Morning Briefing May 6: Officials track NSW case while Fiji faces 'worst case scenario'

NZ officials keep their eye on a new Covid case in NSW, Fiji puts a hospital in lockdown as it braces for its 'worst case scenario', and a pay freeze outrages public servants.

Health officials in New South Wales are scrambling to find the source of a new community case of Covid-19 with no known link to the border.

The man, who tested positive for the virus in Sydney, has visited nearly 20 different locations while infectious.

As health officials across the Tasman await genome sequencing results, New Zealand’s Ministry of Health isn’t recommending any changes to the travel bubble at this stage. They say anyone in New Zealand who has been to any locations of interest should contact Healthline, isolate and get a Covid test. 

Meanwhile, Fiji is facing its "worst case scenario" as a critically ill Covid-19 patient, who caught the virus from an unknown source, is feared to have been infectious for some time.

The man is in intensive care at Lautoka Hospital, which has now been locked down with around 400 staff and patients quarantined inside.

Secretary of Health Dr James Fong says wards are being converted into intensive care units as he now expects cases to increase in numbers and severity. 

There’s also concern in other countries about the double mutant variant of the virus that has been running rampant in India.

The variant, named B.1.617, has been detected in more countries, including Singapore, where the government is introducing tighter restrictions.

It comes as the UK pledges more money to fast-track vaccines that fight new Covid variants. 

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Recovery mission resumes

Rescue teams will resume efforts to recover the bodies of two climbers on Taranaki Maunga this morning.

The teams worked all day yesterday in an attempt to recover the bodies near the summit, but the recovery operation was called off at 5pm due to dangerous weather conditions.

A rāhui has been placed on all access routes to the summit. The rāhui will be reviewed in a week.

Pay freeze for public servants

Public sector workers earning more than $60,000 have been told a pay rise is off the cards for the next three years.

The Government says the pay freeze is due to Covid-19, which has upset the many public workers who’ve been on the front line through New Zealand’s lockdowns. 

Public Service Association officials say the workers they represent feel "betrayed" by the move, while the Police Association labelled it an "unacceptable bombshell".

Unions are also worried the pay freeze will see more doctors and nurses moving to Australia

Warning over borrowing

People looking for a home loan may find it tougher after the Reserve Bank signalled a possible further clampdown on lending.

The central bank says it’s worried about how much debt people are getting into as the official cash rate remains at 0.25 per cent.

The newly released six-monthly financial stability report says low interest rates have led to increased risk-taking, which makes new home loan borrowers more vulnerable to any rise in rates or a loss in income.

Meanwhile, new figures show the unemployment rate has fallen again to 4.7 per cent during the last quarter.

However, the rate for Māori, Pacific Islanders and young people is at least double that, which the Council of Trade Unions says highlights inequities in the economy and an uneven recovery.

The underutilisation rate, representing people who aren’t working as many hours as they’d like, has also increased. 

Community rejoices as boy found

Three-year-old Axle Hambleyn was back home last night after going missing for 21 hours in the rural community of Mangatuna, near Tolaga Bay.

His family and the police have both expressed their amazement the boy was able to survive a night on his own in rugged terrain in six-degree weather, clothed in just a nappy, t-shirt and gumboots. 

The man who found Axle says it was a “very emotional” moment, as he described hearing the boy calling out for his mother.

There were more tears and applause from the search and rescue teams as Axle was finally reunited with his family yesterday.

Axle’s father told RNZ he had asked the boy what he had done all night.

“He said he walked a lot ... and he slept with some bunny rabbits."

Facebook still not friends with Trump

Former US President Donald Trump will remain banned from Facebook after the social network’s oversight board decided to uphold his suspension.

However, the board did criticise the permanent nature of the ban and says Facebook must revisit the move in six months.

Trump has used his new webpage, which some have described as a “glorified blog”, to say the decision is a “total disgrace”.

Other news of note this morning:

- Kiwi cricketers in India are anxiously awaiting flights out of the country following the IPL's suspension - but when and how that will be carried out remains to be seen.

- Derek Chauvin, the former US police officer convicted of killing George Floyd, has requested a new trial.

- New Zealand's Parliament has agreed it’s "gravely concerned about the severe human rights abuses taking place against Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities" in Xinjiang, China. You can read what each of the parties said about the motion here

- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has "expressed serious concerns" to Speaker Trevor Mallard over his behaviour in the House on Tuesday night.

- A group of Queen Street landlords and businesses are taking legal action to stop further work to make Auckland's main commercial street more pedestrian-friendly.

- Black Fern Chelsea Alley has penned an emotional reflection on last week’s historic Super Rugby women’s match, opening up about the toll of being a semi-professional women’s rugby player.

- Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is releasing her first children’s book.

- And Melbourne police are hunting for a man dubbed the "hamburglar” after he broke into a butcher shop for a midnight feast. 

And finally...

Dancing Queen cupcakes, as baked by comedian Sera Devcich. Source: 1 NEWS

Re: is back with another episode of Comedians Cook.

This time, Sera Devcich is making Dancing Queen Cupcakes for her daughter’s shared lunch at school. Devcich says she’s had 12 years of shared lunches and is yet to have a success. So, will this finally be the triumphant contribution? 

In a word, no