Live updates, December 12-13: Air NZ crew member tests positive for Covid-19

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Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 12-13.

9.30am: US vaccinations to begin this week

Following the footsteps of the UK, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, the US Food and Drug Administration has authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use with the first vaccinations to begin in the next 24 hours, the BBC reports. The first doses of the vaccine will be given to the elderly, health workers and emergency crew.

4.10pm: Air New Zealand crew member tests positive for Covid-19

An Air New Zealand crew member has tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in New Zealand on a flight from the United States on December 9.

This person tested positive as part of compulsory testing required within 48 hours of operating to the United States of America, said the Ministry of Health in a statement. They are now self-isolating in their room in a facility used by Air New Zealand for air crew and is being transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

This person is currently asymptomatic (showing no signs of the virus), and had previously tested negative on December. “Our latest test results indicate that this is a very new infection,” said the ministry.

All other air crew on the flight have returned negative results and will remain in isolation, and all crew and staff who have been staying or working at the facility where the person stayed since December 9 are regarded as potential contacts, and will be asked to get tested and self-isolate until their results are known.

“The risk to the general public is considered low,” said the ministry.

3.00pm: NZ and Cook Islands announce travel bubble

Quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands will be a reality in the first quarter of 2021. The prime ministers of both countries and their cabinets have instructed officials “to continue working together to put in place all measures required to safely recommence two-way quarantine-free travel in the first quarter of 2021”, according to a statement from the office of New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

“The arrangement recognises the special ties between New Zealand and the Cook Islands,” said Ardern in the statement. “It will allow people to travel more easily between our two countries, while acknowledging that the priority remains to protect our populations from Covid-19.”

Cook Islands prime minister Mark Brown said the arrangement was “the next step towards resuming many aspects of life in the Cook Islands that have been disrupted by Covid-19, including access to health and education, and reuniting family and friends”.

It will be a phased approach, with the first step being quarantine-free access for travellers from the Cook Islands to New Zealand – an acknowledgement of the Cooks’ Covid-free status.

“Quarantine-free access for travellers from the Cook Islands to New Zealand will provide for the movement of people for delivering and accessing essential services, while allowing officials to finalise preparations for a safe return to two-way quarantine-free travel,” Ardern said.

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