Two people who recently left the same managed isolation facility as the Northland case are now being treated as "confirmed COVID-19 infections".
According to the Director-General of Health, while the cases could be historical infections, test results indicate the two people "may have contracted COVID-19 towards the end of their stay in managed isolation, after returning two negative tests each during their stay".
Out of caution, the individuals - an adult and a child - are being treated as confirmed cases.
Preliminary genome sequencing suggests the cases are linked to the Northland woman and are the South African variant. Serology results are expected on Friday.
A number of locations of interest have been identified, mainly in the Auckland suburbs of Orewa and Albany, including eight new times and places that were added on Thursday evening. People who visited these locations during certain time periods are asked to isolate and get a test.
What you need to know:
- Two people who completed their managed isolation in the Pullman Hotel - the same facility as the Northland case - and at the same time as that case are now being treated as confirmed COVID-19 infections. They are a father and daughter.
- Genome sequencing shows the adult and child have the South African variant and their infections are linked to the Northland woman. Serology results should be returned on Friday
- COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins says a lockdown in Auckland is unlikely
- A number of locations of interest have been identified in north Auckland and people who visited them at roughly the same time as the infected individuals are being asked to isolate and get a test. More locations were added on Thursday evening.
- Dr Bloomfield says there is currently "no evidence" of community transmission, but is calling on people to be tested if they have symptoms or visited locations of interest
- There's been chaos at the Albany testing station where long queues of cars were lined up. No medical staff were present when the site was scheduled to open at 8am
- A third person in the family's bubble has tested negative. The two infected individuals are being move to an Auckland quarantine facility
- Pullman Hotel guests are being asked to remain in their rooms until at least 1pm on Thursday. The MIQ facility is also now closed to new arrivals.
- Auckland Mayor Phil Goff acknowledges the situation is "unsettling" but is urging residents to "scan" QR codes, wash their hands, wear masks on public transport and get tested if they have symptoms.
These live updates have finished.
7pm - With swathes of the world still trapped in the claws of COVID-19, New Zealand has been at the centre of global envy. The country's success at tackling the virus has drawn widespread praise, with an international policy think-tank ranking New Zealand's response to the pandemic as the best in the world on Thursday.
And while it appears the three individuals contracted the virus at the facility, the cases have put an abrupt end to New Zealand's run without COVID-19 in the community.
International media have been quick to report on the latest cases, speculating on what the infections could mean for New Zealand and its status as a COVID-free community.
6:30pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is not ruling out more cases of COVID-19 in the community until all test results of the Pullman Hotel guests are returned, and she's demanded an explanation for the delay from the Ministry of Health.
The Pullman Hotel is the latest COVID-19 petri dish. It's getting no new arrivals since the Northland woman, a man and his son tested positive after their stay, and it'll be deep cleaned.
Remaining guests are in lockdown. Outside their rooms, the spread of COVID-19 remains a mystery.
6pm - It's time for Newshub Live at 6pm. Tonight: the latest on the two new Auckland cases, Australia continuing its suspension of quarantine-free travel, and the alarming new variant that's sweeping through Brazil
You can watch online or tune in on Three.
5:55pm - Several new locations of interest have been added to the Ministry of Health website.
The new additions are marked with an asterisk below.
5:30pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins are pushing back on National's call for a full managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) review after three returnees caught the virus during their stay at a facility.
Over the weekend the Government confirmed that a Northland woman had tested positive after completing 14 days at Auckland's Pullman Hotel MIQ facility. On Wednesday, two family members who stayed at the same facility also tested positive.
It led Australia to close its border to New Zealand for 72 hours - now extended for another 72 hours - out of an "abundance of caution" after it was discovered the woman had contracted the South African COVID-19 variant in the community. The source of the variant is now in quarantine.
The two latest cases have now been transferred to a quarantine facility in Auckland, separate from the Pullman. A third family member, who has returned negative COVID-19 tests, is currently isolating at home.
The virus scare has prompted National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop to call for a full review of all MIQ facilities since there "is still evidence of cohort mingling... where recent arrivals are able to mix and mingle with people coming towards the end of their stay".
5pm - Police say part of the reason they chose to shut down a community checkpoint in Northland was to "prioritise the safety of all".
The checkpoint was set up on State Highway 1 in Waiōmio, south of Kawakawa by iwi to give visitors to Northland information about the virus. It was shut down by police just before midday on Thursday.
"Our focus was to prioritise the safety of all, by ensuring pedestrians were safe on the roadside and motorists were not prevented from driving on a State Highway which has a 100km speed limit," Northland Police Inspector Riki Whiu says.
Insp Whiu says police engaged with the group when they made attempts to prevent the traffic from flowing, and they "willingly" complied and left the area soon after.
"We are continuing our dialogue with the group involved which is positive and ongoing. As we have previously said, we are all coming to this kaupapa from the same place - out of a need to protect the most vulnerable in our community," Insp Whiu says.
"The group has good intentions but we must reiterate that while New Zealand remains in alert level 1 there is no requirement for any COVID-19 community checkpoints and our expectation is that they are not operating."
4:40pm - The Orewa Caltex, which is one of the Ministry of Health's locations of interest for the two new Auckland cases, was open on Thursday morning before it had closed for a deep clean.
A contractor was booked to clean it this afternoon, but it was open from 6am to about 9am.
The Ministry of Health says from the information they have, they "know the risk of transmission from any particular location of interest is low".
"The public health advice to businesses is that all the staff on-site at the same time as the case should get tested and self-isolate until they receive a negative test result," they say.
The time of interest on January 18 from 1pm to 1:30pm. Anyone who was there at that time is asked to stay home, get tested as soon as possible, and call Healthline.
The Ministry of Health adds there is further advice on cleaning on its website.
4:20pm - The Waitematā DHB says testing staff have cleared the queue at the pop-up Orewa testing centre.
"The team completed over 600 tests today," the DHB tweeted.
"The testing centre closes today at 4pm and will be back open tomorrow at 9.30am."
There are two pop-up testing centres in Auckland. Their locations are:
- Victor Eaves Park, 87 Florence Avenue, Orewa - open 9:30am to 4pm on January 28 and 29
- Carpark B, North Harbour Stadium, Stadium Road, Albany - open 8am to 6pm on January 28 and 29
An update from the Northern Regional Health Coordination Centre says demand has slowed, but remains steady, at both the Orewa and Albany testing locations. At 3pm the wait time in Orewa was under 15 minutes and at Albany it was around 30 minutes.
As well as water and food, traffic management is in place and portaloos and sunblock are being provided at testing stations on the North Shore.
4pm - The Australian government has extended its pause on Green Zone flights from New Zealand for another 72 hours.
Australian officials met at 12pm (local time) to discuss the pause, which was called earlier this week after our first community COVID-19 case in more than two months was detected.
The extension means the next flight to Australia will come after 2pm on Sunday, January 31.
3:30pm - In Northland since January 24, a total of 3479 tests have been carried out. Out of all of New Zealand on Wednesday, a total of 8306 tests were processed, the Ministry of Health says.
3:10pm - Australia's decision to extend Green Zone travel from New Zealand is being left to the final hour.
On Thursday morning, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Australian authorities were being kept in the loop with COVID-19 case developments.
"As you would expect we are providing information to counterparts in Australia. The decision is for them," she said.
However Newshub understands that Australia's Prime Minister is still waiting and there have been delays getting hold of the information.
3pm - On the NZ COVID Tracer app, there are now 2,514,708 registered users, an increase of about 9000 compared to Wednesday.
There have been 162,282,854 total poster scans, which is an increase of roughly 1.1 million compared to Wednesday's total.
"We're currently seeing a healthy increase every day in scanning. Your efforts to scan in are helping New Zealand's response to COVID-19," Dr Bloomfield says.
"It's incredibly important that people keep a record of where they've been. It can help support contact tracers in tracing potential close and casual contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19."
He says "the more we all scan, the safer we'll all be", and says using the app is just one of New Zealand's tools in the wider elimination strategy.
2:40pm - The Ministry of Health has released some extra details following today's press conference.
As previously mentioned, there are three new border cases. The first arrived on January 23 from the United Kingdom via the United Arab Emirates, and they tested positive on day 3 routine testing. The other two both arrived on January 24 from Japan and tested positive on day 2 routine testing.
All three cases have been transferred to a quarantine facility.
2:20pm - The Māori Party has announced they will be taking a "cautious approach" and won't be travelling to the Bay of Islands for Waitangi Day this year.
They say they've cancelled its plans to attend the commemorations given there's potential the virus has spread within Te Tai Tokerau.
"Following the advice of our people in the North, and the decisions of other Māori movements, we have decided we will not be attending the 2021 Waitangi commemorations," Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says..
"We will err on the side of caution and will continue to do so until our people are vaccinated and we can minimise the risk of spreading the virus - there are wonderful commemoration events right around the country that the Māori Party will have a presence at."
She says last week the party called on the Government to reduce border numbers and bring forward New Zealand's vaccination schedule.
Co-leader Rawiri Waititi says the party supports the actions of Tai Tokerau iwi who reinstated community checkpoints. These checkpoints were shut down by police earlier today.
"Iwi were outstanding in taking the lead to protect their people on the first outbreak and we have the utmost faith in whatever decision they make this time around. In making this decision we are clear that we will always stand by iwi - they have the mana to determine the tikanga to keep our people safe," he says.
"It's a real shame that we won't be travelling to Waitangi this year, but there's nothing more important than the protection of whakapapa and ensuring we don’t increase the risk of community transmission."
2:05pm - Prime Minister Boris Johnson indicated on Wednesday the COVID-19 lockdown in England would last until March 8 when schools could start to reopen as the government announced new measures to clamp down on travel to and from Britain.
England has been in lockdown since the start of January with schools, pubs and restaurants closed and people told to stay home as much as possible. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, whose governments decide on their own measures, are also under various restrictions.
Britain has begun a vaccination programme aimed at delivering shots to 15 million people in priority groups by the middle of February.
Johnson told parliament he hoped that would allow schools to begin reopening the following month.
"We hope it will therefore be safe to begin the reopening of schools from Monday the 8th of March, with other economic and social restrictions being removed (then or) thereafter, as and when the data permits," he said.
Britain has banned travellers from 22 high-risk nations, where new coronavirus variants have emerged, such as South Africa and some in South America, or may be present, like Portugal.
The government said new measures would mean travellers to Britain from those countries who could not be refused entry would now have to quarantine for 10 days in government-provided accommodation.
Those wishing to leave Britain will need to explain why in a declaration checked before departure, with vacations not an acceptable reason, said Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel. More police will be on duty at ports and airports to send home people who had no valid reason for travel.
"People should simply not be travelling," she told parliament, citing cases of people turning up at a London train station with skis.
"That is clearly not acceptable. We see plenty of influencers on social media showing off about which parts of the world that they are in, mainly in sunny parts of the world. Going on holiday is not an exemption."
1:50pm - Dr Bloomfield says there are three new cases in managed isolation.
1:45pm - Hipkins says he is looking at post-isolation measures they can implement, and he adds he will know what these are "within the week".
He adds they're always looking at how to improve measures, and at the time they started enforcing day 3 and 12 testing, that was the "gold standard". Now, they looking at what the "platinum standard" is.
1:40pm - Hipkins says there are two pressures when dealing with a case like this. The first being how to stop the spread of the virus to other people, and the second is how this person became infected in the first place.
Dr Bloomfield says there is "quite good" swipe card data at the Pullman hotel which allows health authorities to track where infected people were and who they may have seen.
1:35pm - Hipkins says there will be enough space in MIQ facilities to accommodate everyone who has a voucher and is due to return to New Zealand. This is in light of the Pullman being closed to new guests for now.
1:30pm - Officials will have a better picture of if there is any community transmission on Friday, but there is currently no evidence of it, Dr Bloomfield says.
1:25pm - There may be several reasons why some people who have recently left the Pullman Hotel have not yet been tested, Hipkins says. The bulk of the guests have been tested, however.
There were several different occasions when all three cases were outside of their rooms.
All people who recently left the Pullman Hotel have been contacted, Dr Bloomfield says. But some of the test results have not yet been returned.
The direction for those who left the hotel to isolate came on Sunday. However, the two cases continued to visit locations in the days after. Dr Bloomfield says they may not have heard the direction immediately. Once they did hear, the pair isolated, he says.
Hipkins says officials will look at what measures could be introduced for guests when they leave managed isolation. Currently, they get "quite detailed" instructions, such as what symptoms to look for and what to do if they become symptomatic.
1:20pm - Around 600 tests were taken at north Auckland pop-up testing stations within the first few hours, Dr Bloomfield says. More than 8600 tests were proccessed over the last 24 hours. About 17,100 tests have been completed since Sunday in the Northland and Auckland regions.
Dr Bloomfield wants to see scans staying consistently over 1 million. He encourages Kiwis to keep at it.
The room allocations at MIQ - such as whether people arriving at different times should be staying on the same floor or across from each other - is being looked at, Hipkins says. However, changes may mean it isn't as possible to have as many people in the facility.
Regardless of where they come from or when they arrive, officials try to keep arrivals apart during their stay, he says.
Every decision has flow-on effects.
1:15pm - Dr Bloomfield says the Northland case's close contacts remain in isolation. Negative test results continue to come in.
The two Auckland cases from Wednesday are a father and daughter. They have been moved to the Auckland quarantine facility. The mother has continued to test negative and will isolate at home. Dr Bloomfield asks Kiwis to respect the family's privacy and act with kindness.
Genome sequencing confirms the pair have the South African variant and are linked to the Northland woman. Further investigations are underway into how the virus spread.
There continues to be no evidence of community transmission, Dr Bloomfield says.
Interviews have been carried out with the family and push notifications have been set, the Director-General tells media. A total of 168 people received notifications.
The list of locations of interest will develop as more are revealed.
The father has not been at work and the child hasn't been at an early childhood centre since leaving MIQ.
The long time periods for locations doesn't mean they have been there for that entire time, but officials are casting the net wide as a precaution.
The pair have 11 close contacts, with five so far testing negative.
1:10pm - There are spot checks occurring across facilities nationwide, Hipkins says.
Day 0/1 testing and pre-departure testing has also been brought in recently.
At the Pullman Hotel, 219 staff worked there between January 9 and 13. All have been contacted and 201 have been tested, 199 are back negative. Two are pending and the remaining staff members are being followed up.
Of the 353 guests that left the hotel between January 9 and 13, all have been asked to isolate and be tested. As of midday on Thursday, 301 have been tested and their results have been received. All are negative but the two Auckland cases. The others are being followed up on.
1:05pm - Hipkins says the Pullman Hotel has been closed to new arrivals while an investigation is underway to understand how the virus spread within the facility. It will be deep-cleaned when the current guests leave. They will be looking at how exercise is dealt with.
He says the Pullman Hotel has performed remarkably well. The air conditioning system has been updated to help reduce the risk of spread. Any decision to bring the facility back will be made when officials are confident any issues have been resolved.
The source case for the three community cases is now in the Jet Park hotel. He reiterates that two of the three cases are members of the same family.
The four cases had been out of their rooms at the same time while in the facility, but for different reasons.
All returnees will remain in their rooms after their day 12 tests, Hipkins says. This is an interim measure while investigations are underway. This will happen from Saturday.
He is due to receive advice on how rooms are allocated, including whether to stagger the arrival and departure of guests.
12:55pm - When the press conference begins at 1pm, you'll be able to watch it in the video at the top of the page or in the YouTube video above.
12:50pm - New Zealand responded to the coronavirus pandemic better than any other country in the world, new research by an international policy think tank has found.
The Lowy Institute's COVID Performance Index, launched on Thursday (local time), ranks Aotearoa's management of COVID-19 outbreak above the likes of Taiwan, Thailand and Australia.
12:40pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has responded to accusations that the Government took too long to confirm two new cases of the virus had been detected in the community, arguing health officials have an obligation to ensure the information they disseminate is factually correct.
Late on Wednesday night, the Ministry of Health stated that the two infections are being treated as confirmed cases. However, the official announcement came hours after claims from former Te Tai Tokerau MP Hone Harawira, who revealed earlier that afternoon two community cases had been detected in Auckland's Ōrewa.
12:20pm - Serology results for the two Auckland cases are expected on Friday. But what is serology testing? Dr Nikki Moreland, a senior lecturer in immunology at the University of Auckland explains:
"Serology testing measures antibodies that the body makes in response to infection. It generally takes 10-14 days after an initial exposure to SARS-CoV-2 before someone has a level of antibodies that would measure as positive on a serology test.
"That means if someone was infected in the last few days they are less likely to be positive by serology. So serology testing could provide another piece in the puzzle in determining the infection timeframe on these cases."
12:15pm - Chris Hipkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield will be giving an update on COVID-19 cases at 1pm. Newshub will stream that press conference and it will also be live on Three.
12pm - The Northern Regional Health Coordination Centre says between Sunday and Wednesday evening, 11,824 tests from Auckland have been processed, with 11,822 returning negative results.
People are being asked to only seek health care if necessary.
"We do not want you to delay any medical care you need," says Waitematā District Health Boardchief executive, Dr Dale Bramley.
"Public hospitals, including North Shore, Waitakere, Auckland City and Middlemore hospitals, continue to function as normal and remain safe. Please continue to attend your hospital and GP appointments as needed.
"In association with other district health boards in the wider Auckland area, Waitematā DHB will continue to support community testing stations. Station teams are managing well this morning and working as quickly as possible to test attendees."
11:50am - A checkpoint set up by iwi in Waiōmio, Northland has been shut down by police. COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins told The AM Show on Thursday morning that there was no legal authority for the checkpoints.
Iwi set up the checkpoints to give visitors to Northland information about the virus.
11:40am - The Prime Minister wants to know what happened in the Pullman Hotel.
"Something has happened, an event of some description," Ardern says.
No new arrivals will be placed at the facility while it is investigated. She has asked for advice about what should happen to someone after they have had their final managed isolation test. It's previously been suggested they should have to stay in their room until they leave.
She also said officials are looking at whether "extra requirements" should be put on people when they leave.
Ardern says infection control audits are regularly undertaken at MIQ facilities.
There have been issues with contacting some people who had been at the Pullman Hotel, she says. But hundreds have been successfully contacted and tested.
The two Auckland cases show it was the right move to test everyone who had been at the facility, the Prime Minister says.
11:35am - Ardern tells media officials have been speaking to Australia about the COVID-19 situation. The decision on whether to restart quarantine-free travel is ultimately in their hands, she says. Ardern doesn't want to see a situation where people are stranded.
11:15am - A new map shows the locations of interest for the two new Auckland COVID-19 cases.
11:10am - Ardern is speaking about the Government's climate change announcement. Once she's done with that, she will move on to questions about the COVID-19 cases.
You can find out more about the Government announcement here.
11am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is about to speak to media. It's expected she will be asked about the COVID-19 cases. You'll be able to watch that press conference in the video above at about 11:10am.
10:50am - People who queued for a COVID-19 test at an unstaffed pop-up clinic in Albany deserve an explanation, says Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
At around 8am, at least 35 cars were waiting at the testing clinic, located in the carpark of Albany's North Harbour Stadium. However, there were no staff at the premises - leading to significant frustration as the queue continued to grow, with almost 50 cars lined up at the site by 8:10am.
10:35am - Chris Bishop, National's COVID-19 Response spokesperson, says the two new community cases connected to the Pullman Hotel highlight "system failures" the Government must address.
In a statement, Bishop said something "is clearly wrong at the Pullman" considering the point of a managed isolation facility is that someone shouldn't catch COVID-19 there.
"It's now critical that everyone who was at the Pullman Hotel at the same time as these latest cases get tested. It’s extremely worrying that the Health Ministry has still not been able to contact some of these people. It needs to explain why this is taking so long," he said.
In its update on Wednesday, the ministry said of the 353 people who departed the managed isolation facility between January 9 and 24, 255 people have returned negative tests.
"Contact tracing staff are continuing to follow up with the remaining 98 recently departed guests to ensure they have their test. Today’s number of 353 differs from yesterday’s 357 as since then three people have left the country and since ben referred to their own health authorities while another record has been deleted as it was a double up," the ministry said.
Bishop said National has long been concerned about "the laxity of MIQ and the potential for people to catch COVID-19 there".
"Stories coming out of these facilities have cast doubt on whether the right protocols are in place, and whether they are being followed. There is still evidence of cohort mingling in MIQ facilities, where recent arrivals are able to mix and mingle with people coming towards the end of their stay. That doesn’t make sense."
National wants an urgent review of all MIQ facilities.
"The Government should adopt a risk-based approach in our MIQ facilities. This means segmenting arrivals depending on where they have come from, placing arrivals from high-risk areas, such as the UK, US and South Africa, into their own dedicated hotels."
On Tuesday, Chris Hipkins said it was difficult to separate returnees as people from different countries may have been on the same plane.
"Getting to New Zealand from anywhere in the world at the moment is a complex web of travel," he said. "It's a bit of a melting pot out there in terms of COVID-19 because any plane landing in New Zealand is likely to have passengers in it from a variety of different locations."
Bishop also criticised the Ministry of Health's decision not to name two businesses visited by the Northland case.
"Transparency is critical here. The Government shut down hairdressers during the lockdown but doesn’t seem to be concerned about them now. Likewise, why should people who visited The Warehouse be tested, but not people who have been to a hairdresser?"
10:25am - In case you missed it, here's a list of the locations New Zealand's latest community COVID-19 cases visited. If you were also at any of these locations at the same time, you need to isolate and get tested.
10:10am - The Sounds Like Summer Festival scheduled to take place at Omaha on Sunday has been postponed after the emergence of the new COVID-19 cases.
"The recent COVID-19 developments have made us feel that it would be irresponsible for us to continue with this weekend’s festival. We want to thank you all for your love and support over the past few months. As a first year festival, it means a lot," the festival posted online.
About 1500 people were expected to attend the event at Omaha, which is on the border of Northland and Auckland. Organisers are working on an alternative date.
10am - An Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) spokesperson has confirmed to Newshub that the Farmer's store listed as one of the locations of interest is the one at Westfield Mall Albany.
There was some confusion earlier about whether the Farmer's on Don McKinnon Dr visited on Sunday, January 24 between 12-1pm was in the mall or at Albany Mega Centre, as both are on the same street.
However ARPHS revealed on Thursday morning that it is the former.
The spokesperson said there is no reason for those who visited the mall at the same time to isolate and get tested - only those who went to the Farmer's.
9:55am - COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins spoke to MoreFM and explained a change made to the air conditioning system in the Jet Park facility.
"Generally, the air conditioning systems in hotels are designed so they will put fresh air into [hallways] a couple times of day and other than that the air is reasonably stagnant in those hallways."
In the Jet Park, air conditioning is now on 24/7, Hipkins says.
"There is positive air pressure in the hallway. If someone opens their room and there are any COVID-19 particles in their room because they have COVID-19, then they will be pushed back into their room rather than allowed to drift out into the hallway."
Another way of limiting spread is to have guests open their windows before exiting, he says.
9:45am - Aucklanders are being asked to get tested if they have been at one of the locations of interest or have symptoms for COVID-19.
9:30am - Waka Kotahi, the New Zealand Transport Agency, has tweeted: "Rapid contact tracing is one of the most important tools we have to find COVID-19 and stamp it out".
"Make sure you track your movements on public transport. Stay home if you’re sick, turn on Bluetooth in the NZ COVID Tracer app, and scan QR codes as you board public transport."
9:25am - A Z Energy spokesperson has confirmed that Caltex Orewa is now closed. It had been open earlier on Thursday despite being a location of interest and at the time not having had a deep clean.
Z Energy advised the store's manager on Wednesday to clean inside and outside the permises and helped him book a deep-clean contractor, who has been booked for around 3pm on Thursday.
The store will either open later on Thursday or Friday morning once the deep-clean has been completed.
The Caltex had been open since 6am but began serving customers through the night pay window at around 8am. It was decided shortly after 9am that the site would be closed until the deep clean had been undertaken.
9:15am - Newshub's Lauren Hendricksen says cars still haven't moved forward at the Albany testing station. That's despite health authorities saying earlier on Thursday that testing was underway.
9:10am - People over the age of 50 in the Far North are being urged by iwi leaders to stay at home and those outside the region are being told to avoid travelling there until after 8 February.
Te Kahui o Taonui, Te Tai Tokerau iwi leaders, met yesterday to discuss how best to protect at risk people, including kaumātua, from the community case of Covid-19 in the region.
Ngāpuhi Pandemic Response project lead Tia Ashby was at the hui and said that if kaumātua did need to leave the home for important appointments, they should wear a mask.
9am - Chris Hipkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield will hold a press conference at the Beehive at 1pm on Thursday to provide an update on the two positive Auckland cases.
8:55am - Te Tai Tokerau is expecting an influx of Aucklanders ahead of Auckland Anniversary weekend and some are nervous, after a local woman tested positive for the South Africa strain of Covid-19 after leaving managed isolation in Auckland.
Te Tai Tokerau Border Control operated Northland checkpoints during 2020's Covid-19 lockdowns. Spokesman Hone Harawira believes they are needed again, but he says the police will not help.
8:45am - National's Chris Bishop tells RNZ that the public health advice must be followed in regard to any restrictions.
"We have got to follow the public health advice. A community transmission of the South African variant in the New Zealand community would be devastating."
If the public health advice was to move into lockown, "that's what we will need to do".
8:40am - Hendricksen is speaking to someone who has been in the queue at the Albany testing station for about an hour and has not moved yet.
"[I'm] not very happy when they said it would open at 8am," the woman says.
She says she rang Healthline on Thursday morning and they weren't aware it was open as a testing station.
Only two of eight staff are there.
8:35am - Speaking to RNZ, National COVID Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said people will be concerned about the likely transmission at the Pullman Hotel.
He notes there have been anecdotes about people mingling within the facility. This is worrying, particularly in light of the new, more transmissible strains.
Bishop wants an urgent review to make sure the facilities "are as best as they can be".
"We have got to follow the public health advice. A community transmission of the South African variant in the New Zealand community would be devastating."
If the public health advice was to move into lockown, "that's what we will need to do".
8:30am - Northern Region Health Coordination Centre - COVID-19 Response says the Albany testing station was set up and testing at 8am.
Our reporter, Lauren Hendricksen, says no testing has been done, queues haven't moved and not all staff are there yet.
8:25am - Goff told The AM Show the message he is getting from Wellington is that there is no need to cancel anything and we are "nowhere close to the point of going into lockdown".
He wrote to ministers last Thursday asking for a discussion about the steps to keep people safe "short of going into a lockdown". He hasn't heard back.
But if we need a lockdown, we will do it, Goff days.
8:20am - COVID-19 response Minister Chris Hipkins is considering halting the use of the Pullman Hotel as a managed isolation facility.
He says until more details about the origin of the new cases comes to light authorities may stop people from staying there.
8:15am - Speaking to The AM Show, Phil Goff says it is "really unfortunate" these cases have been detected. Stopping any incursion is a big ask, he says.
"No system is fail safe and clearly there is some systemic problem at the Pullman Hotel. Authorities need to get on top of that [and] find out the reason".
He is confident we will contain this considering close contacts are testing negative.
Goff has texted his staff asking "what the hell is happening" at the Albany testing station. He says his staff will get in touch with health officials.
"We need an explanation."
8:10am - Hendricksen says there are now almost 50 cars at the site. They are queuing out onto the road. More cars are turning up every minute, but no progress is being made as no staff are there swabbing. Portaloos have arrived.
8am - Queues are building at Auckland testing stations. Newshub's Lauren Hendricksen is at the Albany station and says there are more than 30 cars split into four queues. The site was set to open at 8am, but there are no medical staff there, she says. Security guards were under the impression it was opening at 8:30am.
The Auckland Regional Public Health Service website says it opens at 8am on Thursday and Friday.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is about to appear on The AM Show.
7:55am - A staff member at Caltex Orewa has confirmed to Newshub the gas station is open, despite being visited by the two new positive cases on January 18.
The staff member said his boss said on Wednesday night that the premises would be cleaned, but they are waiting for an exact time.
"It should be cleaned anytime soon," he said.
7:45am - Hipkins told RNZ earlier that "we will probably stop putting new people into the Pullman".
"We will slowly empty it out for a little bit just to see what we can find out about what might be happening there."
With the Northland and Auckland cases being connected and having stayed in the Pullman Hotel at a similar time, it's believed transmission likely occurred within the managed isolation facility. How the virus actually spread from person-to-person is unclear, however.
7:35am - Speaking to RNZ, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says it would be premature to go into a lockdown and that such measures should be a last resort.
7:30am - The likelihood of a lockdown is "still pretty low at this point", but things can change, Hipkins says. The risk of further restrictions is the same as at this time on Wednesday.
Officials will discuss on Thursday whether to issue any guidance about travel this coming Auckland Anniversary weekend. However, there is nothing to yet suggest a need to change alert levels, he says.
Any internal borders within the country would be accompanied by an alert level change. Aucklanders can travel this weekend, unless things change in the coming days.
He says there is no basis for any roadblocks. Any roadblocks in Northland have no legal authority, he says.
7:25am - Hipkins says after a big wave of testing there is often false-positives and historical cases. Only after a second test and confirmed result is the country typically notified, he says.
That would have been the same situation with these cases, but media reports emerged of the false-positive cases on Wednesday evening.
Hipkins is going to follow-up why one of the cases was at BBQ King on several occassions for long periods of time. He said initial advice is that the person hadn't been at work since leaving managed isolation.
Jacinda Ardern has been keeping Scott Morrison up to date, Hipkins says. The cases won't necessarily interrupt any travel bubble, he says.
7:20am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is now on The AM Show. He confirms a "reasonably close link" to the Northland woman and suggests that the virus was picked up within the Pullman Hotel managed isolation facility.
He says the infection appears to be contained to a small group, but there shouldn't be any transmission in the facility. CCTV footage and swipe card data is being reviewed to understand what happened.
It could be that the cases came to contact in a lift or exercise area, Hipkins says. There should still be physical distancing. An investigation will see if there was any human error.
7:15am - Hipkins tells RNZ that the two Auckland cases were staying on a different floor to the Northland woman. Advice suggests the virus likely spread due to individuals' behaviour rather than because of an environmental problem, he says.
7:10am - Speaking to Newstalk ZB, COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins says preliminary genome sequencing indicates the cases are likely linked to the Northland case and the other individual in the Pullman Hotel believed to be the origin case. This suggests transmission occurred in the Pullman managed isolation facility.
These cases, like the Northland case, have the South African variant. One is an adult and one is a child.
Hipkins is "feeling optimistic", but there is still much unknown. There are not a huge number of close contacts for these cases, he says. They have had a good record of their movements.
The minister doesn't believe the cases have been at work since leaving managed isolation. The family hadn't been massively active and had largely been staying at their home.
Hipkins will be on The AM Show at 7:20am.
6:50am - Countdown in Orewa, north of Auckland, was closed for deep cleaning on Wednesday evening after it was believed one of the two people who returned a weak positive test visited the store.
"We were advised early [on Wednesday] evening about a probable new community case of COVID-19 and that it was likely that this person visited our store," Countdown's general manager of safety Kiri Hannifin said.
"We took the precaution to close our Orewa store early tonight while this was being confirmed and to stand down the team.
"We've just been advised that our supermarket was not visited, which is great news for our team and community. We'd rather be safe than sorry, and it's reassuring to know that our evolving COVID response works fast and puts safety first."
6:35am - Global coronavirus cases surpassed 100 million on Wednesday as infections rise in Europe and Americas and the Asia-Pacific region scrambles to contain fresh outbreaks, while governments hurry to procure adequate vaccine supplies.
According to Worldometers, nearly 101 million people have contracted COVID-19, while 2.17 million have died from the illness.
6:20am - Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker tells The AM Show that we "know the drill at this point" and the roles everyone must play. The big one is getting tested if someone has symptoms, he says.
Baker says we should have more information about these cases in the coming days when genome sequencing and serology comes back.
"One of the things that's really intriguing about this virus is that a large proportion of cases that have arrived in New Zealand have not been transmitted further whereas 20 percent of the cases are responsible for almost all of the ongoing transmission," he told The AM Show.
To strengthen our response to the pandemic, he says we should be thinking not just about the two weeks in managed isolation, but the week before departure, the plane trip and the week after leaving. We should aim for having no one arriving in New Zealand with the virus.
"These people all book their trip to New Zealand. Perhaps working with them in advance, saying 'how can we dampen down your risk of being infected when you get on that flight'."
The next step would be asking people to self-isolate after leaving managed isolation.
6:10am - Australia's SBS is reporting that Australian officials are seeking more information from New Zealand authorities about the two new cases before it makes a decision on whether to restart quarantine-free travel.
Australia on Monday suspended free-flowing travel after the Northland case emerged. The suspension was meant to last until Thursday evening, but a decision on whether to extend it may come down to the wire, according to SBS.
"The situation is evolving rapidly," Australia's Acting Chief Health Officer Michael Kidd told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
"We will be following up the details of both of these cases with the New Zealand authorities once further details, including the results of additional testing, are known."
6am - The AM Show is live on air. You can watch it in the video above or here.
It will feature guests like epidemiologist Michael Baker, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and infectious diseases expert David Murdoch,
5:45am - The Auckland Regional Public Health Service has added two pop up testing centres in Auckland.
One is in Orewa and the other is in Albany, and both are open on Thursday and Friday at this stage.
Their locations are:
- Victor Eaves Park, 87 Florence Avenue, Orewa - open 9:30am to 4pm on January 28 and 29
- Carpark B, North Harbour Stadium, Stadium Road, Albany - open 8am to 6pm on January 28 and 29
5:40am - Guests at the Pullman Hotel managed isolation facility are being asked to stay in their rooms until 1pm on Thursday, according to a letter sent to returnees.
Brigadier Jim Bliss, the head of managed isolation and quarantine, says he understands "this is disruptive".
"I want to reassure you that the team at MIQ are working alongside our health colleagues on these investigations. As a returnee, your health and safety is our priority. We have robust processes in place to respond to these kinds of events."
He says the majority of staff who worked on key dates of interest have had recent negative tests, providing an "additional level of assurance that there has not been transmission to staff who worked on those dates".
5:35am - Following the Ministry of Health statement on Wednesday night, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff released this statement:
Mayor Phil Goff is urging Aucklanders to continue scanning with the NZ COVID Tracer app and practising good hand hygiene in light of the new COVID-19 cases that have been detected in the city.
"I understand that this is unsettling and not how any of us wanted to start 2021," said Mayor Goff this evening.
"We had hoped to leave COVID-19 behind in 2020 but the reality is that we will be at risk from the virus for some time yet. As the gateway city for New Zealand, the chance of another outbreak was always present.
"Aucklanders, out of anyone in the country, know how to beat this virus – we have done it multiple times and we are going to do it again.
"I know this is frustrating, but I want to ask Aucklanders to do what is needed to defeat COVID-19 again.
"Scan, scan, scan. I cannot emphasise enough how much scanning needs to be ramped up. Use the app to record your movements and turn on the Bluetooth tracing function.
"Wash your hands regularly and stay home and get a test if you feel sick.
"Please remember you only need to get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been present at locations identified by the Ministry of Health.
"And remember it is still a requirement to wear masks on public transport," said Mayor Goff.
Decisions around events over the Auckland Anniversary Day long weekend will be made in the next two to three days based on advice from the Ministry of Health.
5:30am - The locations of interest are:
• BBQ King Albany, Jan 17, 11am-2pm
• Pak n Save Silverdale, Jan 17, 2pm-2:30pm
• BBQ King Albany, Jan 17, 5pm-9pm
• Pak n Save Silverdale, Jan 18, 12pm-12:30pm
• BBQ King Albany, Jan 18, 12:30pm-3pm
• Caltex Orewa, Jan 18, 1pm-1:30pm
• BBQ King Albany, Jan 18, 5pm-9pm
• Hickeys Pharmacy Orewa, Jan 23, 12:30pm-1:30pm
• Farmers Albany, Jan 24, 12pm-1pm
• Tai Ping Supermarket Albany, Jan 24, 12pm-1pm
• New World Orewa, Jan 25, 1pm-2pm
• Tai Ping Supermarket Northcote, Jan 26, 12:30pm-1pm
5:20am - Kia Ora, good morning. Welcome to Newshub's live updates. We will have the latest on the two new community cases of COVID-19 throughout Thursday.
In case you missed it on Wednesday night, here is the most recent statement from the Ministry of Health:
Two people who completed their managed isolation in the same facility and at the same time as the Northland case are now being treated as confirmed COVID-19 infections.
"While we still can’t categorically rule these out as historical infections, test results so far indicate the two people may have contracted COVID-19 towards the end of their stay in managed isolation, after returning two negative tests each during their stay", said Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
"It’s too early to early to make a firm conclusion. Genome sequencing results, which are expected tomorrow, and serology results expected the following day, will help develop the picture further."
However, out of an abundance of caution we are now responding as if these are confirmed current infections.
Locations of interest
The Ministry of Health website has a list of exposure events which include a location, date and time.
People who have visited those locations during the time period, and as ever, anyone in Auckland with symptoms, are asked to isolate and call Healthline to arrange a test and remain isolated until they receive their result.
"It’s important the right people isolate and get tested, so we don’t overwhelm testing centres," said Dr Bloomfield.
"We understand that many will be anxious, but it’s important to remember we are carrying out these measures as a precaution. There is no evidence so far that suggests community transmission - but we need the right people to isolate and get tested."
This will come as news to some locations of interest as we move quickly to respond and we thank them for their understanding and cooperation.
The two former returnees were initially classified as under investigation after returning positive tests and pending further investigation to determine if the infections were recent or historical. They returned a second positive test with a higher CT value which led to them being treated as confirmed cases.
A third person in the family’s bubble has tested negative. The two family members who tested positive are in the process of being moved to Auckland’s quarantine facility.
The two positive cases completed quarantine on 15 January and have been residing in North Auckland since.
Further interviews are being carried out to determine the family’s detailed movements since they left managed isolation to identify close and casual contacts.
A number of steps have already been put in place at the Pullman hotel including:
- a deep clean of commonly used areas
- tighter restrictions on movement of returnees including no arrivals or departures
- increasing hotel ventilation
- requesting returnees who’ve recently left, to not fly, to stay home and have an additional test within 48 hours
- restricting staff from working at other sites
- tighter restrictions on movement of returnees including no arrivals or departures from the facility.
A number of walk-in / drive-thru community testing centres will be open in Auckland - some with extended hours. These can be found on the ARPHS website and Healthline will have this information too.
The website also includes extra pop-up community testing centres, targeted to North Auckland.
Public health advice
In addition, Aucklanders and people travelling to the city should follow key public health advice: wash your hands; use a mask on public transport; use the NZ Covid Tracer App; if you develop symptoms, isolate and seek advice from Healthline about getting tested.