Coronavirus: A timeline of how New Zealand's latest COVID-19 cases unfolded

New Zealand health officials have, for the first time in 102 days, detected community transmission of COVID-19 on our shores.

The news of four cases of coronavirus in south Auckland shocked Kiwis when it was announced late on Tuesday night, compounded by the announcement it would bring an escalation to alert level 3 for the Super City and to alert level 2 everywhere else.

After speculation the Government had sat on information about the new cases for days - a claim Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday rubbished as something "we would never do" - it's clear few are privy to details about how the latest outbreak actually unfolded.

Below is a timeline of how New Zealand's flurry of new cases came about, and who found out about what when.

Saturday, August 8

A south Auckland woman in her 20s travels to Rotorua for a weekend visit with a preschool-age child while symptomatic.

She visits a number of tourist attractions before returning home.

Monday, August 10

A man in his 50s from the same household presents to his local GP with COVID-19 symptoms.

He undertakes a swab test, which is taken away to be processed.

Tuesday, August 11

2:30pm: The Counties Manukau DHB and Auckland Regional Public Health Service is informed of a positive test at about 2:30pm on Tuesday. Both the case and their family are immediately isolated at home.

2:40pm: Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield receives a text from Counties Manukau DHB CEO Margie Apa informing him of the test result. He calls the team a few minutes later to get a briefing on what was happening.

3:15pm: The Ministry of Health makes contact with the Prime Minister's Office about the case of community transmission.

4pm: Jacinda Ardern exits a public event in Whanganui, jumping in a van headed back to Parliament. She is informed of the case in the privacy of the van, and immediately speaks to her chief of staff and Health Minister Chris Hipkins.

Late Tuesday afternoon: Health officials interview the man in his 50s, and learn he lives with six others who, like him, have no international travel history. All six undertake rapid swab tests, with three returning positive results and the other three negative.

Other close contacts from workplaces of the four new COVID-19 cases are contacted by the Ministry of Health and put into self-isolation for 14 days, awaiting a test whether they're symptomatic or asymptomatic.

All casual contacts are told to go into self-isolation, and advised they can only leave once they've returned a negative test.

5:30pm: Health officials give a briefing to those involved in the All of Government COVID-19 response. Ardern says she was still on the road at that time, and posed a number of questions to health officials about efforts to contact trace and how isolated the person was.

7pm: Ardern arrives at Parliament and immediately sits down for a meeting with the Health Minister in her office.

7:30pm: Health and All of Government officials arrive in the office for a briefing, and immediately after Ardern convenes her ministers with power to act and makes her final decisions on how to deal with the new outbreak.

8:30pm: Ardern says she called Opposition leader Judith Collins to give "quite a fulsome briefing", and called Auckland Mayor Phil Goff to inform him of her decision to place strict coronavirus restrictions on the Super City.

8:45pm: Collins says she was contacted by the Prime Minister at 8:45pm. 

8:53pm: The Prime Minister's Office sends an advisory to media about a last-minute press conference hosted by Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at the Beehive.

9:15pm: The Prime Minister announces the four new community transmission COVID-19 cases to New Zealand.

She explains New Zealand will enter alert level 2 from midday on Wednesday, while Auckland - the location of the outbreak - will go to alert level 3 at the same time, for an initial three days.

The Director-General of Health reminds Kiwis that anyone who wants a test can get one, and encourages all New Zealanders with respiratory symptoms to get tested.

Wednesday, August 12

Morning: Testing of those working at the border or in quarantine and managed isolation facilities begins, a process Director-General of Health hints may take a few days. Health officials say this is an effort to trace the source of the outbreak, which is still unknown.

Community testing centres are established in Rotorua and Taupo, with an additional pop-up testing centre being set up for Thursday.

8am: Interviews with the family reveal that two of the four cases had been on a weekend trip to Rotorua while one, the woman in her 20s, was symptomatic.

The Ministry of Health learns they had visited a number of tourist attractions.

Discussions are held with the four cases to move some or all of them from isolation in their own home to Auckland's quarantine facility, the Jet Park Hotel.

9am: The Government announces the Prime Minister, Director-General of Health will provide additional updates on the new COVID-19 outbreak at 10:30am and 4pm from the Beehive.

It also announces Police Commissioner Andrew Coster will be brought in for the morning press conference.

10:30am: Ardern and Dr Bloomfield reveal the infected family remains in isolation at home, and that two of the cases had travelled to Rotorua while symptomatic over the weekend.

They also explain there are 130 close contacts across just one of the workplaces of the four cases - a financial company - though it isn't customer-facing.

Dr Bloomfield says three colleagues and health sectors are ready to test tens of thousands of people.

Ardern warns Auckland's alert level 3 lockdown could be extended beyond midnight Friday, contingent on "what testing tells us". She encourages Aucklanders to start wearing face masks.

11am: The dissolution of Parliament is delayed until at least Monday, August 17.

11:10am: Commissioner Coster announces police will increase reassurance visits and establish road checkpoints when regional alert level 3 restrictions come into effect.

12pm: Auckland enters its alert level 3 lockdown - a period that's scheduled to end at midnight on Friday - as the rest of New Zealand shifts to alert level 2.