Morning Briefing Oct 21: Hotel contends with 'unusual' outbreak

More foreign fishermen are expected to arrive into the country over the next two weeks despite a spate of cases at a facility in Christchurch.

Eleven cases of Covid-19 were confirmed at the Sudima Hotel yesterday where 240 fishermen from Russia and Ukraine are isolating. Another 14 cases are under investigation

Epidemiologist Michael Baker says it’s unusual to see this many cases at once. He says although the positive cases are low risk to the public, every case that lands in New Zealand does increase the chance of Covid-19 getting out into the community.

He believes authorities need to “look very systematically at how to reduce that risk”.

The large group of fishery workers arrived on a flight collectively paid for by Independent Fisheries, Sealord and Maruha Nichiro to work on the companies' fishing vessels.

They were granted border exemptions as critical workers given experienced fishing crews are in short supply in New Zealand. 

More information about the outbreak is due to be released today. 

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Is complacency setting in?

Meanwhile, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is “increasingly confident” the country’s newest community case of Covid-19 is contained.

However, there are concerns complacency is creeping back in New Zealand’s fight against the virus. 

Auckland’s community testing centres have been scaled right back with people finding it difficult to get a test at the weekends.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins is investigating the matter, saying testing must remain accessible. 

And one of the country’s top Covid-19 modellers is pleading with businesses to encourage the use of the Covid Tracer app.

Professor Shaun Hendy says he’s concerned people are becoming more relaxed about scanning the QR codes and says businesses could take a little more responsibility in prompting customers to do so.

Contrasting moods at Beehive

The major political parties held their first post-election caucus meetings at Parliament yesterday.

As Labour’s MPs met, leader Jacinda Ardern confirmed she will negotiate with the Greens before deciding on the make-up of her new government, with any outcome from those talks revealed next week. 

Meanwhile, National put on a show of unity following its caucus meeting as they all filed in behind their leader.

Judith Collins says the party will launch a review into their previous term in Opposition and their disastrous election campaign, however she suggested National’s poor showing in rural areas at the weekend was due to tactical voting by farmers to keep the Greens from power.

National also bid farewell to many MPs during their caucus meeting with emotions running high beforehand.

MP Melissa Lee teared up while talking about her departing colleagues – but had angry words for unnamed MPs who still appear to be leaking information to media. 

Travel bubbles shift again

South Australia has officially joined the trans-Tasman travel bubble after 12 Kiwis recently arrived in the state on domestic flights.

It comes as Jacinda Ardern says Kiwi travellers who have taken advantage of Australia’s lax internal borders are a matter for Australian officials to deal with.

However, she’s encouraged New Zealanders to check the bubble rules before travelling – and reminded them they still need to quarantine when they return. 

Meanwhile, RNZ reports the negotiations to form a travel bubble with the Cook Islands are back to square one after New Zealand’s recent case of community transmission of Covid-19.  

Schools in spotlight

The country’s education system made several headlines yesterday.

There was some good news for the sector with new data showing many Kiwi teachers are returning to the country, which could help with long-running teacher shortages.

RNZ also reported a plan to introduce or amend enrolment zones in Auckland could have a major impact on where thousands of children go to school. 

And school attendance was on the agenda as Secretary for Education Iona Holsted told TVNZ’s Breakfast a “reset” of the expectations on parents was needed to improve truancy rates.

However, Breakfast newsreader Indira Stewart responded, saying, from her lived experience, simply asking struggling families to prioritise their children’s school attendance isn’t always realistic.

Google in landmark lawsuit 

US regulators have filed a major lawsuit against Google in what the New York Times is labelling the “most significant legal challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation”.

The US Justice Department claims Google has preserved a monopoly over search and search advertising and a break-up of the company could be required.

Google says the lawsuit is "deeply flawed".

Other news of note this morning:

- An investigation is underway into what started a fatal house fire in the Auckland suburb of Cockle Bay last night.  

- Police are looking into a flood of complaints on social media that accuse several Wellington musicians of sexual assault.

- The Kaikohe community has dug deep to pay for what it believes is a simple solution to homelessness in the north.

- Ghislaine Maxwell has lost her bid to keep her Jeffrey Epstein testimony secret.

- Fashion designer Trelise Cooper says her entire spring and summer collections – around 1800 garments – have been stolen from her styling room.

- And actor Jeff Bridges is being treated for lymphoma – but says his prognosis is good.

And finally... 

An Elvis impersonator at 'Elvis Downunder'. Source: 1 NEWS

The weekend saw a range of competitions take place, like the general election, Bathurst and the Bledisloe Cup.

But not to be outdone, Upper Hutt hosted a grand competition of its own: the long-running Elvis Downunder, a search for the country’s best Elvis impersonator.

The contest almost didn’t happen this year due to that devil in disguise, Covid-19, but Seven Sharp’s Julian Lee finally got to put on his blue suede shoes to check it all out.