Coronavirus live updates: Latest on Auckland lockdown, community case - Tuesday, February 16

Another close contact has tested negative for COVID-19 but several results are still pending as Auckland remains in lockdown for another day.

Three community cases recorded in south Auckland over the weekend prompted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday to throw the region into lockdown and the rest of New Zealand into alert level 2.

No changes to the alert levels were made by the Government on Monday, despite no new community cases being detected. 

However, 109 close contacts of the infected family have been identified. They include students and teachers at Papatoetoe High School, which one of the cases attends. Fourteen of the 36 close contacts at the school have so far tested negative for the respiratory illness, as well as all close contacts of the father and the people who travelled with the cases in a car. Thirty-three close contacts in total have returned negative results, 74 are pending.

No source of the outbreak has yet been identified, but genomic sequencing has revealed the cases have the more transmissible UK variant of the virus.

What you need to know:

  • Three community cases of COVID-19 were detected in south Auckland over the weekend, leading the Government to impose an alert level 3 lockdown on Auckland and put the rest of the country under alert level 2
  • The infected family - a mother, father and daughter - have the UK variant of the illness. The cases do not link directly to any other positive cases found in New Zealand to date
  • Close contacts of the cases are being tested, with no new positive cases yet found
  • No new cases in the community or in MIQ were announced on Tuesday
  • A decision on alert levels will be announced at 4:30pm on Wednesday
  • The mother works at LSG Sky Chefs, a company which does laundering and catering for airlines. The woman is not believed to have been infectious while at work so her workmates are not considered close contacts
  • Products from LSG Sky Chefs have been pulled from Foodstuffs supermarket shelves out of an abundance of precaution
  • Police checkpoints have been set up at the border to Auckland, with only those with a valid reason for travel being allowed through
  • An updated list of locations visited by the three cases can be viewed here. There are instructions for individuals who were also at the same locations as the cases at the same time 
  • Monday saw the arrival of 60,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine. Border workers are set to be vaccinated from Saturday
  • An up-to-date list of testing locations is available here.

These live updates have finished.

8:20pm - Businesses forced to close their doors in Auckland this week say they'll now struggle to pay back loans they got in the last lockdown.

Owners of restaurants and cinemas want extra assistance from the Government - something the Finance Minister made moves towards on Tuesday. 

Read the full story here.

8pm - The main advantage of saliva testing, when compared to nasal swabs, is it can be self-collected and doesn't come with added discomfort, Professor David Murdoch, dean and head of campus at the University of Otago, Christchurch, says.

"This can be particularly helpful for people who need to be tested regularly, like border workers," he says.

"However, the testing of saliva may require additional processing steps in the laboratory in order to best prepare the sample for testing. This can affect laboratory workflows and efficiency.

"Newer methods are being developed to avoid additional processing steps, some of which may require little technical expertise and enable testing outside a laboratory."

He adds there is "clear evidence" that saliva testing may play a useful role in frequently testing people, as long as resourcing and lab workflow issues can be addressed.

7:30pm - ACT leader David Seymour says the revelation that just 140 saliva tests have been undertaken nationwide is "disappointing".

"Saliva testing was announced by COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins on 22 January as the Government's 'precautionary measure in response to higher rates of infection overseas and the more transmissible variants of COVID-19'," he says.

"But it's not doing what the Minister sold it as.

"Unfortunately the Government doesn't appear to have learned much in the six months since it became clear two-thirds of border workers hadn’t been tested for COVID-19."

He believes Auckland was plunged into lockdown "off the back of that environment".

"Now we're in a third lockdown and the measure Chris Hipkins described as 'another layer of assurance' - saliva testing - is little more than an exercise in futility at six tests a day," Seymour says.

"Rather than do what the Simpson-Roche review told them to do in September, and what dozens of other countries have done since even earlier last year, this Government keeps finding excuses not to evolve and improve to meet COVID-19 as it evolves."

He adds that New Zealand should adopt a culture of continuous improvement and embrace technologies that can help avoid lockdowns.

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty Images

7pm - "Lockdown lunacy is frying our minds": This is the claim made by Australian journalist Adam Creighton in an article targeting New Zealand and Australia's new anti-COVID-19 restrictions.

The Australian state of Victoria is enduring a five-day lockdown, which, similarly to Auckland, is also its third lockdown.

Now Creighton, economics editor at the conservative newspaper The Australian, has written a column on Tuesday blasting both countries for their approaches.

"The west, and Australia and New Zealand in particular, are suffering mass psychogenic illness, where only sociology, psychology and the perverse incentives of large welfare states, can explain the ongoing obsession with COVID-19 and our medieval responses to it after almost a year of improved treatments and new information," Creighton writes.

"Australia and New Zealand have incurred costs equivalent to a world war - and more than any other nation has - fighting a pandemic that has killed not even 1000 people, with a median age in the mid-80s, between them. And this is widely seen as brilliant."

Read the full story here.

6:45pm - The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) says 1133 community tests have been registered in Auckland on Tuesday, as of 4pm.

"The demand for testing in Auckland has remained strong today, with wait times at a number of CTCs [community testing centres] in Auckland, especially those closest to the locations of interest," NRHCC says.

"As at 3pm, the wait times had reduced to less than an hour at the Otara CTC, less than 30 minutes at the Wiri CTC, and less than 10 minutes at the Botany CTC. There were no reports of queues at any of Auckland's other CTCs."

Capacity has been boosted at all of Auckland's community testing centres, there are additional staff on board, and opening hours have been extended. The same testing capacity will remain in place on Wednesday.

"We are monitoring the demand for testing closely and will continue to increase capacity and hours at the current CTCs and open new CTCs as needed."

There is a list of Auckland testing centres here, and testing locations throughout New Zealand here.

Coronavirus live updates: Latest on Auckland lockdown, community case - Tuesday, February 16
Photo credit: Getty Images

6:30pm - The Ministry of Health has completed just 140 saliva tests in total nationwide, despite private companies having the ability to do such tests on a large scale six months ago. 

Chris Hipkins says there's concern the saliva tests are not as accurate, but one Hamilton company says it's using internationally verified methods which they have confidence in.

The headquarters of Hamilton's Hill Laboratories is one of the laboratories the Government uses to process and analyse samples for coronavirus testing.

Read the full story here.

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty Images

6:15pm - Napier's Art Deco Festival has been cancelled due to New Zealand's alert levels.

Barbara Arnott, chairperson of the Art Deco Trust, says the Government hasn't given any indication that alert levels will be reduced on Wednesday night. Given the logistical efforts to stage the festival successfully, the Trust says it cannot wait another 24 hours for Wednesday afternoon's decision from the Government about whether or not the alert levels will change.

"That is why we had to make the decision today," Arnott says.

"We needed to give certainty to the hundreds of entertainers, artists, contractors, event venues and suppliers tonight so that they know where they stand. And for the sake of the thousands of festival goers, many of whom have accommodation and travel plans booked, it was imperative we made our decision today."

The festival was due to run from February 17 to 21.

"This has been an incredibly tough decision and we have had to weigh up a huge number of factors and consider several different scenarios in the course of our deliberations. With heavy heart, we believe this is the only possible option, having already been forced to cancel two of the five days of events."

Arnott says the event organisers appreciate that many festival goers have already arrived in Napier and the decision to cancel the event is something they don't want to hear.

"We know they will be incredibly disappointed. So are we," she says.

"We wish we had a crystal ball to know what will happen to alert levels from tomorrow night, but we don't."

Ticket holders will be contacted directly by the festival's booking agents, Ticketek or iTicket, with details of the ticket refund process.

6pm - It's time for Newshub Live at 6pm. You can watch that online here or by tuning in on Three.

5:40pm - Dr Nikki Freed, a senior lecturer at Massey University's School of Natural and Computational Sciences, says the use of routine saliva tests has some "strong" advantages.

"Simply put, it is an easier, non-invasive sample that patients can self-collect. This can reduce exposure for public health staff and reduce patient discomfort. This is an especially good tool for people who need to get tested routinely, such as border staff and health care workers," she says.

"The disadvantage is that saliva testing is slightly less sensitive than the standard COVID-19 test in New Zealand (that uses nasopharyngeal swabs).

"Less sensitive means that a person will need more copies of the virus to be detected, so saliva-based tests might miss a very small fraction of people who are just starting to get sick or who are just at the end of COVID-19 illness."

5:20pm - A person has been arrested for failing to stop at a police checkpoint south of Auckland.

Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said one person had failed to stop at the Mercer checkpoint on State Highway 1 and they were arrested sometime later when they stopped in Hamilton.

"The 26-year-old is currently assisting police with our enquiries and we cannot rule out the possibility of charges being laid," he said.

Read the full story here.

5pm - The National Party says it will push for mandatory daily saliva testing of border workers and people in MIQ since "better testing" gives a better chance to detect the virus in the community.

Chris Hipkins said during Question Time earlier on Tuesday that saliva tests are accredited only as a surveillance test, and are currently being undertaken in facilities across Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch in addition to PCR tests.

"This is a fast-moving scenario," National leader Judith Collins says. "We need to be picking up every piece of new science we can."

4:45pm - The first vaccine to be rolled out in New Zealand appears to work just as well against the more infectious UK strain of the virus, based on real-world data coming out of Israel.

The Middle Eastern nation leads the world in terms of vaccinating its population, with three-quarters already having received at least one dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech. The aim is to have everyone, excluding those living in areas governed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, vaccinated by the end of March.

Israel struck a deal with the vaccine's manufacturer to supply real-time data on the rollout, and the initial findings are promising. Researchers tested 600,000 people who've received the vaccine and 600,000 who hadn't yet out of the country of 9 million.

"There was a 94 percent reduction in the rate of symptomatic infection and a 92 percent decrease in the rate of serious illness compared to 600,000 similar [subjects] who were not vaccinated," Clalit Health Services said in a statement.

"Vaccine efficacy is maintained in all age groups, including those aged 70."

Read the full story here.

4:30pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will hold a press conference on Wednesday at 4:30pm about New Zealand's alert levels.

Currently, alert levels 2 and 3 are in place until 11:59pm on Wednesday.

There will be a 1pm press conference with the daily COVID-19 numbers, and then Cabinet will meet at 3pm before announcing its decision.

The Prime Minister's Office says Cabinet wants to ensure it has the most up-to-date information before making the decision and going slightly later in the day means they get all the testing results possible to inform the decision.

4:15pm - Auckland Transport is reminding people using public transport to keep a one metre distance from other passengers, scan QR codes with the COVID Tracer app while onboard, and to wear a face covering.

4pm - Arindam Basu, associate professor at the University of Canterbury's College of Education, Health and Human Development, says saliva tests, when compared to nasal swab tests, appear to perform "slightly worse".

"A systematic review published [recently] reveals that saliva testing and nasopharyngeal swab testing have a similar level of accuracy at detecting positive cases," he says

"The saliva tests overall, when pooled together were 83.2 percent accurate, this indicates that on an average such a test will miss about 17 percent true positive cases.

"But the nasopharyngeal swab tests are similar at around 85 percent accurate, suggesting that overall, when all things are considered, they will miss about 15 percent true positive cases."

Basu says that in terms of how accurate these two tests are, there is little difference, but the advantage of saliva tests is how easy it is to get a sample from someone.

"In final analysis, it may be said that saliva tests are as good as nasopharyngeal swab tests when it comes to their head to head diagnostic performance, but saliva tests are more convenient."

3:45pm - The streets of central Auckland are nearly empty under alert level 3.

A tweet from one person in the city shows the usually bustling Queen St with a single courier van and another vehicle far in the distance on the road.

3:30pm - There are "two key things" health authorities Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he will be looking at that will inform his recommendation on whether to downgrade New Zealand's alert levels.

At the moment, the outlook is rosy. Since the initial discovery of the community cases on Sunday, New Zealand has gone two days without finding any more - despite tens of thousands of tests being carried out in that period.

Dr Bloomfield says these test results will be "fundamental" to whether he recommends a de-escalation of alert levels to Cabinet on Wednesday.

Read the full story here.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty Images

3:15pm - The Ministry of Health says there's been a surge in demand for testing since the three cases were confirmed.

"We would like to acknowledge the hardworking staff at our testing centres, general practices and other clinics who continue to swab for COVID-19. We also thank everyone who patiently waited for their COVID-19 tests yesterday," they say in a statement.

"We are anticipating strong demand again today. It's important the right people can get access to testing - so please don't rush to a centre if you are well, or if you weren't at one of the current locations of interest."

Information on where to get a test anywhere in New Zealand can be found here.

On Monday, 5818 tests were processed. The seven-day rolling average up to Monday is 4380 tests processed. The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,595,770.

3:05pm - What impact will alert level 3 have on America's Cup racing? Melissa Chan-Green and Tom McRae talk to four-time America's Cup winner and former tactician for Team New Zealand and Swiss Alinghi syndicate Brad Butterworth to find out.

Listen to Newshub's The Cup podcast here.

2:55pm - Australia's medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), has granted provisional approval to the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine for use in Australia.

"Our vaccination program has the backing of Australia's best medical experts and that means that we can proceed along the path that we have set out," Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters.

"I look forward to working with all the states and territories and medical health professionals across the country, those involved in logistics supply chain, to ensure we can get this out right across the country.

It's going to make a huge difference to how we live here in Australia this year, and in the years ahead."

2:45pm - The Green Party's Teanau Tuiono asks Chris Hipkins: "Are all Government employees and contractors in managed isolation and quarantine facilities and at the border being paid at least the living wage?"

Hipkins says most of these people are paid the living wage - there are some MIQ facilities that are working to bring their employees up to this pay level. Members of the police, defence, and other Government agencies are paid at least the living wage, he says.

He adds he encourages businesses to be "good employers" and to treat their workers well.

2:35pm - David Seymours asks Jacinda Ardern: "Does she stand by her statement regarding raising COVID-19 alert levels, 'Three days will give us time to gather further information, undertake large scale testing, and establish if there has been wider community transmission'; if so, does she believe the alert levels will be able to be reduced at the end of these three days?"

Ardern says she does stand by this statement. She adds that Cabinet will review these settings on Wednesday after looking closely at data from these cases and test results. Currently, the alert levels are in place until 11:59pm tomorrow.

She says she expects as many test results of close contacts to come back tomorrow, and adds health staff are prioritising processing tests of close contacts.

2:30pm - Chris Bishop asks Chris Hipkins: "Was the laundry worker at LSG Sky Chefs, who contracted COVID-19, required to get a regular COVID-19 test, and how many people handling objects associated with the border are not required to get a COVID-19 test on a regular basis?"

Hipkins says she wasn't, since handling laundry with gloves and other protective measures is deemed low risk. He adds there are tens of thousands of people who handle items from the border, but don't necessarily work at the border.

Bishop follows up by asking why baggage handlers have to get regular tests, but not border-adjacent workers. Hipkins responds by saying a fomite transmission is more likely to occur with baggage handlers rather than with laundry workers, but he is looking closely at this.

2:25pm - National's Dr Shane Reti asks Chris Hipkins: "Has the Government made daily COVID-19 saliva testing compulsory for border workers; if not, why not?"

Hipkins says no, not at this stage. He says it's accredited as a surveillance test, and is currently being undertaken in facilities across Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch in addition to PCR tests.

"We are rolling it out more broadly, but there are additional hurdles, including the validation of test results," he says.

2:15pm - David Seymour asks a follow up question about saliva testing, where he references a study that says this type of testing is as accurate as PCR testing.

Ardern says they are working through a validation process to get it underway in New Zealand. COVID-19 isn't as prevalent in New Zealand as it is around the world, which she says makes it more difficult to validate.

She adds they're using both PCR and saliva tests at the same time for border workers to ensure there's "rigour".

2:10pm - The next question is from Opposition leader Judith Collins to the Prime Minister, and she asks: "Does she stand by all of her Government’s statements and actions related to the COVID-19 response?"

Ardern says she does.

Collins follows up by asking when Ardern first found out about the three new cases. She responds by saying she found out somewhere between 11am and midday on Sunday. Ardern says the health unit worked very quickly to see whether there was a link between the border and these cases, or if there was a community outbreak.

Ardern says public health authorities contacted organisers of large events in Auckland on Sunday. In terms of the Big Gay Out, she says that event was already underway on Sunday when she found out about the cases.

2:05pm - The first question is from Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngawera-Packer, who asks: "Does he accept that Māori are a population group particularly vulnerable to COVID-19; if so, can he confirm that there is a specific vaccine roll-out plan for Māori?"

Hipkins responds by saying he does accept this, and says they're developing a vaccine plan specifically for Māori. He adds Māori will be "well-represented" in the first round of vaccines since many work in border roles.

2pm - The Government is being questioned about its COVID-19 response in Parliament's Question Time.

You can follow along with that in the updates here.

1:55pm - ACT leader David Seymour says as the world starts getting on top of the virus, New Zealand's focus must turn to how the country will move from closing borders and rolling lockdowns to preparing systems for safely reconnecting with a post-vaccine world.

"While we continue to witness death and economic destruction on a global scale, the rolling average of new daily coronavirus cases worldwide has almost halved in the last month, from 740,000 on 12 January to 398,000 yesterday - the first time it has reduced below 400,000 since last October," he says.

"This trend will continue as the global vaccination campaign also picks up speed.

"Today's data from Bloomberg shows 78 countries have administered 176 million doses of vaccine, with the present daily rate being almost 6 million doses, 15 times the present rate of new daily cases."

He then referenced media outlet The Economist, which called New Zealand shutting its borders a "draconian policy" that "makes no sense as a permanent defence".

"Quite right, and as ACT has been saying since releasing our comprehensive COVID-19 response policy last August, we must undertake the work to plan how we reintegrate ourselves with the world as safely as possible," Seymour says.

"ACT has good ideas and policies to help New Zealand's COVID recovery boat go faster, and we want the Government to embrace them."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty Images

1:40pm - The plan health officials have to roll out vaccines is to give them to those who are at a higher risk, and Hipkins says Māori are disproportionately at risk. He adds they're working with Māori organisations on this.

On testing capacity, Dr Bloomfield says they aren't worried about lab capacity, they're instead concerned about having staff available to do that testing.

1:35pm - ESR is continuing to look at everyone who's been infected with the B117 variant since November to see if there's any epidemiological link. The genomic link internationally is still a possibility, given the variant these cases have is common around the world.

1:30pm - Vaccines will be administered to border workers at their workplace, Hipkins says, alongside their routine testing. Border workers are due to start receiving their first dose of the vaccine this Saturday.

Border workers' household contacts will have to go to specific sites when it's their turn to be vaccinated since they don't the public going into MIQ facilities.

1:25pm - Dr Bloomfield says the accreditation of saliva COVID-19 tests are fine, but the issue they want to be sure that these tests would pick up every single case and not return false negatives.

1:20pm - Hipkins says the Government will look at how it can encourage greater uptake of COVID Tracer app scanning and what more tools it can give businesses.

"New Zealand responds well when we are dealing with COVID. We don't necessarily prepare well".

The 2000 casual plus contacts includes other Papatoetoe High School students and their family members as well as people at locations of interest. Those tests are being processed on Tuesday. 

1:15pm - Hipkins says no new cases is "encouraging", but it is too early to speak about alert level changes. There are still a large number of outstanding swabs.

Officials are continuing to look into the testing settings for workers on the periphery of the border and whether they should be part of the normal testing regime.

On saliva testing, Hipkins says they still use the same resources as PCR tests, but the overall confidence in each test result is lower. PCR remains the gold standard. Officials have to consider the impact of the chances of getting more false-negatives. He won't rule out expanding saliva testing as an addition to PCR, not as an alternative.

Dr Bloomfield says the sector is not reluctant to use saliva testing. Some saliva tests are better than others.

1:10pm - Dr Bloomfield reminds people without symptoms or who were not at a location of interest that they should not attempt to get tested. This will help with queues.

He thanks those expressing their gratitude to MIQ staff and health workers. Hipkins echoes this thanks.

The COVID minister says the Pullman Hotel is receiving its first guests after its shutdown following a deep clean and investigation into January's cases. It is opening at 50 percent of capacity for the first two weeks and only the lower floors will operate to limit elevator use and to upgrade air filtering systems in the lifts. A CCTV upgrade is now complete. New processes are in place limiting movement while corridor ventalition will operate 24-hours a day. 

He said the Pullman Hotel has consistently received good feedback.

These improvements are being rolled out across the wider MIQ system.

Hipkins says an alert level update will be announced tomorrow.

1:05pm - ESR has been doing daily wastewater testing in places of interest in Auckland, New Plymouth and Waikato. Dr Bloomfield says this can detect COVID-19 cases and will help officials understand if there is any in the community. There have been no positive results yet in the Papatoetoe area.

There are now 109 close contacts outside of the household. This is related to a new location of interest, a medical centre waiting room. The father was here before he was symptomatic.

"This increase in number is predominantly because of a very precautionary approach to people classified as close contacts at a new location of interest, which was a medical centre waiting room - where the father wasn't in the red lane for COVID testing. This was well before he developed any symptoms or tested positive."

All workmates of the father and people who travelled to Taranaki with the family have tested negative. There are 14 negative results from the high school close contacts out of a total of 36.

More than 2000 casual-plus contacts have been found.

1pm - Chris Hipkins says there are no new community cases or in MIQ.

The death on Sunday in North Shore Hospital has now been officially recorded as a COVID-19 death. That takes our total to 26 deaths.

The three positive COVID-19 cases remain in quarantine. An investigation into a source is ongoing and Dr Ashley Bloomfield doesn't want to jump to any conclusions yet. 

On Monday, there was 5818 tests processed. It's encouraging there have been no positive cases, Dr Bloomfield says. There were more than 15,000 swabs taken on Monday. More than 10,000 of those came from Auckland.

Additional testing centres have been opened to support testing efforts.

12:45pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pushing back on "an attempt to build a case for our opposition" to COVID-19 saliva testing, as National leader Judith Collins calls for it to be mandated. 

The Government started offering "less invasive" saliva testing in January at quarantine facilities as a "precautionary measure" in the wake of more contagious variants of the coronavirus popping up in managed isolation facilities. 

Collins is now calling on the Government to make daily saliva testing mandatory for border workers and arrivals to New Zealand, in the wake of new community cases of COVID-19 emerging in the community, sparking Auckland's third lockdown.

Read more here.

12:35pm - A press conference from COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is coming up at 1pm. You will be able to watch that on or on Three.

12:25pm - The NZTA is reminding Kiwis that face coverings are mandatory on public transport under alert level 2 and above.

"Put a mask on before you board, scan the service's QR code using the NZ COVID Tracer app, and make sure Bluetooth is activated in the app."

12:15pm - LSG Sky Chefs products have been removed from supermarket shelves after a worker tested positive for COVID-19.

The woman, her partner and their daughter had all contracted the virus in the community and were now in a quarantine facility, the Ministry of Health revealed on Sunday.

The mother works at LSG Sky Chefs, a company which does laundering and catering for airlines. It also provides food to supermarkets, and these have been withdrawn from the shelves.

Read more here.

12pm - RNZ reports that Jet Park quarantine staff will be among the first to received COVID-19 vaccines from Saturday. Others will include those at Wellington's Grand Mercure and Christchurch's Sudima Hotel. These are the quarantine facilities in the respective cities.

11:45am - Businesses could get $400 per worker up to a total of 50 full-time employees if Auckland's lockdown is extended, under legislation being rushed through Parliament. 

The resurgence support payment for businesses affected by COVID-19 was announced by the Government in December, as a more permanent financial compensation scheme, to be activated in the wake of alert level changes. 

The scheme kicks in if New Zealand is shifted to alert level 2 or above for a week or more. Businesses can access it if they experience a 30 percent drop in revenue over a seven-day period, and they get a base payment of $1500. 

Read more here.

11:35am - While we have no new positive cases of COVID-19, Hendy tells Newshub it's too early to say we have avoided a large community outbreak. He wants to see more test results from close contacts. Those are expected to be released on Tuesday afternoon.

There is also the question of where the virus came from. 

11:30am - It's time for Newshub Live at 11.30AM. It will feature a live interview with modeller Shaun Hendy about the current COVID-19 situation. You can watch that by clicking on the banner above or clicking here.

11:25am - The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Northern Regional Final to be held in Pukekohe on Saturday has been postponed due to the current alert level status. 

"I appreciate this decision will be disappointing for everyone involved with the Northern FMG Young Farmer of the Year Regional Final, but for the safety of competitors, volunteers, spectators and sponsors it's the right thing to do," said New Zealand Young Farmers CEO Lynda Coppersmith.

 "We have plans in place that would allow us to run events during Alert Level two that strictly adhere to all Government and Ministry of Health guidelines. However, given the uncertainty around whether or not Auckland will be in level two by the weekend, postponement of the Regional Final has been the most responsible option.  

"I'd like to acknowledge all of our Northern competitors and in particular highlight the efforts of our volunteers, sponsors and staff as we work through these details.  

"As a country we have stamped out the virus before, and we are staying positive that we can do this again and continue on with our FMG Young Farmer of the Year season." 

11:20am - Under the cover of a dull, rainy Auckland sky, a rare sight in our COVID-19 world appeared on Monday: an inbound jetliner from somewhere outside of our bubble.

But as the day unfolded, we would come to learn that this Singapore Airlines flight was carrying New Zealand's first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Read more here.

11:10am - There are queues of cars down to Mangarata Avenue at the Papatoetoe High School testing centre. However, few people are using the walk-in queue accessed via Nicholson Avenue.

11am - Legislation will be introduced under urgency on Tuesday to set up a new Resurgence Support Payment for businesses affected by any resurgence of COVID-19.

A key change is that the time over which a revenue drop is assessed will be lowered from 14 days to seven. Firms with a 30 percent drop over seven days will be eligible. The payment includes a core per business rate of $1500 plus $400 per employee up to a total of 50FTEs.

“We acknowledge the concerns of the business community about Alert Level rises and have made this change as we want to get money out the door quickly to affected businesses," says Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

"This payment recognises that some businesses face one-off costs or impacts to cashflow when we step up an Alert Level to follow public health advice. The payment is structured to provide most support to smaller firms who are most likely to face cashflow issues but will be available to all businesses and sole traders.

"A decision on whether this support will come into effect will be made if there is an extension to the seventy-two hour increase in alert levels announced on Sunday night. If it does come into effect it will cover the initial 72 hour Alert Level rise as well."

10:55am - New Zealand's latest community cases, the first to be infected with the more infectious B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, have a plausible link to the border through one person's workplace at LSG Sky Chefs, a business that deals with laundry and catering from international flights.

But it is not a definitive link. Indeed, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday morning that genome sequencing was not able to link the new infections to any cases we have seen recently in returned travellers.

Worryingly, this leaves the possibility of a more widespread community outbreak.

What are the chances Auckland could end up at level 4? Read more here.

10:40am - Napier Art Deco Festival events scheduled for Thursday will not go ahead. A decision about remaining events will be made later on Tuesday according to the Art Deco Trust. 

"First and foremost, we are absolutely committed to the health and safety of everyone involved in the Festival, from artists and performer to venue operators and, of course, Festival-goers and the wider community," said chair Barbara Arnott.

"While the majority of people attending the Festival are Hawke’s Bay locals, many thousands of people make the journey from outside the region, some from afar. We are mindful it takes visitors time and cost to get here."

"For people from Auckland and Taranaki, the decision whether or not to travel to the Festival is largely outside of their control. However, we appreciate that many want to know whether the Festival will be going ahead in part or at all, once they know what COVID restrictions will be in place beyond midnight Wednesday."

More information can be found here.

10:30am - Mark Richardson and Amanda Gillies have both tested negative for COVID-19 after the presenters visited the same location as Auckland's community cases.

On Waitangi Day, The AM Show co-hosts stopped by an establishment later identified as a location of interest by the Ministry of Health. It was announced on Sunday that three people - a mother, father and child - had tested positive for the virus in South Auckland.

Both households have since returned negative results, the co-hosts confirmed to The AM Show on Tuesday morning.

Read more here.

10:20am - National's Judith Collins is now speaking to reporters. She says the new alert level restrictions are causing distress but people realise we can't have COVID-19 in the community and we must do everything we can to stop it spreading. 

The party will be asking the Government questions about saliva testing and vaccines. She wants to see saliva testing for returnees and border workers.

Collins believes there has been a reluctance to adapt to new technology and wants to see managed isolation outside of Auckland. She says we should invest as the pandemic will be with us for a while and we may see other pandemics in the future.

"[COVID] is going to be a problem for the world for some time."

She's concerned about making it more difficult for Kiwis to return home. We should be able to manage arrivals if we do appropriate testing, she says.

10:15am - Auckland Transport has "rolled out automatic pedestrian crossings to over 200 locations" to minimise the number of public surfaces people need to touch during lockdown.

"This means you won’t need to push the button at a signalled pedestrian crossing if the red pedestrian signal is on."

10:05am - The national Open Farms event scheduled to take place on Sunday has been postponed.

Open Farms founder Daniel Eb says while it's "technically possible" to run non-Auckland events at alert level two, safety is the highest priority.

"The Open Farms team has made the decision to postpone the national day until all our hosts and guests can participate safely," says Eb.

"As soon as it’s safe to do so, we’ll be thrilled to welcome visitors back on-farm to experience where their food starts.

"Until then, we encourage all New Zealanders to observe social distancing, wear facemasks in public spaces and practice proper hygiene. And for those living in Auckland, it’s important to observe the rules of lockdown, stay safe, and limit contact outside of their bubbles."

9:55am - This weekend's Auckland Rainbow Parade has been delayed in the wake of this week's lockdown.

"The health and safety of everyone participating, volunteering and attending our Parade is paramount and to that end we have come to a difficult decision to postpone this weekend’s Rainbow Parade and allow you, the community groups and/or organisations who are participating, enough space to navigate your own response plans to the changing levels," an email says

"As unlikely as it is, even if we do return to Alert Level 1 by this weekend, at Rainbow Pride Auckland we don’t want to put any of our supporters at risk."

The new date will likely be in the coming weeks.

9:45am - Auckland Civil Defence Emergency Management says police report motorists are being "cooperative and understanding" at the border checkpoints despite the delays to travel.

"Those who are stopped will be asked about their reason for travel, and to provide proof of an exemption. It's important to plan ahead."

9:35am - A prominent economist says New Zealand is already back in recession, we just don't know it yet. 

It comes as Auckland is plunged back into an alert level 3 lockdown.

Read more here.

9:25am - Federated Farmers says the "double threat" of protracted COVID-19 alert level restrictions and lack of sustained rainfall should be "cause for farmers to review their level of supplies". 

Dairy chairperson Wayne Langford says with a chance of more restrictions in the future and uncertainty about rainfall, farmers need to keep on top of things. Further restrictions could put pressure on transport and supply lines. 

"Without sounding like telling seasoned farmers how to suck eggs, it is timely for farmers to check available feed levels, to get on with orders for any urgent machinery parts and generally to be prepared for potential disruption."

Meat and Wool chair William Beetham agrees. 

"We’re not out of the pandemic yet, even with vaccines on the way, and the dry is starting to crisp up paddocks in many districts - though we had a welcome dose of rain in some areas in the last day or two," he says.

"We may well have some challenging months ahead of us. I’d add that farmers also need to invest in themselves in terms of getting prepared: try and eat properly, get enough sleep and exercise and stay in touch with friends. It always helps talking to someone when times get tough."

9:15am - A microbiologist believes the coming days will be crucial in the fight against COVID-19 as Aucklanders brace for more test results.

Auckland University microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles says the number of infections could still spike.

"We know that this virus has an incubation period, generally, of around two to 10 days but for some people it can be longer," Dr Wiles told Newshub.

"We may well have people that are in that incubation period and they wouldn't be testing positive yet.

Read more here.

9:05am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will provide an update at 1pm. Critically, we should find out more close contact test results.

Newshub will livestream that press conference.

9am - Here's the locations of interest currently showing on the Ministry of Health website. These were last updated at 9:50pm on Monday night.

Coronavirus live updates: Latest on Auckland lockdown, community case - Tuesday, February 16
Photo credit: Ministry of Health.
Coronavirus live updates: Latest on Auckland lockdown, community case - Tuesday, February 16
Photo credit: Ministry of Health.
Coronavirus live updates: Latest on Auckland lockdown, community case - Tuesday, February 16
Photo credit: Ministry of Health.

8:45am - The Auckland mother who tested positive for COVID-19 was not included in the group of border workers required to undergo fortnightly testing as she was considered to be at a lower risk of contracting the virus, says Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

Health officials are now considering whether the pool of border workers required to undertake mandatory testing should be widened.

Read more here.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: The AM Show / Getty.

8:30am - Speaking from the southern Auckland border at Mercer, The AM Show reporter Lauren Hendricksen says the backlog of motorists trying to leave the region appears to be over. She says traffic has been flowing freely most of the morning with "minimum queues".

However, people are still being asked to double-check they have the correct credentials allowing them to leave. Police have asked some to return home.

8:25am - There are community testing centres operating in Northcote, Balmoral, Henderson, Botany, New Lynn, Wiri, Otara and Takanini on Tuesday. A pop-up testing centre is also running at Kohuora Park, Papatoetoe.

Find out more here.

8:10am - Products from LSG Sky Chefs, the company which services airlines and is connected to one of the community COVID-19 cases, have been pulled from Foodstuffs store shelves.

"The health and safety of our customers and team members is always our top priority. Some Foodstuffs stores in North Island regularly sell ready meals, sandwiches and muesli pottles which are produced by LSG Sky Chefs," a Foodstuffs spokesperson told Newshub.

"Taking an 'abundance of caution' approach, all LSG Sky Chefs produced products have been removed from our shelves as a precautionary measure until we understand more about the source of the recent community cases."

While LSG Sky Chefs does have a connection to the border, officials are keeping an open mind about the cases' source. Seven of the nine colleagues of the case who works at the company have tested negative for the virus. Results for the others are pending.

8am - Want to know how long this lockdown will go on?

On Tuesday you'll be able to join the dots - it's T-day. Sure, it's Tuesday, but for today let's call it test day. The results of the tests will reveal almost all.

It's the most crucial day for COVID-19 and this economy so far this year. It's when a huge chunk of Monday's tests come back.

Has COVID-19 spread like wildfire, or have we somehow dodged a bullet?

Read Duncan Garner's Tuesday editorial here

7:50am - Why is testing at Papatoetoe High School so important?

Officials want to know what the source of the virus is. Both the mother and the daughter are believed to have been infected at about the same time, suggesting one of them brought the virus into the household. While the mother works at a company with a connection to the border, the daughter was the first to report the symptoms. 

That's why officials are keeping an open-mind about the source and want community testing, especially at the daughter's high school. It's possible that she was actually the first case and could have got it somewhere else.

Test results from people at the high school and in the wider community will provide information about whether there is any parallel transmission. 

7:45am - The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in a single day has fallen below 400,000 for the first time since October, vaccine rollouts appearing to stem the virus' huge third wave. 

To date there have been 109.5 million confirmed cases and 2.4 million deaths.

Here's the latest from around the world overnight.

7:35am - While genomic sequencing shows that the three cases have the UK variant, there is no direct link between them and any other positive cases detected in New Zealand to date. 

ESR is now conducting a scan of the international genome database to see if there is a match.

Dr Bloomfield says looking at the global database is important to see if there is a match with someone who tested positive outside of New Zealand after temporarily being here.

"Someone perhaps who's transited NZ, or even an air crew member who's flown in and out on another airline."

7:25am - Dr Bloomfield tells The AM Show he learnt of the first two positive cases late on Saturday night, and after finding out as much as he could, made the call "not to ring anyone else because there was nothing more we could do overnight".

"We got all geared up to get ready to go first thing in the morning but I thought there was no point others losing sleep overnight. I will take that one for the team."

Officials decided late on Sunday morning that it was fine that events like the Big Gay Out went ahead.

7:15am - There have been no new positive cases reported overnight, Dr Bloomfield tells The AM Show. He says it is "reassuring" that no close contatcts have yet tested positive. 

Officials are keeping an open-mind about where the virus came from. It shouldn't be assumed that the virus is linked to the mother's workplace, he says. Wider community testing is needed to ensure there isn't another gap somewhere in the system or parallel chains of transmission.

While the woman does work in a role connected to the border, she isn't being treated as the index case at this point while the outbreak's source remains under investigation.

The frequencing of testing and who working at or near the border is tested is being reviewed, Dr Bloomfield says. The woman at LSG Sky Chefs was not required to be tested and she does not have face-to-face interactions with travellers, he says.

"We still have got to get to the bottom of how she got infected."

7:10am - Speaking to Newstalk ZB, Dr Ashley Bloomfield says a further student at the Papatoetoe High School student has tested negative. If all close contacts test negative it reduces the likelihood of onward spread from the current three cases, he says.

Dr Bloomfield says more results are expected on Tuesday.

Just because the mother works near the airport precinct, that doesn't mean she is the index case. The investigation into the source continues.

7am - Clinicians are wading through a flood of COVID-19 tests, in the hope that Auckland can move out of alert level 3 by Wednesday night.

Testing centres have been swamped and close to 4000 community swabs were taken in Auckland from Sunday to Monday night.

On Monday, one woman was disappointed when she was turned away from a pop-up testing centre at Papatoetoe High School about closing time, after having already been turned away from the community testing centre in Ōtara.

Read more here.

6:50am - Opinion is split in New Plymouth over whether New Plymouth should be in COVID-19 alert level 3 along with Auckland.

At Taranaki Base Hospital testing station on Monday, a queue formed before it opened and shortly after 9am a line of cars snaked along Tukapa Street, hundreds of metres long.

Contractors needed to be brought in to manage the flood of people wanting to have a swab taken.

Many in the queue and beyond were surprised New Plymouth was still at alert level 2.

Read more here.

6:40am - With alert level 3 in place for Auckland, residents are being reminded to allow extra time for train services.

"Train services during alert level 3 will run at a minimum 20 minute frequency with the possibility of additional services. Onehunga line will run at a 30 minute frequency. If you need to travel, please maintain physical distancing and wear a face covering. Kia kaha and stay safe," Auckland Transport says.

6:30am - Waka Kotahi / The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is warning of more delays at the Auckland border checkpoints on Tuesday.

The AM Show reporter Lauren Hendricksen says traffic is flowing smoothly at the Mercer checkpoint.

6:20am - Julie White, Hospitality NZ chief executive, tells The AM Show that there was an "immediate wash of bookings" with millions of dollars lost after the lockdown was announced on Sunday. Good food has been thrown away or given to food banks. 

"The effects are immediate," she says.

There is uncertainty about the length of the lockdown with many people deciding to move conferences and similar events online or cancel altogether, she says. 

As people may not return to their offices straight away when restrictions are lifted, businesses will continue to be impacted, White says.

The impact of the alert level 3 lockdown therefore lasts much longer than just 72-hours, she tells The AM Show.

She wants to see more targeted support for hospitality businesses. The owners know what support they need, she says.

"The Government has a responsibility to balance the health crisis with the economic crisis. Not all sectors are equally being affected."

6:10am - There were wait times of up to 45 minutes at the Mercer police checkpoint on Auckland's southern border on Monday night.

Speaking to The AM Show on Tuesday morning, reporter Lauren Hendricksen said it was initially "relatively quiet" in the morning, before "all of a sudden a massive queue of traffic arrived" as traffic management began moving cones around.

Traffic at Mercer on Monday night.
Traffic at Mercer on Monday night. Photo credit: Newshub.
Traffic at Mercer on Monday night.
Traffic at Mercer on Monday night. Photo credit: Newshub.

6:05am - It's been almost a year since New Zealand's first community outbreak of COVID-19. Since then there have been six others - including the latest, which has plunged Auckland into its third lockdown.

Here's a look at our history with community outbreaks.

6am - It's time for The AM Show. Among the guests on Tuesday is Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Hospitality NZ's Julie White and economist Cameron Bagrie.

5:40am - Prime Minister Ardern said on Monday evening that no conversations have been had regarding any potential extension to the three-day lockdown, noting that Cabinet always wants to have the latest information in front of it. 

Speaking to reporters, Ardern said that finding the source isn't necessary to having confidence any outbreak is contained. The source of last year's Auckland August cluster was never found and restrictions were eventually lifted. Finding the source would, however, allow any gaps in our system to be plugged.

The test results of close contacts, casual contacts plus, the high school students and teachers, and workplace colleagues all then become significant.

"I would add to that the wider community testing of people who are symptomatic, we do get extra people coming forward, a bit more of a representative sample based on what we see with Flutracker symptoms, that helps, and things like the sewage testing as well," Ardern said.

"So I would just add extra community surveillance also adds to our confidence."

On top of the 11 close contact negative tests received so far, seven of nine of the woman's co-workers have tested negative. They are not considered close contacts as the woman wasn't working while infectious. They have been tested as part of the source investigation.

The Government plans to review the restrictions every 24 hours.

5:25am - On Monday evening, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said having no further community cases in Auckland was "encouraging", but test results coming in over the next few days would be "crucial". 

That includes test results from the three cases' close contacts - including students and teachers at Papatoetoe High School - as well as wider community testing in Auckland, Waikato and Taranaki. 

Let's break down the close contact test results we are awaiting:

A total of 42 close contacts have been identified outside of the household, of which all nine non-school-related close contacts have tested negative. The remaining 33 all link to the school. Two of these have tested negative, while the results of the rest are pending.

"As always, the priority is for close contacts and casual-plus contacts to be tested first so we can understand any potential risk in the community," Dr Bloomfield said.

As of 3pm on Monday, about 2300 people had been swabbed in Auckland.

"What we really want is that the results of this testing at the school, at the workplace, and in the wider South Auckland community to really rule out that there is an onward transmission or other undetected chains of transmission. 

"So I think encouraging to see the extent of that testing today, and as those tests are processed overnight and we start to get the results back tomorrow, that will give us an increasing level of assurance, assuming they are all negative."

Prime Minister Ardern said the close contacts results received so far were "heartening". But she wants to see the wider test results. 

"We want to really rule out, with some confidence, additional potential chains of transmission, anything further in the community. So we do want to give it that bit more time before we get too far ahead of ourselves," she said.

"I can’t help but, though, reflect on previous experience, as we all do. Very early on, for instance, in August, when we had our first positive cases reported, we had springing up around it symptomatic positives as well. So you get a little sense early on, but not the full picture. So no conclusions yet."

5:10am - An additional community testing centre is expected to open in Takanini, Auckland on Tuesday morning. The Northern Regional Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) says the site will operate at 106 Great South Road, Takanini from 8am to 6pm on Tuesday and Wednesday.

It comes as demand for tests spikes in the wake of the new community cases. As of 5pm on Monday, labs had registered 1925 community tests taken so far in Auckland that day, compared to 1786 on Sunday.

"We have boosted capacity at all of Auckland’s community testing centres, with additional staff and extended hours," the NRCC says.

"We continue to monitor demand for testing closely and will continue to increase capacity and hours at the current CTCs and open new CTCs as needed.

"There has been strong demand for testing in Auckland and we thank the public for their patience."

Full information about Auckland testing stations can be found here.

5am - Kia ora, good morning. Tuesday is looking to be a crucial day for officials to understand any potential reach to this COVID-19 community outbreak.

So far, only three cases have been found in the community, but more close contact test results are expected back later in the day. That is likely to include students from Papatoetoe High School, which one of the cases attends. We will bring you those results as they come to hand.