Morning Briefing Nov 20: Govt weighs up new mandatory measures in Covid fight

With Auckland’s new mask mandate getting off to a smooth start yesterday, attention is now turning to the NZ COVID Tracer app.

A concertgoer is seen using the NZ COVID Tracer app. Source: Getty

The Government is looking at making use of the app compulsory in high risk areas, with a decision expected as soon as next week. 

But the technology isn’t working for everyone, with some Android phone users saying they’ve experienced ongoing issues with the app.

They report the app is glitching and, in some cases, deleting their contact tracing entries. The Ministry of Health says it’s aware of the issue and has developed a fix for it, however affected users must email them directly to access it. 

Meanwhile, health officials have explained why they didn’t warn the public about a recent Covid-19 case visiting an Auckland spa. They say places where all contacts can be identified and contacted are not usually communicated publicly.

And in Covid-related news overseas, Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi is calling for calm after the island nation appeared to record its first case of the virus.

A recently returned sailor tested positive for Covid-19 before returning two negative results. He’s being kept in isolation in hospital and will have another test in a few days. 

The US also reached a grim new milestone, with the country’s Covid-19 death toll surpassing 250,000.

The Guardian reports a leaked internal White House taskforce report is warning of “further deterioration” in the spread of the virus there and that “current mitigation efforts are inadequate”.

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Pike River families call for change

The Pike River families have marked the 10-year anniversary of the mine’s deadly explosion by calling for strengthened workplace laws.

Sonya Rockhouse, who lost her son in the tragedy, says the families "don’t want our men to die in vain and [have] nothing come out of it".

Parliament held a commemorative service yesterday where the names of the 29 men who lost their lives were read aloud.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also spoke, telling the victims’ families “New Zealand stands with you and the Pike 29”. She added that the legacy families wanted “means ensuring all New Zealand workplaces are safe”.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry into the explosion found several safety errors within the mine, but to date, no one has been held accountable for what happened. 

BNZ to close branches

Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) yesterday confirmed it plans to close down 38 branches around the country by mid-2021. Some branches will be closing as soon as next month.

The bank says Covid-19 has accelerated trends they’ve been seeing for some time, with most banking now done online. 

News of the closures has been greeted with anger in affected towns.

Thames-Coromandel District Mayor Sandra Goudie told RNZ shutting down the Coromandel branch is “incredibly disappointing” given they have one of the highest populations of over 65s in New Zealand.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan told the Otago Daily Times the branch closures will create further difficulties for the elderly and those in financially challenging situations.   

You can find the full list of which branches are closing – and when – here

Australian soldiers accused of murder

Australian soldiers stand accused of murdering dozens of people in Afghanistan and treating prisoners inhumanely.

The damning findings were outlined yesterday following a four-year inquiry into alleged war crimes by Australian special forces.

The Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has found there’s credible evidence of 23 incidents in which a total of 39 Afghan nationals were unlawfully killed. 

The ADF is now recommending Australia's Federal Police investigate 19 people over the alleged war crimes.

Team NZ unveil new boat

Team New Zealand unveiled their second AC75 boat late yesterday, christening Te Rehutai in the first step of what they hope will be another successful America’s Cup campaign.

When looking at Te Rehutai from the front, a significantly different hull shape to that of their first boat is clear.

Team NZ designer Dan Bernasconi told 1 NEWS the shape is about balancing acceleration in the water and aerodynamics in the air.

TVNZ’s Sunday programme has had exclusive behind-the-scenes access to Team NZ as they prepare for their Cup campaign. That story airs this Sunday at 7.30pm on TVNZ 1.

Other news of note this morning: 

- There have been more promising results on the Covid vaccine front, with the Oxford candidate showing a strong response in the elderly.

- US President Donald Trump is now targeting obscure election boards in his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s election victory. 

- The Government is allocating $164 million in funding for new classrooms and school upgrades, which it expects will create 3000 jobs.

- Winston Peters has made his first public appearance since NZ First’s loss on election night.

- Internal Affairs has issued a warning over a package delivery scam doing the rounds.

- Actress Blake Lively has publicly praised a "heroic" Kiwi entrepreneur after he helped donate hundreds of thousands of nappies, toys and PPE to the Covid-stricken US.

- We all know you can’t beat Wellington on a good day – it’s just a shame there haven’t been many of them this November.

- And speaking of November rain, Guns N' Roses have announced they will play two New Zealand shows late next year. But if that doesn’t float your boat, The Wiggles are touring here next year, too.

And finally...

Chris Parker and Hilary Barry sing along to The Sound of Music. Source: Seven Sharp

What’s going on in this picture, you ask? Just a couple of people living their best lives, that’s what.

A Sound of Music event caught the eye of Seven Sharp’s Hilary Barry this week, so she decided to warm up the vocal cords and join host Chris Parker for a singalong ahead of tomorrow’s main event.

Parker reckons it’s the perfect tonic ahead of the festive season and is encouraging Aucklanders to cut up their curtains and become a von Trapp for the night.