Auckland will move to alert level 2 from 6am on Sunday, while the rest of New Zealand will move to alert level 1.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director- General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield made the announcement on Friday afternoon.
It comes after the Ministry of Health confirmed there were no new cases of COVID-19 in the community, for the fifth day in a row. There were also no new cases in managed isolation facilities.
What you need to know
- Auckland will shift to alert level 2 at 6am on Sunday, the PM announced today. The rest of New Zealand will move to alert level 1.
- Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has issued a section 70 health order on isolation and testing for contacts and casual contacts of the February cluster
- Find out more about what alert levels 3 and 2 mean for you here.
- The locations of interest can be found here.
- No new cases have been reported on Friday so far, in the community and in MIQ facilities. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 68, with 15 cases as part of the Auckland February cluster.
This article is no longer being updated.
6:30pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is not backing down in her dispute with a COVID-positive KFC worker, who she says should not have gone to work.
"I've consistently stood by what I've said and I will continue to do so," Ardern said on Friday, after announcing that Auckland will shift out of alert level 3 lockdown on Sunday.
"I don't think anyone's deliberately gone out to act against advice or instructions or to create the situation we're in. I don't believe that for a moment, which is one of the reasons I haven't seen merit in continuing a back and forth on some of the particular cases."
6:15pm - Aucklanders are being urged to follow COVID-19 alert level 3 rules at the weekend as the city prepares to move out of lockdown.
"We know that gatherings pose the biggest risk of spread," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
6pm - It's time for Newshub Live at 6pm. Watch here and catch up with all the day's COVID-19 developements.
5:47pm - National leader Judith Collins believes Auckland businesses should be allowed to open on Saturday instead of waiting until Sunday.
"Unfortunately, this latest outbreak has further exposed the rough edges of the Government's COVID-19 response," she said in a statement.
"Contact tracing still isn't the 'gold standard' that the Government would have us think it is.
"Letting numerous calls and texts to close contacts go unanswered, and not knocking on doors, isn't good enough."
5:42pm - Fans will now be able to attend a handful of major sports events across the country, after the Government's announcement that alert levels will come down this weekend.
Tickets for the final double-header featuring the Blackcaps's final Twenty20 international against Australia and the White Ferns third Twenty20 against England at Wellington's Sky Stadium are now on sale.
Christchurch's OrangeTheory Stadium will also open its gates for the Crusaders v Hurricanes match, which was shifted from its originally scheduled Saturday kick-off in anticipation of the relaxed alert levels.
Also in Christchurch, the Silver Ferns' final Constellation Cup clash cup against Australia will now take place in front of what should be a packed Christchurch Arena, with tickets now available for purchase.
Meanwhile, the America's Cup has been given the green light to get underway from Wednesday, when the wo opening races will take place between Emirates Team NZ and Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli.
5:34pm - Several people who may have had contact with a positive COVID-19 case from the February cluster have been ordered to isolate and undergo testing, as New Zealand prepares to shift at alert levels over the weekend.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield on Friday issued a section 70 health order, directing people who were at City Fitness Gym at Hunters Plaza on February 20 between 11:15am and 1:45pm, or on February 26 between 3:25pm and 4:30pm to isolate at their home and report for and undergo medical testing.
Read more here.
5:28pm - Auckland Transport (AT) said their services will continue to operate with strict health and safety requirements in place under alert level 2.
"Once again I want to thank Aucklanders for working together over the past week during the alert level 3 lockdown," Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said.
"Please keep up the good work and follow the rules of level 2. In particular, wear a mask on public transport, scan the NZ COVID Tracer app wherever you go, and get a test if you show any COVID-19 symptoms."
AT said face masks are now on sale in vending machines at most public transport areas across Auckland so there is no reason people can't get one.
5:18pm - Race one of the 36th America's Cup will take place on Wednesday, March 10 around 4pm, officials announced following the alert levels decision.
"Under COVID-19 alert level 2 or 1, the race schedule will remain as planned with two races per day – Wednesday 10th, Friday 12th, Saturday 13th, Sunday 14th, Monday 15th and each day after that," the organisers said.
"The current schedule has tracing every day until either the Defender Emirates Team New Zealand or the Challenger Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli reaches 7 wins."
Under alert level 2, racing will be restricted to sailing on either race course A or E.
"The bars, cafés and restaurants and other retail outlets within the America's Cup Race Village will open, and operate within Ministry of Health guidelines.
"Entertainment, live racing on the big screens, and activations are unable to operate until we move back into level 1."
5:12pm - Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois said the lowering of alert levels is "the news that we needed after the alert level yo-yo's" over the past month.
“What is now imperative is that the government looks to offer fair and quick financial support to those industries most hard hit by the pandemic," she said.
"The constant last-minute closures and restrictions on trading put untenable financial and emotional strain on owners. We must remember that any increase in alert levels generally means weeks of cancellations and subdued trading for our sector."
She said the Government needs to ensure that the criteria for subsidies are fair and realistic for the sector.
5pm - Retail NZ has welcomed the news of New Zealand's upcoming alert level changes.
"Retailer confidence has slumped since mid-February, and although the sector has proven to be very resilient over the past year, each lockdown gets harder for businesses to manage," chief executive Greg Harford said.
"It is good news that we are now moving back down the alert levels, and retailers will be hoping that we can get back to level 1 quickly and stay there."
Retail NZ is calling on the Government to support retailers who have been significantly impacted by the lockdown, but might not hit the 40 percent threshold which means they miss out on qualifying for the wage subsidy.
4:54pm - The press conference has now finished.
4:43pm - Ardern has confirmed that the person who lives in a sleepout on a property of one of the four families involved in the cluster has returned a negative COVID-19 test.
That person has now opted to go into a quarantine facility.
4:37pm - Ardern said Cabinet would still consider moving Auckland down to alert level 1 next week even if there are new community cases of COVID-19.
4:33pm - Ardern said welfare checks are occurring in south Auckland, where officials are checking to ensure people have everything that they need. But she said it's also a chance to check people are self-isolating.
4:28pm- Ardern urged Kiwis again to be kind to each other and to those people who may have broken COVID-19 rules before testing positive.
She said it was important to remember that New Zealand has "never had an experience that's been perfect".
"As a team, we've gotten through all of those scenarios and we will continue to do so."
4:24pm - When asked why Auckland shouldn't move to alert level 2 on Friday night, Ardern replied: "Our judgement has been that this full seven days gives a chance for positive cases to manifest".
"We want some level of restriction and caution," she said. "Sticking with full seven days was the wise course to take."
Dr Bloomfield said there were still around 10 people who visited City Fitness on February 20 and 26 who are awaiting test results.
He said two gym visitors have been unable to be located - from the visit on February 20.
"All people from 26th February have been tested."
4:21pm - Dr Bloomfield issued a direction to those who visited City Fitness in Papatoetoe, and those who have been contacted by contact tracing teams and advised they are a close-plus contact.
- They must isolate at their usual home and to report for or undergo medical testing for COVID-19.
- Those people are expected to remain in self-isolation until they receive further direction.
4:17pm - Dr Bloomfield confirmed there have been no further confirmed community or MIQ cases since the 1pm update from the Ministry of Health.
"It is possible we may still get positive results from some of the contacts who remain in isolation," he said.
4:15pm - From Sunday 6am, when Auckland moves to level 2, social events, including church services, must have a maximum of 100 attendees.
Business will also be able to reopen. Hospitality businesses can open as long as they follow the three S's - seated single server.
4:13pm - She said Cabinet would consider moving Auckland back to alert level 1 at the start of next weekend.
4:10pm- Jacinda Ardern has announced that Auckland will move to alert level 2 on 6am on Sunday. The rest of New Zealand will move to alert level 1.
She thanked everyone for getting tested, and acknowledged New Zealand has not recorded any new community cases over the past five days.
4:09pm - Jacinda Ardern said she spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
"It reminded me of what those in other counties are going through," she said.
"While I absolutely maintain that our strategy of elimination is best for us but this may not always be easy.
"COVID has taken a toll on so many in so many ways but it will get better over the next few weeks."
4:07pm- Emergency Management Minister Kiri Allan thanked Kiwis for their response.
"Whilst there is no longer the restrictions, please do exercise good judgement and we are still asking you to take care."
4:04pm- The press conference is beginning with an update on the earthquake and tsunami risk situation.
"It's hard not to feel like our country isn't having a run of bad luck with an earthquake, tsunami warning and COVID-19," Ardern said.
She thanked the National Emergency Management Agency and Civil Defence for their work so far.
4:02pm - The press conference has begun.
3:50pm- Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will be announcing Cabinet's alert level decision in around 10 minutes.
Auckland was put into alert level 3 lockdown on Sunday for seven days following new cases in the Auckland February cluster. The rest of New Zealand is at alert level 2.
The restrictions are due to end on Sunday at 6am, but Cabinet met on Friday afternoon to discuss the country's alert levels going forward.
You can watch the announcement on Newshub and online at newshub.co.nz. This page will be updated live as it happens.
3:25pm - Alert level 3 restrictions are now back in place in Auckland, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.
An emergency alert issued at 3:12pm, the agency said the threat of damaging tsunami waves has passed for the majority of the Auckland region.
As a result, Aucklanders are now expected to resume alert level 3 public health measures.
3:05pm - The Japanese government plans to extend a state of emergency to combat COVID-19 for Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures until March 21, two weeks longer than originally scheduled, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Friday.
Under the state of emergency, the government has requested restaurants and bars close by 8pm and stop serving alcohol an hour earlier. People are also asked to stay home after 8pm unless they have essential reasons to go out.
Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama prefectures, which make up 30 percent of the country’s population, sought the extension past the originally scheduled end date of March 7 as new coronavirus cases had not fallen enough to meet targets.
Nationwide, Japan has recorded some 433,000 cases and 8050 deaths from COVID-19 as of Wednesday.
2:35pm - ACT Party leader David Seymour says it is "inevitable" the Government will decide to move Auckland out of alert level 3 lockdown to a lower level.
He believes they will also "portray the lockdown as having saved Aucklanders, when it hasn't, it's cost them dearly".
"For the want of one door-knock and a simple question the city, its shops, shows, exhibitions, people's medical procedures and countless other serious costs would have been saved," Seymour said.
"We need a proper policy, resourcing and cultural re-set.
"We can't keep doing the same things as patchily as we have been, having the same less than acceptable results, and then patting ourselves on the back and pretending we're the envy of the world."
2:05pm - The Pullman Hotel in Auckland CBD has been evacuated following a fire alarm on Friday morning, Stuff reports.
Photos from the scene show staff in full PPE while surrounding MIQ guests on the street outside.
Stuff reported the alarm came from a sprinkler system on the 14th floor, which Fire and Emergency NZ classed as a false alarm.
1:50pm- A new study has found the majority of global COVID-19 deaths have been in countries where many people are obese.
The report, which described a "dramatic" correlation, found that 90 percent or 2.2 million of the 2.5 million deaths from the pandemic disease so far were in countries with high levels of obesity.
Strikingly, there is no example of a country where people are generally not overweight or obese having high COVID-19 death rates.
Read the full story here.
1:32pm - The next Government COVID-19 update will be at 4pm.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will reveal Cabinet's decision following its review of the current alert level settings.
1:28pm- Further results have also come back from ESR's wastewater testing at three Auckland sites. The samples showed they were all negative for COVID-19.
"An additional sample was taken from a site closer to Papatoetoe on the same day, also testing negative," the Ministry said.
"A sample from the South Western Interceptor came back positive for the same day, but this is a regular occurrence as it is near the Auckland quarantine facility."
1:25pm - As part of the Auckland February outbreak of COVID-19, contact tracers have contacted almost 6000 people and provided advice and information.
The Ministry said "good progress" has been made so far, and acknowledged the help from the Papatoetoe High School community.
"All the outstanding Papatoetoe students have been contacted and retested and have all returned negative results."
There is currently a public health plan in place regarding the two students who have refused a COVID-19 test.
The students are being "closely managed" by Auckland public health officials.
1:20pm - The Ministry of Health said there continues to be a strong demand for COVID-19 testing, particularly in Auckland.
"On Thursday, 11,402 tests were processed. More than 69,000 tests have been processed in the last week, with a seven-day rolling average up to yesterday of 9,903 tests processed."
To date, a total of 1,763,008 tests have been processed by laboratories to date.
1:18pm- The Ministry is urging Kiwis in areas affected by Friday's earthquakes and tsunami warnings to follow advice from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and local Civil Defence authorities.
"As NEMA has already communicated, evacuation advice overrides the current COVID-19 Alert Level requirements in affected areas," the statement said.
"We understand this situation may be difficult for some people. People can call 1737 to speak to a trained counsellor, and there is a range of other support listed on the Ministry of Health website."
1:15pm- The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 68. Our total number of confirmed cases is 2033.
1:14pm - The Ministry of Health has confirmed there are no new cases of COVID-19 in the community, and none in MIQ facilities on Friday.
12:55pm - The Ministry of Health is about to provide a COVID-19 update. They will be releasing a written statement around 1pm.
12:50pm - Superintendent Naila Hassan also noted an incident where officers conducting reassurance patrols came across a vegetable stall which was set up on the side of the road in Sandringham on Wednesday.
"This market place was not displaying a QR code, the stall operators were not wearing PPE and were not equipped to provide contactless service to customers," she said.
"Our Police staff engaged with the two men present to remind them of the current alert level 3 restrictions and have issued them with a warning."
Since 6am on Sunday until 6pm Thursday, police processed 83,703 vehicles through the 10 checkpoints across north and south Auckland.
Hassan said 358 vehicles were turned away at the northern checkpoints and 899 were turned away at the southern checkpoints.
12:45pm - Police are urging Aucklanders to follow the rules of alert level 3 lockdown following a few incidents over the past couple of days.
Waitematā District Commander Superintendent Naila Hassan said there was a "serious incident" at the northern Auckland checkpoint at the intersection of Coal Hill Road and Mangawhai at 7:15am on Thursday.
"A vehicle has pulled up to a checkpoint and the officer has identified the man was a disqualified driver. The officer has noticed that the driver was about to flee so attempted to grab his car keys. The male has driven off with the officer’s arm still in the vehicle.
"Fortunately the officer freed himself and avoided serious injury. He is understandably shaken and is being provided with support."
Supt Hassan said they are making inquiries to locate the driver, who is known to Police.
12:10am - COVID-19 data modelling expert and physicist Shaun Hendy says New Zealand should stay at alert level 2 for longer, even if a decision is made to drop Auckland's level.
He said it was because people would begin to travel in and out of Auckland if the city moved to level 2.
"[Level 2] just puts that cap on event sizes which means that should we have an outbreak we're not chasing hundreds or thousands of casual contacts," he said.
11:40am - New research released by Colmar Brunton on Friday found the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the livelihoods and wellbeing of New Zealanders.
They surveyed over 1000 Kiwis and found people are anxious about the cost of living and housing availability in the wake of the pandemic.
"People are feeling worn out by 2020 and mental health issues are bubbling under the surface. There may even be a bit of survival guilt as we hear from friends and family overseas as to how things are playing out," head of Colmar Brunton Sarah Bolger said.
"The cost of living has been a top 10 concern for many years. This year, COVID-19 has pushed it to the top of the list. This comes along with the associated increase in pressure on housing and land.
"This is in line with new data from Statistics NZ, that revealed an increase in average annual housing costs. Lower income households are especially feeling the heat."
11:10am - Brian Tamaki told RNZ's Checkpoint on Friday that like 9000 other Aucklanders, he and his wife Hannah had been legally entitled to leave Auckland right before Sunday's lockdown because they had important business outside of the city.
"I'm in the people-changing business and for me to carry on my people-changing business, which I'm into, it was very important for me to be able to carry on that 'cause I had previous bookings around the country," he said.
However, Hannah Tamaki provided a different reason for why they left the city.
10:45am - The Government has confirmed that the Ministry of Health will provide its usual COVID-19 update at 1pm.
At 4pm, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will then announce Cabinet's decision on whether there will be a change in alert levels.
10:25am - A new progress report by the Initial Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission has found the Government is making progress on implementing recommendations made in He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, despite issues that arose during the pandemic.
Health Minister Andrew Little said he welcomed the finding that found the transformation of New Zealand’s approach to mental health and addiction is underway.
"Despite the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic, progress is continuing to be made with considerable vigour to improve mental health and wellbeing in New Zealand, and we are seeing new services and activities every month," he said.
10am - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed he is making changes to his diet and fitness routine after his COVID-19 scare in 2020.
Johnson was admitted to hospital in April after contracting the virus, and since then he has spoken out about how he believes his weight was behind how severely ill he became.
"I've been doing a lot, in fact everything I can, to lose weight and to feel fitter and healthier," he tweeted on Thursday.
"And what I've been doing is I've been eating less carbs, avoiding chocolate, no more late night cheese, I've been getting up early to go for runs and the result is that I actually have lost some weight.
"What we want to do is encourage another 700,000 people around the country who have the kind of problems that I have had to do the same thing, so we'll be not just fitter but also healthier and happier and we'll bounce back better together."
9:45am - Auckland mayor Phil Goff has posted to social media.
9:35am - The AM Show will be running until at least 10am on Friday to provide live updates on the earthquakes and tsunami threats.
9:25am - The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as issued a Tsunami Warning following the M8.0 earthquake north-east of New Zealand near Kermadec Islands Region.
Kiwis on the East Coast of the North Island from the Bay of Islands to Whangarei, from Matata to Tolaga Bay including Whakatane and Opotiki, and Great Barrier Island must move immediately to the nearest high ground.
NEMA said their evacuation advice "overrides the current COVID-19 alert level requirements".
"Listen to local Civil Defence authorities and follow any instructions regarding evacuation of your area. If you are told to evacuate do not stay at home. Stay 2 metres away from others if you can and if it is safe to do so."
For more on the tsunami threat, head to Newshub's live updates which can be found here.
9:15am - There are have currently been 116,068,432 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world, according to Worldometer.
A month-long drop in the rolling average of new daily cases of COVID-19 has stalled, stabilising at around 380,000 a day.
A corresponding drop in the death toll has also levelled off at about 9000 per day.
For more information on coronavirus from around the world, read Newshub's full story here.
7:10am - Verrall told The AM Show it's "encouraging" to see a large number of close and casual contacts of the February cluster have tested negative.
On Friday it's expected the day five test results of close contacts will be revealed - but Verrall says all those contacts have already tested negative,and have been in isolation since they were identified.
Verrall said it was too early to discuss what that decision could be - but it's expected at 4pm on Friday.