As it happened: Latest on Auckland community COVID cases - Wednesday, February 24

Two new community cases of COVID-19 were announced on Tuesday night - siblings of a case from Papatoetoe High School announced earlier in the day.

Thirty-one staff at Kmart Botany have been identified as close contacts as one of the infected people was working there.

What you need to know:

  • Three siblings at Papatoetoe High School student tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, taking infection numbers from the latest Auckland cluster to 11
  • One of the cases works at Kmart Botany. They were there on Friday and Saturday between 3:30pm and 10:30pm. Anyone who visited the store during those times is asked to immediately isolate, call Healthline, and get tested for COVID-19
  • All other locations of interest can be found here.

These live updates have finished.

8:45pm - The number of deaths in China - excluding the coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan - fell slightly during the first three months of 2020, suggesting efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 reduced deaths from other causes, a new study showed.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), analysed official death registry data from January 1 to March 31 last year for changes in overall and cause-specific deaths.

The death rate in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was first identified, stood at 1147 per 100,000 over the period, 56 percent higher than normally expected, they found in the study published on Wednesday.

However, outside Wuhan, the death rate was 675 per 100,000, lower than the expected rate of 715, after nationwide lockdowns reduced the number of deaths from other causes like ordinary pneumonia or traffic accidents, according to the study, published by the BMJ.

Official data from China's medical authority puts the total mainland COVID-19 death toll at 4636, of which 83.5 percent, or 3869 deaths, were in Wuhan.

China has rejected claims that it under-reported both the total number of cases and the death toll from COVID-19.

An American study of cremation services in Wuhan released last June said about 36,000 people could have died, 10 times the official figure.

Local studies also show the number of people carrying the virus might have been far higher than first thought. The China CDC said in December that it found COVID-19 antibodies in 4.43 percent of Wuhan blood samples, implying that half a million people had been infected.

Last month, experts deployed by the World Health Organization arrived in Wuhan to investigate the origins of the coronavirus. They said it could have been circulating in other regions before it was first identified in early 2020, but there was no evidence of other large outbreaks.

- Reuters

8:15pm - CERT NZ, the Government's authority on cyber security, says it's aware of two COVID-19 vaccine-related phone scams.

One involves a phone call about the vaccine being for sale and the other calls on people to vote online to secure their vaccine.

"Remember: the COVID-19 vaccine is free. At no point will you be asked to pay for the vaccine, or pay for your place in the queue. You will never be asked for your bank account or card details," CERT NZ says.

"Vaccines will be rolled out through a COVID-19 immunisation programme as supply becomes available. Border and managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) workers are being vaccinated first."

7:45pm - AstraZeneca Plc has told the European Union it expects to deliver less than half the COVID-19 vaccines it was contracted to supply in the second quarter, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Contacted by Reuters, AstraZeneca did not deny what the official said, but a statement late in the day said the company was striving to increase productivity to deliver the promised 180 million doses.

The expected shortfall, which has not previously been reported, follows a big reduction in supplies in the first quarter and could hit the EU's ability to meet its target of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by summer.

The EU official, who is directly involved in talks with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, said the company had told the bloc during internal meetings that it "would deliver less than 90 million doses in the second quarter."

AstraZeneca's contract with the EU, which was leaked last week, showed the company had committed to delivering 180 million doses to the 27-nation bloc in the second quarter.

Asked about the EU official's comment, a spokesperson for AstraZeneca initially said: "We are hopeful that we will be able to bring our deliveries closer in line with the advance purchase agreement."

Later in the day a spokesperson in a new statement said the company's "most recent Q2 forecast for the delivery of its COVID-19 vaccine aims to deliver in line with its contract with the European Commission."

They added: "At this stage AstraZeneca is working to increase productivity in its EU supply chain and to continue to make use of its global capability in order to achieve delivery of 180 million doses to the EU in the second quarter."

A spokesperson for the European Commission, which coordinates talks with vaccine manufacturers, said it could not comment on the discussions as they were confidential.

They said the EU should have more than enough shots to hit its vaccination targets if the expected and agreed deliveries from other suppliers are met, regardless of the situation with AstraZeneca.

The EU official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, confirmed that AstraZeneca planned to deliver about 40 million doses in the first quarter, again less than half the 90 million shots it was supposed to supply.

- Reuters

As it happened: Latest on Auckland community COVID cases - Wednesday, February 24
Photo credit: Getty Images

7:15pm - Manukau Institute of Technology says it is following Ministry of Health guidelines closely after 10 students from Papatoetoe High School attended its trades academy.

"As recently as this afternoon, all staff and students received an update on the Papatoetoe cases including information on locations and times of interest, as well as guidance to follow if they were present in these instances," an MIT spokesperson says.

"Our institute has been in regular contact with Papatoetoe High School in relation to its students who attend classes on our campuses.

"Earlier this week, ten students from the school attended trades academy classes in three disciplines - automotive, construction and early childhood education. This was after MIT had been informed by the principal they had all self-isolated for the previous week while the school was closed and returned negative tests for COVID-19."

Students in the scheme come to MIT either one or two days a week, and three MIT staff oversaw the progress of the students on these days.

"MIT is proud to be part of the south Auckland community and we support Papatoetoe High School staff and students who are currently at the heart of our country's response to COVID-19 putting the health and wellbeing of all tauira and kaimahi first."

6:45pm - The Australian woman who drew the ire of New Zealanders for repeatedly refusing to get a COVID-19 test starred in a series of YouTube videos with a notorious conspiracy theorist during her elongated period in managed isolation.

Lucinda Baulch has been interviewed nine times for self-professed COVID-19 vaccine skeptic Karen Brewer's YouTube channel since her arrival in New Zealand on January 26.

In the videos posted to Brewer's channel, Baulch complained that she's been "unlawfully detained" and accused MIQ facilitators of "not fulfilling their obligation" to provide information on the test.

Brewer, who in some videos wears a t-shirt reading 'no jab, no fly, we say no' and in another dons a colander on her head, is an infamous Australian conspiracy theorist with thousands of followers on social media.

Read the full story here.

6:15pm - The Ministry of Health has updated its testing and isolation guidelines for people who have visited the latest locations of interest, Kmart Botany and Dark Vapes East Tamaki.

Notably, there are now four categories for each instance a location was visited. These are customers, households of customers, staff, and households of staff.

People who fall in any of these categories have specific instructions to follow. See the full table below.

As it happened: Latest on Auckland community COVID cases - Wednesday, February 24
Photo credit: Ministry of Health

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

5:40pm - Labour's Jenny Salesa, who is the MP for Panmure-Otahuhu, says as the local MP, she asks everyone continues to be kind and compassionate towards the families and students linked to Papatoetoe High School.

"This tricky virus is the enemy not individuals/families. We've done it before south Auckland. We can defeat COVID-19 again," she said on Twitter.

5:10pm - About 40 workers at Christchurch Airport have received their first COVID-19 vaccines as the immunisation programme starts rolling out in the South Island.

On Tuesday, 35 of the Canterbury-based vaccination team gave and received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to prepare for the rollout.

About 20 percent of New Zealand's border and MIQ workforce are based in Canterbury, according to the Ministry of Health.

Read the full story here.

As it happened: Latest on Auckland community COVID cases - Wednesday, February 24
Photo credit: Getty Images

4:40pm - Two Australian states will loosen restrictions on dancing at indoor venues and ease other curbs from Friday after several weeks of no COVID-19 cases.

In New South Wales (NSW), 30 people will be allowed to dance at weddings and as many as 30 people will be able to sing indoors together, up from five currently. Households will also be allowed to host 50 guests, up from 30.

The move comes after the state, which accounts for a third of Australia's population of 25 million, logged no locally acquired infections for a 38th straight day on Wednesday and as the country entered its third day of a nationwide vaccination programme.

"With the rollout of the vaccine now underway and no new locally acquired cases in NSW, we are able to make further changes towards a new COVID normal," state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.

Restrictions are also being eased in South Australia from Friday. Dancing will be now allowed at smaller venues with capacity of less than 200 people, while at bigger venues, 50 can dance at a time at a designated area. The state will also drop testing requirements for visitors from Melbourne, which had previously been a COVID-19 hotspot.

- Reuters

4:10pm - Of the two new cases in MIQ that were announced on Wednesday, one arrived on February 19 from the Philippines via Hong Kong and tested positive on day 0/routine testing. This infection is deemed historical and therefore not infectious. The other case arrived on February 22 from Singapore and they tested positive on day 0/routine testing.

No previously reported cases have recovered and two previously reported cases have been reclassified as under investigation, the Ministry of Health says. This brings the total number of active cases in New Zealand to 62.

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,674,282.

On Tuesday, 7834 tests were processed. The seven-day rolling average up to Tuesday is 8724 tests processed.

As it happened: Latest on Auckland community COVID cases - Wednesday, February 24
Photo credit: Getty Images

3:40pm - The first of Air New Zealand's staff will receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.

There are 3800 frontline workers in the airline.

Dr Ben Johnston, chief medical officer at Air New Zealand, says the airline welcomes the arrival of the vaccine and is pleased its employees have been prioritised to receive it.

"Our employees have been among the most impacted by COVID-19 safety requirements including following isolation protocols offshore, undergoing regular testing, wearing PPE at work, or isolating on return from duties, all the while keeping New Zealanders connected to each other and New Zealand connected to the world," he says.

"We welcome the Government's decision to prioritise border workers for vaccines as a means of protecting the people who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 in New Zealand. A safe and effective vaccine is a vital step towards the long-term control of COVID-19, and eventually allowing our borders to open to international travel."

All of the airline's cabin crew and pilots, plus airport, cargo, and line maintenance employees in Auckland and Christchurch will be first in line for the vaccination. 

"While it's not mandatory, we are strongly encouraging our people to take the opportunity to be vaccinated as part of the prioritised roll-out. We are working hard with our people to ensure everyone understands how the vaccine works, the benefits of receiving it and key safety information so they can make an informed decision," Dr Johnston says.

3:10pm - The Ministry of Health says contact tracing has identified 126 close contacts associated with the first two household in the latest Auckland outbreak (Cases A - H). All these close contacts have now returned negative test results, except for three who have not been tested. Two of these are children who are not required to be tested, the ministry says.

"We have not been able to contact one person from the medical clinic, but we continue to use all avenues to find and follow up with this person. Theirs was considered to be a low risk exposure event."

Of the 1496 casual-plus contacts identified at Papatoetoe High School, 1487 have returned at least one negative test result. Of the remaining contacts, three were positive cases (Case E, I and J) and six were students who have not been tested since February 10. The six students who have not been tested since continue to be actively followed up by the local public health authorities,the Ministry of Health says.

"In this current instance we are being especially cautious and are managing those present at the locations of interest at the relevant dates and times as if they are close contacts - they must stay at home, isolate for 14 days and get tested at least twice.  They will also receive a daily follow up."

2:40pm - A reminder of the Ministry of Health's locations of interest for the latest cases that were announced on Tuesday,

As it happened: Latest on Auckland community COVID cases - Wednesday, February 24
Photo credit: Ministry of Health

2:10pm - Robin Cooper, head of airport operations at Auckland Airport, who was the first in their team to get vaccinated against COVID-19, says he's doing it because he wants to his family and loved ones are protected.

"As workers at the border, we have an important role to play in the fight against COVID-19."

1:20pm - Dr Bloomfield says there have been "repeated efforts" to contact people from the high school who have not yet been tested. Some have been contacted but have not got tested, he says. There could be reasons why students couldn't get to a testing stations. He says this shows why it is important the school was closed this week to people who had not returned negative tests.

Hipkins says no thought has been given to quickly vaccinating the Papatoetoe High School community. 

1:15pm - Wastewater testing continues around Auckland and all samples have come back negative except for the pipe close to the quarantine facility.

Dr Bloomfield says there is no need to raise alert levels. He says the current situation is similar to that with the Northland case in January.

Hipkins is now speaking about vaccines. Forty border workers in the South Island were vaccinated on Wednesday morning, meaning more than 1000 people have now been jabbed in New Zealand.

New Zealand has also received its second batch of Pfizer vaccine doses. Hipkins says that by the end of March, Aotearoa would have received about 450,000 doses, enough to vaccinate about 225,000 Kiwis.

Hipkins can't provide any information about when more doses may come later in the year.

1:10pm - All close contacts have returned negative test results, except for three. Two have not been tested due to their age while one contact from the medical clinic is being followed up on.

Of the 1496 Papatoetoe High School casual-plus contacts, 1487 have returned at least one negative test. More than 600 students and staff were tested on Tuesday as part of the second round of testing.

There are four close contacts outside of the household for the cases announced on Tuesday. More than 870 people have phone Healthline indicating they were at locations of interest. They are being managed as close contacts and have been asked to stay at home and get tests.

Dr Bloomfield says there are plenty of community centres in Auckland for people to get tested at.

1:05pm - There are no new community cases of COVID-19, Hipkins tells media. He says testing is going well and at least half of the Papatoetoe High School community has already been retested. 

The final group of students from the first round of testing that have not been tested is being followed up. They must remain in isolation for the full 14 days. 

There are two new cases of COVID-19 in MIQ facilities. One of those is a historical case.

Dr Bloomfield acknowledges that the two extra cases on Tuesday evening is unsettling, but there is no need to be alarmed as they are linked to the original trio.

Transmission at the school is likely to have occurred within a bathroom or corridor, the Director-General says.

1pm - A statement from Hipkins:

A second batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines arrived safely on Tuesday at Auckland International Airport, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

"This shipment contained about 76,000 doses, and follows our first shipment of 60,000 doses that arrived last week. We expect further shipments of vaccine over the coming weeks," Hipkins said.

"As with the first shipment, quality assurance and checks by Medsafe are underway.

"By the end of March, we’re due to receive a total of about 450,000 doses - enough to vaccinate 225,000 people with a two-dose course.

"The Ministry of Health is working with Pfizer/BioNTech to develop a delivery schedule for the vaccines that ensures a smooth rollout and scaling up of our immunisation programme as we rollout to the general public in mid-year.

"We started our immunisation programme to around 12,000 border and managed isolation and quarantine workers last Saturday, and once completed, we’ll begin vaccinating their household contacts," Hipkins said.

Meanwhile, around 40 border workers from Christchurch Airport were vaccinated this morning, the first to do so in the South Island.

"This passes a milestone of the first 1000 border workers and vaccinators in New Zealand to receive their first dose. That’s a great start and we appreciate the effort of the vaccinators and border workers," Hipkins said.

"They included aviation security workers, cleaners, police, customs workers and health protection officers who screen passengers arriving on international flights.

"It’s pleasing to see the gradual scale up of vaccines being administered among this tier one group, as planned, as processes at each site are fine tuned. Numbers will start to pick up from here."

Hipkins said a shipment of 490,000 special-purpose needles also arrived yesterday to New Zealand, which will help vaccination teams maximise safe usage of the vaccine.

"Making the most of every vial of the vaccine and avoiding waste will help to ensure the successful rollout of our immunisation programme," Hipkins said.

12:50pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will provide an update at 1pm. You'll be able to watch that live above and on Three.

12:30pm - As we await an update from health officials at 1pm, here's a recap of Wednesday morning's developments:

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says there's no need to change COVID-19 alert levels despite three new community cases of COVID-19 being reported on Tuesday.

Genomic testing confirmed the new cases are connected to the original infections at Papatoetoe High School.

But Dr Bloomfield also revealed the cases hadn't been following the rules. He told The AM Show "it doesn't seem" they were  "isolating as we had asked them to".

Nonetheless, Dr Bloomfield said he wasn't overly concerned after speaking with officials on Tuesday night.

"We went through all the information we had and our sense was there's no indication to go up alert levels at this point."

Dr Bloomfield and COVID-19 Response Minister will host a media conference at 1pm with an update on the latest cases. You can watch it live on Three and in the video above,

12pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will provide an update on Auckland's latest coronavirus infections at 1pm.

Dr Bloomfield earlier revealed the cases are experiencing symptoms not always typical of the coronavirus, such as muscle aches and tiredness.

You will be able to watch the 1pm COVID-19 media conference live on Three and in the video above.

11:56am - Stuff is reporting that Kmart Botany, where one of the latest COVID-19 cases worked, is open again after being closed on Tuesday.

11:35am - In other COVID-19 news, two elderly people in Queensland have been given an overdose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Australia Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed a doctor gave an incorrect dosage to an 88-year-old man and 94-year-old woman.

Follow developments here.

As it happened: Latest on Auckland community COVID cases - Wednesday, February 24
Photo credit: Getty

11:20am - The principal of Papatoetoe High School says several students made a "conscious choice" to refuse COVID testing and instead undertake 14 days of isolation.

Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday morning, principal Vaughan Couillault said he was aware of a "number of students" who had made a "conscious choice" to isolate instead of getting tested for the virus.

"There's all manner of reasons why people do or don't comply with advice and requests," Couillault said. 

"In some cases, I know there's a number of students where it's a conscious choice and they're choosing to isolate for that 14-day period.

"You're allowed to make that conscious decision to isolate yourself, that's all good - but we need to know what's happening."

Watch his full interview with The AM Show here.

11:04am - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says the latest cases are experiencing symptoms not always typical of the coronavirus, such as muscle aches and tiredness.

He told The AM Show people should be vigilant for these symptoms.

11am - Health expert Michael Baker is not yet overly concerned about the new community cases of COVID-19.

Prof Baker says he has faith in New Zealand's systems.

"The fact that they [the cases] are still connected with the main cluster is positive - it means that normal contact tracing methods should be very successful." 

10:38am - A reminder of the Ministry of Health's official advice following Tuesday's confirmed COVID-19 cases:

Out of an abundance of caution we are asking casual-plus contacts to take additional actions for the events list below. These actions include; 

  • Isolate at home for 14 days from your exposure 
  • Have tests at day 5 and day 12 after exposure 
  • Call Healthline 08003585453
  • Locations of interest can be found here.

A casual-plus contact is someone who had limited exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case, but are asked to take extra precautionary steps due to possible higher risks of transmission. 

10:20am - Director-General of Ashley Bloomfield is urging people to be vigilant for COVID-19 symptoms that haven't always been typical of the coronavirus.

Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show the latest cases appear to be different to previous infections.

"It was more muscle aches and lethargy rather than any respiratory symptoms so I do just want to point that out to people," he said. "It may be something to do with this new variant."

10:10am - A reminder that household contacts of Papatoetoe High School students and teachers are being asked to get COVID-19 tests at community testing stations, not the school's pop-up station - which is being reserved for the students and teachers themselves.

Click here for a list of where you can get tested for COVID-19 in Auckland.

9:49am - Echoing Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield's comments, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said alert level changes wouldn't be needed.

"This is a case - given we had asked everyone to be tested - there was every expectation we could find additional cases," she told RNZ's Morning Report.

Ardern and Dr Bloomfield.
Ardern and Dr Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty

9:46am - Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault told RNZ's Morning Report the school will probably be closed for the remainder of this week.

9:33am - Should Auckland go back to COVID-19 alert level 2? Have your say here.

9:26am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will provide an update on the latest Auckland coronavirus cases at a 1pm media conference, Hipkins' office has confirmed.

You can watch the news conference live on Three and online.

Hipkins and Dr Bloomfield will also provide an update on COVID-19 vaccination progress.

Hipkins and Dr Bloomfield.
Hipkins and Dr Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty

9:08am - In other COVID-19 news, Christchurch border workers are the latest in line to get their coronavirus vaccinations.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health says a small group from Christchurch International Airport will be inoculated at midday. 

9am - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield wants everyone who's a casual-plus contact of one of the latest community COVID-19 cases to isolate immediately.

"Even though we think the risk here is very low - we just don't want to take any chances," Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show.

8:36am - Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault says he wants everyone to use commonsense and follow the rules.

"If you're asked to stay at home and isolate you need to stay at home and isolate," he told The AM Show.

8:34am - A second round of COVID-19 testing is underway at Papatoetoe High School.

The school's hall has been turned into a pop-up testing station for staff and students.

Speaking from the school, The AM Show's Lauren Hendricksen says it's made things less chaotic than last week.

8:25am - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says the genome sequencing results from the latest community cases are promising, as they're linked to the original source.

"It shows this is the same variant - it's directly linked back to cases A and B at the school.

"We're not dealing with a seperate incursion here which is good."

Although it remains unclear how the case contracted the virus, Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show it "doesn't seem they were isolating as we had asked them to do".

8:10am - About 700 COVID-19 tests were completed at Papatoetoe High School on Tuesday with many students staying after the final bell.

Principal Vaughan Couillault told The AM Show the virus won't ruin the school's spirit.

8:04am - Speaking from Papatoetoe High School, The AM Show's Lauren Hendricksen says the school's COVID-19 testing station opened at about 7:40am - slightly ahead of time. 

There's currently a half-hour wait for testing, with more than 50 students waiting in line.

The school testing station is for staff and students only - household contacts are asked to get tested at community testing centres elsewhere.

Click here for a full list of Auckland community testing centres.

8am - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says there's no plans to put Auckland back into lockdown.

Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show he's confidenct the latest infections are ringfenced.

"I'm not particularly concerned here," he told host Duncan Garner.

7:45am - Infectious diseases expert David Murdoch says extra testing will be important following the latest COVID-19 cases.

"We know this is what we have to do going forward while we get the vaccine rolled out and the world changes in response.

"It's a nuisance but it is something we just have to do."

You can watch his full interview with The AM Show here.

7:40am - Papatoetoe High is closed again with all 1500 students needing to be retested. 

But principal Vaughan Couillault isn't keen on having them sidelined for two weeks of isolation.

He told The AM Show that's 20 percent of the term. 

"I'd probably prefer everyone got tested and we started school learning again in 48 hours.

"I don't want to lose 14 days worth of learning - I can take another couple of days but another 14 days - that's really hard to catch up on." 

As it happened: Latest on Auckland community COVID cases - Wednesday, February 24
Photo credit: Newshub.

7:30am - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says he believes there's no need to reinstate higher alert levels.

Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show he's not overly concerned after speaking with officials on Tuesday night.

"We went through all the information we had and our sense was there's no indication to go up alert levels at this point."

7:21am - To recap what we just heard from Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield, it's good news as there are no further COVID-19 cases from overnight.

There's no indication, at this stage, that alert levels will need to rise again, he said.

7:20am - Dr Bloomfield confirms "it doesn't seem" latest COVID-19 case was "isolating as we had asked them to".

7:19am - Dr Bloomfield says he provided advice to Cabinet on Tuesday night that alert levels didn't need to rise.

There are no further positive cases to report on Wednesday morning.

7:16am - Dr Bloomfield says transmission could have happened in a bathroom or corridor at Papatoetoe High School.

Dr Bloomfield.
Dr Bloomfield. Photo credit: The AM Show

7:15am - Dr Bloomfield is on The AM Show now. He says he's "not particularly concerned" about latest cases.

7:14am - Genome sequencing has linked the latest COVID-19 cases to the original Auckland cluster infection, it has been confirmed. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will provide more details shortly.

7:02am - Speaking from Papatoetoe High School, The AM Show's Lauren Hendricksen said officials have just arrived at the school to start setting up its COVID-19 testing station.

As it happened: Latest on Auckland community COVID cases - Wednesday, February 24
Photo credit: The AM Show

6:45am - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will provide further news about the new COVID-19 community cases on The AM Show at 7:15am.

It's too early to tell, at this stage, if any alert level change is on the cards.

Infectious diseases expert David Murdoch told The AM Show any potential jump in alert levels will become more clear on Wednesday afternoon.

Murdoch. Photo credit: The AM Show

6:30am - National leader Judith Collins says she's concerned about the latest COVID-19 cases.

"This is the sort of thing that actually breaks down people's confidence in the system and the authorities, and that is a bad thing," she told The AM Show.

6:20am - Infectious diseases expert David Murdoch says any new COVID-19 community cases are a concern. 

But Murdoch told The AM Show it's reassuring officials can track where the cases came from.

"But, obviously, extra cases, extra places to do testing - there's obviously anxiety around that."

6:06am - It remains unclear if the family at the centre of the new community COVID-19 cases adhered to self-isolation.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield was coy when asked about the matter on Tuesday.

"Obviously a diagnosis of COVID-19 in a family is something that takes people a bit of time to actually understand and get to grips with, it comes as a shock. Often in that first interview, it's talking about what this means," Dr Bloomfield told a news briefing.

"Then there is subsequent follow-up interviews over the next hours that then go into the details of people's movements."

Dr Bloomfield will appear on The AM Show at 7:15am to provide more details on the latest Auckland cluster. You can watch that live here.

Dr Bloomfield.
Dr Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty

5:58am - Vaughan Couillault, the principal of Papatoetoe High School at the centre of the most recent Auckland cluster, says the latest developments are unfortunate.

Everyone in a Papatoetoe High School household must stay away from work or any other school, educational facility, or community setting such as the supermarket or any other place outside their house. The school remains closed and no students or staff will be able to return until advised by a medical officer of health.

All students at the school are being asked to get retested to ensure there are no additional cases.

"We're probably feeling a little bit crestfallen, but once you get over yourself, because it's not about you, the team just clicked back into action," Couillault told RNZ.

5:45am - A brief recap of what we learned on Tuesday

There are three new cases of COVID-19 in the community.

Two of the infections were revealed by the Ministry on Tuesday night - both siblings of a case announced earlier in the day. The parents and a third older sibling returned negative tests.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said the family has been transferred to Auckland's Jet Park Hotel quarantine facility.

5:30am - Epidemiologist Michael Baker says it's too early to tell whether Auckland will have to re-raise its COVID-19 alert level.

Prof Baker told Newshub on Tuesday there's little information yet to warrant a lockdown.

"It will be a decision the Government has to make when it knows more about the potential extent of this outbreak.

"That will become clear when there's more contact tracing and testing carried out."