Coronavirus updates: Thirteen new cases in Auckland, one visited aged care facility

Auckland reported thirteen confirmed COVID-19 cases in the community on Thursday and a North Shore school went into lockdown, all during the city's second day of alert level 3.

The new restrictions were introduced after four cases of the virus were confirmed in the community on Tuesday with an unknown source.

The rest of New Zealand is at alert level 2.

What you need to know:

  • Thirteen confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported from the community on Thursday, taking the total number of new outbreak cases to 17
  • These new cases include a student at Mt Albert Grammar School, three employees at Americold and an employee at Finance Now. The 13 are all linked to four confirmed on Tuesday
  • One of the new cases visited an aged care facility in Waikato, but were not showing symptoms at the time
  • It's been revealed two of the initial four cases who visited Rotorua over the weekend also went to Taupo for a day-trip
  • Auckland laboratories recorded over 7800 tests on Wednesday
  • North Shore's Glamorgan School is closed after a student tested positive for COVID-19
  • Police checkpoints are set up north and south of Auckland
  • Kiwis should get tested if they are symptomatic and masks are recommended for use in public. They are mandatory when flying out of Auckland

These live updates have now finished.

9:52 - Another Auckland school and a preschool have been closed after a student at each of the facilities tested positive for COVID-19. They are both part of the 13 new cases announced on Thursday. 

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) confirmed Southern Cross Campus and Taeaofou | Puaseisei Preschool, both in Mangere East, are closed while an investigation is carried out. 

ARPHS is currently working with the schools to identify close contacts of the confirmed cases.

A spokesperson says staff and families have been advised to continue adhering to Auckland’s alert level 3 restrictions, and stay in self-isolation until they hear from the service with advice on what to do next.

Everyone from the school and preschool should remain vigilant for symptoms of COVID-19. 

An engineering student at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) has also tested positive, ARPHS confirmed. However the student was not on campus while infectious.

9:25pm - Kiwi scientists have identified the "family" of COVID-19 outbreak - and it is called B.1.1.1.

The genome sequence of the original four community cases has been identified, meaning its lineage has been tracked.

Otago University's Dr Jemma Geoghegan has done the sequencing and said it was part of what was called B.1.1.1.

Read Patrick Gower's report here.

9:15pm - A student at Glamorgan School in Torbay, north Auckland, has tested positive for COVID-19. The school will now shut until at least next week.

A letter to parents from Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) says the student was last at school on August 11 and is now quarantining at home for 14 days. The child's household is also self-isolating.

"As a result, the school will be fully closed to all staff and students, including children of essential workers, until at least Monday 17 August."

ARPHS says it will advise whether the school needs to stay closed for longer.

The letter adds the child didn't show symptoms while at school, and contact tracing is currently underway.

Glamorgan School.
Glamorgan School. Photo credit: Google Maps

9pm - An additional testing centre in Auckland will open at the Mangere Town Centre carpark from Friday 10am.

All community testing centres will also be open this weekend.

8:20pm - National's deputy leader Gerry Brownlee has backtracked on his comments about the Government's COVID-19 response after ministers hit out at the spread of "misinformation". 

On Wednesday, Brownlee questioned the timing of the Prime Minister's visit to a mask factory and the Director-General of Health's COVID-19 test on Monday, suggesting it was an "interesting series of facts".

Government ministers have since blasted Brownlee's comments in response,

Read Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien's story here.

7:40pm - In need of a quick recap of today's COVID-19 developments? Newshub's Melissa Chan-Green has you covered.

Read her overview of what we know about New Zealand's 17 cases of community transmission here.

7:20pm - A Waikato police officer is in self-isolation as a precautionary measure after he conducted a routine traffic stop in Rotorua involving a person that has since tested positive for COVID-19.

Police say the officer is self-isolating for 14 days and will be tested for the virus throughout that time.

7:15pm - Newshub has found that just one week before the community outbreak, nearly two-thirds of all border and hotel isolation workers in Auckland had never been tested for COVID-19.

"It beggars belief that in an environment where the border is your major protection against a second wave that you are not exhausting every possible opportunity to mitigate risk," said Professor Des Gorman, Auckland University public health expert.

Jacinda Ardern says all staff will now get a test.

"We are working through getting testing of all our border staff as we speak. We are giving us a period of time to make sure we do that," she said.

Read Michael Morrah's report here.

7pm - Green Party co-leader James Shaw says he's 'feeling fine', despite taking a COVID-19 test after experiencing cold symptoms.

"I have what I would describe as an extremely mild cold. I would not go so far as to even call it a man flu," he told Newshub.

Shaw earlier released a statement saying he was awaiting the result of a precautionary COVID-19 test after travelling to the south Auckland area over the weekend - where community transmission has been discovered. 

Read more here.

6:45pm - Winston Peters claims Auckland's community cases came from a "breach inside our quarantine system".

He says he heard this from a journalist in New Zealand.

"I think there's been a breach inside our quarantine system, and I think, when that comes out very shortly, in a matter of maybe less than a day, we'll find out that was the case," he told Australia's ABC news.

"You don't always find out from your officials. You don't always find out from the experts. It's something you sort of find out by contact with other people."

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister's office says no connection between managed isolation and the cases has been established at this point.

Winston Peters.
Winston Peters. Photo credit: Getty Images

6:30pm - Newshub reporter Mitch McCann says some people he's spoken to in Rotorua have been refused a test.

"We were contacted by a Newshub viewer earlier today who was furious because his two symptomatic children were taken by him to the doctor yesterday and were told they couldn't get swabs because they'd run out at the medical centre."

McCann says he contacted local Lakes DHB who admitted there had been an issue where swabs were taken to the new testing centres and not the medical centres.

"They say they're working to rectify it now, so anyone who does need a test at the medical centre or GP can do so now."

6:10pm - A decision on whether the lockdown will extend will be made at 5:30pm on Friday, the Prime Minister's Office has confirmed.

Auckland's level 3 lockdown and level 2 restrictions in the rest of New Zealand are currently due to end at midnight on Friday.

6pm - New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has released a video, saying during this time where COVID-19 in the community has risen, the health and wellbeing of all Kiwis must be the "only focus".

"That's why, on learning of the COVID outbreak, I immediately suspended New Zealand First's election campaign. Health first, politics second," he says.

"When we've got the information we need to better understand our health challenge, then we can address the timing of the election."

5:50pm - Over 7800 COVID-19 tests were recorded in Auckland's laboratories on Wednesday - a new record for the city.

The previous record was 6407 on June 23.

The tests on Wednesday include 3546 people swabbed at community testing centres, with a similar volume taken collectively by general practices, urgent care clinics and mobile testing units, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre says.

Also, from 8am Friday morning, the central Auckland testing centre currently in Eden Terrace will be located at Eden Park on the corner of Sandringham Rd and Reimers Ave. This is to provide a better flow and a safer environment for pedestrians who want a test.

5:30pm - New Zealand's Science Media Centre is urging Kiwis to look out for early onset of coronavirus symptoms.

Experts say while the proportion of infected people who don’t develop symptoms is uncertain, research suggests 30 to 40 percent of all COVID-19 infections are asymptomatic - or from people not recognising symptoms.

Dr Michael Maze from the University of Otago says during the pandemic Kiwis need to be more aware of their health and any changes.

"Overall I think we should be keeping an eye out for the common symptoms, which are a runny nose, loss of smell, cough and feeling tired or 'wiped out'. Fever and achy muscles are also pretty common – but not everyone with COVID-19 will have a fever."

Read more here.

5:10pm - Need a refresher on the rules for employers and employees working from home during lockdown? 

Employment law expert Jennifer Mills answered a range of questions on a number of situations to help those who may have forgotten.

Read more here.

4:55pm - ACT leader David Seymour says it's "completely insane" the Government is still requiring butchers and greengrocers to close at alert level 3, having hoped the rules would be changed this time around. 

"Setting the rules of the game is one of the key jobs of Government here, and I don't want to be negative about everything, but there's so many areas where I just feel that we could do a better job."

He says it doesn't make sense for people to cram into supermarkets when they could use other options such as butcheries and greengrocers. It's an issue he raised back in April when he described supermarkets as lockdown's "Achilles heel".

Read more here.

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Facebook

4:45pm - From New Zealand apparently entering alert level 4 to the Defence Force taking over the country, there have been a number of conspiracy theories running wild on social media.

Newshub has debunked two of the common claims for you. Read more here.

4:40pm - National MP Simeon Brown has posted a video to Twitter showing a long queue of people in cars waiting to take a COVID-19 test at the east Auckland centre.

"East Auckland's community testing site is experiencing huge demand and has frustratingly been placed next to the Botany birthing unit - not a good location as it interferes with our local maternity services," his tweet says.

"The DHB should move the testing station somewhere like Lloyd Elsmore Park."

4:35pm - Maritime New Zealand and Sport New Zealand have updated their advice around recreational water-based activities now the country is in alert levels 2 and 3.

Here's what they say for Auckland:

  • all recreational water-based activities involving sailing boats, motorised craft or motorised equipment, are not permitted until further notice. Scuba diving is also not allowed.
  • kayaking, canoeing, rowing, surfing, wind surfing and paddle boarding is allowed, however they recommend that Aucklanders do these activities within 200 metres from shore.
  • water-based activities that present a level of risk that could result in the need for search and rescue services are discouraged. People are encouraged to check conditions and possible changes in conditions before approaching the water.
  • anyone taking to the water during alert level 3 should assess their competency level against the water and weather conditions at the time and decide whether they can personally handle them.
  • people should monitor their travel movements and wear masks when it's difficult to maintain physical distancing.

Here's their advice for the rest of New Zealand:

  • all recreational water-based activities are permitted as long as it is done in a safe way where physical distancing and official public health guidance is applied.
  • people should also monitor their travel movements and wear masks when it's difficult to maintain physical distancing.

4:25pm - Minister in charge of managed isolation facilities Megan Woods says she is working with the Ministry of Health to ensure there's enough capacity in Auckland's quarantine accommodation to house positive COVID-19 cases.

"Since Tuesday night Air Commodore Webb and his team have been carefully managing capacity to ensure we were ready to rapidly respond should quarantine facilities be required," she says.

"Moving people with COVID-19 into quarantine as we all work together to urgently contain the current outbreak, is an important part of our health response to help prevent the risk of the virus spreading between family members, and to other people in the community."

Spare capacity at the Auckland quarantine facility is currently at 61 rooms following the arrival of Thursday's community cases, she says.

4:20pm - Dr Michelle Dickinson, the founder of Nanogirl Labs, has released a video showing Kiwis different methods of sneezing into a face mask to keep it dry.

She also shows the difference between a sneeze's spread with and without a mask.

By wearing a mask, she says potentially infected droplets are more likely to be kept between you and your mask, which can help protect people around you.

Watch her video here.

4:05pm - Kiwis wearing face masks in public say they're getting "funny looks" even though the Government is encouraging their use.

Although the practice of wearing masks is common in some parts of the world, particularly in many Asian countries, it seems Kiwis are not yet used to the idea.

"I'm heading to uni wearing mine and haven't seen a single other person wearing one. It is causing me SO much anxiety," one person wrote on Reddit in a thread discussing the issue.

"I'm the same, battled through and wore mine even when people stared at me like I had three heads! Excuse me for keeping everyone else safe," wrote another person.

Read more here.

Coronavirus updates: Thirteen new cases in Auckland, one visited aged care facility
Photo credit: Getty Images

3:45pm - Finance Now - one of two Auckland businesses where employees are required to self-isolate over COVID-19 concerns - says it is "focused on supporting public health measures".

It will also support its staff and continue to operate its Auckland-based company remotely in accordance with its business continuity plan, CEO Phil Ellison says.

"We informed our staff of the situation as soon as we were aware of it, advising them our Auckland premise would be closed forthwith and they should work remotely until further notice," he says.

"Having prioritised our staff's welfare through that immediate instruction to work from home, we have communicated regularly with them to provide updates on the guidance relating to testing and isolation procedures, as per advice from public health officials."

He added there are no changes to staff's pay now they're working remotely. However, anyone in the company that has tested positive for the virus is now on sick leave under its new, extended COVID-19 leave provisions that were put in place in March "as a contingency".

3:25pm - With COVID-19 back in the community and more and more places being connected to cases, watching out for symptoms is important.

They include having a fever, a dry cough, a runny nose, and losing smell or taste.

Dr Michael Maze, a respiratory and infectious disease physician from the University of Otago, has the key points.

"Overall I think we should be keeping an eye out for the common symptoms, which are a runny nose, loss of smell, cough and feeling tired or 'wiped out'. Fever and achy muscles are also pretty common – but not everyone with COVID-19 will have a fever," he said.

"There are also a much larger range of symptoms as COVID-19 can affect many different parts of the body. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and headache can also occur but are less common.

"If we feel like we have a cold or flu then we should be getting tested for COVID-19 and self-isolating. People who have been exposed to COVID-19 would want to also be alert to other symptoms like nausea, diarrhoea, and headaches.

"While unusual symptoms can occur, they are not common. People are better to focus on staying alert and reacting appropriately to respiratory symptoms."

3:10pm - In slightly more light-hearted news, Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield's daily briefings now have a '1pm Daily Update' IMDb page.

There are already a slew of reviews for the updates' "season two" on the online film and television database.

Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien features in the "cast".

Read more on that here.

3pm - Visitors on ski holidays are among those seeking COVID-19 tests in Queenstown on Thursday, with some Aucklanders going ahead with trips to the resort town.

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult says there are quite a few Aucklanders in the region planning to stay for the time being.

"I think we did see a lot of people arrive here yesterday [who] left Auckland before noon and I think there are quite a few Aucklanders in Queenstown and Wanaka at the present time, who are intending to stay rather than go back to Auckland," Boult told Newshub on Thursday morning.

"Our prime concern is for the health and welfare of local residents but they were perfectly legitimate in coming here.

But some on social media aren't happy. Read more here.

2:45pm - The Hawke's Bay DHB says hundreds of people were tested for COVID-19 in the region on Wednesday, but none have returned a positive test so far.

Across Napier, Hastings, Wairoa and central Hawke's Bay, 313 people were tested.

Hawke’s Bay DHB Medical Officer Nick Jones said due to the increased demand, only people with symptoms or those who had been identified as a contact of a confirmed case in Auckland were being tested.

2:35pm - In response to two of Tuesday's cases visiting Rotorua over the weekend, the Ministry of Health on Thursday morning utilised the alert function of the COVID Tracer app for the first time.

That allows officials to send a notification to anyone who scanned into the locations at the same time we know positive cases were also there.

An "exposure alert covering the two separate visits to Heritage Farm and the one visit to the Skyline Gondola" has been issued.

2:25pm - On Wednesday, Japan recorded a new case after an asymptomatic woman in her 20s arrived in Tokyo from New Zealand on August 9.

It appears Malaysia also had a case that came from New Zealand. According to The Star, the country had nine new cases on Wednesday, with five being imported. One of the imported cases was returning from New Zealand.

2:15pm - The Opportunities Party is calling for the election to continue to be held on September 19. 

"The Auckland COVID-19 outbreak is very concerning and creates uncertainty which none of us want. The Opportunities Party (TOP) is supportive of the measures taken by the Government to contain further spread, however, everything should be done to keep the current election date if at all possible, said the party's deputy leader Shao Navot.

"Depending on how things unfold, if a delay is necessary, the election should still take place within weeks of September 19, not months, and certainly this year.”

Navot said National's call for the election to be delayed by months or to next year is out of its own interest.

"COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, so the unwelcome reality is that we are going to need to go in and out of different alert levels for some time.

"It is a matter for the Electoral Commission to ensure that we have the appropriate voting infrastructure in place, including postal voting, not politicians. That is work the Electoral Commission has in fact already been doing.”

1:50pm - Testing staff at the border and at isolation facilities is a priority, Ardern says. 

Staff members at these high-risk sites have previously been tested. Staff in those facilities are also receiving health checks every day, Dr Bloomfield says.

Rotorua testing centre hours are being extended. The Director-General says you can also get tested at some GPs. This is free and probably quicker as GPs will have patients' details.

Dr Bloomfield found out about the Taupo trip on Thursday morning.

1:45pm - We must be prepared for the cluster to grow, the Prime Minister tells media.

There is no indication yet of a 'super-spreader event', like a wedding. Dr Bloomfield says the first case in the community could have been weeks ago as the first case confirmed on Tuesday had symptoms on July 31.

The Government are aware of companies price gouging on masks and sanitiser. The Government is asking people to report this.

The Prime Minister says fairness is needed and people's shouldn't try to capitalise on the situation we are in. People don't need surgical masks, she says. Any face covering is allowed.

1:40pm - Ardern says while genome sequencing is helpful, it is still too early to rule anything in or out.

It is unlikely the virus was caught from a surface in the cool store, Dr Bloomfield says. But he wants to rule this out.

Ardern says misinformation is concerning, but most Kiwis understand the reason for the measures being imposed. She says conspiracy theories are not new and some are spread from offshore sources.

"I have seen reports of people overseas who have viewed COVID-19 as fake who have lost their lives to it."

Dr Bloomfield doesn't have the number of people tested in Rotorua. He thanks people for their patience in waiting for tests. 

Ardern says the testing isn't what takes time, it is getting people's details.

No thought has been given to 'take-home tests' at this stage.

It is difficult to assess the cluster's growth, Ardern says. The modelling suggests it will grow, however.

1:30pm - The Prime Minister earlier said it would get worse before getting better. The Director-General is confident capacity will hold up at quarantine facilities, where cases will now go.

Ardern says human-to-human transmission is the most likely source of the new cluster. But Americold is being swabbed as officials still want to check for surface spread.

Testing continues for staff at the border.

Ardern believes Kiwis understand why most of New Zealand is at alert level 2.

Dr Bloomfield says there isn't genome sequencing from every sample from managed isolation.

1:25pm - Dr Bloomfield said the vast majority of cases occur in workplaces and households, not through casual interactions.

No further travel history about any of the new cases is known. Interviews remain underway with these cases.

Why not just extend restrictions for Auckland now? Prime Minister Ardern says she wants the latest information on Friday, including if any new cases come up not connected to the new outbreak cluster.

The Director-General of Health says there was a positive swab result in Wellington as part of an ESR study. After further investigation and testing, it came back negative.

1:20pm RECAP:

1 new case in MIQ - woman in 30s who arrived from the Phillipines on August 8. Had been completing isolation in Hamilton and tested positive at around day three of her stay

13 new cases in the community

1 is the MAGS student

3 are employees of AmeriCold

7 are family members of these employees

1 is an employee of FinanceNow

1 is a relative of the FinanceNow employee

36 active cases, 17 of which are in the community

1:20pm - Prime Minister Ardern says we have managed clusters before without identifying the source. But finding that source would still help.

She asks Aucklanders to work from home if they can. Only go out for food, exercise or to get a test. Wearing a face cover is encouraged.

If you are well, stay put, Ardern says.

For businesses in Auckland, customers cannot be on premises unless you are an essential service. Contactless pick up and 'click and collect' can happen.

She recognises the disruption the measures are causing.

For businesses outside of Auckland, you have to put up a QR poster by August 19. Ardern thanks those who have already done so.

About 17,000 vehicles have been stopped at police checkpoints. By 7am on Thursday, 312 had been turned back. 

The pace and the speed of this response should act as a reassurance, Ardern says. She says this is far faster than in other countries.

There will be a 1pm briefing on Friday and another briefing after a Cabinet meeting. This meeting will look at our next steps.

1:15pm - Notifications have been sent out on the COVID-19 Tracer App for some people in Rotorua.

There have been 986,000 app downloads. 

In terms of genome sequencing, no connection has yet been found between the new cluster and recent cases in managed isolation/quarantine facilities. It appears the genome sequences most closely resembles that from the UK and Australia.

1:10pm - Some testing centres are extending their hours, according to Director-General of Health.

Dr Bloomfield is aware one positive case has visited an aged care facility in Waikato. He won't name it as some families are still being informed. All people who visited recently will be notified.

The visit happened when the person was not showing symptoms. The person had contact with a family member and staff. One person from there who has been tested has already come back negative.

On August 10, two infected people from the family confirmed with COVID-19 on Tuesday visited Taupo for a boat trip. All others on the boat have been contacted and are close contacts.

Rotorua timeline:

August 8 - Family checked into Wai Ora Lakeside Hotel, visited Herbs and Spice Thai restaurant at 8pm.

August 9 - Visited Pakn'Save supermarket, Heritage Farm and art gallery, Skyline Gondola and Luge.

August 10 - Day trip to Taupo at 10:30am - took a boat trip. They went back to Rotorua and visited Burger Fuel at 7pm

1:05pm - Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there is one new case in managed isolation. A woman in her 30s, who came to New Zealand on August 8. She is in Hamilton.

There are 13 new confirmed cases in the community. All are in Auckland and are linked to Tuesday's four. They are being treated as a cluster. Dr Bloomfield expects further cases.

One of the new cases is the Mount Albert Grammar School student. They were not symptomatic at school.

Three are employees of Americold. Seven are family members of these employees.

Two Americold sites - Mt Wellington and Airport - are closed. Mobile testing units have gone to the airport site and all staff have been tested. Further testing is underway at the Mt Wellington site.

Another case is an employee of Finance Now, another workplace of one of the initial four. The next case is one of their family members.

Dr Bloomfield is directing all new confirmed cases to be managed at quarantine facilities. He says these facilities are set up specifically to deal with cases and have excellent resources.

On Thursday, 6006 tests were processed. More than 10,000 swabs were collected. Some still need to be processed.

New Zealand has 36 active cases. Seventeen are connected to the new outbreak of community transmission.

1pm - The Prime Minister and Director-General of Health's briefing is expected to get underway soon.

12:45pm - Winston Peters has released a statement attacking National. He wants the party to stop "undermining democracy".

"New Zealanders are sadly being fed a steady stream of misinformation about the pre-election period from the National Party," said Mr Peters.

"Its effect is to sow doubt about the legitimacy of the current Government as it focuses solely on protecting the health of New Zealanders."

On Wednesday, Judith Collins said she wanted the Prime Minister to consult with her over the alert level changes because we are in the run-up to an election.

But Peters has hit out at that.

"There is no convention for power sharing such as Ms Collins, a trained lawyer, is claiming. She should know better. So who is giving her that advice and why is she taking it?

"The current Government ‘continues to have full powers to govern until the election’.

"That is not a self-serving claim made by the Government. It is a fact of stable government."

He goes on to say National is collapsing and is "in danger of losing its way".

"At the very time the government, alongside the 'team of five million' New Zealanders, is solely focused on restoring the nation’s health, the National Party appears focused on undermining that effort to an already fearful public.

"If it wasn’t so malicious and dangerous for our democracy it would merely be sad."

On Wednesday, after four new cases were discovered, National's Gerry Brownlee said it was "interesting" to see Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield undergo a COVID-19 test despite no evidence he was at particular risk of infection, and the Prime Minister visit a mask factory. 

Brownlee told The AM Show on Thursday he never suggested the Government was hiding anything.

12:40pm - Air New Zealand has released an update on how it is handling bookings to travel to Melbourne.

The Australian Government has extended its cap on international arrivals until October 24. There is currently a cap of 25 passenger arrivals per flight into Brisbane and around 40 passenger arrivals per flight into Sydney. 

Currently, no international passenger arrivals into Melbourne are allowed.

Cam Wallace, the airline's chief commerical and customer officer, said in a statement that Air New Zealand is placing a hold on future bookings to Melbourne until late October to prevent further disruption to customer journeys.

"We know this is not an ideal situation for people wanting to return home to Australia and our teams are working to minimise disruption to customers as much as possible. We’d like to thank our customers for their patience at this time as we work to comply with these government restrictions.

"When it comes to flights to Sydney, we do have availability from early September for those who wish to book. With Brisbane, while there is currently a hold on new bookings, we expect flights may become available as customers make changes to their bookings or no longer wish to travel, so customers should keep an eye out on our website."

12:35pm - Mayor Phil Goff is calling on Aucklanders to get tested if they have symptoms.

"You can get tested at one of the multiple COVID-19 testing sites across Tāmaki Makaurau, at your GP or at an urgent care clinic for free."

12:10pm - At least three new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in connection to a Mt Wellington workplace.

Managing director Richard Winnall told media that three people who work at the Americold warehouse in Auckland have tested positive.

This is where one of Tuesday's positive cases works. It has been shut for the last two days while all staff are tested.

Full details are expected at 1pm. 

12:05pm - Aucklanders are busy on the internet during alert level 3, Chorus says.

On Wednesday, Auckland’s day time traffic was 67 percent higher than Monday. In comparison, the rest of New Zealand saw only a 7 percent rise.

In the evening, peak traffic in Auckland was 18 percent higher than the recent norm, while it was within the usual range for the rest of the nation.

"The increased traffic is comfortably within available headroom and there is no congestion on the Chorus network," a statement said.

11:50am - Auckland Transport (AT) says there is traffic congestion around a number of COVID-19 testing sites in the city. On Wednesday, thousands queued up to be tested, with some in lines for hours.

AT is asking motorists to avoid the sites unless they are going for a test. Only people with symptoms should be queuing up, the Prime Minister has said.

Some bus services have been diverted due to congestion, particularly near the New North Rd testing site and in Botany.

11:45am - There appears to have been a small protest in Whangārei. People holding signs reading "end the lockdown" and "we do not consent" marched down one of the town's main roads.

11:35am - A group of 50 of New Zealand's leading infectious disease and public health scientists are urging political leaders to cooperate on COVID-19 as the Greens ask "some leaders" to stop spreading doubt. 

An editorial published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, signed by high-profile microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, urges politicians to "resist the temptation to scaremonger in an attempt to score points" in the media.

"Instead, they should use their moments in the spotlight to amplify messages of our health system's preparedness and how New Zealanders can individually make a difference at this critical time," the editorial said. 

Read more on that here.

11:25am - In case you missed it earlier, the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health will provide an update at 1pm. Any new cases of COVID-19 will be revealed then and the pair will provide an update on the Government's response to the situation.

This will stream on Newshub and on Three.

11:15am - Supermarkets have been calling for calm in the face of panic-buying across the country.

A Pak'nSave in Richmond in the South Island is out of flour and is running low on pasta and rice.

Pakn'Save Richmond.
Pakn'Save Richmond. Photo credit: Newshub.

11:05am - National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee has denied suggesting the Government knew about the new local cases of COVID-19 well before they made it public on Tuesday night.

"I never, ever set out to suggest there was any kind of conspiracy at all. That word has been used by journalists and probably from your news outlet. I was answering a question to one of your journalists about some of the questions we have been asking in the House over the last two weeks of Parliament..." he told The AM Show on Thursday morning.

"All I'm saying is that there was a heightened activity. Clearly there was an increasing worry about the prospect of an outbreak. We've now got the outbreak, and that's what we've got to focus on defeating."

Find out more here.

10:50am - James Shaw, the Green Party co-leader, is awaiting the result of a precautionary COVID-19 test after visiting the south Auckland area over the weekend.

"I developed minor cold symptoms after returning to Wellington from Auckland at the weekend," he said in a statement.

"On the advice of health experts, I undertook a COVID-19 test to rule out the possibility of having the virus, and am currently staying at home while I await the results.

"I remind all of us that we must take any symptoms seriously and be tested if advised to do so by medical professionals.

"We all have a role to play in keeping COVID-19 out of our communities, and that includes following the advice of health experts."

The four people who tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday live in south Auckland.

James Shaw.
James Shaw. Photo credit: Getty.

10:45am - Police turned back several people trying to visit friends and access holiday homes outside Auckland after midday on Wednesday, but the Commissioner says there have been few issues so far and no arrests have been made.

"We have turned back a number of vehicles but they've understood [the rules] once we've had a conversation with them," Andrew Coster told The AM Show on Thursday.

"We had some people trying to visit friends just over the border. We've had some people trying to go to their holiday homes."

Find out more here.

10:30am - Speaking of Winston Peters, he has just released a statement about the election date. He said decisions around a delay should be for another day.

"At this difficult time our concern must be focused on the health of our team of five million. That team includes all politicians and their parties. That is why I immediately suspended New Zealand First’s campaign," he said.

The New Zealand First leader said that health must come first, and policies second.

"When we have the information we need to better understand our health challenge then we can address the timing of the election.

"The General Election, and the campaign that proceeds it, needs to be free and fair for all concerned – parties, candidates, officials, and most of all voters.

"If that means delay then so be it."

But Peters says that is a decision for another day.

"Today we need our team of five million mobilised once more to play their part so New Zealand can recover its previous health position.

"The health of our people and their livelihoods is our total focus."

10:25am - Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has been speaking to 9News in Australia. He said the source of the infections remains a mystery.

"Everyone is asking the same question, we don't know until we get the medical research in," he said.

The extent of the outbreak is also unknown.

"It is a case of, I suppose, seeing things as the worst-case scenario so that you are not surprised.

"At this point of time we don't know how wide the spread us. Whether it has dispersed outside of Auckland and whether we have a fix on all the cases. It is one of those in-between times."

10:10am - While in Rotorua over the weekend and on Monday, two of the COVID-19 cases visited several tourism destinations and restaurants. 

Dr Ashley Bloomfield on Wednesday revealed a woman in her 20s and her preschool-aged child stayed in the Wai Ora Lake Resort, visited the Skyline Gondola and went to the Heritage Farm and 3D Art Gallery.

Two of the eateries the pair visited have come forward.

Fat Dog Cafe and Bar say late on Wednesday afternoon they heard the pair visited their establishment on Sunday between 1:30pm and 2:30pm.

"At this time we have 4 staff who the MOH deem to be 'casual contacts' and are self-isolating pending a negative COVID 19 test. We are following the guidelines set out by MOH completing a deep clean tonight on top of our usual COVID 19 management practices."

A Facebook post said the cafe was set up for bubble seating and there are screens between seats. 

The pair also went to BurgerFuel Redwoods Rotorua on Monday between 7pm and 8pm. After finding this out on Wednesday night, the store closed for a deep clean and five staff members have been isolated and are getting tested.

9:50am - Kiwis are being told they'll need to get used to wearing masks in their everyday lives if we're going to prevent COVID-19 getting a foothold here.

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners medical director Bryan Betty told The AM Show on Thursday the evidence they can stop transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is now beyond doubt. 

"At the start of the year... there was a lot of confusion about masks - did they help or didn't' they help? What's become really obvious over the last few months, and from the experience around the world especially in Asia, countries that wear masks in public places - such as public transport, where there's big gatherings - reduce the transmission of COVID. There's no doubt about this now."

Read more here.

9:35am - Skiers have returned to Mt Hutt, but there are new rules under alert level 2.

According to the Mt Hutt Facebook page, all guests require a pass for "contact tracing pruposes". That means no sight-seeing during this time.

To maintain physical distancing, the number of people on the mountain may need to be limited.

"This means car parking will be restricted to our base lodge parks only. We will be counting cars at the info booth and asking guests to move slowly through here to enable counting. There will be space for 550 multiple occupancy vehicles and 50 single occupancy and we will not operate shuttles." 

People with their own lunches should eat them at their cars to keep the cafe and decks open to those purchasing their lunches.

"We are asking guests to ski in bubbles. When riding lifts you will need to maintain 2 empty seats between bubbles, gloves are a must, goggles, neck warmers/ masks are encouraged. Our Triple chair lift will be bubble only."

"Each mountain will have different coloured zones to provide information about what is expected in each area. These maps will show you what is expected in each area"

Mt Hutt.
Mt Hutt. Photo credit: Newshub.
Mt Hutt.
Mt Hutt. Photo credit: Newshub.
Mt Hutt.
Mt Hutt. Photo credit: Newshub.

9:20am - Air New Zealand is asking people to cancel their bookings if they aren’t going to be on the flight. That will allow the airline to be aware of how many people will be on the plane and have appropriate social distancing requirements in place.

"We are working hard to balance our @FlyAirNZ network/capacity with social distancing over the next few days. If you are not intending to travel can you please XXL your booking. Thanks,” chief commercial and customer officer Cam Wallace said.

Head of corporate affairs, Andrew Kirton, said: "This is important - please cancel flights you aren’t taking to allow someone else to get home. Contact Centre wait times are v good at the moment if you need to give us a call in order to do this".

9am - Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has put out a statement on the Mt Albert Grammar School case.

The service has worked with the school to identify around 100 close contacts of the student. Letters have gone out to all students and staff in five classes attended by the student on Monday, informing them that they are close contacts and will need to isolate.

"The student was not symptomatic on this day, but has since become sick and tested positive for COVID-19 [on Wednesday]," a spokesperson said.

"The whole school community has been sent a letter asking all students and staff who are not close contacts to watch out for symptoms and be tested if they get sick."

ARPHS has assured staff and families there is a "low risk to the vast majority of the students and staff". 

"Some would have only been exposed to the virus for a very short time, and most would have not been exposed at all."

Only those with COVID-19 symptoms should get tested. They can ring Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to discuss this.

The school remains open for the children of essential workers.

"We have been able to identify the students most at risk, in the student’s classes and they have all been advised to stay at home in self isolation for 14 days," headmaster Patrick Drumm says.

"Because of privacy concerns, the school will not be telling parents or staff the name of the student who is a close contact, their class or year level."

He is appealing to parents, staff and students not to speculate about the identity of the infected student. Naming them online can lead to bullying and abuse, Drumm says.

8:55am - Separate to these live updates, Newshub is also running updates on how the alert level changes are affecting sport. Find out more here.

8:35am - The Green Party have released a statement calling for "continued commitment to science from political leaders".

Co-leader James Shaw said New Zealand has been successful in fighting COVID-19 through "an absolute commitment to good science and good government".

"Now is not the time to abandon either. Now is the time to band together as a country, be directed by the science, and back good decision making.  

"It is particularly incumbent on leaders from all stripes to support and back a strong community health message. This will ensure we get through this and stamp out COVID-19 once again."

He said creating confusion or suspicion could result in reduced trust from communities in the "very institutions we rely on most to keep us all safe".  

8:25am - Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday rubbished suggestions that the Government knew about an outbreak or community transmission long before telling the public.

Gerry Brownlee doesn’t believe the Government has been hiding anything and has never set out to suggest a conspiracy.

“No, I don’t think that and I have never suggested that,” he said.

He also denied he was floating that idea.

Brownlee believes the election should be delayed.

It's hard to go out campaigning when there are extensive restrictions in place and people are more worried about their health and livelihoods, he says.

"In that environment, an election is quite a distraction."

8:15am - National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee is telling The AM Show that the Auckland lockdown is affecting the entire country. He understands the reason for it, however, as we don't the source of the cases.

"None of us are unaffected by this," he says.

While those in the south may not be as worried about catching the virus as those in Auckland at this stage, he said they will be thinking about the ramifications on business.

Asked if National would have put Auckland at level 3 and the rest of the country at level 2, Brownlee says he doesn't have the relevant information and advice to make that decision.

"But I suspect it wouldn't be too different, given that advice is probably strongly reccomending that course of action. We really have got to be guided by the science here."

He says once we have got on top of the outbreak, we need to look at the precautions we will take for quite some time. He has also said we need to rethink our border and quarantine arrangements.

8:10am - Economist Cameron Bagrie has posted an image on Twitter showing how empty a plane was heading from Auckland to Wellington.

8am - Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois says almost a day into the new alert levels, hospitality businesses are adapting to another stint of restricted trading.

At level 3, all hospitality businesses are closed to the public other than those operating through contactless delivery and pickup. Those at level 2 must follow the three 'S' rules where practicable - having diners seats, separated and served by a single server. There is also a limit of 100 guests.

"This is of course a devastating blow for those businesses already struggling from the impact of the COVID-19 lock down and border closures," Bidois said.

"Putting in place the regulations is not the principle issue for our members given ours is an industry that already operates under rigorous food control plans. The cost of these regulations combined with the revenue losses are the main factors we are now battling with."

She said the short notice of the changes means many businesses now have unsaleable perishable food. They are trying to distribute this to food banks.

"We are calling on Kiwi diners to continue to support their favourite establishments. Grab a coffee from your local café and order a contactless takeout if you’re in Auckland. Outside of Auckland, we would strongly encourage people to dine out in the knowledge that it is completely safe to do so," Bidois said.

"We are also calling on government to deliver the additional fiscal relief we’ve been asking for since we came out of level 3 in May."

7:50am - It's a beautiful day in Auckland and officers are busy checking in with drivers at the Bombay Hills checkpoint.

Coronavirus updates: Thirteen new cases in Auckland, one visited aged care facility
Photo credit: Newshub.

7:45am - New Zealand Principals' Federation President Perry Rush is happy with how children and staff are dealing with the new lockdown. He says not every student has a device to use at home or adequate internet connectivity, but a good portion do.

Less than 1 percent of students went to school on Wednesday. He says that even children of essential workers didn't go to school, showing how seriously people were taking the new outbreak.

7:35am - There was significant demand for testing on Wednesday in light of the four confirmed cases in south Auckland. A total of 3546 people were swabbed at Community Testing Centres (CTCs) in Auckland alone.

Some of the testing centres were operating late into the night, with people lining up for hours to get a test.

Two new pop-up CTCs will open on Thursday in Henderson and Airport Oaks.

Eleven pop-up Community Testing Centres will be open:

  • Coast to Coast Wellsford Medical Centre
  • Coast to Coast Walkworth
  • Eventfinda Stadium Carpark (Wairau Valley)
  • White Cross St Lukes Accident & Urgent Medical
  • Health New Lynn
  • Henderson Specialty Centre
  • Botany Road CTC
  • Local Doctors Airport Oaks
  • Otara Town Centre CTC
  • Takanini Urgent Care
  • Waiheke Medical Centre

There are four permanent CTCs in Northcote, Eden Terrace, Henderson and Wiri.

People can also be tested for free at some GPs and urgent care clinics. All testing is free.

7:30am - Police Commissioner Andrew Coster is speaking to The AM Show. He says a number of vehicles at the Auckland border have been turned back. Some were trying to visit friends and some were attempting to head away to holiday homes.

But he says the vast majority are justified in wanting to leave the region.

"We understand it takes a while for a new mode to lock back in," Coster says.

He says police can arrest those breaking the rules, but the first step is to educate people about the alert level requirements.

The non-emergency 105 number was about as busy on Wednesday as a normal Monday - the number's busiest day of the week.

7:25am - Dr Bloomfield says officials should have more information about testing and contact tracing by midday Friday.

That will help Cabinet decide the next step. Current restrictions are meant to last until midnight on Friday, but could be extended if a source for the outbreak is not found.

"I am confident we are doing a good job," he says.

Having Auckland under alert level 3 helps ring-fence the outbreak for the moment.

7:20am - Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says an update on new cases will be given at 1pm.

The Mt Albert case is a close contact of an already confirmed case. The school was notified late on Wednesday night. More details will be given at 1pm.

Dr Bloomfield says officials have jumped quickly into action and the student is now in isolation.

"We are fully expecting more case," he says.

The Director-General says we want to find new cases so we can quickly isolate them and therefore achieve our goal of identifying the size of the outbreak and get it under control.

The source of the first four community cases remains unknown.

7:15am - Cars are starting to queue up at the police border at the Bombay Hills, south of Auckland. People aren't allowed to leave the region unless it is necessary, they are essential workers or they live out of the area.

Newshub reporter Sinelle Fernandez says things are going smoothly on Thursday morning and nobody has made a scene if they have been asked to return home.

She says all vehicles are being checked, including large freight trucks.

All officials are working masks. It's not mandatory to wear masks, but it has been strongly encouraged. Fenandez says not everyone in cars are wearing masks.

6:50am - A student at Mount Albert Grammar School has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email supplied to Newshub by a parent.

The email, from headmaster Patrick Drumm, says Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) confirmed a student at the school tested positive for COVID-19.

Drumm said the school would closely follow the Ministry of Health Advice.

On Wednesday, Director Ashley Bloomfield said one of the four infected individuals was a teenager. One of the other cases was a student at another school in Mt Albert.