Morning Briefing July 21: Delta tightens grip on Australia

The trans-Tasman travel bubble deflates further as another Australian state goes into lockdown and exporters fear repercussions over accusations aimed at China.

The arrivals area at Auckland Airport. Source: Getty

The Government has paused quarantine-free travel with a third Australian state as the highly infectious Delta variant continues its spread across the Tasman.

The decision to pause travel from South Australia was made as the state entered a seven-day lockdown last night.

The state’s Covid cluster currently sits at five but there are concerns case numbers could rise after the newest case attended a function while infectious.

People currently in South Australia who usually live in New Zealand will still be able to return on “managed flights” – and are encouraged to do so.

At this stage, there’s no change to quarantine-free travel from Queensland, although there are fears a new Covid cluster may have been seeded there by a woman who returned from Melbourne and was in the community while infectious with the Delta variant. 

Meanwhile, Victoria will remain in lockdown until at least July 27 after recording another 13 Covid cases in the community.

Sydney’s lockdown is due to end in a week-and-a-half, but Premier Gladys Berejiklian isn’t ruling out an extension of those restrictions. It comes as some Sydneysiders openly flout lockdown rules, with police having to break up an office birthday party this week.

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China rejects accusations

China has hit back at New Zealand after the Government joined other countries in condemning Chinese state-sponsored cyber attacks.

China says it opposes and fights all forms of cybercrime, with the Chinese Embassy urging New Zealand “to abandon the Cold War mentality” and “adopt a professional and responsible attitude when dealing with cyber incidents”. 

One intelligence analyst tells RNZ New Zealand has put itself in a vulnerable position by accusing China of the attacks.

Paul Buchanan says all the other partners involved in yesterday’s accusations are less vulnerable than New Zealand to any economic retaliation. Exporters are also concerned over potential trade repercussions.

Poor return on America's Cup 

Cost-benefit analysis shows New Zealand got back just 48 cents for every dollar spent on the 36th America's Cup.

Several reports detailing the economic benefits of hosting the event were released yesterday, showing it was significantly impacted by the pandemic and by having fewer challengers than forecast.

Taxypayers contributed more than $130 million towards the regatta, while Auckland ratepayers shelled out more than $215 million. When you take those amounts into account and focus solely on the financial impact of the Cup, Kiwis lost nearly $300 million. 

Team NZ boss Grant Dalton has still praised the organisation’s “huge achievement” in hosting an event that was “massively compromised because of Covid-19”.

Team NZ confirmed last month they are looking at overseas offers to host the next America’s Cup after rejecting a combined Government and Auckland Council bid of $99 million. 

Hopes fade for stranded orca

The future of Wellington’s stranded orca Toa is in doubt as the Department of Conservation (DOC) begins reviewing its options today.

Chances of reuniting the orca calf with his pod are dwindling and experts are now calling for Toa’s welfare to be considered.

Massey University marine biologist Professor Karen Stockin told 1 NEWS DOC has done everything possible to prioritise the survival of the calf but there’s an ethical obligation to consider all aspects of his lifespan.

She says in an international context, such a young animal really only faces two outlooks – lifelong captivity or euthanasia.

Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan says all parties on the ground are looking at all viable outcomes for Toa “and are preparing for any type of event, whatever comes next”.

Another billionaire blasts off

The world’s richest man has blasted into space overnight on his rocket company’s first manned flight, becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride his own spacecraft.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos soared 107km above Texas, later describing the experience as the “best day ever”.

He was joined by his brother Mark, pioneering aviator Wally Funk and the company’s first paying customer, Dutch teenager Oliver Daemen.

Their 10-minute trip to space comes days after Sir Richard Branson completed his own similar mission

Other news of note this morning:

- The chief of the Tokyo Olympic Committee says they haven't ruled out cancelling the Games if Covid case numbers spike. 

- As Westport continues its clean-up following the weekend’s intense rainfall and flooding, attention is turning to where displaced residents – and those coming in to fix their homes – will live

- Stuff reports a Government scheme aimed at moving mental health patients into stable housing has helped just three people over 18 months.

- Hundreds of children of skilled migrants say they’re paying the price of New Zealand’s immigration delays caused by the pandemic. 

- Opposition parties took aim at gangs yesterday, with ACT proposing the tracking of gang members’ spending and National calling for police Armed Response Teams to be re-introduced.

- All non-urgent surgery for children at Christchurch Hospital has been halted as winter illness stretches resources. 

- Researchers say wild pigs across the world are having the same impact on the climate as a million cars.

- And All Black flanker Ardie Savea has stocked up on mouthguards for the rest of the season after copping a mouthful from his family for not wearing one against Fiji.

And finally... 

LEGO Certified Professional Robin Sather. Source: Supplied

The hit LEGO Masters TV series is finally getting the Kiwi treatment with a New Zealand version of the show coming to TVNZ next year.

More than 2.5 million LEGO bricks are making their way to Aotearoa for the first season of LEGO Masters NZ – and applications for the programme are now open if you fancy your chances of taking out the title.