Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, August 25

Sixty-two new cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the community on Wednesday, bringing the outbreak to 210 - 198 in Auckland, and 12 in Wellington.

As of 9am, 20,383 contacts have been identified in connection with the outbreak.

Modelling experts believe that number will continue to surge - and the outbreak could balloon to as many as 1000.

Of the cases in the outbreak, 105 have been linked to the Assembly of God Church in Māngere, the outbreak's largest sub-cluster. Five other epidemiologically linked sub-clusters have been identified, the second largest being the Birkenhead Social cluster, which stands at around 36 cases. The other four have 10 cases or under.

Public health officials have now identified almost 500 locations of interest, the majority of which are in Auckland, with some also identified in Wellington, the Coromandel, and several small North Island towns.

The Government's steadfast commitment to the elimination strategy has become the subject of debate after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison labelled New Zealand's response "absurd", claiming the world needed to stop sheltering in "a cave" and learn to live with the virus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson have both waved off the criticism, maintaining they have confidence in the strategy.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has said it "can't rule out" the possibility that five Aucklanders received incorrect doses of the COVID-19 vaccine last month, with reports the patients were instead administered saline solution.

What you need to know:

  • New Zealand will stay in alert level 4 until 11:59pm on Friday, although Auckland will stay in level 4 until August 31
  • The outbreak has now grown to 210 cases after a further 62 were reported on Tuesday, one of which was found in Wellington - a close contact of another case
  • More than 20,000 individual contacts have been identified, the majority of which are close contacts
  • Twelve people with COVID-19 are in hospital, but none in the ICU
  • One-hundred-and-five cases are linked to the Assembly of God Church sub-cluster in south Auckland
  • Health officials are continuing to investigate possible transmission within the Crowne Plaza. Inquiries have determined 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
  • It was a record day of vaccinations on Tuesday, with around 80,000 doses administered nationwide
  • The list of locations of interest has ballooned to more than 490. You can find the Ministry of Health's full list here.

These live updates have finished.

9:25pm - A security guard employed by a contractor to Auckland Airport has tested positive for COVID-19. This person is currently in managed isolation.

Libby Middlebrook, head of communications and external relations at Auckland Airport, says the security worker had already been shifted into managed isolation when they received a positive result, four days after their last day at work on August 17. The worker returned negative COVID-19 tests on August 17 and August 18.

The worker is an employee of Secureflight, a company contracted to provide security services at Auckland Airport. Their role was to provide security at a drive-through airfield gate used by a limited number of contractors and airport employees, Middlebrook says. The gate is located away from the terminals and is not used by the travelling public. The Ministry of Health has not named the gate, or employee’s place of work, as locations of interest.

Auckland Airport has temporarily closed down an airfield work site, allowing contractors who passed through the gate during the worker's most recent shifts to get a COVID-19 test and confirm a negative result before returning to work.

All Secureflight staff who were working closely with the individual have also been stood down and will undergo testing for COVID-19 while self-isolating for 14 days.

9pm - Newshub can reveal more than 300 managed isolation (MIQ) rooms are being set aside for New Zealand's Delta COVID-19 outbreak, with the Government attempting to balance capacity so desperate Kiwis can still get home. 

One of the Kiwis desperate to get a MIQ voucher is Rachael Bicknell. She's stuck in Lebanon - sick, scared, starving and surviving on chicken necks.

She's applied for an emergency spot in MIQ, but her mum Moata McNamara is worried.

"I'm really, really frightened she's going to die over there," McNamara told Newshub.

Bicknell has a lump in her groin and has run out of medication. In her application for an emergency MIQ spot, she told the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE): "I fear for my health and safety while I remain in Lebanon."

Read and watch the full story from Newshub political reporter Amelia Wade here.

8:40pm - There are new locations of interest. They are:

  • McAuley High School Otahuhu, August 12 from 8:30am to 5:30pm
  • Dotti Westfield Albany, August 13 from 6pm to 9:45pm
  • Dotti Westfield Albany, August 15 from 10am to 6:30pm
  • Ōtāhuhu College, August 16 from 8:30am to 4pm
  • Level 3 Library AUT City Campus, August 16 from 10:15am to 5pm
  • Level 4 Library University of Auckland, August 16 from 8pm to 10pm
  • Ōtāhuhu College, August 17 from 8:30am to 3:15pm.

8:15pm - Labour MP Jenny Salesa is urging everyone in south Auckland to book their vaccine if they haven't yet done so.

7:50pm - Epidemiologist Michael Baker warns we're in for a "rough trip" with the Delta variant of COVID-19, with the virus having "many opportunities" to change in the coming months. 

It could even mutate into a version that is more resistant to the current vaccines.

Baker says in the long term, New Zealand could change its strategy and live with the infection - but not before the health system, vaccine rates and border controls are improved. 

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

7:30pm - It has been a week of "record-breaking" testing numbers, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) says.

Since last Wednesday when alert level 4 began, more than 150,000 tests have been registered by Auckland's laboratories, making it the city's "biggest week for testing".

In the last week, approximately 60 percent of COVID-19 tests were taken in primary care and 40 percent at community testing centres.

NRHCC says that as of 2pm today, the majority of community testing centres had no wait times or wait times of less than 15 minutes or less.

There are currently 22 community testing centres across Auckland, four of which are restricted and are invitation-only for high-risk groups.

7:15pm - There are 314 known contacts in the South Island, a Ministry of Health spokesperson tells Newshub.

Of the 314, all have been traced and 289 (92 percent) have been tested.

Across New Zealand, 22,081 individual contacts have been identified, as of 4pm today. Of these contacts, 14,240 have been followed up and are isolating.

Out of the 22,081, 64 percent have been contacted and already reported a negative test. Also of the total contacts, 14,560 (66 percent) have been tested.

7pm - A person at Ōtāhuhu College has been confirmed as having COVID-19. All staff and students of the college are considered close contacts and must stay in self-isolation at home, the school says.

The person was infectious when at school on Monday August 16 and Tuesday August 17.

"Aside from visiting a testing facility, you will need to stay at home and self-isolate until 1 September. Information about how to self-isolate is available on the COVID-19 website," the school says.

"Any household members you live with will also need to self-isolate until you return a negative test result.

"A more detailed letter has been sent to all families and students."

6:40pm - Auckland University of Technology (AUT) says its currently aware of 10 cases linked to it.

Of these 10, they're awaiting further information on two and another two weren't infectious while on campus.

A list of locations of interest at AUT is available here

6:15pm - Fire and Emergency has issued a "lockdown challenge" to get people to check their smoke alarms are working.

"Since you're spending so much time at home now, you should make sure it's safe," they say.

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

5:35pm - Chris Hipkins has confirmed plans for an additional quarantine facility with "several hundred rooms", though it's location has not been confirmed. 

"We are currently in the process of readying another facility to quarantine people in the event that we need that, and it is looking likely that we would need that, given the number of cases we're seeing," Hipkins said on Wednesday.  

"So we're preparing that facility now so that we will have those rooms available if case numbers continue to grow."

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 are transported to the Jet Park quarantine facility in Auckland near the airport, but the Government is preparing additional space to accommodate new cases, should the outbreak balloon. 

"An additional facility with several hundred extra rooms is being prepared so that we can activate that within the next day or two, in the event that we need to," Hipkins said. 

"Just remember that there is not a direct correlation between cases and rooms. We are seeing multiple cases within the same family bubble and in many cases they share a room so that allows us to maximise our use there. 

"In the event that that filled up and we needed to repurpose another one of our MIQ facilities for quarantine, then of course we could look at that. We have to balance that up against the pressure of travellers coming in and our need to accommodate that safely."

Read the full story here.

5:15pm - A new 0800 phone number is now available for Pacific people to call to get help making a free COVID-19 vaccination booking for their whole household.

The free 0800 21 12 21 number is for Pacific peoples aged 12 and over and focuses on booking Pacific people and their household bubble. It operates seven days from 8am to 8pm.

The service is being provided by South Seas Healthcare. CEO Lemalu Silao Vaisola-Sefo says the new number is hoped to help boost the number of Pacific people getting vaccinated.

"South Seas Healthcare runs the Otara Vaccination site, which was the first Pacific vaccination site to be set up in Auckland. We also have a call centre as part of the COVID Healthline services so it made sense to set up an 0800 number for Pacific people to call and be able to speak to a Pacific staff member," he says.

The 0800 number has been set up to support the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre's (NRHCC) COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Moananu Anna Redican Kolose, Pacific lead for COVID-19 vaccinations at the NRHCC, says having the phone number for Pacific communities aims to help make it easier for Pacific people to get vaccinated.

"We've listened to the feedback we've been getting from Pacific people, who told us they wanted an easier way to book in," she says

"You can book into one of our community vaccination centres, including our new drive-through site at the Park and Ride in Mangere. You can bring your whole family or bubble in the car, and anyone aged 12 and over can get vaccinated."

She adds that they will also do outbound follow-ups to link Pacific people with outreach events in their neighbourhoods.

The 0800 21 12 21 number is answered by Pacific staff and offers language services in Samoan, Tongan, i-Kiribati, and Cook Island languages and is looking to increase this to include other Pacific languages.

5pm - The Ministry of Health says there are some situations where locations of interest won't be published online because there is already an effective way to contact people who were there at the time.

A spokesperson says just because a location has been reported by the news or on social media and not on its website "doesn't mean swift action isn't being taken".

"The focus of publishing locations of interest is on locations where contact tracers don't have a good idea of who was there at the relevant time, like bars and supermarkets," they say.

"However, for some locations of interest, like some schools and events, we do have a good understanding of who was there at the relevant time and an effective means of contacting those people via existing communication channels and networks.  

"These situations are closely managed by contact tracers, who may determine that the location does not need to be added to the list published online."

Additionally, some locations of interest may be publicised while they're under investigation. The spokesperson says they need to be sure they have all the correct information before its published on the Ministry of Health's website and "this can take time to confirm".

Locations are added as quickly as possible, they say, and people are urged to check the list regularly, especially if you've visited or live in Auckland, the Coromandel, and Wellington.

4:45pm - Confirmation that the Crowne Plaza passed all its infection control audits, including as recently in June, beggars belief, National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

MIQ officials told the Health Select Committee this afternoon the latest infection control audit for the Crowne Plaza taken in June raised no issues about the two public walkways which is one of the lines of investigation into the origin of this outbreak.

"It takes just a quick look at the photos of the Crowne Plaza walkway next to the exercise area to realise how inappropriate it is. The walkway has a two-metre Perspex barrier but there is no lid on it, meaning the air used by the public is the same as that in the exercise area," Bishop says.

"It's been obvious for months that Delta is incredibly contagious and we know from overseas that it has spread from people just walking next to each other. As Professor Michael Baker says, 'anywhere the air can go, the virus can go'."

Bishop questions why the Government didn't commission a review months ago into the "appropriateness" of MIQ facilities when Delta first emerged.

"Government officials say they are working to identify who may have passed by the exercise area at the same time as a COVID-19-positive family went for a walk. The Government must leave no stone unturned to find these people as it is important we get to the bottom of how this outbreak occurred."

4:30pm - Three more locations of interest have been added by the Ministry of Health. They are:

  • St John the Evangelist Catholic Preschool, August 16 from 9am to 2pm
  • Farmers Westfield Albany, August 15 from 1:10pm to 3:15pm
  • Seasons Market Papakura, August 19 from 9:30am to 10am.

4:25pm - Western Australia is introducing a hard border with New Zealand and classing the country as medium risk.

It means anyone wanting to travel from Aotearoa into WA will need an exemption, and on arrival must go into isolation for 14 days and be tested for COVID-19.

4:10pm - People will be able to return from Australia to New Zealand in September with the resumption of red flights from several cities in Australia, Managed Isolation and Quarantine says.

The red flights will require travellers to book their 14-day stay in managed isolation, have a negative pre-departure test, and the normal rules around paying for their stay will apply.

MIQ vouchers and flights will be available for travel on a limited number of dates in September from a select number of locations.

"We are aware that a number of New Zealanders in Australia have been unable to return since the suspension of quarantine-free travel with Australia in July, so I am very pleased that flights from Australia will resume to bring more people home," says Brigadier Rose King, joint head of MIQ.

"People will need to secure a voucher for MIQ in the same way everyone else returning to New Zealand does and there is high demand right now. The current outbreak in New Zealand is putting extra pressure on MIQ capacity, as MIQ facilities are being used for all positive COVID-19 cases.

"Please do not contact airlines at this early stage, further information will be made available in advance of the flights opening for bookings."

People with an urgent need to travel are encouraged to check the MIQ website to see if they meet the requirements for an emergency allocation. Travellers who wish to apply for this should do so as soon as possible.

A timeline on when the MIQ vouchers will be released and the flights open for booking will be announced in the next few days.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 10: Security guard the oiutside of the Rydges Hotel which is being used as a quarantine hotel on July 10, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. New Zealand police have been called in to guard quarantine hotels around New Zealand after incidents where guests who were in mandatory quarantine were able to escape the managed isolation facilities. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images

3:50pm - As of 5pm yesterday, 50 people have been charged with a total of 54 offences across New Zealand since level 4 began, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says.

These arrests are primarily the result of protest activity and other intentional breaches of restrictions, he says.

Of the 54 charges , 28 are for failing to comply with the COVID-19 order, 16 for failing to comply with direction/prohibition/restriction, and 10 for Health Act breaches.

In the same time period, 154 formal warnings were issued: 56 for failing to comply with the COVID-19 order, 54 for failing to comply with direction/prohibition/restriction, and 44 for Health Act breaches.

In Kaitaia, a man and a woman were arrested overnight at a petrol station after they were seen without masks at an essential service.

The man refused to provide his details while the woman became verbally abusive and physically obstructed officers carrying out their duties, Coster says.

She then allegedly coughed over one officer before assaulting another.

In Christchurch, two people came to Police's attention for breaching alert level 4 restrictions and driving-related offences.

A 26-year-old man is due to appear in the Christchurch District Court on September 1 and is charged with driving in a dangerous manner, driving with excess breath alcohol, and failing to comply with the COVID-19 order.

Another driver was issued an infringement notice for breaching restrictions after a vehicle hit several parked cars near the intersection of Grenville Street and Ensors Road about 2am.

"These types of incidents are incredibly disappointing and create unnecessary and unacceptable risk for us all," Coster says.

"While we continue to take an education-first approach, Police will not hesitate to take enforcement action for deliberate and blatant breaches."

Police have now received a total of 8228 online breach notifications - 4951 about a gathering, 2517 about a business, and 760 about an individual.

3:30pm - There are several new locations of interest. They are:

  • Chamate Restaurant Auckland CBD, August 10 from 11:45am to 12:15pm
  • City Fitness Wairau Park, August 10 from 8pm to 10:30pm
  • Auckland Art Gallery Auckland CBD, August 13 from 2:45pm to 6:45pm
  • Browns St Heliers Mall Cafe, August 14 from 10am to 11am
  • F45 Training Henderson, August 15 from 9am to 9:30am
  • Smoko's WestCity Waitakere Westcity Shopping Town, August 15 from 10:45am to 11am
  • Howick Primary School Hall Meeting for Bethany Baptist Bible Church, August 15 from 1pm to 4pm
  • AUT Library Level 3 City Campus, August 16 from 10:15am to 5pm
  • Snap Fitness 24/7 Mount Roskill, August 16 from 9pm to 11pm
  • Event Cinema Arcadia Games St Lukes, August 17 from 2:15pm to 3:10pm
  • McDonald's New Lynn, August 17 from 4pm to 9pm
  • Pak'NSave Mt Albert, August 18 from 8pm to 8:15pm
  • Pak'NSave Manukau, August 18 from 8pm to 8:30pm
  • Pak'NSave Manukau, August 19 from 1:39pm to 2:10pm
  • Pak'NSave Manukau, August 19 from 4pm to 4:45pm
  • Pak'NSave, August 20 from 11am to 1pm
  • Bus NB5048 84 Wakefield Street to 510 Dominion Road, August 22 from 7am to 7:15am
  • Bus NB5039 487 Dominion Road to Karangahape Road stop corner of Symonds Street, August 22 from 9:10am to 9:25am.

2:50pm - Opposition parties are calling on the Government for greater transparency after five people were potentially injected with saline instead of vaccine last month.

MPs are demanding that officials explain to New Zealanders what it knows, what it doesn't, and what it will do.

RNZ understands an investigation has been launched after staff at Auckland's Highbrook Vaccination Centre realised there was an extra vial left over after vaccinating 732 people on July 12.

It indicates people may have been given saline - a salt water solution - instead.

People who went for inoculation at the centre told RNZ they felt worried and vulnerable, and were unimpressed that the ministry had not proactively made efforts to contact those affected.

National's COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said it was concerning the centre had not yet determined the identities of those who may have missed out on the vaccine.

"It's critical that we figure out as soon as possible who these people are... and make sure they get vaccinated because the last thing we want is people thinking they're vaccinated, walking around, when they're actually not."

Read more here.

2:30pm - Chris Hipkins is now appearing before the health select committee to face a grilling by MPs on the managed isolation and quarantine system. Watch it here.

2:25pm - Kiwis have taken to social media in their droves to squash Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's defeatist assessment of New Zealand's ongoing elimination strategy.

On Tuesday, the Australian leader likened an elimination strategy to "living in a cave", claiming countries needed to learn how to live with the virus.

Both Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson have dismissed Morrison's targeted remarks, maintaining they are confident in New Zealand's response.

Speaking to Coast FM earlier this morning, Ardern said she wasn't "too fussed" about her counterpart's comments - but Kiwis have not been so forgiving.

"I would like to personally thank Scott Morrison for ensuring 100 percent of Aotearoa now wants to smash COVID again, just to spite his COVID-loving ass," one Twitter user wrote.

See other reactions to ScoMo's comments here.

2:15pm - To recap, a prominent topic in today's press conference was the possible vaccination blunder at an Auckland facility last month.

This morning, it was reported that five people had possibly been jabbed with saline solution instead of the vaccine at the Highbrook Vaccination Centre in East Tāmaki on July 12.

Echoing an earlier statement put out by the Ministry of Health on Wednesday, Dr Bloomfield said "it could be interpreted" that some patients were not vaccinated that day, however what actually happened is currently unclear.

It is "just one possibility" that the five people received an "incorrect dose", he said.

He says changes have since been made so that checks on vaccine vials are completed throughout the day, rather than just before closing.

The possible botch-up was only discovered when staff found one vial leftover as the centre finished up for the day.

Dr Bloomfield said the five cases will likely have received their second dose - now possibly their first - since the mishap.

He says officials are in the process of receiving advice about a third jab for those affected - which may only be their second dose.

A letter will be sent out to those affected by the botch-up within the next 24 hours.

Dr Bloomfield reiterated that if people are worried they may be among those who received saline instead of vaccine, the ministry will be in contact and discussions about a third jab are underway.

2:02pm - A number of locations of interest have been updated as of 2pm. Any changes can be found here.

1:55pm - Hipkins says he would "never rule anything in or out" in regards to shifting alert levels, noting that officials have not had different regions of the country in level 4 and level 3 concurrently.

"So we're looking at what that would look like."

1:51pm - Hipkins says there will be a time in the future where the Government's strategy against the virus "will change", but "we're not there yet".

"We are looking beyond the elimination strategy," he says.

"It's too soon to throw in the towel. We want to go back to normality.

"There will be changes in the medium-term, and we want to get to a stage where lockdowns aren't the answer - but they are for now."

1:46pm - Dr Bloomfield says the list of contacts is continuing to increase every day, but he is satisfied that very close contacts are isolating and many have returned test results.

"Our messaging was very clear on who should be tested. We've made every effort to do that."

1:39pm - Hipkins says audits of the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility in Auckland have not raised any issues with a perspex barrier next to the atrium, an area of the facility that is currently being investigated as officials try to determine the missing links between Case A and the Sydney returnee, to whom the outbreak has been linked.

Officials have been investigating whether there was possible transmission between the Sydney returnee and a group of others who had been on the atrium walkway at the same time the returnee was in the lobby.

Hipkins notes there was a gap between the top of the perspex barrier and the ceiling, which will be closed by Thursday.

Air conditioning will also be looked at, he says. 

Based on advice, outdoor spaces need to be separated from the general public by two fences, he says, which will mitigate potential exposure.

There is currently no evidence to suggest transmission occurred via the perspex barrier.

"We don't even know if there was transmission at the Crowne Plaza," Hipkins added.

"We keep running down every potential avenue."

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, August 25
Photo credit: Getty Images

1:35pm - Hospitals have either reduced or stopped elective surgery to ensure there is sufficient capacity, Hipkins says.

A number of staff had to be stood down due to potential exposure, but Hipkins says he's confident there are enough staff to perform emergency procedures.

Saliva testing is now being rolled out for frontline border workers.

1:31pm - Of the contacts identified in connection with the outbreak, 461 are "very close contacts", the majority of whom have been in contact with health officials.

1:25pm - Dr Bloomfield has confirmed there is a positive case in Warkworth, which likely explains the viral fragments detected in the area's wastewater samples.

12:20pm - Meanwhile in Australia, COVID-stricken New South Wales has reported a record 919 new cases of COVID-19 in the community and two new deaths.

1:17pm - From Thursday, all border workers are required to be vaccinated. From the end of September, the wider border workforce will also need to be vaccinated.

1:15pm - Dr Bloomfield says it's a "possibility" that five Aucklanders received a jab of saline solution on July 12 at the Highbrooke Vaccination Centre.

He says on that day, 732 people were jabbed at the centre.

He says the incident is being investigated, but what exactly happened is unclear.

"We've been seeking expert advice on this," he says. 

"It's still not clear that anyone missed out [on the vaccine]."

Further follow-up discussions will be had with those involved.

1:13pm - The Government is introducing day six testing at managed isolation facilities.

1:11pm - Dr Bloomfield has branded the racist abuse directed at Pasifika people affected by the outbreak as "disappointing" and "frankly gutless", noting that the community has been "incredibly responsive."

1:10pm - Wastewater samples taken from Warkworth in north Auckland have once again tested positive for COVID-19. Testing has ramped up in the area with a new pop-up centre, and officials understand that six percent of the local community have already been tested.

1:09pm - To date, 20,383 contacts have been identified in connection with the outbreak. Of these, 12,717 have been formally contacted, and 62 percent of those had returned a test result.

1:08pm - Health officials have identified six epidemiologically linked sub-clusters, the two largest being the Birkdale Social cluster associated with Case A - 36 cases - and the Assembly of God church, with 105 cases. The other clusters are under 10 cases.

1:07pm - Dr Bloomfield has thanked Pasifika communities for their high testing rates and cooperation with contact tracing efforts.

1:06pm - Dr Bloomfield says despite the surge, it is not "exponential growth" due to the nationwide lockdown restrictions.

The majority of cases are due to transmission with households and workplaces, he says.

1:05pm - There are 62 new community cases to report on Wednesday, bringing the outbreak to 210.

One of the new cases has been identified in Wellington.

One new border case has been picked up in managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

Twelve people are currently in hospital, but none in the ICU.

1:04pm - There were also record testing numbers on Tuesday, with nearly 50,000 swabs taken nationwide.

From Wednesday, New Zealanders aged 30 and over can book their vaccine.

"It is important we all get vaccinated," Hipkins said.

1:03pm - Hipkins has taken the podium and began with some opening remarks - 80,000 Kiwis got vaccinated on Tuesday, the biggest day on record.

12:55pm - Dr Ashley Bloomfield and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will reveal today's case numbers at the 1pm press conference.

You can watch the stand-up live on Three or here on

12:40pm - A second drive-through vaccination centre has been launched in Auckland as the region hits a milestone 1 million vaccinations.

The second drive-through vaccination centre, located at Trusts Arena in west Auckland, has been launched on Wednesday to ramp up vaccination rates in the city.

Tuesday was the rollout's busiest day on record, with more than 21,000 doses provided in one day. More than 3000 of those doses were delivered through the new drive-through vaccination centre, the first in the country, at the Park and Ride at Auckland Airport.

The new Trusts Arena drive-through centre will be capable of vaccinating up to 1500 people per day once it is fully operational. It will prioritise Māori and Pacific people, essential workers and those who were unable to attend their appointments due to the temporary suspension last week.

Matt Hannant, the programme Director at the NRHCC, said: "We've seen that this new drive-through model has been a great way of getting lots of people vaccinated safely along with their bubble under alert level 4."

John Tamihere, the chief executive of Waipareira Trust, said: "We really want to make this a welcoming space for our Māori and Pacific communities. We're encouraging them to bring along their whānau so that we can help to protect our old and young people aike."

The Trusts Arena drive-through centre will run from 8:30am with the last appointment at 3:30pm. It will remain open until September 7.

By 12pm, the new site had vaccinated almost 400 people.     

People are encouraged to come with their fellow household members aged 12 and over, in car loads of ideally two to four. People need to bring at least one other person and won't be able to attend by themselves. Younger children can also attend but they won't be able to be vaccinated.

12:30pm - Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced a free counselling service for the early learning and school workforce during COVID-19. A statement from the minister says: 

"Our kaiako and teachers have been vital in supporting our learners during COVID-19 and have stepped up again to assist them and their whānau in this latest resurgence in our community.

"On behalf of all New Zealanders, I would like to express my gratitude to our education workforce for going above and beyond to ensure our children and young people are supported while learning from home.

"They are playing an important role in our country's COVID-19 response by looking after the education and wellbeing of our children. I'm sure every New Zealander will join me when I say we need to look after their wellbeing at this difficult time as well."

This service is being funded out of a $16m Workforce Wellbeing Package. It will be accessible from August 25, 2021 to November 25, 2021. Each educator can have up to three confidential one-on-one counselling sessions online, or by phone, to support them while COVID-19 restrictions are in place.

"This is in addition to any existing services that an early learning service or a school already provides to their teachers and support staff," Hipkins said.

"Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress. Having someone to talk to - may it be your family, whānau, friends, work colleagues, or via our Employment Assistance Programme - can help. I encourage all our educators to make use of all the wellbeing resources available to them, including this new support.

"We have overcome COVID-19 before and we can do it again. To our educators, parents and students across the country - please look after yourself, your families and each other."

More information about the EAP service is available on: Workforce Wellbeing Package – Education in New Zealand

You can find other wellbeing support from Ministry of Education here.

12:15pm - We have new locations of interest. They include a busy central Auckland supermarket, more areas of the AUT City Campus and student accomodation. Find them here.

12:10pm - Briefly, across the ditch, Queensland has decided to put a pause on arrivals from New South Wales, Victoria and ACT, three parts of Australia struggling with outbreaks. 

"Queensland has been overwhelmed by new arrivals relocating to escape interstate lockdowns, placing huge pressure on our hotel quarantine system," said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

"No one currently in a declared hotspot will be permitted to enter Queensland’s hotel quarantine for two weeks, except for those with exemptions such as compassionate reasons. New arrivals and Queensland residents will have to reapply for a border pass."

12:05pm - There has been a lot of talk recently about the effectiveness of New Zealand's elimination strategy in the face of the Delta outbreak.

The AM Show asked University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker whether our approach can stand up.

"The elimination strategy is still viable (ie effective) against the Delta variant of COVID-19," he said.

"This conclusion is supported by successful containment of Delta variant outbreaks in China, Taiwan, Singapore and several states and territories in Australia.

"I think NZ is likely to be successful in stamping out the current Delta variant outbreak.

"The elimination strategy has been the optimal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, at least in the short to medium term.

"It has outperformed the alternatives of mitigation and suppression – based on multiple objective measures – and given NZ much lower COVID-19 mortality, hospitalisations, and disability (from long-COVID); better economic performance (based on measures such as GDP and employment); and greater personal freedoms (based on the ‘Oxford Stringency Index’ and Economist Magazine’s ‘Normalcy Index’).

"The relative performance of the elimination strategy in the longer-term is less certain. Much depends on the balance between viral evolution and improvements in vaccines and antivirals. Under some plausible future scenarios recently identified by the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) keeping COVID-19 out of NZ would be a very appealing option.

"On balance, I think there are big advantages for New Zealand continuing the elimination strategy for at least the medium term until the population is highly vaccinated.  That approach keeps our options open. 

"This assessment is not forever, and will need to be reviewed regularly as the pandemic and state of science knowledge continue to evolve."

11:45am - Northland Police have set up three fixed checkpoints along the region's southern border - in what appears to be a bid to keep Aucklanders out.

Superintendent Tony Hill, the Northland District Commander, says over the past week officers have been stationed at temporary checkpoints and conducting high-visibility patrols at various locations across Northland, where motorists have been questioned and turned around if they weren't undertaking essential travel.

Northland Police are now establishing three checkpoints at southern entry points, where officers will be stopping and questioning northbound motorists.

"To date we have been pleased with the overall level of compliance from motorists that we have been speaking to in the past seven days," Supt Hill said on Wednesday.

"We want our whānau and community to feel safe and we want to reassure our local communities that we have been, and will continue to take action where motorists choose to disregard the travel current restrictions.

“Anyone attempting to travel into Northland from outside of the region or around the region can expect to be stopped by police at a checkpoint and asked about their purpose for travel.

"We will look to take enforcement action against those who blatantly ignore the restrictions in place."

Three checkpoints have been set up at the following locations:

  • SH1 intersection with SH12
  • Mountain Rd, Kaiwaka
  • Cove Rd by Bream Tail Rd.

"Police will continue to assess and monitor the locations of these checkpoints and the deployment of our staff across the district, as well as engage with local iwi and community," Supt Hill said.

11:25am - The Waikato District Health Board has provided an update on the vaccination rate in the region.

As of 9am on Wednesday, August 25, 207,164 vaccinations had been administered to Waikato residents. Of the region's eligible population, 40.7 percent had received at least one dose, and 19.9 percent were fully vaccinated.

On Tuesday, the region recorded it's highest daily number of vaccinations since the rollout began, with 8476 doses administered.

The Ruapehu District currently has the lowest uptake of the vaccine in the region - just 30 percent of its eligible population have received their first dose. The South Waikato District is second lowest at 30.3 percent.

The highest uptake in the region has been recorded in the Thames-Coromandel District - 46.5 percent of its eligible population have had their first dose, followed by Hamilton City at 41.4 percent.

However, the area with the most fully vaccinated people - those who have received both doses - is the Waitomo District, at 22.4 percent, followed again by Hamilton City on 22 percent. 

11:10am - Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will front the 1pm stand-up and provide the latest information on the outbreak.

11am - A member of a right-wing British think tank has claimed New Zealand is "stuck in a weird kind of COVID purgatory" thanks to a slow vaccine rollout and a "fetish" for total elimination of the deadly disease. 

In a column for The Telegraph last week, Matthew Lesh of the Adam Smith Institute said New Zealand is now an "isolated dystopia where liberties are taken away in a heartbeat and outsiders are shunned" - and claimed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had "shown little serious interest in protecting her people". 

But does his argument stack up?

10:45am - Nineteen new locations of interest have been added to the Ministry of Health's official list as of 10am on Wednesday, bringing the total number of venues, dates and times associated with the outbreak to 470.

Newshub is providing all the latest information on potential exposure sites here in our live updates, but also on our separate list of locations of interest, which you can find here.

10:35am - Scientists have criticised a National Party tweet that erroneously claimed "excess vaccine stock are not boosters".

Yet despite dozens of people on social media pointing out the mistake - including one of the country's top vaccination experts - the party is yet to remove or correct it.

"The Government has not ordered any booster vaccines," National tweeted.

"Excess vaccine stock are not boosters. Boosters are intended to prevent a drop off in efficacy by covering subsequent strains. The US intends to make boosters available in September."

Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccine safety and effectiveness researcher at the University of Auckland and former chair of the World Health Organization Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety, said this was "not quite true".

Read more here.

10:15am - More locations of interest have been identified by the Ministry of Health.

New potential exposure sites include additional bus services, trains, a specific lecture at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), an Events Cinema arcade and Mecca, a cosmetics and beauty store, at Westfield Albany Mall.

See the full list of locations of interest here.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, August 25
Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, August 25
Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, August 25

10:05am - AA Roadservice has attended 15 callouts at COVID-19 testing centres nationwide since lockdown began last week, 13 of which were battery-related.

"We have strict protocols in place for managing these callouts to keep AA members and our people safe. This includes asking members to keep at least a 2m distance from our service officer, or remain in their car, and to follow the service officer's instructions to keep everyone safe," an AA spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The spokesperson recommends turning the vehicle off if the queue is not moving and the vehicle will be stationary for more than 15 minutes.

"Also switch off lights, radio, etc, to stop drain on your battery. If the queue is moving gradually it's better to have your car idling, as you'll put extra wear on other parts (e.g. the starter motor) if you continuously switch your car on and off," they explained.

The spokesperson also advises Kiwis who aren't using their cars during lockdown to start the engine for 30 minutes at least once a week to ensure the battery is topped up and the engine oil and coolant are circulated.

"Reverse your car into your driveway or leave the garage door open and put in park. This can also be done on the street. Don't switch on electrical devices which will make the engine work harder (e.g. radio, phone charger, lights) while doing this. If you have a maintenance charger, AKA trickle or float, use this to charge your battery. This is best done in your garage, away from weather elements."

AA Roadservice attended a record 4208 callouts nationwide in the 48 hours after lockdown restrictions lifted in April 2020, the majority of which were battery-related.

9:50am - The Ministry of Health says it cannot rule out the possibility that five people may have received an incorrect dose of the vaccine in Auckland.

Earlier on Wednesday, it was revealed that five Aucklanders may have received a dose of saline solution instead of the Pfizer vaccine last month at the Highbrook Vaccination Centre, but they have yet to be told of the possible blunder.

RNZ understands the centre has not been able to determine the identities of the five people.

In a statement to Newshub on Wednesday, Jo Gibbs, the Ministry of Health's national director for the COVID-19 vaccination and immunisation programme, said officials are aware of "a situation" at the centre last month where the end-of-day reconciliation of vaccine doses in stock "didn't match the doses administered".

"These types of situations occur from time to time, and we have systems and processes to detect and manage them - which is what occurred in this instance. Although no patient harm would have resulted, at this stage we can't rule out the possibility that five people may have received an incorrect vaccine dose," Gibbs said.

"The situation that occurred relates to just five doses that were unaccounted for at the end of that day, during which 732 people were vaccinated. It could have been due to some vaccinators getting more than the regular number of doses out of some vials and forgetting to record this.

"An alternative that we can't rule out is the possibility that some people didn't receive the correct vaccine dose. We are still gathering the information needed to fully understand the situation and provide any advice or support that might be needed. We will be communicating with people who may have been affected when that work is complete."

9:30am - Dr Apisalome Talemaitoga says the Pasifika community is not only bearing the burden of the current outbreak, but also the brunt of "targeted, racist vitriol".

Dr Talemaitoga, a GP and the Chair of the Pasifika GP network and the Pacific Chapter of the Royal NZ College of GPs, says "keyboard warriors" have been aiming abuse at the community following the news that more than half of the cases in the outbreak are Pasifika people.

"Now in addition to carrying the burden of COVID-19 cases in this most recent outbreak, the Pacific community are bearing the brunt of targeted racist vitriol from a few racist small-minded key-board warriors on social media," Dr Talemaitoga said on Wednesday.

"Thankfully, a community where respect for each other is paramount, which practices reciprocity and communitarianism, and does things for the greater good of all concerned - has shown we will lead the way in testing rates to help the country - not just Pacific people - to contain this deadly virus."

In a tweet on Tuesday afternoon, the Ministry of Health acknowledged the reports of racist abuse and urged New Zealanders to remember that the virus is the problem, not the people.

9:10am - University of Canterbury data modeller Dr Michael Plank says "the alternatives are grim" if New Zealand decides to ditch its long-standing elimination strategy.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB on Wednesday morning, Dr Plank said he remains confident that the Government's goal of eliminating COVID-19 in the community is still the right course of action, noting that it had served the country well so far.

He added that shifting away from the strategy may result in rolling lockdowns in a constant bit to contain widespread transmission.

9:03am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she isn't "too fussed" about her Australian counterpart's comments regarding New Zealand's continued and "absurd" commitment to the elimination strategy.

Earlier this week, Scott Morrison said countries can't continue to "stay in the cave" and need to learn to live with COVID-19.

Speaking to Coast FM on Wednesday morning, Ardern said the Government's decisions have not been based on the opinions of other nations, but noted that "we can't live for lockdown forever".

"And we don't intend do," she added.

She said there has been discussion around the possibility of booster shots, but no clear conclusion has been drawn.

"We are watching that evidence and following closely."

8:55am - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has also weighed in on the debate around elimination strategy following Scott Morrison's targeted comments this week, arguing the response has helped New Zealand achieve one of the strongest economic bounce-backs and one of the lowest mortality rates in the world.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB on Wednesday morning, Robertson said he will back the elimination goal until experts advise otherwise. 

"All of the experts continue to tell us the best strategy that we can take at the moment is elimination," he told host Mike Hosking. 

"I just don't see it the way that Scott Morrison and others are presenting it and certainly every public health expert I speak to says that what we're doing right now is exactly the right strategy for New Zealand." 

Read more here.

8:45am - Opposition leader Judith Collins says Kiwis are starting to agree with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's stance that elimination is no longer a viable strategy against COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Morrison said the world can't "stay in the cave" and needs to learn to live with the virus, calling elimination strategies "absurd".

Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday morning, Collins said she hopes the Government will deliver on its vaccination promises.

"I like to think that we can get the vaccination rates up so high, that what we see is what Prime Minister Ardern promised us earlier this year in January  -when she said that we'd get everyone, as many as we could vaccinated, and then this would be treated like a booster shot that we have each year like the winter flu," Collins said.

"That's what I'm still hoping for - that she will deliver on the promise she made it all."

Read more here.

8:35am - More than half of the cases in the current outbreak are Pasifika people.

The Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, says a Sunday service at the Assembly of God Church on August 15 was a significant exposure event, and is currently associated with the highest number of cases.

Dr Apisalome Talemaitoga, a GP in Manukau and the Chair of the Pasifika GP network and the Pacific Chapter of the Royal NZ College of GPs, says the Government should have pushed for greater rates of vaccination among the Pasifika community from the beginning.

"We all know Pacific peoples carry a higher burden of disease and at - on average - a lower age. This is why if we as a country were serious about 'equity', then the push for vaccination for Pacific peoples right at the start (using all the tools available to us as described above) would have been done - but this approach unfortunately wasn't used," he said.

Dr Debbie Ryan, the principal of Pacific Perspectives, notes that the susceptibility of Pacific communities to the devastating impacts of infectious diseases has been "well documented" in New Zealand.

"The reports that Pacific people make up more than 50 percent of the cases in this COVID-19 outbreak (but only 7 percent of the total population) are depressingly familiar," she said. "Pacific people made up nearly 60 percent of the community cases in the August 2020 COVID-19, and more than 60 percent of the measles cases in the 2019 outbreak that affected more than 2000 children and young people.

"We need a circuit breaker to address these unacceptable disparities... urgent action must be taken now to ensure that Pacific communities have the same right to good health as the rest of the team of 5 million."

8:20am - New locations of interest have been added by the Ministry of Health.

They include more supermarkets and buses, as well as the Auckland University of Technology's south campus in Manukau. F45 Training in Henderson is also among the newest potential exposure sites, along with Farmers at WestCity mall.

See the latest locations of interest here.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, August 25
Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, August 25

8am - The AM Show host Ryan Bridge has posed a question for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

"What if Delta comes back in a month? We beat this outbreak, we smash it down, stamp it out - then it sneaks back into the country, another border failure. Then what?

"Right now, 60 percent of this country is unvaccinated and only one in five are fully jabbed. We're a bone dry pile of wood waiting for a bonfire, we're still sitting ducks."

He's calling on Ardern to tell Kiwis what percentage of the population will be vaccinated by September, October 2021.

Read the full opinion piece here.

7:45am - A UK researcher has condemned New Zealand's elimination strategy, telling The AM Show it is only viable in the short term.

"I think New Zealand has done extremely well in eliminating the virus and last year you limited deaths while maintaining economic growth but I think what works in 2020 is not necessarily the same strategy which is good in 2021," head of research Adam Smith Institute Matthew Lesh said.

"The Delta variant makes elimination difficult if not impossible while vaccines make the strategy unnecessary and we are really getting limited returns from the zero COVID approach. Let's be clear, if you are unwilling to accept any cases, that means you must permanently shut borders and painful lockdowns every time there are cases."

He noted only a small percentage of the population is vaccinated which means New Zealand is going into lockdown every time there's a case.

"I think much of the world is looking on in bafflement, thinking we have moved on from COVID, we have accepted some level of ongoing risk, we are going to vaccinate, we are going to save as many people as possible but life is not a zero risk proposition and we have to get on with things eventually. We have to live with the virus."

7:30am - A 100-year-old was among those vaccinated against COVID-19 on the remote Taranaki-King Country boundary at Mōkau on Tuesday.

Mere Wihongi was adamant she was getting the shot.

Chrisseann Wihongi, who was raised by her grandmother and now cares for her, said it was a huge day for Mere.

"She's experienced so many things in her life like the Depression. She's experienced a lot of hardship, so this for her is such a unique time and she realises we have got to be safe.

"Not just her. We've got to protect our families and we've got to protect those around us, so for her to be here is really important."

Read the full story here.

7:05am - Associate Minister for Health Peeni Henare says the entire August 2021 outbreak of COVID-19 is a concern.

"This is why we have come into alert level four across the country and continue to remain so. We are doing our best to contact as many people as possible who are close contacts of have come into locations of interest to make sure we can put a ring around this and the data shows, obviously, that Auckland is the main focus at the moment."

He said he is "super excited" vaccination bookings will open up to Kiwis aged 30 and over on Wednesday.

"It opens it up to a whole new demographic of people who are generally underrepresented in these statistics. We know that Maori and Pacific people for example have been lagging behind in vaccination rates so opening [vaccinations] up to this cohort will mean there will be a large population of Maori and Pacific and others will become eligible for the vaccine. Our message is the same - if you get a text message make a booking."

Peeni Henare.
Peeni Henare. Photo credit: Newshub

6:50am - Five Aucklanders who turned up for their COVID-19 vaccine last month may have got a dose of saline solution instead but the Ministry of Health still has not told them.

The mistake happened at the Highbrook vaccination centre in Auckland and the problem was discovered at the end of the day, when staff realised there was an extra vaccine vial left over.

RNZ understands the vaccination centre could not determine who the five people affected were.

Read the full story here.

6:45am - On Tuesday Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed New Zealand's COVID-19 response, saying following an elimination strategy with the Delta variant is absurd. 

"Any state and territory that thinks that somehow they can protect themselves from COVID with the Delta strain forever, that's just absurd," he said.

"New Zealand can't do that. They were following an elimination strategy. They're in lockdown. The way through is to get to those 70 percent and 80 percent marks (for vaccination) and open safely."

However, Judith Collins said she feels many New Zealanders agree that we need to learn to live with Delta.

"I think that many New Zealanders are starting to feel like that's what's going to have to happen. I'm more positive, I like to think we can get the vaccination rates up so high that what we see is what Prime Minister Ardern promised us back in January where she said we could get everyone a vaccination and then it would be treated like a booster shot and we treat it every year like we do the winter flu. That's what I'm hoping for - that she will deliver on the promise she made us all."

6:25am - National Party leader Judith Collins is about to appear on The AM Show where she'll be asked about the suspension of Parliament and the Government's COVID-19 response. 

You can watch a livestream of the show here.

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: The AM Show

6:10am - The Government has recently been under fire for New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which is among the slowest rollouts in the OECD.

From Wednesday, those aged 30 and over can officially book in to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. 

That just leaves those aged 16 to 40 in the last eligible age group with bookings for this last group opening on September 1.

Do you think our vaccine rollout has been too slow?

Have your say by voting in The AM Show's Question of the Day here.

5:50am - The Ministry of Health released detailed demographic data of New Zealand's COVID-19 cases on Tuesday evening.

Of the 148 cases in the community, almost two thirds are aged under 29, while 104 are Pasifika.

Most of the cases - 93 - are aged 29 or under. Forty-seven were in the 20-29 age bracket, 32 were aged 10-19 and 14 were aged 0-9. It was confirmed today that a baby aged under one is the youngest person in the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

Ten of the confirmed cases are aged 30-39, 13 aged 40-49, 19 aged 50-59, nine aged 60-69 and four aged 70 and over.