COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15

COVID-19 alert level 3 is in effect in Auckland, and there are no changes to this since last night's announcement.

Police checkpoints have been set up at the city's borders for 72 hours after three cases of COVID-19 were found in the community on Sunday.

The rest of New Zealand is at alert level 2 as a precaution. The confirmed infections are a mother, father, and daughter in the same south Auckland family.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Sunday night the source of the infection remained unknown.

Physics and disease modeller Shaun Hendy is urging the Government to consider tougher restrictions following the announcement the new cases are the UK variant.

What you need to know:

  • It was confirmed on Sunday afternoon there are three COVID-19 cases in the community - all in south Auckland from the same family
  • The source of the cases remain under investigation but it's been confirmed they are the more transmissible UK variant
  • Auckland is now at alert level 3 and the rest of New Zealand in alert level 2. This is set to last for three days
  • Police checkpoints have been set up at the city's borders
  • The first shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Auckland on Monday
  • Papatoetoe High School, where one of the cases attended, will be closed on Monday and Tuesday
  • Two of the cases visited Pak'nSave Manukau on Friday and anyone who was in the store between 3:35pm and 5pm is advised to self-isolate, be alert for symptoms, get tested for COVID-19, and stay at home until a result has returned
  • An updated list of locations visited by the three cases can be viewed here
  • Auckland courts have been shut in the wake of the change in COVID-19 alert levels
  • A list of COVID-19 testing centres around New Zealand can be viewed here.

These live updates have finished.

9:20pm - Food and freight trucks are among vehicles held up at the police checkpoint at Mercer, south of Auckland.

Newshub's Karen Rutherford says there was a 45 minute-long queue at the checkpoint at 8:30pm.

9pm - Two major event organisers are eagerly awaiting updates from health officials as they look to react to the latest COVID-19 cases. 

Sound Valley is scheduled for this weekend while Splore is planned for next weekend. Promoters have told Newshub they're "hoping for the best", but are prepared to postpone the events if they have to.

Read the full story here.

8:45pm - Auckland University microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles urges Kiwis to remain vigilant even after none of the close contacts have tested positive.

"It's great news that none of the close contacts have tested positive," she tweeted.

"But they could still be incubating so we still need to wait and see."

Dr Wiles says it can take 2-10 days or longer for some cases to show up.

8:35pm - New Plymouth residents are anxiously waiting for test results after being told the positive cases travelled to the city while potentially symptomatic.

Two of the positive cases visited New Plymouth during Waitangi weekend -  visiting at least 10 locations in the city.

Taranaki port worker Brett Jacobsen says the region should be placed in alert level 3.

"I feel it should be the same as Auckland - you know? They've come from there down to here," he told Newshub.

Read the full story here.

8:20pm - An additional community testing centre will open in Takanini, south Auckland on Tuesday.

The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre says it has boosted capacity at all of Auckland's community testing centres, and has brought on additional staff and extended hours.

As of 5pm, it has registered 1925 tests taken on February 15 that were done in Auckland. These tests were taken at community testing centres, pop-up testing centres, GP clinics, and urgent care clinics.

A list of up-to-date testing locations and opening times in Auckland can be viewed here. A list of testing locations around New Zealand can be found here.

8pm - Alert level restrictions could be costing the country $85 million each day, a leading economist says, with Auckland losing about $45 million each day.

Economist Cameron Bagrie says as businesses have learned to adapt, the economy is now more operational at different alert levels.

Describing the impact in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an official measure of economic activity representing finished goods and services made in New Zealand, Bagrie estimates each day at alert levels 3 and 2 will cost the economy $255 million over three days.

"For Auckland I put the impact on GDP [at] around $45 million per day at alert level 3...$40 million per day for the rest of NZ at alert level 2," economist Cameron Bagrie said.

"The hit to business turnover is more than double that."

Read the full story here.

7:45pm - The new UK variant of COVID-19 has caused the country to be on high alert.

The B 1.1.7 variant, first found in the UK, is raging overseas, and a new study shows it's probably more deadly.

An additional danger is it's 50 percent more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain.

"That means if you were going to infect two people last year, you'd actually infect three people this year if you had the new variant," says University of Auckland Professor Shaun Hendy.

Read the full story here.

7:30pm - Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has temporarily changed some of its services following Sunday's alert level changes.

Driver licensing agents in level 3 are closed while this restriction is in place. Practical driving tests in these areas have been postponed, not cancelled, and are held in the booking system.

NZTA asks people not to contact them because VTNZ will contact people directly regarding their new test booking date and time.

Driving tests will be rescheduled as soon as possible once these areas move to level 2, since practical tests can't be safely done at level 3, they say.

Licensing agents in the rest of New Zealand are open for driver licensing and driver testing services. There may be longer wait times due to higher than usual demand and the safety guidelines that must be followed, such as wiping the eye test and theory testing machines after each use.

NZTA asks people to plan any visits to allow for extra time so you aren't under any pressure if you need to wait.

Vehicles in the Auckland region can get a Warrant of Fitness (WoF) or Certificate of Fitness (CoF). People are asked to contact their local inspection site to check if they are open, and to discuss the health and safety guidelines to follow when taking your car to the site.

NZTA says if you have a document, such as a driver licence, WoF or CoF, that is close to its expiry date, the police may apply discretion under alert level 3.

NZTA offices outside of Auckland remain open. The contact centre is open but is experiencing higher volumes of calls and emails, meaning there are significant wait times.

7:15pm - The Ministry of Health has released a short video showing the arrival and refrigeration of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The doses arrived in Auckland earlier on Monday morning.

The shipment is seen being taken from the aircraft and into a storage facility before it's placed into ultra-cool freezers.

7pm - The Ministry of Health had no idea our highest-risk airline crew had stayed at a hotel in the middle of Auckland's CBD until Newshub reported it last week.

Air New Zealand didn't tell the ministry the high-risk crew were there, so the ministry thought they were staying in Manukau and near the airport.

The ministry thought they were across town meaning it "wasn't able to provide feedback or guidance on public health safety measures".

Read the full story here.

6:45pm - Jacinda Ardern admits police set up border checkpoints "some distance" away from Auckland's legal boundaries.

Eight checkpoints were set up around Auckland's regional boundaries as the alert level 3 restrictions came into effect at midnight Sunday.

However there was confusion earlier on Monday after checkpoints were mistakenly set up inside Northland, angering locals who were prevented from travelling.

Ardern said there had been a "very clear miscommunication".

"Just to clarify, the issue we have is we've got the legal border which is exactly the same in the north as it was the last time we moved to alert level 3. However we had a checkpoint in this case set up in the morning that was some distance from that legal boundary," she explained.

"The police have now updated their information, they are going to be moving that boundary where they are undertaking a checkpoint to align more closely with where the legal boundary sits.

"The most simple message I can send though is the boundary that was in place last time is the same as this time."

Read the full story here.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: Getty Images

6:30pm - In addition to the increase of testing centres in Waikato, some Auckland locations are also now open for longer to cope with demand.

There are eight community testing centres in Auckland, which can be viewed here, and most have extended their opening hours for the coming days.

6:15pm - Motorists heading out of Auckland are facing heavy traffic as the city nears the end of its first day in lockdown. 

Vehicles heading south of Auckland between Pokeno and Mercer have been taking over two hours to travel 5km, a source told Newshub on Monday.

In one video, taken at 7am on Monday, cars and heavy vehicles are seen at a halt as Kiwis from other regions and those leaving on business scramble to get out of the city.

Another source told Newshub the traffic has become worse since 3pm.

Read the full story here.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: Newshub.

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

5:55pm - NZ Post says it will continue to provide delivery services in alert levels 2 and 3 nationwide.

"From today [Monday], our delivery people will be reintroducing 'contactless' delivery and keeping a two metre distance from all members of the public. This applies to all of New Zealand," Bryan Dobson, NZ Post chief customer officer, says. 

This means NZ Post courier drivers - including CourierPost and Pace - will arrive at customers' homes and let you know that they are there by knocking on your door. They will stand two metres away from you - or as far back as is safe - and wait for someone to answer the door. They will ask for your name which they will record on their handheld device as proof of delivery. They'll place the parcel down in front of them to complete the delivery.

"While you may be excited to receive your item from us, we ask everyone to please strictly respect the two metre rule for our people, and to not approach couriers and posties as they deliver your items," Dobson says.

In Auckland, the teams will be wearing face masks when they're in public places.

"Couriers are encouraged to scan using the COVID app, but we are also able to provide contact tracing via their parcel delivery scanning," he says

"Across the country, we are continuing to follow all Government advice, such as observing   hygiene practices, including washing of hands, physical distancing in our processing sites, and other safety measures."

If Aucklanders need to visit their local PostShop, they can check the online store locator to see which stores are open.

"Outside of Auckland, PostShops will remain open, but are following all Government advice and safety guidelines including high hygiene standards and physical distancing of two metres," Dobson says.

5:40pm - Alert level 3 has put hospitality and retail businesses in a difficult predicament, with many covering costs with limited or no income, business leaders say.

As businesses are still responsible for paying staff even if they're closed and others are operating on significantly reduced income, Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois is hopeful the Government will reinstate the COVID-19 wage subsidy.

"With no wage subsidy being offered for 72 hours, this leaves owners in a difficult predicament with no income coming in to cover the cost of closing (or reduced trading) over the three days," Bidois says.

Read the full story here

5:25pm - ACT leader David Seymour says Ardern's update this afternoon was "a nauseating stream of self-congratulation" when she "should have been" apologising.

"Make no mistake, our biggest city is in a three day lockdown because someone who worked in close proximity to the border wasn't vaccinated," he says.

"That worker and her colleagues could have been vaccinated by now, but New Zealand stood back and allowed 78 other countries to steal a march on us.

"To claim some sort of success because we aimed to be about the 100th country on the planet to vaccinate and instead we'll be about 80th is an attempted triumph of spin over substance."

Seymour believes "the state" the country is in is "nothing to be proud of".

"Very little has been done in recent months to harden our defences or improve contact tracing and testing, despite the more contagious variants," he says.

"Why are we so far behind Australia rolling out widespread saliva testing, for instance? What happened to the trial of the COVID card?"

He adds that "paying lip service to common sense improvement" in New Zealand's defence against the virus isn't plugging the gaps in the system.

"The latest outbreak is proof of that, and the Prime Minister has no reason to be smugly patting herself on the back."

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: Getty Images

5:15pm - Increased testing will continue in parts of Waikato on Tuesday, and there is also one new pop-up site being set up in Piopio.

  • the Founders Theatre site in Hamilton will extend its hours to 8am to 6pm 
  • Claudelands Event Centre will be open from 9am to 5pm (entry via Gate 3) 
  • the testing site at the Ōtorohanga Sports Club will be open from 10am to 6pm 
  • a pop-up testing site will be set up in Piopio from 12pm to 3pm, location TBC.

Details for all locations offering testing are available on the DHB website

5pm - Ardern and Dr Bloomfield have finished their update.

To briefly recap:

  • alert levels haven't changed and still remain at level 3 for Auckland and level 2 for the rest of New Zealand
  • the first batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines arrived on Monday morning
  • vaccines will be given to anyone who is in New Zealand that wants one.

4:59pm - Dr Bloomfield and Ardern say they both plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

"I would happily have it as soon as possible as long as it would encourage people to use it, but I'm not a frontline worker and I don't want to look like I'm queue-jumping," Dr Bloomfield says.

4:58pm - In the source investigation, Dr Bloomfield says they're being really open-minded about how the infection happened in this outbreak.

He says person-to-person is most likely, but aerosol is becoming more common.

4:57pm - Ardern says border workers are being isolated from their normal groups because of where they work.

She adds that children at school are being bullied because their family members work at the border, so they "need to do something for them".

4:55pm - Vaccines will be given to anyone in New Zealand, regardless of their visa status.

"The idea we would send letters saying 'we know about your questionable visa status' and then offer vaccines doesn't seem a good idea," Ardern says.

4:52pm - The woman's work colleagues at LSG Sky Chef aren't considered close contacts given she wasn't at work during her infectious period.

The nine co-workers are part of the source investigation.

4:48pm - On panic buying, Ardern says: "There is something about human behaviour that people feel the need to buy toilet paper and flour whenever something like this happens."

4:46pm - Dr Bloomfield says he is reassured by the initial negative tests.

4:43pm - Dr Bloomfield says there have been 29 historical cases since January 1.

He says it is unlikely they have enough viral material to do genomic sequencing.

4:38pm - Ardern has reiterated that anyone who is in New Zealand - that is the only criteria - will be able to be vaccinated for free.

In terms of anti-vaxxers, she says New Zealand can get herd immunity without them participating in the roll out.

4:33pm - Ardern says Australia is still dealing with MIQ cases and small outbreaks, and says these aren't necessarily failures at the border, it's just the virus being "tricky".

4:30pm - Dr Bloomfield says they were working to receiving the vaccine by February 20, and says it is fantastic they've now arrived ahead of schedule.

He adds it's encouraging to see extent of testing on Monday. Assuming tests that come back overnight are negative, that will give them some assurance.

4:27pm - Border workers who will receive the vaccine first include MIQ cleaners, nurses who do check ups, hotel workers, and others.

Ardern says it's expected all border workers will be vaccinated within a two to three week period, followed by their close contacts.

The rest of New Zealand will be vaccinated in the second half of the year.

4:24pm - Ardern says vaccines will continue to arrive in small batches of a period of a week. They will do regular updates on vaccine arrivals when they have more information at hand.

During the course of this week, the vaccine will be tested for quality assurance. Once a safety check is complete, they will roll out a vaccine programme. They expect to send out vaccines from this Saturday.

4:23pm - The first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived in Auckland at 9:34am on Monday on a Singapore Airlines flight from Belgium. There are 60,000 doses - enough for 30,000 people - which Ardern says is "more than enough" doses to vaccinate border workers.

4:22pm - Ardern says there is no change to alert levels, but this will be reviewed again tomorrow.

4:21pm - Over the next five days, Dr Bloomfield says work will continue on the process to vaccinate border workers. He says they've done some dry runs and are doing more trial runs this week to manage vaccinations.

"A lot" of vaccinators have completed their training and further people will continued to be trained.

He reiterated the importance of people getting both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

4:19pm - Dr Bloomfield says it's been pleasing to see the strong response to testing - close to 2300 tests have been undertaken at pop-up sites.

But he says the public shouldn't rush to get tested if they're well or haven't been to the locations of interest.

The Ministry of Health is continuing to update its locations of interest.

4:17pm - The Ministry of Health is focusing on Case A and B and the sources, since Case C is only in the early stages of infection.

Seven out of nine coworkers of Case B have returned negative results. The others are awaiting their results. All of the nine non-school-related close contacts have returned negative results.

4:14pm - Dr Bloomfield has again confirmed there are no new community cases outside of the three announced on Sunday. He says this is an encouraging sign, but the days ahead will be "crucial".

They are continuing investigations into the source and seeing if there are any matches with other people who have the UK variant, which is what the three cases have.

4:10pm - The Prime Minister says the transition to alert level 3 has gone "reasonably well". She says numbers are well down on public transport, there is active management of some congestion around testing sites, and the online portal for people going in and out of region is being well used.

3:55pm - The Prime Minister's update is due to start at 4pm. You'll be able to watch that in the video player above or by tuning in on Three.

App users - click here to watch the livestream.

3:50pm - Kiwis are still rushing to supermarkets on day one of Auckland's COVID-19 lockdown, with some of the country's biggest supermarkets placing limits on products to stop people buying in bulk.

However both Countdown and Foodstuffs - which supplies New World, PAK'nSAVE and Four Square - say visitor numbers have dropped off since Sunday night, when shoppers emptied shelves and queued in droves ahead of the 11:59pm lockdown deadline.

Countdown's general manager of corporate affairs Kiri Hannifin said its Auckland supermarkets were still getting more visitors than usual, but was pleased to see the mad rush had largely died down by Monday.

"Our stores are busy - not as busy as last night, but they are definitely busy. Our online services are very busy," she told Newshub.

Read the full story here.

3:35pm - A reminder that at 4pm, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is holding her weekly post-Cabinet press conference. In this, she will give an update on the community outbreak.

You'll be able to watch the livestream online or by tuning in on Three.

3:20pm - The Ministry of Health says over 1000 tests were carried out in Auckland on Sunday at community testing centres.

As a result of the demand for testing, community testing centres have extended their hours at Health New Lynn, the Whanau Ora Community Clinic in Wiri, Otara Community Testing Centre, and Botany Testing Centre. More information on testing centre hours can be found here.

A testing site is also available at Papatoetoe High School, the school the daughter attends, however, this site is only for students, teachers, and their families. LSG Sky Chefs, where the mother works, have testing onsite for staff and their families.

There are two pop-up testing centres in Waikato along with one permanent community testing centre. The two pop-up centres are at Claudelands Event Centre and Otorohanga Sport Club. Opening hours can be found on the DHB's website.

There are a number of testing centres open in Taranaki. They are the Taranaki Base Hospital, MediCross Urgent Care & GP Clinic, Hāwera Hospital, Waitara Health Centre, and Ōpunake Health Centre/Coastal Care. The public can check the DHB's website for instructions on how to arrange a test.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: Getty Images

3:05pm - 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 brief history of New Zealand's community outbreaks.

2:50pm - LSG Sky Chefs says it is confident in its systems and protections to limit the chances of coworkers becoming infected from the woman who tested positive that works there.

"The health and well-being of our employees are our utmost priority," a spokesperson told Newshub.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have implemented our internal pandemic plan in all our catering facilities worldwide, in addition to the national regulations, to safeguard our employees as much as possible while they are working for us."

Around 270 people work at the facility in Māngere, eight of which are in the laundry department, they say. Employees in the laundry and dishwashing area are also given PPE to "protect them as much as possible", but they don't have face-to-face contact with crews or travellers and have no access to the airport.

"Our staff takes the incident seriously and follows the safety measures issued by the authorities and our company. Our staff is committed to supporting the authorities and we are very proud about this," the spokesperson says.

2:35pm - Anti-lockdown protesters have gathered outside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office in a loud and evidence-free demonstration.

Several dozen protestors stood outside her Auckland office on Monday morning despite the foul weather and the fact that the Prime Minister is in Wellington.

Signs protesters were holding included swastikas and images of Ardern with devil horns on. Screenshots show one person seeking Ardern's home address and threatening to defecate on her vehicle.

Read the full story here.

The protestors outside Ardern's Auckland office.
The protestors outside Ardern's Auckland office. Photo credit: Newshub.

2:20pm - The Council of Trades Unions (CTU) says any alert level changes "do not suspend employment laws or duties of good faith".

CTU President Richard Wagstaff says New Zealand has been through alert level changes before and everyone should understand that the same rules still apply.

"As we've seen from previous lockdowns, there can be a knee-jerk tendency from a few employers to feel that normal obligations to pay staff, consult on health and safety and act in good faith are somehow suspended," he says.

"We should all know by now that this is not the case. In fact, there can be stringent consequences further down the line for any breaches of employment law."

He says remaining level-headed and treating staff legally and kindly will pay off in the long rule, both for business reputations and the wellbeing of workers.

"Everyone is adjusting to news of the latest public health measures, employers and working people alike. Businesses must consult staff on their COVID-19 plans including around health and safety. The best way to get through alert level changes with minimum disruption, now and in the future, is acting carefully and in good faith," Wagstaff says.

"Working people are reminded to check in with their union in the first instance if presented with any change of business plans or if they are experiencing concerns over health and safety or work rights. There is no obligation to sign variations to normal employment agreements in response to alert level changes."

2:05pm - Electricity and gas distributor Vector says its crews are ready to respond to any power outages that happen under alert level 3, given Auckland's weather has been wet and windy on Monday so far.

Vector's head of field services Marko Simunac says the company understands that with more people based at home, Aucklanders can be reassured they will do all they can to keep power on.

"We encourage everyone to double check their devices are charged for the days ahead and report any outages through our Outage Centre," Simunac says.

"Given Auckland is in alert level 3, our crews are working to different conditions. Our crews are essential workers, which means they can travel as needed to keep the power on. By now, our practices to ensure the safety of our customers and crews are well-rehearsed. We're working in small bubbles to keep everyone safe, but it could mean that any unplanned outages take longer than usual to resolve."

He says Vector will do their best to minimise the impact of any outages on customers, and where possible, they've cancelled or deferred planned work that would require the power to go off. But some work of this type will continue where there's a safety or urgent reliability issue that can't wait.

Vector's Outage Centre shows current and planned power outages and can be viewed here. People can register their address and sign up for updates via text or email.

1:50pm - New South Wales health authorities have imposed new rules for New Zealanders entering the state.

"After the New Zealand Government yesterday introduced lockdown measures across Auckland and increased restrictions in other parts of the country, people arriving in NSW from NZ will now be required to leave Australia or enter hotel quarantine for 14 days," an update from NSW Health says.

"These measures are supported by a new hotspot identification under the Air Transportation Public Health Order declared by the NSW Chief Health Officer, and effective as of 12:01am this morning (local time). These hotspots cover Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Wellington, Queenstown, Rotorua and their airports, from which people exit New Zealand."

NSW Health says it is contacting everyone who has arrived into the state from New Zealand from February 6 to 14 to give them the relevant advice.

These people are being told to avoid high-risk locations, such as aged-care homes and healthcare facilities unless they're getting treatment. They also must work from home wherever possible and avoid large social gatherings, NSW Health says.

Read more here.

1:37pm - A summary of what we have just learned from the Ministry of Health 

No new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the community in the past 24 hours.

Five imported new coronavirus cases have been recorded in managed isolation and quarantine facilities (MIQ), one of which is a historical infection, the ministry said.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, the ministry said 10 close contacts of Sunday's community COVID-19 cases had been identified. Six of those have returned a negative test and four are pending.

"As a result the number of locations of interest, close and casual plus contacts may change.

"The priority is for close contacts and casual plus contacts to be tested so we can understand any risk in the community."

1:33pm - It's good news from the Ministry of Health - there are no additional COVID-19 cases in the community at this stage.

1:30pm - A reminder that there's no 1pm press conference on new COVID-19 cases. The Ministry of Health is due to provide us an update via press release, which we will bring to you as soon as it becomes available.

1:20pm - Still no word yet from the Ministry of Health on if there's any additional COVID-19 cases in the community. To recap, there were three community infections reported on Sunday - confirmed on Monday to be the UK variant.

1:10pm - We are still waiting for the Ministry of Health's 1pm COVID-19 update. This article will be updated as soon as the latest case numbers come to hand.

12:44pm - A south Auckland anti-racism group is calling out "online hate" after three fresh community COVID-19 cases emerged in the area. Read the full report here.

12:40pm - Parliament House speaker Trevor Mallard has provided an update on how it will operate under COVID-19 alert level 2.

"Physical distancing in the chamber will be required and so the number of members in the house will be reduced. Numbers for each party will be allocated in proportion to their Caucus size," he said in a statement. "The public gallery will be closed."

Mallard. Photo credit: The AM Show

12:30pm - A reminder that we're expecting an update from the Ministry at Health on new COVID-19 cases at 1pm. We will bring you that information as soon as it comes to hand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will provide further updates during her post-Cabinet press conference at 4pm and will likely be accompanied by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield. You can watch this live on Three and at

12:15pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has defended the Government's COVID-19 response in the wake of another Auckland outbreak, as ACT leader David Seymour calls for bolstered testing orders and more Government scrutiny. 

Read the full story here.

12:10pm - About 80 funerals have already been postponed in Auckland as a result of the move to COVID-19 alert level 3.

The Funeral Directors' Association says most of this week was booked, hitting a substantial number of grieving families.

Association president Gary Taylor told Newshub it's one of the hardest things to tell families.

12pm - Queues are forming at Papatoetoe High School as people prepare for a COVID-19 test, but principal Vaughan Couillaut says the line is moving smoothly.

The school is being used as a temporary testing centre.

"We're bringing in another tent in about 45 minutes ... to make it even faster," Couillaut told Newshub.

"People are doing the right thing and are being patient."

He says they want 3000 people to be tested over the next three days.

11:45am - Aucklanders wanting to get out and about during the COVID-19 lockdown should be prepared for a soaking, with the three days at home coinciding with a period of major rainfall.

Read the full weather forecast here.

11:35am - Auckland motorways resemble parking lots with queues stretching for kilometres around the city's check points.

Newshub's Kethaki Masilamani is trying to reach one in Mercer south of Auckland and says she hasn't got far.

"We are currently stuck in the queue - the queue's about 5km long.

"It's just bumper-to-bumper traffic here."

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: Newshub.

11:30am - It's time for Newshub Live at 11:30am. You can watch the broadcast here.

11:25am - The Ministry of Health has updated its list of locations visited by three new cases of COVID-19. You can find them here.

11:15am - Manukau ward councillor Efeso Collins is pleading with south Aucklanders to respond to the COVID-19 cases sensibly.

Collins says the community needs to be patient.

"Let's be sensitive around what people need. If it doesn't affect us, then let's not go and fill the queues at testing stations," he says. "Let's keep using the Tracer app and make sure we sign in everywhere we go."

11:13am - Auckland Central MP Chlöe Swarbrick says the super city can get through the lockdown.

"We have been here before and we can get through it again - particularly if we pull together and follow the protocols, and look out for one another."

Swarbrick. Photo credit: Getty

11:02am - Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall says it's important Auckland is at COVID-19 alert level 3 while the cases are investigated.

"If you were there at the times listed please follow the instructions on testing & isolation," she wrote on Twitter.

"We will get through this if we work together and follow the health advice."

11am - To recap: The Ministry of Health is expected to provide an update on COVID-19 cases at 1pm via a press release. We will bring you that information as soon as it comes to hand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will provide further updates during her post-Cabinet press conference at 4pm and will likely be accompanied by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

10:52am - The Waikato District Health Board says it's experiencing high demand for COVID-19 testing on Monday.

Details for all locations offering testing in the region are available on the DHB's website.

"Please do not visit these facilities if you do not meet these criteria as it will reduce access for those who do and require immediate testing," the DHB said in a statement.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: File

10:49am - Air New Zealand has made changes to its domestic services following Sunday evening's COVID-19 alert level decision by the Government. Travel editor Dan Lake has the latest details here.

10:46am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier shut down calls to close New Zealand's borders, reiterating the Government cannot legally deny citizens the right to return home.

"The fact that we have a booking system already limits the amount of risk New Zealand is exposed to as we don't have endless capacity available," she told The AM Show host Duncan Garner.

 "Some have put pressure on us to provide more, we haven't. 

"We believe this is a risk profile we can manage."

10:43am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is urging people to be patient at the city's checkpoints.

"A reminder that no one should be leaving the city unless you have a exempted reason," he said on Twitter.

"This is not the time to pop over to the bach to avoid restrictions."

10:34am - Countdown on Sunday reminded New Zealanders there's more than enough groceries to go around.

"I think we've demonstrated that we absolutely have enough food and groceries to look after everybody - including during lockdowns," Countdown spokeswoman Kiri Hannifin told Newshub.

"Our supermarkets are working very hard to open safely tomorrow and we know exactly what to do and we're ready to go. We will be safe, we will be open. We've got lots of amazing fruit and veg and meat and milk.

"Everything is absolutely fine. There's no need to panic, just shop as normal."

10:23am - Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick is urging Aucklanders to take care of one another.

"We really all need to make an effort to touch base with our friends, whānau, our workmates and just remind them they're not alone," the Auckland Central MP says. 

10:11am - The ACT Party believes the Government's COVID-19 processes are not robust enough.

Party leader David Seymour says a new approach is desperately needed.

"These outbreaks highlight that our testing, tracing - have not improved in the last six months," he told Newshub.

"We are a sitting duck praying for luck when it comes to COVID."

Seymour also believes the COVID Tracer App is ineffective.

10:07am - Air New Zealand has confirmed that LSG Sky Chefs, the airline catering company that one of the positive COVD-19 cases works for, doesn't provide laundry or other services for the national carrier.

10:03am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins earlier assured the public no stones were being left unturned.

"We're doing some really extensive testing in the next 48 hours and that will tell us whether there's any spread out there," he told More FM. 

Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty

10am - The Ministry of Health is expected to provide an update on COVID-19 cases at 1pm via a press release. We will bring you that information as soon as it comes to hand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will provide further updates during her post-Cabinet press conference at 4pm and will likely be accompanied by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

9:59am - A police officer at Auckland's Mercer checkpoint has told TVNZ about a quarter of cars are being turned away entering or exiting.

9:52am - A reminder that America's Cup racing has been postponed under Auckland's COVID-19 lockdown.

"As a result of the Government announcement of a level 3 lockdown in Auckland, initially for 72 hours, the next scheduled race day on Wednesday has been postponed and the event village will not be open to the public during this time," event organisers said on Sunday.

"America's Cup Event Ltd will be working with the authorities and relevant agencies over the next few days to work through the ongoing ramifications."

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: Getty

9:48am - Vaughn Couillaut, the principal of Papatoetoe High School, told RNZ's Morning Report there were less than 50 close contacts from the school linked to the positive COVID-19 case.

One of the infected people is a year nine student from the school.

"We've ring-fenced it to about five teaching staff and one learning class," Couillaut told Morning Report.

9:38am - Earlier, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the fact the new cases were the UK variant added another layer of concern.

"[It] does cause us that little bit of extra concern as well because we know the UK variant spreads faster - all the more reason for us to be ultra-vigilant," he told More FM.

9:35am - New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom says alarm bells should be ringing after news two of the positive COVID-19 cases visited the Taranaki region.

"I think people just need to wake up and realise that this thing isn't over.

"It's very serious."

Holdom. Photo credit: The AM Show

9:31am - Auckland businesses are preparing for another hit as the community COVID-19 cases throw the city into lockdown.

The rest of the country has been moved to alert level 2.

Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett told The AM Show the lockdown will hurt some businesses more than others.

9:26am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says while COVID-19 alert level 3 isn't welcome news, locals need to stay put.

Goff told The AM Show that police will turn cars around at checkpoints if needed.

"Police will stop the vehicles, they will ask the questions, and if you don't have a good reason for leaving other than you maybe want to go to the batch for three days - that's not good enough reason."

Goff says it's concerning the cases are the UK variant.

9:17am - Traffic is at a standstill at one of Auckland's police checkpoints.

Newshub's Karen Rutherford says a 1km-long queue has formed at the southern checkpoint in Mercer.

"Wearing facemasks, they [police] appear tougher in their questioning this time as they ask people for proof of essential travel and the appropriate documentation.

"If they don't have it, they're being referred to the MBIE website.

"Just a handful of people, at this time, have been turned around."

9:09am - Officials are considering a few scenarios as they work to trace three cases of the UK COVID-19 variant.

The community cases in south Auckland have no clear link to previous infections in managed isolation facilities.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says finding where the cases came from is a priority.

"It could be a situation where, for instance, a transit passenger has been the source of infection," she told The AM Show. "The other scenario is potentially airline crew."

8:57am - Australia has suspended its one way travel bubble with New Zealand for 72 hours.

Flights from New Zealand to Australia have been reclassified from "green zone" to "red", meaning all passengers will now need to spend two weeks in hotel quarantine.

8:55am - There are fears eliminating the UK COVID-19 variant may take longer should a cluster form under alert level three.

Disease modeller Shaun Hendy told The AM Show beefing up current alerts will help stamp out the virus even if a source remains unknown.

"We know it is more transmissible, compared to the variant we were dealing with last year.

"If you were going to go and infect two people with the old variant, with the UK variant you might infect three. So it makes it more difficult to contain.

"With these new variants we might need to look at a stronger level 3 - a 3 and a half or a 4, just because it spreads more easily.

"The current settings will definitely slow it down but if there is a large outbreak, it may take a long time to eliminate at level 3."

Hendy. Photo credit: The AM Show

8:54am - Testing facilities around Taranaki are also expected to be up and running on Monday morning. 

Two of the three cases who contracted the UK variant visited the region last week. 

But New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom told Newshub it doesn't appear the virus has spread in the community. 

8:45am - A recap of what we heard earlier from prominent COVID-19 expert, epidemiologist Michael Baker:

"There isn't an obvious mode of transmission in this outbreak so that could mean there are other cases in the community that have been detected," Prof Baker told The AM Show.

"We do have a failure at the border every couple of weeks or so and generally it's just a single staff member infected or someone who got infected in an MIQ facility and have brought it into the community. We know these have been very well managed with tracing and so on but this is more like the Auckland August outbreak. 

"Hopefully it will be much smaller but that supports why there is a very vigorous response."

8:43am - It's been confirmed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General Health Ashley Bloomfield will front a post-Cabinet press conference at 4pm, to provide the latest COVID-19 developments.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: The AM Show

8:35am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is nervous for businesses closed as a result of the lockdown.

He told The AM Show financial help may be needed.

"[It] could be quite severe and that's why that help is warranted."

8:30am - Earlier, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refused to make any calls about whether COVID-19 restrictions will be extended.

While the source of the infection is unknown, Ardern told The AM Show officials don't necessarily have to find it for alert levels to drop.

"In many cases before, whilst we've had strong hypotheses about what's happened - we haven't always been able to nail it down precisely."

8:21am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is reminding people the city has overcome COVID-19 before.

"I'm hoping that it is [lockdown] is just for the bare 72 hours," he told The AM Show. "We'll have a better idea of that when we've done some of the testing.

"[It's] really important that we err on the side of caution."

Goff. Photo credit: The AM Show

8:20am - New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom is standing by the Government's decision not to move the region into alert level 3 with Auckland.

It comes after two of the three community COVID-19 cases visited Taranaki last week.

Holdom told Newshub on Sunday the community will be ramping up efforts to be extra cautious.

8:17am - The AM Show's Lauren Hendricksen, who's at Auckland's Ōtara COVID-19 testing station, says the facility has just opened.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: The AM Show
COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: The AM Show

8:14am - Disease modelling expert Shaun Hendy is calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to tighten the lockdown now the UK variant has been confirmed.

Hendy told The AM Show time spent in higher alert levels may need to be extended.

"If we start to uncover a big cluster, as we did in August, then we're looking at weeks of further controls."

8:12am - Epidemiologist Michael Baker is warning the latest burst of COVID-19 is more similar to the August 2020 cluster than most border breaches.

Prof Baker, from the University of Otago, told The AM Show on Monday he doesn't know if the three-day lockdown will be enough to contain the virus.

Watch his full interview on The AM Show here.

8:09am - Officials are investigating whether COVID-19 could have been passed on from a transit passenger or airline crew member.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told More FM that confirmation of the UK variant is deeply concerning.

"There's no link with any cases in our managed isolation facilities so we can't say - 'there's this person that gave it to them.'"

Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty

8:05am - To recap what we just heard from the Prime Minister. Jacinda Ardern has confirmed the Auckland community COVID-19 vases have the more infectious UK variant, with officials unable to find a link to managed isolation.

Ardern told The AM Show the source of infection remains unclear.

"It's highly unlikely, therefore, that we're dealing with a breach in our system at the managed isolation or anything that's potentially gone wrong there."

8am - The Ministry of Health says genome sequencing not directly link the south Auckland infections to any other positive cases detected in New Zealand to date.

"This result reinforces the decision to take swift and robust action around the latest cases to detect and stamp out the possibility of any further transmission," the ministry said in a statement.

"An intensive source investigation around the latest cases continues, along with public health actions and alert level changes outlined yesterday, designed to break any potential chains of transmission."

7:53am - PM describes latest developments as "horrible situation" and understands the frustration.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: Getty

7:51am - PM Ardern defends decision not to cancel Big Gay Out on Sunday.

She told The AM Show the event had already started when she received details of the cases.

7:49am - Ardern told The AM Show New Zealand "legally can't" stop returnees coming home.

She says the country has a legal obligation to allow citizens to return.

7:47am - PM says the latest developments are "not at all" the worst-case scenario for New Zealanders.

She told The AM Show there are still strong leads health officials can follow up to identify the source.

Chris Hipkins, left, and Ardern.
Chris Hipkins, left, and Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

7:45am - PM Ardern says it's too early to tell whether a longer lockdown will be required and "won't make the call" yet.

7:43am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is appearing on The AM Show. She says genome sequencing has been unable to link the Auckland COVID-19 cases to New Zealand's managed isolation facilities.

7:42am - The CEO of the Auckland Business Chamber is calling for immediate support for businesses stricken by the city's lockdown.

Michael Barnett told The AM Show depending on how the week unfolds, another wage subsidy could be a suitable option.

"I think the Government has been very quick to respond and that gives the community confidence. I think if they were to indicate that they would provide support for businesses, that would [also] give confidence," he said.

"The next three days, businesses are going to have costs and no income - something needs to look after them, for the good of New Zealand.

"I think a wage subsidy would probably be adequate."

Barnett. Photo credit: The AM Show

7:39am - Disease modelling expert Shaun Hendy told The AM Show the source of the infection must now be found and the lockdown may need to be tightened further.

"With these new variants we may need to look at a stronger level 3 - just because it spreads more easily."

7:34am - Just to confirm news just developing - it's been revealed the three community cases of COVID-19 in Auckland are the UK variant.

Health officials are scrambling to identify the source of the infection. 

The cases have plunged Auckland into an alert level 3 lockdown, with the rest of the country at level two.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told More FM the development is a worry.

"[It] does cause us that little bit of extra concern as well because we know the UK variant spreads faster - all the more reason for us to be ultra-vigilant."

7:28am - Epidemiologist Michael Baker told The AM Show one of the case's workplaces - airline catering company LSG Sky Chefs - isn't necessarily the source of infection.

"[COVID-19 is] mainly transmitted, as we know, from droplets and aerosols in indoor environments from other people.

"That's, I think, why there's so much concern about this outbreak at the moment."

Prof Baker.
Prof Baker. Photo credit: Getty / The AM Show

7:10am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has told More FM radio the positive coronavirus cases have the UK variant.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also confirmed the developments to Newstalk ZB.

The UK variant - known as B.1.1.7 - is up to 70 percent more contagious than other coronavirus strains.

7:06am - New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom is disappointed the COVID Tracer App is being neglected.

It comes after news two of the Auckland COVID-19 cases visited the region at Waitangi weekend.

"Only one in four people have been scanning and it's not good enough," Holdom told Newshub on Sunday.

"We're not even at halftime and people have become really complacent.

"It's just a reminder to everybody that we've got to do the contact tracing."

6:53am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday stood by the decision not to put New Plymouth into COVID-19 alert level 3.

Two of the three cases of COVID-19 from south Auckland visited Taranaki over Waitangi Weekend.

Auckland entered alert level 3 on Monday morning but the rest of the country is staying in level 2.

Ardern told reporters on Sunday that officials were receiving sound advice from health officials on those alert levels.

Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

6:39am - Auckland courts are being shut down in the wake of the change in COVID-19 alert levels.

There will be no jury trials before Thursday and those currently underway will be suspended unless they are in the deliberation stage.

Trials scheduled to be heard outside of Auckland will continue.

6:36am - Auckland and New Zealand's COVID-19 alert levels will be reviewed every 24 hours. The current levels have been set down for 72 hours.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker told The AM Show there's no way of telling whether three days will be enough.

"There isn't an obvious mode of transmission into this outbreak so that could mean there are other cases in the community that haven't been detected," Prof Baker said. 

Meanwhile, infectious diseases expert David Murdoch told Newshub moving up alert levels was to be expected.

6:32am - Speaking from Auckland's Ōtara COVID-19 testing station, The AM Show reporter Lauren Hendricksen says people are already waiting for swabs despite the facility not opening until 8:30am.

An extra queue will opened on Monday to cater for the demand and the station is prepared to open earlier if needed.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community cases - Monday, February 15
Photo credit: The AM Show

6:28am -  The Ministry of Health on Sunday posted a list of where the COVID-19 cases visited, which include sites around Taranaki over Waitangi weekend.

Anyone who has visited the same locations is urged to make testing a priority.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news briefing on Sunday that no risks were worth taking.

Ardern will provide the latest when she joins The AM Show before 8am. You can watch that live here.

6:18am - A reminder that police checkpoints have been set up around Auckland overnight to stop non-essential travel in and out of the city.

A spokesperson for police said the boundaries would mainly be in the same places as they were set up during Auckland's lockdown in August 2020.

Read all the details here.

6:09am - Manukau ward councillor Efeso Collins is urging people not to play the blame game following news of COVID-19 in the south Auckland community.

Collins told Newshub on Sunday he's concerned about online hate being directed in the area.

Collins. Photo credit: The AM Show

6:07am - Testing stations across Auckland are expected to be swamped on Monday. Click here for a reminder of where you can be tested for COVID-19.

5:56am - Health officials on Monday will be focussing on the workplace of one of the cases - airline catering company LSG Sky Chefs in Māngere.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Sunday he assumed the woman was wearing correct PPE gear when at work.

"In these workplaces they would be wearing protective equipment anyway - regardless whether there was COVID-19," Dr Bloomfield told reporters.

"This is an employer under a cycle of surveillance testing as well."

5:49am - New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom is urging the region to take the new COVID-19 community cases seriously.

It was confirmed on Sunday two of the cases visited Taranaki at Waitangi weekend.

Holdom says people have been too complacent.

"The fact that three out of four New Zealanders haven't been scanning [with the COVID Tracer app] regularly is a real concern," he told Newshub on Sunday.

"I think in Taranaki, we don't want to go to level 3 or level 4 and the one thing that we can do is do the contact tracing."

5:45am - Auckland Transport is reminding essential workers using its services to maintain social distancing.

The agency says passengers also need to wear masks.

Cash is not being accepted on public transport and anyone on the move is urged to avoid travelling at peak times if possible.

5:40am - COVID-19 testing capacity has been boosted in Auckland as the super city returns to alert level 3 restrictions.

Additional staff and longer hours will be observed at six community testing centres but there's a warning to expect longer waits that usual. You can find those locations here. 

Hospitals will be continuing with planned clinics and surgeries and officials are asking patients to keep their appointments, except those with COVID-19 symptoms should call ahead.

5:30am - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Sunday officials weren't making any assumptions about the latest COVID-19 cases.

"Because of the onset of symptoms, with the mother and the daughter being about the same time, we want to rule out that it wasn't the daughter who was infected first," Dr Bloomfield told a news briefing.

The mother of the family is an employee for LSG Sky Chefs - an airline catering company.

5am - Police checkpoints have been set up at the city's borders for 72 hours after the three cases of COVID-19 were found in the community on Sunday.

"The boundaries will be set mostly in the same locations as the last time Auckland was in alert level 3 in August," police said in a statement on Sunday night.

"Eight checkpoints on the outskirts of Auckland will be stopping vehicles and questioning drivers, ensuring there is no non-essential movement through the region.

"From midnight, anyone attempting to travel across the regional boundaries should expect to be stopped and asked for proof of essential travel."