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Morning Briefing Feb 4: NZ approves first jab as study brings new Covid vaccine hope

A new study delivers good news about another vaccine destined for NZ's shores, alarm bells ring over a Covid case in Melbourne, and the Privacy Commissioner targets landlords.

A day after New Zealand provisionally approved Pfizer’s Covid vaccine, there’s been a positive development for another of the vaccines lined up for Kiwis.

New research suggests the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may reduce the spread of the coronavirus. It’s the first time a vaccine has been shown to reduce transmission.

New Zealand has an agreement with AstraZeneca to supply 7.6 million doses of the vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate 3.8 million people. Medsafe says it’s only just received AstraZeneca’s application for use here and is unsure when it will be signed off.

But the Pfizer vaccine has been signed off and the company says it’s on track to deliver New Zealand’s first doses next month despite global supply issues.

However, the ACT and National parties are still questioning the uncertainty around an exact date for the delivery of the vaccines. 

And as health authorities work on the logistics of vaccinating border workers, attention also turns to encouraging the rest of the population to line up for a jab later this year.

There are indications globally that many people are not interested in getting it and experts say misinformation about vaccines can have a dangerous impact on public health.

An information campaign costing $3 million will begin later this month, with another round later in April.

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Landlords under the microscope

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards is taking a closer look at landlords and the increasingly intrusive collection, retention and disclosure of tenants’ personal information. Edwards says he wants to ensure landlords understand their Privacy Act obligations.

The move follows reports of landlords and property managers asking for very detailed information from prospective tenants.

Edwards says questions about gender, nationality or marital status are almost never justified. 

Schools edge closer to NZ history

Chances are many Kiwis don’t know about the Ruapekapeka battle of 1846 that was commemorated in a service yesterday.

But that’s something the Government is hoping to change as it moves forward with public consultation on the new history curriculum for schools.

Every school and kura will be expected to teach New Zealand history by 2022 in a move that Education Minister Chris Hipkins says will allow Kiwi students to “explore the stories that are unique to us”.

But National’s education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says the proposed new history curriculum lacks balance and needs revision.

The draft framework and feedback forms for teaching NZ history in schools can be found here

Unemployment defies predictions

There’s been a surprising drop in unemployment as the construction industry makes up for job losses in industries like media and tourism.

According to Stats NZ, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9 per cent in the December 2020 quarter, down from 5.3 per cent in the September 2020 quarter.

While that’s good news, 141,000 Kiwis are still out of work – 25,000 more than this time last year. Female unemployment also continues to be higher than male unemployment, reflecting trends picked up in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Interest.co.nz reports the drop in the unemployment rate has also ended talk of further cuts in the official cash rate.

They say BNZ economists are now forecasting interest rates to rise from as soon as May next year.

Alarm bells over Melbourne case

The Australian Open has been thrown into disarray after one of the event's hotel workers returned a positive Covid-19 test.

Up to 600 players and support staff are going into isolation while today's warm-up matches have been cancelled.

It means some Covid restrictions have also returned in Victoria with eight locations of interest across Melbourne. Residents are being urged to get tested today.

Other news of note this morning:

- Several charges have now been laid against Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with police accusing her of possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies.

- World Health Organization investigators have visited a research centre in Wuhan that’s been the subject of speculation about the origins of the coronavirus.

- Stuff reports several people linked to Covid cases in Auckland had to be retested for the virus after their initial results couldn’t be found.

- It’s been revealed an unread email left the towns of Waikouaiti and Karitāne with toxic water for more than a month.

- A rāhui on people gathering kaimoana in waters around Auckland's Waiheke Island may last longer than the two years initially announced by mana whenua.

- New Zealand Rugby is refusing to confirm reports it's had a $465 million offer from US technology investment giants Silver Lake for a share of commercial rights.

- An Auckland woman has been sentenced after attempting to smuggle nearly 1000 succulents and endangered cacti strapped to her body into the country.

- And Netflix has dominated the nominations for the annual Golden Globe Awards.

And finally...

Characters from Disney's Frozen. Source: istock.com

Disney’s Frozen is responsible for a lot of things – catchy tunes that have been played on repeat since 2013; billions of dollars in box office takings; and a deluge of merchandising that now clogs up my home.

But it could also be responsible for solving the 62-year-old mystery of the Dyatlov Pass incident.

A group of mountaineers died in the northern Ural Mountains back in 1959 and investigators have long been unsure why – but Frozen may have just unlocked a clue as to what happened all those years ago.