As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, August 26

Sixty-eight new cases of COVID-19 have been reported on Thursday, bringing the outbreak to 277.

Of the 277 cases, 263 are in Auckland, and 14 are in Wellington. Two of the 68 new cases on Thursday were found in the capital, both of whom are household contacts of an existing case.

Earlier on Thursday, Dr Ashley Bloomfield told the New Zealand Herald a potential link between the Sydney returnee - the earliest case in the outbreak - and a person connected to the Assembly of God sub-cluster had been found. It was suggested that the development could fill in the missing links between the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility and the current outbreak.

The Crowne Plaza has been the primary focus of investigations into the source of the outbreak, with genomic sequencing linking early cases to a returnee from Sydney who arrived in New Zealand on August 7, and spent a couple of days at the facility before being transferred to the Jet Park.

Dr Bloomfield told the Herald the possible link related to one of the outbreak's "quite early cases" - "someone who is connected to the Assembly of God Māngere cluster" - who health officials believe is "the most closely connected to the Crowne Plaza at this point in time". However, during the 1pm press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern poured cold water on the "unlikely theory", saying the person in question had actually tested negative twice.

Health officials are continuing to brace for high case numbers, with the peak of the outbreak possibly still to come. Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show on Thursday morning it's hoped numbers may level out over the weekend.

Almost 500 potential exposure sites have now been identified by the Ministry of Health.

What you need to know

  • Sixty-eight new cases have been reported on Thursday, with one previously reported case reclassified - bringing the outbreak to 277
  • New Zealand will remain in alert level 4 until 11:59pm on Friday, although Auckland will stay in level 4 until at least August 31
  • More than 24,000 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
  • The list of locations of interest has ballooned to more than 490 - all of which are in the North Island.

These live updates have finished.

9pm - A pharmacist in Canterbury has been forced to open a drive-through COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the central city because of the overwhelming demand for vaccines.

Canterbury has been slow in its vaccination rollout for COVID-19 and still lags behind most other District Health Boards for vaccination progress. 

But on Thursday there were queues in Cashel Mall. The iconic retail strip had morphed into a pop-up vaccination clinic, complete with grounded airline pilots on traffic control.

Unichem Cashel Pharmacy was forced to take action after the demand for vaccines skyrocketed.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Juliet Speedy here.

8:30pm - A staff member at a retirement village in Snells Beach, north of Auckland, has tested positive for COVID-19.

A letter sent to employees at CHT Amberlea from chief executive Carriann Hall says the infected staff member is a household contact of a confirmed case and went into precautionary self-isolation earlier this week.

"Following this case, we have been working with public health and are following their process for managing this situation and as an extra precaution includes staff wearing full PPE at all times," the letter says.

"Furthermore, we will be conducting surveillance testing for all staff and residents via a mobile testing unit."

Staff members who were working with the infected employee have gone into self-isolation and will only return to work after being cleared by public health.

Residents who were close contacts will go into precautionary self-isolation.

8:15pm - Kiwis are being urged to look closely at their grocery bills and report any unexplained price increases.

There are allegations supermarkets are hiking prices amid lockdown and are taking advantage of New Zealanders.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Alexa Cook here.

7:45pm - There are some new locations of interest. They are: 

  • De La Salle College, August 16 from 8am to 3:30pm
  • Turuki Healthcare Māngere, August 16 from 10:30am to 12:30pm
  • McDonalds New Lynn, August 17 from 5:15am to 11pm
  • De La Salle College, August 17 from 8am to 3:30pm
  • Kowhai Superette Ōtāhuhu, from August 17 from 9:30 am to 9:45 am
  • Unichem Bairds Pharmacy Ōtara, August 17 from 1:45pm to 3:40pm
  • PAK'nSAVE Manukau, August 21 from 2pm to 3:30pm.

7:15pm - A University of Auckland staff member in the department of mathematics has tested positive for COVID-19.

The university says there are two locations of interest:

  • Dept of Mathematics, Bldg 303 (East), L1 & L2 Podium on August 17 from 9:20am to 4pm
  • Bldg 303, Basement, Rooms B13 & B15 on August 17 from 4pm to 5pm.

6:45pm - National MP Chris Bishop fears Kiwis could be in for a "massive psychological change" after a top epidemiologist admitted the current COVID-19 elimination strategy "may fail". 

Otago University Professor David Skegg made the comments during a virtual meeting of the Health Select Committee on Thursday while Parliament is currently suspended due to the Delta outbreak. 

"Elimination does not necessarily mean zero COVID. It means zero-tolerance for cases of COVID. We will stamp it out and continue to try to stamp it out," Prof Skegg told the committee.

"We may fail, we're taking an ambitious strategy, but we lose nothing by doing that. In fact, it keeps our options open. But we may find that it's not possible. We may find that we have to move to a suppression strategy.

"But we won't think in advance, 'let's give up and let's stop trying to live the way we are'. It'll just happen if it does happen."

Prof Skegg said it "will not be good" if New Zealand gives up on elimination, the way Australia appears to be, with daily cases in New South Wales now in the thousands.

Read the full story here.

6:15pm - The mother-in-law of a woman who refused to wear a mask at a North Shore supermarket while she taunted and filmed workers earlier this week is calling for her to be prosecuted.

Footage widely circulated on social media showed one of the Four Square Torbay workers calmly asking the woman to put a mask on, while she claims she's "medically exempt". 

The woman's mother-in-law, Dale Te Iwimate, has told Newshub that's not true - she has no medical condition. Newshub has contacted the woman for a repsonse to these claims.

Te Iwimate says it's not the first time her daughter-in-law has been involved in incidents during COVID-19 lockdown. In February, when Auckland was at alert level 3, she was filmed allegedly cutting tape off a playground in Browns Bay so her children could play on it - which ended in an altercation with police.

Read the full story here.

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

5:45pm - Police say help continues to be available for people who need it, even during level 4.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says they're working closely with a range of partner agencies to ensure everyone gets the necessary support.

"If you feel scared, threatened or unsafe please call us on 111. You can leave your bubble if you are worried about your safety," he says.

"We also encourage anyone who is concerned about the welfare of a neighbour, friend or a whānau member to contact Police.

"If you think something's not right, it probably isn't and by calling us you could be saving someone's life."

5:15pm - Knowing the location of COVID-19 cases gives us peace of mind that Delta is being contained, so it may be concerning to some that one of the official case locations is 'other'. 

What exactly does 'other' mean? While 133 cases are listed as being in state-run quarantine, 12 in hospital, and 36 at home in self-isolation, 65 cases are mysteriously described as being located at 'other'. 

Read the full story here.

4:45pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has a message for those who are accessing essential services during lockdown and how they can help workers.

"So everyone can access essential items, please do your supermarket shopping in person if you are able to. This will help ensure that those who do need to shop online can get their orders quickly," he tweeted.

He attached a list of ways people can help when accessing these services:

  • Only shop online if you can't visit a supermarket
  • Wear a mask when shopping
  • Always scan in with the NZ COVID Tracer app
  • Keep a two-metre distance from others
  • Be considerate to essential workers.

4:15pm - Police have issued a person with a formal warning after they chose to begin a tramp through Kahurangi National Park at the start of level 4 restrictions.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says the person contacted police when they left the park and they were asked to return home to Wellington. Their formal warning is for failing to comply with a COVID-19 order.

Since level 4 came into place, 69 people have been charged with a total of 75 offences nationwide as at 5pm yesterday.

These arrests are mostly because of protesting during the first few days of lockdown and other "intentional behaviour" that is in breach of the restrictions, Coster says.

Of the 75 charges filed, 47 are for failing to comply with the COVID-19 order, 16 for failure to comply with direction/prohibition/restriction, 10 for Health Act breaches, and two for assaults/threatens/hinders/obstructs enforcement officer.

In the same time period, 190 formal warnings were issued - 73 of the formal warnings were for failing to comply with the COVID-19 order, 67 for failure to comply with direction/prohibition/restriction, and 50 for Health Act breaches.

As at 5pm on August 25, police have issued 909 infringements nationwide:

  • Person failed to remain at current home / residence – 827
  • Person failed to wear a face covering on premises – 31
  • Person failed to comply with applicable physical distancing rule – 30
  • Obstruct/Hinder Medical Officer of Health or Person Assisting Med Officer/Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19) – 10
  • Person failed to wear a face covering on public transport – 2
  • Person in control of premises failed to close as required – 2
  • Person in control of workplace failed to display QR code – 5
  • Person organised a gathering in an outdoor place - 2.

3:50pm - Health experts in New Zealand are watching data from overseas to see if COVID-19 booster vaccines may be needed.

Dr Fran Priddy, the clinical evaluation director at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and clinical director at Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand, says the key indicator if a booster shot may be needed is the rate of severe disease or hospitalisation among those already vaccinated.

"While immune responses, such as antibody levels, do decrease over time, the primary goal of COVID-19 vaccination is to protect against hospitalisation and death," she says.

"So far, most COVID-19 vaccines, and in particular the mRNA vaccines such as the Pfizer vaccine used in New Zealand, appear to be holding in terms of protection against severe disease or hospitalisation."

Health workers will watch data from countries like the United States and Israel, which vaccinated large numbers of people using primarily mRNA vaccines earlier this year, to see if that high protection will continue over many months, particularly for the elderly.

"The data from the US still shows high effectiveness in preventing hospitalisation and death due to Delta infection across all age groups. But some recent data from Israel suggests that hospitalisation rates may be increasing in the elderly who were vaccinated an average of six months ago. And elderly who received a third booster dose appeared to have lower rates of hospitalisation from COVID-19 than those who did not," Dr Priddy says.

"This is concerning, and both countries have made the decision to give boosters. However, please remember both countries are in the midst of another wave with thousands of new cases every day - 150,000 daily in US and about 8000 daily in Israel. For New Zealand, more data would be helpful to make an informed decision on boosters."

She says the priority is to get as many New Zealanders vaccinated as possible with their primary vaccines, particularly focusing on groups at higher risk such as Māori, Pasifika and the elderly, and ensuring vaccination is accessible.

3:30pm - The Ministry of Health is reminding people that healthcare like GPs and cancer services are available at all alert levels.

"It's best to call before you go, so you know what to do when you get there - you might need to use a certain entrance, or wait in your car until called," they say.

For any non-urgent services, such as physiotherapists, dieticians or dentists, patients are asked to call and confirm their appointment first. Also, if you're having a baby soon, the Ministry of Health says there may be changes in the way you receive care, including restrictions on the number of people you're allowed to have with you.

Information about accessing healthcare is available here.

3:10pm - ACT leader David Seymour says "answers are needed" on New Zealand's vaccine supply.

He believes the Government isn't being clear on what its target is.

"On publicly available data, the Government will run out of vaccine doses on September 10," Seymour says.

"That's based on 87,000 doses per day, and Chris Hipkins' announcement that the Government had a total of 750,000 doses on August 22 and expects deliveries of 380,000 per week, it will run out altogether on September 10 if there are no more doses."

The number of vaccines available for distribution hasn't been updated on the Ministry of Health's website for this week. For the week ending August 22, there were just over 400,000 vaccines available.

"Of course, in practice many specific vaccine centres will run out of stock long before then. We are hearing multiple reports from pharmacies where vaccine supply is rationed," Seymour says.

"If the Government does not increase the rate of delivery it will run out of doses, to do 87,000 every day it requires 610,000 doses per week, not 380,000."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: The AM Show

2:50pm - The Ministry of Health has launched a mobile-based survey, the Post-Vaccine Symptom Check, to help monitor reactions to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in New Zealand.

New Zealand already has a reporting system in place for monitoring reactions to any vaccine or medicine, which can be submitted by both patients and their healthcare professionals through the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM).

In a statement on Thursday, COVID-19 vaccination programme lead Dr Tim Hanlon said the survey is another tool in our arsenal.

"It's a proactive way to increase our data collection about reactions to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine," he said.

Up to 10 percent of New Zealanders who receive a dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be randomly selected to participate in the survey.

"A text message will be sent from the Ministry of Health six days after each dose of the vaccine and 43 days after the second dose, to ask whether you had any reactions to the vaccine. The first texts will be sent in the coming days," Dr Hanlon explained.

Participants can reply to the message for free by texting YES, NO or STOP to opt out.

"If the reply is YES, a unique URL will be sent via text, linking to a survey where participants are asked to provide more details about their reactions.

"We ask that everyone who receives a text message participates, even if they haven't had a reaction. If you don't receive a text, you can report any reactions to the Pfizer vaccine through the CARM website or by calling Healthline, even if they are mild."

The Post-Vaccine Symptom Check will run daily for the remainder of the COVID-19 Immunisation Programme. Data collected from the survey will be grouped and anonymously displayed on the Medsafe website once there is enough data to report, likely by late-September.

Responses to the survey are being captured for data collection purposes only and individual cases will not be followed up on by CARM.

"The Post-Vaccine Symptom Check is an important data collection tool, but it does not replace advice from a healthcare professional," Dr Hanlon said. "Most side-effects of the Pfizer vaccine are mild and don't last long, however, if you feel unwell after your vaccination, speak to your healthcare professional for advice or call Healthline."

2:35pm - To recap, Ardern has addressed the possible link identified between the Sydney returnee - the earliest case in the outbreak - and a person connected to the Assembly of God Church sub-cluster in Mangere.

Dr Bloomfield told the New Zealand Herald of the possible development earlier on Thursday. It was suggested that this potential link may fill in the blanks between the Sydney returnee and Case A, the first case to be identified in the community last Tuesday.

So far, how Case A - a Devonport man in his 50s - contracted the virus is unknown. However, last week he and other early cases were genomically linked to the Sydney traveller, who arrived in Auckland on August 7 and stayed at the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility before being transferred to the Jet Park.

But Ardern says this theory of a possible link between the returnee and the sub-cluster is looking "unlikely".

"What [Dr Bloomfield] referred to was a possible link between someone who was very early on in that outbreak, who's tested positive and has been connected to a number of locations - and potentially then another missing link that then connects to the Crowne Plaza," she explained at the 1pm press conference.

"The person who the theory [says] might be the missing link has tested negative twice, and their entire household has also tested negative - so it's not something that we're canvasing widely because at the moment the evidence there isn't strong. The theory doesn't necessarily demonstrate the evidence required to show a link. It's hard to say the person is the link when they've tested negative twice."

Ardern says officials honed in on that individual "just because of the connection to the Crowne Plaza".

"As I say, they've tested negative twice, no one in their household has tested positive, they've undertaken serology just to be sure - but it was a theory that at the moment, some are calling unlikely.

"This just demonstrates we are following every lead because we do want to figure out what's happened."

2:15pm - Meanwhile, one new location of interest has been added - the Greenlane Clinical Centre in Epsom, which was mentioned earlier today.

A number of other possible exposure events have also been updated as of 2pm.

Here is the latest on the locations of interest:

  • University of Auckland, STATS101: Building 260 Room 115 OGGB Fisher and Paykel lecture theatre City Campus - Friday, August 13, 12pm - 2pm
  • University of Auckland OPTOM 272B Building 503 Room 124 Grafton Campus - Monday, August 16, 9am - 11am
  • Otahuhu College - Tuesday, August 17, 8:30am - 3:15pm
  • Otahuhu College - Monday, August 16, 8:30am - 4pm
  • Greenlane Clinical Centre, Epsom - Tuesday, August 17 - 11am - 1pm.

2pm - The vaccination botch-up at an Auckland centre is once again being addressed, with Ardern saying the possibility of five patients receiving a diluted dose had not "compromised" anyone's safety.

The Ministry of Health came under fire on Wednesday after it was revealed that five patients had possibly received an incorrect dose of the vaccine at the Highbrook Vaccination Centre on July 12. However, those possibly affected were not made aware of the blunder until reports surfaced this week.

Ardern acknowledges it's "not good enough".

"It's not good enough that it took that long to tell them," she says. "This has not in anyway compromised anyone's safety."

Officials are continuing to seek clinical advice. 

1:55pm - Newshub is tracking the daily case totals. See the graph here.

1:50pm - Ardern has reiterated that 16 cases reported on Wednesday have yet to be officially linked to the cluster, but the process often takes more than 24 hours.

Ardern also revealed that a worker at the Westgate Shopping Centre Countdown in Auckland has tested positive, which explains the two potential exposure times spanning Thursday, August 19 - 6am to 2:30pm - and Saturday, August 21 - 6am to 11:30am.

She says they had picked up COVID-19 elsewhere, not at their place of work.

1:42pm - Ardern says the Delta variant particularly thrives where there's low rates of vaccination.

She says officials will continue to analyse the data on booster shots, but says the "jury is still out" on whether their effectiveness against new strains is waning.

1:37pm - Dr McElnay says there is no evidence of new cases becoming infected with COVID-19 - outside of household contacts - during alert level 4. 

1:35pm - Ardern and Dr McElnay have provided some more insight into the possible link between the Crowne Plaza and a case connected to the Assembly of God Church sub-cluster, which was reported earlier on Thursday.

Ardern says this person - who was reported by the New Zealand Herald to be the possible missing link between the Crowne Plaza and the community - has tested negative twice.

"And their whole family has tested negative," she adds. "It's hard to say they're the link when they've tested negative twice.

"It was a theory, which some now are calling unlikely."

Ardern says health officials are awaiting serology results and will go from there.

1:33pm - Dr McElnay says data modelling indicates we are now reaching the peak of the outbreak, with case numbers likely to plateau soon before tailing off.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we continue to see case numbers that are high due to those household contacts," Ardern adds.

Dr Caroline McElnay.
Dr Caroline McElnay. Photo credit: Getty Images

1:27pm - Ardern says she wants the highest number of people vaccinated as possible.

"That's what protects lives - that's got to be our collective goal," she says. "Experts have advised us to stay away from a single number on vaccination rates, because it's a bit more complex than that."

She says the more people who receive their jabs, the stronger the "barricade" is for those in the population who cannot be inoculated.

1:25pm - When asked about the next steps for Auckland, which will remain under level 4 restrictions until at least Tuesday, August 31, Ardern says Cabinet will reassess the alert level settings on Monday.

"There's a high rate of cases. Delta is very tricky. It's to be expected we see a bit of a lag before we see the full impact of lockdown," she says, echoing comments made by Dr Bloomfield this morning.

1:23pm - Ardern says the team of 5 million has done "a great job" and compliance with the restrictions has been "really impressive".

"But today's case numbers are a reminder we can't drop the ball."

1:22pm - Ardern reiterates that the Government will not rely on lockdowns forever, however, while the vaccination rollout continues to be ramped up, the elimination strategy remains our best defence against the virus.

She says she "isn't fussed" by international commentary on New Zealand's steadfast commitment to the strategy.

"Previously we relied on borders to keep COVID out... but we don't intend to use lockdowns forever.

"But for now, while we vaccinate, elimination is the goal."

1:21pm - Ardern says that while nothing in the outbreak so far is "unexpected", New Zealand needs to remain "incredibly vigilant".

"COVID changed, and so have we," she said.

"We've all been willing to listen to experts and adapt."

Ardern says the ongoing commitment to the elimination strategy means stamping out COVID-19 wherever it emerges and ramping up the vaccine rollout, which provides all vaccinated New Zealanders with their "own individual armour".

1:18pm - Ardern says today's numbers are not unexpected, and we are in a "very similar place to yesterday".

Of the more than 60 cases logged on Wednesday, only three new reported exposure events have been identified.

"This tell us that people are following level 4," she said.

Thirty-seven cases were from within households that already had a case.

The majority of yesterday's cases have been linked, however 16 remain under investigation.

Across the roughly 400+ locations of interest, just 13 have currently generated additional cases.

"Only roughly 13 locations of interest have had [transmission]," she said.

"Lockdown is having an impact."

1:14pm - Viral fragments have been detected in wastewater samples taken from the Christchurch catchments on Saturday and Monday following negative results last week.

Dr McElnay says there are three active cases in MIQ facilities in Christchurch and these positive results "are consistent with the virus being shedded from these cases".

Further sampling will be taken from around Christchurch today, but all other South Island sites continue to be negative.

1:11pm - Labs processed more than 41,000 tests on Wednesday, with 20,000 swabs taken across Auckland.

Dr Caroline McElnay has urged people to be kind as healthcare staff cope with the significant numbers.

1:09pm - The number of contacts has continued to increase, with 24,402 individual contacts now formally identified - 65 percent have been followed up by contact tracers and are self-isolating. Approximately 71 percent of all contacts identified have had a test.

1:08pm - There are 68 community cases to report today.

One previously reported case has been reclassified, dropping the total by one. Therefore, the current outbreak stands at 277 cases.

Of those, 263 are in Auckland and 14 are in Wellington. The two new cases in the capital are household contacts of a case and have been isolating throughout their infectious period.

1:07pm - Jacinda Ardern has taken the podium and begins with some "good news". There was another record day of vaccinations on Wednesday, with more than 87,700 doses administered.

1:05pm - Meanwhile across the ditch, New South Wales has recorded 1029 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night. 

12:50pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay will reveal today's case numbers at 1pm.

You can watch the press conference live on Three or online at

12:35pm - To recap, there are currently 495 potential exposure events involving 363 locations of interest.

The Warehouse at WestCity Mall in Henderson is the latest location of interest to be identified.

Anyone who was in-store between 6:45pm and 8:30pm on Friday, August 13 are required to isolate at home for 14 days and get tested.

12:30pm - Countdown won't comment on whether a worker at the store's Westgate Shopping Centre branch is among Auckland's cases.

However, Kiri Hannifin, Countdown's general manager of corporate affairs and safety and sustainability, confirmed to Newshub that as of Thursday, more than 2100 Countdown staff members are isolating across New Zealand.

"There are several reasons for this, including they don't have childcare available or are vulnerable to COVID-19. In Auckland and Wellington, team [members] are isolating due to their store being a location of interest or due to the fact they have a household member who has been impacted by a location of interest," Hannifin said.

"Nineteen of our stores have been visited by someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, and we have eight stores temporarily closed due to low team numbers and ensuring we have team members across as many other stores as we can."

The eight stores that are temporarily closed are Albert Street Metro, Birkenhead, Halsey Street Metro, Hauraki Corner, Mangere Mall, Westgate and Takanini.

Hannifin said Countdown has brought in 270 new permanent and nearly 400 temporary team members to help relieve the pressure on their remaining staff.

Countdown locations of interest as of 10am, August 16

  • Countdown Birkenhead - visited on Friday, 13 August 6:00pm - 6:30pm and visited three times on Monday, 16 August, 7.00am - 7.15am, 8:10am - 8:20am and 12.30pm - 12.45pm.
  • Countdown Botany Downs - visited on Tuesday, 17 August 10.20am - 10.30am
  • Countdown Glenfield Mall - visited on Saturday, 14 August at 5pm - 5.15pm and Sunday, 15 August 2021
  • Countdown Greenlane - visited on Tuesday, 17 August 8:27pm - 8:50 pm and Saturday 21 August at 12:30pm - 1:15pm
  • Countdown Grey Lynn - visited on Tuesday, 17 August 6.52 pm - 7.15 and Wednesday 18 August, 4.45 pm - 5.30 pm
  • Countdown Johnsonville - visited on Wednesday, 18 August 4.30pm - 5.00pm
  • Countdown Lincoln Road - visited on Wednesday, 11 August 2.56pm - 3.30pm
  • Countdown Lynfield - visited on Wednesday, 4 August 2.45pm - 3.05pm and Sunday, 15 August at 8pm - 8.15pm
  • Countdown Mangere East - visited on Friday, 20 August, 10.50 am - 10.55am and Saturday 21 August 12:00pm - 12:10pm
  • Countdown Mangere Mall - visited twice on Tuesday, 17 August, 12:30 pm - 1:00pm and 5:15 pm - 5:19pm and Friday, 20 August, 8:00pm - 8:45pm
  • Countdown Manukau - visited on Thursday, 19 August 4.53 pm - 5.30pm
  • Countdown Manurewa - visited on Monday, 16 August 12:00pm - 12:30pm
  • Countdown Newtown - visited on Friday, 20 August 8.05am - 9.45am
  • Countdown Northwest Massey - visited on Wednesday 18 August 3:30pm - 4:30pm and Saturday, 23 August 3:30pm - 5:00pm
  • Countdown Pakuranga - visited on Friday, 20 August 12.36pm-1.15pm
  • Countdown Takapuna - visited on Sunday, 15 August 3.20pm - 3.30pm
  • Countdown Takanini - visited Thursday, 19 August 7am - 7:10am and Monday, 16 August 10:00am - 10:10am
  • Countdown Victoria Street West - visited on Sunday, 15 August 2.30pm - 3.15pm and Tuesday, 17 August 3.47pm - 5.05pm
  • Countdown Westgate Massey - visited Monday, 16 August 5pm - 6pm; Thursday 19 August, 6am-2.30pm and Saturday 21 August 6am -11.30am.

"As a precaution, deep cleans have been undertaken in each of these stores in addition to the thorough cleaning that is undertaken during each day, which has been further increased following the recent alert level change," Hannifin added.

"Any team members who were working during the time of the visits have been asked to self-isolate and be tested."

12:15pm - One new location of interest has been added and seven others have been updated as of 12pm.

These are:

  • McAuley High School, Otahuhu - Wednesday, August 11, 8:30am - 3:45pm
  • The Warehouse, West City, Waitakere - Friday, August 13, 6:45pm - 8:30pm
  • City Fitness Wairau Park - Tuesday, August 10, 8pm - 10:30pm
  • Rugby game at De La Salle College, Mangere - Saturday, August 14, 9am - 12pm
  • Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland CBD - Friday, August 13, 2:45pm - 6:45pm
  • Level 3 Library, AUT City Campus - Monday, August 16, 10:15am - 5pm
  • McDonalds New Lynn - Monday, August 16, 3pm - 11:30pm
  • McDonalds New Lynn - Sunday, August 15, 5pm - 10:30pm.

For further information view the Ministry of Health's list here.

12:05pm - As many countries continue to grapple with the spread of the Delta variant, a new strain is making its way through India. 

The Delta Plus variant - also known as B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1 - was first reported in India in February. In the following six months it has become prevalent in the south Asian nation, with the state of Maharashtra recording 103 cases of Delta Plus as of August 24. 

It's not the only variant of concern, with 11 variants of the virus currently being monitored by the World Health Organization. 

Like its predecessor, the Delta Plus strain is highly infectious, with Indian officials saying the new variant is even more transmissible. It's understood the variant can also tightly bind to receptors on the lungs with greater ease, and has the potential to evade antibody responses.

Read more about the Delta Plus variant here.

12pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay will provide the update at 1pm today.

You can watch live on Three or online at

11:45am - A reminder that everyone aged 30 and over is now eligible to book their vaccination.

Go to to reserve your spot.

11:30am - A memo has been sent out to staff at Greenlane Clinical Centre in Auckland after two people who have since tested positive for COVID-19 visited the facility prior to lockdown.

The message, viewed by Newshub, says the two people separately visited the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) facility on Tuesday before the nationwide lockdown was imposed.

Greenlane Clinical Centre is where outpatient services and day-stay surgeries are delivered.

It's believed both people were in their infectious period when they visited the centre.

"Directly affected colleagues and patients are being contacted and advised on what to do," says the memo. "For some people, this will mean they are asked to get a test and stay at home."

11:15am - The two separate dates for Countdown at Westgate Shopping Centre in west Auckland appear to suggest a worker has been infected.

Earlier this morning, the Ministry of Health identified both Thursday, August 19 and Saturday, August 21 - between 6am and 2:30pm and 6am and 11:30am respectively - as potential exposure times.

As the store does not open until 10am, the time periods appear to suggest a worker at the supermarket is among Auckland's latest cases.

An earlier potential exposure period was also identified on August 16 from 5pm to 6pm.

Countdown told Newshub it cannot comment on whether a worker is involved.

The Ministry of Health's advice to contacts is currently: "Stay at home, test immediately and on or around day five after last exposure and continue to stay at home until you receive a negative day five test result. Call Healthline for what to do next."

11:05am - Dr Bloomfield says a possible link between a case in the Assembly of God sub-cluster and the Sydney returnee from the Crowne Plaza has been identified. 

The Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility in Auckland has been the focus of investigations regarding the source of the outbreak after genomic sequencing linked early cases to a returnee from Sydney, who arrived in New Zealand on August 7 and returned a positive result two days later.

The returnee was subsequently transferred from the Crowne Plaza to the Jet Park quarantine facility, but became unwell on August 16 and was hospitalised at Middlemore.

Speaking to the New Zealand Herald on Thursday, Dr Bloomfield said the possible link has been identified in one of the outbreak's "quite early cases", who health officials believe is "the most closely connected to the Crowne Plaza at this point in time".

"This is someone who is connected to the Assembly of God Māngere cluster, but also has a number of household contacts who are also infected as well."

Earlier this week, health officials said they were investigating potential transmission at the Crowne Plaza after it was discovered that the Sydney returnee had been in the lobby at the same time six people were using the nearby atrium thoroughfare.

There are two potential areas in the Crowne Plaza where members of the public can share airspace with those in isolation: one is near the atrium at the entrance, and another is a public walkway by the returnees' exercise area.

10:55am - There are now 494 locations of interest listed by the Ministry of Health in connection with the outbreak.

The latest additions include a rugby game at De La Salle College, Countdown Westgate Shopping Centre in Massey, and a further date for the University of Auckland's Whittaker Hall in the city's Grafton Campus.

Everyone who watched or took part in the secondary school rugby match at South Auckland's De La Salle College on Saturday, August 14, from 9am to 12pm, is considered a close contact and is required to isolate for 14 days.

Shoppers who visited Countdown at Westgate Shopping Centre on Thursday, August 19 and Saturday, August 21 - between 6am and 2:30pm and 6am and 11:30am respectively - are asked to stay at home, test immediately and on or around day five after last exposure, and continue to stay at home until a negative day five test result is returned. 

Residents and staff who were at Whitaker Hall on Friday, August 13 between 12am and 11:59pm are asked to isolate for 14 days from the date of last exposure and get tested immediately, as well as on days five and 12.

"Call Healthline. Visitors monitor for symptoms for 14 days. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you test negative."

10:45am - Air New Zealand has announced a loss before other significant items and taxation of $440 million for the 2021 financial year - its first full 12-month period of operation with COVID-related travel restrictions.

That's after the company reported an $87 million loss for the 2020 financial year, using the same metric.

In a statement, Air NZ says its financial result benefited from approximately $450 million of Government assistance, including airfreight support schemes as well as further subsidies and initiatives, which it doesn't expect to be repeated to the same extent in the 2022 financial year.

COVID-19's ongoing border restrictions saw operating revenue decline 48 percent to $2.5 billion as international flying was significantly reduced, with capacity down 55 percent on the prior year - although cargo flying revenue grew by 71 percent compared to the prior year thanks to airfreight support schemes from the New Zealand and Australian governments. 

Air NZ Chair Dame Therese Walsh says the 2021 financial result reflected the reality of a year in which the airline was unable to fly two-thirds of its passenger network.

Read more here.

10:35am - Half a loaf of Vogel's bread has become Trade Me's fourth most-viewed auction ever, having fetched a staggering 593,762 views when the listing closed on Wednesday night. 

The five slices of bread have become one of Trade Me's most popular auctions of all-time, coming in behind the handbag Tana Umaga used to hit Chris Masoe over the head with (2006); a possessed printer (2013); and a scary washing machine (2009).

The little loaf has raised $4000 for charity, which is being split evenly between Mike King's I Am Hope and Ronald MacDonald House.

Dave, the seller from Kapiti, answered close to 1200 questions on the listing. Some Kiwis thought the bread should be named Crustin Bieber, while others said they would bid but they "don't have enough dough".

In August last year, a Hamilton student celebrated his negative COVID-19 test by breathing into a ziplock bag and popping it up for sale onsite. The auction - and its roaring Q&A - fetched a whopping 210,086 views.

"We love to see Kiwis using our site to have a laugh and connect with one another during tough times," Trade Me senior communications manager Millie Silvester said in a statement on Thursday.

"This isn't the first time we've seen our members take a current event and turn it into something fun for others to enjoy."

10:25am - Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says 69 people have been arrested due to restriction breaches during lockdown so far.

Police Minister Poto Williams and the Police Commissioner are appearing before the Justice Select Committee for questioning regarding lockdown compliance.

Watch the livestream here.

10:05am - Data collected last year suggests one in three New Zealanders experienced anxiety and/or other depressive symptoms during the first national lockdown, and mental health professionals are urging Kiwis to recognise that it's okay not to feel okay.

"For those feeling stressed and anxious at the moment – don't be hard on yourself. You’ve been designed to feel this way. Throughout human evolution, natural selection has favoured those who get anxious and take evasive action against perceived threats. However, while this is an excellent survival strategy when faced with a hungry predator it’s not helpful with a protracted threat that we have limited control over – like COVID-19," says Associate Professor Susanna Every-Palmer, a psychiatrist and the Head of Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Otago in Wellington.

"Many of the current stressors are the same as previously, but with the added burdens of pandemic fatigue and uncertainty around the new risks associated with the Delta variant. Uncertainty activates the autonomic nervous system's fight-or-flight response. If we could test the wastewater for cortisol - a stress hormone - we would almost certainly be seeing high levels alongside the COVID-19 viral RNA.

"There are many good resources available on the internet for supporting lockdown wellbeing. My number one recommendation is to prioritise exercise. Exercise is a proven strategy to combat anxiety. It reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, and stimulates the production of endorphins - the brain's 'feel good' neurotransmitters. Even short periods of exercise have been proven to improve mood and reduce anxiety."

10am - Just A Thought clinical leader Anna Elders has offered some advice to Kiwis struggling with anxiety throughout the ongoing lockdown.

Speaking to The AM Show, Elders assured viewers it is normal for mental wellbeing to take a nosedive during periods of uncertainty.

"The three main messages are - take it one day a time, don't get caught up trying to predict the future; be okay not feelig okay, we're all stressed and it's really normal, so don't get stressed about being distressed...; and the last one is connect to what matters, really identify what you value at the moment," she said.

"Make sure you're putting time, effort and focus into those things rather than the worries renting space in your head, and take care of yourself."

9:55am - Police Minister Poto Williams is appearing virtually before the Justice Select Committee to face questions on lockdown rules and compliance. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern suspended Parliament for the week on the advice of Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Select committees will continue to be held virtually to maintain scrutiny of the Government. 

The Prime Minister has asked that Opposition MPs get more opportunities to ask questions. 

Watch the livestream here.

9:40am - Demand for mental health support is surging amid the outbreak, with one e-based course seeing a 918 percent increase in sign-ups.

The online platform Just a Thought offers a range of courses and digital tools to help New Zealanders look after their mental wellbeing during this period of uncertainty.

The programme's clinical lead, Anna Elders, told The AM Show the platform has seen an unprecedented increase in page visits and registrations since the nation entered lockdown last week.

The site has since recorded a significant 196 percent spike in page traffic, she says.

"There is definitely a large number of people out there looking for help that weren't before," Elders told The AM Show. "We're seeing a large number of New Zealanders proactively seeking help."

She noted that international research indicates digital tools can be just as effective as face-to-face cognitive behavioural therapy.

"It's brilliant - we can reach people through a digital medium and we can do just as well with a lot of the issues they are facing."

9:30am - Professor Shaun Hendy, a physicist at the University of Auckland, says the size of the current outbreak has far exceeded his initial calculations.

Speaking to RNZ, the COVID-19 data modeller said most of the new cases are people who had become infected prior to lockdown.

"This is telling us: we have got quite a large outbreak on our hands," he said.

Hendy's initial modelling suggested up to 120 cases could have been circulating in the community before level 4 restrictions kicked in at 11:59pm last Tuesday.

He now believes that number could be as high as 300, given the high amount of infected young people and the "super-spreader" service at the Assembly of God church in Māngere, the outbreak's largest sub-cluster.

"We're really looking at an outbreak now that is similar to one that we dealt with in March and April last year ... which was of the order of about 1000 cases."

Hendy is now warning Aucklanders to prepare for a longer lockdown than initially anticipated, with level 4 looking likely to remain in place for a month.

Read more here.

9:20am - The Ministry of Health is continuing to add new locations of interest connected to the outbreak, with almost 500 dates, times and venues now identified.

You can keep up-to-date with the locations of interest on the Ministry of Health's website.

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.

9:15am - Appearing on The AM Show on Thursday morning, Dr Bloomfield said the peak of the outbreak is yet to come, with another high number of cases expected on Thursday.

The public health official said he hopes the effects of lockdown will begin to make a dent in the daily figures over the weekend.

Read more here.

9:05am - The AM Show reporter Sinelle Fernandez was at a new vaccination pop up centre in the west Auckland suburb Henderson on Thursday morning which was "busy, busy, busy".

"It opened up just before 8:30 and the line is going right around the block. It's quite a long wait but everybody is working really well and it's flowing," she said.

She spoke to John Tamihere who spearheaded the pop-up.

He said the first day at the clinic on Wednesday was "tough" while they ironed the system out, but they still vaccinated 1095 Kiwis.

On Thursday they have hundreds of bookings but there is still room for capacity.

"Our capacity is greater than that so we are still taking some drive-ins," he said.

"Because of the low Maori and Pacific Island vaccination rates we are targeting that community. The best community that has come out in force above everyone else is the Asian community, so good on them but the rest need to wake up."

8:50am - COVID-19 modeller Professor Shaun Hendy has told RNZ the South Island could drop down alert levels in the coming days.

However he said it depended on how well the Ministry of Health are doing with contact tracing and testing close contacts.

To drop down below alert level four, Hendy said COVID-19 testing rates must increase and wastewater testing must continue to test negative in the South Island.

"If you do have symptoms and you are in the South Island make sure you go get a test and that will give officials confidence to relax alert levels," he told RNZ.

8:35am - At 1pm Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will provide an update on the current COVID-19 outbreak. It can be watched on Three and online at

8:15am - The Ministry of Health has released three new visits for locations of interest:

  • Manukau Super Strike Bowling Auckland
  • Gangnam Style Korean BBQ Buffet Manukau Auckland
  • McAuley High School Otahuhu
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, August 26

7:50am - Dr Bloomfield said one vial was left over at the end of the day. 

There may have been five people out of the 732 vaccinated who got a diluted dose of the vaccine.

Everyone involved in the incident should get an email or a couriered letter in the next 24 hours, and a follow-up phone call.

7:48am - Dr Bloomfield said an investigation into the incident was launched on the day they found out as they found out but it remains ongoing.

7:45am - Dr Bloomfield has defended the Ministry's decision not to tell the public about the saline injection error.

He said the Ministry was waiting on advice about what to tell people before letting them know about the incident.

"I can understand people are worried and that's why we wanted to be sure if there was anything to be worried about."

7:40am - "There were definitely more cases trickling in through the day yesterday, talking to our colleagues up in Auckland, and we will expect more overnight," Dr Bloomfield said.

"Yesterday 62 was a pretty high number and we may well have a high number again today. We will be looking over the next day or two at it leveling off and then it starting to drop."

7:25am - Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told The AM Show there "may well be a high number [of cases] today".

He said he's hoping the number of cases will begin to go down on Friday/Saturday as the impact of the lockdown kicks in.

7:15am - National Party COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop told RNZ National people are "a little bit worried" about the Crowne Plaza reopening following an investigation into the hotel regarding possible COVID-19 transmission.

There were two walkways of concern - one next to the public atrium area, and the other next to the exercise area.

"Just one look at the photo gives you a sense of how problematic it is," he said.

Bishop said Delta is very transmissible and "it just takes one slip".

"That's why we have over 200 community cases in Auckland and 20,000-plus contacts nationwide, we are in a level four lockdown. That is the unfortunate nature of the Delta variant."

6:55am - The Ministry of Health has confirmed a new incident where some Kiwis were given the wrong dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccination programme national director Jo Gibbs said at the Wigram vaccination clinic in Christchurch, vaccine stock did not match the number of doses administered.

"During the full-day clinic, six vaccinations were administered with a very low dose of vaccine."

Read the full story here.

6:35am - New Zealand's locations of interest visits have reached 491 and could surpass 500 on Thursday. The latest locations are:

  • McAuley High School Otahuhu
  • Dotti Westfield Albany (two visits)
  • Level 3 Library AUT City Campus
  • Otahuhu College (two visits)
  • Level 4 Library University of Auckland,18/8/21

The next update is expected around 8am on Thursday.

You can find the Ministry of Health's list of locations here and a map of locations here.

6:15am - Last lockdown a lot of Kiwis had grand plans to work out and spend the time getting fit, but what about this time around?

The AM Show's Question of the Day is Are you getting fatter or fitter in lockdown?

Follow the link here to have your say.

6am - The AM Show is about to start on Three, Magic Talk and online. Mark Riggall from Milford Asset Management will be in at 6:25am to talk about the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on businesses and how the wage subsidy will help them. Then at 7:20am the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is on with the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak. Clinical lead at Just a Thought Anna Elders will be chatting about mental health needs which have surged over lockdown at 8:10am and John Tamihere joins the show at 8:35am from a testing centre.

Watch the show here.

5:45am - An online quiz has taken off over lockdown as a way to keep friends and family entertained.

Quizmaster James Gatley and his friend Liam Turner came up with the idea with their friends over Zoom during last year's lockdown.

Gatley and his friends then set out to explore how they could make their quiz dreams a reality.

"We started googling what platforms can we use, how can we broadcast this, do we need a quizmaster or can we just do it with an online quiz platform."

The pair have found success by broadcasting their quizzes over Zoom and other platforms.

Each team pays $30 to take part, $10 of which goes directly to UNICEF to fund COVID-19 vaccine access in impoverished countries overseas.

Read the full story here.