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Morning Briefing Jan 20: Trump's presidency enters final hours

The clock ticks down on Donald Trump's divisive presidency, Jacinda Ardern answers Kiwis' questions about the Covid response, and NZ's food poverty deepens.

Former US President Donald Trump. Source: Associated Press

After four divisive years, Donald Trump’s presidency has entered its final 24 hours.

The US President hasn’t been seen publicly in a week, but CNN reports he’s expected to spend his final day in charge issuing a raft of pardons, receiving briefings about security for Joe Biden’s inauguration, and presiding over final preparations for his own departure ceremony. 

One of his final actions as president – lifting travel bans on Covid-19 hot spot nations – is also set to be swiftly undone by Biden and his team, who say they’ll instead be strengthening measures at the US border. 

First Lady Melania Trump has bid her own farewell to the nation via a recorded video posted to Twitter. She thanked Americans for the “greatest honour of my life” but made no mention of the incoming Biden administration. She’s also bucked tradition by not inviting incoming First Lady Dr Jill Biden to tour the White House.

But as the nation prepares for Biden’s scaled-back inauguration tomorrow morning, the New York Times reports Trump’s departure from the White House won’t bring an end to many Americans’ rage about the 2020 election.

They speak to experts who warn the continued belief that election fraud took place “could have dangerous, lasting effects”. 

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Ardern answers burning questions 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has resumed her Facebook live stream videos, taking time last night to answer the public’s questions about vaccinations and what it will take to end quarantine at the border.

She says evidence still needs to be gathered around whether vaccinations will make a difference to border rules. 

And those border rules are about to become even tighter. Pre-flight Covid testing for travellers arriving in New Zealand will soon apply to all countries except Australia, most of the Pacific Islands and Antarctica.

The requirement, which currently only extends to the US and UK, will come into force from Monday evening.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says “most global air routes are of critical concern for the foreseeable future”. 

The Government is also trying to procure a small batch of Covid-19 vaccines ahead of New Zealand’s scheduled March delivery, in order to protect at-risk and border workers.

National’s spokesperson Chris Bishop says vaccinating frontline workers “should have been a priority in the first place”.

Meanwhile, an independent panel co-chaired by former Prime Minister Helen Clark has criticised the World Health Organization (WHO) and China for a slow response to Covid’s initial spread.

An interim report released yesterday found the global pandemic alert system “is not fit for purpose” and also warned some low-income countries may not finish their vaccinations until 2024. The full report can be found here

NZ's food poverty deepens

The Government is blaming rising accommodation costs for a surge in demand for food grants.

New figures show the number of assistance requests has more than quadrupled over seven years, with emergency food grants costing up to $20 million a month last year. Food banks and other services say the problem is only getting worse. 

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni told 1 NEWS she blames rising accommodation costs, saying they're sucking up Kiwis’ money and leaving them unable to afford food.

The Greens say the Labour Government is refusing to take steps to ease that pressure, like taxing property speculators and introducing liveable incomes.

Supply chain headaches continue

Challenges getting goods to New Zealand amid the pandemic, including to the right port, has seen importers pay thousands of dollars in additional fees.

Retailers are now warning their future is uncertain if nothing is done to free up the supply chain.

Greg Harford of Retail New Zealand says there’s been a “snowball effect” with less freight coming to the country and increased time in getting goods off ships and into distribution centres.

Importers 1 NEWS spoke to say it’s “inevitable” the supply chain issues will result in consumers paying higher prices. 

Summer takes a break

A summer storm has split New Zealand into a nation of two halves, with fires in the east and rain in the west.

The South Island saw torrential rain, snow in the alps, and scrub fires fanned by gale force winds yesterday. A number of properties were evacuated as a large fire swept across 15 hectares of land at Christchurch’s Cass Bay.

Fire has also caused problems further north, with half a dozen homes evacuated overnight due to a blaze in Hastings’ Fernhill.

Other news of note this morning:

- Items of clothing belonging to missing kayaker Koyren Campbell have been found on the seabed.

- A teenage cyclist has died after being hit by a car in the Tauranga suburb of Papamoa yesterday afternoon.

- Several critically endangered black-billed gulls have been killed by drivers exploring a Canterbury braided river.

- Drug testing groups are ramping up their services outside of music festivals.

- Stuff reports parents and early childhood education centres are having to come up with different lunch ideas following new rules to reduce the choking risk for children.

- The Warehouse has issued an apology following a product description for a bike stating it’s “so easy, even for a girl”.

- And the Indian cricket team is jubilant after last night beating Australia to claim a famous test series win. 

And finally...

Carl Gill. Source: 1 NEWS

Sure, a test series win over Australia is impressive – but so is still being able to hit 40 runs with the bat and taking a couple of wickets while celebrating your 80th birthday.

Wellington man Carl Gill has been playing for his local cricket team for several decades now and showed 1 NEWS at the weekend that he still has skills on the pitch.

You can check out that very special cricket fixture here.