Morning Briefing June 30: Study suggests Covid herd immunity near impossible

New data suggests Covid herd immunity is unlikely in NZ, disturbing video prompts action from Oranga Tamariki bosses, and the wild weather isn't over yet for Wellington.

New modelling shows 97 per cent of New Zealand’s population will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to protect the country from the spread of new variants.

The research by Te Pūnaha Matatini scientists found that the number of Covid-related hospitalisations and deaths would drop significantly once 75-80 per cent of people are vaccinated, however reaching herd immunity against more infectious variants would require a much higher vaccination rate.

But given the Pfizer vaccine is still only approved for New Zealanders aged 12 and over, vaccinating 97 per cent of the population is not currently possible. 

Te Pūnaha Matatini’s Michael Plank says the study’s findings show vaccines are not the silver bullet for ending the pandemic, but the more people who are vaccinated, the better protected the population is, with fewer restrictions necessary. The full paper on the topic can be found here.

The study comes as New Zealand’s Covid vaccine supplies drop rapidly ahead of larger shipments next month.

Around 30,000 doses of the Pfizer jab are left, with another shipment arriving yesterday.

However, supply is expected to run out within the next seven days, when the next delivery is due – meaning New Zealand’s vaccine levels could drop to almost zero at some point. 

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Changes made to travel bubble

Wellington has joined the rest of the country back at Alert Level 1 this morning, however people are still being urged to monitor their health and check the locations of interest linked to the capital’s recent Covid scare. 

Cabinet has also agreed in principle to partially lift the pause on the trans-Tasman bubble from Sunday night, with New Zealand opening back up to South Australia, ACT, Victoria, and Tasmania.

Passengers will, however, need to undergo pre-departure testing for Covid-19.

The door still remains closed to Australia’s other states, which are currently grappling with outbreaks of the virus.

Parts of Queensland, including Brisbane and the Gold Coast, are currently in a three-day lockdown, while the list of exposure sites around Sydney also continues to grow

Video prompts investigation

Oranga Tamariki bosses were last night checking the safety of children at their own care and protection units, after disturbing video emerged showing staff repeatedly using force against some tamariki.

The video published by Newsroom yesterday morning showed young people being tackled and held in a headlock by staff at the units. 

Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis has since asked his officials to get to the bottom of the “unacceptable” behaviour.

He says the needs of children at the units are greater, which can be a difficult job, “but that's no excuse for what we've seen in that video”. 

Davis says it’s up to police to determine if charges are necessary if a complaint is made, however the Children’s Commissioner wants police to investigate the incident.

Judge Andrew Becroft says the behaviour shown in the video demonstrates why his office has repeatedly called for care and protection units to close

Winter weather batters Wellington

Parts of Wellington’s south coast have been on high alert overnight, with some residents evacuated from their homes due to large waves in the area.

The threat of heavy swells continues this morning with waves of up to 5.5 metres still expected until the next high tide around 9.30am.

It comes as a polar blast continues to blitz other parts of the country with heavy snow and freezing temperatures.

A big dump of snow closed schools in Queenstown and major roads across the South Island yesterday, while snow also fell to low levels in Christchurch. 

DHB confirms data on dark web

Waikato DHB has confirmed data stolen in a recent ransomware attack has been released on the dark web.

The information is understood to include bank information, employee data, patients' driver licences and passports, and other medical records.

The DHB says it’s working through the material to understand the content and will then notify affected patients and staff. 

Breeder accused of fake pedigrees

Fair Go’s year-long investigation into the murky world of horse breeding has focused on a breeder accused of selling horses with fake pedigrees for thousands of dollars.

Although the breeder in question has paid back some of the money for the horses, their lineage remains a mystery, which has Fair Go asking – what are your rights when it comes to questionable breeders?

Other news of note this morning:

- Fiji has recorded hundreds more cases of Covid-19 and another four deaths over 24 hours. 

- RNZ reports Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque is being targeted with new violent threats.

- The man who killed British backpacker Grace Millane has had his final bid to appeal his murder conviction rejected.

- Many young New Zealanders from multiple parts of Asia report they’re experiencing significant mental health challenges, a study has found. 

- The Government has begun the process for replacing the Resource Management Act (RMA).

- A small cable essential to expanding New Zealand’s internet capacity has landed at Auckland’s Takapuna Beach.

- And there’s jubilation in England after their football team finally dispatched old foes Germany 2-0 in their Euro knock-out match this morning.

And finally...

A depiction of the Three Blind Mice nursery rhyme. Source: Seven Sharp

If the theories behind some of the world’s most well-known nursery rhymes are true, it turns out we’ve spent centuries lulling our children to sleep with tales of murder, treason, and the plague.

An American performer is going viral on TikTok after digging into the origins of nursery rhymes, prompting the question, should we be singing them to our kids at all? Seven Sharp investigates