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First case of monkeypox confirmed in Auckland

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The Ministry of Health is reporting the first case of monkeypox in New Zealand – a person in their 30s who lives in Auckland.

The person has recently returned from overseas travel in a country with reported cases of monkeypox, the ministry said in a statement tonight.

There are now 50 countries reporting cases of monkeypox.

Given the increase in cases internationally, including Australia, the arrival in New Zealand was not unexpected, the ministry said.

“We have already taken steps to prepare for the arrival of monkeypox. Last month monkeypox was officially listed as a notifiable disease enabling us to utilise the tools needed to contain any possible spread of the disease, including isolation orders and readying contact tracing capabilities.”

A monkeypox PCR test is available in New Zealand laboratries and was used to detect this first case.

The ministry reported that the case had “a very small number of contacts” and they were being advised to watch for symptoms.

“There is no evidence of community transmission here.”

Public health advice

The ministry said that cases of monkeypox outside of endemic countries have primarily been identified among gay and bisexual men and men who have sex with men, and international cases have been clustered around events where this occurs.

As such the ministry was asking anyone who has been overseas and attended events connected with the spread of monkeypox, to be aware of any symptoms and seek advice from their GP or Healthline free on 0800 611 116, or get in touch with a sexual health clinic.

The first symptoms include one or more of the following: headache, acute onset of fever ( above 38degC), chills, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and body aches, backache and tiredness. The characteristic rash, which typically looks similar to chicken pox, appears after a few days.

The majority of people with monkeypox can be safely managed at home and there have been very few deaths from monkeypox globally.

Vaccine protection

Some smallpox vaccines can provide protection against the virus.

The Ministry of Health is working with Pharmac to explore options for access to smallpox vaccines that can be used as part of the targeted prevention of spread of monkeypox in certain situations.

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Newmarket bus lane cameras dishing out $12,000 in fines a day

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Cameras along a 160 metre length of bus lane in Auckland’s Newmarket generated $4.3 million in fines during 2021.

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Auckland’s Khyber Pass Road bus lane. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Almost 29,000 fines of $150 were issued, due to people driving more than 50 metres in the Khyber Pass Road bus lane.

This worked out to almost $12,000 worth of fines per day.

AA’s policy director Martin Glynn called the figure “huge”.

“It seems massive for a short bus lane. Something’s not right and it needs to be looked at.”

The number of fines issued in 2021 was three times more than were reportedly issued in the same stretch for the 12 month period from November 2016 to 2017.

Driving in a bus lane is illegal, said Auckland Transport’s group manager of parking services, John Strawbridge.

“Travelling by bus allows more people to move around the city,” he said. “Faster public transport times will attract more patronage on public transport which will reduce congestion on our roads.”

He said extending the bus lane operating hours, and the use of automated cameras had played a part in the increased number of fines generated.

Habits changing due to Covid-19, were also a reason.

“As a result, Aucklanders have spent the past couple of years taking an increased number of trips in their cars when they would have previously travelled on public transport, although this trend has started to reverse in recent weeks.”

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Almost 29,000 vehicles were issued fines for driving more than 50 metres in this bus lane during 2021 Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Motorists stung by fines have previously questioned the effectiveness of the signage on the bus lane.

In 2020, Damien Christie treated his children to a weekend morning show of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. He said the streets were quiet, with no buses in sight. He shifted into the left-turning lane and thinks he travelled about 70 metres in the bus lane.

He didn’t think anything of it at the time. Previously, the bus lane had only operated during weekdays. He was shocked when a fine arrived in the mail a few weeks later.

“The problem was the signage there. It’s so hard to know where the bus lane starts and ends.”

When he went back to look at the lane, he said he found signs twisted in the wrong direction and the green paint, often used to indicate a bus or cycle lane, worn and peeling in places.

“There was actually literally a chunk of the paint sitting in the gutter that had washed away.”

Signs were now facing motorists and the surface of the road had been repainted green.

Christie said he was a cyclist and an occasional public transport user. He thought bus lanes were a good idea but on hearing almost 29,000 fines were issued in 2021, he thought signage on the lane still wasn’t clear enough.

“Sometimes you get the sense that it is just absolute revenue gathering. I don’t think there’s any way they can justify that level of fines, that number of fines. They’re obviously not clearly letting people know this is where the bus lane is.”

Auckland Transport’s Strawbridge said 6 million vehicles a year travelled along Khyber Pass Road “of which only 1.24 percent of road users on it are non-compliant”.

He was confident Auckland Transport’s signage complied with legal obligations, but said sometimes it took enforcement to drive the message home.

“Although signage plays a vital role in helping ensure drivers comply with measures like Special Vehicle Lanes, we do sometimes find that it takes a person receiving an infringement notice to drive real behaviour change and vigilance around Special Vehicle Lanes.”

He rejected suggestions the lane was a revenue gatherer.

“In the case of Khyber Pass Road, the goal of our compliance activities is to help Aucklanders travel efficiently and effectively through Newmarket by bus. Our primary consideration is the effectiveness of our transport system – revenue is not our focus.”

The Automobile Association’s Martin Glynn said any bus lane generating large numbers of fines should raise a red flag to Auckland Transport.

“These figures are huge. The numbers you outlined are about 10 percent of all revenue across all the enforcement activities last year, that includes all parking fines.”

He described it as a tricky intersection, with a very short bus lane.

“Drivers on Khyber Pass Road wanting to turn left have got very little space in the left lane to comply with the 50 metres rule before they reach the intersection.”

While Glynn said Auckland Transport had been clear bus lanes weren’t aimed at revenue gathering, the organisation needed to be aware of the public perception.

“Auckland Transport should be measuring success on how they can increase compliance, get the infringement rate down and bring the public with them. Otherwise, people will just see it as revenue gathering.”

Strawbridge said Auckland Transport takes a “continuance improvement approach” to enforcement, and would carefully consider improvement requests it received from the community.

RNZ’s The Streets Have Eyes project on CCTV cameras, revealed Auckland Transport was New Zealand’s biggest spender on outdoor cameras among local and central government agencies. From 2017 to 2021 it spent more than $10m installing cameras.

It owns 3574 cameras.

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Photo: RNZ / Vinay Ranchhod

In 2020, The New Zealand Herald reported between 2015 and 2019 the number of Auckland bus lane fines increased almost 1000 percent. About $2m worth of fines were issued in 2015, compared to $19.8m in 2019.

This increase was partly attributed to greater use of CCTV cameras.

Strawbridge said revenue from fines helped fund public transport, parking, road safety campaigns, walking and cycling initiatives and road maintenance.

“With Auckland Transport utilising the enforcement revenues collected in this way council is also able to allocate funding Auckland Transport would have otherwise needed, to other council services like libraries, parks, community centres, the Art Gallery, the Zoo, and other recreational facilities.”

He said Auckland Transport had not pocketed the full $4.3m. As well as unpaid fines, each fine cost $30 to lodge with courts. The government also took 50 percent as a levy.

Damien Christie unsuccessfully challenged his fine, turning his trip to the movies into a pricey outing.

He said his children loved Sonic the Hedgehog but “I don’t know if it was worth $150 on top of everything else, the popcorn is expensive enough.”

Source : RNZ

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Gunman shoots 10 in New York subway after setting off smoke bomb, manhunt underway

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By Maria Caspani, Jonathan Allen and Rami Ayyub [RNZ]

A gunman wearing a gas mask has set off a smoke bomb and shot 10 people in a New York subway car during the morning commute, authorities say.

New York City Police Department members investigate the crime scene after multiple people were shot and undetonated devices were found at a subway station in New York City.

It has prompted fresh vows by officials for measures to reverse a surge in violence in the city’s transit system.

Five of those shot were in critical but stable condition, and six others were injured by shrapnel from bullets and other sources, as well as a panicked crush of people fleeing the carriage as it quickly filled up with smoke, officials said. Some riders collapsed to the ground as they poured on to the platform in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighbourhood.

A massive manhunt for the perpetrator – described as a Black male with a heavy build, wearing a green construction-type vest and a hooded sweatshirt – was underway.

New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Keechant Sewell said the shooting was not currently under investigation as an act of terrorism, although authorities would not rule anything out as a motive.

“This morning, as a Manhattan-bound N train waited to enter the 36th (Street) station, an individual on that train donned what appeared to be a gas mask, he then took a canister out of his bag and opened it,” Sewell told a press conference.

“The train at that time began to fill with smoke. He then opened fire, striking multiple people on the subway and in the platform,” she added.

Outside the station, in an area known for its thriving Chinatown and views of the Statue of Liberty, authorities shut down a dozen or so blocks and closed off the immediate area with yellow crime scene tape.

Students and staff at all schools in the neighbourhood were directed to shelter in place.

John Butsikares, a 15-year-old who passed through the 36th Street station soon after the incident, said the train conductor ordered everyone on the station platform to get on board.

“I didn’t know what happened. It was a scary moment. And then at 25th street (the next station) we were all told to get off. There was people screaming for medical assistance,” said Butsikares, who was going to school.

“It was just a scary moment. It was, everyone was packed together, and I didn’t know what happened until after.”

‘Surge of crime’

New York, the United States’ most populous city, has seen a sharp rise in violent crime during the pandemic, including a spate of seemingly random attacks on New York City’s subway. The system is one of the world’s oldest and most extensive.

The spate of violent crime in the subway has included a number of attacks in which passengers have been pushed onto the tracks from platforms, including a Manhattan woman whose murder was seen as part of a surge in hate-driven attacks against Asian Americans.

New York Mayor Eric Adams, a former NYPD captain and Brooklyn borough president who took office in January, has vowed to make the city’s subway safer by increasing police patrols and expanding outreach to the mentally ill.

Speaking to CNN, Adams said Tuesday’s incident “was a senseless act of violence” and pledged to double the number of officers on patrol in the subway.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul pledged “the full resources of our state to fight this surge of crime, this insanity that is feeding our city.” The White House said its staff were in touch with Adams and Sewell to offer any assistance and that President Joe Biden had been briefed about the incident.

City transit investigators found containers with gasoline and additional unused smoke canisters on the train carriage and the shooter’s firearm jammed, preventing further deaths, television station NBC 4 New York reported, citing city transit sources.

But officials told WABC-TV that there were no working cameras at the 36th Street station, likely complicating any investigation. The NYPD and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s subways and buses, said they had no information about cameras not working.

After the shooting, local and federal law enforcement officers rushed to the scene, and many could be seen donning heavy-duty armour and helmets. They were watched by small crowds of people on sidewalks huddled against buildings in a drizzle.

Brooklyn resident Yayha Ibrahim said he saw people running from the station, and decided to walk down into it to see what was happening.

“I saw a lady, she was shot right in her leg and she was screaming for help,” he said. Rescue workers “did a good job of coming quick and fast, and the ambulance came in and they took her.”

Source : RNZ

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Shaiyaz Mohammed back on air from Monday 

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Radio Apna’s Breakfast Host Shaiyaz Mohammed will once again hit the airwaves from next Monday .

Shaiyaz was on medical leave for two months after undergoing open heart surgery for mechanical valve replacement at Auckland Hospital.

Speaking from his Peninsula Park home Shaiyaz told Apna’s online news portal The Buzz that he is not 100 % fit but have recovered really well which will take several months to get back to normal.

He has thanked all his listeners ,friends, families ,colleagues, advertisers and loved ones for their support and prayers for his quick recovery.

Shaiyaz has also thanked Apna Management for tremendous support they have given to him and his family throughout this tough period and has also thanked surgeons ,nurses and their team at Auckland Hospital for successful surgery.

He added that saddest part of this 8 weeks period was a staunch Apna listner and a close friend who was full time wheelchair bound Mr Zabir Ali from Otahuhu despite being ill made an effort to visit him in hospital but passed away after few days.

Join Shaiyaz Mohammed in Chemist Warehouse SM Breakfast Show from next Monday from 6am to 9am.

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