As it happened: Latest on Auckland COVID outbreak - Sunday, February 28

As of 6am, Auckland is back in COVID-19 alert level 3 and the rest of New Zealand level 2.

An older sibling of a Papatoetoe High School student has tested positive for COVID-19 along with their mother.

The case has been infectious for as long as a week and hasn't been in isolation.

At a press conference on Saturday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said several high-risk places were involved; including a supermarket, gym, and the Manukau Institute of Technology.

What you need to know:

  • Auckland is at COVID-19 alert level 3 and the rest of New Zealand at level 2 for seven days
  • It remains unclear how the latest community cases became infected, but they are UK variant infections and genomically linked to the original Auckland cluster 
  • The case went to the gym after getting a COVID-19 test but before receiving the result
  • Road checkpoints in and out of the Auckland region have been re-established by police
  • The Government's COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme has been triggered nationwide
  • There are several new locations of interest, which you can find here 
  • Find out more about what alert levels 3 and 2 mean for you here.

These live updates have finished.

8:30pm - Sunday marks one year since our very first COVID-19 case.

But while we count the growing numbers of new cases in the current cluster, there are some still grappling with the long-term effects of the virus a year on.

There is a group of around 200 Kiwis suffering what is known as 'Long COVID' - they call themselves the 'long-haulers'.

Common long-term symptoms include fatigue, breathing difficulties, chest pain, joint pain, heart palpitations, dizziness and brain fog, depression, anxiety, and hair loss.

Read and watch Newshub health correspondent Lucy Warhurst's full story.

8:15pm - The Ministry of Health has updated its locations of interest.

The new locations include Manukau Insitute of Technology's Breaktime Cafe, which was visited on February 22 and 24 by a case.

See the full list here.

8pm - The Cook Islands Cabinet has announced passengers arriving on the next flight from Auckland to the Pacific country will not be allowed to enter.

This flight was scheduled to arrive on March 2 in the afternoon, Cook Islands time.

It will be closed for a period of 72 hours effective midnight tonight. Cabinet will meet again on Monday to review the situation and will confirm whether or not to allow passengers on Friday's flight.

"Cabinet made its decision based on up to the minute advice it received, which included information from the NZ Ministry of Health," Prime Minister Mark Brown says.

Immigration Cook Islands will contact affected travellers directly. In the meantime, passengers are encouraged to change their flight arrangements.

7:30pm - New Zealand's yo-yoing between alert levels has left Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wide open to criticism that the Government was too quick to relax the rules last week.

Opposition politicians are questioning whether this whole mess could've been avoided.

"They should've kept us at level 3. They didn't know if they'd contained the outbreak, they just winged it," ACT leader David Seymour says.

"In hindsight, people, I feel, probably will be wondering whether or not we came out early, partly considering we had tests where the results hadn't come back," National leader Judith Collins says.

Read and watch political editor Tova O'Brien's full story here.

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty Images

7pm - Motorists trying to get home to a locked-down Auckland are facing wait times of up to four hours as "thousands" of cars bank up at the southern border checkpoint.

Rania Alani was in Tauranga for work over the weekend and hit the road early to avoid the rush, only to spend almost three hours moving a kilometre distance at the Auckland-Waikato checkpoint.

"I didn't think it was going to be that bad, to be honest," she says. "Leaving Auckland makes sense but coming back was a nightmare."

Tristan Dean got stuck waiting four hours at the same checkpoint as he headed home to Auckland from Ohakune.

He says there were "thousands and thousands" of cars "backed up for miles". 

Read the full story here.

6:30pm - Police say that on Sunday they received "several reports" of large gatherings in Auckland.

"Officers across Tāmaki Makaurau have been conducting reassurance and visibility patrols and will, as in previous alert levels, take an education and encouragement approach," they say.

"This means reminding people of the alert level 3 restrictions and the importance of abiding by them.

"There have been no other arrests or warnings in relation to the alert level restrictions that we are immediately aware of, either in Auckland or across the rest of New Zealand."

Police also thanked the public for their patience and cooperation on the first day of checkpoints operating again.

"While the rest of the country has moved to alert level 2, Police continues to work with our partners to ensure there is only essential travel in and out of Tāmaki Makaurau."

They ask that anyone travelling in the next few hours delays their travel where possible, since traffic has increased steadily throughout the day and there are "significant delays".

"We are actively trying to ease the congestion as quickly as possible. Those who are stopped will be asked about their reason for travel."

The locations of the checkpoints are available on their website.

As it happened: Latest on Auckland COVID outbreak - Sunday, February 28
Photo credit: Getty Images

6:05pm - A further person linked to the Auckland February cluster, who is already in the Auckland quarantine facility, has tested positive for COVID-19.

This person is being referred to as Case O and is a household contact of Cases I, J, K and L, the Ministry of Health says.

"Case O was transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility on 23 February as a precautionary measure. The person became symptomatic yesterday and returned a positive COVID-19 test this afternoon. This means that Case O has been in quarantine for their infectious period," the ministry says.

"As a result of the early precautionary measures carried out to contain potential COVID-19 spread from this household there are no new locations of interest and no risk to members of the public."

Whole genome sequencing will be carried out to confirm a link between Case O and the other cases in the cluster, the ministry adds.

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

5:45pm - The US government on Saturday authorised Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, enabling millions more Americans to be vaccinated in the coming weeks and setting the vaccine up for additional approvals around the world.

The J&J vaccine is the third authorised in the United States, following ones from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, both of which require two doses.

The US Food and Drug Administration announced the emergency use authorisation of the J&J vaccine for adults aged 18 and older following Friday's unanimous endorsement by the agency's panel of outside experts. Shipments to vaccination sites are expected to begin Sunday or Monday.

President Joe Biden hailed the move but cautioned Americans against celebrating too soon. "Things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread," he said in a statement, urging people to continue washing their hands, wearing masks, and maintaining social distancing.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable," he said.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are based on new messenger RNA technology, showed higher efficacy rates in pivotal trials that used two doses versus J&J's single-shot vaccine. Direct comparison, however, is difficult because the trials had different goals and J&J's was conducted while more contagious new variants of the virus were circulating.

"We believe that people should take the vaccine they are able to access," the FDA's acting commissioner, Dr. Janet Woodcock, said in a call after the authorisation, noting the three vaccines had not been studied head-to-head.

"We feel that each of these vaccines will be effective, will prevent hospitalisation, deaths and should be used," she said.

In J&J's 44,000-person global trial, the vaccine was found to be 66 percent effective at preventing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 four weeks after inoculation. It was 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalisation and death due to the virus.

- Reuters

5:30pm - Auckland Council is reminding residents to keep to their local area during lockdown, rather than getting out and about when getting their lockdown exercise in.

Mayor Phil Goff says it's a good time to enjoy your local area.

"With weekend events and sports cancelled today, and the late summer weather looking good, it is tempting to get out and about," he says. 

"Please resist the urge to jump into the car and head across town to the beach or park. Instead, enjoy your local parks, beaches, tracks, paths and walkways. Driving a short distance is ok too - just keep it local.  

"Remember that travel outside of the Auckland area is not permitted, unless you have an exemption from health authorities or the government."

5:15pm - Australia has received its first 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine after the batch arrived in Sydney earlier on Sunday.

The first doses of the vaccine will be held in a storage facility in Sydney before undergoing batch testing by Australia's health regulatory agency, Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

New Zealand has ordered 7.6 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which would be enough to vaccinate 3.8m people.

5pm - Air New Zealand says it has updated its COVID-19 hub with information to help passengers safely travel during levels 2 and 3.

"If you have a booking in the next week and no longer intend to travel, please let us know before your scheduled departure by changing or cancelling your booking online. This means seats can be made available for those who do need to travel at short notice," they say.

"We have provided extra flexibility and are waiving any fare difference for customers with existing bookings between Sunday 28 February and Sunday 7 March, who wish to rebook their flight before Sunday 14 March.

"You can opt to put your fare in credit here."

Air New Zealand adds its customer service teams are currently working through a high number of calls at the moment.

"We appreciate your understanding & ask that you hold off on calling unless your flight is in the next 48hrs if you can."

4:45pm - National is calling on the Government to adopt its five-point plan to get New Zealand out of lockdown and manage the latest COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland.

Its plan includes spot-checks on people who are required to self-isolate and for south Auckland to be prioritised when it comes to vaccines.  

It's been revealed one of the new cases visited a gym while their COVID-19 test results were still pending. The visit comes after a case earlier in the week worked at KFC Botany while they were supposed to be self-isolating.

National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop and Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti believe their five-point plan would be able to manage such cases and their contacts more effectively.

Their first step would be to introduce rapid antigen testing, a form of nasal swab that returns results in 15 minutes.

"Rapid antigen testing would allow us to test large numbers of New Zealanders, quickly. Those who test positive would then have their results confirmed by a standard PCR test," says Dr Reti.

Read the full story here.

4:30pm - Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles has hit out at Aucklanders who are fleeing the city to escape the lockdown.

"You better bloody well take level 3 with you. You do realise this is a shitty thing to do? If you are incubating the virus you run the risk of spreading it outside Auckland," she wrote on Twitter.

"I know you all feel fine and don't think you have the virus, but that's how everyone incubating COVID-19 starts off. You could be setting off chains of transmission and potentially in places with far less healthcare capacity than Auckland."

4:15pm - The Auckland Lantern Festival has been cancelled following the city's move to level 3.

The event was first due to be held on February 25 to 28 but was postponed to March 4 to 7. However, since Auckland will be at level 3 for at least a week and the event can only run during level 1, organisers say it means the festival will be cancelled.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says it is disappointing that the Auckland Lantern Festival has to be cancelled, but it's necessary given the recent cases and the city's alert level.

"The Auckland Lantern Festival is one of the biggest celebrations of our Chinese communities and it's a real shame that it can't go ahead this year," he says.

"However, given the uncertain situation with new and more transmissible variants of COVID-19 being detected in the community, a precautionary approach is warranted. I look forward to being able to celebrate the Lantern Festival when it returns next year."

Richard Clarke, Auckland Unlimited's head of major events, says the reality is that they are operating in an "ever-changing environment".

"We are naturally disappointed that the festival can't proceed, following the initial postponement to give ourselves every chance to deliver the event," he says.

"We would like to acknowledge the hard work of the Lantern Festival team, the performers and stallholders, sponsors, and every person involved in the planning of the event this year."

Anyone who has pre-booked tickets for the festival doesn't need to do anything - all tickets will automatically be cancelled at no cost.

As it happened: Latest on Auckland COVID outbreak - Sunday, February 28
Photo credit: Getty Images

4pm - The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), alongside the Ministry of Justice, is working to ensure essential workers can get through the Auckland border as quickly as possible, an update from the Ministry of Health says.

"We have been advised that for those who had a previous travel exemption, usually to get to work, their exemptions remain in place and they do not need to reapply," they say.

"Health workers moving across the border will be able to show their work identification so they can travel to work easily.

"It is important for businesses to check in with their workers and anyone with symptoms should stay home and be tested if they were at any of the locations of interest at times when they could have been exposed."

3:45pm - Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is encouraging the public to take advice from the Ministry of Health rather than social media after Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi spread misinformation on Facebook.

Earlier on Sunday, Waititi said it was "asked" that people who had travelled to and attended the Six60 concert in Hamilton and the Parker v Fa fight at Spark Arena "self-isolate on their return".

Waititi's post drew many concerns - many confused as to whether they should self-isolate, despite living out of Auckland - and whether he was providing official MoH advice.

In a press conference on Sunday, Dr Bloomfield said people should always refer to the Ministry of Health's website for advice, rather than relying on social media.

"All the correct information about what people need to do who have been at places of interest or locations of interest is on our website," he said.

Read the full story here.

3:30pm - The NZ COVID Tracer app now has 2,692,050 registered users, an increase of more than 124,000 (nearly 5 percent) users in the last fortnight, the Ministry of Health says.

Poster scans have reached 199,233,532 and users have created 7,975,016 manual diary entries. There have been 1,358,640 scans in the last 24 hours, and 1,300,001 scans per day on average for the past week.

"It's critical to keep track of where you've been and the COVID Tracer app is an easy way to do this. Please continue to scan QR codes wherever you go and turn on Bluetooth tracing in the app dashboard if you haven't already done so," the ministry says.

As it happened: Latest on Auckland COVID outbreak - Sunday, February 28
Photo credit: Getty Images

3:25pm - The Ministry of Health is reminding Aucklanders to follow all alert level 3 requirements, meaning people must stay home and work from home if they can to avoid any risk of spreading the virus.

"If you must leave home, keep a two-metre distance from others and wear a face covering if possible," the ministry says.

"Travel in and out of Auckland is restricted to permitted travel only - otherwise you must stay in the region."

Under alert level 3, all sports games and large gatherings are cancelled and public venues must close. This includes libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds, and markets.

Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed for wedding services, funerals, and tangihanga only. Physical distancing must be maintained.

Schools and early learning centres in Auckland are only open for the children or dependents of essential workers and others who can't be at home safely.

Businesses can open but they can't offer services that involve close personal contact, unless they are, supermarkets, primary produce retailers, pharmacies, petrol stations, hardware stores providing goods to trade customers, or if there is an emergency or critical situation.

3:15pm - There are two new COVID-19 cases in managed isolation, the Ministry of Health says.

The first arrived in New Zealand on February 23 from the United States via Australia. They tested positive on day three during routine testing. The second arrived on February 27 from Nigeria via Qatar. They tested positive on day zero routine testing. The latter case has been transferred to a hospital in Auckland due to a non-COVID-19 related condition.

Five previously reported cases have now recovered. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 65.

So far, laboratories have processed 1,707,380 tests and on Saturday, 6015 tests were processed.

3:10pm - ACT leader David Seymour is hitting out at the Government over what he says is a self-congratulatory complacent attitude as New Zealand faces its fourth lockdown.

Speaking to Newshub Nation on Sunday, Seymour says the Government should stop self-congratulating themselves and start to combat its border and isolation problems.

"The Government needs to have a major reset attitude from complacency and maybe a little too much self-congratulation to reflection and continuous improvement," he says.

"Because fundamentally, the defences that we have against Auckland's fourth lockdown are very little different from those that it had against the second lockdown that was put into place five months ago in August."

Read the full story here.

3pm - Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is asking people travelling through checkpoints at Auckland's border to "be patient".

There are currently long delays at police checkpoints at SH1 Te Hana, SH1 Mercer, and SH2 Mangatawhiri, the agency says.

View NZTA's traffic map here.

2:45pm - Train services in Auckland will run to a Sunday timetable while the city is in level 3, with the addition of early morning services.

"If you need to travel, please maintain physical distancing, wear a face covering and use AT Mobile app to check the available space. Thank you, be kind and be safe," Auckland Transport says in a tweet.

2:30pm - A new map that shows the latest locations of interest for these latest cases has been released.

Sixteen physical places are currently considered locations of interest by the Ministry of Health and some of these locations were visited more than once.

See the full map here.

2:05pm - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield is urging people to remember the UK variant of COVID-19 may have some different symptoms, not necessarily like a cold or flu.

"If you do have muscle aches and fatigue rather than [a] runny nose or sore throat, please do consider that they could be COVID-19 symptoms and seek advice about getting a test," Dr Bloomfield told reporters. 

2pm - Speaking a short time ago at the COVID-19 media conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said health officials would be working with the police going forward to crack down on self-isolation rule breakers.

Ardern said the infectiousness of the new UK variant means it's likely there will be more community cases of COVID-19 in the coming days.

She told reporters that the number of high exposure events with potentially large numbers of people, over a sustained period of time, is a worry.

"That high number of events means it's more than likely there will be additional cases in the community but they might not show up in test results for a few more days yet."

Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub.

1:38pm - An update from Auckland Aiport:

Auckland's move into alert level 3 for a period of seven days will mean changes for travellers at Auckland Airport.

As an essential service Auckland Airport remains operational but from 6am, Sunday 28 February travel to and from Auckland has been restricted to those needing to get home or travelling for other essential purposes.

Access to the domestic and international terminals will only be open to passengers travelling that day.

Auckland Airport’s tips for travellers include:

  • Give yourself more time. Things might take a bit longer - from check-in to boarding - so please give yourself plenty of time to get to and through the airport
  • Terminal entry has been restricted to allow for separate entry and exit doors. Only passengers can come into the terminal. Be prepared to have your travel itinerary checked at the door, and you may be asked about your reason for travel. If you’re unable to catch your flight without assistance, one support person will be able to enter the terminal building with you.
  • There might be extra wait time inside the terminal. We’re going to need to carefully manage your journey through the terminal to ensure everyone can keep a safe space between them and their fellow passengers. This might mean some additional time spent waiting to be processed. Please be patient.
  • Stay safe and leave space. We’ve got lots of reminders in place to maintain physical distancing, but we need everyone to play their part to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
  • Scan with your COVID-19 Tracer app and make sure Bluetooth is on or keep a notebook record of your visit to the terminal.
  • You’ll need to wear a mask on your flight and public transport to and from the airport, and we’re asking people to wear masks when they are inside the terminal.
  • Please use the hand sanitiser stations around the terminal, the disposable wipe stations you will find at trolley stands, and bins for the disposal of face masks are available throughout the terminal.

1:35pm - National Party leader Judith Collins is calling for tougher monitoring of COVID-19 contacts supposed to be self-isolating following the emergence of two new community cases on Saturday. 

"People are self-isolating at home and they're being phoned, four times in one case, by the contact tracing people and they just leave it," she told Newshub Nation.

"Well, why isn't someone going round there and seeing them?"

Watch her full interview with Newshub Nation here.

Collins. Photo credit: Getty/Newshub Nation.

1:27pm - PM Ardern says advice for seven day lockdown was due to number of potential exposure events.

Dr Bloomfield says alert levels will be constantly reviewed.

1:20pm - Dr Bloomfield says UK variant is causing "unpredictability".

He's confident alert level 3 restrictions are tough enough, so long as people comply with the rules.

1:19pm - PM Ardern says those who haven't followed self-isolation rules has lead to "dire consequences". 

1:14pm - Ardern warns more community COVID-19 cases are likely in the coming days.

1:13pm - PM Ardern says there's now potentially a person-to-person link between new community COVID cases - which is good news.

She says that narrows down other potential chains of transmission.

1:12pm - Dr Bloomfield says UK variant presenting abnormal symptoms, urges vigilance.

He urges Aucklanders to follow alert level 3 rules.

1:11pm - Dr Bloomfield says extra staff on Healthline on Sunday for those seeking advice.

1:06pm - There are no new COVID-19 cases in the community, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says.

1:04pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is speaking now.

12:59pm - Newshub is now breaking into normal programming for the COVID-19 update. Watch live on Three and in the video above.

12:30pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will provide a COVID-19 update in half an hour. Watch it live on Three and in the video above.

12:27pm - The shift back to lockdown could prove the final straw for some Auckland businesses.

Mt Eden Espresso owner Zafer Isiklar told Newshub he's devastated.

"We were trying to keep our head above the water but it seems [like] it's not going that way."

12:24pm - Tons of food and drink is expected to go to waste on Sunday as hospitality preparation in Auckland goes out the window.

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois says it's a bitter blow.

"Sunday's such a big day for hospo [sic] and our businesses have stocked up on food for the days ahead," she told Newshub. "Many will incur wastage costs on top of significantly reduced revenue."

12:19pm - There are massive queues at Auckland's COVID-19 testing centres.

Speaking from the Botany Downs centre, Newshub's Lisette Reymer says many are taking the "safe not sorry" approach.

"They've come to get a test simply because they've got slight symptoms."

As it happened: Latest on Auckland COVID outbreak - Sunday, February 28
Photo credit: Getty

12:15pm - The ACT party is blaming the Government's pandemic response for the mystery surround the source of the latest COVID-19 cases.

Party leader David Seymour says there wouldn't be any blindspots if the Government's strategy was working.

"Was the Government in control of this outbreak? I suspect they weren't and they must be transparent about a number of questions, including how this outbreak wasn't under control."

12:10pm - Experts are scrambling to figure out further details about the latest two community cases of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newshub Nation there are still plenty of questions about the cases.

"There isn't a clear epidemiological link, or a clear link, that explains how the contact might have happened, at this point.

"We'll keep digging - we continue to investigate and identify where that unknown transmission might have taken place."

12:04pm - Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will provide a COVID-19 update at 1pm, the Prime Minister's office has just confirmed. You can watch it live on Three and in the video above.

As it happened: Latest on Auckland COVID outbreak - Sunday, February 28
Photo credit: Getty

11:45am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says there are no plans to prioritise the coronavirus vaccine for south Auckland first, despite the most recent cluster.

Speaking on Newshub Nation, Hipkins says border workers and frontline health workers are first in line for the vaccine while stocks are limited.

"Then we look at two things - people who are most at risk and settings that are most at risk," he said on Sunday.

11:22am - The ACT party believes Government failures lead to the latest lockdown.

Party leader David Seymour says there have been few improvements to the COVID-19 response.

"New Zealand's the most isolated developed country in the world - fighting COVID from here is easier than anywhere, so New Zealanders can have some hope if the Government resets its attitude."

11:19am - National leader Judith Collins wants vulnerable Aucklanders prioritised when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Collins says a call needs to be made.

"South Auckland has to have priority and the Government needs to put south Auckland first on that vaccination list, after the port and other border workers," she told Newshub Nation. 

As it happened: Latest on Auckland COVID outbreak - Sunday, February 28
Photo credit: File

11:15am - Aucklanders are flocking to COVID-19 testing stations.

Speaking from a station at Botany Downs, Newshub's Lisette Reymer says there's a big queue of cars.

"The queue is exceptionally long - this testing centre opened at 8 o'clock this morning. People arrived half an hour early and were already having to queue up."

11:10am - COVID-19 modelling expert Shaun Hendy says the number of people who may have been infected by the latest cases is completely unknown.

"Hopefully people have been using the [COVID Tracer] app to scan in so that public health officials can notify them," he told Newshub Nation. "There's certainly a lot of potential interactions that could have lead to spread."

11:05am - To recap what we heard earlier heard from COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. He confirmed the latest coronavirus cases are linked to the original Papatoetoe cluster.

Speaking to Newshub Nation, Hipkins said genomic sequencing showed the infections are most closely linked to the second infected family.

"That's encouraging in the sense that we know we've got a scientific link there," he said. "What we don't yet have is a scientific understanding of how the virus transmitted from them to these latest cases."

Hipkins will front a media conference again at 1pm.
Hipkins will front a media conference again at 1pm. Photo credit: Newshub.

11am - That's it for Newshub Nation. Officials will provide an update on the COVID-19 situaton at 1pm - which you will be able to watch live on Three and in the video above.

10:52am - Newshub's Lisette Reymer says there are massive queues at the Botany COVID-19 testing centre.

10:50am - Epsom MP Seymour defends Government not cancelling events in Auckland on Saturday night.

Jacinda Ardern and David Seymour.
Jacinda Ardern and David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub.

10:48am - ACT leader David Seymour told Newshub Nation the Government needs to reset its "attitude of complacency" around COVID-19.

10:47am - A reminder of the places of interest following the latest COVID-19 cases:

  • City Fitness in Hunters Plaza (20 and 26 February)
  • Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) (22, 25, 26 February)
  • Hunters Plaza (February 26)
  • Burger King Highland Park (February 25)
  • Your Health Pharmacy (February 23)
  • Pak'n Save Manukau (February 21).

10:37am - Prof Baker says COVID-19 decision-making in New Zealand is good but could be better.

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

10:34am - Epidemiologist Michael Baker told Newshub Nation there are good reasons for a move to alert level 3.

Prof Baker says the fact the latest case has been in the community potentially infectious for a week is concerning.

10:24am - National leader Judith Collins is calling for "far more rigorous" testing following latest COVID-19 cases.

10:21am - Up next on Newshub Nation is National leader Judith Collins - watch live on Three and in the video above.

Collins. Photo credit: The AM Show

10:13am - Hipkins says no plans to vaccinate south Auckland first despite latest developments.

10:12am - Minister Hipkins says latest developments are frustrating and disappointing, but urges people to stay focussed.

10:11am - Hipkins says messaging around isolating has been "very clear".

He says there's a been a degree of complacency.

10:10am - Minister Hipkins defends not cancelling events in Auckland on Saturday night.

He says if people are already at events there isn't much increased risk.

10:09am - Hipkins says he learned about latest COVID-19 cases about 3pm on Saturday.

10:08am - Minister Hipkins understands family at centre of latest COVID-19 cases have been moved to the Jet Park Hotel quarantine facility.

10:07am - Hipkins says latest COVID-19 case has significant number of potential exposure events.

10:06am - Minister Hipkins says it's unclear how many more people could have become infected.

10:05am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says there's still no understanding of how the latest cases were transmitted.

10am - It's time for Newshub Nation. You can watch live on Three and in the video above.

9:45am - A Newshub Nation special will air at 10am, with COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins fronting first. You can watch it live on Three and in the video above.

Hipkins. Photo credit: The AM Show

9:36am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed to TVNZ's Q+A the latest cases appear to be linked to the original south Auckland cluster, with genomic sequencing showing they are the UK variant.

9:25am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff hopes the new lockdown will be a wake up call for those getting complacent with restrictions.

Goff is making a plea to the community.

"The worst thing is to let this disease spread and we can't afford to do that," he told Newshub on Saturday. "Please do the right thing.

"Don't put others at risk - don't put yourself or your family at risk." 

9:13am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Saturday defended the decision to bring Auckland out of COVID-19 alert level 3 on February 17.

Ardern told reporters advice to lift the lockdown, at that stage, was appropriate.

Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

9am - A central Auckland cafe owner is reeling after being sent back into lockdown.

Mt Eden Espresso owner Zafer Isiklar says the situation is now dire.

"When I found out it was quite devastating," he told Newshub. 

8:50am - As a result of the latest COVID-19 alert level changes, several events throughout New Zealand have been cancelled. You can find them here.

8:23am - There are concerns the COVID-19 wage subsidy is unlikely to keep some Auckland businesses from closing their doors for good.

Auckland Business Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says many employers were on shaky ground even before the latest COVID-19 cases.

"The resurgence package is also there and, again, that's not going to save businesses but it's going to be support for them," he told Newshub on Saturday.

Barnett. Photo credit: The AM Show

8:20am - A gym and a mall are among the places of interest following the latest COVID-19 cases in Auckland.  

The Ministry of Health has listed six new places of interest with dates and says people who visited those places should get tested and isolate for 14 days. 

Those places are: 

  • City Fitness in Hunters Plaza (20 and 26 February)
  • Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) (22, 25, 26 February)
  • Hunters Plaza (February 26)
  • Burger King Highland Park (February 25)
  • Your Health Pharmacy (February 23)
  • Pak'n Save Manukau (February 21)

8:15am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told Newshub disobeying public health rules is unacceptable.

"For us to succeed in defeating this virus, everyone's got to play their role - not 95 percent of us but everybody."

Goff. Photo credit: Getty / RNZ

8am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accepts people will be feeling angry as Auckland heads back into lockdown.

Ardern on Saturday tried to reassure the public.

"Everyone feels frustrated," she told reporters. "No-one wants the uncertainty this pandemic is creating, but we are very close to being in a much more certain future as our vaccination programme rolls out.

"We just need to hang in there."

7:37am - The latest developments come 12 months to the day since New Zealand's first recorded COVID-19 infection.

Otago University public health professor Michael Baker told Newshub if people stick to the guidelines, New Zealand can continue to stamp out the virus.

"It's exactly a year since New Zealand had its first case of COVID-19 - so New Zealand has got very good at managing this pandemic."

7:32am - The National Party says the alert level change siutation is a timely reminder of how important it is to stick to the rules.

National COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says New Zealand is fed up with yo-yoing between alert levels.

"What's really important now is that everyone follows the public health advice and the people  who need to get tested - go and get tested, and the people who need to self-isolate - go and self-isolate," he told Newshub on Saturday.

Bishop. Photo credit: Newshub.

7:29am - Businesses are warning the Government's financial aid packages are unlikely to keep some of them from going under.

Auckland Business Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett told Newshub the funds are supporting them, not saving them.

"We need to remember the wage subsidy is a jobkeeper - it doesn't really help business but what it does do for the Government - it keeps people employed."

7:25am - It's been revealed one of the latest COVID-19 cases failed to self-isolate after getting a test and instead went to an Auckland gym.

But Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says finger-pointing will only cause more harm.

"You don't get anywhere by blaming and shaming people," he told Newshub on Saturday. "That simply means that people that get the symptoms won't go and get tested, won't tell anybody, and that makes the situation far worse." 

7:20am - One of the latest community cases of COVID-19 is a 21-year-old man who's a student at the Manukau Institute of Technology.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a media conference the man was tested for COVID-19 on Friday and returned the positive test on Saturday.

"He developed symptoms of general weakness and fever on Tuesday, February 23, and loss of taste and smell the following day," Dr Bloomfield said on Saturday.

"We are regarding him as infectious since last weekend."

Dr Bloomfield.
Dr Bloomfield. Photo credit: Newshub.

7:14am - COVID-19 alert level 3 has been in place in Auckland for just over an hour, while the rest of New Zealand is at level 2.

Prime Minister Jacinda says there are some worrying factors about the two latest community cases of COVID-19.

"We don't yet know the source of the person's infection," she told reporters on Saturday. "That could mean there are missing links - that is another cause for concern, alongside all of those high-risk exposure events."  

6:59am - Public health professor Michael Baker told Newshub it's concerning the chain of transmission of the latest COVID-19 cases isn't clear.

"The problem is if you don't know if there is transmission in the community - you can't use the contact tracing system because you don't know the cases and their contacts."

6:56am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says going back to alert level 3 is frustrating but necessary.

"I think that everybody understands that the consequences of letting the virus spread would be far worse for everybody," he told Newshub on Saturday. "This is something that we've got to do.

"We've done it before, we've succeeded - we'll do it again."

6:54am - Finance Minister Grant Robertson says the COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme will be available for businesses impacted by the alert level change and will apply nationwide.

"It's also important to note that you can receive both the wage subsidy scheme and the resurgence support payment that has been open over the last week or so."

6:50am - Auckland Business Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says heading back into lockdown will have a significant impact on the city.

"I think it will be devastating for those sectors who have been badly impacted to date; so that's going to be retail, food and beverage, hospitality, accommodation, and the events sectors," he told Newshub on Saturday.

6:46am - America's Cup organisers are reviewing plans for the head-to-head final between Italy and New Zealand after the latest COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland.

The opening race of the best-of-13 series between Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli and America’s Cup holders Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) is due to be held in the waters off Auckland on March 6.

"America's Cup is reviewing the situation and will be working with the authorities and relevant agencies over the next few days to work through the implications," the organisers said in a statement on Saturday.

- Reuters

6:43am - The Blackcaps have confirmed their T20 series against Australia will continue under the new COVID-19 alert level changes. 

New Zealand Cricket says the doubleheader including the Blackcaps and White Ferns on Wednesday, at Sky Stadium in Wellington, will continue as planned but with no crowd. 

The fourth T20 on at Eden Park on Friday will be shifted to the capital and again be played with no crowd. 

Read more here.

The Mercer border checkpoint on Sunday morning.
The Mercer border checkpoint on Sunday morning. Photo credit: Newshub.

6:30am - At a press conference on Saturday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the sites visited by the infectious COVID-19 case were "well-populated".

"Given the time that has passed since the onset of their illness, we may well have close contacts who are already infected," she told reporters.