Morning Briefing Jan 19: NZ's students struggling in Covid's wake

The major impact Covid-19 has had on New Zealand's students is revealed, while officials move to reassure Kiwis over the Covid vaccine.


Four new reports released this morning show last year’s lockdowns were hugely disruptive to education.

The reports from the Education Review Office show low decile schools and those in Auckland were the hardest hit by Covid-19 with fears some students won't be able to catch up.

Eighty per cent of low decile schools are worried about student achievement with attendance rates also a concern. 

But it’s not all bad news. The Covid-19 lockdowns have encouraged some positive practices in schools, with the reports highlighting greater whānau engagement and an uptake of digital technologies. All four reports can be found here

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Assurances over vaccine

Health officials are reassuring Kiwis Covid vaccines won’t be rolled out unless they’re proven safe.

It comes after a small number of elderly people died in Norway after recently receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says because New Zealand currently has no community transmission of the virus, there’s more time to thoroughly assess the vaccines.

He says although Medsafe will go through a “fast-track” process, there won’t be the need to give the vaccines emergency approval.

The World Health Organization echoed those sentiments last week when they told 1 NEWS New Zealand should roll out vaccinations carefully and not rush the process.

However, National is calling on the Government to start vaccinating border workers “immediately”, saying New Zealand can’t be complacent with new, more contagious variants of the virus emerging in managed isolation.

New Zealand has ordered 1.5 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine with the first batches due to arrive by the end of March. 

Meanwhile, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has once again highlighted the vaccine inequality being felt around the world.

He says while 39 million Covid vaccine doses have been administered in 50 richer nations, one poorer country has administered just 25.

He says vaccine equity is "not just a moral imperative, it is a strategic and economic imperative”.

Shoring up other Covid defences

As authorities work on New Zealand’s vaccination schedule, Chris Hipkins says Kiwis also need to keep playing their part in keeping Covid-19 at bay.

He says that while New Zealanders generally respond well to a situation, “we don’t necessarily prepare well”.

Complacency around actions like scanning QR codes has also prompted a warning from at least one DHB. Dr Nigel Miller, Southern DHB's Chief Medical Officer, says people need to scan as much as possible to help prevent any future lockdowns. 

Trials looking at the effectiveness of Covid-19 saliva testing will also begin next week as part of the country’s pandemic response.

Air New Zealand is partnering with Crown research institute ESR to see if saliva sampling could be an accurate, easy and acceptable method of detecting Covid compared to the current nasal swab. 

These measures come as experts caution 2021 will likely be a difficult year.

Auckland University professor Shaun Hendy says the new Covid variants and high rates of the virus overseas means New Zealand needs to “continually” assess its border restrictions.

Across the Tasman, the head of Australia’s health department also alluded to 2021 remaining a tough time for many. Brendan Murphy says it’s unlikely international borders will substantially reopen this year, even if most people are vaccinated against Covid-19.

Has your house doubled in value?

The property market is showing no signs of slowing down with new figures from showing average asking prices to have doubled in some areas over the past decade.

Data shows asking prices increased in almost every district between 2011 and 2020 but leading the charge is the Bay of Plenty town of Kawerau, where average asking prices increased by 132 per cent.

Hawke’s Bay and Hamilton have also seen some of the biggest hikes in asking prices

US Capitol locked down

The US Capitol complex temporarily locked down overnight during a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.

A fire in a homeless encampment nearby sent a plume of smoke into the air, causing security concerns.

It comes as US defence officials say they’re worried about an insider attack during Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington DC for this week’s event. 

Other news of note this morning:

- American Magic skipper Terry Hutchinson has leapt to the defence of Dean Barker, saying their boat’s dramatic capsize on Sunday wasn’t the Kiwi helmsman’s fault.

- The Herald reports Kiwis’ hazardous drinking rates jumped during last year’s Covid-19 lockdown.

- RNZ reports a shortage of plumbing, electrical and glass supplies is hindering the construction sector.

- Seven Waikato farmers have been fined a total of more than $300,000 for unlawfully discharging effluent.

- The NSW government is considering allowing venues to ban entry to people who refuse the Covid-19 vaccine.

- And an Auckland cat’s near miss in an engine bay has sparked a warning for drivers. 

And finally...

RuPaul. Source: Supplied

Some (myself included) would argue this should be leading today’s news: RuPaul’s Drag Race is officially coming to New Zealand

Hosted by RuPaul and filmed entirely in Aotearoa, the legendary show will see Kiwi and Australian drag queens go head to head in the hopes of being crowned Down Under’s first drag superstar.

Breakfast’s Matty McLean was lucky enough to sit down for a chat with Ru’s bestie and fellow judge Michelle Visage as she emerged from isolation in Auckland, which you can watch around 8.45am today. 

RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under will lip sync for its life on TVNZ OnDemand later this year.