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Morning Briefing May 4: Officials outline rules for new travel bubble

The Government reveals how a travel bubble with the Cook Islands will work and New Zealand's relationship with China goes under the microscope again.

A beach in the Cook Islands. Source: istock.com

New Zealand has taken the next step in reopening its borders, with a Pacific travel bubble set for take-off in just under two weeks.

The Cook Islands are now preparing for an influx of tourists with confirmation Kiwis can travel to and from the country without having to quarantine from May 17.

The bubble only applies to travellers who have been in either country for 14 days prior to flying, meaning Australians can’t use New Zealand as a springboard into the Pacific.

A Covid-19 test won’t be required prior to travel but there will be random health checks at airports.

Air New Zealand says it will initially operate two to three flights to the Cook Islands a week, then daily from July in time for the next school holidays.

The new bubble can't come soon enough for the Cook Islands. Tourism contributes to more than 60 per cent of their GDP and many businesses have only survived the past year thanks to the wage subsidy.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says they’re prepared for this next big step with their Pfizer vaccine rollout also expected to begin within the month.

Meanwhile, the EU has been looking at its own restrictions on non-essential travel from overseas.

The EU Commission has just recommended allowing anyone who has received their last dose of an EU-approved vaccine at least two weeks beforehand to be able to travel to their member states.

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China relationship in spotlight

The ACT Party is expected to ask Parliament to debate a motion declaring China's oppression of the Uyghur minority an act of “genocide” today.

It comes as Chinese ambassador Wu Xi told Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to mind her own business after she raised human rights concerns yesterday.

Ardern was speaking at the China Business Summit in Auckland, where she said differences between the two countries are becoming harder to reconcile. She said there are some things on which China and New Zealand don’t agree, but “this need not derail our relationship”. 

Meanwhile, there are concerns 98 new electric buses on order for Wellington may be linked to forced labour in China.

The fleet was made by Chinese manufacturer CRRC, who allegedly used Uyghur Muslims as forced labour. The Greater Wellington Regional Council is now investigating the issue. 

Third fatal house fire

A person has died in a house fire in the Far North.

The house had already burnt to the ground by the time Fire and Emergency arrived and an investigation is now underway to determine the cause of the blaze.

It’s the third fatal house fire in the North Island in the past 24 hours, after one person died in a fire in Hunterville, near Palmerston North, and another in a fire in Waihi yesterday morning. 

Govt dragging its feet on poverty?

People are still waiting for the Government to act on addressing welfare inequality and implement recommendations from an expert advisory group, according to the Child Poverty Action Group.

It’s been two years since experts recommended a complete overhaul of the welfare system, but none of their suggestions have been fully implemented

Human rights lawyer Huhana Hickey, who was on the advisory group, told TVNZ’s Breakfast the welfare system is still in need of an overhaul.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government has progressed a range of actions from the report, with others still being worked on. She says they’ve been “really clear” that some things wouldn’t be able to be done all at once. 

"But we absolutely recognise there is more to do, no question."

Calls for moral stance on Games

Epidemiologist Michael Baker has waded into the debate around the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, saying the event should be called off.

He says while it would be a tragedy for the athletes, “the symbolism and reality of having an event like this during the time of a pandemic ... just does not make sense”. 

His comments come as nurses in Japan express their outrage at Olympic organisers asking for 500 more of them to help with the Games.

The nurses say they’re already near breaking point dealing with the country’s latest spike in cases of Covid-19. 

Other news of note this morning:

- A man has been charged over a bomb threat to the Cook Strait ferry services.

- Pharmac is reviewing its blanket funding for children's cancer medicines, but Andrew Becroft is warning the organisation not to play one group of children with a life-threatening illness off against another.

- Labour MP Kiri Allan has revealed the nasty comments she’s received since announcing her cancer diagnosis. 

- Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic champion now running for California governor, says she opposes transgender girls competing in girls' sports at school.

- Harrowing stories of rape, kidnapping and violence have been heard at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care. (Warning, this report does contain graphic content.)

- A Hawke's Bay family is calling for standard-issue number plates with the letters "NGR" to be pulled from circulation.

- Ashburton District Council has unanimously backed a move to ditch the district's often derided slogan.

- And did you know New Zealand has native venomous sea snakes? No, neither did I – but a woman has found one of them washed up alive on a Northland beach.

And finally...

A Big Mac, as seen on Fair Go. Source: 1 NEWS

Does fast food ever look how it appears in the ads? Do those perfectly stacked burgers and glossy, abundant pizzas exist anywhere in reality?

The Fair Go team hopped in the car and hit the drive thru on last night’s show to find out.

You can watch that lunchtime jaunt – and see their scores for real-life fast food presentation - here