Every part of New Zealand south of Auckland will move to alert level 3 on Tuesday night, while Auckland is likely to be at level 4 for two more weeks, the Prime Minister says.
This comes as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to grow; 70 new cases were reported on Friday, bringing the outbreak to 347. Of the 347 cases, 333 are in Auckland, and 14 are in Wellington.
Experts believe the number of cases may level out over the weekend as the effect of the lockdown kicks in.
What you need to know
- 70 new cases were reported on Friday, bringing the outbreak to 347.
- Most of New Zealand will move to alert level 3 on Tuesday night, but Northland and Auckland will stay at alert level 4. For how long will be decided on Monday, but the Prime Minister says it's likely Auckland will be there for two more weeks.
- More than 29,000 individual contacts have been identified, the majority of which are close contacts.
- 19 people with COVID-19 are in hospital, with one in a stable condition in ICU.
- A staffer at a rest home worked two shifts while unknowingly infectious.
- The list of locations of interest has ballooned to over 500 - all of which are in the North Island.
- Police to "intensify enforcement" of alert level 4 rules and deploy more road patrols.
These live updates are now finished.
8:15pm - Of the 70 new cases announced on Friday, most are linked to the church cluster, which is only intensifying the struggle for the growing number of Pacific families in isolation.
As the cases creep up, so does the level of need. The Fono team is organising food deliveries for South Auckland's most vulnerable.
"We're getting referrals every day in terms of families that are going into isolation and that are connected to the cluster," said CFO Jennifer Tupou.
Watch Michael Morrah's full report here.
7:50pm - Some South Island leaders are fuming to be fenced in at alert level 4, saying it's the wrong decision by the Government.
The South Island will also move to level 3 on midnight Tuesday, despite zero community cases in the mainland.
"It won't be welcomed, it hasn't considered the South Island economy, it hasn't been a rational look at the mix of health and economic risks," says Westland Bruce Mayor Smith.
Watch Juliet Speedy's full report here.
7:05pm - A company processing COVID-19 saliva tests says it could turn around up to 10,000 samples a day if the Ministry of Health would let them do it.
A phased rollout to border workers has just begun, but the provider says it was ready to be at capacity months ago.
Aside from some west Auckland vaccinators and a few hundred border workers, saliva testing still hasn't been rolled out widely - and the team behind it is frustrated to be waiting in the wings.
Read Edward O'Driscoll's full report here.
6:25pm - The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) has reminded staff they need proof of age before vaccinating children after a child under the age of 12 received the jab.
Last week, those between the ages of 12-15 were given approval by regulator Medsafe to receive a vaccine.
But the NRHCC has now admitted it vaccinated a child younger than 12 - an age group yet to be deemed safe by Medsafe - because the parents lied about their age.
"When people attend our centres, we ask parents to verify the age of their child and then we check this in the NHI database. If we are unable to locate their details, we then require proof of their date of birth, such as a birth certificate or a passport," a spokesperson said.
"We are aware of one case where a parent confirmed that their child was 12 but did not provide proof of date of birth, and we were unable to find their NHI details in the database prior to the vaccination.
"A later data reconciliation then showed that the child was under 12. We have reminded all staff that where a NHI record is not available, they must require proof of date of birth before proceeding with a vaccination."
6pm - Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says police will step up visibility and road patrols and "intensify our enforcement of level 4 restrictions".
He warns police will start taking "a more stringent approach" to non-essential movement ahead of the weekend
"All police districts will ensure they have high visibility in the community where people are accessing essential services, and on the roads, to deter travel that is not essential," he said.
"The vast majority of New Zealanders have demonstrated an amazing level of compliance, and we need to ensure their hard work and sacrifice is not compromised by a few who deliberately break the rules.
"People can expect that police will intensify our enforcement of the level 4 restrictions, and more people will be stopped and questioned about their reason for moving away from home."
"We are already prepared for an alert level change and our planning includes a more stringent approach to non-essential movement in the current level 4."
Coster says planning is well-advanced to establish regional boundaries given the slated alert level shift happening south of Auckland next week.
The official locations for these will be publicised once the health order has been received.
5:45pm - A quick look at the Prime Minister's heat maps, shown during her two alert level announcements this week.
They shows where all close contacts are located throughout the country. The map on the left is from Monday, while the one on the right is from today.
5:35pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the lockdown announcement is "not welcome news", but is necessary given the rapid spread of Delta across the region.
"What has happened in Sydney is a lesson that we have to take on board. To be effective, the lockdown needs to be swiftly implemented, be a hard lockdown and to stay in place until the spread of the virus has been suppressed," he said.
"A partial lockdown incurs costs without being able to realise the benefits that we all enjoyed living relatively normally without the virus taking lives, causing large numbers of people to be ill and overwhelming our hospital system.
Goff says it's great the rest of New Zealand will move to level 3, but rues that "Auckland's role as New Zealand’s gateway city" means it's endured longer and more frequent restrictions and lockdowns than the rest of the country.
"It will be important for the Government to recognise this and provide whatever assistance it can to help people in the region, who make up a third of the country’s population, to get through the costs that the lockdown will impose on them," he said.
"Ongoing support such as the wage subsidy, assistance to Auckland Transport, which has to keep essential services going without normal fairs to offset those costs, and ensuring vaccination in the Auckland region is carried out as quickly as possible are among the ways the government can help."
5:20pm - Some of New Zealand's top experts have responded to the COVID-19 alert level announcement this afternoon.
Lesley Gray, a Senior Lecturer in the University of Otago's Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice, said it makes sense to keep the country in lockdown despite the low number of cases outside of Auckland.
"We know that some cases of Delta have presented around day 12, even after previous negative testing, so it is possible for new cases to continue to be picked up," she said, as quoted by the Science Media Centre.
"While we believe the positive wastewater tests in Christchurch are likely associated with positive cases in MIQ, the additional time to Tuesday of next week gives us additional time to be sure this is not a case in the community as with the Warkworth case."
Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles says given what we know about the Delta variant, we cannot afford to have any loose ends.
"If there are transmission chains that have not been identified or contained and we move down the alert levels too quickly, it would be a few weeks before that would be clear, and may necessitate a move back up the alert levels," she said.
"The decision to keep the whole of New Zealand at Alert Level 4 for a full 14-day infection cycle will help ensure that the edges of the outbreak have been identified and that it is confined to the Auckland region."
Clinical psychologist Dr Dougal Sutherland says boredom, frustration, and temptation are likely to be the new psychological challenges this lockdown brings.
"Aucklanders may be further tempted to break alert level restrictions as they see other parts of the country moving out of Level 4 and feel jealous of what others have."
5:05pm - Auckland CBD business association Heart of the City says with another fortnight of level 4 looming, targeted support is needed to cover rent and opex costs.
"Auckland has been hit hard by COVID-19 and, with more than half a billion dollars of consumer spending lost in the city centre alone before this lockdown, some businesses will struggle to hang on for much longer," says Viv Beck, CEO of Heart of the City.
Beck says while businesses appreciate the support already available, it's calling for an urgent response to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce's plea for the Resurgence Support Payment to be paid weekly.
"It is simple to administer and while it won't suit everyone, it could be quickly implemented once a decision is made about any extension of level 4.
In addition, Heart of the City wants to see the Resurgence Support payment being able to be tested against 2019 revenue as the wage subsidy can, to more fairly reflect the circumstances of businesses who are still deeply impacted by COVID-19.
"It would provide some relief and certainty to those businesses worried about surviving more weeks at level 4 and with a prospect of further restrictions to trade beyond that as we move down the respective levels. We'd rather see a move on this now before it's too late for some."
4:45pm - Police with beards are being removed from frontline roles amid the Delta COVID-19 outbreak because they can't safely wear the appropriate protective gear.
In a statement on Friday, NZ Police said all officers are required to wear an N95 mask as part of their PPE kit while on duty.
As a result frontline officers are required to be clean-shaven so they can properly wear the mask.
4:35pm - The Prime Minister's Office has just sent us this map, showing the Auckland and Northland areas which will remain in level 4.
Also, this is the graph the Prime Minister held up during the press conference showing the number of daily doses as a percentage of the population.
4:30pm - From next week, most of the country will shift down COVID-19 alert levels - but Auckland and Northland will stay under at our strictest lockdown level for a while yet, it's been announced.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday afternoon revealed all of New Zealand south of Auckland will move to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday.
But while for most Kiwis the prospect of takeaways and a nice frothy flat white aren't far away, Aucklanders and Northlanders will remain at alert level 4 well into next month.
4:20pm - When Ardern finished the press conference, she said there will just be a statement on Saturday with the case number information. No press conference.
4:10pm - Tourism Industry Aotearoa has released a statement off the back of the press conference:
Tourism operators around the motu are a step closer to getting back to business but most will not be able to open their doors until we reach Alert Level 2, Tourism Industry Aotearoa says.
TIA is welcoming today's announcement – that all of Aotearoa New Zealand south of Auckland will move to Alert Level 3 from 11.59pm on Tuesday 31 August – as the first step in lifting restrictions.
Tourism will remain significantly affected by the latest lockdown for some time to come, TIA Chief Executive Chris Roberts says.
"Inter-regional travel is not possible under Alert Level 3. Hopefully, in a week or two, some parts of the country will be back to Level 2, and safe travel can resume.
"However, Aucklanders are the biggest source of domestic visitors and while Auckland remains at a higher alert level, it severely limits how much domestic tourism activity is seen around the rest of the country.
"The reality is that domestic tourism will not be able to fully resume until all of New Zealand is at Level 2," Roberts says.
That means tourism operators could be facing a long period with little or no revenue, other than government support from the wage subsidy and resurgence payment.
"Tourism was the first industry to be affected by the pandemic and will be the last to recover. Tourism businesses face significant financial challenges in getting through the coming weeks. For many, the most useful thing they can do right now is encourage their staff, their whānau and everyone they know to get vaccinated," Roberts says.
"The higher the vaccination rate, the greater likelihood that we can get on top of this virus and enjoy the freedom to travel again."
3:55pm - ACT's David Seymour says the lockdown extension shows we can't trace an outbreak unless we are locked down.
"Jacinda Ardern knew all along that the virus takes 8-10 days to peak but led us to believe that we might come out of this early. The Government clearly had not done the kinds of scenario planning Brian Roche recommended and was left flying blind.
“The big question now, is how will New Zealand be any better prepared for future outbreaks under this Government. How will the Government use its time now better than it used the past 18 months?
“New Zealanders deserve certainty, not being teased with freedom only to have their hopes dashed one drip fed extension at a time. We all need certainty to plan for our businesses, know how long we’ll be home-schooling and to organise our lives."
3:50pm - All of New Zealand from the south of Auckland will be moving to alert level three on Tuesday - also known as lockdown but with takeaways. Meanwhile, Auckland and above will remain in level four for at least two weeks.
So what are the rules for alert level 3? Read them here.
3:40pm - No decisions have been made about how long most of New Zealand will be at alert level 3, Ardern says. It will be reviewed weekly from September 6. She also couldn't say if it was possible Auckland may be at level 4 while the rest of the country was at level 2.
None of the Warkworth locations of interest are public-facing, Ardern says. That's why they aren't listed on the website.
Dr Bloomfield says the positive wastewater detection fits the pattern of positive samples found
3:35pm - It is unlikely Northland will stay at alert level 4 for two weeks like Auckland, the Prime Minister says. People shouldn't be travelling between the two regions as travel is not allowed at level 3 or 4.
It's very clear a trans-Tasman bubble is not appropriate at the moment, Ardern says. No advice has been given to airlines about when it may reopen. It's too soon to say whether it may start again before Christmas. Some Australian states may also want to assess the situation in New Zealand before reopening to Kiwis, she says.
3:30pm - The Restaurant Association has responded to the alert level decision:
South Island hospitality businesses hopeful of a move of alert levels this weekend will be disappointed by the extension of the level 4 alert level until Tuesday of next week.
"We urge all of those hospitality businesses that are doing it hard right now, to stay strong and seek out help” said Marisa Bidois, Restaurant Association CEO.
"Our most recent feedback from members shows that whilst they largely support the level 4 lockdown, 75 percent of those businesses wouldn't be financially viable after two weeks at this level.
"Equally, we have heard from several members that they had only just made their final repayments on loans from the 2020 lockdowns, so they're devastated they're back in that position of starting the process again.
"Most people will understand just how challenging level 4 is for any industry that can’t work from home. For businesses owners, it means no revenue at all which is very stressful when you have bills to pay.
"Many hospo people are social people and the isolation of being at home unable to work is really tough for them right now so we know how many of them are just looking forward to firing up their ovens and coffee machines and being able to serve people again."
3:25pm - Northland and Auckland may not always have the same alert level settings, Ardern says. Northland could come down levels before Auckland. Extra testing has been implemented in Warkworth.
Dr Bloomfield says those in the north should get a test the sooner the better if they have symptoms. Ardern echoes that and says everyone with symptoms should get tested. If worrying data comes in before Tuesday, she may change the decision.
If Delta cases were found at level 3, would you be confident in being able to manage them? Ardern says we are only moving there with a reasonable level of confidence we have control already. Dr Bloomfield says they can be dealt with with testing and contact tracing. Level 3 is still very strict, he tells reporters.
3:20pm - The rest home worker who tested positive is fully vaccinated. The uptake for first dose vaccines at that facility is around 73 percent, the Prime Minister says. As an essential worker they did two shifts while infectious during lockdown.
3:15pm - Ardern says the "heavy lifting" during the Delta outbreak has to be at alert level 4, rather than level 3.
It's incredibly important Aucklanders still to the rules, she says. What residents are doing are working, but they must stick to it. If Delta gets into one family member, it's likely to get other household contacts.
Dr Bloomfield says days of zero are not necessary to move Auckland down, but it comes down to the type of cases. If cases are already in isolation or expect won't present risk to the community. It is unexpected cases officials are looking for, he said.
3:10pm - She says level 3 is an insurance policy and allows for some cases to be caught if they are out there undetected. Businesses can open if they can do safely without close personal contact. Level 3 doesn't allow more social activities.
Contact with others must be minimised and bubbles remain. Children should only go to school if their parents have to work and there is no other option. Public venues remain closed.
People are encouraged to still wear masks outside of their homes. The settings will be spoken about further at Monday's press conference.
3:05pm - All of New Zealand south of Auckland will move to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday, the PM announces. This will be reviewed the following week.
Auckland and Northland remains in alert level 4. How long will be decided on Monday at Cabinet. She indicates it is likely that Auckland will stay at that level for a further two weeks.
The reason for keeping Northland at alert level 4 is due to the positive case in Warkworth and the need for more contact tracing here.
Keeping the rest of the country at level 4 until Tuesday means they can get 14-day data. There are also cases in Wellington with test results of contacts outstanding.
People will not be allowed to move between regions with different alert levels unless they have an exemption. A boundary will go up at the Bombay Hill south of Auckland, like what happened in February.
3pm - Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield have arrived.
Ardern says Friday's case numbers show we may be seeing cases plateauing, but we have to bend and flatten the curve. We are doing well with evidence what we are doing is working. However, caution is required, she says. Delta is more infectious and moves more quickly.
By far, the most effective tool is alert level 4, she says. Our numbers will continue for some time as household contacts test positive.
Locations of interest are low and compliance is high, the Prime Minister says. Lockdown is making a difference, but the question is how long it lasts.
2:55pm - Two new locations of interest have been published:
- De La Salle College in Mangere East, Auckland on Monday August 16 between 8am and 3:30pm, as well as Tuesday August 17 between 8am and 3:30pm
- Silverdale Clinic Pharmacy on Thursday August 19 between 12:20pm and 1:45pm
2:50pm - We will be livestreaming the 3pm press conference from Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield above, and you can also watch the Newshub special at the same time on Three.
2:40pm - Something to chuckle at as we wait for the 3pm press conferece:
Police have broken up a one person anti-lockdown protest in Auckland CBD on Friday.
2:25pm - We are just waiting to see if there are any new locations of interest. There was a batch at 8am and 12pm, but not at 10am.
2:10pm - An old opinion piece by radio broadcaster Mike Hosking on New South Wales' premier is being mocked online for having "aged poorly".
The Newstalk ZB host made the comments in early May after New Zealand paused the Trans-Tasman travel bubble with New South Wales after the state recorded a couple of new community cases - the first in over a month.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian labelled the pause an "overreaction" and Hosking said he agreed.
2pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has thanked residents for getting tested.
"Thank you also to the essential health workers who are performing the tests and processing the results so quickly," he said.
1:55pm - From the Ministry of Health:
Locations of interest
Additional locations of interest continue to be identified.
Please remember to regularly check the Ministry’s website. Locations are being updated automatically on a two-hourly basis between 8am and 8pm. Any significant or urgent locations of interest will be published as required.
It is important to note that locations of interest are removed from the website after 18 days, this is because after this time, they no longer pose a public health risk. This is because the risk to the community is further reduced based on the adherence to Alert Level 4 requirements.
Anyone who was at a location of interest at the specified time, is asked to self-isolate and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on testing.
COVID-19 vaccine update
Yesterday 90,757 vaccines were administered. Of these, 65,541 were first doses and 25,216 were second doses. This is the biggest daily total to date.
More than 3.11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date.
Of these, 2 million are first doses and more than 1.1 million are second doses.
More than 181,000 Māori have received their first vaccination. Of these, more than 100,000 have also had their second vaccinations.
More than 117,000 doses have been administered to Pacific peoples. Of these, more than 67,000 have also received their second doses.
NZ COVID Tracer
NZ COVID Tracer now has 3,087,114 registered users.
Poster scans have reached 330,918,492 and users have created 14,446,464 manual diary entries.
There have been 751,087 scans in the 24 hours to midday yesterday.
1:50pm - From the Ministry of Health:
Wastewater samples from 108 locations have now either been analysed or are currently in the laboratory being analysed. There are 78 locations in the North Island and 30 locations in South Island. These cover an estimated 3.8 million people, and over 90 percent of the New Zealand population connected to reticulated wastewater systems.
There are no unexpected detections to report. The most recent analysis shows there continues to be positive results in Warkworth, Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, as previously reported.
COVID-19 was detected in a sample collected on Tuesday from Warkworth but nearby areas including Snells/Algies continue to be negative. In the Wellington region, the virus continues to only be detected in samples collected from Moa Point and likely reflects known cases shedding the virus.
A further sample collected from Christchurch collected on Wednesday was processed today and has returned a positive result. As reported yesterday, this result is consistent with virus shedding from those cases in managed isolation and quarantine facilities in Christchurch, however, further testing is underway from a range of sites in Christchurch.
As of 8am today, 29,851 individual contacts have been identified and around 76% of these have had a test, most others are not yet due a test.
1:45pm - From the Minitry of Health:
Hospitals across the country are safely managing anyone needing accute hospital care.
Overall, health system capacity is good across the motu. Hospital occupancy is around 75%, while ICU occupancy is around 58%.
It is important that anyone who needs care, for any reason, seeks it – do not delay.
All health services are operating safely under Alert Level 4 protocols.
Testing nationwide remains crucial to us having more confidence in our assessment of the spread of COVID-19.
Our advice remains the same - if you were at a location of interest, at the specified times, or have cold and flu symptoms, please call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on testing.
By calling Healthline, people who have been at locations of interest at relevant times are logged into the contact tracing system. This means their swab can be tracked and processed faster by the laboratories.
Yesterday, 37,020 tests were processed across New Zealand.
Centres in Auckland had another busy day yesterday with almost 18,000 swabs taken across Tâmaki Makaurau, with around 7,000 at community testing centres and around 11,000 at general practice and urgent care clinics.
There are 23 community testing centres available for testing across Auckland today, including six regular community testing centres, 12 pop-up sites, and five invitation-only sites for high-risk groups and to prioritise essential health care workers
In Wellington, almost 3,000 tests were processed yesterday. There are seven community testing centres operating across the region today, and around 32 GPs are providing testing.
All DHBs are ensuring there is good access to testing across the regions.
For up-to-date information on all testing locations, please visit the Healthpoint website.
The total number of COVID-19 tests processed by laboratories to date is 2,891,738
The seven-day rolling average is 39,929.
COVID-19 UPDATE FROM THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH:
There are 70 new cases of COVID-19 in the New Zealand community today; all are in Auckland. This brings the total number of cases in the community outbreak to 347.
The total number of community cases in Auckland is now 333 and in Wellington it is 14.
All of the cases have or are being transferred safely to a quarantine facility, under strict infection prevention and control procedures, including the use of full PPE.
There are 278 cases that have been clearly epidemiologically-linked to another case or sub-cluster, and a further 69 for which links are yet to be fully established.
There are currently six epidemiologically-linked subclusters identified within this outbreak. The two largest clusters are the Birkdale Social Network cluster associated with Case A (45 confirmed cases), and the Mangere church cluster (146 confirmed cases). The remaining clusters have fewer than 20 people associated with them.
Of these 70 new cases, 44 are Pacific peoples, 11 are Asian, six are European, six are Māori, and the ethnicity of three is unknown.
Nineteen of the current community cases are in a stable condition in hospital; one of these cases is in a stable condition in ICU. Of those in hospital, two are in North Shore Hospital, eight are in Middlemore Hospital, and nine are in Auckland City Hospital.
There are no new cases identified at the border in recent returnees to report today.
The total number of active cases being managed in New Zealand is currently 384.
Since 1 January 2021, there have been 124 historical cases, out of a total of 1,123 cases.
Our total number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic is 2,941.
Amberlea Home and Hospital Care Facility (Algie’s Bay)
Amberlea has been listed as an exposure site following confirmation that a positive case in Warkworth worked in the facility’s dementia ward.
Public health officials understand the staff member worked two shifts while unknowingly infectious. They are fully vaccinated and adhered to strict Infection, Prevention and Control protocol, including wearing face coverings and other PPE.
A mobile testing unit will be operating at Amberlea today and all residents and staff are being asked to have a test.
1:35pm - Still no update through from the Ministry of Health - it is now later than the time the statement came in last Friday (1:34pm).
1:15pm - Fifteen minutes past 1pm, no update has emerged.
In the meantime, at 1pm, NSW Health reported 882 new cases in the Australian state.
12:55pm - We are now waiting on that 1pm statement. In the past, it has been a little late - last Friday it came at 1:34pm - but we will bring it to you as soon as it hits our inbox.
12:45pm - An Auckland gym owner's claim the Commerce Commission and 99 percent of members are happy with his request for payment when the facility is closed during lockdown has been disputed by multiple parties.
On Thursday, a Newshub investigation revealed Terry Michaels, the owner of Kingsland Health and Sports, requested members continue paying for a service they weren't receiving, either via a "no action required" full membership fee, or opting into an "on hold" fee of $10 per week.
12:35pm - National's Judtih Collins is again calling for the Epidemic Response Committee to be reinstated, claiming Labour MPs chairing Select Committees this week "frustrated attempts by all other parties to call ministers and officials to appear before them and have blocked attempts to ask meaningful questions of them when they do".
"Not only was Jacinda Ardern never going to front at any Select Committee to answer questions, trying to get some of her ministers to front was like pulling teeth. Even in Environment Select Committee Labour blocked National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson’s motion for the Environment and Conservation ministers to appear.
"The degree to which Ardern has been allowed to control and restrict channels through which she might be made accountable is incredibly concerning.
"The role of Opposition in our Westminster parliamentary system is vital to a properly functioning democracy. Our system is adversarial not simply because the Opposition want to win the next election, but because of the serious part we must play in scrutinising the Government and having them justify their actions to the New Zealand public."
12:20pm - We have six new locations of interest. They are:
- Shop and Save Mangere - Tuesday August 24 between 6pm and 6:30pm
- Wholesale Meats Direct in Otara, Auckland - Saturday August 21 between 10am and 12pm
- Pacific Advance Secondary School Otahuhu - Tuesday August 17 between 8am and 3:15pm
- University of Auckland Department of Mathematics City Campus - Tuesday August 17 between 9:22am and 5pm
- Mascot Ave Dairy Mangere - Tuesday August 24 between 6:30pm and 6:45pm
- Pacific Fresh Mangere - Saturday August 21 between 2pm and 2:30pm.
12:15pm - Just a reminder that there will be a written statement from the Ministry of Health at 1pm with the latest case numbers, followed by a press conference with the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health at 3pm with the alert level decision.
12pm - The Opposition says it would be "unforgivable" if the Government doesn't urgently order booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, but scientists aren't so convinced.
"We all accept elimination for now, but unless you do things like get onto the booster jabs, we'll just keep having lockdowns into next year," National MP Simon Bridges told The AM Show on Friday.
11:45am - Auckland Airport says domestic flight numbers have fallen 90 percent, with just five domestic flights taking off today compared to 143 two weeks ago. International passenger volume sits at six percent of pre-COVID levels.
But Auckland Airport workers remain busy ensuring the safe operations of the airfield and terminal, while also assisting health workers at the drive-in vaccination site. More than 10,000 people have received a jab there since it started on Sunday.
"We've had staff who would normally work in customer-facing jobs in The Mall click-and-collect operation, don hi vis and PPE and help manage the smooth running of the vaccination site. It's a real credit to the resilience of our staff that they can quickly and easily step into completely different roles to support the Government's vaccination drive," Anna Cassels-Brown, General Manager Operations at Auckland Airport said.
"While some staff can work from home, our essential operational staff are still to coming into the airport to work. We've had to make some adjustments to further reduce the risk of virus transmission including bubbles within work bubbles, with people on the same shift spread across several locations to ensure business continuity resilience.
"A great example of this is our Airport Emergency Service (AES), which act as first responders on the airport precinct, who have split into separate stations – one operating to cover airfield emergencies and the other exclusively focused on "landside" call outs."
11:30am - Academics from the Care and Responsibility Under Lockdown (CARUL) have conducted an online survey on support for alert level 4.
The survey, which had 940 responses between August 18 and 25, found 82 percent strongly support the lockdown, 9 percent somewhat support, 2 percent neither support or oppose, 3 percent somewhat oppose and 4 percent strongly oppose.
"These people responded to ads on Facebook and Instagram, were contacted after participating in previous surveys or to email invites," a statement said.
"The researchers would like to stress that these results are preliminary, with survey responses still coming in. The figures have not yet been weighted to be fully representative of the general population.
"The research is part of the international Care and Responsibility Under Lockdown (CARUL collective) study.
"It is headed by Associate Professor Nicholas Long at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and led in Aotearoa by AUT in collaboration with academics from The University of Auckland, Victoria University, The University of Waikato, Kaitiaki Research and Evaluation, Australian National University and Monash University."
11:15am - A new piece from The Conversation ahead of Friday's alert level decision discusses the number of people possibly infected before lockdown.
"As New Zealanders wait to hear if a nationwide level 4 lockdown continues beyond midnight on Friday, our latest modelling shows that the current Delta variant has spread much faster than last August's outbreak, when around 90 people had been infected before it was detected.
"Daily case numbers have continued to climb this week, with 68 new cases reported today, bringing the total to 277 cases. This rise is to be expected as contact tracers cast a wider net than before to work their way towards the edges of the fast-moving Delta clusters.
"We now know that several superspreading events occurred before the outbreak was picked up, with a large number of people becoming infected at a church service on August 14. Incorporating data from contact tracing and testing makes it likely there were upwards of 200 people infected before New Zealand went into strict lockdown on August 18.
"Given the scale of this outbreak, it's likely that at least Auckland will need several more weeks at alert level 4 to stamp out community transmission."
11am - The Wellington Chamber of Commerce has released a statement about how businesses are going under the alert level 4 settings.
"The consistent message we have received, from both this survey and the hundreds of phone calls we’re had, is that the only way out of Delta and get back to the new normal is through vaccination ramp up. It’s key to re-opening New Zealand to the world, and it’s key for all Kiwis to get back to work and life," says Simon Arcus, Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Business Central Chief Executive.
"While the alert level change to four caught some by surprise, the survey shows most businesses had plans in place in preparation. We asked how businesses were operating under Level 4 conditions.
"It’s no surprise that it’s a story of two halves, of those businesses that are essential, providing some essential products, or that can operate from home and those public-facing businesses that can’t operate at all. Just 12 percent have said they are functioning at full capacity, over a quarter (26 percent) are closed, and just over a third (35 percent) operating at less than half of their usual capacity."
Last month the Government expanded its mandatory vaccine requirements to include workers at ports and airports who are at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19.
10:30am - Locations of interest are normally released every two hours from 8am onwards. There was a batch at 8am on Friday, but none since. We will update you if they do come in but there's always a chance there are simply no new locations. The number being released each day has slowly reduced in recent days as the effects of the lockdown have begun to show.
"Lockdown is also having an impact on locations of interest. While our cases are continuing to grow, these locations of interest aren’t continuing to grow exponentially alongside them," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday.
10:20am - National's Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says the Government's "extensive credential process" is making it too hard for pharmacies to provide the COVID-19 vaccination to Kiwis.
"It's madness," he said.
Reti said it was particularly important pharmacies become authorised to administer the vaccine due to the current outbreak of the Delta variant.
Currently only 3 percent of Auckland pharmacies are authorised.
"It's not for lack of trying, pharmacists are all too willing to put their hands up and vaccinate the country. But the compliance they have to go through, even though they administer vaccines regularly, is so cumbersome that only two to three pharmacies a day can get their credentials," Reti said.
"This is because the process involves 'accessors' and there aren't enough of them. It's the same huge burden of compliance GPs face, involving three visits, 150 questions and, unbelievably, evidence of an entrance and exit."
He said there are 1800 pharmacists around New Zealand who should be utilised.
"If we want to get our vaccination rate up we should be using GPs and pharmacists. These are the health professionals New Zealanders trust, it beggars belief we aren't using them more."
10am - ACT is calling on the Government to give small businesses more certainty during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
"The pressure and uncertainty placed on small businesses this lockdown has been enormous and the Government needs to do more to offer certainty," small business spokesperson Chris Baillie said.
"Restaurant and cafe owners will be beside themselves wondering whether to order food or not. If the level changes at 3pm today, it leaves them no time to prepare to open tomorrow.
"But that stress will pale in comparison to covering their costs over the past week. For many, the Wage Subsidy doesn’t entirely cover wages. The payment may just cover rent, power and insurance - costs that don’t go away over a lockdown."
Baillie said small businesses are also going to be hit if New Zealand goes down to alert levels two and three as it limits what they can do.
"We've had 18-months since the last lockdown to get prepared. Businesses deserved to know that work was being done to ensure we weren't yo-yoing in and out of lockdown.," he said.
"Jacinda Ardern and her Ministers should be more upfront with New Zealanders about how they’re making decisions that impact us all. Hustling staff and supplies within hours of decisions being made is stress businesses don't need."
9:45am - Simon Bridges has compared the vaccine rollout to "a Lada slowly putting up a hill", saying lockdowns will keep happening "into next year" if the Government fails to order booster jabs quickly.
"It's been appalling," Bridges told The AM Show on Friday. "The Government should fess up to that a little more than they do in public. What we've got to do now is have a much more urgent, innovative vaccine rollout."
However senior Labour minister David Parker said the rollout now was going faster than officials predicted.
"We haven't got people dying in hospitals and clogging up our hospitals so people with other needs aren't having their needs met because we have managed this so well," said Parker.
9:30am - The Cancer Society is urging Kiwis to donate online after Daffodil Day street appeal was cancelled due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
"Go online to daffodilday.co.nz and ANZ have also got the app. Every dollar people donate is going to be tripled by ANZ and a group of anonymous donors who have agreed to do that," Cancer Society President Dr Chris Jackson told The AM Show.
"Daffodil Day is our number one fundraiser every year. It's important to support the accommodation, the transport, the councillors, the psychologists, the nurses, the 0800 cancer line and of course cancer research to lead to some great discoveries which will help every day New Zealanders.
"So if you have a spare few dollars to support people with cancer it would be wonderful if you could do that."
9am - There are growing calls for rapid COVID-19 tests in New Zealand to help the country get ahead of the Delta variant of the virus.
The Delta variant is particularly transmissible and has put a massive strain on New Zealand's PCR testing capacity as Kiwis queue up in hours-long lines to get tested.
There are also reports of test results taking days to come back.
Essential workers and a top COVID-19 expert are calling for the country to implement the rapid antigen tests which can be completed at home and can reveal the result in about 20 minutes, RNZ reported.
8:38am - The Ministry of Health has updated the list of locations of interest. Here are the latest location visits:
8:35am - A prominent Auckland gym has been warned by police for breaching alert level four restrictions.
City Kickboxing Gym's Mike Angove told Newshub they had done the same thing during previous lockdowns which had been approved.
"Since lockdown began, we've done at least four media interviews where we have mentioned we were in a lockdown camp in the gym - in other words, it was no secret and we were of the understanding we were in compliance with COVID regulations.
"On Thursday evening, we received a visit from police, who advised us that due to a change in interpretation, our lockdown camp no longer complied with lockdown regulations.
"As a consequence, we have disbanded the camp last night to ensure we remain compliant."
8:20am - The organisers of Auckland's Home Show are asking the government for a level 2 exemption so the event can go ahead in November.
The show, which has been postponed for the third time in the past year due to lockdowns, can only go ahead in level 1 because indoor gatherings are restricted to 100 people.
But organisers say they can run a safe event in level 2 and it's no different to being in a shopping mall.
7:55am - New Zealand has hundreds of visits to locations of interest so far - 506 - and the number is expected to grow throughout the day.
So far all locations are located in the North Island in Auckland, Wellington, Coromandel, Thames, Tokoroa, Waiouru, Bulls and Porirua. The South Island is yet to record a case or location of interest.
The location visits added to the Ministry of Health's list on Thursday at 8pm are:
- Countdown Westgate Shopping Centre Massey
- De La Salle College
- Katsubi West City
- Manukau Super Strike Bowling Auckland
- Caltex Blockhouse Bay
- Rugby game at De La Salle Mangere
- Sunday school Church of Christ NZ Mount Roskill
- Bus NX2 Sunnynook Bus Station to Wellesley St
- AUT City Campus WS Building Room WS416
- Waimahia Intermediate Clendon Park
- AUT City Campus WZ Building Computer Room WZ602
- AUT City Campus WZ Building Level 4 Room WZ419
- Unichem Pharmacy Silverdale
- AUT City Campus WZ Building Level 3 Balcony
7:35am - Michael Plank, an epidemic modeller from the University of Canterbury, believes Christchurch's chances of moving down alert levels on Friday may be hindered by a recent wastewater test result.
On Thursday director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay confirmed COVID-19 had been detected in Christchurch's wastewater in samples taken from the city's catchment on Saturday and Monday.
However, she said it's likely to be the result of infected recent returnees currently in managed isolation and quarantine.
Plank told RNZ he had previously thought Christchurch could move down alert levels, but following the wastewater testing he wasn't so sure.
He said the Government might wait until Monday to change the settings, on condition of a negative wastewater result in Christchurch.
7:15am - The alert level decision announcement will be made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield at 3pm on Friday. The Ministry of Health will issue its regular case update in a statement at 1pm.
7am - Prof Baker said he expects Auckland - where the majority of cases are located - will remain in alert level four for at least another two weeks.
"We're still seeing new cases appearing, there's still transmission in Auckland - hopefully just in Auckland," he said.
"It's just the sheer number of infected people, the fact some of them are still infecting large households - there's transmission there - and some of the cases are in essential workers who were out and about. That's still the weak spot with even alert level four, which is a very tight lockdown. It still has about 10 percent of the workforce out and about. "
6:50am - When asked how a border between areas with different alert levels would be enforced, Prof Baker said he understands "internal borders are difficult".
"We saw that last year in the Auckland August outbreak. People of course have to travel outside of Auckland for essential services and transporting goods around the country and food and so on.
"It's quite a logistical exercise to manage and to stop people just heading off to their holiday homes when they shouldn't be travelling out of Auckland anyways. It does create complexity, particularly when we move further down the alert levels in the future.
"I'm sure that's a big issue that they will be looking at at the moment."
6:40am - Prof Baker said he expects Cabinet will choose to move parts of New Zealand down alert levels.
"I think it will be announced today but exactly when it comes into force is a slightly different question," he told The AM Show.
"They may say it will start next week - potentially Tuesday or Tuesday night next week. The reason being, it gives a bit more time for cases to appear in the South Island."
He said Tuesday would make sense as then New Zealand would have been in alert level four lockdown for two weeks.
"The whole country's been seeded with cases from Auckland. Some of them have developed into cases, obviously in Wellington," he said.
"We haven't reached the maximum incubation period yet."
6:20am - Prof Baker said there are three things he is interested to hear from the Government today:
- The geographical split of alert level changes
- What alert level does the South Island or part of the North Island move to and when does that happen
- What does alert level three look like and alert level two and how will they change
"We know a lot more about how this virus is transmitted... and there isn't very much [restrictions] at alert level two."
6:10am - Epidemiologist Prof Michael Baker is now going to be in at 6:15am to talk about the looming lockdown decision.
6am - The AM Show has kicked off for Friday morning.
Labour minister David Parker and National MP Simon Bridges are on at 7:10am to talk about COVID-19, vaccinations and issues with MIQ facilities.
They are followed by employment law expert Jennifer Mills at 7:20am who will discuss mandatory vaccination and work rights.
At 7:40am rural GP Dr Richard Clinghan will be in to talk all things COVID-19 vaccines.
Cancer Society President Dr Chris Jackson follows at 8:10, he'll be talking about Daffodil Day and what it looks like under alert level four and Rebekah Holmes, a decluttering expert, is in at 8:20am to talk about giving your home a clear out over lockdown.
You can watch the show on Three and on online at newshub.co.nz.
5:45am - Families mourning the loss of their loved ones are grappling with tighter restrictions on funerals and tangihanga, which prevent them from being present at any stage of the funeral process.
During last year's level 4 lockdown, people in the same isolation bubble as the deceased person were allowed to go to the funeral home or urupā.
The whānau of the late Ngāti Kahungunu kaumātua Des Ratima has decided to place their father's body in storage until level 4 restrictions lift.
Whānau spokesperson Bill Gray said they wanted to delay the service and give him the send-off he deserved.
"Our hands are tied, it's the Government's directive that we can't do much and we've accepted that," he said.
"The family decided to put Des on ice for fourteen days. After fourteen days we will review it. But, I guess it doesn't stop us from using Zoom to remember those wonderful moments in time we spent with this honourable man."