Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, August 20

These live updates are now over.

New Zealand will remain at alert level 4 lockdown until Tuesday night.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement after New Zealand recorded 11 new community cases of COVID-19 on Friday, with three being found in Wellington. That takes the country's total to 31, with 19 confirmed as linked to the cluster. The remaining cases are under investigation, but there are "plausible" links in most cases.

New Zealand's cases include an Auckland City Hospital nurse, a teacher at Avondale College, a student at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), students at Lynfield College and Northcote College, and an Air New Zealand crew member.

Locations of interest have ballooned to over 130, with site in Auckland and Coromandel.

Malls, supermarkets, stores, cinemas, eateries, and bars - as well as AUT and Avondale College - are among the potential exposure sites. There are also several playgrounds and Chipmunks in New Lynn.

What you need to know:

  • New Zealand's nationwide alert level 4 lockdown has been extended until 11:59pm on Tuesday, August 24. 
  • There are 31 cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, with 28 recorded in Auckland and three in Wellington. Eleven new cases were reported on Friday
  • Nineteen of the cases are part of the Auckland outbreak, with 12 under investigation. However, most have "plausible" links to the cluster.
  • Interviews are underway to establish how the new cases were infected and to understand their movements. The Wellington cases had recently been at an Auckland location of interest
  • Two of the cases are hospitalised in a stable condition
  • The cluster has been linked to a returnee from Sydney who arrived in Auckland on August 7. An investigation is underway to determine the missing link between the returnee and Case A
  • The COVID-19 vaccine is now also available to supermarket workers and 12 to 15-year-olds, who can now be booked in with their parents - or booked separately from September 1
  • There are several locations of interest in Wellington - including a bar, a supermarket and a pharmacy.
  • Click here for all locations of interest.

Live updates:

9.29pm - A student at the University of Auckland has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email sent to staff.

The student lives in the Whitaker Block on campus and attended classes at the university on Monday, August 16 and Tuesday, August 17. 

They were visiting family in Wellington when they became symptomatic and are now isolating in the capital.

9.05pm - A healthcare worker is calling for essential workers' COVID-19 tests to be prioritised after waiting 19 hours for their test results. 

It comes after another day of chaos at testing stations across Auckland with people facing hours of waiting in crawling queues. 

Close contacts and essential workers - including health workers - have no way to get tested quickly. It's prompted one healthcare worker to speak out - calling for a triaging system to prioritize those who need a test most. 

Read the full story here.

8.55pm - A flight from Auckland to Wellington has been named as a location of interest.

Air New Zealand flight 445 on Sunday 15 August, between 5pm and 6pm is now classed as a location of interest.

The list of locations is now edging close to 200.

A full list of all the locations of interest can be found here.


8.27pm - All staff who have worked or been at Auckland International Airport since August 7 must get tested within the next 48 hours, according to an email sent to staff.

The email, supplied to Newshub, said the Auckland DHB was "looking into" supplying additional nurses to testing centres to increase capacity.


8.09pm - More locations of interest have been added in Auckland - including the busy Britomart Bus Station in Auckland Central.

The new locations are

  • Britomart Bus Station, 8-12 Queen Street, Auckland Central, on Sunday 15 August 4.10 - 4.20 pm

  • McDonalds Auckland Airport, 12 Leonard Isitt Drive, Auckland Airport,on Sunday 15 August 8.00 pm - 11.30 pm 

  • The Local Doctors GP Practice, Ōtara, Tuesday 17 August, 4.21 pm - 8.30pm

Several bus routes are also included.

For a full list of the locations of interest across the country, click here.


8pm - The town of Coromandel is breathing a sigh of relief after another day of no new cases in the community. 

Hundreds of test results from the area have now returned negative, and it's got people feeling cautiously optimistic. 

Read the full story here.

 7.52pm - Several popular TV show hosts are off-air after being confirmed as having been in the same locations as COVID-19 cases.

The Project's Jeremy Corbett is now isolating, and Seven Sharp co-host Hilary Barry is also off air.

Barry is one of almost 1000 contacts from the Mitre 10 2021 Awards Ceremony. She hosted the event, which is now considered a location of interest after a bar worker tested positive for the virus.


7.43pm - Several new Wellington locations of interest have been added including a supermarket and a pharmacy.

A full list of all of New Zealand's exposure sites can be found here. 

Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, August 20


6.54pm - Newshub can reveal more than 3000 hospital workers in Auckland - the epicentre of the Delta outbreak - still haven't had a single vaccine jab.

It comes as a nurse with COVID-19 was infectious for four days while at work at Auckland City Hospital, and staff were exposed to an infected patient at North Shore Hospital.

Read the full story here.

6.10pm - The first Wellington location of interest has been revealed by the Ministry of Health.

It's One Sushi Porirua on August 17 from 6.15pm to 6.30pm.

All staff working at that time and date must self-isolate for 14 days and get a COVID-19 test.

Customers who were in the shop at the same time and date should stay home, monitor themselves for symptoms and get tested if any develop.

A full list of locations and a map to them can be found here.



6pm - Countdown supermarkets across the country will change their hours of operation from Saturday to give staff enough time to restock, and three stores in Auckland will close.

HIgh demand from people panic-buying across Aotearoa means all Countdown supermarkets will now be open from 8am - 9pm.

In Auckland, four stores will have even further reduced hours due to a number of team members needing to isolate after contact with a confirmed case

The stores and hours are below,

  • Countdown Lynfield (8am-6pm)

  • Takapuna (8am-6pm)

  • Lincoln Road (9am-6pm)

  •  Botany (9am-6pm). 

Countdown Birkenhead will remain closed entirely until 31 August due to having team members isolating from across several different shifts.

 Countdown’s central Auckland Metro stores in Albert Street and Halsey Street will also temporarily close from Sunday, 22 August to allow teams from these locations to provide support in other larger stores that are seeing increased demand since the lockdown began.

Countdown’s General Manager Corporate Affairs, Safety and Sustainability Kiri Hannifin says while the store closures will be frustrating for some customers, it’s a reality of the environment that many essential services are operating in.

"A number of our stores are locations of interest and our team are isolating, which we absolutely support.  At the same time, we’re looking at how we can best allocate our team across our stores to ensure we’re also keeping our communities fed.  This may mean further stores close or reduce their hours as all our teams pull together to help out," says Kiri Hannifin.


5.54pm -  The Royal College of General Practitioners is asking the public to adhere to the alert leve 4 restrictions if they are seeking medical attention.

Many general practice clinics across the country are equipped to carry out COVID-19 testing and administer vaccinations - and are currently doing so as well as carrying out routine care and urgent care - but strict precautions are iin place to ensure the safety of both GPs and patients.

People are asked to call ahead of time, and not just turn up. They must also wear a mask, and ensure at least a 2 metre distance between themselves and anyone else.

Dr Bryan Betty, the College’s Medical Director says, "It doesn’t matter what alert level the country is in, GPs will continue to treat patients. An initial consultation will most likely happen via phone or video, and if you need to see us in person then you will be seen."


5.31pm - Canterbury District Health Board (DHB) will pilot a drive-through COVID-19 vaccination centre for essential workers.

Approximately 120 essential workers have been invited to the event which will take place in the Christchurch Arena Carpark.

Dr Satish Mistry, says all drive-thru vaccinations are strictly by appointment only to allow the team to begin to focus on getting our essential workers vaccinated.

"It’s fantastic that we’re now in a position to begin to offer protection to our essential workers who continue to do an amazing job on the frontline at all alert levels," says Satish.

If successful, the drive-thru will open to more essential workers next week. 


5.23pm - The Department of Conservation (DoC) has blasted boaties for visiting islands during alert level 4, saying it's "unacceptable".

DoC facilities on the Hauraki Gulf Islands are closed, including : Hauturu-o-Toi, Kawau Historic Reserve, Motuora, Tiritiri Matangi, Rangitoto, Motutapu and Motuihe.

Operations Manager, Kat Lane says DoC has received reports of people visiting Auckland's off-shore islands while the entire country is locked dow - breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

"Visitors to the islands on private vessels during level four is unacceptable," says Lane.

 "If people chose to live on boats, that's where they need to be staying. Hopping off your private vessel to go walk-about on an island compromises the health and safety of those who live on the island."

Motutapu currently is currently home to a group of people including DOC, Motutapu Education Camp and restoration staff and iwi.

All  Great Walks, huts, campsites and other facilities nationwide are also closed, and people must not go hunting, fishing, white baiting, tramping, skiing or swimming, or do any water-based activities or other activities that expose them to danger, or which may require search and rescue services.

People are also prohibited from isolating in DoC huts, lodges or campsites.


5.06pm - Air New Zealand will reduce its domestic flights as a result of the extension of COVID-19 alert level four.

Chief Executive Officer Greg Foran says Air New Zealand supports the Government's decision and is playing its part in helping to limit the spread of COVID-19.

 "Right now, it’s our priority to protect our staff, customers and New Zealand. We will be running a reduced schedule for the next four days to ensure essential workers and cargo can move around the country. We’ll then reassess our schedule in line with any further Government decisions."

The full schedule can be seen below.

Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, August 20
Photo credit: Air New Zealand


4.49pm - Several new locations of interest have been added, including several bus routes and a church in Mangere.

An investigation is underway to determine exactly what time a positive case was at the Assembly of God (AOG) Church, Mangere - but they were there on Sunday August 15.

Three bus routes are also now locations of interest - all on Tuesday 17 August.

These are - 

  • Public Bus 326 Mangere-Otahuhu between 4.30pm and 6.30pm

  •  Public Bus 309X Queen St-Newmarket-Mangere between 3.30pm and 5pm

  •  Bus 95B or 95C Northcote College to Glenfield  between 2.30pm and 3.20pm.

For a full list of locations, please click here.


4:40pm - Registered clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire says Kiwis should take it one moment at a time after Friday's announcement. 

"Decide how you want to feel through lockdown, and then make action plans from there. Emotion is a key motivator.

"Avoid any form of blame. A negative focus is unhelpful for your mood and wellbeing. Nonetheless, every time we step out our front door we have been at risk of COVID, meaning any one of us could have been case A.

"Take time to plan as a bubble how you are going to manage lockdown. If you have children- the CARE model is helpful guidance."

4:20pm - Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has just released a statement asking Kiwis to stay safe and at home this weekend. 

"As we head into the weekend, Police are reminding New Zealanders that we remain at Alert Level 4 and non-essential travel or activity is not permitted," he said.

"There are no borders in place and people should remain at their primary place of residence.

"For the safety of our communities it is absolutely vital that everyone continues to adhere to the restrictions in place.

"That means exercise should be in your neighbourhood only and any recreational activity that could lead to a rescue or emergency response is not permitted.

"That includes, but is not limited to, activities such as surfing, snowboarding, tramping, fishing and whitebaiting.

"Should you run into trouble with weather or injury and require help, you immediately put others in danger.

"Don’t be the person who sparks an emergency call out, when you shouldn't be out in the first place. 

"Police will be taking an education-first approach to the restrictions, however, quick and decisive enforcement action will be taken where necessary for the safety of everyone.

"The majority of New Zealanders continue to do the right thing, avoiding non-essential travel and keeping themselves and their whanau safe by staying at home. 

"Since the beginning of Alert Level 4, 12 people have been charged in relation to breaching COVID-19 restrictions, the majority of those relating to protest activity. There have been two prosecutions in Northland, five in Auckland City, two in Bay of Plenty and three in Canterbury.

"Police have also issued 20 formal warnings to people in breach of the rules.  

"Between midnight on 17 August and 5pm yesterday (19 August), Police have received 1,869 Online Breach Notifications.

"607 of those reports are from Tamaki Makaurau. Of those reports, 984 were about a gathering, 742 about a business and 143 about an individual.

"Police remain out and about in our communities conducting reassurance visits and compliance checks.

"In Tamaki Makaurau today Police have been carrying out random pop-up checkpoints to ensure compliance with restrictions.

"The public will continue to see a visible Police presence in the Rodney area between Auckland and Northland, with officers actively stopping vehicles to ensure motorists have a legitimate reason for movement through the region.

"We expect high volumes of traffic to continue around testing centres across Auckland and we ask everyone to remain patient if travelling to these locations."

4:15pm - Responding to the Government's decision, Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles says it was the "most prudent move given there are contacts that left Auckland and travelled to other parts of the country".

"Now we will need to wait a few more days to find out whether we will need to stay at Alert Level 4 any longer," she says.

"It's crucial we don't move down the Alert Levels too quickly. The last thing we want is to have to move back to Alert Level 4 if we haven't contained the outbreak. Given the number of locations of interest and the types of locations, we are likely to see case numbers rise."

Professor Michael Plank said it was the right decision. 

"There are grounds for cautious optimism. It now looks likely that we detected this outbreak around 10 days after it first entered the community, which limits the time the virus has had to spread.

"Most of the cases found in the last two days are linked to the main cluster and not mystery cases. This is a reassuring sign that our contact tracing system is starting to work its way towards the edges of the cluster. 

"However, there are also good reasons to remain cautious. There is a very large number of busy locations of interest and testing people from these locations could still generate a lot more cases over the next few days.

"We learned today that the outbreak has spread from Auckland to Wellington and it is quite possible that it could also have spread to other parts of the country. Around 150 contacts have been identified outside the Auckland and Waikato regions, including in the South Island. This shows that the decision to go to Alert Level 4 for the whole of New Zealand was the right move.

"Anyone who visited Auckland early this week and subsequently travelled home may still be in their incubation period. So it makes sense to extend the lockdown to allow time for people to develop symptoms and get tested.

"Relaxing the alert level too early while cases are still in the incubation period could lead to a disastrous outbreak, especially given how quickly the delta variant can spread. Finding contacts that are already staying at home and achieving high testing rates across the country, are two factors that will help build confidence that the outbreak is contained over the coming days. So we can all do our bit to keep the lockdown as short as possible by sticking to our bubbles and getting tested if you have even mild symptoms."

4:05pm - Newshub is getting expert reaction to the Government's decision. Watch the YouTube video below for more:

4pm - David Seymour, the leader of ACT, says the "wheels are falling off the Government's response to COVID-19 and "needs to show it is prepared to do more than just extend lockdowns".

"After the extension of today's lockdown, many people will be asking what steps are in place to shorten lockdowns that we didn't have last time," he said.

"Long queues have formed for testing and many essential workers are missing work because of the time it's taking to get a test and the result. High test numbers are great, but it shouldn't be this hard to get one. Meanwhile, some health workers have been taken away from vaccinating stations to help with testing.

"Many of those testing stations are drive thru, but vaccination apparently cannot be done by car.

"So long as the Government is committed to nasopharyngeal swabs, testing will take skilled people away from vaccination centres, some of which are closed as a result. One of the advantages of saliva testing is that it does not require a health professional to make you salivate.

"Given the pressure on health workers, sending symptomatic health workers off to get tested is incomprehensible. There should be green lanes for frontline workers, a simple innovation that was, again, missed for 18 months.

"It's a challenge to find anything that is different or improved from the last lockdown 18-months ago.

"Despite having a year and a half to prepare, many New Zealanders are still confused about the rules. Whether it's butchers, bakers or greengrocers, or people unsure about where they can exercise. Anything from ice cream to sex toys can be delivered by courier, but many businesses cannot operate even if they are safe.

"Jacinda Ardern has warned people in her press conference not to break the rules, even threatening to name and shame them yesterday. it's a shame the rules are so unclear.

"The Government urgently need to boost vaccination numbers, boost contact tracing and boost testing.

"It's incredibly disappointing the Government didn't have better plans in place. We're now all paying the price with ongoing lockdowns."

3:50pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the highly contagious nature of the delta variant and the wide range of venues visited by people infected with the virus justifies the precautionary decision by the government to extend alert level 4 nationally until Tuesday night.

"We all want to get back to life as normal as soon as possible, but the quickest way to do that is through an effective lockdown," he said.

"Until we know the extent of the spread and until the lockdown has been in effect long enough to stop transmission, level 4 restrictions are necessary."

3:45pm - Dr Bloomfield says his advice was for Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula to remain in lockdown beyond Tuesday. Decisions about those two centres will be made on Monday. Ardern says Auckland is likely to need longer.

3:40pm - Ardern doesn't know specifically how many contacts are located in the South Island, but understands there are some sprinkled across the island.

No further details are being given about the Wellington cases, but they are across two households. One of the cases took a flight from Auckland to Wellington - more information about that will go up on the website soon.

3:35pm - The extension of the level 4 nationwide lockdown is huge blow to the hospitality industry but not a surprise says Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois.

"The hardest part is not just the lock down itself, but the huge amount of stress and anxiety this places on business owners.

"Whilst we’re all focused on the health of the nation, we also need to recognize the strain on all of those small businesses throughout the country that cannot work from home. The uncertainty is without doubt one of the hardest things for businesses.

"We are in constant contact with our members and they are telling us that they are anxious, fearful for their livelihoods and in some cases exhausted but this has been tempered by our support. It’s important for hospitality business out there to know that they are not alone.

"We have a dedicated team of experts that can help business owners understand their responsibilities, get answers to the questions keeping them awake at night and offer much needed support."

3:30pm - Dr Bloomfield says there have been challenges to testing and vaccinating in recent days as healthcare workers have been contacts and have had to isolate. Extra capacity will be brought on, but Kiwis can help by only going to testing stations if they have been to a location of interest at the right date or time, or they are symptomatic, Ardern says.

Asked why it took so long to notify the public about the Wellington case - who learnt of their result on Thursday afternoon - Dr Bloomfield said he found out on Friday morning. As soon as officials find out, they begin the interview and contact tracing process, he says. Ardern says the locations of interest are being updated more quickly than previously. 

The Waitakere Hospital COVID-19 case is in his late teens, Dr Bloomfield says.

One of the new cases was at the Middlemore Hospital emergency departments last Friday.

3:25pm - Ardern says the extension will give officials time to assess how much of the country has been impacted by positive cases. Auckland appears to be the primary site of the outbreak, she says. While COVID is now in Wellington, she says they are linked to the Auckland cases.

There has been very good testing rates - in some places up to 10 times the usual rate - across the country, Dr Bloomfield says. People need to still keep track of locations of interest, he says. 

Dr Bloomfield says the Wellington cases were in Auckland over the weekend and returned to Auckland prior to the lockdown. He expects Wellington locations of interest as well as petrol stations between Auckland and Wellington will be on the Ministry of Health website soon.

Asked whether it's inevitable Auckland will remain in lockdown past Tuesday, Ardern says nothing is guaranteed. All decision-making is based on officials' understanding of the Delta variant. Contacts are being treated differently because of that.

3:20pm - The alert level 4 lockdown will remain in place for the entire country until at least 11:59pm on Tuesday August 24th. Cabinet will review the decision on Monday.

Ardern says Kiwis should continue to check locations of interest, isolate if you are a contact, stay at home and stick to your bubble. COVID may pop up in other parts of the country in coming days, so everyone must stick to the rules, she says. Everyone should act as if they have COVID.

The Prime Minister says New Zealand has "been here before" and "we know that the elimination strategy works". She says cases will rise and then they fall if we stick it out. People attending events could begin new chains of transmission.

She thanks healthcare workers for their efforts.

3:15pm - Ardern is now speaking. She says the update shows New Zealand is in a reasonable position for this point in the outbreak. However, there is still much we don't know, she says. The cases we have appear to be linked. Most people seem to be picking up the virus at home. 

We don't know the full spread amongst contacts, she says. There are still a large number of contacts to be tested. There are also a large number of exposure points and not all results from these locations are in. Ardern says while the Wellington cases were picked up quickly, we have to be vigilant. People who have been at locations of interest are across the country, she says.

3:05pm - Ardern says the record number of tests taken is fantastic, but she acknowledges the long wait. She has now passed over to Dr Bloomfield to provide a case update.

He confirms the 11 new cases of COVID-19, taking the total to 31. Eight are in Auckland and three are in Wellington. Interviews are underway to establish how they were infected and to understand their movements. Any locations of interest will be made public when they emerge.

The Air NZ crew member has now been linked to cases in another MIQ facility. 

Dr Bloomfield says there are 2362 individuals in the national contact tracing system, excluding people from large locations of interest - like the high schools and church. Most contacts are in Auckland (648) and Waikato (136), he says.

He continues to repeat comments from the 1:35pm statement.

3pm - Ardern and Dr Bloomfield have arrived following Cabinet's meeting on Friday afternoon. Earlier, New Zealand reported 11 new cases of COVID-19, with three of these being located in Wellington.

2:55pm - Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield are scheduled to appear at a press conference at 3pm, where they will reveal whether the lockdown will be extended.

2:50pm - There are several new locations of interest just out. They include Bus 95B or 95C Northcote College to Glenfield, a bakery and a bowling club. Find more here.

2:40pm - Air New Zealand has added an eighth flight out of Queenstown on Friday as it tries to get Kiwis home. There will now be five flights to Auckland and three to Wellington. The additional service to Wellington will leave at 4:20pm.

"Our priority has been to get as many people back to their place of residence as we can. Where possible, we have been socially distancing passengers, and have followed the government’s guidance which is to be pragmatic - particularly during the 72 hour grace period.

"Passengers are required to wear masks for the duration of the flight, and we have suspended food and beverage service until further notice to limit passengers removing their masks throughout the flight."

2:25pm - The Motor Trade Association (MTA) says prioritising essential workers for vaccinations against COVID-19 is “the right thing to do”.  

"Essential workers are going out every day to support their communities, to keep us safe and to keep us moving," MTA's Sector Manager – Energy and Environmental, Ian Baggott, said today

Mr Baggott said MTA fully supported the calls for the Government to allow essential workers to go to the front of the vaccination queue.

"In our own sector our service station members are staying open to support their local communities, as well as travellers looking to get home and other essential workers," Mr Baggott said.

During last year’s lockdown those service stations typically saw a reduction in fuel sales of around 90 percent. 

"They could have closed but chose not to because of their commitment to others.

"As a country we need to honour that commitment by keeping them safe.

"It’s simply the right thing to do."

2:20pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is thanking testing station staff and residents after the city had its biggest testing day ever on Thursday.

"Around 24,000 COVID-19 swabs were taken in Auckland yesterday, with around 8000 at community testing centres and 16,000 at GP and urgent care clinics. This was a 50% increase on the previous busiest day. Thank you to the hardworking staff and everyone who got tested!"

2:10pm - Here's the latest update from the Ministry of Health on vaccines: 

"More than 2.64 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to date (to 11.59pm on 19 August).

"Of these, 1.67 million are first doses and more than 963,000 are second doses.

"More than 145,000 Māori have received their first vaccination. Of these, more than 88,000 have also had their second vaccination.

"More than 97,000 doses have been administered to Pacific peoples. Of these, more than 60,000 have also received their second doses.

"Yesterday, 21,291 first doses were given, and 8,626 second doses were administered, bringing yesterday’s total doses administered to 29,917."

2pm - Lincoln University has been told of a COVID-19 text scam going around.

Dr Hamish Cochrane, Lincoln University's COVID-19 Critical Incident Lead, told Newshub in a statement that the text scam says: "Your COVID-19 test has returned positive. We will contact you with further instructions. Ruth MacAskill, Lincoln Student Health Center."

Dr Cochrane said staff and students have been alerted to the scam and asked to delete the message immediately. 

"It has also been highlighted that any positive COVID-19 test results would be communicated directly by the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) and the Ministry of Health (MoH), and not by the Lincoln University Student Health Centre.

"Any questions or concerns should be directed to the University on 0800 10 60 10 or email"

1:55pm - There are several new locations of interest including an Auckland kindergarten, central city carpark, a dairy and a supermarket. Find them here.

Blockhouse Bay Christian Kindergarten appears to have been visited 10 times.

1:50pm - On whole genome sequencing, the Ministry of Health says: "The latest preliminary results from the recent whole genome sequencing of 10 test results completed last night show that of the community cases sequenced to date all are linked with the series of cases associated with case A.  

"Separately the Air New Zealand crew member has been linked to three other cases in managed isolation in a different facility. These four cases are not linked to the community cluster of cases and have a separate origin from overseas.

"The community cases are genomically linked to a case in managed isolation who stayed in the Crowne Plaza. Whole genome sequencing has also linked three cases in a family bubble next door to that original MIF case. As a result, public health officials are now arranging further testing for those returnees who have now left, or due to depart, who were on the same floor.

"ESR has noted that these whole genome sequencing results are preliminary, and that additional analysis will be carried out before they are finally confirmed."

1:45pm -  The Ministry of Health says: "Public health staff across New Zealand are now engaged in contact tracing work, with focus on higher risk locations.

"The Ministry’s National Investigation and Tracing Centre, and all the country’s public health units, are working hard on the critical work necessary to investigate community cases, identify their contacts, tracing those contacts, and ensuring they’re in isolation and tested.
Isolation, when in Alert Level 4, means isolating themselves away from other household members.

"As of 9am today, 1,189 individual contacts had been identified. This number excludes contacts from large settings, such as Avondale College and the Central Auckland Church of Christ, which are still being assessed.

"Most of these contacts are in the Auckland and Waikato regions, with a proportion located in other areas throughout the rest of North Island and South Island. As of 9am today, 642 contacts were in the Auckland and Waikato regions, 149 contacts were located throughout the rest of New Zealand, and the location of the remaining contacts is still being confirmed.

"The total number of contacts across the country is expected to increase as more locations of interest are identified.

"Details of additional locations of interest identified have been added to the Ministry’s website this morning and will be updated progressively.

"The Ministry’s website will also include advice on what to do if you were at any of these locations at the time when you could potentially have been exposed. Text message alerts are being sent to people who scanned in using the COVID-19 Tracer App at locations during the relevant times.

"If you were at a location of interest at the specified time, please self-isolate and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on testing."

On Thursday, there were 27,899 tests processed across the country, with more than 24,000 in Auckland. 

"COVID-19 was detected in wastewater samples collected on Wednesday from the Waitakere area in Auckland. This follows detection in the sample from Tuesday.

"There have been no unexpected detections to report outside the Auckland region. Testing is in progress for a number of samples, most of which will be reported later today."

1:40pm - Here are the key points from the Ministry of Health release:

  • There are 11 new cases of COVID-19, taking the country's total to 31
  • A case previously reported - an Air New Zealand crew member - has been confirmed as a border-related case and isn't linked to the cluster
  • Of the 11 new cases, eight are in Auckland and three in Wellington. The Wellington cases recently visited Auckland and went to a location of interest
  • Nineteen of the cases have been confirmed as part of the Auckland cluster, with 12 under investigation but with "plausible" links in most cases


There are 11 new cases of COVID-19 in the New Zealand community to confirm today. This brings the total number of cases associated with the current Auckland community outbreak to 31. All cases have or are being transferred safely to a managed isolation facility, under strict infection prevention and control procedures, including the use of full PPE.

Of the 11 new cases, eight are in Auckland and three are in Wellington. The three in Wellington had recently travelled to Auckland and visited a location of interest there.

The international Air New Zealand crew member, reported yesterday, has now been confirmed as a border-related case, and not linked to the Auckland outbreak, based on the results of whole genome sequencing.

Nineteen cases are now confirmed as part of the Auckland outbreak, with the remaining 12 under investigation to confirm the linkage to the outbreak. Initial assessment shows in most cases there is a plausible link.

Of the 11 new community cases reported today:

  • One case is in a family bubble with a case reported yesterday
  • One case is in a family bubble with a case reported on Wednesday
  • One case is in a family bubble with a case also reported on Wednesday
  • Two of the cases we are reporting today are also in a family bubble together.

Public health officials are currently conducting interviews to establish how the new cases were infected and to determine further details of their movements. We will continue to release this information as it becomes available.

In addition, there are two new cases in recent returnees in a managed isolation facility.

1:30pm - It has now been 30 minutes (or 1800 seconds) since 1pm, when the Ministry of Health was meant to inform New Zealanders how many cases of the highly infectious virus have been detected here over the last 24 hours. 

In the meanwhile, police have just sent out a release about a new magazine titled: Cats of New Zealand Police

1:15pm - We are still waiting on the Ministry of Health release we were told would be sent out at 1pm.

12:55pm - We are minutes away from learning how many new cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours. We will bring that number to you as soon as we have it. 

A new location of interest is Northcote College on Tuesday, August 17 between 9am and 2:30pm.

12:50pm - Police say they are aware of anti-lockdown protests planned for Saturday. 

"As shown by our response to protest events on Thursday, Police has a low tolerance of unlawful gatherings and the public can expect that we will look to enforce the current restrictions in place under Alert Level 4," a spokesperson told Newshub.

"Police are aware of a planned protest in Auckland’s CBD tomorrow and in other centres nationally and we are monitoring these events.

"We will be urging those present to comply with the restrictions in place under Alert Level 4.

"Police will look to take appropriate enforcement action, including the option to make arrests, for those found to be deliberately breaching the restrictions currently in place."

12:45pm -  A reminder from the Prime Minister that the Ministry of Health will release a statement at 1pm with the latest on case numbers. At 3pm, there will be a press conference with Cabinet's decision on whether to extend the lockdown.

12:35pm - Peak traffic on the Chorus network on Thursday night reached 3.57Tbps at 8:50pm - a 26 percent increase on Chorus' baseline levels and within capacity levels. 

"Traffic patterns for the day remained largely consistent with previous days during Level 4 lockdown, noting a dip in usage at 6.00pm as some people went offline to watch the news on broadcast television," Chorus says.

"Total daily data usage was 25.5 petabytes (PB), slightly lower than yesterday but still 50 per cent above normal."

Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, August 20
Photo credit: Chorus
Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, August 20
Photo credit: Chorus

12:20pm - Auckland had its busiest day yet for testing on Thursday. The NHRCC says around 24,000 swabs were taken across Auckland. About 8000 were at community testing centres and 16,000 at general practice and urgent care clinics. That is a 50 percent increase on the previous busiest day. 

"The very high demand has meant very long queues at many of the testing centres across Auckland. We want to thank the community for their incredible response and for their patience while our teams work tirelessly to test everyone. Police are helping to manage traffic flows at our sites."

There are 13 community testing centres operating across Auckland, including three at Pakuranga, St Johns and Mangere East.

"There will be a dedicated testing centre opening today in the Avondale area for Avondale College staff, students and their whanau. This is to ensure that the college community can be tested in a place close to where they live. These will be dedicated testing centres for the college community only and not available for the general public."

Additional pop-up centres will be opened in the coming days. 

"We are however expecting huge demand again today, queues are already building and people should prepare to be waiting for some time and remain calm. Please wear a mask, take food and water with you, take a book to read or something to watch. Auckland health authorities are urging anyone wanting to get a test today to please call your GP, a designated practice or urgent care clinic to see if they have availability before attending a community testing centre."

12:10pm - The Northern Region Health Co-ordination Centre (NRHCC) says up to 120 staff at North Shore Hospital may have been in the same area at the same time as a COVID-19 case. Of those, 30 had direct contact with the patient.

The NRHCC says these staff have been stood down and are following public health advice. Testing is being set up at the hospital for staff and officials are working on plans with other DHBs to source staff from out of the region. 

"Approximately 107 patients were in the affected areas at the same time as the positive patient. Of these, 29 remain admitted as inpatients and are being isolated and tested for COVID-19. Seventy-eight have been discharged and are self-isolating at home and are being followed up by public health officials."

Patients needing emergency care are being diverted from North Shore Hospital to other Emergency Departments across metro Auckland for now.

The case was being treated at North Shore Hospital for an unrelated condition prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19 at Waitakere Hospital.

12pm - If you're wondering what the Prime Minister and Cabinet will be considering as they make their decision about a lockdown extension, have a read of Zane Small's piece here

11:45am - An Auckland man queued for nearly two hours at a COVID-19 testing centre only to be told to leave four hours before it was scheduled to close and come back the following day.

Rajnil Sharma got into the queue at Waipareira Trust's Whānau House in Henderson, west Auckland at about 1:45pm on Wednesday.

But he says two hours later, he was approached and told to go home as the centre didn't have time to test him - despite the Auckland Regional Public Health Service stating on its website the centre would be open between the hours of 8:30am and 8pm.

Read more here

11:30am - National's COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop has released a statement saying the Government "has done absolutely no planning around how testing would be scaled-up and vaccination would continue under lockdown".

It comes as Newshub hears from many Aucklanders turned away from vaccination clinics on Friday morning. The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) said some centres are closed "as we have urgently diverted staff to support the surge in testing today following the announcement of further cases and related locations of interest".

Bishop says the "chaos" shows little planning from the Government.

"There are numerous stories of people being in a location of interest being told to go and get tested, lining up for hours, only to miss out. There is clearly no system of prioritising people told to get a test over and above others," he said.

"Why are we not making use of saliva testing, which could be done on a mass scale around Auckland? A year ago Sir Brian Roche and Heather Simpson said it should be rolled out as a matter of urgency, but it is still yet to start up.

"The Prime Minister’s announcement on Tuesday evening that vaccinations would be paused for 48 hours, only to reverse it the next day and announce a restart, has also caused chaos.

"There was general astonishment when the Prime Minister announced on Tuesday that vaccinations would immediately pause - at a time of community transmission it is more important than ever to continue vaccinating people as quickly as possible.

"My understanding is that after the Prime Minister’s announcement about 60,000 text messages were sent out cancelling appointments for this week.

"However, the automated booking system has still been sending text message reminders to people about their booked appointment, causing mass confusion and many calls to the Government’s booking line.

"Now that vaccinations are back on, people are being re-booked – in some cases for weeks after their original appointment. Some second doses have also been delayed."

The NRHCC says: "We are working to re-open the remaining centres as quickly as possible and will have more reopening from tomorrow. Most centres will be operating at reduced capacity due to the need for social distancing measures."

The centres that are open include Manurewa, Ōtara, Henderson, Westgate, Mount Wellington, Auckland CBD, Albany and Tāmaki (Glen Innes). The centres that remain closed include Birkenhead, Epsom, Highbrook, Pukekohe and Takanini. 

11:20am - The streets of Wellington are very quiet as residents await the 1pm update, which will be via a statement rather than at a press conference. 

Wellington during lockdown.
Wellington during lockdown. Photo credit: Newshub.
Wellington during lockdown.
Wellington during lockdown. Photo credit: Newshub.

11:15am - A reminder that the Ministry of Health will provide the latest case numbers at 1pm on Friday via a statement. At 3pm, the Prime Minister will hold a press conference to reveal whether the lockdown will be extended for the country.

Newshub understands cases have been recorded in Wellington.

11:05am - More than 130 locations of interest have been identified across Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula in connection to the current COVID-19 outbreak, including a nightclub, popular eateries, cinemas and conference venues.

The Ministry of Health advises anyone who has been at one of the listed locations at the date and time highlighted to get a test immediately, self-isolate and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453.

The list of locations is continuously being updated - click here to see the latest.

Auckland roads during the August lockdown.
Auckland roads during the August lockdown. Photo credit: Newshub

10:50am - Data from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency reveals roads around New Zealand have seen a significant drop in traffic during the alert level four lockdown.

On the first day of restrictions, traffic on key urban state highways was down between 63 percent to 72 percent compared to Wednesday last week.

Auckland trips were down 66.9 percent, while Wellington dropped 72.6 percent, Christchurch 71.8 percent and Hamilton was down 63.4 percent. Dunedin traffic dropped 70.6 percent.

Public transport trips were also significantly down - by 90 percent- in all of the main centres.

10:40am - Newshub understands the new cases live in Miramar.

10:30am - A source has told Newshub a number of COVID cases have been detected in Wellington.

10:20am - The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) has confirmed almost all general practices and all pharmacies that are providing COVID-19 vaccinations in the metro Auckland region are open on Friday.

"Eight out of our thirteen community vaccination centres are operating today. The centres that are open include Manurewa, Ōtara, Henderson, Westgate, Mount Wellington, Auckland CBD, Albany and Tāmaki (Glen Innes)," a spokesperson said.

"The centres that remain closed include Birkenhead, Epsom, Highbrook, Pukekohe and Takanini. These centres remain closed as we have urgently diverted staff to support the surge in testing today following the announcement of further cases and related locations of interest."

The spokesperson said the NRHCC are working to reopen the remaining centres and more will reopen on Saturday - although most will be operating at a reduced capacity.

"We are issuing text and email advice to people to let them know whether they should attend their appointment or whether they will need to reschedule, so please keep an eye out for these.

 "We apologise for any inconvenience and we will be rescheduling people in as quickly as possible. We also want to thank people for their patience in this challenging time, and their willingness to come forward to be vaccinated and help to protect themselves, their whānau and their community."

10am- ACT leader David Seymour says the Government hasn't done enough preparation of testing and contact tracing since New Zealand's last lockdown 18 months ago.

"Thousands of people are lining up for testing for hours on end. Why wasn't there a solution in place?" he questioned.

"Saliva testing has been proven as effective as nasal-pharyngeal testing, yet only 49 tests were carried out in quarantine facilities for the entire month of July.

"There can be 10,000 saliva tests carried out a day, why is the Ardern Government not rolling this out, prioritising essential workers?"

Seymour says wastewater testing should also be increased to daily rather than twice a week, and that vaccinations should be ramped up.

"New Zealand is an island nation that had every advantage in its favour. Yet, after 18 months we're back where we started. Instead of self-congratulations, the Government should have been focussed on improving testing, tracing and vaccinating.

"When Jacinda Ardern announces today that Auckland and potentially the rest of New Zealand remains in lockdown, she should be prepared to answer why our defences weren't better, and how she will improve them from here."

The Epsom vaccine centre which has been closed.
The Epsom vaccine centre which has been closed. Photo credit: Henry McMullan / Newshub

9:30am - Foran said Air NZ had moved 3000 people out of Queenstown on Thursday and are moving another 1200 on Friday. 

The airline has put on another seven flights to manage the demand of Kiwis trying to get home.

"I'd say that we are reasonably confident that we have been able to solve that [problem]," he said. 

"As you can imagine at this time of year there aren't too many other places to travel - particularly with the Tasman bubble closed. There were a lot of people, particularly Aucklanders and Wellingtonians, that were down in Queenstown. 

"When the news came through on Tuesday evening that we had 48 hours before we were effectively reducing services down to a bare minimum, we knew there would be some challenges."

He said the lockdown will cost Air NZ many millions of dollars.

"It's a significant sum of money but we know what it is and we're well handled and managed to deal with that."

9:15am - Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran says the staff member who tested positive for COVID-19 is doing "very well" and is currently in MIQ.

He said the staff member had actually done two duties up to Japan recently, but only the staff on the second flight - about 10 people - are isolating.

"The first one was considerably earlier in the month so that one is not an issue but in terms of the second one we have been in touch with any of the crew that were on that plane and they are isolating and they are being tested. We don't have any of those results back yet."

Chris Bishop.
Chris Bishop. Photo credit: Newshub

8:55am - National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop told Morning Report he believes the government's language, targets and ideas have been part of New Zealand's low vaccine rate problem.

"Well it's really regrettable that we're in this situation, I mean we are the slowest in the developed world and it gives me no pleasure saying that, it's just the simple facts," he said. '

"We were slow to sign the vaccine contracts, slow to proof them, slow to order them and now we are where we are.

"I think what we need to do now is just get as many jabs into arms as possible. The first thing to do is urgently do the port workers, 35 percent of port workers are still unvaccinated and that is just staggering, more than eight months into the rollout."

He said the vaccination rollout needed to be more innovative, RNZ reported.

"So for example, let's send some vaccinators down to police stations and vaccinate police officers in their police stations. We need to be a bit more innovative about the way we’re rolling it out generally.

"We need to make much more use of GPs for example. It's still really tricky to know what’s going on with GPs, a lot of them are complaining to me that they want to be part of the rollout, but they can’t be, it's too hard to get approval to be part of it, but they’re really keen."

8:35am - Prof Michael Baker has backed a "very good" suggestion of how we could prevent another leak at the border from none other than The AM Show sports presenter Mark Richardson. 

Richardson said anyone who arrives in MIQ should get a dose of the vaccine on day one, if they aren't already vaccinated.

"That's a very good suggestion," Dr Baker said. "Given the move to vaccinate everyone in New Zealand, I think we should look at that. I think that's a really good idea."

Read the full story here.

8:17am - NZ Post's Brendon Main said a deep clean of the operations centre occurred on Thursday night. The Ministry of Health has confirmed operations can now continue at the site.

"The health and safety of our people and the public is our number one priority," he said. 

"Due to increased safety measures, we expect there to be some delays on parcels. We encourage customers to check our website for updates on any delays."

Main said current advice is that the transfer of COVID-19 through mail and parcels is low risk. 

"We have also re-implemented contactless delivery to avoid the need for physical contact between our Couriers and customers to help further prevent any spread of COVID-19."

Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, August 20
Photo credit: RNZ

8:12am - NZ Post has confirmed a temp member of its processing team working at the Auckland Operations centre has tested positive for COVID-19.

It is unclear if this is a new or existing case.

Chief operating officer Brendon Main said the team member works on the afternoon shift at the processing centre and was last at work on Monday. 

They have not attended work since they became sick and they were not suffering from any symptoms at the time. 

"We are working with the Ministry of Health to immediately contact those who are considered close contacts, and any person who worked on the same shift nearby this case are in isolation and will be tested," Main said.

"We are also using CCTV footage to identify any other person who may have come into contact with this case."

8:10am - Verrall is urging Kiwis planning on lining up for a COVID-19 test to be prepared.

"I think it is a good idea to bring some water and something to eat, but look - take the information from the Ministry of Health website about where to go for testing. You can also call your general practitioner to see if they're doing testing," she said.

8am - Ayesha Verrall issued a plea to New Zealanders to allow people who are contacts, people who have symptoms, and people who have been to locations of interest to get tested for COVID-19 first.

"If you're not in one of those categories, you don't need to be in the queue. It's important that those resources are available for those who are at highest risk," she said.

This comes after the owners of the Passion Bakery in Birkdale - a location of interest - were unable to get tested, despite waiting nine hours in line. One of them has flu-like symptoms.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Verrall said.

"I think I just want to say thank you to the people who were patient and waited for what I know was a long time in some cases. I think we're likely to see in the statistics that yesterday was the largest day for testing that we've had in Auckland. 

"In a sense that reflects the hard work being done by the contact tracers, which has forced a lot of demand through into the testing system. We have put on more testing sites."

7:40am - Verrall said the hospitals involved with the new case are taking precautions including diverting patients to other hospitals because COVID-19 "is a serious illness". 

"That's why we've had to go to level 4 and to manage the threat of the Delta outbreak. It does mean that we have to use our health resources really carefully, as we are doing now," she said.

When asked if there will be enough beds at other hospitals to accommodate diverted patients, Verrall confirmed "there are".

"But it means we have to be very careful about how we allocate resources," she said. "We don't want to allocate resources away from things like elective surgery, but if there is a need for it, that's how we manage acute demand."

She noted health systems in other countries have struggled when they face large COVID-19 outbreaks, which is why "we need to take the really proactive health action that we have with the lockdown".

"I think the thing is every hospital in New Zealand has a contingency plan for what to do if they get increasing numbers of cases due to COVID, flu or mass casualty events. That includes diverting resources from electives usually to allow acute cases to be looked after."

7:25am - Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall says she received news of the new case at 2am.

She doesn't have a current update on his condition and says health authorities will be working on Friday to determine if the case is linked to the current outbreak.

"That's the important work that will happen today - trying to link him either to one of the cases we already know about or... those locations of interest... The contact racing interviews will happen today."

Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: The AM Show

7:10am - Dr Ashley Bloomfield said North Shore Hospital's Emergency Department and the Short Stay Surgical Unit have been closed on Friday after the new confirmed COVID-positive patient had been earlier admitted to the hospital for an unrelated condition.

The DHB has assumed that the person could have been infectious during the admission.

Anyone needing emergency treatment will be diverted to other hospitals EDs whole the DHB is contacting staff and patients who may have been exposed to COVID.

"Affected staff will be stood down and advised to follow public health advice and potentially exposed current patients will be notified and isolated as well as tested in the hospital," the Ministry of Health said. 

"Patients already discharged will be followed-up by public health officials.

"The affected parts of the hospital will be deep cleaned today and then reopened as soon as it is safe to do so."

7am - On The AM Show on Friday morning, Prof Michael Baker said he thought health officials should consider vaccinating people when they enter MIQ facilities.

"That's a very good suggestion. Given the move to vaccinate everyone in New Zealand, I think we should look at that. I think that's a really good idea."

Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, August 20
Photo credit: Newshub

6:45am - A man in Waitakere Hospital has tested positive for COVID-19.

A press secretary for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said they are aware of a case that came through early Friday morning of a male in Waitakere Hospital who had been in North Shore Hospital with an unrelated condition earlier in the week. 

"The hospitals will be making statements shortly, but North Shore Hospital is diverting patients elsewhere and is standing up testing of staff and patients."

6:40am - Baker noted many of the locations of interest are indoor venues including bars, clubs, and restaurants that are frequented by younger Kiwis.

"I think one of the big concerns with this outbreak that's different from ones we've had before is very much young people - many of them don't have many symptoms and they're not overly concerned about the outbreak," he said. 

"They have these huge social networks and they want to get out… the places of interest include all sorts of places young people like to go to. 

"One of the key things is all of us who have got teenage children and have got young adults in our families is to explain to them… why it really matters that they change their behaviour for the next two, three or four weeks. That's how we're going to get it under control."

Prof Michael Baker.
Prof Michael Baker. Photo credit: The AM Show

6:25am - Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker has told The AM Show the Government is being "very cautious" about this latest COVID-19 outbreak as there is still an unknown about how much the virus has spread.

"We now know the [inner] boundaries of this outbreak, which is very helpful - we know approximately when it started, where it was focused. Of course we don't know the outer boundaries, we don't know the extent to which infected people travelled to the South Island. The Government - as you'd expect - is being very cautious about how to manage this… everyone is essentially quarantined at home, so that's very valuable."

But he wouldn't speculate on how long the lockdown could potentially last.

"I wouldn't speculate much about beyond another week extension potentially across the whole country. I think the uncertain area really will be outside Auckland and Coromandel. The difficulty we know is the geographically targeted lockdown has been quite hard to manage in the past. There are ways you could do this, but that's one of the challenges. I'm certain we'll see that - we'll go down the alert levels outside Auckland and Coromandel hopefully as soon as it's clear there are not cases outside of Auckland and that region."

6:05am - Cabinet will meet on Friday afternoon to decide whether to keep New Zealand at COVID-19 alert level four.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will announce any changes at 3pm.

Experts are predicting the entire country will remain at level 4 lockdown until health officials can rule out community transmission beyond Auckland's borders.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told RNZ the Government simply won't know enough about the outbreak to ease restrictions on Friday.

"The trouble for the Government is that they really won't have enough of that information to make a decision to take the rest of New Zealand out of alert level 4.

"I'm pretty certain that they'd want to wait a few days longer, or perhaps give it a full week, before they might review that decision, simply because they won't have enough knowledge about that."

Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett agreed a lockdown extension would come as no surprise.

"I think Auckland having so many of the quarantine hotels made it almost inevitable that there was going to be a community case and I think an acceptance that it would be sometime soon," he said.

5:50am - Emtel spatial mapping consultant Ethan Hohneck has released a map of Auckland highlighting the current locations of interest.

Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, August 20
Photo credit: Emtel/ Supplied

5:35am - Auckland Airport is warning travellers flying out there are important changes to air travel under COVID-19 alert level four.

The Government's 48 hour period for Kiwis to get home ended at midnight so travel is now only permitted for essential purposes.

General manager of operations Anna Cassels-Brown said there are just 63 domestic flights expected on Friday, marking a 78 percent drop compared with last Friday, when there were 288 domestic flights.

"While there will be fewer flights and passengers, anyone who is flying needs to make sure they allow enough time to get to their flight and that they are ready to follow all public health protocols," she said.

"Important rules are in place regarding wearing face coverings and social distancing, and we want all our customers to scan the NZ COVID Tracer App QR code that's in and around both terminals."

She said travellers need to make sure they bring their own provisions as food and beverage stores around the airport are closed.