American Magic assesses the damage after yesterday's dramatic capsizing, experts pile on the pressure over Covid prevention, and Washington DC prepares for Joe Biden's inauguration.
Hello and welcome back to the Morning Briefing. Normally the summer break yields very little news, but when you have an accelerating pandemic and an American president who refuses to accept election defeat, the headlines tend to be a little meatier than usual.
So, here’s a very quick wrap of 2021’s wild first couple of weeks:
Prisoners staged a six-day stand-off over complaints about conditions at Waikeria Prison; Rio Tinto and Meridian Energy struck a deal which will see the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter stay open for at least another few years; Donald Trump became the first US President to be impeached twice after being charged with “incitement of insurrection” following the storming of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters; social media companies banned Trump and cracked down on the spread of misinformation (although it’s still flourishing via a podcast loophole); and new, more infectious strains of Covid-19 found their way to New Zealand’s shores, heaping pressure on authorities to bring the country’s vaccination programme forward and introduce even stricter measures to keep the virus out of the community.
Right, let’s get on with the more recent news to hand now, shall we?
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American Magic assesses damage
There were dramatic scenes on the Waitematā late yesterday after Dean Barker’s American Magic boat capsized and came close to sinking during Prada Cup racing.
The team’s Patriot boat was back on dry land around 10.45pm, sporting a large hole in the bottom of it. No crew were injured during the incident.
What happens next for American Magic is still up in the air, with the team due to race again on Friday. They do have another boat, however much of it has been used for parts on Patriot.
The syndicate has thanked those who helped them rescue their sinking boat yesterday, including Team New Zealand members.
Positive cases on Auckland flight
Two people who flew from Auckland to Fiji have tested positive for Covid-19.
Fiji's health ministry says two women arrived in Nadi on flight NZ 952 on Christmas Eve after transiting through Auckland. They tested positive in their final tests at the end of their stay in managed isolation.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Government has reported “very high levels of compliance” in travellers from the US and UK producing a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test upon arrival here, however Customs has issued its first warning to a traveller who failed to do so.
While Customs is taking an “educational approach” for now, fines of up to $1000 can be issued for arriving without a negative test from January 29.
And experts are still calling for more to be done to combat Covid-19 in the community following the arrival of more contagious strains of the virus in managed isolation.
Auckland University modeller Shaun Hendy says mandating mask use on public transport right around the country is one measure that should be taken. Epidemiologist Michael Baker says scanning at “super-spreader” venues like bars and nightclubs should also become mandatory.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will be on TVNZ’s Breakfast around 7.45 this morning to discuss the Government’s response to the new virus strains.
DC transforms into fortress
Tens of thousands of troops are on standby ahead of US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Thursday (NZT).
Washington DC’s National Mall has been closed to the general public with barricades and checkpoints formed around other landmarks, with all 50 US states also on alert for possible armed marches by Donald Trump’s supporters.
Trump is due to leave Washington for Florida on the morning of Biden’s inauguration. He will be holding his own departure ceremony before his final flight aboard Air Force One.
His second impeachment trial will likely begin soon after. The process could prohibit him from future office, however as Forbes reports, as many as three other Trump family members are already eyeing their own entry into politics.
Meanwhile, Biden is expected to roll back some of Trump’s most controversial decisions as soon as he arrives at the White House, with a 10-day blitz of executive actions already lined up.
Tackling mask waste
While masks are an effective first line of defence against Covid-19, discarded masks have become a major environmental issue. But there’s now hope the thousands of disposables used every day could be recycled.
TVNZ’s UK correspondent Daniel Faitaua has looked at the process that could see masks eventually transformed into outdoor furniture.
The same initiative is set to be launched in New Zealand in the coming months.
Other news of note this morning:
- Famed music producer Phil Spector has died in prison.
- India has launched its massive Covid vaccination programme, which aims to vaccinate 300 million people by August.
- Russian politician Alexei Navalny is returning to Moscow nearly five months after being poisoned with a nerve agent.
- Authorities are still searching for a person thought missing more than 12 hours after an empty kayak was found near Wellington.
- A woman has been charged after a man was shot in the arm in South Auckland on Saturday afternoon.
- Multiple state highways will be closed this week as work takes place on Auckland's motorways.
- And a rapid increase in the country’s cat population is placing strain on animal charities.
Actress Betty White has revealed her plans for celebrating her 99th birthday and it’s the content we need in these troubled times.
Given she’s not allowed guests due to the pandemic, White says she plans to celebrate by staying up late, eating a hotdog and fries - and feeding a pair of ducks that regularly visit her Los Angeles home.