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Different choices

Good morning! NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed what the rumour mill had already spun, with the Greater Sydney lockdown to be extended for an additional week after 27 new locally acquired cases were reported, with only 13 of them already in isolation. During a long press conference, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was asked if the state should just "give up", to which he responded:

"If the individuals that we need don't hear Dr Chant's message and don't respond, then at some point we're going to move to a stage where we're going to have to accept that the virus has a life which will continue in the community."

So much for the gold standard of contact tracing. Or was it the diamond standard?

On a more positive note, just over a quarter of Australia's total population have now had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with over 2 million people (7.9%) fully vaccinated. 👏


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Note: Brent oil, gold bullion and iron ore prices are the second futures contract.

The S&P500 closed up 0.34% to another record high after the minutes of the latest Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting showed the Fed remains as doveish as markets expected. Locally, the ASX200 jumped nearly a full percent with a broad-based rally everywhere except in the energy and industrial sectors.

Housing hangover: UK house prices declined by 0.5% in June from the month prior, according to the Halifax House Price Index. That's the first monthly decline since January, with the weakness coming after "a broadly unprecedented period of gains". There could be a bit of a housing hangover in the coming months, with a tax break for buyers due to be reduced by half at the end of June, before expiring entirely by the end of September.

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Different choices

Picture of Boris Johnson removing his mask.
It'll soon be masks off in the UK, with 19 July to be known as "Freedom Day". NYPost

How normal will the return to normal really be? We know from ScoMo's four phases to freedom that in Australia, COVID-19 will eventually be managed like the seasonal flu – once a to be determined share of the population has been vaccinated. However, it seems New Zealand's government intends to keep the country locked away for considerably longer, with its COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins saying:

"At the overall rate of vaccination that they have [in the UK], I wouldn't be considering removal of all restrictions ... I don't think that's the way we'll see things unfold in New Zealand."

At the same press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added that "Different countries are taking different choices".

The context: The UK has vaccinated 86% of its adults with at least a first dose and around 65% of adults are fully vaccinated. It recently dropped the time between doses for AstraZeneca from 12 to 8 weeks, in an effort to speed up its rollout. That's because from 19 July the UK government will abolish mask mandates and social distancing requirements, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson conceding that Britain must "learn to live with this virus".

Unanswered questions: If an adult vaccination rate of 86% is not sufficient for New Zealand, what is? Australia has a travel bubble with New Zealand – will that continue when Australia moves into 'phase 4' and also learns to live with the virus?

Most of the world – many not by choice, mind you – will be following the UK/Singapore model, where the focus will soon move from case numbers to outcomes such as work days lost, hospitalisations and death rates.

Will Kiwi voters really tolerate being locked away from the world when even Australia opens up?

The Wrap Up

  • 🧬 A new study found that mRNA vaccines, such as those from Pfizer and Moderna, "will remain protective against the [new] lambda variant".
  • 🏅 Japan's government cancelled the Tokyo Olympic torch relay and is considering banning fans from all events. 15 days to go...
  • ✈️ Heathrow airport is experimenting with a scheme to check people's vaccination status before boarding, with vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries able to use a dedicated arrivals lane and avoid self-isolation requirements.
  • 🏨 Queensland authorities suspect that the miner who tested positive for COVID-19 in the Northern Territory caught it from the air conditioning at a Brisbane quarantine hotel.
  • 💉 Singapore's government will not recognise China's Sinovac vaccine, with only Moderna and Pfizer shots reflected in its overall vaccination numbers.
  • 🎮 Nintendo announced a new model of its popular Switch console, which appears to be basically the same as the existing model with the addition of an OLED screen and an Ethernet port.
  • 🕵🏾 Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in his home by a squad of gunmen in an overnight raid.
  • ⚖️ Former US President Donald Trump has sued Facebook, Twitter and Google in an attempt to restore his social media accounts, claiming he has been wrongly censored.