As it happened: No community cases overnight, Wellington restrictions extended for 48 hours

Wellington's alert level 2 restrictions have been extended for 48 hours, the Government announced on Sunday.

The city moved to alert level 2 after an Australian tourist tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a trip to the city last weekend.

So far no community cases have been reported in New Zealand as a result of the scare, but health officials are urging people to remain vigilant.

On Saturday night, the Government announced a three-day pause on all quarantine-free travel with Australia as the situation across the ditch worsens.

What you need to know:

Locations of interest

Qantas Flight QF163 Sydney to Wellington, Rydges Hotel, Unichem Wellington Central Pharmacy, Te Papa Tongarewa - general, Te Papa Tongarewa - Exhibition Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Jack Hackett's Bar, Floridita's Restaurant, Highwater Eatery, Pickle & Pie café, The Weta Cave shop, The Lido café, Unity Books, Countdown Cable Lane, One Red Dog, the toilets at 4 Kings Bar, Prince Barbers and Wellington Airport.

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These live updated have finished.

3:23pm - The indeterminate test in the Wairarapa has come back negative and is not an active COVID-19 infection, the Ministry of Health has confirmed. It comes after the person initially returned a weak positive result, with a very high cycle threshold, or CT value. However a follow-up test has since come back negative.

3:10pm - The Chief Justice has released a statement regarding court cases following the announcement that the Wellington region will remain at alert level 2 for a further 48 hours.

Dame Helen Winkelmann said all matters before the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal will contine as scheduled.

"For the Wellington High Court matters will continue, provided they can be accommodated safely within alert level 2 restrictions. Court staff will contact participants directly. There are no jury trials scheduled in the Wellington High Court for the week," Dame Helen said.

Jury trials in the Wellington, Lower Hutt, Masterton and Porirua District Courts will also continue "provided they can be accomodated with alert level 2 restrictions".

3:00pm - Professor Nick Wilson, of the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, says the Government made a "wise decision" to extend Wellington's restrictions. He says it's reassuring that thousands of test results have come back negative and wastewater results for Friday were also negative. However, he also called for changes to be made to our alert level system.

"These include upgrading the alert level system with a particular focus on mandatory mask use in various indoor settings, making the COVID Tracer App compulsory for high risk indoor venues, and rapidly vaccinating all remaining border and frontline health workers," he said.

"Furthermore, there would seem to be a very strong case for adopting a period of pre-departure testing once quarantine-free travel with Australia reopens. This could be combined with testing on arrival in NZ."

2:55pm - The Northern Territories has recorded four new cases of COVID-19, triggering a snap two-day lockdown in Darwin and the surrounding areas of Litchfield and Palmerston.

2:50pm - Professor Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health at the University of Otago, agreed the move to extend Wellington's restrictions for two days was "fully justified".

He said it's possible some of the more than 2000 contacts of the Australian traveller were still in the incubation stage and will only be identified in the coming days.

"This was a real pressure-test for our response system, and it identified several gaps that need to be filled. The virus has changed, and our response needs to change to keep ahead of it," Prof Baker said.

"Firstly, there is a need for mandatory use of QR codes when entering high-risk indoor venues to support rapid contact tracing.  When authorities went to send out electronic notifications to all of the people who had attended these indoor venues with the infected case from Sydney, only a small fraction of people could be reached.  This problem was because scanning was at a low level because it is not required.  This situation obviously needs to change.

"Secondly, we need to build mass masking into our alert ;evel system to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus in potential outbreak situations. When Wellington was put into alert level 2 after exposure to this infected case from Sydney, people were back at work and mixing with others indoors and hopefully maintaining some physical distance (the 1-metre and 2-meter rules depending on the situation).  But there was no requirement to wear masks in most indoor environments.  What we have learned over the last year is that this virus is spread by aerosols – which are not stopped by the 2-meter rule.  As we have seen in Sydney, it only takes fleeting contact indoors to get this infection. We need to add mass masking indoors to our alert level system, which is widely used across Australia and in many other countries.

"Thirdly, this episode in Wellington, and the evolving outbreaks in Australia, indicates a need to review the green zone with Australia. Government has suspended travel from all of Australia for three days which provides an opportunity to assess the measures in place to minimise the risk of importing COVID-19 cases. The green zone has generally worked well and can hopefully be resumed after this pause and with additional precautions."

2:30pm - Professor Michael Plank, of Te Pūnaha Matatini and the University of Canterbury, said the 48 hour extension to restrictions will "limit the risk of onward transmission...if it turns out anyone was infected by the visitor from Sydney".

"The man's partner has now tested positive back in Australia, and it's likely they became infected while they were still in Wellington or on their way home. The most likely scenario this points to is that the man entered his infectious period towards the end of his stay in New Zealand."

Professor Plank said although it's good news the majority of the 2400 contacts idenitified had now tested non-positive, "it's still possible there are other contacts that were missed".

"If there is even one case lurking out there, it has the potential to spread like wildfire because the Delta variant is so infectious and our vaccination coverage is too low at the moment to slow it down much. New South Wales has one of the best contact tracing systems in the world, but it hasn't been able to keep up with the speed the virus is spreading."

He said if anyone was infected on Sunday or Monday, it is likey they would start to develop symptoms around now - meaning it's essential people who were in the Wellington area last weekend to stay alert for symptoms and get tested immediately even if they feel slightly unwell.

2:15pm - The Ministry of Health says the result of further testing for the person with the indeterminate result is expected today.

"The person returned a weak positive result, with a very high cycle threshold, or CT value," the ministry said.

"A subsequent repeat test is underway with results expected today, which will help provide more information as part of the ongoing investigation."

2:12pm - The total number of tests processed by laboratories to date is 2,267,994, according to the Ministry of Health. On Saturday, 6,120 tests were processed, and the seven-day rolling average is 6,255.

2:10pm - The Ministry of Health says of the 2444 total contacts of the Australian traveller, 2067 have returned a negative result. 

"The remainder are either being followed up or are awaiting a test result and the remaining eight have been excluded from testing."

2:03pm - Hipkins says the Government is working hard to understand the risk of the COVID spread in all of Australia's states.

"The extend of the potential spread is unknown, so in those situations we are being precautious and we are reducing the chances of having to escalate alert levels here in New Zealand."

1:59pm - He said it was possible the bubble would be "progressively" reopened with different states.

1:56pm - Hipkins is urging Kiwis stranded in Australia to follow local public health advice.

"Hold tight for now." 

1:55pm - Hipkins says it's possible the travel pause with Australia could be extended.

1:52pm - Dr Bloomfield says there was more than 930,000 scans on Saturday.

1:50pm - He says it's "incredibly important" for anyone who was at a location of interest in Wellington to follow the instructions of health authorities.

1:49pm - Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there is one new imported case in managed isolation.

1:46pm  "It's clear that we are not out of the woods yet. More testing and more results are required for us to be confident in making a decision to lower alert levels as part of this process," Hipkins said.

1:45pm - Hipkins says pre-departure COVID testing will likely be implemented when the trans-Tasman bubble reopens.

1:40pm - Hipkins says while the test results so far are "encouraging", a "potential indeterminate" result was detected overnight in Masterton. "That case is still under investigation."

1:38pm - Alert level 2 restrictions in Wellington have been extended for 48 hours, Hipkins says.
The city will stay at level 2 until 11:59pm on Tuesday. The rest of New Zealand will stay at level 1.

1:36pm - As of yesterday 2444 potential contacts have been identified following the Australian traveller's visit to Wellington. Hipkins said the Government was spreading the net "very wide" in identifying possible contacts and leaving "no stone unturned".

1:34pm - No communty cases were recorded in New Zealand overnight, Hipkins says.

1:25pm - A managed isolation hotel in Rotorua has been evacuated after a fire on Sunday.

Fire and Emergency said they were called to the Sudima Hotel after a light fitting caught fire.

It has since been extinguished and crew are investigating.

1:08pm - New South Wales has recorded 30 new locally acquired cases in the last 24 hours to 8pm Saturday night, health officials say.

All the new cases are related to the Bondi cluster.

Eleven of the 30 cases were in isolation throughout their infectious periods, and a further three cases were in isolation for part of their infectious periods, officials said.

"Of the 112 locally acquired cases recorded since 16 June 2021, when the index case for the Bondi cluster, a driver who transported international flight crew, was reported, 110 are linked to this cluster and two remain under investigation," 

Officials said there were 52,048 tests reported to 8pm last night, compared with the previous day’s total of 55,227.

1:05pm - Another expert, Professor Shaun Hendy, told Stuff he thinks it might still be too early for Wellington to move to level 1.

"I would lean towards caution," he said.

"Cabinet may feel they haven't got enough information yet, or if we do see a positive test, that may contribute to staying in level 2," he told Stuff.

He added that he was in favour of the Wellington region staying at level 2 for a few more days to be safe.

12:40pm - Dr Siouxsie Wiles says she believes the Government should take a cautious approach when deciding on Wellington's alert levels.

"I know it feels like we've dodged a bullet with our Sydney visitor but it's still too early to make that call," she wrote on Twitter today.

"This Delta variant is very infectious. So we need to test, test, test and scan, scan, scan. We do not want to be in the same boat as Australia in a few weeks' time."

She says it would be "wise to stay at alert level 2 for a full 14 days after our guest from Sydney has departed, especially given the escalating situation there and in other parts of Australia".

12:35pm - Queensland has recorded two new community cases of COVID-19, the state's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Sunday. 

She said the people had been infected with the Alpha strain of the virus, so were not connected to the Sydney cluster.

12:30pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield are set to give an update on the COVID-19 situation at 1:30pm today.