Melbourne goes into level 4 lockdown

Covid has got out of control in Melbourne and Victoria, with record numbers of new cases and many hundreds of cases with no known source, meaning community transmission is happening on a significant scale.

Yesterday there were a record 723 new cases reported in Victoria. Total cases and total deaths in Australia have doubled in the last month, most of the increases in Victoria.

There are 760 ‘mystery’ cases, active cases where the source of the infection is not known.

The state government has now moved Melbourne into a drastic level 4 lockdown, and the wider state into a level 3 lockdown. a sttate of emergency has also been imposed.

ABC: Victoria has introduced a curfew and stage 4 coronavirus restrictions for Melbourne, and stage 3 restrictions for regional Victoria. Here’s what that means

Premier Daniel Andrews and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton have introduced a stricter set of rules designed to rein in coronavirus infections, which have been spreading disastrously over the past month.

Key changes:

From 6:00pm on Sunday, metropolitan Melbourne will come under stage four restrictions.

Melburnians will only be allowed to shop for food and necessary supplies within 5 kilometres of their home.

Exercise will be limited to one hour once per day, within 5km of home.A curfew will apply from 8:00pm to 5:00am each night.

From Thursday, regional Victoria will return to stage three “stay at home” restrictions, while Mitchell Shire will remain on stage three restrictions.

ABC: Police have been given greater powers under Victoria’s state of disaster. Here’s what that means

Six months after Victoria declared a state of disaster to deal with the summer’s fires, the dramatic legislation has again come into effect to deal with the “public health bushfire” of coronavirus.

It came into effect at 6:00pm on Sunday and can be in place for at least a month.

It gives police and emergency services much broader powers to enforce new coronavirus restrictions, including the Melbourne-wide curfew every night.

It also gives authorities the ability to suspend Acts of Parliament and take possession of properties.

Under the Act, the Emergency Services Minister can “control and restrict entry into, movement within and departure from the disaster area of any part of it”.

In this case, that means all of Victoria.

The Minister can also delegate the Emergency Management Commissioner — who is currently Andrew Crisp — “or any other person” any of her powers or functions.

This means police and other emergency services will get the power to enforce the new restrictions.

These measures have been announced to be in place for 6 weeks.

This is obviously bad news for Melbourne and Victoria, which has a population of about 6.3 million, a bit more than New Zealand.

What is happening in Victoria will impact on all of Australia, which travel restrictions in place.

It will also impact on New Zealand. Many of us have family living in Victoria. And a trans-Tasman travel bubble now looks a long way off.

Australian Covid statistics:

  • 17,923 total cases
  • 208 total deaths
  • 687 new cases in the last 24 hours
  • 408 hospitalised
  • 3,506 locally acquired cases in the last 7 days
  • 31 overseas acquired cases in the last 7 days

In New Zealand we continue to have a trickle of cases coming into the country at a similar level to overseas acquired cases in Australia. The obvious difference is the flood of locally acquired cases.

We have been successful here in containing Covid, partly by good management, partly by luck.

It is going to take an ongoing effort and months at least of isolation from thje world to keep Covid under control here.

What has happened in Victoria shows how quickly and easily it can get out of control.

Total COVID-19 cases and deaths by states and territories

This table shows the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths reported in each state and territory since 22 January 2020. State and territory totals reflect where a person has been tested and undergoing public health management, this may differ from their normal place of residence.

JurisdictionTotal confirmed casesNew cases in last 24 hoursDeaths
Australia17,923687208
ACT11303
NSW3,7841250
NT3300
QLD1,08516
SA45324
TAS229013
VIC11,557671123
WA66919

Source: Department of Health, States & Territories Report 2/8/2020

More Trump ignorance on Covid testing

Donald Trump has been again combined contradictory and ignorant claims about Covid testing with an attack on media.

The US has done more testing than any other country, but Israel, Russia, Singapore, UK, Denmark and a bunch of small countries have done more testing per head of population (US is 19th on the WorldInfo list).

Testing is a critical means of controlling Covid, but the raw number of tests doesn’t say much anyway. Here’s some percentages of other numbers

USA has:

  • 4.26% of the world population
  • 17.28% of Covid tests
  • 22.93% of Covid deaths
  • 26.45% of total cases
  • 28.48% of serious/critical cases
  • 37.63% of active cases

Those are numbers are only based on recorded statistics so won’t be 100%, but give an obvious indication that the US is struggling with Covid.

Testing matters, but the quality of testing, the timing of testing and the use of the results of the testing are more important than raw numbers.

Testing in the US showed that Covid was still widespread in the US when Trump and some states pushed for relaxing lockdowns. Covid got worse – deaths have been trending back upwards there through July, and this week were the highest since May.

Tests are important but it’s how you use the tests that matter.

Note that New Zealand is included and rates very well on these charts.

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New Zealand’s testing rate of 93,574 per million is much less than the US rate of 177,883 per million, but we have 4 deaths per million compared to the US rate of 475 so we don’t need to do as much testing.

Our testing peaked at over 10,000 per day in June – when we came out of lockdown and wanted to make sure Covid was under control – and is now peaking at 3,000 per day. We need to make sure we don’t have community transmission, but because fewer people have symptoms or concerns, fewer get tested.

Reuters: U.S. records over 25,000 coronavirus deaths in July

U.S. coronavirus deaths rose by over 25,000 in July and cases doubled in 19 states during the month, according to a Reuters tally, dealing a crushing blow to hopes of quickly reopening the economy.

The United States recorded 1.87 million new cases in July, bringing total infections to 4.5 million, for an increase of 69%. Deaths in July rose 20% to nearly 154,000 total.

The biggest increases in July were in Florida, with over 310,000 new cases, followed by California and Texas with about 260,000 each. All three states saw cases double in June.

Cases also more than doubled in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the tally.

The United States shattered single-day global records when it reported over 77,000 new cases on July 16. During July, 33 out of the 50 U.S. states had one-day record increases in cases and 19 set records for their rise in deaths in 24 hours, according to a Reuters tally.

We have virtually no restrictions because we have Covid under control here.

And Covid isn’t the only worrying statistic in the US.

The news that more states could be hard hit by the virus comes a day after the U.S. reported that gross domestic product collapsed at a 32.9% annualized rate in the second quarter, the nation’s worst economic performance since the Great Depression.

We may be able to keep Covid out of New Zealand, but it will be difficult to avoid the economic impact.

Odd tweets about testing doesn’t address the problems the US still face.

Vaccines are being fast tracked but at best it will be some time before they limit the Covid damage.

Reuters: U.S. makes deal for 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccine, deaths expected to rise

Two major drug companies will supply the U.S. government with 100 million doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, the Trump administration said on Friday, as the nation’s top health agency predicted that fatalities would rise in the coming weeks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Friday forecast between 168,000 and 182,000 total fatalities by August 22, predicting that deaths will rise fastest in Alabama, Kentucky, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Tennessee and Washington state.

The CDC also released a study that said COVID-19 had spread to nearly half the staff and campers at a sleep-away camp in Georgia over a week and a half ago.

The investigation demonstrated “that children of all ages are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection and, contrary to early reports, might play an important role in transmission.”

Coronavirus deaths in the United States are rising at their fastest rate since early June. Roughly one American died about every minute from COVID-19 on Wednesday.

Wisconsin joined 21 other states that have seen a surge in new cases.

The COVID-19 outbreak “is not in good control” in Wisconsin said Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health.

This isn’t fake news. Many US states are having very real problems with Covid.

While the president keeps fiddling with twitter his country burns.

Borrowdale judicial review of level 4 lockdown legality beginning

During the Covid level 4 lockdown Andrew Borrowdale initiated a judicial review, challenging the legality of the lockdown. This review will begin in the High Court in Wellington today.

Preliminary rulings:

BORROWDALE v DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF HEALTH [2020] NZCA 156 [8 May 2020]

The question this application begs is whether this Court should now limit
the available judicial steps to two (Court of Appeal, and perhaps Supreme Court) rather than three (High Court, Court of Appeal and perhaps Supreme Court). And behind that lies another question, which is whether we should thereby deny parties’ ordinary constitutional entitlement to a first appeal as of right (any appeal to the Supreme Court being by leave only). While leave might be anticipated, that is still a step this Court should be reluctant to take, especially where the issues are ones of such fundamental importance as these.

The application for transfer of the proceeding to the Court of Appeal, under s 59 of the Senior Courts Act 2016, is declined.

BORROWDALE v DIRECTOR-GENERAL OF HEALTH [2020] NZHC 1379 [18 June 2020]

The Auckland District Law Society Inc (ADLS), Criminal Bar Association of New Zealand Inc (CBA) and the New Zealand Law Society/Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa (NZLS) have applied for leave to intervene in Mr Borrowdale’s application for judicial review.

While the Court appreciates the steps taken by the ADLS, particularly its role in initiating a consideration of whether there should be intervention by a law society in this case, there is no need for intervention from both the NZLS and the ADLS. The NZLS has over three times the membership of the ADLS and, given its membership comprises 98 per cent of those with practising certificates, its membership clearly incorporates a large number of members of the ADLS. There would inevitably be overlap were both the NZLS and the ADLS given leave to intervene, thus lengthening the hearing and increasing the costs. Given the wide expertise on which the NZLS can draw, the Court can be satisfied that it will comprehensively address the issues.

The NZLS is granted leave to intervene on the conditions set out above.

The applications by the ADLS/CBA for leave to intervene are declined

The High Court has published a case synopsis:


Background

Mr Borrowdale has brought judicial review proceedings challenging the legality of restrictions imposed by the New Zealand Government on the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thefirstrespondent is the Director-General of Health and the second respondent is the Attorney-General. The Court has granted leave for the New Zealand Law Society to be represented as intervener, a disinterested party whose role is to assist the court.

The nature of the hearing

The role of the Court in judicial review proceedings is of a supervisory nature. It is concerned with ensuring powers are exercised in accordance with the law. In undertaking this important constitutional function, the Court does not engage in nor provide answers to political, social or economic questions. It is concerned only with assessing whether powers were exercised lawfully.

One judge usually presides over High Court proceedings. However, there is provision for the High Court to sit as a full Court (2 or 3 judges) in cases of particular significance, such as this one. Three judges will preside over this case, including the Chief High Court Judge Justice Thomas.

Grounds of review

There are three grounds of review.

The first is in the context of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA) and the Bill of Rights 1688, an Act which establishes the principle that no law can be suspended without the consent of Parliament.

This ground of review concerns the announcements made by the Prime Minister and others in Government from Monday 23 March 2020. Mr Borrowdale claims these announcements gave directions requiring, as from 11:59 pm on 25March, people to confine themselves to their homes for all non-essential purposes, all non-essential businesses to close and public congregations, indoor and outdoor events to cease. Mr Borrowdale’s case is that these directions were unlawful because they were not imposed by law and they limited the public’s rights affirmed in the NZBORA.

Additionally, Mr Borrowdale claims the restrictions appeared to suspend the law, and were accordingly illegal under the Bill of Rights 1688.

The second ground of review concerns the powers of the Director-General of Health to make orders pursuant to s 70(1)(m) and (f) of the Health Act 1956. Mr Borrowdale claims that the Director-General of Health did not have the power to close all businesses generally and confine the entire population of New Zealand to their places of residence.

The third ground of review relates to the legality of the claimed delegation to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in administering a scheme for determining what was an essential service during the period New Zealand was placed under Alert Levels 3 and Mr Borrowdale claims the delegation was unlawful for lack of compliance with section 41 of the State Sector Act 1988.

Hearing details

The case is set down for three days in the Wellington High Court, commencing Monday 27 July 2020.


There was a separate challenge to the lockdown legality. Two serial litigants with a long list of failures, Dermot Nottingham and Robert McKinney, tried via a writ of habeas corpus to but failed in both the Hight Court and the Court of Appeal – see Nottingham, McKinney named as habeas corpus lockdown litigants

Nottingham also failed in an agttempt to recall the High Court judgment – see Another double failure in Nottingham v Ardern

In contrast Andrew Borrowdale has extensive credible legal experience, including writing legal text books, and he worked formore than ten years in the Parliamentary Counsel office which drafts the government’s bills and legislation. And he has law qualifications.

Covid cases surging around the world

While Covid looks to be well under control in New Zealand cases are surging overall worldwide and in many countries around the world.

Reuters: Record numbers of coronavirus cases in every global region

Almost 40 countries have reported record single-day increases in coronavirus infections over the past week, around double the number that did so the previous week, according to a Reuters tally showing a pick-up in the pandemic in every region of the world.

The rate of cases has been increasing not only in countries like the United States, Brazil and India, which have dominated global headlines with large outbreaks, but in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Bolivia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Belgium, Uzbekistan and Israel, among others.  

Many countries, especially those where officials eased earlier social distancing lockdowns, are experiencing a second peak more than a month after recording their first.

“We will not be going back to the ‘old normal’. The pandemic has already changed the way we live our lives,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week. “We’re asking everyone to treat the decisions about where they go, what they do and who they meet with as life-and-death decisions – because they are.”

The Reuters data, compiled from official reports, shows a steady rise in the number of countries reporting record daily increases in the virus that causes COVID-19 over the past month. At least seven countries recorded such increases three weeks ago, rising to at least 13 countries two weeks ago to at least 20 countries last week and to 37 countries this week.

The United States has been the worst affected country, and while there has been a resurgence there as the problem shifted ot different states the worst may be over – U.S. records 1,000 coronavirus deaths for fourth day, some progress seen

The United States recorded more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 for the fourth straight day on Friday but a top White House advisor on the pandemic said she saw signs that the worst could be past in hard-hit southern and western states.

The numbers have been driven in large part by a surge in infections in Arizona, California, Florida, Texas and California.

“We’re already starting to see some plateauing in these critically four states that have really suffered under the last four weeks, so Texas, California, Arizona and Florida, those major metros and throughout their counties,” Dr Deborah Birx told NBC news in an interview.

Getting childen back to school after the summer holidays is a contentious issue.

Birx’s comments came as federal health and education officials stressed the need for children to return to in-class instruction. The American public and its leaders have been sharply divided over whether students should return to school for the fall term during the pandemic.

Birx said children under the age of 18 are typically less sick than older adults from the sometimes deadly illness but called it an “open question” how readily those under 10 can spread the virus.

There’s a lot still not well understood about Covid. But one thing that is apparent that while it is known that older people are more likely to die from the virus the illness can have long lasting effects, including for younger people.

Reuters – Young, healthy adults with mild COVID-19 also take weeks to recover: CDC

Young, previously healthy adults can take weeks to fully recover from even a mild COVID-19 infection, with about a fifth of patients under 35 years reporting not returning to their usual state of health up to 21 days after testing positive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Cough, fatigue and shortness of breath were among the symptoms reported while testing that persisted even weeks later, according to the report.

Still problems in Europe –

UK quarantines travellers from Spain in sudden blow to Europe’s revival

Britain abruptly imposed a two-week quarantine on all travellers arriving from Spain after a surge of coronavirus cases, a dramatic and sudden reversal on Saturday to the opening of the European continent to tourism after months of lockdown.

Australia is one country battling a resurgence.

ABC: Victorian coronavirus cases rise by 300, seven deaths recorded as people die in aged care settings

Victoria has recorded seven coronavirus deaths since Thursday, marking the deadliest day for the state since the pandemic began, as 300 new COVID-19 infections were detected.

Seven deaths is a new single-day record in Victoria, and is the equal highest daily toll for the nation, after seven deaths were recorded on April 7.

It brings the national coronavirus death toll to 140, and the state toll to 56.

ABC: Victorian coronavirus infections are spreading across Australia

Despite strict internal border controls, infections sourced to second-wave outbreaks in Victoria have been reported in every state and territory in Australia.

Tasmanian, South Australia, ACT and NT have had at least one active case linked to a Victorian outbreak. Cases sourced to Victoria have also been reported in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia.

So while things are ok here there is no sign of any possibility of opening our borders to any Australian states for some time.

Plans for re-spread of Covid in New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has a week long break from media conferences but was back yesterday, giving a lengthy speech. The key points made were on plans for what will happen if Covid-19 spreads in the community again – this is probably inevitable sooner or later.

She promoted the Government tracer app, but that has been a bit of a fizzer, and now with most people not bothering to use any tracer app.

The Alert Level system will remain, but if there are any new outbreaks Alert Level lockdowns could be applied in a regional or local basis.

Her speech:

Today I am setting out our plan in the event we have a new case of community transmission of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

I will take a bit of time to do that…

She did. eventually:

So in the event of new community cases we would move immediately to implement our “Stamp it Out” approach again.

There are two key things to remember.

Firstly, the simple approach of limiting the ability for the virus to move from human to human to break the chain of transmission remains the foundation of our response no matter what.

That’s why our key public health measures remain important for protecting ourselves and each other from the spread of disease. They are:

  • wash your hands regularly and thoroughly
  • cough or sneeze into your elbow
  • don’t go to work, socialise, or be out in public if you are sick
  • Keep a digital diary of your whereabouts by downloading and using the COVID Tracer app.

These principles are key to the second ongoing tool in our response.

Rapid contact tracing, testing, and use of isolation and quarantine for those exposed to COVID. That is why the Covid tracer app, and whatever other means of recording where you have been remains vital. Every time you step into the world I want you to ask this question “if I come into contact with COVID today, how will I know, and how will others know”.

If you are in or near a situation of community transmission this will be an exceptionally important tool for contact tracing, and for finding you.

The Government tracer app has been a bit if a fizzer. It was released late, as the public had largely moved on from being in isolation. I used a different tracer app (which was available earlier) a handful of times and then didn’t bother, from about when the Government app became available. I haven’t seen anyone using the apps for a month or more.

From the Ministry of Health yesterday:

  • NZ COVID Tracer has now recorded 596,000 registrations.
  • The number of posters created is 77,928.
  • The number of poster scans to date is 1,428,943.

The number of registrations is low and going up slowly. On average each person registered has only used it 3 times, which suggests that most are hardly or not using it.

Alert levels may be applied locally:

The alert level system and framework remains in place. But in the event of cases, rather than apply the framework nationally, we would look to apply our Alert Level system at a localised or regional level in the first instance.

“Our ‘Stamp it Out’ approach is scenario specific meaning that our actions will depend on the severity of the situation.

…there are three broad starting scenarios we can plan around.

1. A case or a number of cases in a community.

We would be looking at applying strong restrictions but only applied locally in a neighbourhood, town or city to contain the virus and stopping it spread.

2. A larger number of cases or cluster in a region

Here, a significant increase in testing would be the priority. We would look to undertake much wider community testing, on top of testing any contacts or potential contact of those with the virus.

We would also take steps to stop the spread to other parts of the country so a regional shift in Alert Level would likely be applied that restricted travel. This would mean travel in or out of the city, town or region could be stopped, people in that place asked to work from home, and local restrictions on gatherings implemented.

3. Multiple clusters that have spread nationally

In this scenario we would most likely apply a nationwide increase in Alert Level to stop transmission.

So that is a significant change, but if it can be managed effectively on a local or regional basis it makes sense.

From the Covid website

Click to access Stamp-it-Out-one-pager.pdf

 

Walker stepping down, Muller steps up, but National down and out of contention

After admitting sending personal details of Covid cases to several media outlets National MP Hamish Walker took the only course open to him – yesterday he pre-empted a Party board meeting considering a request to dump him from the party by announcing he wouldn’t stand in the Clutha Southland (now Southland) electorate in September’s election.

Personal Statement From Hamish Walker

Today I am announcing that I will not be standing for re-election for the Southland electorate at the upcoming 2020 election.

I wish to thank the people of Clutha-Southland who I have loved meeting, assisting and representing over the past two and a half years.

I sincerely apologise for my actions.

I will be making no further comment.

Todd Muller Accepts Hamish Walker’s Decision Not To Stand In 2020

National Party Leader Todd Muller has today accepted Hamish Walker’s decision to withdraw his candidacy for the seat of Southland and not stand at the upcoming election.

“Rachel Bird, the National Party’s Southern Regional Chair, has received a letter from Hamish confirming he will withdraw as the National Party candidate for Southland.

“There was a clear breach of trust, which goes against the values National holds as a party.

“The National Party Board will still meet today to discuss the selection of a new candidate.”

Statement From Peter Goodfellow, National Party President

Yesterday evening I received a letter from Leader Todd Muller, asking the National Party Board of Directors to urgently meet and consider some very serious, publicly reported, issues concerning Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker.

The Board met at midday today (Wednesday 8 July) via videoconference and was advised that Mr Walker has now formally resigned his candidacy for the National Party in the Southland Electorate for the 2020 General Election.

A selection process will therefore begin almost immediately to find a new candidate for the Southland Electorate, and we look forward to a robust and democratic process.

On behalf of the National Party Board of Directors, I would like to apologise for any distress caused to the individuals concerned as a result of the actions of one of our Members of Parliament.

RNZ: Hamish Walker’s exit from politics ‘was the only option’ – Todd Muller

In an announcement on transport this afternoon, Muller said the board will be looking at installing a new National Party candidate for Southland in the coming days.

“This was the only option because as we have well traversed the events of the last few days have not reflected from my perspective the appropriate National Party behaviour and values.

“He has worked very hard for his community over the last three years, and ultimately it was an error of judgement, a serious error of judgement that has cost him his career.

“It’s the right decision and I acknowledge that and now of course we seek to move on.”

He said he would not talk through the advice Walker had received, which was in a letter between himself and Walker.

Muller said Walker’s judgement was “fundamentally flawed”.

“And I’m on record a number of times now confirming that, and he’s paid the ultimate price of doing that.

“This is an isolated incident and we’ve got to see it through that lens, and I have acted very swiftly and we’ve got the right outcome.”

He said his MPs were clear around the expectations of them and they reflected a party with a “fine tradition of values, of achievement for this country and every one of us knows that we are there because at the last election well over a million people supported our cause and our view that the government is stronger when we’re in control”.

“Hamish Walker went behind my back and made his own judgement, and I’m sure that he is ruing it today.

“We have had one MP who made a serious error and has paid the ultimate price in terms of his political career. I think that talks to a party that does have high standards and when people breach them there is consequences.

“It was totally inappropriate for that personal information to be leaked to the media, because they are New Zealanders who are suffering because they have Covid and are in a constrained environment.”

But he said National would continue to critique the government’s “every day glitches” in the managed isolation programme.

“The government continues to demonstrate by the day actually that their border management is still not at the expectations that New Zealanders have of keeping us safe.”

What Michelle Boag and Hamish walker did reflects very poorly on the National Party. Walker is a first MP but especially after his Clutha Southland predecessor Todd Barclay crashed and burned his political career Walker should have been well aware of the dangers of stuffing up.

Walker should have also been well aware that personal information given to MPs has special privacy requirements.

Boag has shown that her long history of political involvement is a risk to any other work she does, as she has put political dirt first. She is likely to be shunned by National from now but she knows a lot of people in the party and it will be hard for her to be separated from it.

Leader Todd Muller has had a disaster to deal with, and I think he has dealt with it about as well as he could have. He made it clear he was totally opposed to what happened, and he made it clear that he had lost confidence in Walker and that Walker should resign, which he did.

In an adverse situation Muller looked reasonably principled and decisive, considering he had to allow Walker and the party to make decisions, and had to deal with legal issues.

But despite looking more sort of like leader material Muller has to now deal with his party in a dire situation. National’s chances of succeeding this election looked a long shot before this happened, but it now looks like they are virtually out of contention.

Unless Jacinda Ardern resigns or does something terrible, or someone in Labour does something as bad as Walker and it is handled poorly by Ardern and the party, or Covid turns to custard in New Zealand, then it looks likely now Ardern and Labour should cruise back into power.

Labour are sort of vulnerable on the economic risks, but that looks well covered with wage subsidies running through to September, and large amounts of money are being dished out around the country to try to keep the economy from crashing. It would take a major turn for the worse in the next two months for this to risk labour’s re-election.

So Muller and National are left to try to rescue as much support as possible to prevent their caucus from being decimated. It is too early to tell how bad the Boag/Walker effect will be, but National will struggle to get over 40% this election, and could easily crash to under 30%.

Evolving Boag story on Covid privacy leak

Michele Boag now says that she was sent daily emails by the Ministry of Health to her private email, and this is how she got the personal details of Covid cases.

After Hamish Walker admitted sending personal health details to media on Tuesday, Boag followed up with a statement claiming:

Today I am announcing that I am the person who passed on details of current Covid19 cases to Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker, who then passed on that information to a number of media outlets.

The information was made available to me in my position as then Acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, although it was sent to my private email address.

This was a massive error of judgement on my part and I apologise to my colleagues at ARHT whom I have let down badly.

I take full responsibility for my actions and have resigned as Acting CEO of ARHT…

At midday yesterday Walker announced that he wouldn’t stand for re-election in Clutha-Southland (now Southland).

Meanwhile Boag didn’t respond to media requests for further information, but it was announced by National deputy leader Nikki Kaye that Boag was stepping down from Party roles. RNZ: Michelle Boag stands down from roles with National deputy leader Nikki Kaye

High-profile former National Party president Michelle Boag has resigned from her campaign and electorate roles for Auckland Central MP and National deputy leader Nikki Kaye.

Kaye said Walker had “displayed a number of very significant errors of judgement and I think his position is pretty difficult in the future.”

Kaye has known Boag for many years and said she was ” absolutely gutted” and “hugely disappointed” that she was behind the leak to the MP.

Then last night Covid-19 privacy breach info came from Health Ministry, Michelle Boag says

Former National Party president Michelle Boag says the Ministry of Health sent her the private details of people infected with Covid-19.

Boag told RNZ the Ministry of Health had sent daily emails to her private email, which included the sensitive details of the country’s Covid-19 cases.

Boag couldn’t explain why it was sent to her private email, but suspected it was because she was only temporarily in the role of chief executive.

The government has already confirmed emergency services were regularly sent the details of the country’s active cases, so they could take the proper precautions if responding to a call-out where someone with Covid-19 was present.

The Ministry of Health and the Health Minister both declined to comment when contacted by RNZ this evening.

This morning Ministry of Health silent on Michelle Boag’s Covid-19 patient detail source claims

The Ministry of Health is refusing to confirm if it supplied the former National Party President Michelle Boag with a daily list of people infected with Covid-19 and their private information.

“I was sent it [the private patient information] legitimately by the Ministry of Health,” Boag said.

She received a daily list of Covid-19 patients, and their personal details, as the acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust (ARHT), Boag said, but added it was sent to her personal email.

Boag said she would then forward the list to “people in the organisation who needed that to do their work”.

Boag couldn’t explain why it was sent to her personal email, but suspected it was because she was only temporarily in the role of chief executive.

Despite receiving sensitive emails daily, Boag said she only ever shared one with Mr Walker.

Boag refused to explain why she did when asked by RNZ.

“Well I’m not going to go into that, but that is the subject obviously of the investigation,” she said.

The Ministry of Health and government ministers declined to comment when contacted by RNZ last night.

But the minister in charge of managed isolation Megan Woods has already confirmed emergency services have been supplied the names of people infected with Covid-19 since the start of the government’s response.

“That is an operational procedure that is standard and that’s because if emergency services need to come into contact with someone who has tested Covid positive for whatever reason, be that an airlift or whatever, that they have that information and make sure their staff is protected,” Woods said.

The Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust made a statement yesterday:

In the wake of Michelle Boag’s revelation concerning the leak of Covid-19 patient information, Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust Chair Simon Tompkins says Ms Boag’s resignation as Acting CEO and Trustee has been accepted.

“The breach which has been admitted by Ms Boag was of an email that was sent to her personal account. As an administrative resource, Ms Boag has never had access to any clinical or patient data held by ARHT.

“ARHT is an integral part of the health system and we are entrusted with information about our patients which is properly protected by protocols which only enable access to those who need this data to care for the patient. We have reviewed these protocols and are confident that none of this patient information has been subject to any privacy breach.

“Nevertheless we take our responsibility for patient confidentiality very seriously and continuously seek to improve our protocols and procedures,” Tompkins says.

“We want to reassure the New Zealand public and, most importantly, our patients and their families that patient care remains our top priority. Any information we hold on patients is private with access on a restricted basis and has not been breached.”

This seems to conflict with what Boag has claimed.

Unless Boag or ARHT  or the Ministry of Health give furhter details we may have to wait until the outcome of the Mike Herron investigation to learn what actually happened.

RNZ: Inquiry still going ahead

The minister for state services, Chris Hipkins, said the ongoing state services inquiry would look at how many people received the sensitive information from the Ministry of Health and whether or not it was appropriate they did.

“We do want to get to the bottom of exactly what happened here and I don’t think the government should rely on what comments people make to the media to draw a line under it, we actually want a proper thorough investigation so that all of the facts can be put on the table so that everyone can be clear what happened,” Hipkins said.

Before Boag and Walker publicly confessed, the inquiry led by Mike Heron QC was expected report back with answers by the end of July.

But the past 48 hours is likely to have make his job a lot easier – and faster.

It is still likely to take a week or two.

Boag says she only passed one email on to Walker – but that doesn’t minimise her actions, that email happened to contain all the details of current Covid cases including personal details.

MoH privacy breach of Covid cases

The Ministry of Health is under scrutiny again over the leak of personal details of New Zealand’s 18 active Covid cases.

RNZ: Details of active Covid-19 cases leaked in privacy breach

RNZ has seen a document that includes the full names, addresses, age and the names of the hotel and one hospital the 18 have been quarantining in.

The State Services Commission has been called in to make sure a “thorough investigation” is held.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins said the fact this personal information had been given out was totally unacceptable, and he has ordered an investigation.

“I have been advised by the Ministry of Health that at this stage it cannot be confirmed beyond doubt whether a deliberate leak was involved or if this was simply human error.

“If it was the former, it is unconscionable and absolutely beggars belief why anyone would feel it was an acceptable action to take, given the trauma it is likely to cause those whose information is involved. It would, quite frankly, be abhorrent, and potentially criminal.

“Either way”, he said, “it cannot happen again.

“The public has every right to expect their private information to be held securely.”

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus patients’ details leaked: Investigation launched as agencies scramble.

Confidential patient details of all the active Covid-19 cases in New Zealand have been leaked, including their names and dates of birth.

The massive breach of privacy contains the details of 18 confirmed cases, ranging from a 30-year-old woman in Auckland to a 70-year-old man in Canterbury.

It includes the personal details of the man in his 30s receiving care in Auckland City Hospital.

The leaked spreadsheet, seen by the Weekend Herald, also shows which border facility the Covid-positive people were staying in when they tested positive and where they were moved for quarantine.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner said from the little information it had on the leak, it sounded “like a serious breach involving highly sensitive information”.

“Should individuals make complaints to us or we learn additional information, we may investigate further.”

Data systems and management of data has been a real problem for the MoH, and this adds to embarrassment over the inadequacies.

Curiously from Audrey Young at NZ Herald in Jacinda Ardern plagued with fresh problems in health:

If (Clark) had held out for another two days, she would have been forced to sack him anyway, over the incredible privacy breach of the Covid-19 patient details.

As he is new to the job Hipkins just has to deal with the breach, but it could be time consuming for him in his new role..

Wearing face masks to reduce the spread of Covid-19?

The wearing of face masks has been a contentious issue around the world since the Covid-19 pandemic started to spread early this year. It’s easy to cherry pick advice or research that supports or advises against the wearing of masks by the general public. Here’s a series of items that show how advice varies and has changed over the last few months.

Picking up on some links posted from here – Perhaps we should check the science on masks I did some checking.

18 October 2016: Why Face Masks Don’t Work: A Revealing Review

Studies of recent diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Ebola Crisis combined with those of seasonal influenza and drug resistant tuberculosis have promoted a better understanding of how respiratory diseases are transmitted. Concurrently, with this appreciation, there have been a number of clinical investigations into the efficacy of protective devices such as face masks. This article will describe how the findings of such studies lead to a rethinking of the benefits of wearing a mask during the practice of dentistry. It will begin by describing new concepts relating to infection control especially personal protective equipment (PPE).

That’s specific to dentistry and nearly four years ago so not referring to Covid.

That’s from 12 March. It’s easy to cherry pick mask wearing advice, but it’s far from clear what is best.

From 23 April: Face masks could increase risk of infection, medical chief warns

England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said the issue of whether members of the public should wear face masks was “difficult”.

Dr Harries told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that “the fact that there is a lot of debate means that the evidence either isn’t clear or is weak.

“The points where we are absolutely clear that face masks are needed are if you are a patient and are symptomatic -that’s stopping the infection at source from moving on to other people – and if you’re a healthcare worker and social care worker we must preserve our face masks particularly for them, to protect them.

“But when it comes to the general public it starts to get much more difficult.

“In some countries where the public are using them they are nearly always alongside other social distancing measures so it is quite difficult to tease out what the effect of the mask might be.”

Asked whether the public should be wearing them, Dr Harries said: “The number one thing is we must leave our medical masks, if you like, for those people that need them at the front line because there is clear evidence that that is beneficial.”

From 23 April: Use of face masks by general public perfectly reasonable, says GP leader

Wearing face masks or face coverings in public is “perfectly reasonable”, a GP leader has said as England’s deputy chief medical officer admitted it was a “difficult issue”.

Ministers have so far rejected calls for face masks or face coverings to be used outside healthcare settings despite other countries, including the US and Germany, recommending them.

England’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Jenny Harries, said the issue of whether members of the public should wear face masks was “difficult”.

Dr Harries told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that “the fact that there is a lot of debate means that the evidence either isn’t clear or is weak.

“The points where we are absolutely clear that face masks are needed are if you are a patient and are symptomatic -that’s stopping the infection at source from moving on to other people – and if you’re a healthcare worker and social care worker we must preserve our face masks particularly for them, to protect them.

“But when it comes to the general public it starts to get much more difficult.

“In some countries where the public are using them they are nearly always alongside other social distancing measures so it is quite difficult to tease out what the effect of the mask might be.”

Asked whether the public should be wearing them, Dr Harries said: “The number one thing is we must leave our medical masks, if you like, for those people that need them at the front line because there is clear evidence that that is beneficial.”

From 6 May: Top scientific advisers quizzed by MPs on immunity, face masks, testing and lockdown

He and Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Dr Jenny Harries faced a grilling from MPs during the lengthy committee appearance which offered up some revealing details, but raised more questions than answers.

Sir Patrick said the evidence of the effectiveness of wearing face coverings in public was “not straightforward” but added they could have a “marginal but positive” impact on reducing the spread of the virus.

From 29 May: Face masks essential in combating asymptomatic spread of SARS-CoV-2 aerosols and droplets

Wearing masks can reduce the airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus, a new study finds. The research is published in the journal Science.

The team of researchers at the University of California San Diego and the National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, identified that wearing masks is essential to combat the asymptomatic spread of aerosols and droplets.

Masks are effective in reducing the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Properly fitted masks provide an effective physical barrier to reduce the number of viruses in the exhaled breath of asymptomatic carriers or the “silent shedders.”

“Infectious aerosol particles can be released during breathing and speaking by asymptomatic infected individuals. No masking maximizes exposure, whereas universal masking results in the least exposure,” the researchers explained.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are hard to maintain, including pharmacies and grocery stores.

“It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slow the spread of the virus.  CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure,” the CDC said on its website.

From 29 May:  The Right-Wing Masks Theory That Lives On in Colorado

Wearing masks in Colorado during the COVID-19 pandemic has become thoroughly politicized, with those loyal to conservative beliefs in the state infinitely more likely to follow President Donald Trump’s lead in declining to don facial coverings.

Why? The most common refrain is that mask use infringes on individual choice. But it’s often accompanied by claims that facial coverings are actually dangerous to those wearing them, complete with medical assertions that may actually sound reasonable to those of us who aren’t doctors or play one on TV. And indeed, assorted officials and physicians have offered occasional support for the theory over recent months.

Trouble is, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, it’s utter bullshit.

Cut to mid-March, when Dr. Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, contended that wearing face masks can increase an individual’s viral load whether one is symptomatic or not. “For the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea,” she argued.

What tends to happen is people will have one mask. They won’t wear it all the time, they will take it off when they get home, they will put it down on a surface they haven’t cleaned,” and if they don’t clean their hands often enough, they can get infected by touching either the mask or parts of their face around it.

Of course, washing a cloth mask daily largely eliminates this issue — and that’s precisely what Governor Jared Polis recommended on April 3, when he encouraged Coloradans to wear a facial covering whenever they leave home — shortly before the federal Centers for Disease Control and Environment did likewise for the country as a whole.

Nonetheless, the suggestion that mask wearers are slowly killing themselves lives on. But the CDPHE’s response to Westword on the subject makes it clear that the department thinks it has approximately zero credibility.

“Masks do not increase the viral load for people who wear them,” states spokesperson Ian Dickson. “If you are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, that means the virus has already made a home for itself in your cells and is busy making more of the virus. ‘Shedding’ is just a byproduct of that infection.”

Dickson adds: “Once you are infected, breathing doesn’t result in an increase in the amount of virus in your body, whether you have a mask on or not. Wearing a face mask helps minimize the spread of the virus, so everyone should wear a mask when out in public.”

3 June: Mixed messaging on wearing masks is a major public health failure

The World Health Organization (WHO) unequivocally warns against wearing face masks, unless you are either displaying symptoms or taking care of a patient infected with COVID-19. Full stop. No face masks. No grey area.

An April 17 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) advises, “ … nonmedical masks may not be effective in preventing infection for the person wearing them.”

Clinical evidence suggests that cloth masks contribute to viral infection, a study of non-medical masks by the University of New South Wales reported in Science Daily. “The widespread use of cloth masks by health-care workers may actually put them at increased risk of respiratory illness and viral infections and their global use should be discouraged. The penetration of cloth masks by particles was almost 97 per cent compared to medical masks with 44 per cent.”

The WHO cautions against wearing face masks, the CDC recommends them; “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

The deputy chief medical officer of England advises against, Health Canada recommends for; “Wearing a homemade non-medical mask/facial covering in the community is recommended for periods of time when it is not possible to consistently maintain a two-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings, such as stores, shopping areas and public transit.”

Who to believe, then?

From 12 June:  Compulsory use of facemasks in shops and public transport can slash spread of coronavirus by 40%, study claims

Making face masks compulsory could slow the spread of Covid-19 by as much as 40 per cent, a study suggests.

Researchers assessed the effect face coverings had on regional epidemics in Germany when they were made mandatory in shops and public transport in April.

The move slashed the number of new infections over the next 20 days by almost a quarter, rising to 40 per cent after two months.

The scientists said their study provided ‘strong and convincing statistical support’  that masks ‘strongly reduced the number of incidences’.

Writing in the study, published as a discussion paper for the Institute of Labour Economics, the scientists write: We believe that the reduction in the growth rates of infections by 40 per cent to 60 per cent is our best estimate of the effects of face masks.

It is the most compelling evidence yet for mandatory mask-wearing in the UK, where the Government is still concerned face coverings might do more harm than good.

The UK Government’s scientists insisted throughout the crisis there is no evidence face masks prevent the spread of the virus.

But they changed their tune last week and made it compulsory for people to wear masks on public transport in England, threatening to dish out fines to those who don’t comply.

3 July: Coronavirus: where and when do you need a face covering?

  • Face coverings to become mandatory in shops in Scotland from 10 July. They are already mandatory on public transport.
  • Face covering to become mandatory on public transport in Northern Ireland form 10 July.
  • Wearing a face covering is already mandatory in hospitals and on public transport in England.
  • Ride-sharing company Uber has made face coverings mandatory for both passengers and drivers across the UK.
  • Separately, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has changed its global guidance on face masks, suggesting that in circumstances where social distancing is difficult – such as public transport, shops etc – basic medical masks (not respirator masks) should be worn by the over 60s, and homemade three-layer masks should be worn by the general public.

Elsewhere, many countries have encouraged or made mandatory the wearing of face masks by the public.

Some, such as Austria, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Poland, Singapore, and Turkey – have made wearing face masks mandatory in public.

In the US, China, Japan, France, India, Canada, Germany and Brazil, wearing homemade masks in public or in certain situations, such as on public transport, is encouraged but not enforced.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) originally said that healthy people only needed to wear a mask if they were taking care of a person with COVID-19, and cautioned about the risks of mask-wearing instilling a false sense of security in the wearer and leading to them becoming lax about crucial measures such as social distancing and handwashing.

It also said that ‘non-medical or cloth masks could increase potential for COVID-19 to infect a person if the mask is contaminated by dirty hands and touched often, or kept on other parts of the face or head and then placed back over the mouth and nose.’

But it has now updated its advice on face masks, saying that governments should encourage the general public to wear masks in situations where social distancing isn’t possible, such as on public transport and in shops. It advises a home-made three-layer mask for most people, and that the over-60’s consider wearing ‘medical’ masks in areas with high rates of community transmission.

The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) suggests that homemade masks may be useful to help prevent the spread of coronavirus by asymptomatic people in confined spaces, but acknowledges the evidence for this is currently weak.

All are clear that higher-grade medical respirator masks should be reserved for frontline health workers, where they are needed most.

Face masks: what’s the evidence for them?

A meta-analysis of nearly 1,000 studies around influenza transmission by Professor Ben Cowling, Head of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Hong Kong University, found that the use of face masks, in combination with hand hygiene, was more effective against laboratory-confirmed influenza than hand hygiene alone.

Dr Christopher Hui, Clinical Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University and Honorary Consultant in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine at the Royal Free Hospital London, says: ‘We believe that face masks help prevent droplet and aerosol spread primarily by capturing the droplets as they exit our airways at velocity when coughing, sneezing or talking at volume.’

The change in UK government advice has come after ‘careful consideration of the latest scientific evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).’

Previously, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said the fact that the issue has been debated at length by the UK government’s scientific advisors suggests that the evidence isn’t quite so clear, whereas the evidence for measures such as hand hygiene and social distancing is more solid.

Hand washing and social distancing remain the most important actions to take to protect yourself and others from coronavirus.

This all doesn’t matter here in New Zealand for the general public in public places, as we don’t have any detected community transmission.

Current Ministry of Health advice: COVID-19: Use of face masks in the community

Face masks are one part of Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures used in health care settings.

There is no convincing evidence one way or other to require the use of non-medical face masks for healthy people in the community to protect from COVID-19. There are potential benefits and potential risks with such use. Countries are taking different approaches based on their current COVID-19 context.

Non-medical masks could provide an additional element of protection in preventing someone who is infectious with COVID-19 spreading this infection to others.

Non-medical masks are not proven to effectively protect the person wearing them from becoming infected by others. They are therefore not a substitute for basic hygiene measures and physical distancing, where possible and practical. Some of the reasons for this include the types of materials used for the masks and how they are worn.

Going by the above evolution of advice this sounds a bit dated. If Covid starts to spread here again this may change.

This post is not intended to be advice on whether to wear a face mask or not, it was an exercise in how research and advice has varied and changed over the last four months.

All but the first and last links above were found via Google searching for: Jenny Harries face masks

The Lone Trumper

I think this is funny on it’s own, but it’s sad to see the president of the United States continuing to act like such a doofus, especially over an important health issue during a pandemic. he said in an  interview he had worn a black mask and he looked like the Lone Ranger.

Donald Trump has set a poor example on dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic in a number of ways, one of those on the wearing of masks.

He has said “some people wear masks as a political symbol of opposition to him rather than as a health precaution”.

USA Today:  Trump says he’d wear mask in small crowd but questions need for mandatory use

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he’s not sure that face masks should be mandatory but that he’d wear one in a “tight” crowd.

Several prominent Republicans, including Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have publicly urged Americans in recent days to wear a mask in public when they are unable to practice social distancing.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate health committee, called Tuesday on Trump to occasionally wear a mask even though “there are not many occasions when it is necessary for him to do so.”

“Unfortunately, this simple lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you’re for Trump, you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do,” Alexander said during a hearing on the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The president has millions of admirers,” Alexander said. “They would follow his lead. It would help end this political debate. The stakes are too high for it to continue.”

Trump has said that, for him, wearing a mask in public would not appear presidential. He told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month that he thinks some people wear masks as a political symbol of opposition to him rather than as a health precaution. He also expressed concern that they are not hygienic.

Trump has now endorsed the wearing of masks, but has set himself up for more ridicule. He had worn a black mask, thought he looked ok, and he “Looked like the Lone Ranger”.

Fox Business (with video of interview) – Trump ‘all for masks,’ looked like ‘Lone Ranger’ in one

President Trump has been criticized by politicians for not wearing a mask in public, but he told FOX Business’ Blake Burman on Wednesday he has worn one in the past and the only reason he doesn’t wear one more often is because everyone gets tested before meeting with him.

“I would. Oh, I have. I mean, people have seen me wearing one,” Trump said when Burman asked if he would wear a mask. “If I’m in a group of people where we’re not, you know, 10 feet away, and — but, usually, I’m not in that position. And everyone’s tested. Because I’m the president, they get tested before they see me.”

“I don’t know if you need mandatory, because you have many places in the country where people stay very long distance. You talk about social distancing. But I’m all for masks,” Trump told Burman.

According to a Goldman Sachs analysis Tuesday, a national mask mandate could avert a 5 percent drop in GDP.

“If a face mask mandate meaningfully lowers coronavirus infections, it could be valuable not only from a public health perspective but also from an economic perspective because it could substitute for renewed lockdowns that would otherwise hit GDP,” the researchers wrote, according to USA Today.

Now Trump is coming around to wearing masks.

“I mean, I would have no problem. Actually, I had a mask on. I sort of liked the way I looked, OK? I thought it was OK. It was a dark, black mask, and I thought it looked OK. Looked like the Lone Ranger. But, no, I have no problem with that. I think — and if people feel good about it, they should do it.”

Trump didn’t say whether he cut eye slits in the black mask when he wore it.

There has predictably been a lot of reaction abd lampooning, some collated by Market Watch – Trump says a face mask makes him look like the Lone Ranger. One problem with that …

Meanwhile: