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Morning Briefing Jan 25: Covid case sends jitters through community

Businesses are on high alert after a Covid case visited them, new data reveals a jump in prison staff assaults, and Kiwis are warned over their home security cameras. 

Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins. Source: Getty

Nearly 30 businesses, including cafes, restaurants and shops, are on high alert in the north after New Zealand’s latest community case of Covid-19 visited the locations while infected.

Authorities are asking people who visited these places on the same day to isolate and arrange for a Covid test. 

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday it was “too early” to speculate about any alert level changes.

Genome sequencing results on the new case are expected later today, which should shed light on the origin and variant of the infection.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says authorities are already working on the assumption that it’s a more transmissible variant.

Data modelling expert Shaun Hendy has previously estimated New Zealand could see an outbreak triple the size of last year’s if the UK variant escaped quarantine. 

However, epidemiologist Michael Baker says he’s optimistic the case can be brought under control, given its strong link to international travel.

The 56-year-old woman who tested positive for Covid late Saturday night had recently completed a 14-day stay in managed isolation at Auckland’s Pullman Hotel.

Baker says the woman is a “hero” for diligently using the Covid tracer app once she was out in the community, but says the new case shows it’s time to reduce the number of people coming into the country. 

“I think we do need to look at urgent action, not focusing on the five million people in New Zealand, but the people getting on flights everyday where the pandemic is out of control,” he says.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand won’t shut its borders completely, saying citizens have a right to return home.

However, new border measures do take effect from today, meaning people from most countries will need to return a negative pre-departure Covid test before arriving in New Zealand. Quarantine staff will also be offered voluntary daily Covid saliva tests from today. 

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New measures to curb Covid

While New Zealand authorities swing into action to manage the fallout from its latest community Covid case, other nations are bringing in drastic new measures to curb the coronavirus within their own borders.

The Netherlands has brought in a curfew to halt Covid’s spread, while French doctors are urging people to avoid talking on public transport.

The city of Hong Kong has also enforced its first lockdown as it battles a rise in cases, with 10,000 citizens unable to leave their homes until they return a negative Covid test.

The moves come as the weekend marked a year since the Chinese city of Wuhan went into lockdown to try and contain the new coronavirus.

Jump in prison staff assaults

New data shows prison workers are almost twice as likely to be assaulted on the job today as they were just five years ago.

The annual statistics, obtained by 1 NEWS under the Official Information Act, show prisons are becoming an increasingly dangerous workplace, with the overall number of assaults on staff jumping by 82 per cent between 2015 and 2020.

Union reps say it’s a “traumatic” development for guards, who head to work with the knowledge they could be assaulted on any given day.

The Acting National Commissioner of Corrections, Ben Clark, attributes the increase in assaults to a growing gang population in prisons and the impact of methamphetamine addiction.

Warning over home security 

Kiwis are being urged to check their home or business security cameras after several New Zealand feeds began appearing online.

Security experts told 1 NEWS many people are missing a simple step in the camera’s set-up process: not changing the factory password on the device.

All Round Security Director Philip Walsh says anybody can access a CCTV system if they know the password.

He says the factory defaults are often published online, which means people “can access your system and watch [you] in your living room”. 

With PriceSpy data showing more New Zealanders buying home security devices, users are being advised to set a complex password for their cameras. 

Private house sales on the rise

As the housing market continues to heat up, more people are turning to private sales.

Private listing companies are reporting an increase in the use of their platforms as Kiwis look to pocket even more money from their house sale.

A person 1 NEWS spoke to says she saved around $30,000 by selling her home privately – but admits the process is not as easy as some might think.

Other news of note this morning:

- Rescuers in China have freed 11 miners who were trapped underground for two weeks.

- Alexei Navalny's wife is among the thousands who have been arrested at protests demanding the release of the Russian opposition leader.

- The National Party says the Australian government's push to make Google share royalties with news publishers is too heavy handed.

- A group fighting against the sexual exploitation of children says the problem has been on the rise since the pandemic began.

- Did you get a drone for Christmas? Then best you read up about the rules, says the Civil Aviation Authority. 

- Team NZ reveals they have a new billionaire backer on board. 

- And TVNZ’s Good Sorts is back for another year, beginning with a Kawerau doctor who responded with kindness after a man crashed into his car.

And finally...

Talk show titan Larry King died at the age of 87 yesterday, a month after being hospitalised with Covid-19.

By his own estimations, King conducted 40,000 interviews over his 60-year broadcasting career, which included chats with world leaders, celebrities and everyday Americans.

Vanity Fair has collated 10 of his more memorable interviews here, including his chat with Lady Gaga while she was dressed up as King, and Jerry Seinfeld telling him off for suggesting his show had been cancelled.