Coronavirus update: One death and five more Covid-19 cases | Stuff.co.nz

There has been another Covid-19 related death in New Zealand.

The woman in her 70s was one of the residents from an Auckland rest home transferred to Waitakere hospital.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield also announced there are five more cases, bringing the total number of people affected by Covid-19 to 1445.

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF
Leaves gather at Witherlea School, Marlborough.

This included two confirmed cases, and three probable cases. 

Education Minister Chris Hipkins joined director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield for the daily Covid-19 briefing on Tuesday.

Cabinet decided the country would stay in level 4 until 11.59pm on Monday April 27.

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Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said The current plan is for schools to be able to re-open for a Teacher Only Day on April 28 as part of their preparation, and the Government expects those who need to attend, to be able to from 29 April 29.

​Hipkins discussed the rules around schools during alert level three and explained what will be happening this week, in the lead up to schools opening safely.

  Under alert level 3, most children will be learning from home still. Schools will only be open for families that need to have their children at school, he said.

“Education for students in years 11 to 13 will continue remotely,” Hipkins said.

Universities will be mostly remote, only allowing staff and students to only attend when crucial – such as hands on research.

“If students went home to join their family bubble, they must stay home.”

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From next Wednesday, some schools will be welcoming back students.

Referring to early childhood concerns, Hipkins said he would continue to talk with the sector and provide further guidance.

“We’ve reached the point where the director-general of health is confident there is no widespread community transmission … so the chance of it coming through the gate or door is low,” he said.

The public health advice said it was safe for children to learn together, though Hipkins acknowledged that maintaining physical distancing would be difficult.

As leader of the House, he also gave an update about what will happen when Parliament sits again next week.

Christopher Furlong
Schools and early learning centres can be accessed this week for cleaning, maintenance and any other preparations.

This week, businesses will be allowed to get ready to open, such as re-entering premises to receive stock if necessary, but will have to stick to social distancing and their bubbles.

The same principle applies for preparing schools.

Schools and early learning centres can be accessed this week for cleaning, maintenance and any other preparations.

The current plan is for schools to be able to re-open for a Teacher Only Day on April 28 as part of their preparation, and the Government expects those who need to attend to be able to do so from  April 29. 

However, Ardern acknowledged it may take a bit longer for some schools and early learning centres to be ready.

During level 3, the Government still wants the vast majority of children and young people learning from home. 

The official advice is for children who can stay at home should, and so should at-risk students.

Early childhood centres, and schools right up to year 10, will physically be open for families that need them.

Ardern said children should still learn from home if they can – except for those situations where it was not possible.

For example, parents who cannot manage the kids as well as work. Those who do go to school will be kept within one bubble while there.

She was not expecting large numbers of pupils to be in attendance.

Bloomfield said international evidence and New Zealand’s experience so far shows that Covid-19 does not affect or infect children and teens in the same way as adults. There were low infection rates, they don’t become too unwell and don’t tend to pass the virus to adults.

School principals said they are still awaiting guidance on what level 3 will look like in the classroom. 

Senior ministry officials met with education unions and school associations early on Monday to discuss those guidelines. 

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Christchurch mosque attacks: Gunman pleads guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism | Stuff.co.nz

The man accused of the Christchurch mosque attacks has entered shock guilty pleas, bringing relief to survivors and victims’ families.

Amid extraordinary coronavirus lockdown restrictions, Brenton Tarrant, 29, appeared via video-link in the High Court at Christchurch on Thursday morning and admitted 51 charges of murder, 40 charges of attempted murder and a charge of engaging in a terrorist act.

He’d previously pleaded not guilty to all the charges and was scheduled to stand trial on June 2.

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Fifty-one people died as a result of the March 15, 2019 attack.

Tarrant, who wore a grey prisoner sweater, was largely silent and emotionless throughout the hearing. He sat alone in a white room with a grey door at Auckland Prison, Paremoremo, where he’s held in maximum security.

The terrorist’s lawyers, Shane Tait and Jonathan Hudson, appeared via video-link from another court room.

Brenton Tarrant pleads guilty to murder, attempted murder and terrorism via AVL in the Christchurch High Court.

The names of all 51 people killed were read to Tarrant, before he was asked how he pleaded to the murder charges.

He replied: “Yes, guilty.”

The same process was followed for the attempted murder charges.

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Terrorist Brenton Tarrant pictured at his first court appearance, the day after the mosque shootings.

Justice Cameron Mander remanded Tarrant in custody, but has not yet set a date for sentencing, when the summary of facts would be made public.

Few people knew of the special hearing, which was only scheduled late Wednesday, on the eve of an unprecedented nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Six New Zealand journalists attended. Also in court were the imams from both targeted mosques. An-nur (Al Noor) imam Gamal Fouda was visibly upset as the guilty pleas were entered.

JOSEPH JOHNSON/STUFF
Mustafa Boztas still has a fragment of a bullet inside him.

The hearing concluded at 10.30am, but the judge suppressed the outcome for an hour to allow victims, who were unaware of the hearing, to be notified.

The decision to hold the hearing amid the national state of emergency was not made lightly.

Earlier in the week Tarrant indicated to counsel that he might change his pleas. A formal request was made on Wednesday that the matter be brought before the court.

DAVID WALKER/STUFF
Omar Abdel-Ghany, whose father Ahmed Gamal Eldin Abdel-Ghany was killed at Masjid An-Nur.

Mander said both the Crown and defence asked to have the hearing expedited, despite the severe health restrictions.

The courts were considered an essential public service that was able to deal with “priority proceedings without compromising people’s health”.

The judge said he felt the court had the capacity to safely hear the matter by limiting the number of people in court. In total, 17 people were present.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reflects on the last year following the Christchurch mosque shootings.

It was regrettable the Covid-19 restrictions prevented victims from attending, he said, but the imams had been asked to be present to bear witness to the proceedings.

“It was my assessment that taking the defendant’s pleas at this time was the appropriate course in the circumstances,” Mander said.

“The entry of guilty pleas represents a very significant step towards bringing finality to this criminal proceeding, and I considered the need to take the opportunity to progress the matter was particularly acute coming as it has at a time when the risk of further delay as a result of Covid-19 was looming as realistic possibility.”

Mander said the defendant would not be sentenced before the court returned to normal operations.

The defendant had been remanded to a nominal date of May 1. It was hoped a sentencing date would be confirmed in the interim.

“It is fully anticipated that all who wish to attend court for the sentencing hearing will be able to do so in person.”  

On March 15 last year, Tarrant drove from his Dunedin home to Christchurch with an arsenal of guns and ammunition he’d amassed since moving from Australia to New Zealand in 2017.

The white supremacist entered Masjid An-nur (also known as the Al Noor Mosque) on Deans Ave as Friday prayers were beginning, about 1.40pm, and opened fire – killing and wounding dozens of people.

He then drove across town to the Linwood Mosque where he continued his shooting spree.

Tarrant was arrested a short time later after his car, a gold Subaru Outback, was rammed off the road by two police officers on Brougham St as he tried to make his way to a third target, though to be a mosque in Ashburton, where he planned to carry out another attack.

When police searched the vehicle they found several guns and petrol bombs.

NZ’S WORST MASS SHOOTING

In total, 51 people were killed in the terrorist attack, the worst mass shooting by an individual in New Zealand history.

Tarrant was the first person to be charged under NZ’s Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.

Omar Abdel-Ghany, whose father Ahmed Gamal Eldin Abdel-Ghany was killed at Masjid An-Nur, said he could not understand what caused Tarrant to change his plea.

“I’m both shocked and relieved. Shocked at the sudden change in plea, relieved that my family and I, along with other victims won’t have to relive it all through the courts.”

Muslim Association of Canterbury spokesman Tony Green said his immediate reaction was one of enormous relief and great gratitude.

“I think the victims will feel a huge weight has been lifted from their shoulders. Our position has always been to let justice take its course, but a trial would have put a lot of pressure on our families. If you look at the anguish caused by the trial of Grace Millane’s killer you can see how bad it would be for 51 families.”

Mustafa Boztas, who lay on the ground inside the Masjid An-nur with a bullet in his leg, pretending to be dead, said from Turkey he always knew Tarrant would be found guilty. 

“I feel he basically played with our minds and emotionally upset us more for no reason.”

Boztas said he would have stayed in the country instead of going overseas if he’d known Tarrant was going to plead guilty. 

“While it can’t undo the damage it has brought upon our community and country, it gives me hope that this help bring not only justice but some closure to those touched by this event.

“To the families, I hope this brings you peace, and a sense that love can conquer hate. While this closes the criminal proceedings for the shootings, please know there is still a long way to go in recovery for some of us, so thank you for your continued support.”

Yasir Amin, whose father 67-year-old Muhammad Amin Nasir was shot in the back by the gunman shooting from his car, said the guilty pleas were good news.

“It’s good to avoid a trial because we would be reminded of everything, every day of the six week trial. We’ve avoided that mental torture and we’re not in a situation where the outcome is not 100 per cent sure.”

Nasir was to undergo another operation on Monday but the operation was postponed due to Covid-19 measures. He had spent two months in hospital after the shootings and had another 20-day stay in December.

“He is now doing well. He goes for walks and eats well.”

Just about every organ in his father’s body except his heart had been damaged by the shotgun pellets, Amin said.

Nasir was shot about 200 metres from the mosque on Deans Ave. The gunman drove past Amin and his father, who were walking to the mosque along the footpath, when he aimed a shotgun at them from his car. Both ran for their lives but Nasir was shot. Their plight was captured by a motel CCTV camera. 

‘HE’S GOT TO PAY THE TIME’

Tarrant’s grandmother, Marie Fitzgerald, had no idea about the plea until called by Stuff.

“I feel sorry he did the crime, but he’s got to pay the time now.”

She declined to comment further.

Victim Support chief executive Kevin Tso said support was ongoing for hundreds of victims who still need help coping with the trauma of the event and rebuilding their lives.

“We’re pleased victims no longer have to face the trauma of the trial.”

The victims had shown remarkable courage and resilience in the face of a heart-breaking, shocking and senseless tragedy, Tso said.

“They have our utmost respect and promise that we will be here for them for as long as they need us.”

Police Commissioner Mike Bush said the pleas were a “significant milestone in respect of one of our darkest days”.

“I want to acknowledge the victims, their families and the community of Christchurch – the many lives that were changed forever. They have inspired all of us to be a kind and more tolerant community.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would provide some relief to the many people whose lives were “shattered” on March 15.

“These guilty pleas and conviction bring accountability for what happened and also save the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and other witnesses, the ordeal of a trial,” she said.

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Scammers target Kiwis: Annabel Langbein the latest focus for Facebook fakers | Stuff.co.nz

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Chef Annabel Langbein is the latest target of an online scam, which has used the names and faces of at least half a dozen famous Kiwis.

Foreign scam artists have been exploiting Facebook’s lax policy on adverts for some time, in a bid to rip off New Zealanders.

Langbein said scammers had made fake news articles, which said she was quitting her job because of a new skincare company. 

“It’s all fake. The very worst thing is that my followers and supporters are being conned and losing money and I am powerless to stop it,” she said on Instagram.

Facebook does not fact check the adverts it promotes, which has meant peddlers of fake news, conspiracies and scams have been able to reach users on the platform.

But a spokesman said it had removed and blocked pages that featured fake celebrity endorsements from New Zealanders.

“We do not allow these scams on our services and we take swift action to remove them as soon as we become aware. These scammers are well resourced and use sophisticated cloaking technology to mask content,” he said.

Tech companies such as Facebook and Google collect data about their users, including where they live and what their interests are. Companies, scam artists, governments and lobbyists can then pay the tech giants to target anyone in the world.

For more than a year, a group of scammers have been targeting New Zealand celebrities and forging endorsements for adverts such as skincare and bitcoin.

A Facebook spokesman said these scammers worked across the internet, but the company was investing in automated technology to better detect false news and endorsements. He said the company employed more than 35,000 people to work in its security team, which dealt with these issues.

” The damage and cost to our business far outweighs any ad spend or benefit as this kind of misleading content,” he said.

CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF
Annabel Langbein is warning her followers that scam artists are faking stories about her.

These scammers often create fake news websites, made to look like legitimate news sites such as the BBC, Stuff and NZ Herald, to publish fake stories about how one of the celebrities is “quitting their job” after discovering the wonders of a get rich quick scheme.

 it was launching a reporting tool in New Zealand to combat these “celebrtiy-bait ads”.

The tool was first rolled out in the UK, after television presenter Martin Lewis launched legal action against Facebook when his name was used in a similar scam. He dropped the lawsuit when Facebook promised to dedicate resource to anti-scam initiatives. 

Facebook’s director of product management, Rob Leathern, told Stuff last month that the company did take legal action to stop scam artists when their posts were reported.

“It’s kind of a cat and mouse game we’re constantly playing,” he said.

Facebook is asking Kiwis to report click bait advertisements on the platform.

The company has faced mounting pressure to stop the spread of fake news, scams and conspiracies.

Actor Sacha Baron Cohen made headlines last month, calling social media companies “a sewer of bigotry and vile conspiracy theories”.

“Zuckerberg said that social media companies should live up to their responsibilities,” he said.

“But he’s totally silent about what should happen when they don’t. By now, it’s pretty clear they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves.”

Facebook, however, has been clear that it would delete scam accounts and block their accounts once it was notified.

 “Often, we’ll go beyond rejecting the ad; we’ll remove the ability of the accounts and people behind them to advertise with us in the future,” Leathern said.

Chef Nadia Lim, journalist John Campbell, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, broadcasters Mike Hosking and Hayley Holt have also been featured in similar scams.

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