Morning Briefing Sept 22: Auckland waits while rest of NZ begins new Level 1

Most Kiwis wake to the ease of Alert Level 1 again, 1 NEWS' Vote Compass reveals the most likeable politicians, and Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins prepare for the first leaders' debate.

People make their way into the Wellington CBD. Source: Getty

Everyone outside Auckland is waking up in Alert Level 1 this morning as the Government yesterday loosened Covid-19 restrictions.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also announced that with Covid-19 “under control” and no new cases in the country yesterday, Auckland would move from Level 2.5 to 2 tomorrow at 11.59pm.

It means a sigh of relief for businesses, tourism operators and churches with gathering limits in the city being raised from 10 to 100.

It’s also welcome news for All Blacks fans, with the stars able to play in front of a packed crowd in Wellington next month.

Auckland’s alert levels will be reviewed on October 5. 

However, while it’s good news for many, the loosening of restrictions is causing alarm for some. One modelling expert is urging Kiwis not to fall back into the relaxed mindset of New Zealand's 102-day period free of Covid-19.

And a leading scientist says community transmission remains a risk in Auckland and is reminding everyone to remain vigilant. 

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Bloomfield commends case

Speaking of vigilance, a man who tested positive for Covid-19 days after leaving a managed isolation facility "should be commended" for seeking medical advice quickly when he became unwell, according to Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

The man, who arrived from India, tested negative twice in managed isolation before he fell ill.

Auckland microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles also said the case highlights the need to keep tracking those who have been through managed isolation and quarantine. 

Politicians get personality test

Dancing with the Stars fandom and euthanasia supporters have spoken. While it may come as a surprise to some, ACT leader David Seymour has been ranked as New Zealand’s second most likeable politician behind Jacinda Ardern, who streaked ahead in TVNZ’s Vote Compass.

More than 218,000 participants ranked each of the party leaders on a scale of zero to 10, with zero being not likeable at all and 10 being very likeable.

National leader Judith Collins came in at third place, followed by Greens co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw, then New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. You can read the full rankings here

However, it’s not just about the personality.

Yesterday, National released its technology policy, outlining that if elected it would create a Minister of Technology position.

The party’s plan also aims to create at least 100,000 high-paying, future-proofed tech jobs and will target students at low-decile schools with 1000 tertiary scholarships a year in science.

Meanwhile, ACT released a tourism policy which would open New Zealand's borders to rich tourists who could pay to use privately run isolation facilities.

Leader David Seymour said the plan would also consider allowing shorter quarantine times for "lower risk" countries and setting up a joint response taskforce with the business community. 

Issues that matter

This election, 1 NEWS is looking at the issues that matter to Kiwis, with yesterday being all about border control. We looked into how the experts want the next Government to manage New Zealand’s borders and heard about the policy plans for each party, which you can find here.

Tonight, 1 NEWS is also delivering a snapshot of where the parties are at less than four weeks out from the 2020 election with the release of a new poll.

And later, TVNZ’s John Campbell will host the first leaders’ debate between Labour’s Jacinda Ardern and National’s Judith Collins at 7pm. You can watch it on TVNZ 1 or stream it at 

Harbour Bridge havoc continues

Work is set to begin on the repair of Auckland’s Harbour Bridge tonight.

Southbound lanes to the CBD will be shut as a temporary fix is installed. However, Jacinda Ardern said a permanent fix was still “weeks away from installation”.

In the meantime, and with it being World Car Free day today, Auckland commuters are being encouraged to jump on public transport to ease congestion around the city. It comes after streets in the Ponsonby area become clogged with people using alternate routes yesterday. 

Other news of note this morning:

- A small business owner who paid back his wage subsidy is imploring big businesses to follow his lead.

- New Zealand has entered a legally binding agreement for the option to purchase vaccines for up to 50 per cent of the population, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced.

- National candidate Simon Bridges isn't feeling too red-faced after handing out piles of flyers that had his name spelled wrong.

- It's been an emotional day for the All Blacks as they met with survivors and family members of victims of the Whakaari/ White Island disaster in Whakatāne.

- Destructive winds and heavy rain are forecast to batter the South Island and lower North Island today, as a stormy front blasts through.

- And Schitt's Creek, the little Canadian show about a fish-out-of-water family, has made history at the Emmy Awards with a comedy awards sweep. 

Hazel Howell and Rosie the Bear Source: Seven Sharp

And finally...

Sometimes it's the smallest things which can be the most heartbreaking, like when a child loses a much-loved blanket or teddy.

So, when nine-year-old Hazel Howell lost Rosie the Bear at Wellington Airport it started as two worried parents desperately searching for the toy, but it soon developed into a nationwide bear hunt.

Were they ever reunited? Find out how they got on here