Auckland not ready to move to alert level 3, says COVID-19 expert - but health officials 'optimistic'

Health officials say they're cautiously optimistic we are closing in around the current Covid outbreak. 

Eleven new cases were reported on Friday, bringing the total number to more than 1000 exactly a month after Case A was detected.

But two of the new cases are unlinked to the outbreak, and both are people who showed up at Middlemore Hospital.

One epidemiologist says those cases mean it's too soon for Auckland to go down alert levels.

"This is the biggest worry: people wandering around out there without knowing they've got COVID," Professor Rod Jackson, an epidemiologist from the University of Auckland, says.

Prof Jackson says recent Auckland border breaches aren't helping either - including three essential workers who are now awaiting court for using their travel documents to go and hit the slopes on Mt Ruapehu. 

Another man was caught after boasting online about crossing the border to get McDonald's.

For those clearly over alert level 4, Rod Jackson has this advice. 

"If you hate lockdowns, get a shot! If you really hate lockdowns, get two!"

It comes as no pies were sold at the Uppercrust Bakery in Mount Maunganui on Friday, shut after being named a location of interest. The bakery was visited twice by a supermarket truckie who didn't know he was infectious.

"The bakery was all prepped, ready to go - and now we're locked down for 14 days. So yeah, it's a bit tough," said owner JP van der Meys.

A BP in the Tauranga suburb of Tauriko is also on the list, along with several gas stations and shops dating back to last Thursday. They're the first locations of interest outside of Auckland in weeks.

The driver picked up stock from the Foodstuffs Distribution Centre in Mangere; 27 workers are now isolating at home too.

He delivered food to supermarkets in Auckland before crossing the border to several stores in Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga. Foodstuffs says the risk to people visiting its stores is low as the delivery areas are not accessible to members of the public. 

"He wore a mask and maintained social distancing while he was working," said Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay.

It's been a month since we learned COVID-19 was back in the community - and with 11 new cases today, Dr McElnay said "we are closing in around this outbreak and we can be cautiously optimistic about the containment of it".

But two of Friday's cases were only picked up after they showed up at Middlemore Hospital - and for now they're still considered mystery cases.

"I believe they were brought in by a family member and they were brought in because they were unwell and then the testing was done," said Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

That means eight people in recent weeks have presented to Middlemore without knowing they have the virus.