Winston Peters versus genomic tracing

From last night Winston Peters announced on Australia’s ABC that he had been informed by a “usually very reliable” journalist that the Auckland Covid outbreak was linked to a Covid quarantine facility – see Winston grandstanding, election campaign – but dumping on Government Covid quarantine.

Quarantine and isolation facilities are obvious potential sources of the spreading virus as they have been the only known locations of Covid cases for weeks if not months, so the claim could easily be correct and unsurprising.

What is remarkable is that a journalist would pass this story on to a politician who desperate for attention to try to save his political career and his party.

Usually stories are passed from politicians to journalists. This being reversed suggests the possibility a journalist is trying to help Peters and the NZ First election campaign.

Also of major interest is why the Deputy Prime Minister is grandstanding via Australian media and not working with the Government he is supposed to still be a significant part of. Presumably Peters and other NZ First ministers will be involved in the Cabinet meeting today that will make a decision of Covid lockdown levels.

And there is a scientific query over the claim.

NZ Herald – Genomic tracing used to find source of latest outbreak

Dunedin scientist Jemma Geoghegan says four Covid-19 cases at the centre of the latest outbreak in NZ – at this stage at least – do not seem to be linked to earlier cases in managed isolation or quarantine facilities.

That appears to contradict Peters’ claim.

Dr Geoghegan is using genomic tracing technology to try to solve the riddle of how the four Auckland family members became infected with Covid-19.

It was hard to be definitive, but the viral genomes seemed to be linked with genomes from English data bases on the Sars-cov-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, and checks were continuing with Australian viral genomes.

“By comparing the virus genomes from these cases to those from both the quarantine facilities and the global population, we can determine their likely origin and how long they have been circulating in the community.”

Peters’ source may turn out to be correct, either through being well informed or guessing the most likely source of the outbreak, but he seems to be working against the Government and contrary to current science.

At least Winston’s grandstanding may force the Government or Ministry of Health to address his claims and give us a bit more information.

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33 Comments

  1. John J Harrison

     /  14th August 2020

    Great, open division within an appalling administration.
    Ardern will not be pleased.

    Reply
  2. Reply
  3. I wonder if those who have criticised Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee for scaremongering and promoting assertions without evidence will do similar with Peters.

    Reply
    • Maggy Wassilieff

       /  14th August 2020

      I very much doubt that Peters will be subject to the same media hit jobs that they’ve carried out on National Party Politicians.

      If the media folks were doing their job impartially, they would have been raising the same questions that the Nats were about adequacy of PPE, integrity of Quarantine, availability of testing equipment, availability of flu vaccine, competence of Min of Health, etc.

      Reply
  4. FarmerPete

     /  14th August 2020

    Since the govt (Ardern and Bloomfield) misled the country over masks early in the first breakout I have found it hard to trust their pronouncements. Border and quarantine bungling has not helped. The assurances given over the recent outbreaks have not inspired confidence. I have been surprised by the growing disapproval of the governments performance amongst ordinary people I have met.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  14th August 2020

      ‘ amongst ordinary people I have met.’….who do you usually associate with?

      Extraordinary people perhaps….or…cows!

      Reply
  5. FarmerPete

     /  14th August 2020

    It seems you like to play the dipstick! What do you think it means? Come on now, think about it. You might get to understand what was said and respond to that rather than distracting etc.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  14th August 2020

      I think it means …. You…….’ have been surprised by the growing disapproval of the governments performance amongst ordinary people I have met.’

      I’m surprised that you’re…surprised.

      Reply
  6. FarmerPete

     /  14th August 2020

    Oops, that was meant for Blazer!

    Reply
    • Fight4nz

       /  14th August 2020

      Glad you cleared that up. It is just about what my word for word response to your post would be, so it was confusing.

      Reply
  7. Duker

     /  14th August 2020

    “Usually stories are passed from politicians to journalists. ”

    Thats a preposterous claim to assume its only a one way street Journalists have many many sources and gossip about what they are saying is a two way street. Journalists pass information to each other as well.
    The recent court case involving Peters showed he received information from a journalist to say that a story about his paymentswas doing the rounds.

    “What is remarkable is that a journalist would pass this story on to a politician who desperate is desperate for attention to try to save his political career and his party.”
    That could equally be Collins . Its election time , and electioneering is rife. So is the extreme vetting anything Peters says …far more than other politicians, 2 posts here about the same story

    Reply
    • I didn’t assume “assume its only a one way street” and that’s clear from what you’ve quoted. ‘Usually’ is nothing like ‘only’.

      This isn’t about Collins, it’s about Peters who is Deputy Prime Minister and supposedly one of the most senior people in Government, so that has more significance than opposition MPs trying to make some noise.

      “So is the things he does – why is that?

      ‘far more than other politicians’ – there you go exaggerating again. I often do posts that follow up on previous posts with more up to date information, especially from previous days. And I may be more inclined to do more posts than fewer when someone whines about what I post. Maybe that’s what you really want.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  14th August 2020

        Im not suggesting you cant write what you want , but you have to admit Peters gets special attention from your ‘critical gaze’….. Im just pointing that out and some of the claims you mention arent strong enough to base a ( new) story around
        1) Journalist passing information to Peters
        2) Quarantine breach is most likely source

        we do know this from the Australian news and genome analysis
        “Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton has previously revealed that genomic sequencing carried out by Melbourne’s Doherty Institute shows a significant proportion, if not all of Victoria’s second-wave cases, might be traceable back to breaches in hotel quarantine.
        “Clearly there has been a failure in this program,” Professor Sutton said in July.”
        https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/patient-zero-for-victoria-s-second-wave-was-not-a-security-guard-20200813-p55li3.html

        Its hardly unusual to say this at all… and a follow up based on twitter today suggests its ‘way out there information’
        Something about “genomes seemed to be linked with genomes from English data bases ” seems weird diversion…. it still has to come via the border, that viris traveled with a person from England DOESNT meant it cant be a quarantine breach, once that person was held in a hotel here.

        Peters head of a Separate party , he doesnt need the OK from Jacinda like a labour Minister does. The coalition agreement specified that arrangement in general..the reasons were to show NZF is NOT ‘labours poodle’…. and if he said ” Covid tracing announcements are only made by Hipkins and Bloomfield’… there would be stories that Peters is muzzled and a poodle.

        Reply
        • The key additional information was significant additional information:

          Dunedin scientist Jemma Geoghegan says four Covid-19 cases at the centre of the latest outbreak in NZ – at this stage at least – do not seem to be linked to earlier cases in managed isolation or quarantine facilities.

          Brownlee has (rightly in my opinion) been strongly criticised for his insinuations yet you seem to be full of excuses for Peters who has made a claim that scientists and Government ministers and spokespeople have said there is no evidence of.

          Peters has a long and prolific history of making claims and accusations without fronting up with proof. He has done it again here yet you seem to think criticism of him is somehow unfair or unjustified. You seem be very critical of parties and politicians you don’t like, and very forgiving (with excuses and diversions) for politicians and parties you support.

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  14th August 2020

            It doesnt contradict Peters claim at all
            In the main story also said this from the researcher
            “Dr Geoghegan is using genomic tracing technology to try to solve the riddle of how the four Auckland family members became infected with Covid-19.
            It was hard to be definitive, but the viral genomes seemed to be linked with genomes from English data bases on the Sars-cov-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, and checks were continuing with Australian viral genomes.”
            Dr Geoghegan is talking about the ‘overseas origin’ not how it got into the NZ

            Anybody with a virus from England or Australia HAD to arrive via the border and quarantine,
            The story doesnt refute Peters claims at all . Only you do, which you can , but not with the evidence you refer to.

            This newsroom story also quoting Geoghegan fleshes that out
            “Presumably the new cases came from managed isolation facilities and it hasn’t been circulating in New Zealand. Genomics can determine which quarantine facility it came from, likely the source of that infection, when that transmission occurred and how long it’s been circulating for,” Geoghegan said.
            https://www.newsroom.co.nz/how-genomics-will-help-us-track-covid-19

            The first sentence …’presumably the new cases came from managed isolation’ which is a quote from Dr Geoghegan.

            Just as the rush to provide information about covid has some false information out there, or some true information that is initally called false
            “The Ramen Shop in Newtown posted on social media at 1pm on Friday saying a member of the regional public health team had contacted them to inform them a person with Covid-19 visited their store last Wednesday between 5.30-7pm.
            At Friday’s 1pm press conference, Minister of Health Chris Hipkins denied the information, stating it was a rumour.
            https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/122451728/ramen-shop-responds-to-backlash-after-announcing-a-customer-who-later-tested-positive-for-covid19-visited-store
            It was true.

            The rush to find fault with Peters fairly innocuous claims is also making claims that arent quite the full story. I hope you can accept that was the case.

            Reply
            • Ardern and Bloomfield have again confirmed that there is no apparent link between their outbreak and quarantine facilities. There has been zero support for what Peters has claimed.

              So it’s fair to ask where the supposedly trusted journalist (who appears to have stayed silent) got their information from.

              And it’s fair to hold the deputy prime Minister to account for internationally floating a claim that has no supporting evidence.

              My guess is that peters took a punt on making a link that would later be supported by evidence. if so that’s it would be very bad form for a senior Government minister.

            • 1 news have just covered it. Peters claimed he would be proven right by 2 pm today. No proof has surfaced. Looks like he gambled and lost again.

            • Duker

               /  14th August 2020

              “Presumably the new cases came from managed isolation facilities and it hasn’t been circulating in New Zealand. Genomics can detect…”
              Said Dr Geoheghan the resercher who is leading the lab doing all the genome testing.
              Why are you contradicting the quote of the scientist involved.
              All that hasn’t been shown is the EXACT strain involved..

              I can bet a 100% once the testing is complete Peters will be shown right , as it’s what Geoeghegan presumes as well

            • Peters has already proven to have made claims that haven’t stacked up.

              Anyone can guess where the mostly likely source of the outbreak is.

              Only Peters claimed in international media something as a fact from a ‘reliable’ source and that he would be proven right by 2 pm today. Hipkins, Bloomfield and Ardern have all said his claim was baseless.

  8. John J Harrison

     /  14th August 2020

    Pete, well color me surprised !
    What the hell did you expect ?

    Reply
  9. Ardern said Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters’ claims on Australian television that the cluster can be linked to a breach in quarantine has not been reflected in the evidence.

    “The evidence is telling us at the moment that none of the genome testing that’s been carried out to date … can currently be linked back to the cases we have, and so that’s the evidence have and so that is what I will be basing all our decisions and assumptions around.”

    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/live-cabinet-agrees-maintain-our-current-settings-additional-12-days-pm

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  14th August 2020

      “none of the genome testing that’s been carried out to date … can currently be linked back to the cases we have”
      That is is NOT a dormant strain that has been in the country from the last clusters…
      If it’s a new strainthen it’s come into the country how ?

      Reply
      • I don’t know. The Government doesn’t know. The Ministry of Health doesn’t know. At it seems almost certain Peters doesn’t know.

        I think he gambled on a guess and lost, which is particularly ironic given the same day he and NZ First were promoting themselves as putting health first, before politics.

        Reply
  10. Reply
    • Duker

       /  14th August 2020

      Whos Maiki Sherman , does she work in the lab doing the genome tracing?

      The lead resercher is quoted as saying she “presumes” it came from a quarantine breach..
      The evidence released so far is that is is no connection to previous clusters..
      Which leaves the most likely way it arrived in NZ via what method ?

      Reply
      • ‘Most likely’ is irrelevant.

        Peters claimed something that appears to have been bullshit, based on a hunch, or at least not backed by evidence. He didn’t even say he had evidence, just that a journalist he seemed to trust told him. Hearsay with no substance.

        You’re the only person I’ve seen trying to defend him. I presume you aren’t the him or the ‘journalist’.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  15th August 2020

          The lead researcher in the lab doing the genome tracing says the same as Peters is my evidence.
          So that reef fish in media are piling on Peters, nothing new. Maiki Sherman is political editor Maori TV.
          If the lab researcher hadnt backed it up I wouldnt be saying this either. But Maiki is your idea of authoritative…….hmmm
          Four possibilities
          Came from existing strains circulating…ruled out so far
          Came from new strain via breach of Quarantine…yet to be determined but ‘presumably’ authoritative person has said.
          Frozen food or some other highly unlikely…
          Questions Brownlee hasnt yet thought about….

          Reply
          • Duker

             /  15th August 2020

            This is what Ardern has said about current outbreak – index patient so far is another worker not the family who were first to get tested

            “The sequence of the virus from the current outbreak is not the same as the sequences from community cases in our first original outbreak in New Zealand. This suggests it is not a case of the virus being dormant or of a burning ember in our community, it appears to be new to New Zealand.”
            New to the country points to the “border” and ‘the border’ points to quarantine breach. It may be a false negative test for someone who was infected already or it may yet another slip up via hotel staff etc

            https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/300082948/coronavirus-earliest-known-case-in-covid19-cluster-was-americold-employee

            Reply
        • NeoPundit

           /  15th August 2020

          “Usually stories are passed from politicians to journalists. This being reversed suggests the possibility a journalist is trying to help Peters and the NZ First election campaign.”

          … or they knew that the story would likely be buried by the usual channels.

          Given the economic and social costs of the lockdown, incompetence is a significant liability around election time.

          Reply
  11. david in aus

     /  15th August 2020

    There is a couple of interpretations on the lack of a genomic link to previous known cases.

    1. The source was not through people from the airport. There have been some suggestions of frozen food as the source. This is very unlikely, no organisation has demonstrated spread through this route.

    2. There was a lacking of testing of people in contact with travellers, including those travelers in transit. That index case was missed due to the lack of thoroughness and testing. This is the most probable.

    Reply
    • david in aus

       /  15th August 2020

      You may never know the exact index case of the latest outbreak, as in the case in Wuhan.

      But what Winston says is the most likely scenario. That being said, what kind of Deputy Prime Minister makes comments like that.

      What a team player.

      Reply

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