Morning Briefing June 18: Testing blitz underway as vaccine roadmap revealed

There are Covid testing blitzes taking place on both sides of the Tasman today as the Government reveals more details about the wider vaccine rollout.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed more details about the Covid-19 vaccine rollout for the general public, saying the immunisation timeframes will be structured using age bands.

She says using age cohorts is a simple approach commonly used overseas and will help manage demand and supply of the vaccines. You can find the dates each age bracket is due to be vaccinated here.

Ardern herself is set to get her first Pfizer vaccine later today. 

Meanwhile, Australia’s vaccine programme has been dealt a significant blow with the AstraZeneca vaccine now only recommended for use in people aged over 60 there. The AstraZeneca jab is not currently being used in New Zealand’s vaccine rollout. 

The updated vaccine advice across the Tasman comes as officials track three community cases of Covid-19 detected in Sydney.

Quarantine-free travel with New South Wales can continue for now, however there are restrictions on anyone who’s been at a location of interest.

The pause on quarantine-free travel with Victoria, meanwhile, has been extended until Tuesday

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Mass testing on Stewart Island 

Covid testing will continue on Stewart Island today after a child returned a weak positive test there.

The result was picked up during pre-departure testing for overseas travel. The child’s family have all returned negative results, while a repeat test for the child has also come back negative.

Health officials say while it’s unlikely to be a case of Covid-19, some precautions are still being taken, with potential local contacts asked to isolate and community testing set up. 

Stuff has looked at the phenomenon of the “weak positive” test here, explaining why someone might get such a result.

Warning over interest rates

The 1.6 per cent rise in New Zealand’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has prompted warnings the days of rock bottom interest rates may be coming to an end sooner than expected.

Economists say the latest GDP figures underscore the likelihood of the Reserve Bank ending some policies that were introduced to cushion the impact of the pandemic. 

The 1.6 per cent increase in GDP for the March 2021 quarter follows a dip of 1 per cent at the end of 2020.

Stats NZ says there’s been “broad-based growth” in the first quarter of this year, despite Auckland’s two Level 3 lockdowns and continued border restrictions.

But while things are looking up, GDP did fall 2.3 per cent annually, with several industries taking a hit. 

Major outage for some banks

Online banking users will be hoping for a disruption-free day after several Australian companies suffered a major outage yesterday.

Online services for some banks, including Westpac and ANZ, were down for a time, with other businesses like Virgin Australia also impacted.

The outage is believed to be linked to issues with international server provider Akamai.

Meanwhile, there was other bad news for banks yesterday, with a new Consumer NZ survey finding many Kiwis don’t trust their bank and don’t feel they’re getting value for money. 

Arrests over penguin habitat

Advocates for kororā/little blue penguin habitats on Waiheke Island want Auckland Council to review the resource consent for development on the local marina.

Demonstrators, who say they’re trying to save the birds’ habitat, clashed with police at Kennedy Point yesterday, resulting in three arrests.

Local iwi have been occupying the site for three months in an effort to stop the kororā being displaced by the marina’s construction.

However, Kennedy Point Marina director Kitt Littlejohn told 1 NEWS “no kororā will be made homeless” during their works. 

Other news of note this morning: 

- Fiji has reported another 91 cases of Covid-19 overnight.

- North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un says food shortages in the secretive nation are "getting tense".

- A Republican legal challenge to throw out 'Obamacare', the law aiming to provide affordable health insurance for all Americans, has failed at the Supreme Court.

- National MP Simeon Brown says police “must warn gangs, not the public" over a planned Auckland funeral procession today which is likely to see a large gang presence.

- A Tauranga mother of four says her family will be homeless in a few weeks, claiming she's being discriminated against because she has children. 

- Food safety officials are warning to watch for bad eggs as a third North Island egg producer is found to have a strain of salmonella.

- The NZ Herald reports newly released figures show the cost of a standalone cycle and walkway bridge in Auckland far outweighs the benefits. 

- Sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke say they have mixed emotions about a potential overseas America's Cup defence.

- And lingerie brand Victoria's Secret has officially retired its Angels.

And finally...

Hilary Barry auditions for Rock Follies Forever. Source: Seven Sharp

I’m too young to remember the Rock Follies (sorry not sorry), but the '70s TV show was a boundary-breaking musical drama with lashings of rock ’n’ roll and an all-female lead cast.

It inspired a generation, including Jackie Clarke and Jennifer Ward-Lealand, who’ve created Rock Follies Forever - a new live cabaret show.

Seven Sharp’s Hilary Barry decided to audition for the local version of the legendary girl group last night – but does she have what it takes? Well, you’ll have to watch and see...