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Posts Tagged ‘OIA’

Does OIA evidence confirm possible Air NZ link to recent covid outbreaks?

13 March 2021 4 comments

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An OIA response from Ministry of Health (see below, under “Addendum”) has fuelled speculation that Air NZ flight crew cannot be eliminated as the cause of the Auckland August covid-outbreak last year and the current February-Valentines Day outbreak. The sources for both outbreaks remain unknown and officially designated as “under investigation“.

The Auckland August covid-outbreak began on 11 August with four community cases detected. The first infected person – a worker at Mt Wellington Americold – became symptomatic on 31 July.

Wanaka-based phylogeneticist, Dr James Hadfield, pointed out;

Finding a recent case in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) or elsewhere on the border that matched this cluster lineage would be strong evidence for the border incursion scenario. We haven’t got any such direct evidence – but this doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

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Extensive testing and contact tracing determined the earliest case found to date was an Americold coolstore worker who first showed symptoms on July 31, and the initial spread of the cluster centred around this coolstore, which imports frozen goods.

Thus, the third hypothesis is that the virus may have been imported on packaging material, where it could have survived in low temperature conditions, and then gone on to infect a worker at the coolstore.

This hypothesis is given further credence by the possible genomic link to Ecuador, since viral particles have been found in China on frozen shrimp packaging from Ecuador.

However, no shipments from Ecuador were received by the coolstore in question.

Coincidentally (?) there is also a branch of the company – Americold Logistics –  in Māngere.

Americold Logistics in Māngere is 1.7km* drive from Auckland International Airport.

In the case of the February-Valentines Day outbreak, Case B involved a worker fromLSG Sky Chefs in Māngere who worked at the laundry facility. Health officials believe she was the first to be infected but developed symptoms after her daughter and then got tested. She had not been at work since 5 February and how she became infected remains unknown. All members of staff at her place of work return negative Covid-19 testing results“.

LSG Skychefs Māngere is a 1.8km* drive from Auckland International Airport.

On 24 February – in a story titled Is Air NZ the Covid re-infection problem? Possible evidence points to national airline – this blogger mapped LSG Sky Chefs, Americold Logistics, and Auckland International Airport;

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sth auckland covid links

 

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However, there was a missing piece: the location of a hotel used by Air NZ as an isolation facility for flight crews returning from international routes. Enquiries to Air NZ and elsewhere were met with a wall of silence. Flight crew’s safety and privacy were often quoted. (Though this does not feature as a concern for other Returnees and migrant essential workers staying at publicly-listed MIQ facilities, including a MoH webpage.)

Aside from the publicly revealed isolation facilities at Grand Windsor in down Auckland’s Queen Street and Ramada Hotels at Auckland CBD and Manukau – the location of an up-till-now secret facility in Māngere was a secret.

However, in a response to an OIA request from this blogger, it can be revealed that the heretofore un-named facility is/was the Heartland Hotel at 14 Airpark Drive, Māngere;

It is unclear if Heartland Hotel is still being used by Air NZ.

On 9 February, former Newshub and RNZ journalist, Zac Fleming discovered that Air NZ flight crews had been leaving their isolation facilities at Ramada Hotel at Auckland CBD and Manukau, and the Grand Windsor on Auckland’s Queen Street, to exercise regularly out in the streets.

It is highly probable that flight crews would also have done the same when in “isolation” at Heartland Hotel in Māngere.

In an Air NZ staff bulletin to crew, it was stated that Ministry of Health guidelines permitted outside exercise activity “… for up to 90 minutes of exercise per day.”  This was confirmed in an online MoH web-document dated 24 December 2020;

Aircrew are only permitted to leave their place of self-isolation:

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to do any outdoor exercise

Flight crews were not held in MIQ for fourteen days. Rather, they were held in isolation for 48 hours and allowed back into the community after just one negative covid test.

Though as University of Otago Medical School epidemiologist, Sir David Skegg, warned;

Of course a single negative test does not prove that a person is not infected, especially early in the course of their illness.”

Mapping all four facilities, LSG Sky Chefs, Americold Logistics,  Auckland International Airport, and Heartland Hotel;

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Heartland Hotel, at 14 Airpark Drive, Māngere, is 3.5kms* from Auckland International Airport.

As this blogger suggested on 24 February – The close proximity of Americold to Auckland International Airport could be considered a coincidence.

But add LSG Skychefs to Americold and the International Airport – and there’s a pattern.

The close proximity of Heartland Hotel is one of the final two missing pieces;

Missing Piece 1: Is/was there a second Air New Zealand Isolation facility  within the LSG Skychefs – Americold – Auckland International Airport precinct? What was it’s location? And if it did exist; did isolating Air NZ flight crew members take their exercise outside the facility “as per the MoH guidelines you will be able to leave the hotel for up to 90 minutes of exercise per day”?

Missing Piece 2: Did an employee from Americold Mt Wellington (where covid infections were detected) have direct contact with the Māngere Branch, thereby placing themself at “Ground Zero”?

This blogger contends that a cascading series of events has resulted in returning Air NZ flight crew(s) initiating both the August Auckland and Valentines Day outbreaks:

  1. Air NZ flight crews isolate for only 48 hours instead of two weeks, even though they are returning from high-risk destinations such as Los Angeles, Asia, etc.
  2. Until recently, returned Air NZ flight crews were permitted to leave isolation to exercise (ie; jogging, walking, etc) out on the streets. A jog by an “isolating” flight crew member around Māngere is not only conceivable but likely.
  3. Air NZ flight crews are permitted to leave isolation after 48 hours after one negative covid test – despite common knowledge that false negatives are common.
  4. Air NZ management have cut flight staff, thereby putting pressure on remaining employees to isolate for only two days, as well as being forced to work shifts on “quarantine flights”.

There has been mounting pressure on this government for South Aucklanders (Manukau, Māngere, etc)  to be given priority for vaccination;

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why?

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– but no one has asked the obvious question: Why is it necessary to vaccinate South Aucklanders first?

What has made South Auckland a target-zone for new covid outbreaks?

As an observant ‘Daily Blog’ reader pointed out; these outbreaks do not seem to be happening in Wellington, Rotorua, or Christchurch, where MIQ facilities also exist (but not Air NZ isolation facilities);

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pennywise - air new zealand - covid19

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Genomic sequencing has eliminated MIQ facilities as being the source for the two recent outbreaks.

Yet, the virus had to enter Aotearoa New Zealand by some means. It didn’t arrive here by ‘spontaneous creation’.

Which leaves our national air carrier. And as this map shows;

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four facilities - a coincidence?

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– it cannot be a coincidence that all areas of interest are in close proximity.

Air NZ is allowed to operate because it is considered a critical infrastructure-service. It has less stringent isolation/quarantine requirements than any other regime operating. As the Ministry of Health explicitly outlined why Air NZ receives preferential treatment;

Because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, New Zealand-based international air crew are mostly exempt from a 14 day isolation or quarantine period as long as they meet certain conditions – both in flight and during layovers…

It would also explain why the Ministry of Health refused point-blank to disclose answers to these two questions I put to them;

1. How many flight crew personnel have contracted covid19?
 
2. Are any flight crews currently infected by covid?

Their response;

“This part of your request is withheld under section 9(2)(b)(ii) as the release of this information would likely unreasonably prejudice the commercial position of the person or company who supplied the information.”

– makes no sense. It is unclear how crew infection rates could “unreasonably prejudice the commercial position”  of Air NZ.

But it makes total sense if the number of returning flight crews showing covid infections has increased significantly. That is not information which Air NZ management or the majority-shareholder – the government – would want in the public domain.

Especially if – as it seems likely – some returning infected flight crews were either not fully isolating (going out for exercises, jogging, walks, etc) – or their negative test results are worthless.

The sooner all Air NZ flight crews are vaccinated, the better for the entire country.

Because what other transmission routes could there be except Air New Zealand.

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* Distances calculated via Google Maps

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Postscript:

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New case of Covid-19 found in airline crew member

7.44PM, 7 March 2021, RNZ

A new case of Covid-19 has been identified in an airline crew member during routine surveillance testing

In a statement this evening, the Ministry of Health said the crew member had returned to New Zealand from Japan on 28 February and had initially returned a negative test result [my emphasis].

The person has since returned a positive test result today, after a swab taken yesterday during routine surveillance testing.

They have moved into Auckland’s quarantine facility today.

The individual’s three household family members have already been tested today and the results are all negative.

Fourteen other air crew who were on the same flight are being contacted, isolated and retested.

The MoH said a public health assessment showed there was low risk to the public, as Auckland was at alert level three during the time the case was back in New Zealand.

There is currently one location of interest – the Auckland Airport Countdown on 3 March between 12.07pm and 1.22pm.

Anyone who was at the store at the same time has been asked to monitor their health for the next ten days and get tested if symptoms arise.

Results from genome sequencing are expected on Tuesday and will help rule out any local transmission.

The new case comes after New Zealand marked a full week with no community cases, following an outbreak in South Auckland.

Auckland moved out of alert level three at 6am today and is currently operating under alert level two.

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Let’s do the sums:

Returned to Aotearoa New Zealand: 28 February

Covid tested & result: negative

Released after MoH mandated 48 hours in Isolation: 2 March

Visited: 3 March, Auckland Airport Countdown between 12.07pm and 1.22pm

Re-tested: 6 March

Covid test result: 7 March: positive

That’s five days out in the public, including a busy supermarket.

Covid testing picked up this case. How many did we miss?

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Addendum:

Ministry of Health OIA Response in full:

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oia response to ministry of health

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References

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Why we may never know where Auckland cluster originated

Newsroom: Mapping the Valentine’s Day cluster, case by case

MoH: COVID-19 – Source of cases – Cluster details

RNZ: Covid-19 – New cases push New Zealand into resurgence plan

NZ Herald: Coronavirus Covid 19 – The three theories for August’s Auckland outbreak

RNZ: Covid-19 February cluster – Case profiles

Stuff media: Covid-19 – A guide to managed isolation hotels, and what to do if things go wrong

MIQ:  Facility locations

Newshub: Coronavirus – Air NZ crews allowed to leave quarantine for exercise in Auckland CBD

MoH: Requirements for aircrew ordinarily resident in New Zealand to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission

Newsroom: Questions raised over international aircrew rules

ODT: Air NZ crews hoping to stall redundancies

Newshub: Air New Zealand crew claim they’re being ‘forced’ to work on COVID-19 quarantine flights

MoH: COVID-19 – Aviation sector

RNZ: Phil Goff pushes for south Auckland priority in Covid-19 vaccine roll-out

RNZ: Pressure mounts to prioritise vaccines for South Auckland

Stuff media: Vaccinate south Auckland first – you just can’t argue with this truly good idea

TVNZ News: Prioritising Covid vaccine for South Aucklanders will ‘protect the whole of NZ’ – Pasifika medical official

The Daily Blog: Pennywise

MoH: COVID-19 – Aviation sector

RNZ: New case of Covid-19 found in airline crew member

Additional

The Spinoff: The ultimate guide to New Zealand quarantine and managed isolation hotels

Previous related blogposts

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 2: The Curious Case of the Very Invisible Virus

Is Air NZ the Covid re-infection problem? Possible evidence points to national airline

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Air NZ - the daily blog - Slane - cartoon

Acknowledgement: Chris Slane

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 March 2021.

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Anti-trans activists fudge OIA statement – Report

23 March 2019 6 comments

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An Official Information Act (OIA) response released to this blogger appears to confirm suspicions that anti-trans-activists mis-represented six cases of trans-women prisoners allegedly involved in violent incidences in Women’s correctional facilities.

The OIA response from the Corrections Department, was first released to persons unknown (see original document, with recipient redacted) in September last year. The recipient asked several questions related to trans-gender women (male-to-female) prisoners held in Women’s prisons:

  • How many trans-identified males are in New Zealand prisons.
  • How many are in for violent crimes, including sexual assault?
  • How many trans-identified males are in women’s prison’s?

The ‘loaded’ language of the questions pointedly referred to “trans-identified males” instead of the more common-usage of “trans-gender women” by the LGBTQI community.

This is a strong indication that the unknown recipient had their own bias on the issue of trans-gender men and women.  The unknown recipient was setting the narrative by not  correctly address trans prisoners in women’s prisons as trans-women.

It may also have created some confusion in the mind of the author of the OIA response;

“As your request focuses on ‘trans-identified males’ in prisons, each of these questions has been interpreted to relate to transgender individuals who may have been assigned female at birth, but identify as male.”

It is apparent, though, that the unknown recipient actually had in mind “assigned male at birth, but [who later] identify as female”.

The Corrections OIA response states;

“Custodial staff are also being provided with training material to develop an understanding of gender diversity, with a focus on the use of correct pronouns and appropriate language.”

Mis-use of  correct pronouns and appropriate gender terms has been prevalent by “gender critical” activists to the point where accurate meaning is obscured and becomes denigrating to trans-people. This appears to be deliberate.

Previous commentators on The Daily Blog and social media have also referred made reference to attacks on women by trans-“men” prisoners;

six attacks on women by trans men in prison

Correction says that over the year there have been six attacks on women prisoners by these trans men who retain their male bodies

six women prisoners have alleged they were attacked by some of the men transferred into the women’s prison

“I have an OIA from NZ Corrections. SIX women were assaulted by male-bodied people (who id as women) in the last 24 months. NO women assaulted a male-bodied person”

One commentator asserted, inaccurately;

“Some men are imprisoned for committing violent crimes against women. If they are trans in prison they may be attacked themselves. Corrections have moved to protect these people by transferring them to women’s prisons.”

– though this was later retracted by the same person, admitting it could not be substantiated.

However, the OIA response from Corrections does not verify the allegations. Corrections has clarified the issue by pointing out;

“… no transgender individual housed at a women’s prison (either identifying as male, or female) has been convicted of sexual offences.”

There has been no reported instance of a ‘Karen White‘-type assault in New Zealand. In the case of British sex-offender, “Karen White”,  Jenny-Anne Bishop, from the UK  transgender rights group Transforum, was highly critical of the way in which White was not correctly assessed, nor that White’s sexual offending against women and children had not been more rigorously considered.

In Britain, Ms Bishop, said;

“The case boards* are a good way of doing things – you can’t say the system is wrong when it goes wrong once. It is almost the exception that proves the rule – you’ve just got to look at what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again. No system is perfect. It’s human nature that people will sometimes get it wrong.”

(* A local transgender case board consisting of prison managers and psychologists who decide where to place trans-identifying prisoners – eg; “Karen White” – within three days of incarceration.)

In New Zealand, Corrections has stated that a trans-gender prisoner who has  been convicted of a sexual offence against a person of their own nominated gender would not be placed alongside prisoners of their nominated-gender;

“A transgender prisoner whose detention relates to a serious sexual offence against a person of their nominated gender, or who was released from a prison sentence for such an offence within the last seven years, will not be eligible to apply to the Chief Executive [for placement in accordance with their nominated gender].”

At no point have “gender critical” activists publicised this salient point from the OIA release.

The claim that there have been “six attacks on women by trans men in prison” (ie, trans-women) has also not been fully confirmed by the OIA release.The statement confirms six alleged assaults;

“A total of six prisoner on prisoner assault incidents occurred in women’s prisons from January 2017 to the date of your request, where the prisoner alleged to have committed the assault had a transgender alert.”

There is no clarity provided as to the circumstances of the alleged assaults. No incident reports have been attached with the OIA release. There is no indication what investigations were carried out or what findings, if any, were made.

All we are told is that there were six incidents and the prisoner(s) involved “had a transgender alert“. There are several questions that remain unanswered;

  • How many trans-gender people were involved? One? Six? Is it the same person involved in all six incidences? Or six people in one incident each?
  • Were the alleged assaults made on CIS women, or were trans-prisoners involved in incidences involving each other?
  • And were these incidences cases where the trans-gender person was the instigator, or self-defence against harassment or assault by another person?
  • What was the nature of the assault? A shove; a slap/punch; a life-threatening attack?

The Corrections Dept OIA release breaks down the number of transgender prisoners in women’s facilities’

“Of the 33 transgender prisoners mentioned above, 26 were housed in a men’s prison, and 7 were housed in a women’s prison.”

Interestingly, one of those seven was a trans-man (assigned female at birth, but identifies as male);

“One transgender prisoner in a women’s prison is recorded as identifying as a male.”

There is no indication whether this female-to-male trans-prisoner was involved in any of the six incidents.

It is a struggle to understand how “gender critical” activists can make a case against housing trans-women in Women’s prisons based on such a profound lack of clear evidence.

What is clearly understood is a history of trans-people suffering harrasment, assaults, sexual violation, and worse within prisons in New Zealand and overseas. For “gender critical” activists to now target trans-people as threatening women in “safe places” such as prisons is disturbing.

Prisons are already brutal institutions where ongoing brutalisation takes place on a daily basis. Page 84 of the 2016/17 Corrections Dept Annual Report reveals that in the 2016/17 financial year, there “were almost 1,500 non-serious/no injury assaults (on prisoners and staff)”, twentyfive of which were serious prisoner-on-prisoner assaults.

There is no break-down on gender, ethnicity, age, location of facility, etc.

That is not to say that women’s (and men’s) prisons should not be made safer. It is our social responsibility to ensure that people whose lives have been damaged and de-railed (often from a very early age), and then incarcerated by the State,  are not brutalised any further.  It serves no useful purpose to see prisoners eventually released into the community more bitter and violent than when they went in.

Focusing on six transgender prisoners out of a prison population of approximately ten thousand is unhelpful.  Re-victimisation of an already marginalised minority is something that is no longer acceptable in New Zealand.

Whatever point “gender critical” activists have attempted to make with those three loaded OIA questions, and the subsequent mis-representation of the response from Corrections, has been lost in a swirling miasma of irrational transphobia.

They have not helped their case one iota.

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References

Corrections Dept: OIA statement on transgender prisoners – 3.9.2018

Radio NZ: Sex self-identification debate a ‘cesspool of harmful stereotypes’

Snopes: Did a Male Rapist Who Identifies as Female Transfer to a Women’s Jail and Assault Female Inmates?

Transforum

The Guardian: Karen White – how ‘manipulative’ transgender inmate attacked again

Corrections Dept: Annual Report 2016/17(p84)

Previous related blogposts

First they came

Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

Apartheid in Aotearoa New Zealand – yes, it does exist

 

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 March 2019.

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Charter Schools – John Key’s re-assurances

2 November 2012 20 comments

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1. The Prime Minister’s ‘committments’

Three months ago, Dear Leader gave assurances that National would dump Charter Schools if they failed to “work”.  He said,

If they don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly – if they do work then it will be great for the children involved.” – source

Key then added,

If you look at the US where they are the most prevalent – there are about 5,500. Not all of them are successful but many of them are.” – Ibid

Those two statements are unfortunate for two reasons;

2. The Prime Minister’s ‘credibility’

Without beating about the bush and indulging in ‘niceties‘, John Key’s credibility is shot to hell.

As detailed in  previous blogposts and elsewhere on other blogs and in the MSM, John Key has not always told the truth, nor fulfilled his committments.

Past pledges and promises have been broken. Promises such as,

There are also instances where statements made by Key which have stretched our credulity,

More here.

And often indulges in flatout bullshit such as this little gem  on the public ownership of natural resources,

… So if you accept that viewpoint, then I think you have to accept that elements like water and wind and the sun and air and fire and all these things, and the sea, along with natural resources like oil and gas, are there for the national interest of everyone. They’re there for the benefit of all New Zealanders, not one particular group over another. “

See: TVNZ Q+A Interview with Prime Minister John Key

Politicians have a poor reputation when it comes to telling the truth. In the case of our current Prime Minister, in this blogger’s opinion, he has made bending the truth; with-holding information; and outright lying into a whole new artform.

No wonder there is a joke floating around cyberspace, on Facebook, blogs, and elsewhere,

Q: How can to tell John Key is lying?
A: His lips are moving.

Which probably explains why politicians are viewed with such disdain; League Tables that really count!

3. The Prime Minister’s ‘truthfulness’

Key said,

If you look at the US where they are the most prevalent – there are about 5,500. Not all of them are successful but many of them are.”

As usual, Dear Leader’s comments can never be taken at face value.

The truth is that a Stanford University CREDO analysis of Charter Schools in the US revealed the disturbing fact that only 17% of American charter schools did better than non-charter schools.

See: Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

The rest achieved same, or worse results,

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Source: Wikipedia Charter Schools (based on CREDO study)

So who will trust John Key on this issue?

Who will trust Key’s committment when he says “if they [Charter Schools ] don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly” – when he doesn’t even give us accurate information about the efficacy of Charter Schools?

Telling us that “not all of them are successful but many of them are” – is disingenuous. It is a deliberate ploy to mislead the public.

And proves yet again – if evidence was needed – that this man is the most untruthful Prime Minister we have had since —?

4. Furthermore…

John Key assures us, hand-on-heart, that “if they [Charter Schools ] don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly“…

Which is all very nice (if he can be taken at his word, which is doubtful), but how will he know if Charter Schools “don’t work “?

Actually, we won’t know.

National intends to remove Charter Schools from all public scrutiny and will be exempt from Official Information Act requests. All information regarding Charter Schools will be kept secret by National,

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Full story

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To put it mildly, this is an extraordinary state of affairs. A radical new experiment in education will not be open to public scrutiny. According to John Banks, the architect of this crazy programme,

DEVELOPING AND IMPLEMENTING A NEW ZEALAND MODEL OF CHARTER SCHOOL

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Ombudsmen Act and Official Information Act (OIA)

These acts would not apply to Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua because they are not Crown Entities. This is the same case for private schools.

This will help to ensure Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua are not susceptible to costly and vexatious requests. The contract will specify the information that must be provided to government, and this will be subject to the OIA.”

Source:  Office of the Associate Minister of Education (Hon John Banks) – Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Mode of Charter School

It’s interesting that a politician with the lowest reputation for honesty and openess in this country’s history – John Banks – has decided that Charter Schools will be exempt from OIA requests and Ombudsman oversight.

Banks’ attempted to justify this paranoid secrecy by suggesting that Charter Schools would be “susceptible to costly and vexatious requests“.

Laughable…

Extraordinary…

Worrying…

And scandalous.

5. Summing up…

So what do we have here?

  1. The  Prime Minister promises that  “if they [charter schools] don’t work then the Government will close them down very quickly “.
  2. Key assured the public that ” not all of them are successful but many of them are ” – ignoring the truth that only 17% of Charter schools in the US have been deemed “better” by a Stanford University CREDO study.
  3. There will be no public oversight of Charter schools.
  4. The Minister in charge of Charter Schools, John Banks, justified the removal of public oversight and secrecy on the flimsiest of excuses.
  5. The public will have to rely on the National Party for accurate and impartial reporting of Charter Schools progress. (Imagine Key’s reaction had Labour proposed such a thing! Imagine the cries of “nanny state” and “Helengrad”?!))
  6. Neither John Banks nor John Key are held in high regard in many parts of New Zealand society. Key is known for breaking promises; abandoning committments; and mis-representing the truth. John Banks was engaged in dishonest activities surrounding his mayoral campaign donations; lied about his activities; claimed “forgetfulness”; and was investigated by the police. He was not prosecuted – but only because his actions went beyond a statute of limitations. (Banks still refuses to publicly release a record of his police interview, despite his assertion of “nothing to hide, nothing to fear”.)

This blogger finds nothing reassuring in the utterances of John Key and John Banks.

An incoming Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana government has no option but to close down this dodgy programme, or at the very least, incorporate these schools into the state system.

Otherwise, Charter schools are a ‘time-bomb’ waiting to go off.

Does Shearer really, really want such a  legacy from John Banks?

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Previous related blogposts

Christchurch, choice, and charter schools

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

Dear Leader, GCSB, and Kiwis in Wonderland (Part Rua)

Sources

TV3: Key defends charter schools trial

Otago Daily Times: PM vows charter schools out the door if they fail

NZ Herald: Charter schools escape scrutiny

Radio NZ: Charter school group wants to register unqualified teachers

Additional

Many oppose proposed charter school

Charter schools: They’re not better for our kids

Other Blogs

Seemorerocks:  One video exposes Key, GCSB’s & Banks’ Dotcom lies

Not PC: John Key lies [updated]

Infonews:  National’s growing list of broken promises

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