COVID-19: Early lowering of alert levels possible but not likely - Chris Hipkins

After another day of zero community cases there is growing optimism the latest COVID-19 outbreak may be under control, however the Government says it is unlikely lockdown restrictions will be removed early.

Speaking to media on Wednesday COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hikpins said New Zealand was still in a "critical period" but did not rule out lowering the country's alert levels earlier than initially signalled.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Saturday night Auckland would be moving to alert level 3 for a period of at least seven days as of 6am Sunday, with the rest of the country shifting to level 2.

COVID tests for many of the close and casual contacts relating to the latest outbreak have now come back negative, leading some people hopeful of an earlier shift down alert levels.

But when asked if that was an option, Hikpins said the Government was taking a number of factors into account in making its decision, and "we're not quite there yet".

"I think we're still in the critical period where we're wanting to see all the test results of the relevant close and casual contacts come back, so that work is still underway," he said.

"There's some test results still to come through for people who we really want to see the test results for before we can breathe any kind of sigh of relief."

He said the number of community cases reported each day was just one of many things the Government looked at in deciding whether alert levels could be lowered, including "what other warning signs or risk factors there might be out there".

"Every time we've done this people have wanted to have some certainty earlier than is possible to give, and this is one of those cases where it will really depend on what information we have at the time when we make that decision," he said

"We do get information literally right up to 15 minutes before we go into the Cabinet meeting, that's how up to date the information is we have when we make these decisions." 

Fifteen cases of COVID-19 have so far been reported in the community relating to the latest outbreak.