Morning Briefing June 24: Nervous wait for Wellington - and beyond

Wellingtonians get tested amid fears of a super-spreading event, the Black Caps win the World Test Championship, and questions swirl around Todd Muller's resignation from politics.

People line up for a Covid test. Source: Getty

As Wellington wakes up in Alert Level 2, the rest of the country is also nervously awaiting any fallout from a weekend visit made by a positive Covid case from Sydney.

Leading epidemiologist Michael Baker told 1 NEWS given the case likely has the highly infectious Delta variant, shifting alert levels is “absolutely essential” because of the “potential for this outbreak to turn into a super-spreading event”. 

The Sydney case visited several popular Wellington locations while staying in the capital, including a hotel, bar, cafes, a supermarket and a packed Te Papa exhibition.

Four close contacts have been identified in New Zealand, but they have all returned negative Covid tests. They will remain in isolation and be re-tested. Meanwhile, Wellington’s Covid testing centres are expected to be at capacity today, with many already booked out.

Baker says New Zealand needs to learn some lessons from this latest situation, including upgrading the alert level system and making mask use clearer.

He also believes scanning QR codes should become mandatory in high-risk environments like bars and other crowded functions.

Figures show Kiwis’ scanning numbers have plummeted since last year, but the University of Canterbury's Michael Plank has told the Herald people all around the country should continue using the contact tracing app as “the virus could be anywhere in New Zealand” right now. 

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will be speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast about the current situation in Wellington around 7.20am today. 

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Restrictions as Sydney cases grow

Sydney is also facing new restrictions as the Bondi Covid cluster continues to swell.

As concern grows over some cases with no clear connection to the cluster, city dwellers have been restricted from travelling beyond metropolitan Sydney.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she won’t rule out further action as officials try to contain the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant.

She says while contact tracing “has been better than I’ve ever seen”, officials have never seen the contagiousness of this variant before.  

Meanwhile, the Covid crisis in Fiji also continues to spiral, with daily cases there soaring to 279 yesterday. Four more deaths were also confirmed. 

Black Caps top of the world

The Black Caps have won the inaugural World Test Championship, beating India by eight wickets on the final day of the test in Southampton.

The Kiwis made a perfect start to the day with Kyle Jamieson taking the important wicket of Virat Kohli early with the New Zealanders then rolling India for 170.

Chasing 139 to win, captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor guided the Black Caps to the historic victory, finishing unbeaten on 52 and 47 respectively.

Questions over Muller's resignation

Former National Party leader Todd Muller says he’s stepping away from politics at the next election.

He says the personal cost of being in Parliament is too high and that he’s made the “difficult decision” to resign in order to prioritise his health and family. 

However, there are reports Muller’s resignation followed a late-night caucus meeting in which he admitted to being an anonymous source in a story critical of returning National MP Harete Hipango.

Party leader Judith Collins was reportedly furious at the admission, however neither she nor Muller would comment yesterday on whether this was a factor in his resignation.

Meanwhile, Collins has responded to a different article about Hipango, which alleged she had inappropriately spent taxpayer money.

Collins says Hipango has repaid the money after what’s been described as a coding error and “maybe some misunderstandings of the rules”.

Spears to give rare public testimony

Pop star Britney Spears is expected to address a judge about her controversial conservatorship during a hearing later this morning.

The 39-year-old has been under her father's legal guardianship since 2008 and has had no control over her personal or financial affairs since.

Barring any last-minute decisions to seal proceedings, it means Spears’ words will be heard in open court for the first time. The hearing is scheduled for 8.30am NZ time. 

Other news of note this morning:

- The BBC reports more than 20 Russian aircraft and two ships are shadowing a British warship sailing near Crimea.

- Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy paper has announced its closure.

- The Government's official dawn raids apology scheduled for this weekend has been postponed following the shift in Wellington’s alert level status.

- There's an urgent plea to support those leaving the West Coast commune of Gloriavale.

- The liquidation of Auckland's ASB Showgrounds has resulted in job losses

- New Zealand Post has a new logo and brand, which it says reflects “transformational change” within the company.

- Waka Kotahi NZTA is set to update the benefit-to-cost ratio of Auckland’s Northern Pathway project.

- New Zealand's flag bearers for the Tokyo Olympics have been revealed.

- And Seven Sharp has burned a house down on live TV to demonstrate the shocking consequences of putting clothes too close to a heater.

And finally...

A cat recovers after being rescued from a tin can. Source: Supplied

Being a police officer can be a real rollercoaster. One minute you’re nabbing crooks. The next you’re rescuing a cat who’s managed to get its head firmly wedged inside a tin can.

Curiosity very nearly killed the above cat until Whangārei’s Sergeant Paul Nicholas discovered it on Charles St in Kamo.

Nicholas says while it looked comical, he soon realised the seriousness of the situation and punctured the can with tin snips to allow the cat to get some air.

Police say the cat’s since made a full recovery and will be put up for adoption. Current frontrunners for its name include Tinny and Tintin.