Coronavirus live news: Fauci says political divide added to 'stunning' US deaths; Italy 'misled' WHO

By Helen Sullivan


All of New Zealand is in alert level 1 after a cluster of coronavirus cases in the community in Auckland was successfully contained, but prime minister Jacinda Ardern is under renewed pressure to reassess the country’s border controls.

Nick Wilson, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Otago, and the opposition National party are both calling for a purpose-built managed isolation and quarantine facility instead of converted hotels.

Wilson told the Herald the border response was “highly problematic” and in need of an overhaul: “The failure rate is just so unsustainably high, with now 11 border failures since last August.”Wilson is set to meet with ministers this week to discuss his concerns.

National’s Chris Bishop has said that a dedicated quarantine facility, with separate ventilation systems for each room and facilities on-site for staff, could be built on land outside Auckland airport, far from the central city. Victoria state premier Daniel Andrews announced plans for such a facility last week.

But Ardern has so far resisted the idea, saying that the bespoke building would be a “significant ask” and not necessarily effective in preventing transmission – while the vaccination rollout could change what’s required at the border.


More on New Zealand now:

Auckland has now joined the rest of the country at alert level 1, mask wearing is now compulsory on all trains, buses and planes around the country. Experts have been urging for the measure for months, but Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins told Radio New Zealand the government had to weigh up conflicting advice over whether they were effective as a precautionary approach.Hipkins said the government would take a “fairly light-handed approach” to enforcement initially to give people and transport providers an opportunity to comply.

Cabinet has also decided against making checking into venues mandatory, despite falling numbers of scans (which would prove crucial to contact tracing in the event of an outbreak). Hipkins said compulsion posed issues with enforcement, such as with people who do not own phones.

The government would be looking at ways to increase QR code scans as a preventative measure – but Hipkins was cheered by the vaccination programme, getting underway as of this week.


New Zealand confirms new Covid case

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has confirmed a new positive Covid-19 case in the community, a schoolmate of one from the original Auckland cluster.

The girl had had limited exposure to the original case but, as a fellow student at Papatoetoe High School, had been asked to seek testing and self-isolate at home.

The school was closed last week as part of precautions; when it reopened yesterday, the girl and her sibling had stayed home.

“Despite the rest of the country moving down alert levels, Papatoetoe high school and their community have stayed at a heightened state of alert more than akin to level 3,” said Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins.

Hipkins has asked all students and teachers and some household members to present to the school for another test and that people elsewhere in New Zealand, “be kind”.

“This is the early phase of the investigation into this particular case and we ask people not to pass judgement on others.”

The cases now associated with the most recent Auckland outbreak is nine. Waste water testing from the Papatoetoe area as well as nearly 70,000 tests processed since Sunday has give


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Most of the reduction in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions last year is likely to be wiped out as transport rebounds after Covid-19 lockdowns and farming recovers from the long-term-drought, according to an audit of national climate data.

Scott Morrison told the National Press Club earlier this month the government was “getting on with” reducing emissions, citing official data that found emissions were down 3% in the year to June to their lowest levels since 1998. He declared “these are the facts”.

An audit by Hugh Saddler, an energy consultant and honorary associate professor at ANU’s Crawford school of public policy, suggests at least some of the drop is likely to disappear:


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Italy 'misled' WHO about pandemic preparedness weeks before Covid confirmed locally

Italy allegedly misled the World Health Organization (WHO) on its readiness to face a pandemic less than three weeks before the country’s first locally transmitted coronavirus case was confirmed.

Each year, countries bound by the International Health Regulations (IHR) – an international treaty to combat the global spread of disease – are required to file a self-assessment report to the WHO on the status of their preparedness for a health emergency.

Italy undertook its last self-assessment report on 4 February 2020. In section C8 of the report, seen by the Guardian, where countries have to evaluate their overall readiness to respond to a public health emergency, the author marks Italy in ‘level 5’, which is the highest status of preparedness.

The category states that a country’s “health sector emergency response coordination mechanism and incident management system linked with a national emergency operation centre have been tested and updated regularly”.

However, it emerged last year that Italy had not updated its national pandemic plan since 2006, a factor that may have contributed to at least 10,000 Covid-19 deaths during the first wave and which is a key element in an investigation into alleged errors by authorities being carried out by prosecutors in Bergamo, the Lombardy province that was severely affected in the pandemic’s early stage:


Fauci says political divide added to 'stunning' US deaths