Morning Briefing Dec 3: Vaccine approval 'the start of the end of the pandemic'

Anna Murray
Source: 1News

The UK has become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, meaning some citizens will begin getting the jab within days.

BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin says Britain’s approval represents “the start of the end of the pandemic”.

Other countries aren’t far behind in beginning to vaccinate their populations, with the US and European Union also vetting the Pfizer shot, as well as Moderna’s vaccine. 

However, experts are cautioning that a vaccine cleared for emergency use is still experimental and that final testing must be completed.

How long the Pfizer-BioNTech shots provide protection from Covid is still to be determined. The vaccine has also been tested in only a small number of children and there’s no information on its effects in pregnant women yet. 

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NZ declares climate emergency

As expected, the Government declared a climate emergency yesterday, but they surprised some by also outlining a major initiative to make the public sector carbon neutral in five years.

Labour, the Greens and the Māori Party voted in favour of declaring the climate emergency, while National and ACT opposed the move

National's climate change spokesperson Stuart Smith says declaring a climate emergency is "nothing but a hollow symbolic gesture", while ACT's Simon Court says it’s a "triumph of politics over practical solutions, slogans over substance".

However, the Government says it’s taking “immediate action” with its promise to reduce public sector emissions. Those measures include phasing out coal boilers, reducing car fleets, and purchasing hybrids and EVs. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the public sector “will be an exemplar that sets the standard we all need to achieve by 2050”. She says the policy, along with declaring the climate emergency, will also serve as a “call to action” for the private sector. 

The New Zealand Parliament’s debate about the climate emergency comes as UN Secretary General António Guterres declares humanity is waging a “suicidal” war on nature.

Speaking at a Columbia University event overnight, Guterres made his strongest remarks yet about climate change.

“Making peace with nature is the defining task of the 21st century,” he says. “It must be the top, top priority for everyone, everywhere.”

Kiwis face insurance woes

And as the Government declares the climate emergency, new research has found rising sea levels risk pushing up the insurance bills of thousands of New Zealanders – if they can get insurance at all .

The report by insurance and asset valuation specialist Belinda Storey estimates 10,000 coastal property owners in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin could see their premiums rise nearly five times the current medians.

The report found sea levels would only need to rise by as little as 10cm before the increase in insurance bills begins.

The Insurance Council doubts providers will stop insuring existing clients but warned homeowners they would pay more. They’re now calling for new home builds to be banned at certain sites. 

Spotlight on violence against police

The police dog shot by a man near Dargaville this week still isn’t out of the woods yet, according to the specialist vets caring for him.

Vet staff say they should know more in the next 48 hours, adding that the dog’s handler has not left his side throughout the ordeal. 

The shooting has again put the spotlight on gun violence against police, with the mother of one slain officer calling for harsher penalties.

Diane Hunt, the mother of Constable Matthew Hunt who died in the line of duty this year, has delivered a 39,000-signature petition to Parliament, urging tougher sentences for those convicted of killing police officers. 

"I want change,” she says. “The police need deterrence and I don't believe they have that at the moment."

Govt’s new target for Māori business

The Government wants more Māori businesses to be considered when awarding state contracts.

Officials have announced a new target to encourage public services to cast the net wider when awarding contracts, with an aim to award at least five per cent of these to Māori enterprises.

Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson says Māori are among those worst affected by Covid-19’s economic fallout and that the Government is looking for more ways to accelerate their economic recovery. 

Other news of note this morning:

- The Government says a travel bubble with the Cook Islands will not be in place before Christmas.

- The Ministry of Health has revealed nearly half the Kiwis who have died of Covid-19 had no underlying health conditions

- One of the pilots who helped rescue people from Whakaari/White Island feels he's been labelled a criminal by WorkSafe.

- The Government’s top watchdog has found the University of Auckland’s purchase of a $5 million mansion for its Vice-Chancellor to stay in wasn’t justified. 

- US President Donald trump has been dealt another blow as his own attorney general finds no evidence of voter fraud , while the Justice Department also probes a potential scheme to lobby White House officials for a pardon.  

- Oscar-nominated actor Elliot Page, the star of Juno, Inception and The Umbrella Academy, has come out as transgender in what’s been touted as a watershed moment for the trans community.

- And if you woke up this morning wanting to watch Judy Bailey give Seven Sharp’s Jeremy Wells some presenting tips, then you’re in luck .

And finally...

Food donations

The co-founder of a charity that cares for whānau in the Far North was almost brought to tears yesterday as an appeal for help on TVNZ’s Breakfast show prompted a deluge of donations to the cause.

Therese Wickbom runs Bald Angels, which has been providing Christmas kai boxes for those in need. After she spoke to Breakfast about the desperate need this year, donations to the charity’s Givealittle page shot up from $1700 to more than $45,000 as of this morning. 

There’s also better news for the Palmerston North church that had $2000 worth of goods destined for needy families stolen at the weekend.

St Vincent de Paul Society president Mike Keenan says community generosity has seen those stolen goods more than replaced.