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Morning Briefing Oct 30: NZ tests new Covid tools as virus tightens grip in Europe

As two of Europe’s biggest economies, France and Germany, once again turn to lockdowns to control the rampant spread of Covid-19 across the continent, New Zealand is looking at new ways to keep future outbreaks at bay on this side of the world.

Source: 1 NEWS

The news is grim in Europe as Germany enters a partial nationwide lockdown for November and France enforces even stricter measures with half of the country’s ICU beds already filled with Covid-19 patients.

The situation isn’t much better in England, where new research estimates nearly 100,000 people a day are catching the virus with the number of infections doubling every nine days there.

But in New Zealand, authorities are testing what could be the next step in fighting Covid-19 here, with the launch of a trial of Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing cards in the Rotorua suburb of Ngongotahā.

Between 500 and 1500 people are being sought to participate as authorities look to see if the cards, which automatically register close contacts, could be more effective than New Zealand’s current tracing system.

Early trials in May showed the technology struggled in places like cafes and at parties.

New Zealand’s Covid testing is also back in the spotlight, with new modelling published in the NZ Medical Journal finding more than 5500 tests are needed each day to pick up any new imported cases of the virus.

The study found that this testing also needs to be more targeted to catch any border incursions. 

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Referendum results nigh

Voters will get the preliminary results of the two referendums today, nearly a fortnight after casting their ballots.

Numbers announced at 2pm today will reveal whether Kiwis support the End of Life Choice Act and the legalisation of cannabis. The final results will be released next week after special votes are included. 

Meanwhile, the Green Party is hoping to announce an agreement with Labour on Sunday.

Talks between the two parties about a potential partnership in Government are set to conclude today, at which point the Greens will take any agreement to the party’s delegates. 

Parties clash over Commission

The Green Party was also butting heads with ACT yesterday, following the release of a Human Rights Commission report that laid out 39 issues for the Government to act on.

ACT accused the Commission of pursuing a left-wing manifesto and said it “must be abolished”.

ACT leader David Seymour added the organisation had “become a highly-politicised, left-wing organisation, and when it comes to actually helping people with human rights, it doesn’t help at all”.

The Green Party labelled ACT’s stance as “outrageous”.

MP Golriz Ghahraman came out against Seymour’s statement, saying it was “bizarre for a political party that claims to be about freedom to suddenly want to abolish the Human Rights Commission - the body entrusted with protecting of all our rights and freedoms".

NZ’s 'elevated' cyclone risk 

NIWA says warmer sea temperatures in the Tasman could put New Zealand at risk of more tropical cyclone activity this year.

The organisation says sea surface temperatures this year are warmer in 2020 than they were three years ago in 2017, when New Zealand's coastal water "experienced an unprecedented marine heatwave".

NIWA says those higher temperatures could mean more energy to power cyclones. 

The 2017-18 season produced Cyclones Gita and Fehi, which impacted New Zealanders and their insurance claims to the tune of $65 million. 

US host's bizarre rant

The United States might still be battling a crippling outbreak of the coronavirus, but one Fox News host was more interested in New Zealand’s “terrifying new” Covid-19 measures this week.

Presenter Laura Ingraham suggested New Zealand’s managed isolation facilities were “quarantine camps” where Kiwis go to throw away their “personal freedom”.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw summed up the mood of the nation when he labelled Ingraham’s comments as “complete nonsense”.

New Zealand recorded six new cases of Covid-19 in its managed isolation “quarantine camps” yesterday. The US has registered more than half a million cases of the virus over the past seven days.

Other news of note this morning:

- An attacker armed with a knife has killed three people inside a church in Nice, prompting the French government to raise its security alert status to its highest level.

- Twenty-six people have been arrested and $10 million in assets have been seized as part of a major police operation in Auckland.

- Auckland Council says 14 maunga will close in the evenings during Guy Fawkes week this year.

- CERT NZ has issued a warning over a new computer virus that’s affected nearly 1000 Kiwis so far.

- It’s been a significant week for five hapū in the western Bay of Plenty with the district council agreeing to hand back ownership of the eastern end of Matakana Island.

- And the country’s most beautiful towns and cities have been revealed in the annual Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards. 

And finally...

Seven Sharp reporter Mary-Jane Aggett hugs a cow. Source: 1 NEWS

Cow cuddling has become a big movement overseas as people look to soothe their anxieties by hugging a bovine.

Seven Sharp reporter Mary-Jane Aggett decided to give this new wellness trend a go - and found it so calming she brought some cows to the TVNZ building to share the experience with her co-workers.

So, if the stress is getting to you this weekend, New Zealand, don’t have a cow, man. Go hug one instead.