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I'm working on a travel story for Stuff about the things that have surprised returning Kiwis about New Zealand. If you have recently returned from overseas or know someone who has, it would be great to hear about the things that have stood out for you, for better or for worse. Whether it's to do with the weather, the cost of things, the public transport, the food, the housing, the people or something else entirely, we'd be keen to hear about it. Please remember that your comment may be included in the article, unless you say you don't want it to be. Thank you.
In a statement today, he says the decision is "effective immediately". "It has become clear to me that I am not the best person to be leader of the Opposition and leader of the New Zealand National Party at this critical time for New Zealand," he says. "The role has taken a heavy toll on me personally, and on my family, and this has become untenable from a health perspective." He says he plans to spend some time out of the spotlight with his family to "restore my energy before reconnecting with my community". "I look forward to continuing to serve as a loyal member of the National Party team and Member of Parliament for Bay of Plenty." It comes after the party was rocked by scandal over the last week. National MP Hamish Walker announced he wouldn't stand for re-election after leaking private information of Covid-19 patients, while health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse later admitted he too received the confidential information - although he says he didn't leak it. Mr Muller initially suggested Mr Woodhouse hadn't received the information, before backtracking just one day later and admitting he knew he had. Mr Muller has only been the National Party leader role since May 22, when he rolled then-leader Simon Bridges in a coup. At the time, he told MPs he deserved to take over the leadership as the party wouldn't be able to win with Mr Bridges in charge.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins is not ruling out the use of electronic bracelets for those in managed isolation after a third person allegedly escaped in the space of six days. The Government is tightening monitoring of those in managed isolation facilities after Queenstown man Martin McVicar, on Thursday night, allegedly jumped down the Distinction Hotel fire escape, eluded police and made a mad dash for booze in Hamilton. But Hipkins said the All-of-Government response had already improved significantly from a man's escape from a facility in Auckland on Tuesday night, when health officials failed to provide timely advice to the Countdown that the man had visited.
By the time the Health Ministry was in touch, Countdown had already viewed CCTV footage, shut shop, completed a deep clean and chosen to self-isolate 18 staff members. "The health communication with Countdown was certainly too late in the piece," Hipkins said. "It does not meet my expectations around the speed of the response and that message has been well understood by all of the relevant health officials." The Health Ministry was quickly part of the response in Hamilton, and should be part of every such response, he said. The Government would be making announcements about ways to tighten up monitoring of those in managed isolation, but Hipkins wouldn't be drawn on the use of electronic bracelets. The use of such bracelets has been floated University of Otago public health expert Professor Nick Wilson. "New Zealand needs to learn all the lessons possible from the apparent failure of quarantine systems in Melbourne. New Zealand could also explore the benefits and costs of the use of electronic bracelets for people, as used in Hong Kong," Wilson said. The bracelets in Hong Kong are mandatory and correspond to an app. If someone tries to break quarantine, it issues a warning. Wilson said the focus should be on the system failures - for example, inadequate fencing or security - rather than the individuals involved. "All systems should be designed to account for the whole range of human behaviour – including people who don't follow the rules." It has been 70 days since the last case of community transmission, and there are two new cases yesterday - both contained in managed isolation facilities. The first case is a man in his 20s who arrived on June 28 from India, while the second is a man in his 20s who arrived on June 27 from England. Both tested positive on their day 12 tests. There are now 23 active cases of coronavirus, none of whom require hospital care. On Thursday there were 2575 tests, still well short of the recommended 4000 daily tests, and Hipkins said the numbers would ramp up in coming days. Part of the reason the testing was too low, he said, was that GPs had told people to get tested but they were being turned away by clinicians at community-based assessment centres (CBAC). Every person showing up at a CBAC with a GP's instruction to be tested should be tested, he said. There have been three escapes out of just under 28,000 people in total who have come through quarantine and managed isolation facilities. "I don't accept people knowingly and willingly breaking the law represent a flaw in the system. These are not maximum security prisons. These are hotels," Hipkins said. "If someone broke into your house and stole all of your stuff, and then turned around and said, 'Well, you should have had better locks,' I don't think anyone would accept that." He said the increase in facility breaches could be an indication of the type of New Zealanders now returning from overseas. "There are fewer families coming through, there are more single people coming back, there are more people who have more complex health needs." He wouldn't be drawn on the reasons for McVicar's alleged escape. The staffer of the Hamilton liquor store who served McVicar said: "He walked in and bought a four-pack of Leffe Blonde and a pinot noir." McVicar, 52, appeared in the Hamilton District Court via audio visual link yesterday and faced a charge of intentional damage of a 52-inch TV and intentionally failing to comply with an order under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act by leaving a managed isolation facility and purchasing alcohol. He was remanded in custody and denied bail. He will reappear in court on July 15.
Last Saturday, a woman jumped two fences at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland shortly before 6.20pm and was located soon after a couple of blocks away at 8pm on Anzac Ave. She is appearing in the Auckland District Court on Monday. On Tuesday night, a man sneaked through a gap in the fence at the Stamford Plaza in Auckland and visited a Countdown before returning 70 minutes later. He has also been charged. There is now meant to be 24/7 police presence at every one of the quarantine and managed isolation facilities, as well as a lead security person at each facility.