As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 Auckland community outbreak - Tuesday, August 24

New Zealand has entered its seventh day in lockdown as the country's COVID-19 cases continue to grow.

On Tuesday, 41 new coronavirus cases were reported bringing the August 2021 community outbreak to 148 cases. The number of cases being reported daily is still expected to increase in coming days, Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

Modelling experts believe the number of cases will continue to grow, and the outbreak could reach as many as 1000 related cases.

Shaun Hendy told Newshub they are now looking to see the lockdown's effect on case numbers - which should happen later in the week.

A letter given to guests at the Novotel Ellerslie MIQ facility, and passed to Newshub, says a staff member has tested positive after visiting a location of interest.

This comes as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand would stay in alert level four lockdown until at least Friday and Auckland would be there longer, until next Tuesday August 31.

What you need to know:

  • All of New Zealand will stay in alert level 4 until 11:59pm on Friday, although Auckland will stay in level 4 until August 31
  • There are now 148 community cases of COVID-19 after another 41 were reported on Tuesday - 39 of which are in Auckland and three are in Wellington
  • At least 15,000 individual contacts have been identified. The majority are close contacts. 
  • The biggest sub-cluster is the Assembly of God Church in south Auckland with 58 cases. Most of our cases are Samoan.
  • Eight cases have been hospitalised, but none are in the ICU
  • Health officials are continuing to investigate possible transmission within the Crowne Plaza, with their inquiries determining six people were in the atrium walkway at the same time the Sydney returnee was in the lobby - the case to which the outbreak has been linked
  • The list of locations of interest has ballooned to more than 450. You can find the Ministry of Health's full list here.
  • Signing in to events or most businesses, such as scanning in with the NZ COVID Tracer, will become mandatory across all alert levels.  

These live updates have finished.

9:10pm - After pausing bookings for managed isolation, officials were forced to apologise for a tone-deaf tweet saying it would give people a break from refreshing the site.

But there might be some good news for those hitting refresh - Newshub can reveal there are still 11,000 rooms in managed isolation yet to be released.

Read and watch the story from Newshub's Amelia Wade here.

8:40pm - At 2:30pm last Tuesday, the Ministry of Health sent out a press release to media advising of a new COVID-19 case in the community with no known links to the border.

Since then New Zealand has recorded 147 more cases, hundreds of locations of interest and thousands of contacts - and been plunged into another lockdown.

The virus circulating in the community has been confirmed to be the highly infectious Delta variant, leading to fears the country - and particularly Auckland - could be at alert level 4 for weeks.

Here's how our week of COVID-19 in the community unfolded.

8:10pm - There are some new locations of interest. They are:

  • New World New Lynn, August 21 from 8:53pm to 9:30pm
  • West Liquor New Lynn Central, August 21 from 9:33pm to 9:45pm
  • The Square Gift Store Auckland CBD, August 12 from 11:45am to 12:55pm.

7:20pm - There are 450 total locations of interest the Ministry of Health has online so far.

The earliest date is August 7, where a person visited the Lula Inn in Auckland, and the most recent is August 22 when someone visited Pak'NSave Clendon.

You can check and search the full list on the ministry's website here.

6:50pm - Newshub can reveal some GP clinics are waiting a month for permission to start vaccinating their patients, with doctors saying bureaucrats with clipboards are frustrating the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The Government's been eagerly talking up New Zealand's vaccination progress - noting a record number of jabs in the past day. 

But only about a fifth of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. GPs, who have been vaccinating New Zealanders for years, can help crank it up - but they say when it comes to COVID-19 jabs, it's been a battle to get the go-ahead.

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

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 Auckland community outbreak - Tuesday, August 24
Photo credit: Getty Images

6:20pm - The Ministry of Health has just added several new locations of interest. They are:

  • Aotea Centre, August 14 from 7pm to 11pm
  • Bus NB5021 487 Dominion Road to 37 Symonds Street, August 21 from 3:41pm to 3:54pm
  • TAPAC The Auckland Performing Arts Centre Western Springs - Foyer, August 13 from 6pm to 7:30pm
  • Countdown Auckland Metro, August 17 from 3:47pm to 5:05pm
  • Break Time Symonds Street, August 17 4pm 5:45pm
  • Vmart Dairy, August 19 from 5:29pm to 5:35pm
  • Bus NB2118 84 Wakefield Street stop to 510 Dominion Road stop, August 21 from 3:11pm to 3:24pm
  • Subway Auckland CBD, August 17 from 4pm to 5:15pm
  • MECCA MAXIMA Westfield Albany, August 15 from 1:10pm to 3:15pm
  • Unichem Pharmacy, 256 Rosebank Road, Avondale, August 17 from 2:30pm to 2:45pm
  • Countdown Pakuranga, August 20 form 12:36pm to 1:15pm
  • Bus NX2 Akoranga Station to University of Auckland stop 7039 Mayoral Drive, August 16 from 6:25pm to 7:50pm.

6:10pm - A staff member at Middlemore Hospital's emergency department has tested postive for COVID-19 and their case is under investigation, the Ministry of Health says.

"Currently, Middlemore's assessment is that the public health risk is low as the staff member was asymptomatic, fully vaccinated, was detected through routine testing, wore appropriate PPE while at work, and the individual is reported to have taken all the appropriate precautions once notified," a spokesperson says.

The DHB reports that the emergency department currently remains open.

6:05pm - Police are reminding New Zealanders to keep their property and valuables secure while the country is in lockdown.

They recommend keeping valuables, such as your phone, wallet, keys, and cash, secure and out of sight, even if you're at home. Additionally, if you're working in the garden or away from your front door, make sure your home is secure.

Police also urge motorists to ensure their vehicles are locked and parked in well-lit areas, and if possible out of sight from the road.

If you do need to leave home, make sure your house is secure when you leave and alarms are activated if you have them.

Police offer the following advice to help keep your home and vehicles safe:

  • Lock your doors and windows
  • Record the serial numbers of expensive electronic items and photograph these and other valuables
  • Keep valuables out of sight
  • Install an alarm system, get sensor lights fitted
  • Keep garden sheds and garages locked when not in use
  • Keep hedges or plants around doors and windows well-trimmed, don't give the burglar a place to hide
  • Join or form a neighbourhood support group
  • Always take keys with you when you leave your vehicle
  • Always lock your vehicle when you leave it
  • Close all windows, including sunroofs
  • Park in well-lit areas if possible
  • Don't leave valuables in your vehicle.

5:50pm - The Ministry of Health says Pacific people are facing discrimination since more than half of current cases are in those who are Samoan.

"The virus is the problem, not people," a post on the Ministry of Health's Twitter page said, urging people to "be part of the solution" and "be kind".

Read the full story here.

5:25pm - Auckland DHB has made some changes for patients and visitors to Auckland City Hospital, Starship Children's Hospital and Greenlane Clinical Centre due to lockdown.

Visiting a patient in hospital:

Patients can have two registered visitors who can visit one at a time between 7am and 8pm. Visitors will be screen on arrival.

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, or have been identified as a close contact, please don't visit.

Children, including brothers and sisters, under 14 years old cannot visit.

Visitors to Starship can only be parents or caregivers.

Outpatients visiting for an appointment:

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been identified as a close contact, please phone 09 367 0000 for advice before you arrive.

You can bring one support person with you and you'll both be asked screening questions on arrival. A basic health check will also be done.

Outpatients may receive a text message asking you to register online before their appointment.

Going to the emergency department:

Let staff know if you have cold or flu symptoms.

You'll be asked screening questions on arrival.

You can have one support person in the emergency department with you. They'll need to scan or sign in, wear a face covering and use the hand sanitiser provided.  

Labour and birthing:

You can have up to two support people with you during labour and birth. Ideally, these people will be from the same bubble.

Once your baby is born, you can have two, though only one person can visit at a time.

5:05pm - Auckland Council is reminding locals that they can't use recreational facilities, including playgrounds, outdoor exercise equipment, basketball courts, pump tracks, and skateparks, while in lockdown.

Mayor Phil Goff says most Aucklanders are doing the right thing, although some are putting others at risk by flouting the rules.

"These recreational facilities are closed for everyone's safety. Using them could result in COVID-19 spreading further in the community, which would risk lives and likely prolong the lockdown," he says.

"Auckland Council's Community Facilities teams have been taping off high-use play and exercise equipment and there are signs on all playgrounds, which is a big task with almost 900 playgrounds alone across the region. People who are breaking the rules and—worse still—removing tape and signs are letting their communities down."

More than 200 high-use playgrounds or items of exercise equipment have been taped off.

4:45pm - Ashley Bloomfield has issued a scathing takedown of those peddling misinformation that COVID-19 is just like influenza, saying the data makes clear "it is a far more serious illness".

The two viruses have frequently been compared during the COVID-19 pandemic - particularly by critics of New Zealand's elimination strategy, who question why the country should be locked down when the Government doesn't take the same approach to the flu.

Read more here.

4:35pm - More than half of the cases in New Zealand are Pasifika peoples.

"As this current outbreak involves the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is highly infectious and easily transmissible, we’re now dealing with a more dangerous version of the virus within the community setting," says Dr Dianne Sika-Paoton from the University of Otago.

"That more than half the reported COVID-19 cases in Aotearoa New Zealand are affecting Pacific peoples with numbers projected to rise, is also devastating news.

"Given the inequities that have persisted in health for Māori and Pacific peoples already, it was known from the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic that Pacific peoples and Māori communities were vulnerable to being disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and would require prioritisation, especially for the vaccination roll-out. Vaccination rates for Pacific peoples collectively across Aotearoa New Zealand, remain of significant concern.

"The implications for the COVID-19 vaccination campaign and priority-setting moving forward is that more work and support is needed to ensure Pacific and Māori peoples and communities are indeed being prioritised.

"Pacific health staff, Pacific health providers, Pacific community, family and church leaders, and many others who have already been working incredibly hard behind the scenes to encourage and ensure Pacific peoples and their families to get vaccinated and tested for COVID-19, also need to be supported to continue doing this work. Delta virus cases continue to surge in other countries and we cannot allow the same to happen in Aotearoa New Zealand."

4:25pm - There are several new locations of interest. They include the Filipino Night Rosmini College in Auckland's Takapuna and stores in Westfield Albany, Auckland Central and Commercial Bay. Find them all here.

4:20pm - The COVID-19 pandemic has meant New Zealanders are spending longer using electronic devices, leading to increased anxiety or depression, according to a new survey.

The Harris Poll of more than 1000 Kiwis, as part of a global study for cyber safety firm NortonLifeLock, found Kiwis are on gadgets for an average of more than five hours per day outside of work and school hours.

Read more here.

4:05pm - ACT's David Seymour has released a statement following the Health Select Committee:

"When asked today what the Government has done to protect New Zealanders against Delta, COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins fell back on N95 masks for MIQ workers," he said.

"In an appearance that showed Hipkins was unlikely ever a boy scout, the motto 'always be prepared' certainly doesn't apply to his response to Delta.

"N95 masks were the gold standard 18 months ago. That Chris Hipkins uses them as an example of Delta-ready innovation is a sad measure of what the Government's been doing for 18 months.

"Hipkins admitted that just over half of the 15,741 known contacts have been traced. These people should be the top priority for testing. For close plus contacts (a term the continuous improvement group asked the Government not to use in its review of the February outbreak), only 51 per cent of 369 have returned a test.

"What's more, this information had to be painfully extracted like a gnarly wisdom tooth. Why can't the Ministry of Health simply share its information? The best the Minister could say is that they've undertaken to talk about it further.

"He also admitted that there are no plans for New Zealanders to have booster shots, despite the science clearly showing that the effect of Pfizer wanes and a booster is needed.

"Hipkins says there are concerns about the timing of shipments of the Pfizer vaccine and it's highly unlikely we'll see the Janssen vaccine in New Zealand this year despite it being approved by Medsafe seven weeks ago. Why weren't the negotiations done earlier?

"When I asked him three weeks ago what tangible changes the Government had made to prepare for Delta, he couldn't name one. Today he said there were now N95 masks for people working in MIQ.

"It's astonishing that this was the Government's one big idea.

"It's time for the Government to wake up from its slumber and start taking this seriously. If it needs ideas on the practical steps it should take, it should check out our COVID 2.0 paper published in March."

4pm - A statement from Police Commissioner Andrew Coster:

"With yesterday’s extension of Alert Level 4 restrictions Police are reminding the public of the need to follow the rules for their own safety and for the safety of their whanau, friends and community.

"While a small minority of people have come to the attention of police for breaching current restrictions.

"Police are continuing to take an education-first approach but as our responses are showing, we will move to enforcement action quickly where it is required.

"Since Alert Level 4 came into place, 44 people have been charged with a total of 48 offences nationwide as at 5pm yesterday.

"These arrests are primarily the result of protest activity and other intentional behaviour in breach of the restrictions.

"In the same time period, 108 formal warnings were issued.

43 of the formal warnings were for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 23 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction and 42 for Health Act Breaches.

"From 19 August 2021, Police began issuing infringements for COVID-19 related breaches.

"As at 5pm on 23 August 2021, Police have issued 507 infringements nationwide.

"Yesterday saw a 45-year-old man arrested following an incident at supermarket in Christchurch where it is alleged the man failed to wear a mask and was acting aggressively towards staff.

"The man was arrested and has been charged with disorderly behaviour, resisting Police and wilful trespass and is due to appear in the Christchurch District Court on Friday.

"Along with undertaking Covid 19 related prevention and enforcement activity Police staff are also continuing to undertake general duties policing responsibilities.

"Following earlier instances of speeding drivers in Wellington at the start of alert level 4 restrictions road policing activities in Wellington District have continued and while there has been improvement there is still some concerning behaviour.

"Disappointingly, yesterday five people were processed for drink driving in Wellington District and 87 speeding infringements were issued – some for speeding in excess of 130km/h.

"The enforcement activity yesterday is in addition to the 40 speeding infringement notices issued on each day of the weekend.

"Police will continue to take a strong enforcement focus to ensure safety on our roads.

"Additionally, Police have received a total of 7099 online breach notifications.

4280 were about a gathering, 2162 were about a business, and 657 were about a person.

"In addition to the online breach notifications, a total of 4752 Covid-19 related calls were made to the 105-phone line.

"The majority (3358) of calls were requests for information, and 1394 were to report perceived Covid-19 breaches."

3:50pm - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hitting out at New Zealand's COVID-19 response, saying following an elimination strategy with the Delta variant is absurd. 

Morrison's criticism comes as Australia struggles to contain multiple outbreaks with many states in lockdown including, The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. 

Read more here.

3:35pm - The Select Committee has now finished. On Wednesday, there are three committees sitting with a focus on the outbreak:

  • 10am: Transport and Infrastructure (Transport Minister Michael Wood and officials appearing)
  • 11am: Social Services (Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni and officials appearing)
  • 2:30pm: Health (COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and MIQ/Border officials appearing).

3:30pm - Why hasn't the Government asked for quicker delivery of vaccines or pay more for faster delivery, Bishop asks. Hipkins says Pfizer hasn't offered faster delivery for more money but he wouldn't say if the Government had itself offered to pay more to get doses quicker. The Government has explored a number of ways to get faster access, he says.

Hipkins says the rollout once the doses have arrived in New Zealand has been well managed but supply meant it took a while for many to get here.

3:25pm - Our alert level framework has been refined since its inception, Hipkins says, giving examples like mandating masks on public transport and compulsory record keeping at some locations. He says the four alert levels are really well understood and if we were to change the levels or add more, people would have to learn about the framework all over again. 

3:20pm - The COVID-19 Response Minister says the Government is aware of the workforce issues in health, but that's not something that can be quickly turned around. Efforts have also been made to get healthcare workers into the country, he says.

In other countries, their healthcare systems have scaled back other operations to focus on COVID-19. That hasn't had to happen in New Zealand, Hipkins says.

Hipkins can't say how many ICU nurses have been brought into the country recently. 

Dr Bloomfield notes the pressure on ICU in New Zealand. He said it is vital to protect our healthcare system from the virus and ensure its not overwhelmed. Over the week, ICU beds have been about 50 percent occupied, so there is capacity there.

3:15pm - Hipkins tells the committee the Delta variant is infecting younger populations more than previous variants of the virus.

Dr Bloomfield says from data he was given a few days ago, there was a case aged under one. About half of the cases were aged under 20. He doesn't expected this proportion will have changed in recent days.

3:10pm - Despite documents showing about $5 billion left in the Government's COVID-19 fund, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says there is "more than enough" money to get by. 

The Government unveiled a $50 billion COVID Response and Recovery Fund last year to help pay for things related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the wage subsidy scheme and vaccinations. 

But the latest financial update showed there was about $5 billion left, after millions of dollars from the COVID-19 fund was spent on the likes of school lunches, cameras on fishing boats and KiwiBuild

Read more here about the Select Committee on Tuesday morning.

3pm - The day a person starts to show symptoms of COVID-19 is also the day they're most contagious, a new study has found.

But if you catch the virus off someone who isn't showing symptoms, there's some good news too - there's a good chance you won't have any either, reiterating the value of getting vaccinated. 

Read more from a new study here.

2:55pm - Hipkins says Maori have done well in coming forward and getting tested. On lower levels of vaccinations, this may be explained by Maori not being as highly represented as others in the early groups to get jabbed, like border workers. They are also under-represented in older age groups. 

He says there a lot of marae-based vaccinations happening, which he describes as "fantastic". 

2:50pm - From October we are going to be getting a lot of vaccines, Hipkins says. If everyone eligible is vaccinated, we will still have extra Pfizer doses in case we need to do booster shots, he says. There are conversations about getting more doses for next year.

Janssen couldn't deliver vaccines in quarter three and it would be challening for them in the next quarter, Hipkins says.

2:40pm - Hipkins says we are dealing with far more contacts than we did last year and that the metrics were designed based on only a handful of contacts per case. These cases are a younger demographic and are going to larger, social events. He says the contact tracing system is rising to the challenge well, but it's still under pressure.

How many contacts have returned a positive or negative test, David Seymour asks. Hipkins doesn't have the exact number, but notes that not every contact is tested as soon as they are identified.

Seymour criticises Hipkins for not having that number.

Dr Caroline McElnay says of the 369 very close contacts, 51 percent have returned results - 11 percent were positive. Of the more than 14,000 close contacts, 56 percent have returned - 0.2 percent were positive.  Of about 400 casual plus, 58 percent have returned, with none positive.

2:35pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is before the committee, as well as a number of officials, including Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. 

On the Crowne Plaza investigation, National's Chris Bishop asks about officials are doing to track down the two outstanding people who were close to the lobby when the source was being transferred into the hotel. Dr Bloomfield says the two people has been identified and are now being interviewed. 

Dr Ayesha Verrall's contact tracing metrics are still being used, but Hipkins says there were designed essentially for a different virus, pre-Delta, with a longer incubation period. The targets will be much more difficult to meet therefore, he says. 

2:30pm - The Health Select Committee is  about to begin. You can watch it here.

2:25pm - We have the latest locations of interest. The AUT City Campus library pops up several times on different dates and times while a Farro Fresh outlet and a store in Westfield Albany are also on the list. Find them all here.

2:20pm - While the New Zealand COVID-19 press conference was underway, the NSW update came in.

Find out more here.

2:10pm - A reminder that at 2:30pm, the Health Select Committee will be sitting with COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins answering question. We will bring you anything of note from that.

2pm - Newshub has just had a response from the Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Brigadier Rose King about the Novotel Ellerslie worker who tested positive. 

"An MBIE MIQ staff member at the Novotel Ellerslie tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday (23 August). The individual was at a location of interest in Auckland.

"They were stood down from their post and directed to self-isolate and had a test as recommended.  They are fully vaccinated and compliant with the testing orders.  Their last rostered day at work was 18 August. 

"There is no currently reason to think they are linked to the possible line of transmission from MIQ to the community. 

"They worked at the Novotel Ellerslie managed isolation facility. They did not work at either Crowne Plaza or Jet Park facilities.

"This case is being investigated to determine how the worker may have contracted the virus, and whether it was passed on to anyone. This investigation will include genome sequencing.

"As they do with any positive case, the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is also conducting interviews to identify any close contacts among fellow staff members, plus interviews with potential close contacts outside work.

"CCTV footage has been reviewed and has identified close contacts in the work place. Those staff members who have been identified as close contacts are now isolating and following health guidelines.

"The previous pause to returnee departures that was in place yesterday afternoon has now lifted and all returnees are approved to leave the Novotel Ellerslie according to their departure timeline.

"We appreciate the cooperation of those who’s departure was delayed and we will do our best to support them in their onwards travel."

1:55pm - In case you missed it, here's the main case number update from Tuesday's Ministry of Health statement: 

There are 41 new cases of COVID-19 in the New Zealand community to confirm today. This brings the total number of cases in the community outbreak to 148.

Of these 41 new cases, 19 are female and 22 are male. 31 of these are Pacific peoples, three are Asian and seven are European.

The total number of community cases in Auckland is now 137 and 11 in Wellington.

All of the cases have or are being transferred safely to a managed isolation facility, under strict infection prevention and control procedures, including the use of full PPE.

As previously indicated, it’s not unexpected to see a rise in daily case numbers at this stage. At its peak last year, New Zealand had a daily total of 89 new cases.

There are currently 9 hospitalisations, of which 8 are associated with the current outbreak (7 related to community transmission and 1 border-related).

Of the 148 cases in the cluster, 89 are already epidemiologically linked to other community cases identified in the outbreak. Investigations are continuing to determine whether and how the remaining 59 cases are linked to the outbreak.

There are currently 6 epidemiologically-linked subclusters identified within this outbreak. The two largest clusters are the Birkdale Social Network cluster associated with Case A (approximately 23 confirmed cases) and a cluster associated with the AOG church in Mangere (approximately 58 cases). We will continue to release this information and new locations of interest as it becomes available.

There is one new case in recent returnees in a managed isolation facility.

1:45pm - Robertson says no new cohort of MIQ guests were going into the Crowne Plaza until September 10, so there is time to close it for investigations and not have any significant impact on the system. 

He reiterates MBIE's apology regarding a widely criticised tweet about the MIQ room release pause. 

The Deputy Prime Minister stands by the vaccination rollout in terms of the way it has been sequenced. It comes after a question about whether it was smart to leave younger people to last considering they make up many of the cases in this outbreak.

Dr Bloomfield says New Zealand has taken the same approach to many other countries.

1:40pm - Dr Bloomfield can't release images of the people being looked for in connection to being close to the Crowne Plaza facility. That isn't a decision for the Ministry of Health, he says. Robertson says police are involved.

Dr Bloomfield says contact tracers priortise essential workers. Officials are looking to see how many of our cases are essential workers. 

Robertson says he sees no evidence that alert level 4 isn't working this time around. By and large, people are being compliant, he says.

1:35pm - Dr Bloomfield doesn't have the number of people at the church service. There were about 27 different church groups there, including some who travelled from Wellington. There have been more than 500 people tested as part of that sub-cluster. 

Robertson confirms Newshub's earlier report that a worker at the Novotel Ellerslie MIQ facility has tested positive. They didn't test positive at work, but were a close contact of a cluster. They were at work for one shift and all people at work on that day are now isolating. He confirms the infection didn't come from MIQ.

Demographic information about this outbreak will be coming soon, Dr Bloomfield says. The first will be out later on Tuesday.

1:30pm - Dr Bloomfield is confident in infection prevention control processes at vaccination clinics, including at a central Auckland one.

The 58 south Auckland church cluster cases are a mix of those at the service and their contacts. There are about six sub-clusters, Dr Bloomfield says.

1:25pm - "There is no shortage of funding here," Robertson says after questions about the amount of money available to spend on the country's response.

Dr Bloomfield says the vaccination rates of younger Maori people need to be a focus. Pacific people in south Auckland also need to be targeted. Robertson says much of that targeted work will begin after September 1 when all eligible people can book their vaccination.

Is Tuesday the peak of the outbreak? Robertson says the timeframe being worked with is eight to ten days, and we aren't quite there. Dr Bloomfield says while we have seen an increase, it isn't exponential. Further increases over the next few days is expected. However, we will soon be at a position where all cases that came about before lockdown have been identified.

1:20pm - Most wage subsidy applicants are sole traders or small businesses, Robertson says. He thanks businesses for adapting to the lockdown and says the Government is there to support them. A semblance of normality is not the case for many businesses, especially in hospitality, he says and support is there.

A strong health response is the best economic response, Robertson says, mentioning the rebound seen after last year's alert level 4 lockdown. The economy has been performing stronger than before COVID-19 hit, he says.

Robertson also thanks MIQ staff for helping 160,000 people re-enter New Zealand and for supporting those in quarantine after testing positive in this current outbreak.

There's enough money to deal with the wage subsidy and the Resurgence Support Payment and have more left over. There was about $5 billion set aside at the Budget, plus money allocated to some projects or schemes but not spent that could be drawn from.

1:15pm - On Monday, there were 35,300 tests processed across the country, with more than 26,000 in Auckland. Wait times in Auckland are down. In Wellington, there were around 2500 tests processed.

There has been no unexpected wastewater sample detections. A second sample from Warkworth has come back negative. The previous positive detection has been linked to the current outbreak.

Dr Bloomfield says the vaccination rollout is seeing "great progress". 

Robertson is now speaking about the economic support to the lockdown, mentioning the leave support scheme, the Resurgence Support Payment and the Wage Subsidy.

1:10pm - There are more than 15,000 contacts, with most being close contacts. At this point in last year's Auckland outbreak there were about 1500 close contacts. That shows the wider reach officials are taking with the Delta variant.

Of the contacts, 9757 have been followed up and there is ongoing work to contact the rest. There has been an increase in contact tracing capacity with nearly 900 frontline tracers.

There are 369  "very closest contacts", Dr Bloomfield says, and 90 percent have been contacted. All cases have been interviewed within 24 hours and 89 percent of very close contacts were found and traced with 48 hours of case notification. In terms of time from exposure event to case identification, the metric is more than 80 percent within 24 hours, but it's sitting at 75 percent.

Dr Bloomfield says his Australian counterpart told him on Monday night that dealing with Delta is like dealing with a whole new virus. This has been our experience in New Zealand as well and reinforces how important it is to follow the lockdown rules, he says. 

1:05pm - Robertson and Dr Bloomfield have arrived at the Beehive theatrette.

The Deputy Prime Minister says Monday was New Zealand's best day for vaccinations with more than 63,000 doses administered. He thanks Kiwis who are part of the vaccine programme, an important part of our response plan.

The Director-General of Health says there are 41 new cases of COVID-19 in the community, taking the total to 148. Thirty-eight of the new cases are in Auckland and three are in Wellington. All cases in Wellington are linked to existing cases. Of the total, 89 are epidemiologically linked to the cluster. Eighty cases have been genome sequenced, all linked to the outbreak.

The majority of the cases are Samoan because the largest sub-cluster is the Assembly of God Church in Mangere, with 58 cases. The second biggest sub-cluster is associated with the first case and is being called the Birkdale social group, with 23 cases.

Eight people are in hospital, but none are in ICU.

12:45pm - Grant Robertson and Dr Ashley Bloomfield will hold their press conference at 1pm. We will stream that above shortly and also have it on Three.

12:35pm - In the midst of the current outbreak of the COVID-19 Delta variant it's more important than ever that Kiwis continue to scan QR codes to aid contact tracing.

But what happens if you can't afford a modern smartphone and the official NZ COVID Tracer app doesn't work on your older phone?

Read more here.

12:25pm - There are a number of new locations of interest. These include Pak'nSave Royal Oak, several cafes and takeaway stores, Bunnings Mt Roskill and a laundromat. Find the full list here.

12:20pm - 2Degrees is removing broadband data caps during the lockdown.

"We know staying connected matters now, more than ever and 2degrees customers can rest easy, knowing they are fully supported during this Level 4 lockdown," said chief executive Mark Aue.

"Since lockdown was announced a week ago, we have seen a significant shift in data usage patterns as people moved quickly to work from home and settled in for an extended period of life in their bubble.

"We don’t want any of our customers who are managing work and study commitments to worry about the extra demand on their household broadband. So, like we did last time around, we are removing any over-use charges on fixed-cap plans and wireless broadband accounts for all rural and urban customers."

2Degrees says most home and business users are on unlimited data plans, but for those who aren't, this will bring some "peace of mind". 

"To continue our support for customers during this time, we will waive late payment fees, and if COVID-19 is causing any financial hardship we will work with you to find the best solution for your situation," Aue said.

12:15pm - On a lighter note, someone has made an excellent remix of COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins talking about people being able to get outside to "spread their legs" during the lockdown.

Radio station George FM is looking for the best DJ remix of the moment, which has gone viral.

12:05pm - There has been some frustration about a lack of delivery slots available at some supermarkets. Foodstuffs has now responded:

"Online operations have been significantly scaled up, however, online deliveries and Click & Collect are impacted if a store is confirmed as a location of interest as a significant number of the team are sent home to self-isolate," Foodstuffs head of corporate affairs Antoinette Laird told Newshub.

"Stores are working hard to minimise delays in this circumstance and are proactively contacting customers who are affected if their store is confirmed as a location of interest.

"For customers who are unable to come to our stores, we encourage them to ask a friend or neighbour to shop for them.

"New World offers online delivery in North Island and offers priority assistance to support customers who are vulnerable and need help with securing an online order for delivery, or Click & Collect, the number to call is 0800 363 977.

"In partnership with New World, Student Volunteer Army are currently delivering groceries to anyone who needs it in nationwide. To access this service go to or call 0800 005 902.

"We encourage shoppers to shop normal, wear a face covering and scan the QR code."

11:55am - The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has apologised for a tweet on Monday that has been widely criticised on social media.

After announcing MIQ was pausing the release of rooms during the current outbreak, someone asked "how does this help anyone", to which the MBIE account replied: "It helps because people can take a break from refreshing the website while there's a pause". With many Kiwis overseas desperate to return home - many to see dying loved ones - the response was not well received.

MBIE has now apologised.

"The current community outbreak means MIQ needs to carefully manage capacity as community members enter facilities to quarantine," it says.

"We understand that it is stressful for people trying to secure a room when demand is high. We know that many people are constantly refreshing the website looking for rooms.

"The announcement about pausing the release and re-release of rooms was intended to reduce stress and inform people seeking to book a voucher, so that they could stop refreshing the website as there would be no rooms to secure.

"We apologise for not making this clearer in the tweet and for any upset caused. We can assure people that the emergency allocation process remains open for New Zealanders who require urgent travel within the next 14 days. We will let people know when the system returns to normal."

The criticised tweet has been deleted.

11:40am - There will be a press conference at 1pm held by Grant Robertson and Dr Ashley Bloomfield. We will be streaming that.

11:30am - There will a Health Select Committee featuring COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins  at 2:30pm. We will bring anything of note out of that.

11:25am - Finance Minister Grant Robertson has been speaking before a Select Committee on Tuesday morning.

He told Members that the Resurgence Support Payment had opened for applications - this is the payment for fixed costs rather than having to go towards employees' wages. There is a $21,500 cap on it and the amount received depends on the number of FTEs a business has.

The wage subsidy is also available and so far, 127,935 businesses have had their application approved with $484.4 million paid out. Just one of these firms had more than 100 FTEs, with Robertson saying he had heard many corporations are happy with their current position.

He thanked staff at the Ministry of Social Development for their work in getting money out the door. He says there has been fewer issues than last year as people have a better grasp of the policy.

Overall, he said the country is tracking well economically, with just 4 percent unemployment.

Asked how much money was left in the COVID-19 Recovery Fund - which the Opposition in recent weeks has said has been going towards projects of little value - Robertson said there was enough cash to deal with the lockdown. There is also money which has been allocated to projects, but not yet spent.

He said he was happy with support available to students - noting some will benefit from the wage subsidy as part-time workers - and conversations would take place about long-term actions if the lockdown was extended for a lengthy amount of time. The Government hasn't taken a decision on rental freezes.

11:15am - A guest at the Novotel Ellerslie MIQ facility told Newshub they received the letter informing them of the staff member testing positive on Tuesday morning. They have tested negative three times and are not far from their departure.

They are worried their stay could be extended and haven't been able to get details about their departure.

"That is the issue. When you arrive here, you have in your mind a two-week timeframe and you work towards that mentally. Then you get a letter like this this morning which puts doubt as to whether or not you are going to get out as scheduled or you may be here for another week."

But the guest says other people have been leaving on Tuesday morning as scheduled.

The letter says guests will "continue your managed isolation as before", but no detail is provided about impacts on length of stays. Newshub has asked MIQ about this. 

The guest says they have very limited with staff members. 

11:05am - A staff member at the Novotel Ellerslie MIQ facility has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a letter from Joint Head Managed Isolation and Quarantine Brigadier Rose King provided to guests at the facility - and which has been passed to Newshub - the staff member visited a location of interest in Auckland and began self-isolating when they became aware. They received a test on August 20 and have since tested positive. 

An investigation is underway into how the worker contracted the virus and if it was passed on to anyone. The letter says the investigation will include genome sequencing.

Interviews are underway to identify close contacts among staff members as well as with close contacts outside of the facility.

Brigadier King says there are "robust processes in place to respond to these kinds of events" and guests will "continue your managed isolation as before and continue to get your regular health checks and scheduled COVID-19 tests".

The letter also reminds guests of infection prevention controls, such as closing widows, wearing masks and keeping two metres from others. 

Newshub has contacted MIQ and ARPHS for more information.

Novotel Ellerslie MIQ.
Novotel Ellerslie MIQ. Photo credit: Newshub.

10:55am - Federated Farmers are urging the Government to reconsider and allow small business fresh food sellers to stay open at alert level four and run click and collect services.

"Many food retailers such as butchers, bakers and greengrocers can observe distancing and hygiene rules as well as supermarkets within their stores and having them open will ease queues experienced at the bigger stores," national president Andrew Hoggard says.

Butchers are currently able to take bookings online and do deliveries but Hoggard says they should be able to do more.

"This is not good enough. And not what we asked for, most of our small butchers and greengrocers simply don't have the delivery mechanisms, or access to them, to successfully deliver perishable goods".

10:35am - Microbiologist associate professor Dr Siouxsie Wiles has hit back at Kiwis who have adopted the "we need to learn to live (=die) with COVID-19" mindset.

"No. We need to stay the course," she said in a post to Twitter.

"Cases will continue to rise in the coming days. That’s no reason to panic. We had days of transmission before we moved to L4, including some super-spreader events. People will still be incubating the virus from those exposures.

"Also lots of exposed people are getting tested & it will take time to process all those tests & process the data. None of this is cause for alarm or to abandon elimination so don’t let the pundits or economists like Rodney Jones convince you otherwise. 

"The best thing you can do right now if you are not an essential worker is stay in your bubble, get tested only if you have symptoms are have been asked to get tested, wear a mask outside your bubble & scan in."

10:15am - The Ministry of Health has announced three new locations of interest - Western Springs College, Revive Vegan Cafe Auckland CBD and St Therese Catholic Church Mangere East.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 Auckland community outbreak - Tuesday, August 24

10am - AA is reminding Kiwis not to leave their car sitting in the garage during alert level four to reduce the possibility of battery failure.

Roadservice attended a record-breaking 4208 callouts around New Zealand in the 48 hours after lockdown restrictions lifted in April last year - the majority of which were battery-related. It was a sharp increase from the 2400 callouts AA normally attends in 48 hours. 

"None of our team have forgotten those extremely busy days which overloaded our call system, and saw battery job, after battery job come in," general manager of roadside solutions Bashir Khan says.

"If you're not using your car at all at the moment, we recommend starting your engine for 30 minutes at least once a week, to ensure the battery is topped up and the engine oil and coolant are circulated."

Bashir says AA is doing what it can to prepare for a spike in callouts when lockdown restrictions ease. 

9:40am - Massey University associate professor Anna Brown says the Government's decision to make record keeping such as QR scanning, manually signing in compulsory at all alert levels is "very welcome".

"However, compulsion always carries a cost," she says. 

"Aotearoa New Zealand's success at managing COVID-19 has depended to a large extent upon trust and cooperation, and it is important that the Government continues to value and preserve that trust. Especially so given that the next challenge - of high vaccination rates - requires the ultimate level of citizen trust. 

"Our message is: Don't give up on engagement and achieving public buy-in. We need to have a conversation about why scanning is useful, and for the public to understand that the most important reason to scan is for public safety."

But she says the fact it is mandatory should not be the only motivating factor.

"People become fatigued by compulsion - we have seen this in Australia. It is tempting for Governments to respond to that fatigue with legislation and compulsion. High trust and high social expectations with resulting high public uptake and actions are more sustainable drivers of action. These are best achieved not just by clear communication but also evidence of value."

National Party leader Judith Collins.
National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub

9:20am - National leader Judith Collins says she'd set a vaccination target of 70-75 percent for the country "to avoid future lockdowns and the cost that this imposes on every New Zealander".

She told Newshub on Tuesday New Zealand currently has no choice but to be in alert level four.

"I think there will be plenty of people around the rest of the country who are deeply disappointed about their situation. Right at the moment, the Government is basically admitting they've lost control of this Delta virus. They're not quite sure where it is. It seems to have come in through an MIQ facility into a mostly unvaccinated population. They've got themselves into a mess and now everyone else has to pay for it."

9am - The 2021 Anchor AIMS Games has been cancelled due to the latest COVID-19 lockdown.

The organisers announced the Tauranga event's cancellation in a Facebook post on Monday night, saying they are "devastated".

"The subsequent return to level 4 has effectively and abruptly ended our plans to host the tournament in Tauranga," they said.

"Many of you have asked about the prospect of postponing the tournament - unfortunately, it is not an option, with 25,000 people to accommodate, 1800 officials to organise and 29 venues to be available at the same time. Some have also suggested excluding areas that have been affected by COVID-19 but our entire philosophy is based around being as inclusive as possible.

"Unfortunately, there are bigger things afoot in the world and we're proud we came incredibly close to hosting New Zealand's largest sporting event despite the spectre of a global pandemic."  

However, they said the event will be back in 2022 from September 3 - 9.

8:45am - Applications are now open for the COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payment (RSP).

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson says businesses, organisations and self-employed people can apply for the payment, which is intended to help businesses with costs like rent or fixed costs.

"To qualify for the RSP, applicants must experience at least a 30 percent decline in revenue over seven days as a result of the increase in alert levels, as well as other eligibility criteria," he said.

"The one-off payment is available to any business in New Zealand that meets the criteria. Businesses can apply for the RSP at the same time as the Wage Subsidy Scheme."

 The payment includes a core per business rate of $1500, plus $400 per employee, up to a total of 50 full-time equivalents (FTEs) which is a maximum payment of $21,500. Businesses with more than 50 FTEs can still apply but cannot get more than the maximum payment.

The scheme will be available until all of New Zealand returns to alert level one for one month.

Businesses can apply for the payment by logging into their MyIR account. Further information can be found on the Inland Revenue website.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 Auckland community outbreak - Tuesday, August 24
Photo credit: Getty Images

8:30am - The Ministry of Health's location of interest page was updated at 8:15am however there are no new locations to report.

There are currently more than 400 locations of interest in connection to the latest community outbreak, the majority of which are in Auckland.

You can find Newshub's full list of locations here which will be updated as new ones appear throughout the day.

8:10am - Ardern revealed she wants New Zealand's vaccine rollout to be "far beyond" the US and UK's rollouts.

"We need to have as many New Zealanders as possible vaccinated if we want to protect them against the kinds of outbreaks that  you are still seeing in both those countries."

She said New Zealand's goal should be to get to the "top of the table".

"Let's do that. Let's seek to be the best in the world."

8:05am - Ardern wouldn't comment on if MIQ bookings at the Crowne Plaza Hotel were being cancelled or rebooked as investigators try to find the source of the Delta outbreak.

The current theory is that as the infected person arrived at the hotel, they passed it to a member of the public.

"What we have done with the managed isolation facility at the Crowne Plaza, while we do not yet know how the transmission occurred we are being very cautious and we're essentially allowing people who are there to complete their time in quarantine, and then we are not refilling it. We want to get to the bottom of what's happened," Ardern said.

8am - Disease modeller Shaun Hendy told Newshub on Monday the outbreak could grow to as many as 1000 cases but Ardern wouldn't reveal what her current advice was expecting.

"I've seen such a range… we've shared those ranges early on and we're close to some of those numbers now," she said.

Ardern noted modelling, particularly at the beginning of outbreaks, can be quite variable.

"One of the things that we have been sharing at least is there's been a suggestion that we won't see it peak until between eight to 10 days and we're not there yet. We do expect that cases will continue to grow, so people should expect that. 

"The other thing that's different than past experiences is that with Delta, and you saw this in Australia, in the past you might see a few members of a household if they've got a contact with a family member who has COVID may also be infected - now we're seeing that predominantly almost everyone in a household is becoming infected. 

"That does affect your numbers, and you can expect that's another reason why we'll continue to see those numbers grow. Really, to everyone I would say just expect it. We are. It will get worse before it gets better."

7:53am - Ardern said New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccination plan "is ramping up".

She said the country's plan to vaccinate Kiwis more at risk and vulnerable to the virus was important to note.

7:50am - Currently in New Zealand only three of the outbreak's 107 cases have been fully vaccinated - a rate of 2.8 percent, The AM Show host Ryan Bridge said.

He asked Ardern if it was a worrying statistic.

"That's not surprising because we are moving through the age cohorts," Ardern said.

"Those who are most at risk are our older New Zealanders. This is an outbreak that is affecting younger New Zealanders in particular - you'll see those locations of interest, halls of residence, university and so on.

"So that's not unsurprising given where we are in our rollout - that it's a number more like 11 than a higher number because of that rollout cohorting…

"We are exactly where we anticipated being right now from the beginning of our vaccination campaign because we always said it would take us a year, and that the second half of the year is when we hit our full-scale rollout, and you're seeing that now."

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 Auckland community outbreak - Tuesday, August 24

7:47am - Ardern said the peak of the August outbreak is yet to come.

"We expect cases will continue to grow," she told The AM Show on Tuesday.

She said most people in households with a positive case are testing positive so that will have an impact on numbers.

"It will get worse before it gets better."

7:45am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she has no update on the COVID-19 situation.

"We leave all of the case updates until the 1pm [update] and locations of interest go up throughout the day."

7:40am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is about to appear on The AM Show to talk about the alert level decision, Parliament's suspension and the vaccine rollout. You can watch the interview live here.

7:30am - Quin said there will be times - "an hour here or there" - where supermarkets will run out of stock.

"We are definitely under pressure. The global supply chain has been under pressure all year. But at the moment, for all of the essentials that people are after, we have got stock as long as people shop normally and just buy what you need for the next week or so or 10 days.. If we keep doing that we can keep filling the shelves and keep us as calm as we can."

7:20am - Chris Quin said it was "hard to know" if profit was up this week on four weeks ago despite the significant increase in demand.

"There's no doubt volume has been up on a lot of supermarkets but so has been cost," he said.

"We have had a lot going on with people and self isolation following locations of interest events. We are just focused on two things right now. One is keeping our team and our customers safe and the other is keeping our shelves with product on them. We aren't really thinking much else about anything else right now."

Chris Quin.
Chris Quin. Photo credit: The AM Show

7:10am- Foodstuffs North Island CEO Chris Quin has assured prices for products in Pak'nSave and New World stores have not increased during alert level four lockdown.

"As we did last time, we kept all of the specials and promotions in place as one of the first things we ensure," he said. 

"We have got to make sure we have stock on the products that are being promoted so we aren't advertising something people can't get any stock of. But we start tracking it straight away to make sure we are keeping prices even through an event like this."

6:50am - The Ministry of Health confirmed 110 new locations of interest on Monday including gyms, supermarkets, university campuses and popular malls.

There are now more than 300 confirmed locations around New Zealand, in Auckland, Wellington, Waiouru, Bulls, Porirua, Tokoroa, Thames and Coromandel.

You can find the list of locations here and a map of locations here.

Anyone who has visited a location of interest at the relevant time is asked to follow the directions for the location and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453. 

"If you were not at the location of interest at the relevant time, you do not need to be tested," the Ministry said.

6:30am- With five weeks to go before the 65th Alexandra Blossom Festival, organisers are stressed about how to enforce mandatory COVID Tracer App scanning.

The Central Otago festival is expected to attract an estimated 15,000 people and run along several blocks of the main street in Alexandra.

Event manager Martin McPherson told RNZ while he supported the move for most venues and events in certain locations, he did not think it was feasible for the Blossom Festival.

"Apart from just putting tracer apps on every lamp post down the parade route and possibly ... having volunteers walking around with tracer apps, confronting people and asking them to sign in, I don't think there's any simple solution to this and I can't for the life of me make it work to a figure of 100 percent."

6:10am - Auckland mayor Phil Goff said he believes the lockdown remains the best way for the city to get back to level 1.

Goff told RNZ's Checkpoint on Monday night Auckland could not have come out of lockdown after the initial seven days, given the significant number of contacts so far.

He noted Jacinda Ardern said the current level of transmission is about six, so every person in the community with COVID-19 is expected to pass it on to about six people.

"And that needs to come down to less than one to know that you are on top of the spread of the virus," he told Checkpoint.

Goff said he was particularly concerned about Aucklanders who have no income during lockdown and those who are living alone or who are separated from their families.

"All of that's tough, but equally, all of us know that if we want to get back to level 1 the best way, the quickest way of doing that is all of us following the rules, acting collectively, making sure that what we do keeps ourselves, our family and our community safe."

5:55am - The AM Show kicks off at 6am. Foodstuffs North Island CEO Chris Quin will be in at 6:50am to talk about supermarket supplies after shops around New Zealand were hit by panic buying. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is on the show at 7:40am to chat about the alert level four extension. 

Dr Natalie Netzler.
Dr Natalie Netzler. Photo credit: The Hui

5:40am - The push is on to get as many Māori vaccinated against COVID-19 since they are more than twice as likely to die from it than Pākehā. 

Dr Natalie Netzler, a Māori virologist at the University of Auckland, is urging Māori to be more proactive about getting the jab. 

"We have at least a 50 percent more chance of dying from COVID-19 than other ethnic groups in Aotearoa and we know that if we catch the virus, we are two-and-a-half times more likely to need hospitalisation," she told The Hui on Monday.

She said it's particularly worrying the latest outbreak is the Delta COVID-19 variant.

"With Delta, we are seeing that one sick person with COVID-19 can infect on average around seven people, so it's much more contagious. With more cases, we get more deaths."

Read the full story here.