COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community outbreak - Tuesday, March 2

Aucklanders are waking up to their third day in COVID-19 alert level 3, with more test results expected to be announced on Tuesday.

The city was plunged back into lockdown, less than two weeks after last being at level 3, after several new cases were recorded who had visited several locations while potentially infectious.

New Zealand currently has 15 COVID-19 cases linked to the Auckland February cluster - cases A through to O.

There were no new cases reported in the community on Monday and Ashley Bloomfield is expected to provide New Zealand's latest update at 1pm.

What you need to know: 

These live updates have finished.

9:20pm - The Prime Minister, Director-General of Health, and principal of Papatoetoe High School say they'll look at how communication can be improved after a COVID-19 case says she did not receive clear instructions to self-isolate. 

It comes as new information on contact tracing from this current outbreak shows we're still underperforming.

Papatoetoe High's principal Vaughan Couillault says he's known Case L and her family since 2018. 

He says the students have won awards and they're a "good family".  

Read and watch the full story from Newshub investigations reporter Michael Morrah here.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community outbreak - Tuesday, March 2
Photo credit: Getty Images / Newshub.

9pm - A psychology expert says he has some sympathy for those who have failed to follow public health advice, with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 and lockdowns continuing to have an impact on communities.

Dr Christopher Gale, from the University of Otago, says people are tired. Auckland was placed back into alert level 3 on Saturday night, just days after previous restrictions were lifted.

He told Newshub while it's not necessarily appropriate for people to break the rules, officials had to find a balance between the law and cooperation.

"When the mortgages are tight and finances are tight, people are probably going to go to work. They are going to go back to various things so I've got a certain sense of sympathy for people who have broken the rules."

Read the full story here.

8:40pm - The Cook Islands Cabinet has decided not to allow passengers on a flight that is due to arrive on Friday into the country.

"We have taken a precautionary approach particularly with New Zealand's decision to stay at alert level 2 with Auckland at alert level 3 until Friday when the situation will be re-assessed," Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown says.

"We know that this will frustrate some of our returning Cook Islanders and others travelling here for work, but Cabinet has made a decision, we believe, in the best interests of the country. We will review the situation later this week. Cabinet was encouraged that there have been no new community cases for the last two days, but also noted Dr Bloomfield's comment 'we are not out of the woods'."

8:20pm - Organisers of Auckland's Pasifika Festival say they're working with event stakeholders to discuss the different options for the event this year following the city's move to alert level 3.

Richard Clarke, head of major events at Auckland Unlimited, says Pasifika has been cancelled the past two years, so they want to deliver the event for Pacific communities, Aucklanders, and visitors if permissible.

"We want to reassure people we are looking at every possible option in order to give ourselves the best opportunity to deliver the event," he says.

"As we have said before, the health and safety of the community and everyone involved in the delivery of Pasifika is our top priority. Pasifika can only be delivered at alert level 1.

"We will provide an update on any decisions made as soon as we can."

Auckland Pasifika Festival in 2019.
Auckland Pasifika Festival in 2019. Photo credit: Getty Images

8pm - The translated official COVID-19 advice for South-East Asian Communities - some of whom are in the current cluster - are only coming out today on the third day of a week-long lockdown.

It comes after some of the most recent additions to our Auckland cluster have been criticised for not following the rules.  

The Asian Network Inc (TANI) was asked last night to translate the official COVID-19 advice in up to 11 languages.

"It's much faster than before," TANI director Vishal Rishi said.

"By the time it was done [last lockdown] half of the time was already gone, so the lockdown was [nearly] over."

Read the full story here.

7:20pm - The National Party says the Government is "still failing" its own contact tracing performance measures and is "failing to be open and transparent about locations of interest".

National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says information supplied to the party from the Health Minister shows "that in both the recent Northland case and the Papatoetoe outbreak, the Ministry of Health failed against two measures of contact tracing that were considered 'critical' by the Government".

The Government sets a target of having 80 per cent of contacts of an index case located and isolated within four days, Dr Rety says, but in some cases related to these two incidents, only 52 per cent of contacts were isolated within four days.

"Alongside reports from the current Papatoetoe outbreak that contacts were called but not visited, this shows the Government needs to do better with contact tracing," Dr Reti says.

"Dr Ayesha Verrall's audit into the Government's contact tracing regime last year made it clear that our system was lacklustre, and the Government promised to turn this around."

He says the Government needs to say whether its contact tracing indicators have ever been completely met in any of the community outbreaks since the August lockdown last year.

"There is no excuse for not implementing Dr Ayesha Verrall's recommendations in full given she's sitting right there at the Cabinet table."

Dr Shane Reti.
Dr Shane Reti. Photo credit: Newshub.

7pm - The Biden administration on Monday downplayed the prospect of sharing coronavirus vaccines with Mexico, saying it is focused first on getting its own population protected against a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans.

The remarks by White House press secretary Jen Psaki came before a video conference between Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and US President Joe Biden, in which the Mexican leader was expected to ask the United States to consider sharing some of its COVID-19 vaccine supply.

"The administration's focus is on ensuring that every American is vaccinated. And once we accomplish that objective, we're happy to discuss further steps," Psaki said at a White House news conference.

Biden told reporters that the two leaders would discuss the issue at the meeting's outset. But an official statement released after the meeting ended made no mention of vaccine distribution.

Biden has predicted the United States will have enough supply by late July to inoculate all Americans. US authorities have administered 76.9 million doses to date, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, enough for 23 percent of the population to get the two doses recommended for full protection under the vaccines that have been deployed so far.

Mexico has vaccinated roughly 2.5 million doses so far, enough for about 1 percent of the population, according to data compiled by Reuters here. Officials have been frustrated by bottlenecks in supply and raised concerns that wealthy countries are hoarding vaccines.

Loprez Obrador said at a news conference before the meeting that he would ask Biden to share the vaccines it has. Mexico would repay Washington once pharmaceutical companies have delivered on their orders, according to Reuters reporting.

In a joint statement released after the meeting, the two countries said they would deepen their cooperation on COVID-19 response.

They also said they would work together on immigration policies "that recognise the dignity of migrants and the imperative of orderly, safe, and regular migration."

- Reuters

6:40pm - Chlöe Swarbrick says new regulations for student accommodation are desperately needed after a number of students were turned away from their homes upon returning to a locked down Auckland.

The Green MP told Newshub she knew of "a handful" of students who had tried to return to their university halls in the central Auckland electorate and been told they could not stay there.

She did not directly name the universities involved but a spokesperson for the University of Auckland told Newshub none of their students were denied accommodation.

Read the full story here.

Chlöe Swarbrick.
Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo credit: Getty Images

6:20pm - Strict rules inside New Zealand's MIQ hotels are designed to stop the virus' spread, but guests, staff, and security are breaking those rules on average almost once a day.

Newshub can reveal there are dozens of bubble and PPE breaches every month, and health experts warn it is only a matter of time before one leads to another community outbreak. 

Read the full story here.

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

5:40pm - The United States reported a 3 percent decline in new cases of COVID-19 last week, a much smaller drop than in the previous six weeks, and health officials warned that progress against the global pandemic was stalling.

New cases fell as much as 25 percent in the week ended February 7 and 23 percent in the week ended February 21, before plateauing last week, according to a Reuters analysis of US state and county reports.

The country logged an average of over 68,000 new cases per day for the week ended February 28, with deaths averaging at 2055 per day.

"I remain deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic. The latest CDC data continue to suggest that recent declines in cases have leveled off at a very high number," said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Walensky said she was alarmed by some local governments rolling back restrictions on masks and social distancing just as more infectious variants of the virus are spreading. "We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained," she said.

Twenty-nine out of 50 states reported more new infections last week compared to the previous seven days, whereas only seven states in the prior week reported weekly increases, according to the Reuters analysis.

- Reuters

5:20pm - BusinessNZ says it endorses comments made by business leaders about the need for clarity on the Government's strategic direction in combatting COVID-19.

Chief executive Kirk Hope says the Government has done a good job of continuing to keep the virus at bay, but believes businesses would like to see more clarity on the proposed pathway out of the pandemic.

"The BusinessNZ Network and its members are keen to work with the Government to help co-deliver a pathway out of COVID that engenders both positive health and economic outcomes," he says.

Hope says while they've worked successfully with Government agencies in providing information and services, he believes a "more coherent" is needed.

"Stronger engagement with business - for example by the Ministry of Health on key matters such as the vaccine rollout - would allow for more successful delivery of information and services," he says.

"There is also a need to understand and to have dialogue on the Government's overall strategy for ongoing sustainable management of the pandemic into the future.

"Businesses and communities would like to see relevant agencies sharing more operational information and the Government sharing more detail of its strategic direction in the fight against COVID."

Kirk Hope.
Kirk Hope. Photo credit: The AM Show

5pm - The location of a COVID-19 case that is classed as "unknown" on the Ministry of Health website is in fact a mariner who tested positive while on board a shipping vessel.

"The mariner's location is unknown as the vessel has now departed from New Zealand and the mariner has no plans to return to New Zealand," a Ministry of Health spokesperson told Newshub.

4:35pm - Counties Manukau DHB is offering free urgent care to some members of the public while alert level 3 is in place.

Until 8am on Sunday, five urgent care clinics in the area are giving free same-day care to community services cardholders, children under 14, people aged 65 and over, and high user health cardholders.

The clinics are Local Doctors Otara, Local Doctors Mangere, Local Doctors Flat Bush, Local Doctors Manurewa, and White Cross Otahuhu. 

"Please remember that this is for urgent care only e.g. things which need to be seen immediately and if you aren't able to see your regular family doctor. For routine care such as the treatment of long-term conditions, repeat prescriptions and doctor’s certificates, please contact your family doctor," a post on the Counties Manukau DHB Facebook page says.

"Get the right care for you and your whānau and help keep ED free for those who really need it. For more information, please visit our website."

4:15pm - Dr Ben Gray, an associate professor at the University of Otago, Wellington's Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, has outlined in a post on the university's website how to best prioritise New Zealand's vaccine rollout.

"In New Zealand, given that we continue to be able to control cases at the border and do not end up with endemic disease, our priorities need to be different [from the United Kingdom, whose vaccine priorities largely go by age]. We have started with vaccinating border workers in settings such as MIQ facilities, followed by vaccinating their whānau," he writes.

"The argument for vaccinating the whānau of frontline workers is not that they are especially vulnerable, but that by doing this we make the likelihood of a community outbreak less (given it is the border where the risk of disease importation exists)."

Gray argues that if all the people who come into contact with those infected by COVID-19 are vaccinated and all their contacts and people in their communities are vaccinated, then it is less and less likely there will be community spread from a border control failure.

He says New Zealand vaccines priorities should therefore be:

  • any border or health worker likely to be exposed to cases of COVID-19, either already diagnosed or asymptomatic - this includes those doing testing
  • family/household members of these workers
  • the communities within which these workers live
  • New Zealanders planning to leave on a return trip to COVID-19 endemic areas.

"The last category may raise concerns. Surely these are privileged people who can afford to travel and should not 'jump the queue' just because they are able to travel? My argument is that yes they get a personal benefit (of being less likely to catch COVID-19 whilst abroad) but the benefit to the community of having fewer people arriving in NZ with COVID-19 justifies vaccinating these people before the leave, so that they are not infected when they come back," Gray says.

He adds people could be vaccinated on arrival into New Zealand, which may help contain any spread within the quarantine facilities. He then suggests vaccinating the rest of the community with the aim of reaching high enough numbers in the country overall and in every community to mean the requirement to enter MIQ on arrival in New Zealand wouldn't be needed anymore.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community outbreak - Tuesday, March 2
Photo credit: Getty Images

3:55pm - Here's some more information on the four new cases in MIQ that were announced earlier today.

All cases arrived on February 28 and tested positive on day zero routine testing.

The first arrived from India via the United Arab Emirates, the second and third travelled together from Ethiopia via the United Arab Emirates, and the fourth flew from Canada via the United Arab Emirates.

Two previously reported COVID-19 cases have now recovered and the total number of active cases in New Zealand is 69.

The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 1,720,909. On Monday, 8880 tests were processed and the seven-day rolling average up to Monday is 7780 tests processed.

3:40pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield are pushing back against a COVID-19 case's claim that she did not receive clear instructions to self-isolate. 

The COVID-positive KFC worker, known as case L, told Newshub she was upset Ardern said she should have been isolating instead of going to work, as the advice she received was that she did not need to. 

But Ardern and Dr Bloomfield dispute her claims, saying several emails were sent from Papatoetoe High School where the outbreak occurred, and 15 text messages and phone calls were made to the family. 

Read the full story here.

3:20pm - MIQ fees are set to increase from March 25 for temporary entry visa class holders.

The fees are currently $3100 for 14 days in managed isolation. But from 12:01am on March 25, 2021, this will increase to $5520 (including GST) for the first or only person in a room, $2990 for an additional adult, and $1610 for an additional child.

The latest changes affect all temporary entry visa class holders, including:

  • visitor visas (such as partners of a New Zealand citizen or resident)
  • student visas
  • work visas
  • limited visas.

"The Government recovers some of the costs for managed isolation to share the costs in a way that fairly reflects the benefits to both the New Zealand public of having a robust system, and those who leave and enter the country," an MIQ release says.

"The new fees better reflect the actual costs of managed isolation, although the Government is still subsidising some of the cost.

"The new fees are the same as those charged to critical workers entering the country under a border exception."

Temporary entry class visa holders who have already booked MIQ places and enter facilities from March 25 will be liable to pay the new fees.

This change will not affect temporary entry class visa holders who have entered managed isolation and quarantine before 12:01am on March 25 - the current settings apply to these people.

"Critical healthcare workers entering under a border exception will continue to be charged the current standard fee of $3100 to ensure the healthcare workforce can be quickly scaled up in case of a resurgence of COVID-19," the MIQ release says.

"MBIE can grant a full or partial waiver of managed isolation fees in cases of financial hardship or other special circumstances, or arrange a deferment of payment, for temporary entry visa class holders."

3:15pm - Auckland February cases contact tracing update from the Ministry of Health

Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT)

Contact tracing of the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Manukau campus has identified 21 close contacts of Case M, who are being followed up and provided advice from public health staff regarding isolating and testing.

The vast majority of people on the campus at the same times as Case M are considered casual contacts and need to watch for symptoms. They do not need to have a test unless they have symptoms, or are a close or casual plus contact. All casual contacts should be limiting their movements and interactions with other people.

City Fitness in Hunters Plaza

Contact tracing of City Fitness in Hunters Plaza has identified 158 casual plus contacts. These contacts will be followed up by contact tracing teams to ensure that they get a test and stay at home until the test is negative.

If you were at the gym on February 20 between 12:20pm and 1:45pm or February 26 between 3:25pm - 4:30pm and have not been contacted then please phone Healthline for advice. 

KFC Botany Downs contacts

KFC staff - there are 11 close plus contacts who worked at the same time as Case L. Ten of these people have returned negative test results so far.

All other test results received so far have come back negative.

Progress with tests at Papatoetoe High School

Case A had 31 close contacts at the school, one of these tested positive (Case D). All others have tested negative for COVID-19.

All the remaining students and staff at the school have been designated as casual plus contacts of Case A.

All casual plus contacts have been undergoing a follow-up test on or after February 22. More than 97 percent of results are back and all results from the follow-up tests are negative.

Kmart Botany contacts

A total of 34 staff members have been identified as close plus contacts and all 34 have tested negative.

The Ministry of Health has been contacted by 1855 people who reported being at the store at the times of interest and they have been given public health advice. These people have been asked to isolate for 14 days and be tested at day five and day 12 after their exposure to the case. People who have symptoms will be tested at the appropriate time.

There are currently 1805 negative test results for this group.

3pm - Since February 14, the Ministry of Health says there has been over 70,000 community tests for COVID-19 in metro Auckland, which is equivalent to more than 4 percent of the region's population. A total of 8880 tests were carried out nationally on Monday.

There are 11 community testing centres open in Auckland on Tuesday, and seven of these are in south and east Auckland. The centres are in Takanini, Wiri, Mangere, Otara, Pakuranga, Balmoral, New Lynn, Henderson, and Northcote, with pop-up testing centres at Kohuora Park in Papatoetoe and Barry Curtis Park in Flat Bush.

"Community testing centres in Auckland are reporting steady demand today. A reminder that GP and urgent care clinics are also available to carry out COVID-19 tests. COVID-19 tests are free wherever you go," the ministry says.

"A reminder that it is important the right people get tested. Please don't get a test if you are well, or if you weren't at one of the locations of interest at the stated times unless you have been advised to by public health teams. Remember the most important thing people in Auckland should be doing at alert Level 3 is staying home.

"As always, anywhere you are in the country, if you have symptoms please stay home and call Healthline (0800 358 5453) for advice."

Information on Auckland testing locations is available here and a list of testing locations nationwide can be viewed here.

COVID-19 live updates: Latest on Auckland community outbreak - Tuesday, March 2
Photo credit: Getty Images

2:45pm - The Green Party is calling on the Government to assess how the COVID-19 leave support scheme can be better improved, distributed, and enforced so that workers can properly take leave when self-isolating.

"There is anecdotal evidence that people are not staying home from work when they should, either because they can't afford to, or because their employer is asking them to come in. The Government needs to take another look at its support system to make sure we're keeping everyone safe from COVID-19," Green Party COVID-19 response spokesperson Julie Anne Genter says.

"We need people to be able to afford staying home from work when they need to self-isolate. If this means the scheme needs to be more generous, we would absolutely support that. Our policy of a guaranteed minimum income would ensure everyone has enough to live with dignity."

Genter also suggests it should be explored whether workers should be able to apply for financial support directly, so that it is not left up to employers, who "may not apply or may withhold payment".

"There is a big power imbalance with the schemes application sitting with the employer, rather than the employee. This has resulted in some businesses either not properly giving the support out or not applying in the first place," she says.

"The success in keeping Aotearoa free of COVID-19 rests on the ability for New Zealanders to stay home. We must always be reviewing how we can improve support schemes that help make this happen."

2:30pm - CERT NZ, the Government's cyber security agency, says it is working to put a stop to COVID-19 vaccine scam campaigns to ensure the safe roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Scammers will use any opportunity to try to trick and manipulate people into giving out their personal or financial details, especially through email and SMS scams," it says.

"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. If you are, it’s likely a scam. The best way you can help us stop these scams is report them to us."

2:15pm - The Ministry of Health is reminding people what they need to do if they come into contact with a casual or casual plus contact.

"With so many locations of interest, it's understandable to be concerned. If you came into contact with a casual or casual plus contact, you should monitor your health and if you develop any symptoms, call your GP or Healthline for advice about getting a test," they say.

"If you are a household member of a close or close plus contact, they will receive instructions from your local public health unit about what your household should do."

More information about contact tracing and actions for contacts and their households is available here.

2pm - After using Tinder to advertise in 2014, Jacinda Ardern is now endorsing the Ministry of Health to use TikTok for COVID-19 messaging, in a bid to capture youth attention. 

The Government is facing questions about the effectiveness of its COVID-19 messaging after a community case of coronavirus claimed she didn't receive clear instructions to self-isolate

Ardern maintains the Government did give clear instructions, but says she's open to improving the communication around COVID-19 messaging, including reaching out to young people through video-based apps like TikTok. 

Read the full story here.

1:50pm - The Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) says it strongly supports calls by senior business leaders for more openness and cooperation around the Government's plan for the ongoing management of COVID-19.

Chief executive Brett O'Riley says business owners are being crippled by increasing pressure and costs from the ongoing series of lockdowns.

"While the Government and various agencies have acted quickly to support both employers and employees in the most recent rapid lockdowns, the pressure mounts on both of those groups as each successive lockdown is doing more damage to already struggling businesses and their employees," he says.

"Many of our smaller businesses are just hanging on and reaching the end of their capability to continue supporting their staff and their own operations. The vast majority of business owners, supported by their staff, have gone out of their way to try everything they can to keep people in work."

But O'Riley says that may not last much longer as more tough decisions loom.

"It's great to see the major businesses in our community recognising the strain on the SME sector and showing their willingness to add support and resources to assist the Government in managing the ongoing, long-term challenges presented by COVID-19.

"The Government should accept that offer with alacrity and begin sharing its plans for the future management of the pandemic."

1:35pm - The virus entering the community via LSG Sky Chefs remains the most likely source of infection, Dr Bloomfield says. However, the daughter in that family had symptoms first.

1:30pm - There have been high rates of transmission within families, but outside of the families, this variant has been unpredictable. Only one classmate and one other student contracted the virus from the original student.

After 15 texts or calls, shouldn't officials follow them up? Dr Bloomfield says officials were following up hundreds of people. There had been extremely high levels of testing and cooperation. Officials will look into what more can be done in the future.

The four people from the school who haven't been tested are not willing to take a test, Dr Bloomfield says. But there is a management plan in place for them. He is not disappointed, but surprised it is such a small number.

1:25pm - Anyone who has had a test because they are symptomatic should isolate until they get that result back, Dr Bloomfield stresses.

With people's entire lives being exposed before the nation, it's understandable that people may be concerned about sharing key information, he says. People may be in relationships they don't want to disclose or have been to locations that could be cause for embarrassment, he says. There are no such venues involved in this cluster.

While there have been no new cases on Monday or Tuesday, Dr Bloomfield says lockdown is still needed. We may not see cases from last week's exposure events until later in the week.

1:20pm - It is frustrating that the rule breaches in this instance have had such an impact on others, Dr Bloomfield says. He believes messaging has been very clear and that is proved by so many students at the school getting tested and cooperating with officials as required. 

Messages were put out across a range of channels and in several languages. It's not uncommon for students not to pass information on to their parents, he says.

1:15pm - He is aware that all members of the school community received at least three letters with instructions. There had been multiple attempts to communicate with the infected family, Dr Bloomfield says.

There were no inconsistencies across the information being communicated to families and members of the school community, he says.

It was "remarkable" to get the level of support from the school community that we did, Dr Bloomfield tells media.

Everyone needs to do their bit for the country to beat COVID-19. Dr Bloomfield says he would be concerned that a punitive approach to rule-breakers would stop people coming forward for testing.

1:10pm - Dr Bloomfield says of the 1855 school contacts, all but four have had at least one test result. The other four have management plans in place. About 50 have second test results pending.

At MIT, there are 21 close contacts isolating and being tested. The vast majority of people on campus at the same time are casual contacts who should watch for symptoms.

In terms of City Fitness at Hunter Plaza, there are 158 casual-plus contacts. They are being followed up on to get a test and should isolate until they get their negative result.

There are 11 close-plus contacts at KFC Botany Downs store. Ten are negative and the remaining result is pending.

1:05pm - There are no new positive COVID-19 cases in the community. There are four in MIQ facilities.

Dr Bloomfield says no new cases is "reassuring" and we are "not out of the woods". Considering the locations and times of interests, any positive cases can be expected from Tuesday onwards, he says.

Genome sequencing of Case O shows a link to the rest of her family and the wider cluster. This is another sign that New Zealand isn't dealing with a separate infection.

There were 8880 tests processed on Monday. This is a large number of swabs collected on Sunday, Dr Bloomfield says. There were about 7000 swabs taken on Monday in Auckland. High numbers are expected on Tuesday and Wednesday. More than 70,000 tests have been undertaken since February 14.

There are 11 community testing centres in Auckland operating on Tuesday. People with symptoms or who have been at an exposure event should be tested.

Dr Bloomfield reiterates that muscle aches is being seen more and more in relation to the UK variant of the virus.

There have been 1381 exemption requests for travel, 857 of which have been processed. Almost no exemptions have been granted for weddings. Some have been granted for funerals.

12:50pm - Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will hold a press conference at 1pm at the Ministry of Health with the latest information on the COVID-19 situation. You'll be able to watch that above or on Three.

12:40pm - Despite the COVID-19 alert level 3 breach in Mangere East, Supt Jill Rogers says police are pleased with the overall response in Auckland.

She says that motorists have been compliant as officers continue to stop and question vehicles at the 10 checkpoints around Tāmaki Makaurau.

"Official figures measured between 6am on Sunday 28th February and 3:30pm on Monday 1st March reveal 38,997 vehicles were stopped at these checkpoints.

"A total of 583 vehicles have been turned away – 293 at the Northern checkpoints and 290 at the Southern checkpoints.

"Overall, motorists are complying with the current Alert Level 3 restrictions in place for Auckland which only permits essential travel in, out and through the region."

Supt Rogers says the delays at the Northern and Southern checkpoints have been small on Tuesday.

12:30pm - Police have issued a warning to a man involved in a breach of COVID-19 restrictions in south Auckland.

Counties Manukau District Commander Superintendent Jill Rogers said they received reports of a group of people gathering at a property in Mangere East for a church service on Sunday.

The group included multiple people who did not live at the address.

"A man was spoken to at the address around the risks to the public created by those who are not following the restrictions in place and he was issued with a written warning in relation to this breach," she said.

12:05pm - Here's where COVID-19 testing centres are in south Auckland on Tuesday, according to Healthpoint:

The Whanau Ora Community Clinic

  • 25 Druces Road, Wiri, Auckland
  • Mon - Fri  8:30am to 4:30pm 

Ōtara Town Centre Car Park

  • 14 Fair Mall, Ōtara, Auckland
  • Mon - Sat  8:30am to 4:00pm

Airport Oaks Community Testing Centre 

  • 149 Kirkbridge Road, Mangere
  • Mon - Thu  8:00am to 4:00pm

Takanini Community Testing Centre

  • 106 Great South Road, Takanini
  • Mon - Fri  8:00am to 6:00pm

Kohuora Park Pop-Up Testing

  • 40 Station Road, Papatoetoe
  • Mon - Tues  9:00am to 4:00pm

11:50am - The World Health Organization is urging countries to not relax COVID-19 restrictions after the number of new coronavirus infections globally rose last week for the first time in almost two months.

"We need to have a stern warning for all of us: that this virus will rebound if we let it," WHO technical lead for COVID-19 Maria Van Kerkhove said on Monday (local time). "And we cannot let it."

The organisation's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the increase in cases was "disappointing but not surprising".

"If countries rely solely on vaccines, they are making a mistake. Basic public health measures remain the foundation of the response."

11:35am - Manukau ward councillor Efeso Collins says he visited the Ōtara COVID-19 testing station on Tuesday where he was impressed with their response.

"Socially distanced visit to Otara Covid testing station and received update from the #Southseas team who are doing an amazing job," he tweeted. "So proud of their efforts to keep people safe and well. Thank u so much."

11:15am - A Māori health provider is calling on south Auckland whānau to get the COVID-19 vaccine when the time comes.

It comes amid growing calls for south Aucklanders to be pushed up the vaccination queue as they grapple with the impact of another outbreak in the community. 

Read more here.

11am - Ardern says COVID-19 will become like the flu and vaccinations will occur on an annual basis. 

The PM doesn't expect to personally use TikTok for COVID-19 messaging. But other agencies may decide to use it and other social media platforms.

10:55am - Ardern does not believe anyone intentionally wanted to break the rules or cause harm to others.

She said messages are put out across a range of platforms.

There have been long periods of time where New Zealand hasn't been at alert level 3, so we shouldn't assume everyone remembers the rules. 

Early on in New Zealand's COVID-19 response, Ardern said there was a suggestion of whether to use an ankle-bracelet system for people needing to self-isolate. But this wouldn't be possible on a large scale, she said, and it wouldn't address the issue of other people coming into a home.

10:50am - Addressing communication issues with people who should be in self-isolation, the Prime Minister said officials are always looking at how the process can be improved. 

Attempts were made to communicate with cases who now claim they did not receive self-isolation information, Ardern said. Up to 15 calls and texts were made, she said.

"There were emails sent from the school, and I think it was in the order of 15 text messages and phone calls. I cannot answer whether or not those were received, but certainly you can see attempts were made."

But the main message is for people who are sick to get tested, she said.

"I think the message was still very, very, very clear that we wanted all students to be tested as soon as possible." 

Officials will look over what happened with Case L, who says they did not receive information telling them to self-isolate.

10:45am - Speaking to reporters on Tuesday morning, Jacinda Ardern said saliva testing is being rolled out in some MIQ facilities, but it can't become a substitute for quarantine. She would like to see it "increasingly used".

10:40am - Here's the latest on the COVID-19 vaccines around the world:

  • Novavax Inc's chief executive says its COVID-19 vaccine could be cleared for use in the United States as soon as May if US regulators authorise it based on data from the company's British trial, which could be completed as soon as April. Novavax can already manufacture its shots at scale and will be able to have tens of millions of doses stockpiled and ready to ship in the United States when it receives authorization, chief executive Stanley Erck said.
  • Johnson & Johnson is waiting on regulatory approval of a new, larger plant operated by contract manufacturer Catalent Inc to begin large-scale US deliveries of its just-authorised COVID-19 vaccine following initial shipments this week, a top J&J executive said on Monday. J&J will ship nearly 4 million doses of the one-shot vaccine around the United States this week and expects to deliver another 16 million doses later this month. But none is expected to go out next week.
  • The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are more than 80 percent effective at preventing hospitalisations from COVID-19 in those over 80 after one dose of either shot, Public Health England (PHE) said on Monday, citing a pre-print study. PHE said the real world study also found that protection against symptomatic COVID in those over 70 ranged between 57-61 percent for one dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine and between 60-73 percent for the Oxford-AstraZeneca one four weeks after the first shot.
  • The Biden administration on Monday downplayed the prospect of sharing coronavirus vaccines with Mexico, saying it is focused first on getting its own population protected against a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans. The remarks by White House press secretary Jen Psaki came hours before Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is expected to ask Joe Biden to consider sharing some of its COVID-19 vaccine supply.

 - Reuters

ACT leader David Seymour.
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty

10:15am - ACT Party leader David Seymour is calling on the Government to release the full details of the contact the Ministry of Health made with cases L, M, N and O.

"The Prime Minister is fighting an asymmetrical information war, drip-feeding details from the highest pulpit in the land against people who have no platform to respond," he said on Tuesday.

"Conveniently this tactic avoids scrutiny of the Government's performance as the Prime Minister whips up anger towards unnamed individuals."

He specifically pointed out case L, who exclusively told Newshub on Monday she's upset Jacinda Ardern told Kiwis she should have been self-isolating, as the official advice she got was that she didn't need to.

"The Prime Minister says she's checked the logs and she's satisfied - so release the logs Prime Minister; release all the evidence," Seymour said.

"Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield was adamant this morning that isolating families receive a phone call every day and if they don't answer the phone they are visited.

"That means there must be logs of successful phone calls or visits to the property, but case L says neither thing happened.

"What is the information the Prime Minister has seen that has satisfied her that her officials are right and did everything they should have?

"We need to get to the bottom of this and we only will with the sort of transparency expected of democratically elected Governments."

He said the Government needs to release all information so the public can see if everything was done right, and if they don't they need to ask the Ombudsman to review the information and release his findings.

"One of the Ombudsman's primary roles to investigate the administrative conduct of public sector agencies, and that is exactly what is at the heart of this situation."

9:50am - The AM Show host Duncan Garner says that the Ministry of Health should have cracked down on the COVID-19 case families who broke their bubbles.

"Ringfence them in their own houses or send them to a quarantine hotel," he writes.

"Heck, build temporary fences around their homes, security guards. When you've spent $50 billion, what's a few thousand more dollars?

"And stop the kid gloves - name and shame them, the courts would."

Read the full opinion piece here.

9:35am - Twitter said it would apply warnings to tweets that contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines and implement a strike system of enforcement that could see users permanently banned for repeat violations.

The social media network started promoting public health information before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. It also aimed to remove demonstrably false or misleading content about the virus that had the highest risk of causing harm.

Since introducing its COVID-19 guidance, it said it had removed more than 8400 tweets and challenged 11.5 million accounts.

With more and more people now looking for authoritative public health information about vaccines as programs were rolled out across the world, it said it would expand the guidance.

Katy Minshall, Twitter's head of UK public policy, said the company recognised the role it played in giving people credible public health information.

"We continue to work with health authorities around the world - including (Britain's health service) the NHS - to ensure high visibility access to trusted and accurate public health information on our service, including about COVID-19 vaccines," she told Reuters.

"Today we will begin applying labels to tweets that may contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to our continued efforts to remove the most harmful COVID-19 misleading information from the service."

- Reuters

9:10am- A COVID-19 saliva test which was validated, accredited, and deployed in New Zealand has been authorised for use in the United States.

Rako Science licensed the SHIELD technology in September 2020 and collaborated with University of Illinois scientists to create the test, which is now provided to employers who want to do asymptomatic screening of their workforce.

On Tuesday, Rako Science revealed the test has been authorised for use in the United States by the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

"Rako Science’s saliva screening service is being deployed for high frequency, asymptomatic workplace testing," director Dr Stephen Grice said.

"Rako has had constructive conversations with the Ministry of Health since December and they have advised they are satisfied with the scientific validation of our test.

"To Rako Science’s knowledge, the SHIELD test is the only saliva test that has been validated and accredited for asymptomatic COVID-19 screening in New Zealand."

8:45am - Massey University law professor Chris Gallavin says that Kiwis have the right to be angry about the latest cases that broke the Government's COVID-19 rules.

"The New Zealand public is outraged, I'm outraged, everyone's angry. Everybody feels for what Auckland, especially what south Auckland, is going through."

He said the enforcement of the law should be the "silver bullet" that is going to protect the country from people doing this in the future.

"If we - as some politicians say - see a breakdown in the team of 5 million then heaven help us because if our front line defence is the enforcement of a fine of $300 or $4000, then it perhaps isn't going to be proficient to protect it. We really do need the team of 5 million to come together then there should be a legitimate consideration of whether to prosecute."

Gallavin agreed that it wasn't the Prime Minister's job to decide whether the matter should be brought to the police.

"There is a divide in New Zealand between the politicians and the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister is absolutely right saying it's not her decision. It's the Police's decision through the solicitor general and the attorney general. You know there's a divide between the executive functions and the political functions in regards to prosecution."

8:10am - Religious historian Peter Lineham says that COVID-19 conspiracy theories have divided some Kiwis.

"The tension and the division between those who hate the idea and are so suspicious of the COVID vaccine, and those who want it - it divides New Zealand into two very, very different groups," he told The AM Show.

Lineham says that he feels like churches are generally in favour of vaccinations, rather than against them.

"I would have thought that most would have been enthusiastic [about the vaccine] and the Pacific churches will feel the obligation to deliver positive messages to their people. 

"But I think a lot of the problem comes that conspiracy theories generate among people who don't have the educational background or the cultural background that connects them to the scientific providers. I think that's when the problem comes - when people who have got reasons to be suspicious of the experts then start thinking that they've hoodwinked us."

He said being suspicious about authorities isn't a bad thing, but conspiracy theorists create a barrier to the truth.

"Once you've got that information you feel as if you can see through the things that have been deceiving the world overall. So with that sense of confidence, you can not hear corrective messages."

Dr Ashley BLoomfield spoke to The AM Show on Tuesday.
Dr Ashley BLoomfield spoke to The AM Show on Tuesday. Photo credit: The AM Show

7:40am - Host Duncan Garner questioned Dr Bloomfield on why the Ministry of Health hasn't contacted police to take action against the families who haven't been abiding by the COVID-19 isolation requirements.

Despite the Ministry's advice that if you're waiting for test results - or feel unwell - please stay home, Case M went to the gym in the hours after being tested.

Jacinda Ardern also revealed on Monday that the two mothers in the Auckland COVID-19 cluster breached lockdown rules by going for a walk during alert level 3 last month, despite one of the mothers having been told to self-isolate.

Dr Bloomfield said taking police action against them isn't a current priority.

"The first thing is that the focus is on just controlling the outbreak and we have got Auckland in alert level 3 and the test of the country at alert level 2 so that is, as it should be, the right focus.

"The second comment here is, and I'm not the first person to point it out, is a punitive approach in these circumstances could well be counterproductive - we can't afford to give this virus an inch. A punishment type of approach actually deters people from coming forward and being tested and we have a bigger problem on our hands. I think most people actually understand that."

7:25am - The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says the Ministry of Health is currently focused on getting the COVID-19 test results of contacts of Case M back.

"Our main concern is we had this young fellow out in the community, potentially infecting people, especially at MIT there and at the gym," he told The AM Show. "Those are the people we have got in isolation and they are being tested so we will be looking for those results over the next day or two."

Case M was announced on February 27 and had visited a number of locations while potentially infectious. They include City Fitness Papatoetoe and the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Manukau campus where they are a student.

7:15am - Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who is about to appear on The AM Show, told Newstalk ZB there have been no overnight updates.

"I haven't had any phone calls or texts overnight so that's a good sign," he said.

When asked about Case M - the 21-year old-MIT student who visited several locations while symptomatic - Dr Bloomfield said: "I imagine he is extremely remorseful".

He said they will have to wait and see for the test results for the case's contacts at MIT.

"We want to make sure there are no more so we can stomp this out."

6:55am - Te Puea Winiata is urging people who are unsure about getting the vaccine to think about their families.

"I see it from a personal perspective - I'm actually a grandmother," she told The AM Show. 

"So I would take the vaccine and try to encourage my whanau to take the vaccine because we live in a household that's three generations. I want my mokopuna to be safe. Also, I go into a clinic every day so I'm in a higher risk environment than perhaps other people. I need to ensure that I'm safe, my staff are safe, and to actually be safe out in the community."

Winiata also admitted that not all of her workers at Turuki Health Care have been vaccinated for COVD-19.

She said currently, only their workers who went out to vaccinate MIQ staff at the Jet Park Hotel had been vaccinated.

"We are on the front line but we are in the process of becoming vaccinated across our organisation."

6:35am - The CEO of Turuki Health Care Te Puea Winiata said there has been a big rush on their services due to the February 2021 cluster, which remains primarily in the south Auckland community.

"We are one of the designated clinics for doing testing but we are getting requests to redeploy our staff from our services to DHB testing stations," she told The AM Show on Tuesday.

However, Winiata said they do have the resources to manage the demand.

"I've got a very experienced team in terms of testing… and we are working very hard to ensure whanau will come in and get tested."

6:15am - A group of senior business leaders is calling for the Government to provide clarity regarding its plan to get back to "COVID-19 normal".

Included in the group are the chairs for Chorus NZ, Auckland Airport, The Warehouse Group, SkyCity, Tourism Holdings, Summerset, and chancellors of Auckland University of Technology and the University of Auckland.

The group is asking for:

  • The status of New Zealand’s near to long-term COVID-19 strategy to be made available beyond government circles, which would include key metrics, thresholds and milestones.
  • The details of New Zealand’s contracted access to vaccines, including the timing and size of each tranche of vaccines, and the principles which will drive the roll-out.
  • The publication of New Zealand’s testing capacity and strategy, including any plans for enhanced community, workplace and surge testing options, the inclusion of additional testing technology such as saliva PCR tests and any other changes to the testing regime.
  • An understanding of any future plans for a more automated approach to tracking and tracing, health passports and other technology.
  • The status of the government’s plan to develop the world's smartest border.

Rob Campbell, the chair of SkyCity, Tourism Holdings, Summerset and Chancellor of Auckland University of Technology, said the group has seen the financial impact of COVID-19 on Kiwis.

"While as a country we have avoided the devastating health consequences seen overseas, we do need to equip ourselves for a future in which we are continuing to manage COVID-19 long-term."

5:58am - The AM Show is about to begin and can be watched at Guests on the show include  Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who will appear at 7:10am, and Massey University Law Professor Chris Gallavin, who will talk about tools to charge COVID-19 rule-breakers at 8:10am.