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Morning Briefing Oct 22: Health authorities scramble to find pub patrons

Visitors to a pub on Auckland's North Shore are being told to isolate and get tested for the coronavirus after a confirmed case of Covid-19 spent time there while infectious on Friday night.

The person who went to The Malt in Greenhithe and later became sick is a workplace contact of the port worker who tested positive for the virus on Saturday.

A pop-up community testing centre is being set up in Greenhithe today, with location details to be confirmed on the ARPHS website

It comes as New Zealand experiences its biggest surge in new Covid-19 cases in more than six months, with 25 more confirmed yesterday, most of them foreign fisherman in Christchurch's Sudima Airport Hotel.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker told Stuff the spike in cases and the new community transmission in Auckland show it’s time to consider enhancing border protections even further. 

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NZ’s dramatic drop in deaths

While Covid-19 has seen a spike in the number of people dying around the world, New Zealand is bucking that trend with a dramatic and unexpected drop in the number of weekly deaths – including accidental ones.

The country’s lockdowns, border closures, social distancing and stricter hygiene measures are being credited with the much lower death rates. 

In contrast, the US has reported nearly 300,000 more people dead than they would expect in a typical year, according to their Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two-thirds of those deaths are related to Covid-19. 

Meanwhile, managing increasingly limited cemetery space has sparked controversy in Wellington as the city’s council proposes reusable grave sites.

If approved, the scheme would allow plots to be rented for a limited number of years before remains are dug up and cremated or moved elsewhere.

Reusing plots is common in Europe but is considered inappropriate in some cultures, including Māori.

Surveys show people are split on the subject but there’s agreement a conversation needs to be had over New Zealand’s overcrowded cemeteries. 

Only biscuits on the table

Labour and the Greens have had their first day of official coalition talks, however Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said it was just Krispies on the negotiating table so far and that further discussions were lined up.

Party officials are due to meet with Labour again on Tuesday with any areas of cooperation between the two parties expected to be announced next week.

The Herald’s Audrey Young writes Labour holds all the cards in those negotiations and that the Green Party is “being forced to get realistic about what they might achieve” in their next term of office.

However, Newsroom’s David Williams writes Labour not seeking a coalition with the Greens might ultimately be good for the minor party

US election looms

With less than two weeks to go until the US election, President Donald Trump has reportedly walked out of an interview with CBS News’ 60 Minutes programme.

Sources say he was frustrated with questioning about the coronavirus, something he again claimed the US was “crushing” during a campaign rally yesterday. 

Trump is also preparing for his final debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden, however he’ll be doing so without his wife, Melania.

The first lady has announced she won’t be at the presidential debate as she’s still suffering from lingering coronavirus symptoms.

And as the election creeps ever closer, attention is turning to how the result will impact many thorny global situations. AP has rounded up the potential consequences in some of those geopolitical pressure points here.

Renters warned over ID

Renters are being urged to think twice about handing over ID documents after yet another privacy blunder from a rental website.

More than 100 people have had their passports and driver licences exposed in the breach with some details easily found through a simple Google image search.

The website in question is in the process of deleting the files, while renters are being told to be more critical of who they’re sharing sensitive documents with.

Other news of note this morning:

- South Australia is urgently seeking a reciprocal travel bubble agreement with New Zealand.

- Pope Francis has endorsed same-sex civil unions while being interviewed for a documentary.

- Wilson Parking is giving up hundreds of car parks it currently runs in Wellington as part of a settlement deal with the Commerce Commission.

- As businesses struggle with construction disruptions around Auckland’s City Rail Link, the project has taken a big step forward with the arrival of a $13.5 million tunnel-boring machine from China.

- Flight Centre says it’s closing 23 more stores due to the global impact of Covid-19.

- New research shows bottle-fed babies are consuming millions of microplastic particles in their milk.

- And an army of drones is being deployed to restore koala habitat following Australia’s devastating bushfires earlier this year. 

And finally...

A rare white tūī. Source: 1 NEWS

An extremely rare white tūī has been spotted within sight of Wellington's CBD.

Local photographer Sean Gillespie managed to capture the bird on camera while out wandering around Mt Victoria and took Seven Sharp back to the scene of the sighting this week.

What do you think the chances are of finding that rare bird in the same spot? Well, quite good, as it turns out.