last night’s events is expected back shortly.

Those results should confirm if it’s the more infectious Delta variant and potentially shed light some light on the source of the case. There’s currently no obvious link between this case and the border. 

The new case is a 58-year-old man from the Auckland suburb of Devonport. He and his wife travelled to the Coromandel over the weekend, before he became symptomatic, and several locations of interest have been listed on the Ministry of Health website. Anyone who has been to any of those locations is advised to isolate and get a Covid test. 

The entire country is now currently at Alert Level 4 for at least three days, while Auckland and the Coromandel will remain in lockdown for at least a week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the country last night the Delta variant is a “game changer” meaning New Zealand "only gets one chance" to stamp out the virus. 

Kiwis who are in locations where they don’t normally reside have been given a 48-hour window to travel home under Level 4. All other travel is severely limited. Travel to the Cook Islands has also been suspended for the next 72 hours, however Kiwis already there can return to New Zealand. 

Covid vaccinations have also been suspended for two days, a move that has been rubbished by the ACT Party.

Those who are already fully or partially vaccinated still need to follow Level 4 rules and this article from RNZ explains why. Delta has been shown to still spread amongst those who are vaccinated. 

University of Canterbury professor Michael Plank is among the experts supporting the swift move to a tight lockdown, saying Sydney is an example of how half measures can quickly lead to disaster.

And as somebody who has experienced that Delta disaster in Sydney first-hand, 1 NEWS Australia correspondent Andrew Macfarlane writes that a tough lockdown is New Zealand’s best shot at stopping the spread of Covid-19.

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More support for businesses

The new lockdown has triggered Government support for businesses and workers, with Finance Minister Grant Robertson last night outlining the available payments.

Businesses that have a 40 per cent drop in revenue will be eligible for the wage subsidy scheme, while those that suffer a 30 per cent drop in come can apply for the Resurgence Support Payment (RSP).

Robertson says businesses will be able to apply for the wage subsidy from Friday, while applications for the RSP should be accepted from early next week. 

Taliban 'seek no revenge'

The Taliban have held their first news conference in Kabul since taking control of Afghanistan earlier this week.

Amongst other things, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said the group “pardoned” contractors and translators who worked with foreign nations and that “nobody is going to be treated with revenge”.

He said women will be allowed to work "within the frameworks of our Islamic laws" but didn’t elaborate on what that means.

Mujahid also addressed concerns about harbouring al-Qaeda fighters and other extremists, saying “Afghanistan's soil is not going to be used against anybody.”

The press conference comes as military and civilian flights from Afghanistan resume. Yesterday, Jacinda Ardern said she couldn’t make any guarantees about when Kiwis will be evacuated. 

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has been defiant about the situation unfolding in Afghanistan, saying he stands “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw US forces there.  

Nurses call off strike

Nurses have called off the strike action they had planned for tomorrow following the country’s move into lockdown.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says it’s withdrawn its strike action plans, as “people’s health and wellbeing have to remain our number one priority”. However, nurses will still be looking at future strike action over pay and staffing levels. 

Earlier yesterday, Health Minister Andrew Little said the Government wanted to begin negotiations about the nurses’ pay equity settlement immediately, with Cabinet promising money for the eventual agreement.

He also revealed a new nursing advisory group to try and address other concerns health professionals have. 

Baby found at recycling facility

Police are searching for the mother of a baby found dead at an Auckland recycling facility on Monday night.

Staff discovered the child, believed to be a newborn, in the recycling waste picked up from around the city.

Police say they’re concerned for the baby’s mother and any medical issues she could be having. They’re asking anyone with information to contact them, saying they want to give the mother “the support and help that you need”. 

Other news of note this morning:

- Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says he’s considering an independent review of the MIQ booking system following an “unprecedented” number of complaints over the past few weeks.

- Meanwhile, a Rotorua leader has told the Government to "bugger off" when it comes to introducing new managed isolation facilities there.

- Emotions ran high as a youth charged with the murder of 16-year-old Zion Purukamu appeared in the Youth Court in Christchurch yesterday.

- The second man to admit historical sexual offending in connection to Auckland’s Dilworth School has been sentenced.

- Lion New Zealand says it’s planning to sell its Liquor King alcohol retail business.

- And ANZ has hiked all its fixed mortgage rates, ahead of today’s Official Cash Rate announcement by the Reserve Bank.

And finally...

Source: 1 NEWS

We all have our reasons to lament the Covid pandemic.

For MP Simon Bridges, a social media post he made about the Covid response last year ultimately saw him lose the leadership of the National Party.

He’s written about that experience in his new book, National Identity: Confessions of an Outsider. And now, on the day that book was due to hit shelves, Covid has gone and shuttered all the shops. 

Here’s hoping the country can lock it down like it’s March 2020 again, and all our best-laid plans, gatherings, and book launches can go ahead again sometime soon.