COVID-19 outbreak: Everything we know about New Zealand's 21 Delta cases

There are 21 people linked to New Zealand's latest COVID-19 community outbreak on the second day of the nationwide lockdown.

The Delta variant has spread quickly, with it being announced just 48 hours prior a man from Auckland's North Shore had contracted the disease - the only known case at the time.

Things have rapidly ramped up significantly since then, with the country being plunged into lockdown, more cases and dozens of locations of interest identified, and a genomic link to Australia established.

Modelling shows things are likely to get worse still, with Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealing between 50 and 120 cases could emerge from this outbreak.

Here's what we know about our 21 community cases so far.

Who are the 21 cases?

The first community case announced on Tuesday was:

  • a 58-year-old tradesman who lives in Devonport on Auckland's North Shore and travelled to the Coromandel township last Friday.

On Wednesday morning, four more people in the community were reported as having contracted the disease:

  • a 20-year-old male co-worker of the original case, and the remaining three his North Shore flatmates;

  • a fully vaccinated Auckland City Hospital nurse, 21, who worked four shifts while potentially infectious;

  • a teacher at Avondale College, 25, who worked on Monday; and

  • and a 29-year-old man.

During Wednesday's 1pm COVID-19 update, two friends of the flatmates were announced as community cases:

  • a 21-year-old male who visited their house; and

  • a 19-year-old female.

Then, on Wednesday night, three more community cases were reported:

  • a man in his 20s who is the partner of a known case;

  • a female Air New Zealand crew member in her 60s who tested positive after flying in from Japan on Sunday; and

  • a woman in her 20s connected to another case.

On Thursday at 1pm, another 11 cases were announced - five of whom are members of a family connected to Avondale College.

Further details are yet to be released on them and the remaining six cases.

Crucially a link to the border was also established, with Auckland's cases all a close match to a recent returnee from Sydney who arrived on a managed red-zone flight on August 7. 

This person stayed at the Crowne Plaza managed isolation hotel, and then at the Jet Park quarantine facility when they tested positive for the virus and subsequently became unwell.

What else do we know about them?

Of the 21 cases detected in the community, 12 are part of the existing cluster.

Eight are still under investigation and are, as of yet, not formally linked - however there are "strong leads" that indicate they are connected to the outbreak, Dr Bloomfield said.

The remaining case, the Air New Zealand staffer, is not linked to the current outbreak.

Two of the cases have been taken to North Shore Hospital, one in their 20s and one in their 40s. Both are in a stable condition.

The 10 community cases identified in Auckland up until Wednesday - except for the Air New Zealand staffer - are epidemiologically linked to the Devonport man, known now as Case A.

He was symptomatic on Saturday and his infectious period is considered to have started last Thursday. He has visited several private residences for work.

His wife, who is fully vaccinated, has returned multiple negative tests. However they did travel to Coromandel during Case A's infectious period, which sparked the initial fears of a widespread outbreak.

There is no evidence the Air New Zealand crew member in her 60s is linked to the current outbreak. She is fully vaccinated but tested positive after flying from Japan to New Zealand during surveillance testing.

Air New Zealand maintains there are "significant precautions" in its protocols to protect staff from COVID-19.

One of the cases announced on Wednesday is a student at the Auckland University of Technology.

Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack told staff in an email the student was at a social institutions (SOSC 583) lecture in WG403 at the City Campus between 11:30am and 1pm on Tuesday and was infectious at the time. There were 84 other people in the lecture.

Newshub also understands some of those who attended the Rethinking Housing conference at AUT have been told to self-isolate. The conference was held on Monday and Tuesday at the AUT Events Centre and one of the new COVID-19 cases was there.

Infections of the Avondale College teacher and Auckland City Hospital nurse - who are sisters - have also prompted each of their workplaces to issue health advisories to prevent staff, patients and students contracting the disease.

Avondale College on Wednesday told members of the school community to isolate for 14 days and get tested, while the Auckland DHB has called an internal lockdown as it tries to suppress further infections at the hospital.

Locations of interest

On Tuesday, Dr Bloomfield revealed there were an initial 23 locations of interest - 13 in the Coromandel, where the Devonport man and his wife had visited last week, and 10 in Auckland.

However that list has ballooned to more than 100 locations amid the emergence of new community cases, with malls, bars, eateries, shops and cinemas among the hotspots.

Among the notable locations announced on Wednesday was the Church of Christ in Freemans Bay and the SkyCity Casino, where it's feared hundreds of people could have been exposed.

The potential exposure sites span both the Super City and the Coromandel, which was visited by the original case, Case A, over the weekend.

More locations are being added to the Ministry of Health website regularly as the details are confirmed.

Anyone who has been at any of the locations of interest during the relevant time is required to self-isolate and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice. 

Anyone who is a household contact of a person who has been at a location of interest is required to isolate at home until a negative test result is returned.

The connection to New South Wales

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister announced genome sequencing had linked New Zealand's current COVID-19 outbreak to Australian state New South Wales, where the Delta variant is running rampant.

On Thursday, Ardern revealed health officials had found the source, with whole genome sequencing showing our community cases were a close match to the recent returnee from Sydney who arrived on a managed red-zone flight.

It comes amid the backdrop of yet another record-breaking day in New South Wales, where 681 new local cases were reported on Thursday. There are fears daily totals there could soon surge over 1000.

Ardern says they are still trying to establish the missing link between MIQ facilities and the community.

Public health staff are focusing on workers at the Jet Park quarantine facility and the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility where the returnee was based.

Middlemore Hospital is not a line of investigation at this stage as the Sydney returnee was transferred there on August 16 - after some cases started displaying symptoms.