Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 in community, Auckland in alert level 3

Four cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Auckland from an unknown source.

In an attempt to stem the spread of the virus, Auckland moved to alert level 3 from midday on Wednesday while the rest of the country headed to alert level 2. These restrictions will last until at least midnight Friday.

What you need to know:

  • Four individuals from a single household in south Auckland tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. They have no history of recent travel internationally, but a member did visit Rotorua over the weekend.
  • The workplaces of the individuals have been closed down and staff are being tested.
  • Auckland has moved to alert level 3, meaning people should work from home and avoid unnecessary travel. Checkpoints have been set up around the region.
  • The rest of New Zealand is now at alert level 2.
  • Kiwis should get tested if they are symptomatic and masks are recommended for use in public. They are mandatory when flying out of Auckland.
  • Political parties have suspended campaigning and the dissolution of Parliament has been delayed.
  • National leader Judith Collins is calling for the election to be delayed due to the crisis.

These live updates have now finished.

8:15pm- The NZ Police say they are "pleased with the public response" since Auckland changed to alert level 3, and the rest of New Zealand to level 2 at midday.

Officers have been managing nine checkpoints around Auckland's boundaries and have reported that people are generally being compliant and are heeding the restrictions.

But some Aucklanders have been stopped attempting to leave the region to visit friends and family, going for a scenic drive and trying to get to their holiday homes.

"The congestion around the checkpoints has eased somewhat during the afternoon and is expected to continue to improve tonight and tomorrow," a police spokesperson said.

"Police would like to remind Aucklanders to please look after each other and avoid non-essential travel."

The checkpoints are on:

  • Twin Coast Highway/North of Coal Hill Road
  • Black Swamp Road
  • Twin Coast Highway/Cames Road
  • SH1 North of Twin Coast Discovery Highway
  • Twin Coast Highway/Ryan Road
  • Mill Road
  • Kawakawa/Orere Road and Orere/Matingarahi Road.
  • Mangatawhiri Road/Lyons Road
  • River Road/Lapwood Road

7:55pm- Jacinda Ardern has slammed National leader Judith Collins' claims the Prime Minister knew of the four cases of community transmission "some days ago".

"The idea that we would keep information back from the public - when that is critical to us being able to look after their health, financial wellbeing and jobs - is just nonsense. This is the last I'll say on it," Ardern said.

7:30pm- Judith Collins has called into question the Government's transparency over the new cases of community transmission.

The Leader of the Opposition says she was only informed of the cases half an hour before the press conference on Tuesday night by Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

National's health spokesman Dr Shane Reti has also reportedly been asking for a briefing from the Minister of Health Chris Hipkins and health officials "all day".

"It is important that the Government is transparent. It has not been transparent so far and the fact that we are still waiting all day for a briefing on the health situation tells me that they are not prepared to be transparent," Collins said on Wednesday afternoon.

Read the full story here:

7:05pm- The demand for COVID-19 tests in Auckland is so high, one man in Auckland is still in line nine hours after joining the queue for the Eden Terrace testing centre.

Newshub reporter Edward O'Driscoll says the centre was supposed to close at 6pm, but security has told him they will remain open to ensure everyone waiting will get tested.

6:45pm- National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee has questioned the timing of Dr Ashley Bloomfield's visit to a mask factory and his first COVID-19 test on Monday.

He described the events as an  "interesting series of facts".

Here's Political Editor Tova O'Brien's report for Newshub's 6pm bulletin.

6:15pm - Here's a list of the financial support available for businesses and workers amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

5:45pm - Dr Siouxsie Wiles has revealed the four key things that need to be done to ensure Auckland's COVID-19 alert level 3 lockdown isn't extended past midnight Friday.

5:30pm -  Leading economists say each day that Auckland spends in alert level 3 will cost around $60 million in GDP.

5:20pm - New Zealand Rugby is continuing to work through the impact of the Government's COVID-19 announcement on this weekend's final round of Super Rugby Aotearoa matches, including the possibility of playing with "significant" crowd restrictions.

As it stands currently, with Auckland at level 3, the Blues-Crusaders game could not be played, while the Highlanders-Hurricanes game at level 2 could be played with restrictions on crowd attendance.

"All our decision-making will be guided by the Government advice," says NZR general manager of professional rugby and performance Chris Lendrum.

"We will wait to see if there will be any changes to alert levels in Auckland and around the country for this weekend and beyond. We are all awaiting the next Government update with interest.

"In the meantime, we are preparing prudent contingency plans around playing the Highlanders-Hurricanes game with significant crowd restrictions."

5:15pm - Employees and contractors of Auckland-based companies Americold in Mt Wellington and Finance Now on Dominion Rd.are required to isolate over concerns they might have come into contact with one of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community.

The direction also applies to any visitors to those workplaces in the past two weeks, and any people who ordinarily live with those employees, contractors or visitors.

The Mt Wellington branch of Americold is linked to one of the four community COVID-19 cases announced on Tuesday night. Its managing director confirmed to Newshub all employees had been sent home and would be tested for the virus.

It is currently unclear whether Finance Now on Dominion Rd is also connected to these four new cases.

5:05pm - More details on the travels of a family who tested positive for COVID-19 have been revealed by the Government.

While they were symptomatic, two members of the family left Auckland to holiday in Rotorua.

For the full story click on this link.

5pm - Ardern says New Zealand's response to the virus so far has worked.

"It opened our economy and our communities and gave New Zealanders opportunities and freedoms that we cherished," she says.

"We all want to get back there as soon as we can. But success relies on all working together, looking out for one another. We know we can beat this, but we also know we don't need to look far to see what can happen if we don't get on top of it. We have a plan, and now's the time to follow it."

4:55pm - Ardern says the COVID-19 leave support scheme is there for all businesses that are experiencing financial hardship.

It covers workers who are unable to work from home and need to self-isolate. The rate is $585.80 for full-time workers, and $350 for part-time workers.

It's available to any business that's had a 40 percent drop in revenue over a 30-day period.

There's also the Small Business Cashflow Scheme and the COVID Income Relief Payment to provide additional relief to struggling businesses and Kiwis.

The Finance Minister met with the Treasurer and is looking into targeted financial support for Auckland businesses.

4:35pm - Jacinda Ardern is up now. She says the COVID Cabinet committee met at 1pm. Ministers will reconvene on Thursday and Friday on the next steps. They plan to make any decisions "well in advance" of the Friday midnight deadline.

A new COVID-19 public health order came into effect at 12pm, and gives the legal basis for level 3 lockdown.

However there are two exceptions that are new from what we experienced the last time we were at level 3. The order makes it mandatory for:

  1. Any business or service to display a QR code at any entry point. Businesses are allowed one week to become compliant.
  2. People travelling out of Auckland to wear a face mask on a plane.

4:27pm - Bloomfield says he'll take the "significant and serious step" of making an oral direction under Section 70 of the Health Act.

"I require the following people to do two things - isolate at their usual home and not go out to work and remain isolated until they're contacted by our national contact tracing service and are given further direction."

That direction applies to any employees or contractors of two employers - Americold in the Mt Wellington suburb in Auckland, and Finance Now, the Dominion Rd branch in Auckland.

The direction also applies to any visitors to those workplaces in the last two weeks, and any people who ordinarily lives with those employees, contractors or visitors.

4:25pm - Testing is underway from this morning at all sites they visited between Rotorua and Auckland. Dr Bloomfield says there are between 6000-7000 people to test at those sites.

As of midday, just over 200 close contacts were identified and over 100 have been spoken with.

Most contacts are from two workplaces. Those people have been told to stay at home until they were contacted and given further instructions.

4:20pm - Dr Bloomfield says he's confident "the visit of two of the new cases to Rotorua... has not resulted in anyone who we'd classify as a close contact".

They were in Rotorua between August 8 (Saturday) to August 11 (Tuesday).

Three confirmed locations are: Waiora Lake Hotel (stayed there August 8-11), Skyline Gondola and Lodge (August 9 between 4-6pm), and the Heritage Farm and 3D Trick Art Gallery (August 10 between 3-4pm).

"As we find out more detail about other locations they visited, we will make that available."

4:12pm - Dr Bloomfield says there's one additional new case in managed isolation. She is a woman in her 50s from Islamabad who tested positive on day three of her stay.

There are also an additional four probable cases - people with symptoms who are linked to the first four cases. Contract tracing has been engaged on those cases.

4pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield are giving an update on new NZ COVID-19 cases and the Government's response.

You can watch the livestream here.

3:50pm -  Judith Collins wants Jacinda Ardern to delay the election until 2021 after the COVID-19 outbreak - but can she?

Newshub digital political reporter Zane Small has the details here.

3:22pm - Collins wouldn't say whether an election could happen under level 2, but wants to have a meeting with the Electoral Commission. She won't support a postal ballot.

3:18pm - Collins says there's been a lack of transparency from the Government.

"It is important to New Zealand and New Zealanders that we have full transparency - that is currently not available," she says.

"What is really important is that everybody, last time we had the lockdown, believed we'd be able to deal with this issue, that we'd be able to stop it. We were told we could stop it at the borders, we would have good quarantining. What people are now saying is they want some answers."

3:10pm - Judith Collins is calling for the election date to be pushed back until November.

The National leader warns it's "unsustainable" to suggest there will be a "fair and just" election in this situation.

"In a country that has one of the oldest democracies in the world, New Zealanders deserve better than to wonder whether or not they can even vote on election day."

3pm - Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins and National Party health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti are holding a press conference following the confirmation of community transmission of COVID-19 in Auckland.

2:55pm - One of Auckland's confirmed cases of COVID-19 was employed at Americold, a frozen storage warehouse which handles imports from overseas.

Managing director Richard Winnall told Newshub the man had been sick for quite some time before testing positive.

2:50pm - The Japanese Ministry of Health is reporting a new case after an asymptomatic woman in her 20s arrive in Tokyo from New Zealand on August 9.

2:25pm - Netball NZ has confirmed the cancellation of the final round of ANZ Premiership games, scheduled for this weekend.

With all playoff spots already decided, the matches have been declared draws.

2:10pm - Police say there has been a "slight delay" setting up a checkpoint in south Auckland.

"Police now have eight checkoints set up and operational across north and south Auckland," a police spokesperson says.

"There is a slight delay to establishing our ninth checkpoint at the Bombay Hills on State Highway 1 because we have to ensure appropriate traffic management and safety plans are in place as it is an extremely busy route with very high volumes of traffic.

"Police have been onsite since mid-morning along with our partners to ensure the checkpoint is safe for both road users and our staff. We expect the checkpoint to be operational shortly.

2pm - For the first time in 102 days, New Zealand officials have detected community transmission of COVID-19 on our shores.

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

1:55pm - Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero is pleading for the public to think of people who can't leave their homes to shop or who might need help with their shopping.

"Do you have a neighbour you could check in with and drop items off to? Can you free up your online delivery slot for priority shoppers?" she says in a statement.

"For many people who can't leave their homes at all shopping for essential items will be extra challenging.

"In the worst-case scenario, it may mean people go hungry till they can get help."

1:20pm - One of the COVID-19 cases visited Westview Medical Centre in west Auckland.

A text sent to patients says the individual was seen in the "infection control area" and was wearing a mask.

"The patient was assessed and swabbed by one of our Dr's wearing full protective equipment. All surgaces were subsequently cleaned as per guidelines," the text says.

The centre will shut for 48 hours from 11am on Wednesday.

"We apologise for the inconvenience but it is necessary to avoid NZ having to go back to level 4, something none of us want to happen."

1pm - David Seymour is speaking to media. He is calling on the Government to be transparent around the developing COVID-19 situation and what is needed to lift the newly-imposed restrictions.

"The government must bring us into its confidence and treat us as adults."

He said the Government must give certainty to anxious business owners and families.

12:55pm - Dr Andrew Chen, Research Fellow, Koi Tū - Centre for Informed Futures, University of Auckland, provided some comments to the Science Media Centre on contact tracing technology.

“While there are other technologies available, such as Bluetooth-based methods like those we have seen overseas, it is important that we focus on the tools that are available to us right now.

"Manual contact tracing (i.e. public health officials interviewing active cases and making phone calls to contacts) is still the primary mechanism through which we are conducting contact tracing.

"The NZ COVID Tracer app is a useful tool to provide a bit more information to contact tracers, and importantly can help notify you if they identify an exposure risk and there is an overlap with your location logs.

"Keeping your own records through other means is also helpful, and it is worth spending the time to retrace your steps over the last two weeks, just in case it is needed by contact tracers.

"Bluetooth-based methods (including the Apple/Google protocol and CovidCard) are being actively investigated and developed by the government, but I expect that this will still take a few months to be rolled out and we should not rush this process - it is more important to get it right.

"These other technologies are not silver bullets and we have seen limited effectiveness overseas, so we need to think of these technologies as augmentations/support for the manual contact tracing system.

"Under the recently released COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Levels 3 and 2) Order 2020, s16(2)(d) requires that businesses at level 2 (and level 3) must ‘display a copy of the QR code for the business or service in a prominent place at or near the main entrances to the workplace’, where the ‘QR Code’ is defined earlier as ‘a unique identifying code issued by the Government for the purpose of supporting contact tracing’.

"I expect that this refers to the NZ COVID Tracer QR codes - increasing the availability and visibility of these posters will hopefully improve use of the app and help people keep records of their movements more easily. We have previously seen that more businesses making QR codes available leads to a corresponding increase in participation, so I hope that this new requirement will lift the participation rate.

"Businesses can easily generate a QR code through the Ministry of Health using a self-service form.”

12:40pm - On the issue of masks, associate professor Arindam Basu from the College of Education, Health & Human Development, University of Canterbury, says they are "excellent for source control", meaning not passing the infection on to others. 

"Not so much for prevention of 'getting' diseases, hence masks should be on whenever people are out and about.

"There is evidence of airborne transmission, so putting on masks is essential in public spaces. Any mask is good, except for those with valves on them. The clue is to wear them properly covering  nose, and take care not to overlap with glasses to avoid fogging.

"Mask wearing needs to be with all other precautions (hand wash/cough-sneeze hygiene). Turn off face-recognition algorithms on phone if wearing masks as they do not work, prompting to take off masks for some people."

12:35pm - The next press conference from the Prime Minister and the Director-General of Health will be at 4pm. You'll be able to find a stream on this website.

12:30pm - To mark Auckland entering lockdown, Mayor Phil Goff has posted an image of the Skytower on Twitter.

"Kia kaha #Auckland. He waka eke noa. - Stay strong Auckland. We're all in this together."

12:10pm - One of the key points made during the Prime Minister's press conference was that Parliament's dissolution would be delayed until Monday.

Act's David Seymour called for this on Tuesday night and responded to the decision on Wednesday.

"This is the right decision. If political parties can’t get out and campaign, Parliament needs to be able to continue to function, ask questions, and hold the Government to account.

"Everyone is facing great uncertainty, and it's important that we keep Parliament open as a means for transparency and accountability."

12pm - It is now midday. That means the Auckland region is now under alert level 3 and the rest of New Zealand is under alert level 2.

You can find more information about the alert levels here.

11:30am - The Government could provide economic support to those in Auckland in the future if the restrictions are extended.

Dr Bloomfield believes there is a good supply of swabs.

Masks could still be mandated in public in the future, Ardern says.

There have been 100,000 downloads of the COVID Tracer App overnight.

Ardern would expect "we'd [need to] be free of community transmission" before the Cook Islands travel bubble could go ahead.

11:25am - Police say officers will increase reassurance visits and establish road checkpoints when the regional alert level 3 restrictions for Auckland come into effect from midday.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said officers have prepared for COVID-19 to return to the community.

“Like many other government agencies, police have been planning for this eventuality so we have been able to reasonably quickly mobilise staff to key areas to provide assurance, and to operate our checkpoints around the region’s Super City boundaries," he said.

"Police will have a visibly higher presence across the region, with all three Tāmaki Makaurau Police District Commanders working together to respond the regional alert level 3.  We will be visible around supermarkets and places where communities need the assurance of police presence."

He urged people to play their part and stay home.

"From midday, police will also be operating nine checkpoints at exit points just inside the regional boundaries, largely based on the Auckland Super City boundaries. 

"The checkpoints will be similar to the operations conducted ahead of the long weekends during the national alert level 3."

Police will be stopping vehicles and questioning drivers, but the first focus will be on education rather than handing out infringements.

"We have issued a reminder to our staff that they need to be exercising good hygiene and social distancing practises, and we have issued a directive to our Auckland staff that they must wear masks when dealing with the public, and other PPE gear as necessary.

"For the rest of the country, this is not new territory for people and hopefully there is a strong community willingness to abide by the restrictions of Alert Level 2."

All front counters in Tāmaki Makaurau are closed to the public with the exception of Henderson (Waitematā), College Hill (Auckland City) and the Counties Manukau Hub, which are all open 24/7 but with restricted access.

Throughout the rest of the country most front counters are open, but with restrictions to protect our staff and those coming into the building.

The checkpoints.
The checkpoints. Photo credit: Police.

11:20am - On the question of whether the public should prepare for alert level 4, or if restrictions will only be in place for a few days, Ardern says it depends on "what testing tells us".

Dr Bloomfield says one of the cases works in Mt Wellington, but the company has four locations, all of which have been closed.

The Director-General is confident we haven't had community transmission for a long period. But officials are still being open-minded about the source of the infection.

If restrictions are extended past midnight Friday, Ardern would like to give the public advance notice. But she couldn't say when that would exactly be.

11:15am - Ardern says everything at this stage points to the source of the infection being Auckland. The family member visited a number of tourist destinations in Rotorua.

She has heard suggestions that the Government may have had the information earlier than when they have said. She says there is no reason why "we would ever do that".

11:05am - While Cabinet can report while Parliament is dissolved and the Government can made decisions, the dissolution will be delayed until at least Monday. That will preserve options to reconvene Parliament if needed.

To recap, for Auckland under alert level 3, people should work from home and maintain physical distancing. Only the children of essential workers can go to educational facilities. Public venues are closed. Large gatherings are banned.

The rest of the country should be aware of symptoms and physically distance.

"As always, please stay kind, look after one another, and stay tuned as we update you on the situation as it continues to unfold," Ardern says.

Dr Bloomfield has no new results to present.

10:55am - Ardern says the new information about one of the contacts' movements shows the need to increase alert levels across the country.

She wants to see the number of people being tested increase, but only those with symptoms. 

Healthline has receive thousands of calls since late Tuesday. The Prime Minister said people should visit the COVID-19 website rather than calling Healthline unless they need it.

If you are in Auckland, please cover your face if you are leaving home to access essential services. Masks won't be mandated in public at this stage, but they are encouraged in Auckland.

For the rest of New Zealand, they are encouraged on the likes of public transport.

Masks will be mandated on flights leaving Auckland. Air New Zealand will present these on departure.

People who have recently left Auckland should be vigilant and aware of their health.

10:52am - Newshub understands the dissolution of Parliament has been delayed.

10:50am - Jacinda Ardern says the Government is taking a rapid response to break the chain of transmission.

Dr Bloomfield reports that the infected family remain in isolation at home. 

After further interviews with the family members, it's been revealed one of the cases - a woman in her 20s - travelled to Rotorua while symptomatic over the weekend. Officials are trying to find out what tourist locations were visited.

All people should be vigilant, Dr Bloomfield says, wherever they are located in New Zealand.

Officials are still trying to understand how the family was infected.

None of the workplaces of the infected individuals are customer-facing. There are 130 close contacts across one of the workplaces. All staff members are being treated as close contacts. It is a financial company and has been closed for the time being.

Three colleagues are symptomatic and are in isolation.

Dr Bloomfield said health sectors are ready to test tens of thousands of people.

10:35am - PM is running slightly late. She will be joined also by Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.

10:30am - We are minutes away from hearing from the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health. You can watch their press conference above.

10:15am - Rest homes are moving into full lockdown effective immediately. This will last until midnight Friday.

New Zealand Aged Care Association Chief Executive Simon Wallace says rest homes are not taking any chances.

"The experience in Melbourne where more than 100 rest homes have been affected shows the impact of not moving quickly.

"The lockdown means no visits will be allowed and no staff will be able to move between facilities. This a precautionary measure and the situation will be reassessed on Friday."

10:10am - Auckland Airport is expecting a busy day at the domestic terminal. It believes 13,000 people will pass through the terminal doors on Wednesday following the decision to move Auckland to alert level 3.

It's asking only those with travel booked to come to the terminal to ensure physical distancing. 

"The wellbeing of everyone working and traveling through our terminals is our top priority. As well as leaving space between people who aren’t part of your travel group, we would strongly recommend travellers come prepared with a mask to wear in the terminal and on their flight," said Anna Cassels-Brown, general manger of operations.

9:50am - Air New Zealand and Jetstar have both announced how they're reacting to the Government's Tuesday night announcement of new COVID-19 cases in Aotearoa.

The airlines are offering hold fares or credit vouchers for customers who were looking to travel in and out of Auckland while the new restrictions are in place, but neither announcement says they'll be offering refunds.

Health and safety protocols are already being put in place as a tweet from Newshub's Anna Bracewell-Worrall shows.

9:35am - Act's deputy leader Brooke van Velden is speaking to Paula Bennett on MagicTalk.

She says her thoughts are with Kiwis waking to news of the lockdown or who heard about it on Tuesday night.

"It will come as a great disappointment to many who were feeling like we had got back into a form of routine."

There will be a lot of anxiety in our communities, she says, so we should check in with our friends, neighbours, and families.

On Tuesday night, leader David Seymour wrote to the Speaker to ask for the dissolution of Parliament to be postponed. That is meant to happen on Wednesday at 11am.

Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 in community, Auckland in alert level 3
Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

9:15am - Auckland Council has closed all community facilities. That includes playgrounds, parks, libraries, pools, service centres, visitor centres and other community venues.

Essential services will remain open, however. Mayor Phil Goff is also stressing that the likes of supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations will continue operating.

"Please stay calm, shop as normal and follow Ministry of Health advice around good hygiene practices and social distancing. Those who can work from home should do so.

"We've beaten COVID-19 once already by working together, and we will do so again by working together as a team. Please look out for yourself and others, stay safe and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines."

Acting Auckland Council chief executive Patricia Reade says rubbish and recycling will still be picked up and disposed of, but "other non-essential open space maintenance will be stopped until Friday.

"Around 100 of our public toilets will remain open for essential workers and members of the rough sleeper community, and our public transport system will continue to operate"

9am - We are expecting a press conference with Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield at 10:30am with an update on the situation. 

8:55am - News that COVID-19 has been confirmed back in the New Zealand community will have shocked and saddened many Kiwis.

"It is important to remember that emotions evolved to provide us with information that could help us make sense of our experiences and guide our behaviour," registered clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire said.

Find more advice about dealing with anxiety and fear here.

8:40am - Newshub's Laura Tupou tried calling Healthline and ran into some difficulty.

"Calling Healthline for covid testing advice... 682 people ahead of me equating to a 72min wait," she tweeted.

8:30am - Air New Zealand says from midday, the airline's Auckland lounges and valet parking will be closed.

"For the duration of the change in alert levels, Air New Zealand will also be taking extra precautions to keep people safe. Its front of house employees and domestic cabin crew will wear masks and gloves, and pilots will wear masks when interacting with customers or walking through the terminal.

"Customers on flights departing from Auckland will be also be required to wear masks. Customers are welcome to bring their own, or these will be provided by the airline onboard. Air New Zealand recommends that its customers traveling from other ports also wear masks, however this will not be a requirement."

Customers with tickets for domestic flights scheduled to depart before 11:59pm on Sunday can opt to hold their fare in credit and can do this via the airline's online booking tool.

"Customers who are unable to manage their booking online and no longer wish to travel do not need to contact Air New Zealand immediately or prior to their flight’s departure, and can be assisted at a later date to find an alternative flight option or be provided with a credit note.

"The Air New Zealand contact centre and social media team are currently experiencing very high demand. Air New Zealand is grateful to customers for their patience while it works through these changes."

8:20am - Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett tells The AM Show it will be "devastating for businesses" and "confusing for employees".

He says a survey last week showed 50 percent of businesses were back at 100 percent, and 30 percent of businesses were at 75 percent, following the March-May lockdown. Barnett says businesses are resilient.

Barnett is looking to what the Government does to support businesses.

He said the Government has had four months to come up with a plan and should give certainty on if there will be a subsidy.

The outbreak, Barnett says, isn't a political issue. He says we must look after people and businesses before getting concerned about the election.

He says any suggestion we will be back "in control" by Friday is a stretch.

8:15am - National's Foreign Affairs spokesperson and former leader, Simon Bridges, is concerned about how alert level changes and the COVID-19 situation will impact the election campaign.

"Let's be honest about how problematic a 19 Sept election in under 40 days is. I’ve just cancelled public meetings and a lot of volunteers doorknocking. Meanwhile, Labour, while suspending campaigning, continues with all machinery of Govt and thus the power of the airwaves."

8:10am - Health Minister Chris Hipkins told RNZ the Government was working with lawyers on a notice that would make masks mandatory for Aucklanders.

Currently, it's highly recommended people wear masks while out in public.

7:55am - Act's leader David Seymour says he has written to the Speaker asking for the dissolution of Parliament - which is meant to happen on Wednesday - to be postponed.

His letter:

Mr Speaker,

Terrible news tonight. It occurs to me that Parliament does not need to dissolve before the election.

I strongly urge you to postpone the dissolution of Parliament tomorrow until at least this time next week when a clearer picture of the Public Health situation can be had.

It is possible that the election will now need to be delayed. If that is the case, I believe the people would want to have Parliament available for an epidemic response committee or perhaps sittings.

Happy to discuss by phone if you would like.

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty.

7:45am - Sunday's blockbuster finale to Super Rugby Aotearoa is in doubt with Auckland returning to COVID-19 alert level 3.

The Blues are set to host the newly-crowned Super Rugby Aotearoa champion Crusaders in front of a sell-out crowd at Eden Park.

Under the Alert Level protocols,  the game will not be played if the city stays at level 3, while the Hurricanes v Highlanders clash on Saturday could be played without spectators.

Read more on that here.

7:30am - Newshub's Political Editor Tova O'Brien says this is the moment Labour has been concerned about.

She says the new cases and alert level changes throw the election campaign into disarray. The election can be delayed if there are unavoidable disruptions, she tells The AM Show.

"So much hinges on the next three days. All campaigning has been suspended."

The current restrictions will last until at least midnight Friday. Officials hope to know the results of testing and contact tracing by then.

Jacinda Ardern's campaigning to date has been focussed on COVID-19 and it has worked for her, O'Brien says.

"This could go either way depending on how it has handled... [Ardern] will be that reassuring voice for the country again, but if the Government has screwed up here, something has gone wrong somewhere along the line and that is where it can spin on a dime for the Labour Party."

National's Judith Collins told The AM Show on Wednesday morning it's critical the election is done properly.

"It's going to be very difficult to have an election in mid-September when we are now mid-August," she told host Duncan Garner.

"Basically, it is very little time and I don't think New Zealanders are going to want to see a postal-ballot type system set up.

"I think it's one of the things that I will be speaking to the Prime Minister about as well as the Electoral Commission. I am very concerned that when we have our election that people have a fear of having an election - and I'm sure that most people would consider that's a fair thing to ask."

Read more about that here.

7:20am - Police are aware of at least three incidents where officers were called to reports of disorder at Auckland supermarkets overnight.

"We were called to Takapuna Countdown at around 11pm, Botany Countdown at 10:30pm, New Lynn Countdown at 10:50pm after reports of large crowds at supermarkets," a spokesperson said.

No arrests were made.

Officers were also at supermarkets "to provide visibility and reassurance".

"Police would reiterate messaging from our partners that people need to remain calm, there is no need for panic buying."

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: The AM Show.

7:15am - Health Minister Chris Hipkins says there is no "obvious point of origin" to the four cases. Whether the lockdown lasts three days or longer will depend on the results of testing and contact tracing.

Contact tracing has not yet revealed a connection to anyone working at the border or who has been travelling, he tells The AM Show.

"We will keep testing and keep contact tracing until we find out the origin of this particular case."

An additional three individuals in the household have tested negative. But they are still in isolation.

In response to Collins' comment that the Prime Minister had told her that workmates of the family's father were symptomatic, Hipkins says they were tested on Tuesday and some will be tested on Wednesday.

He expects regular updates on that throughout the day.

TVNZ says one of the infected individuals works a night shift and his colleagues are waiting for their results. His wife works in central Auckland and was tested at a west Auckland GP, which is now closed.

Hipkins says over the next 48 hours, everybody working at the border or in isolation facilities will be tested.

"This is just part of the precautionary approach. We don't know where this has come from."

It's too early for people to be talking about blame, the Health Minister says.

There are mechanisms in place to delay the election if necessary, he says. Planning has been underway to conduct the election under alert level 2.

It's currently scheduled for September 19.

Countdown Henderson.
Countdown Henderson. Photo credit: Newshub.

7:10am - Newshub reporter Sinelle Fernandez is at Countdown in Manukau, Auckland. She says queues had already begun when she arrived at 6:30am.

She says its getting longer by the minute. 

"Shoppers say they are all calm, not worried, and just wanted to get shopping out of the way before the panic buying starts."

Panic buying is unnecessary as supermarkets are confident they can keep up with demand. 

"Just buy what you need, as you need it. Our teams have got your back New Zealand - help us by being kind to one another, we know how to do this. Keep your distance, sanitise and use good hand washing techniques and most of all remember your safety comes first for us," Foodstuffs says.

Countdown Manukau.
Countdown Manukau. Photo credit: Newshub.

7am - Kiwis have just received another mobile emergency alert.

It's a reminder that from midday, Auckland will move to alert level 3, while the rest of the country is going to alert level 2.

Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 in community, Auckland in alert level 3

6:55am - Infectious diseases expert David Murdoch says the virus has to come from somewhere and the border is the "obvious place".

New Zealand has the advantage of looking overseas to see what has happened, Murdoch says. He says the response on Tuesday night was justified.

"No one knows, I think at this stage, what will happen in two or three days." 

6:50am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the outbreak is disappointing, but we should follow the lessons of the first lockdown and act quickly.

"All of us need to work together," he says.

He tells The AM Show that supermarkets won't run out of supplies unless people go out and panic buy.

Goff says we must act quicker than Melbourne did in July when it began to experience a second wave.

"We need to act quickly, we need to work together, and we need to follow the rules."

There must be other cases of the virus in the community, he says, as the four infected individuals don't work on the border and don't have a history of travel.

"We will manage this and we will get through it."

Coronavirus updates: COVID-19 in community, Auckland in alert level 3
Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

6:45am - Wondering where to get tested? Capacity at Auckland's four community testing centres has been boosted.

The centres are:

  • Northcote - 16-18 College Road
  • Eden Terrace - 112 New North Road, entrance via Ngahura Street
  • Henderson - Whanau House, corner of Edsel Stree and Catherine Street
  • Wiri - Whanāu Ora Community Clinic, 25 Druces Road

Two pop-up centres will be open from 9am.

One is in Otara Town Centre carpark, the second at Health New Lynn.

Find more here.

6:30am - National's Judith Collins says the situation is "devastating". She has been contacted by small business owners - one in tears - wondering how they will cope.

She tells The AM Show that businesses are just getting over the March-May lockdown.

"It is very difficult when you have people on the phone to you crying."

Collins says there is no alternative to alert level 3 if there has been a community outbreak. She notes that people in the household work in different areas of Auckland.

The National leader says the Prime Minister told her some of the workmates of the father in the family had shown symptoms.

"This is quite a serious situation," Collins says.

But she doesn't want people out panic buying.

"I have been wearing a mask coming into today to this interview."

She said the effects on the election should be clearer on Friday. Collins doesn't believe Kiwis will want to see a postal-ballot set up and wants everyone to have a fair go.

"We'll wait and see how we go on Friday but it's one of the things I will be speaking to the Prime Minister about, as well as the Electoral Commission," she said.

"We will wait and see how we go on Friday."

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Getty.

6:25am - Professor of Public Health Michael Baker is telling The AM Show he was hoping to see the virus kept out of the community long-term. But the nature of SARS-CoV-2 means we must now act quickly.

"We won't know how much trouble we are in until we have more information," he said.

Officials are currently tracking contacts of the cases and looking for a possible source.

Prof Baker said we are in a better state - with greater testing and contact tracing capacity - than when we went into lockdown in March.

He still believes elimination is the right strategy.

Michael Baker.
Michael Baker. Photo credit: The AM Show.

6:20am - Newshub has seen an email sent to parents and staff at Auckland's Mt Albert Primary School saying a student is linked to the latest cases.

It says the child lives in a household where people have been confirmed with COVID-19.

Find out more here.

6:10am - As social media images and videos have shown, people rushed to supermarkets on Tuesday night. Foodstuffs said it would reactivate its social distancing and health and safety protocols across its stores. 

Customers visiting all 40 stores across the wider Auckland area can expect to see the following Customer and Team safety measures in place: 

  • Two metre social distancing 
  • Restricted customer numbers in-store 
  • One customer, one trolley 
  • No bag packers at check out 
  • No reusable bags to be bought into store 
  • Increased sanitisation, hygiene and cleaning protocols throughout the supermarket including, on entry, at checkout and other high touch areas 
  • Social distancing signage and posters advising of customer requirements 

Customers outside of Auckland will see increased sanitisation and safety measures.

"While we truly hoped it wouldn’t happen, as a business we just had to plan that another outbreak could occur, and the teams have been prepared for some time should we need to reinstate previous Alert Level protocols. Foodstuffs has good stocks of PPE and hand sanitiser, and our teams are familiar with what is required to keep both themselves and our customers safe from COVID-19," Foodstuffs said.

"We would like to reassure customers that, just like before, our supply chain is robust. We are working hard to make sure all the grocery items New Zealand households might need are on the shelf and readily available."

Shoppers are asked to shop normally to put no additional pressure on the supply chain.

"Just buy what you need, as you need it. Our teams have got your back New Zealand – help us by being kind to one another, we know how to do this. Keep your distance, sanitise and use good hand washing techniques and most of all remember your safety comes first for us." 

6am - The AM Show has just begun. Watch on Three or live here.

Among the show's guests on Wednesday is Michael Baker, Judith Collins, and Chris Hipkins.

5:45am - New Zealand's Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann has announced jury trials in progress in the Auckland region have been suspended until Monday. Jurors who have been summonsed to attend are excused.

The Chief Justice also announced a 24-hour suspension on jury trials throughout the rest of the country to allow courts to re-establish public safety measures under alert level 2.

5:40am - Experts are warning that Kiwis across the country - not just in Auckland - should take precautions after four cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the community.

The lack of known links between the cases and international travel or to isolation facilities "means there are almost certainly other active cases of COVID-19 present in Auckland at the moment", according to Professor Shaun Hendy.

"There is also a chance the disease will have spread to other parts of the country. Because of this everyone in New Zealand should take the necessary precautions, including wearing masks if you can, especially in close indoor settings, hand-washing, and getting tested if you have any of the symptoms."

Find out more here.

5:30am - Matthew Tukaki, the executive director of the Maori Council, is calling for calm.

"I ask all of us living in [Auckland] city to abide by the rules of level three. As Chair of the Auckland District Maori Council i urge all of our whanau to remain calm and collected, stay home / work from home. 

"For whanau who will find it tough this next period here in Auckland I will be posting information about where to access help tomorrow morning - but can i urge you - if you are showing symptoms of respiratory illness or fly like symptoms to get tested."

5:20am - Judith Collins has promised National will seek "an explanation and clear answers about the situation we now find ourselves in".

In a statement on Tuesday night, the Leader of the Opposition said New Zealanders should follow the advice of officials. 

"This will come as a shock to all New Zealanders who believed what we had been told – that we had got on top of this virus. It is disappointing that it is once again in our community,” Collins said.

"A lot of work will need to be done over the coming days to figure out exactly what this latest case of community transmission will mean for the country, and I urge all New Zealanders to follow the hygiene protocols that saw us do such a great job of dealing with the first wave of COVID-19."

5:10am - The leaders of parliamentary political parties have announced how the new restrictions will affect their campaigning.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters tweeted on Tuesday night: "Regrettably in these circumstances, NZF's campaign has been temporarily suspended as of 9pm this evening."

National's Judith Collins said in light of the restrictions coming into place, all National Party campaign events planned for Wednesday would not go ahead.

The Greens' James Shaw also announced his party was suspending in-person campaigning.

Megan Woods, Labour's campaign chair, said on Tuesday night that Labour candidates have been told campaigning is suspended across the country for the time being.

Find more about the current political state of play here.

4:55am - Here's the full information the Ministry of Health released on Tuesday night:

The Prime Minister has announced four confirmed cases of COVID-19 in one family from an unknown source. 

The index case is a person in their 50s who lives in South Auckland. 

They were swabbed yesterday, and the swab was processed twice. A second swab, taken today confirms the positive result. 

The person has been symptomatic for five days and was interviewed this evening by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service. 

The person has no overseas travel history. 

As is our usual protocol we are continuing to trace close and casual contacts of this person and test them for COVID-19. 

This has included household contacts of the case who received a rapid test this evening. Three of these tests have also come back positive and three are negative.

All close contacts of the four cases will remain in self-isolation for 14 days, regardless of their test result, and all casual contacts will remain in self-isolation until they have the results of their test. 

In addition, we are working over the next few days to test all people that are working at our borders and everyone that works at a managed isolation facility. 

There will also be no barriers to anyone that has cold and flu symptoms getting tested. Testing is free. 

“I’ve said it previously, but it’s even more relevant now, if you are offered a test, please take it", Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said. 

In Auckland the four community testing centres in Northcote, Grafton, Henderson and Wiri will be operating with more staff and extra hours. The testing centres in Auckland, Waitemata and Counties Manukau are all prepared for receiving more people. Details will be on our website tonight. 

The three DHBs in Auckland are planning pop up clinics over coming days and they will publicise the locations and hours of these clinics. 

The Ministry will be working closely with DHBs and primary care around the country to ensure additional testing capacity is available to meet an expected increase in demand. 

As we’ve been saying for several weeks, it was inevitable that New Zealand would get another case of community transmission. 

We have been working on the basis that it could be at any time – and that time is now. 

The health system is well prepared for this eventuality – and the important thing now is that we don’t let the virus spread in our community. 

As we did in the early days of this virus emerging, we need to stamp it out. 

There are things that every single New Zealander needs to do now: 

Continue stringent hand hygiene 

Sneeze and cough into your elbow. 

If you or a family member are unwell stay home and contact Healthline or your GP about getting a test. 

Practice physical distancing of two meters wherever possible. 

Consider wearing a mask in public spaces or places where it is hard to physically distance. 

If you have any concerns please seek advice from Healthline or your GP on getting a test. 

If you have not already, please use this opportunity to download the NZ COVID Tracer app. 

This will give us your up to date contact details, so if we need to get in touch with you for contact tracing purposes, we can do so quickly. 

If you have fallen out of the habit of recording your movements as you go about your day, this case is a reminder of why it is so important. 

You can still use the manual function on the app to record where you have been recently, and scan in using QR codes going forward. 

A reminder too, for businesses – please have a QR code displayed so your customers can be traced quickly if required. 

"Our contact tracing team will be getting in touch with anyone identified as being a contact of this case. Please be responsive if you are contacted – return the call. 

"This case is a wake-up call against any complacency that may have set in. 

"We cannot afford to let this virus spread. 

"We have seen how quickly it can lead to a wider resurgence in communities overseas. Places that have had COVID-19 under control have seen flare-ups and gone back into a full lockdown. 

"We are working to not let that happen here. We’ve done this before and we can do it again," Dr Bloomfield said. 

4:45am - Auckland at midday on Wednesday will move to alert level 3 in response to four individuals testing positive for COVID-19. It's unknown how they acquired the virus. 

The rest of New Zealand will head to alert level 2.

Here's a breakdown of what those levels mean.