Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 28

As Auckland nears the end of its first week under alert level 3, a top COVID-19 modeller says it's too soon to tell if the restrictions are keeping the virus at bay.

Eight new cases of the virus were reported in the community on Tuesday, a welcome drop from the 12 recorded on Monday and the 18 seen on Sunday.

Te Pūnaha Matatini modeller Professor Michael Plank told Newshub while the rolling average is tracking down slowly, overall case numbers appear relatively "flat". He said the continued detection of unlinked 'mystery cases' indicates contact tracing teams have "not quite ring-fenced the outbreak completely".

"I really think it could go either way at this stage. We have only been at level 3 since Wednesday, so not even one week yet. We haven't really seen the effects of that come through in the case numbers yet," he said.

During Tuesday's press conference, Dr Bloomfield said a wastewater sample collected from a Tauranga catchment on September 23 has tested positive for the virus. Follow-up samples have been taken and the results are expected on Thursday. Recently recovered people can still shed viral fragments.

The Government also announced it is releasing an additional 3800 managed isolation and quarantine rooms between 5pm and 6pm on Tuesday. The rooms will be available to book for October, November and December and will be made available through the Government's 'virtual lobby' system. Air New Zealand has also announced it will provide 31 'red' flights in December (quarantine) for those wanting to return from Australia. 

The Government has also slightly eased restrictions at Auckland's alert level boundary. From 11:59pm on Tuesday, people will be able to leave the Auckland region - with proof of permitted travel and a negative test - to permanently relocate, to return home, or for shared custody arrangements.

Earlier on Tuesday, Opposition leader Judith Collins revealed National's COVID-19 Response plan will be released on Wednesday morning. It comes mere days after former Prime Minister, Sir John Key, issued a scathing rebuke of the Government's pandemic response, likening New Zealand to a "smug hermit kingdom". 

At a stand-up on Tuesday morning, Collins said she had no issue with Sir John speaking out against the Government ahead of the party's official plan release, saying his comments reflected "the frustration" of the country. She said the party's ultimate goal is to have New Zealanders travelling again by Christmas, and invited the Government to adopt the strategy in its entirety. 

ACT also released its latest COVID-19 plan on Tuesday morning, with party leader David Seymour claiming an eradication strategy is "no longer viable". The plan outlines five key "movements", which also includes getting Kiwis home for Christmas.

What you need to know

  • Eight new community cases of COVID-19 have been recorded on Tuesday, all in Auckland - one has yet to be epidemiologically linked
  • One of the new cases is an unlinked case who presented at Waitakere Hospital's emergency department last night - five staff have been stood down as a precaution
  • A wastewater sample taken from Tauranga has tested positive for viral fragments, with the results of further testing expected on Thursday
  • People in Tauranga and Mt Maunganui are asked to get tested if they are presenting symptoms or have visited a location of interest
  • Permitted travel has been broadened, allowing Aucklanders with a negative test to leave the region for permanent relocation, shared custody arrangements or to return home
  • Isolated lockdowns in Auckland would be tricky but are "not off the table", says Dr Bloomfield
  • Between 5pm-6pm on Tuesday, a further 3800 MIQ rooms will be released for Oct, Nov and Dec
  • Grant Robertson says the Government is aiming to introduce vaccine certificates in early November
  • The National Party will release its COVID-19 Response plan on Wednesday - ACT released theirs on Tuesday morning
  • The latest locations of interest are available here.

These updates have now finished

7:53pm -  An Otago University epidemiologist wants the Government to give serious consideration to implementing postcode-style restrictions in Auckland. 

The sharp end of this COVID-19 outbreak is still firmly centred around South Auckland. 

Otago University Professor of Public Health, Nick Wilson, says restrictions in certain suburbs makes sense. 

"I think this postcode-style lockdown is definitely worth serious consideration." 

Read the full story here.

7:32pm - National is promising if they were in Government double-vaccinated Kiwis would be free to come to Aotearoa by Christmas.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit back, saying National is putting your summer at risk.

Read the full story here.

6:25pm - Thousands of Kiwis overseas are queuing up in the hopes of snagging an MIQ spot. 

The Government's latest release of managed isolation spots is being done via its virtual lobby. The lobby opened at 5pm today with 3800 rooms up for grabs from 6pm.

5:55pm - The ASB Auckland Marathon has been postponed due to the Delta outbreak.

"The current COVID-19 Delta outbreak and subsequent lockdown has thrown up more than a few challenges for the 2021 ASB Auckland Marathon," the event organisers said in a post on Instagram. 

"With the original event date quickly approaching, and the uncertainty on whether Auckland will move down to alert level 1 in time for the event, organisers have had further discussions with all key event stakeholders. Unfortunately, it has become clear that we will not be able to hold the event as planned on 31 October 2021.

"The good news is that thanks to the support of our partners and the hard work of our team, we can advise that we have managed to secure a new event date (not an easy feat with an event of this size) and the 2021 ASB Auckland Marathon has been rescheduled to Sunday 23 January 2022.

"This is obviously not the news we wanted to deliver just five weeks out from the event, and we understand your frustration and disappointment – especially given all the hard work and training you’ve put in so far."

The event organisers said all registered runners have been sent an email detailing their options. 

"If you are one of these and do not receive an email by Wednesday 15 October, please let us know. Hopefully this change provides you with some certainty and a few extra weeks of training to help you achieve even more come 23 January.

"We have been overwhelmed by the ongoing support from our ASB Auckland Marathon community and really appreciate your support and understanding. We can't wait to see you on the start line soon."

4:57pm - Ardern says New Zealand's hard border will stay as it is for the time being, fearing opening up too quickly could jeopardise domestic restrictions.

Ardern is confident New Zealanders will have freedoms over the summer and says the Government is maintaining its plan to review border restrictions early next year. 

"Our priority is New Zealanders having the best summer possible and that does mean working very hard to get our vaccine rates up to work on a framework that takes into account vaccination, and that moves away from lockdowns," Ardern told reporters on Tuesday. 

Read the full story here.

4:39pm - Waikato residents can get a free bus ride to and from their COVID-19 vaccination appointments from Wednesday. 

The Waikato District Health Board,  Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Waikato Regional Council are offering free public transport to help residents and their caregivers or dependents attend vaccine appointments and return home afterwards.

Vaccinations are happening at a range of sites, including GP practices, community vaccination centres and pharmacies.

To travel for free on any regional or city bus, passengers simply show the bus driver their appointment letter or text confirmation on their mobile phone.

Drivers will check that the appointment is dated for the day of travel only.

Waikato regional councillor and Regional Transport Connections Committee Chair Angela Strange said the free rides aim to help people who are struggling to get vaccinated. 

"For some people, it's become clear that one thing holding them back from getting a vaccination is the ease of getting to and from appointments.

"We're thrilled to be able to remove this barrier by making bus travel free for people going to and from their appointment," Strange said.

Waikato DHB Chief Executive Dr Kevin Snee said the initiative highlighted the programme's emphasis on partnership to reach all communities across the Waikato.

"Our community and primary health providers are working alongside us, creating the opportunity for people to be vaccinated. We also need to look at barriers, like travel costs, that may prevent people from taking up the opportunity. It's wonderful to have Waikato Regional Council's support with this.

"Getting the people of the Waikato vaccinated in the large numbers targeted is a major undertaking that needs everyone working together."

Snee urged people to get their first vaccination now so they could be fully vaccinated by Christmas.

"We all want to get back to doing the things we love over summer and to avoid more lockdowns. Getting fully vaccinated is our best line of defence against COVID-19," he said. 

4:20pm - The Prime Minister says she's considered localised lockdowns for Auckland suburbs but there are issues with making them effective. 

"We have discussed that and considered that. There's a lot of complexity in some of the clusters we have at the moment and their reach hasn't always been totally localised and so that's been one of the complications," Jacinda Ardern explained.

"We've been open to considering that option all the way through but with the clusters we've had to date, they have often reached beyond single suburbs and so you would run the risk of trying to take a localised approach that could essentially lead to an outbreak getting worse elsewhere."

Read the full story here

3:54pm - Retail NZ and Hospitality NZ say they have concerns about the Government’s request for retail workers to get COVID-19 tests. 

"The retail sector was surprised by Dr Bloomfield’s request today that retail workers in Auckland to have two COVID-19 tests over the next week," Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said. 

"Level 3 is a difficult environment for retailers to be working in, and many are already receiving significant levels of abuse from customers.  This new request for surveillance testing of retail and hospitality workers will lead to additional stress.

"If it is important to maintain surveillance testing of retail workers, then the Government should roll out low-impact saliva testing that can be done in the workplace, rather than requiring workers to undertake an invasive PCR test and travel to testing sites that are only open limited hours.

"Retail and hospitality are already severely restricted at alert level 3, and businesses are operating under strict health and safety protocols.  Only a very limited number of essential stores are allowed to be open to the public, with only contactless click and collect services or contactless delivery available from other businesses.  

"These restrictions have been designed and imposed by the Government to restrict the spread of COVID-19 and come at a massive economic cost.  It is just not reasonable to ask every retail worker to undergo testing, and it is not reasonable to expect employers to provide time off for this."

Hospitality New Zealand CEO Julie White agreed, calling the request "ludicrous". 

"The testing request is a ludicrous suggestion while we operate contactless businesses, suffering from low revenue, and when some businesses cannot even open." 

3:30pm - The Ministry of Health has given the green light for Kiwis to receive the majority of other vaccines before, after, or at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine, Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay says.

"We know that there has been a disruption to routine vaccinations throughout the pandemic. This change to the immunisation programme will help get routine vaccinations back on track while we also ramp up our COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

"The COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group (CV-TAG) has recommended that most routine vaccinations such as MMR, HPV and the influenza vaccine may be administered before, after, or at the same time as the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, without concern for spacing. The exception to this is the shingles vaccine, which has a recommended seven-day gap.

"The recommended standard six-week gap between dose 1 and dose 2 of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine remains.

"We are encouraging everyone who hasn’t already had the COVID-19 vaccine to do so. It’s important that we get as many people vaccinated against the disease as possible."

McElnay said at this stage COVID-19 vaccination centres will only be offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 

"Our priority is to ensure that everyone in Aotearoa age 12 and older who wishes to be vaccinated for COVID-19 can do so by the end of the year. We have enough vaccines for everyone, and they are available for free," she said.   

3:15pm - ACT leader David Seymour is hitting out at the Government over its vaccine messaging. 

On Tuesday, Seymour accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of having "no idea what the plan is to open up New Zealand to the world again". 

"Ardern earlier said we would be able to move away from locking down and locking out when every New Zealander had had the opportunity to be vaccinated," he said. 

"Today under questioning a clearly frustrated Ardern had changed her tune. There was talk of the vaccination rate needing to be above 90 per cent for eligible New Zealanders, there was talk of hospital capacity but there was nothing concrete in her answers.

"It's no wonder the numbers of people having their first vaccine is plummeting when the Prime Minister has no idea what the plan is.

"It's easy to procrastinate when even the leader doesn't know where she's going, and that's what New Zealanders yet to have their first dose appear to be doing." 

3:08pm - Jacinda Ardern says there are no plans to increase Tauranga's COVID-19 alert levels after a positive wastewater result. 

Ardern said the positive result isn't enough to warrant an alert level shift but surveillance testing and further wastewater testing is underway. 

She urged people in Tauranga and Mt Maunganui to get tested if they have symptoms or have visited a location of interest.

Read the full story here

2:45pm - Here's a checkpoint compliance update from police.

Four people have been charged with a total of four offences in Auckland and Upper Hauraki since alert level 3 was implemented.

Of these, two were for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), one was for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, and one was a Health Act Breach.

In the same time period, four people were formally warned.

Police have received a total of 1052 online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau and Upper Hauraki.

Checkpoint figures

As of 11:59pm on Monday, 322,645 vehicles have now been stopped at the checkpoints on Auckland's northern and southern boundaries - 5524 of which have been turned away.

On Monday, 21,491 vehicles were processed at the checkpoints, 303 of which were turned around.

A total of 58 out of 4312 vehicles were turned away at the northern checkpoints on Monday, while 245 of 17,179 vehicles were turned around at the southern checkpoints.

As of 11:59pm last night, 11,578 heavy vehicles have been stopped and 506 of them have been turned around after attempting to leave Auckland - 56 were turned around yesterday.

2:35pm - Reasons for permitted travel across Alert Level boundary expanded

From 11:59pm tonight, additional reasons for permitted travel will be introduced for movement across the Auckland boundary, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

"As this outbreak has shown Delta is highly transmissible, and in order to be confident of controlling its spread, restrictions at the alert level boundary have been tougher than previous outbreaks," Hipkins said in a statement following the 1pm press conference.

"As case numbers have come down in Auckland and with the introduction of a testing regime for personal travel, we are now in a position where we can safely expand the permitted reasons for travel."

The additional permitted travel reasons are for:

  • People relocating permanently to -
  •     move into a new property that they have purchased or rented
  •     start a new job
  •     travel to undertake tertiary education or study
  •  Shared caregiving arrangements
  •  People returning home from alert level 3 to alert level 2.

"There are people in Auckland who need to move to a new home or start a new job outside of Auckland, as well as families whose ability to maintain shared childcare arrangements has been restricted," Hipkins says.

"To ensure risks are mitigated, people who are relocating or returning home to an alert level 2 area will need to get a negative test within 72 hours of their departure.

"People crossing the boundary for shared caregiving arrangements will need to have a test within seven days of each crossing, as we recognise these arrangements may involve more back-and-forth travel than other reasons.

"People relocating or returning home will need to carry proof of their reason for travel, and not travel if they are unwell or have any symptoms of COVID-19. 

"Students are asked to get in touch with their tertiary accommodation provider before planning their travel, so their provider can help prepare for their return.

"We have been able to make these changes due to the job that alert level 3 is doing, and we will continue to monitor the situation and take a flexible approach where it makes sense, and is safe to do so."

People are already able to relocate to or return home to Auckland permanently - so long as they have proof of residential address. There is no requirement for a test prior to departure.

"Most people are still not permitted to travel and it is really important that anyone with symptoms or who has been at a location of interest does not travel, isolates at home and gets a COVID-19 test."

2:05pm - In line with the Government's release of additional MIQ rooms at 6pm tonight, Air New Zealand has added 31 'red' flights to their schedule in December for customers wanting to return from Australia before December 31.

The 'red' flights will sit alongside the current 'green' (quarantine-free) flights available in the booking system and will be labelled accordingly. The airline's 'red' services will have flight numbers starting with NZ8 and the 'green' services will start with NZ1. 

As quarantine-free travel with Australia is currently paused until the end of November, the airline still has green (quarantine-free) flights available to book from December. However, these flights will be cancelled if the pause on quarantine-free travel is extended.

If customers currently booked on a green flight wish to transfer their booking to a red flight, the airline recommends putting their flight into credit online and then using the credit to rebook on a red service.

The red flights are available to book now. Customers will have 48 hours after securing an MIQ room to book their flights.

Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer, Leanne Geraghty, says as long as there are MIQ spaces available in New Zealand, the airline will continue to operate flights to reconnect customers with their friends and whānau.

"We understand this continues to be a very distressing time for people trying to get home. We're committed to doing everything we can to get customers back to where they need to be as safely and quickly as possible.

"There are plenty of seats available so we are confident that if customers secure an MIQ space they will be able to book onto one of our red flights.

"As we head toward Christmas and summer holidays we are looking forward to reconnecting customers with their loved ones in Aotearoa."

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 28

1:55pm - The Government has introduced changes to help ease the impacts of restrictions on both commercial and residential tenancies.

As part of the COVID-19 Response Legislation Bill introduced to Parliament, measures are being taken to help businesses resolve disputes over commercial rent, as well as provide greater certainty for landlords and tenants by protecting residential tenancies from being terminated during alert level 4.

"With regards to commercial rental situations, we have heard the concerns from business operators unable to meet full rental costs while their incomes have been hit by restrictions needed to contain the spread of the virus," Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said on Tuesday.

"Therefore an amendment to the Property Law Act is proposed to insert a clause into commercial leases requiring a 'fair proportion' of rent to be paid where a tenant has been unable to fully conduct their business in their premises due to the COVID-19 restrictions.

"Landlord and tenant would need to agree on the amount of rent that is fair. They could also agree that the clause does not apply."

Arbitration will be required where landlords and tenants are unable to come to agreement about a fair rent proportion, unless they agree to an alternative dispute resolution process such as mediation.

Once the law is passed, the implied clause would take effect from today, September 28, 2021.

"The proposed law change would only apply to leases which do not already provide for adjusted rent payment terms during an epidemic emergency. Therefore, agreements made prior to September 28, 2021 to adjust rent obligations to reflect the COVID-19 situation would not be affected by the implied clause," Faafoi said. 

"This change helps to ensure that landlords and tenants come to reasonable agreements about rent obligations, while still respecting agreements that have already been made.

"In principle agreements need to reflect the uniqueness of the current COVID-19 situation, and provide the means by which both landlords and tenants can share the financial burden of the impact of restrictions.

"The Residential Tenancies Act changes will enable restrictions against residential tenancy terminations to be switched on and off by Ministerial order - making the new changes flexible and responsive," Associate Housing Minister Poto Williams said.

"This is about future-proofing tenancy law and provides much needed certainty and clarity for landlords and tenants."

The changes are to be considered as a part of a short select committee process on the COVID-19 Response Legislation Bill and Ministers encourage those affected to make submissions, including from when the commercial rent clause should be effective.

1:45pm - Here's the Ministry of Health's full press release with today's updates:

Eight community cases of COVID-19; more than 40,000 doses of vaccine administered yesterday



Number of new community cases


Number of new cases identified at the border

4 cases (including 1 historical)

Location of new community cases


Location of community cases (total)

Auckland (including 4 cases in Upper Hauraki; all of whom are in the same household) 1,168 (965 of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (all of whom have recovered)

Number of community cases (total)

1,185 (in the current community outbreak)

Cases infectious in the community

Five (42 pct) of yesterday's cases have exposure events

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious

Six (50 pct) of yesterday's cases

Cases epidemiologically linked

Seven of today's 8 cases are contacts of existing cases.

Cases to be epidemiologically linked

One of today's 8 cases Investigations are continuing to determine a link.

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)

1,156 (in the current cluster) (Seven unlinked from the past fortnight).

Number of sub-clusters

15 epidemiologically linked subclusters. Of these, four are active, nine are contained and two are dormant. There are ten epidemiologically unlinked subclusters. Of these, none are active, three are contained and seven are dormant.

Cases in hospital

14 (total): North Shore (2); Middlemore (6); Auckland (6)

Cases in ICU or HDU


Confirmed cases (total)

3,848 since pandemic began

Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)

159 out of 2,030 since 1 Jan 2021



Number of open contacts being managed (total):


Percentage who have received an outbound call from contact tracers (to confirm testing and isolation requirements)

93 pct

Percentage with at least one test result

88 pct

Locations of interest


Locations of interest (total)

108 (as at 10am 28 September)



Number of tests (total)


Number of tests processed (total last 24 hours)


Tests processed in Auckland (last 24 hours)


Tests rolling average (last 7 days)


Testing centres in Auckland




Wastewater detections

A positive sample was detected in Tauranga on 23 September. Further testing is underway with results expected later this week.

COVID-19 vaccine update


Vaccines administered to date (total)

5,087,231; 1st doses: 3,252,825; 2nd doses: 1,834,406

Vaccines administered yesterday (total)

40,706; 1st doses: 12,641; 2nd doses: 28,065


1st doses: 312,332; 2nd doses: 160,664

Pacific Peoples

1st doses: 202,228; 2nd doses: 113,218

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents to date (total)

1,853,576; 1st doses: 1,181,645 (82 pct); 2nd doses: 671,931 (47 pct)

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday (total)

15,163; 1st doses: 4,413; 2nd doses: 10,750

NZ COVID-19 tracer


Registered users (total)


Poster scans (total)


Manual diary entries (total)



Wastewater and testing

ESR has reported one positive detection in wastewater in Tauranga from a sample collected on September 23.

Follow-up samples from Tauranga and Mount Maunganui were taken this morning (September 28), with results expected later this week (Thursday).

Additional samples are also being taken from nearby areas including Paeroa, Waihi Beach, Katikati, Matamata, Te Puke and Maketu.

Given we are dealing with the Delta variant, we are asking people in the Greater Tauranga area - including Mt Maunganui - to get a test if they are symptomatic, or have been at a location of interest in the Tauranga, Waikato, Auckland, or Upper Hauraki areas. A reminder that the locations of interest are on the Ministry's website.

Testing centres in the area will be open extended hours today, and additional testing centres will be established tomorrow to manage increased demand. You can find the locations of testing centres in these areas on

Workers who travel frequently across the Auckland boundary are asked to please check that they are up to date with their regular testing; remember if you have any symptoms, isolate and get a test.

Testing continues across Auckland with a particular focus on Clover Park, Māngere, Favona, Ōtara, Manurewa and Mount Wellington/Sylvia Park.

For all testing locations nationwide, visit

1:42pm - Ardern and Dr Bloomfield say there is nothing to indicate there is undetected transmission in Tauranga despite the wastewater results.

Dr Bloomfield said officials do not believe the wastewater results are related to the driver who visited Tauranga for work earlier this month.

"It's too far down the track," he said.

Ardern says it's understood that no one has recently returned to Tauranga after leaving MIQ.

1:38pm - Ardern she isn't bothered by the campaign of anti-vaccination comments flooding her social media platforms - particularly during her Facebook livestreams to communicate information to her followers.

"It is a particular group," she says. "I'm not sure necessarily all of it is domestic."

She says as long as her followers are aware it's not a representation of the general public, she isn't overly concerned. She says she is relying on Facebook's automated methods to ensure any overt vitriol is censured. 

"I'm not particularly worried about it… I hope others know there is a bit of a concerted campaign… it is a group who are taking quite concerted activity at the moment."

1:36pm - Ardern says vaccine passports will not be required in certain environments such as supermarkets and pharmacies as it "would be wrong" to place limits on essential services.

1:34pm - Ardern says permission to travel to a funeral or tangihanga is still granted on a case-by-case basis by the Ministry of Health. 

The exemption process remains in place, she said, as funerals are "high-risk gatherings".

She says close next-of-kin will be able to get permission to travel for a funeral or tangihanga, but exemptions are still relatively limited.

1:29pm - Ardern says "it's getting harder" to lift Auckland's vaccination rate and every effort is required to ramp it up to the golden 90 percent.

Earlier this morning, top police bosses Andrew Coster and Wally Haumaha met virtually with Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki over his plans for an anti-lockdown protest rally.

Addressing the meeting, Ardern says she has confidence in the police to deal with issues of non-compliance.

"No one wants lockdowns. No one wants people separated for longer than they need to be. That's what bothers us in Government with these protests - people seem to think we're okay with lockdowns," Ardern said.

"We're not - we desperately want to get rid of them."

1:26pm - Dr Bloomfield has provided some clarity on the three active sub-clusters.

Two are groups of linked households. People have been moving between those households, but appear to be genomically linked, he said.

The third is associated with people in temporary or transitional accommodation arrangements and emerged in the last week or two.

All three sub-clusters are requiring "intensive input, support and engagement" from multiple teams, he said, an approach that's "paying dividends".

Dr Bloomfield said officials are seeing very good testing rates and a strong interest in vaccination among those clusters, which are still largely in south Auckland.

1:23pm - Ardern says the Government's priority is New Zealanders having "the best summer possible".

She said officials want to get the domestic regulations right before making decisions regarding the border in 2022.

She noted the majority of nations that have eased border restrictions have often done so last.

1:18pm - Ardern says officials have discussed the possibility of a localised lockdown, but noted there is a lot of complexity regarding the active clusters, and their reach hasn't always been totally localised.

The Government has kept some of those options open, but they aren't always easy to implement or necessarily effective, she said. There is also a risk a localised approach could make the outbreak worse.

Dr Bloomfield said the option would be "very tricky" but it's not off the table completely.

1:14pm - Between 5pm and 6pm tonight, a further 3800 managed isolation and quarantine rooms will be made available in the Government's online 'lobby' system. The rooms will be available to book for October, November and December.

She says "thousands" more rooms will be released over the coming weeks to get Kiwis home for Christmas.

1:12pm - Some revisions have been made in regards to permitted travel at Auckland's boundary.

"With the move to level 3 and new testing requirements, we have confidence we can make these changes," Ardern said.

From 11:59pm tonight, people with evidence of a negative test can leave Auckland if they are moving permanently, have shared custody arrangements, or are returning home to level 2.

1:08pm - Here's an update on the vaccination status of cases in the outbreak:

  • 260 were children under 12, so were uneligible
  • 718, or 78pct, had no vaccinations
  • 34, or 4pct, were fully vaccinated
  • 150 had just one dose
  • 17 had their second dose less than 14 days before they were infected.

1:06pm - A wastewater sample taken from Tauranga has tested positive for fragments of the virus. Follow-up samples were taken this morning from Tauranga and Mt Maunganui and the results are expected on Thursday. Additional samples were also taken from nearby areas such as Matamata, Paeroa and Waihi Beach.

Positive wastewater samples can be due to recently recovered cases who continue to expel fragments of the virus. It can also be due to an acute infection that has gone undetected.

1:05pm - Seven of the eight cases are known contacts of existing cases, says Dr Bloomfield.

There are now only three active sub-clusters, down from four.

One of today's new cases was confirmed after a person presented at Waitakere Hospital's emergency department last night. This case is not epidemiologically linked.

Five staffers have been stood down as a precaution. Eight hospitalised patients who were in the vicinity of the case are also being treated as contacts and isolated appropriately.

1:04pm - There are eight new community cases today, all in Auckland.

12:55pm - The Prime Minister will be announcing changes to Auckland's boundary settings during today's press conference to broaden permitted travel.

12:45pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will be fronting today's press conference at 1pm.

As always, you can watch it live on Three or above via our livestream.

12:25pm - Across the Tasman, Victoria has reported 867 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday - plus an additional 149 new cases reportable on previous days, as well as four additional deaths.

Late yesterday, the state's Health Department became aware that a number of test results had been incorrectly recorded by a third-party software vendor supporting a private provider, it said in an update.

These results included nine cases from September 26 and 140 cases from September 27. Those 149 cases have now been included in today's numbers.

12:10pm - Still no new locations of interest so far today, with the latest two added on Monday.

The most recently added potential exposure events were at 77 Convenience Store Victoria St and Mobil Glen Innes.

Anyone who was the convenience store on Victoria St West in Auckland's CBD on Thursday, September 16 between 1pm and 7pm is asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the date of exposure. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until a negative result is returned - and for 24 hours after symptoms resolve. 

Anyone who was at Mobil petrol station on Apirana Ave in Glen Innes between 1:35am and 2:45am on Saturday, September 11 is also asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the date of exposure.

If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until a negative result is returned - and for 24 hours after symptoms resolve. 

11:55am - Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has denied former Prime Minister Sir John Key's claim that New Zealand's Government could have stumped up $40 million to secure priority access to its COVID-19 vaccine, calling the notion "incorrect and baseless", according to a report by Newsroom.

While the claim was not included in his highly contentious opinion piece published by several outlets on Sunday, Key told RNZ's Morning Report the Government had failed to pay for earlier access and priority delivery.

"The Government wouldn't pay $40 million to Pfizer to get us the vaccines that we deserved. Instead, they'd rather pay a billion or a billion-and-a-half a week to be in level 4 lockdown," he told RNZ.

A New Zealand spokesman for Pfizer told Newsroom on Monday "the notion of any national Government paying a premium for priority dose delivery is incorrect and baseless".

11:45am - As the vaccination rate rises in Aotearoa, conversation is starting to turn to how employers will manage their unvaccinated employees.

Can you sack a worker who refuses to get the jab? Can you insist on new employees being vaccinated as a condition of employment? What's your recourse if your other workers don't want to be in the same room as an unvaccinated co-worker? 

Here are the rules and rights when it comes to vaccinated workplaces.

11:40am - A recent survey by HUD, a casual dating app headquartered in Auckland, has revealed some surprising results - 75 percent of people say the pandemic has actually been good for their sex life.

A recent survey by the app found three-quarters of the respondents agreed the pandemic has actually been beneficial for their intimate life, with almost half (48 percent) saying it has had a "very positive impact" on their sex life and 27 percent saying the pandemic has had a "somewhat positive impact".

Only 8 percent of respondents said the pandemic has had a negative impact on their sex life.

"These numbers are surprising and encouraging," says Katie Wilson, HUD's communications director. "Since early 2020 the world has been dealing with lockdowns, shutdowns, social distancing, and public health advice to steer clear of each other - factors that aren't typically conducive to physical intimacy.

"But the pandemic has also given people the opportunity to redefine their needs and explore their sexuality in safe ways, and has helped people communicate better about what turns them on, both in person and virtually."

11:30am - Professor Marc Wilson, Acting Dean at Victoria University of Wellington's Faculty of Science, has also offered his thoughts on a new survey that found New Zealanders have the highest trust in scientists out of 12 other nations.

"This report details the results of quite large-scale surveys (e.g. 4000 New Zealanders) conducted longitudinally between March 2020 and December 2020. They show trust of scientists is generally quite high, regardless of the country (84 percent of people say they trust scientists) while trust in government is, well, notably lower (49 percent across nations)," he commented.

"Among other things, New Zealanders reported the highest levels of trust in scientists. Though anyone with an unhealthy addiction to TV news would likely think that the US would score lowest on trust in scientists this was not the case - the US sat in the middle of the pack, ahead of France, Brazil and Poland. 

"In our own research (surveys of more than 6000 New Zealanders and 600 Americans), we find New Zealanders are both slightly more trusting of scientists (consistent with this study) and more scientifically literate than Americans. However... distrust in scientists is significantly more strongly associated with politically conservative attitudes and religion in the US, than in New Zealand. 

"This suggests one of the reasons for the differences we see in trust in the study is due to the politicisation (and to a lesser extent the 'religious-isation') of science. Additionally, religion in New Zealand isn't as strongly tied to politics in the way that it is in the US (regardless of the separation of Church and State). In the US, around 50 percent of the population agree with the idea of evolution, and 50-60 percent endorse climate change.

"In New Zealand, evolution satisfies around 80 percent (we're less religious) and 60-70 percent of New Zealanders agree with climate change (we have a less polarised political landscape).  

"In other research, drawn from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Survey led out of Auckland University, we found not only did New Zealanders appear to suffer fewer psychological side effects of the March 2020 lockdown, but our trust in institutions remained relatively high throughout - in fact trust in both scientists and our politicians. 

"My interpretation is, in part, that we benefited from an unambiguous lockdown (less uncertainty than many nations regarding extent and duration), and trusted our medical, scientific and governmental experts that this was the right thing."

11:15am - Experts have been commenting on new international research that found New Zealand has the highest trust in scientists out of the 12 countries surveyed, including the US, UK, and Australia.

Dr Suzanne Manning, who works for the social systems team at the ESR, says the findings suggest that New Zealanders have "benefited greatly" from the approach taken by our Government "to align their pandemic response with independent scientific advice".

"Over 2020, Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) such as social distancing, border controls and an emphasis on strict personal hygiene have been effective for eliminating not only COVID-19 but also influenza outbreaks. NPIs are most effective when well supported by the public. This paper shows that internationally, support for NPIs is higher when there is high trust in scientists, a pattern reinforced when there is trust in both scientists and government and when the advice from both sources is independent but aligned," Dr Manning said.

"The paper does not break down any results by ethnic or socio-economic groups, and therefore we can't tell if there are different levels of trust and associated support for NPIs between different sub-population groups.

"This would be useful to investigate, given the criticism that the burdens of the pandemic response disproportionately fell on those in lower socio-economic groups, as well as on Māori and Pacific peoples.

"For NPIs and the elimination strategy to work effectively, the whole team of five million needs to trust that they will be treated equitably."

11am - No locations of interest have been added by the Ministry of Health so far this morning.

Only two new potential exposure events were listed on Monday - the 77 Convenience Store on Victoria Street West in Auckland's CBD and Mobil petrol station on Apirana Ave in Glen Innes. 

10:50am - Desperate Australians stranded in New Zealand due to the suspension of trans-Tasman travel have been spending thousands of dollars chartering private jets to get home, according to a report by Stuff.

The Australian government suspended all quarantine-free flights from New Zealand on August 18 after news broke that the Delta variant had been detected in Auckland's community.

Since then, Air New Zealand has released a limited number of 'red flights' to Australia after the airline was allocated quarantine spaces by the Australian government. But the flights have sold out in minutes, with as few as 10 seats available on some.

One woman and her family - whose two-week trip to Queenstown turned into an eight-week nightmare - finally managed to return to Australia on Monday after booking a private jet from Auckland to Sydney.

The woman, a Brisbane-based travel agent, told Stuff she chartered an eight-seater plane through Australian company Airly for $40,000.

The family will also need to shell out for quarantine on arrival in Sydney, as well as onward flights to Brisbane.

10:40am - Countries with higher levels of trust in scientists tend to show stronger support for COVID-19 measures, an international survey has found.

New Zealanders had the highest trust in scientists out of the 12 countries surveyed between March and December 2020, which included the US, UK, and Australia.

Dr Jagadish Thaker, a senior lecturer in Journalism and Marketing at Massey University, says trust in scientists is one of the factors most strongly associated with support for, and compliance with, preventive restrictions and a willingness to get vaccinated, in New Zealand and overseas. 

In New Zealand, respondents were more likely to agree to wear a mask at home to fight the epidemic if the recommendation came from the World Health Organization, rather than from the Prime Minister. 

However, Nobel Laureates in medicine recommending such a measure had no difference when compared to a similar recommendation by the Prime Minister - indicating a greater trust in institutions than individuals.  

"The findings of this study have important implications for science and society. Scientific independence is critical for giving objective advice to the government and for continuing to enjoy public trust. In countries such as Brazil, Italy, France, and Poland, trust in scientists decreased over the pandemic, with more people perceiving that scientists are likely to hide information. Sometimes, initial public distrust toward the government may fuel distrust with what may be perceived as scientific 'elite'," Thaker said.

"The findings of this study align with previous research in New Zealand that trust in health experts and in the government was key to beat COVID-19. Similarly, trust in health experts was associated with willingness to get a COVID-19 vaccination.  

"In times of crisis, we look to trusted sources for information and advice. But that trust also depends on the competency of the people and institutions to respond to a crisis. Ensuring high levels of trust in scientists and the government is the key to enjoy sustained public support and enthusiasm to follow COVID-19 safety behaviours."

10:25am - Collins says she had no problem with former Prime Minister, Sir John Key, speaking out against the Government's response on Sunday ahead of the launch of the Opposition's plan.

The former National Party leader released a column on Sunday castigating the Government's response to the pandemic. In the piece, Sir John claimed that officials have failed to implement a clear plan out of COVID-19 - other than locking the country away in a "smug hermit kingdom".

"John Key was expressing the very deep frustration of a lot of people, particularly in Auckland, as to why the Government has not released a cohesive and comprehensive plan for getting out of lockdown," Collins said.

She said she had no issue with him releasing his op-ed ahead of the launch of National's COVID-19 Response plan on Wednesday.

"No not at all, because it's better for that to come out when he is feeling so frustrated about it… there'd be no point in John releasing his plan after ours because ours is very, very thorough.

"I support him expressing the views."

Collins said she called Sir John following the release of his column, which was published by several media outlets.

"I called him and said, 'you've certainly got the lefties upset now, John."

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Getty Images

10:15am - Collins says the Opposition is inviting the Government to adopt its plan "entirely".

"We believe if they follow our plan, New Zealanders will be able to get home for Christmas," she said.

10:10am - The National Party's COVID-19 Response plan will be released on Wednesday morning, Judith Collins has announced.

She says the plan will be a "complete and comprehensive blueprint" to immediately address the "significant issues [created] by the Government's lack of planning".

Collins says the Opposition's ultimate goal is to get New Zealanders travelling in and out of the country by Christmas, as well as putting an end to lockdowns, reuniting families, connecting local businesses with the rest of the world and addressing chronic staffing shortages - while keeping Kiwis safe.

She says the plan will provide a "360 degree view" of issues spanning health, business, the economy and immigration, based on the advice of leading epidemiologists, economists, policy experts and data modellers. 

Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Health spokesperson, Dr Shane Reti and COVID-19 Response spokesperson, Chris Bishop have taken "leading roles" in developing the plan, she said.

9:58am - Opposition leader Judith Collins is fronting a stand-up at 10am. It's expected she will address National's drop in the polls and foreshadow the party's COVID-19 plan.

You can watch the stand-up via our livestream here.

9:55am - A man accused of falsifying a text to state he was COVID-positive did not make a plea when he appeared at Hamilton District Court on Monday.

Devon Stock, 27, was last week charged with editing an official text message which said he had returned a negative result for COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health said Stock undertook a test on September 20 and received his negative result two days later.

The accused then informed a number of people he had tested positive and one of them contacted the authorities, police said, causing unnecessary stress in the Cambridge community.

Stock did not make a plea and has been remanded to reappear in court next month.

9:50am - In case you missed it, vaccine passports are tentatively set to be introduced in early November in the hopes of kickstarting the stagnating event industry, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said earlier this morning.

Although it's not yet clear what vaccine passports will look like in New Zealand, Robertson says the Government is aiming for a digital system that would allow people to present their certificate on their phone or other device.

"That's one of the things we're working through with the events industry… I think the requirement issue we'll be talking about as soon as we can, but in terms of the availability of the technology - bear in mind businesses are wanting to use this regardless of the alert level - we're targeting a date around early November for the availability of a vaccine certificate," he told The AM Show. 

But Robertson could not confirm if the introduction of vaccine passports would allow events to be held at 100 percent capacity.

"Those conversations are ongoing at the moment. I'm not going to be able to confirm that for you this morning, but that work is underway as to what the alert level framework will now look like in a vaccinated environment.

"We want to make announcements about this in the coming weeks."

Read more here.

9:40am - If you're not yet vaccinated, you can check out the interactive map on to book an appointment at a local vaccination site. 

9:30am - Getting in ahead of the National Party, ACT has released its latest COVID-19 plan, with leader David Seymour saying it's time to "start planning for life beyond lockdowns" as we can't continue to live with the uncertainty that restrictions could be imposed any moment.

"Delta has changed the game, with the lockdowns no longer short, no longer sharp, and the periods of freedom likely to be shorter. All the while, isolation remains a growing problem," he said.

"For many New Zealanders these costs are becoming acute and often harrowing. Business Associations report rock bottom mental health scores from their members who face serious cash flow problems and great uncertainty about the future. Children are anxious about missing school, and medical operations are being deferred while private practice is shut down."

He says an eradication strategy is "no longer viable". 

The plan has five key "movements": 

  1. "Recognise that eradication no longer stacks up. We must move to a policy of harm minimisation. This policy should aim to reduce each of transmission, hospitalisation, and death from COVID at the least possible cost of overall wellbeing
  2. Move from isolating whole cities to isolating only those who it makes sense to isolate. Personal isolation should be restricted to three groups, those who are medically vulnerable and require special protection, those who have recently arrived in New Zealand and are privately isolating, and those who have tested positive as part of widespread surveillance testing.
  3. Move from chronic fear and uncertainty and get on a clear path to restoring freedom. We should settle when the vaccine roll out is ‘complete’ and aim to get Kiwis home for Christmas.
  4. Move from a government-knows-best approach to an approach of openness, and host all in ‘sprints.’ In each sprint, the business community and all of society are invited to help reach clearly identified goals of lower transmission rates, hospitalisations and deaths, in time for reopening.
  5. The entire tone of New Zealand’s COVID response should shift from fear and a singular focus on public health to a focus on maximising overall wellbeing."

"Six months ago, ACT released COVID 2.0. The Government implemented nine of the 15 policy ideas in our policy paper, most many months after it was first published," Seymour said

"Today we ask the Government to look at our positive and future-focussed proposal, swallow its pride and take our ideas – sooner rather than later."

"New Zealanders are ready to open up to the world, get back to school, get back to business, regain our freedoms and live our lives to our best potential."

9:15am - The Gisborne District Council says there will be free bus travel on scheduled services to COVID-19 vaccine appointments. 

"It is part of a combined effort to boost vaccination attendance across the region, and support those who rely on public transport for travel.

"To use this free bus travel, it must be the day of your vaccination appointment and you must show your booking confirmation -- either a letter, email, or text on your cell phone -- to the bus driver.

"This free travel is on offer until the end of the year."

9am - A mystery case in Queensland, a plan to lift restrictions in Japan, and a top world leader getting a vaccine booster shot - here's what's happened around the world over the last 24 hours.

8:45am - Here's the latest we have on the vaccination rollout: 

According to the Ministry of Health, 43 percent of the eligible population (those aged 12 and over) have been fully vaccinated (1,806,110 people) and 77 percent have had their first dose (3,239,791 people).

The latest data available shows that on Sunday, 24,710 doses were administered, made up of 8182 first doses and 16,528 second doses. 

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 28

8:30am - The COVID-19 pandemic reduced life expectancy in 2020 by the largest amount since World War II, according to a study published on Monday by Oxford University, with the life expectancy of American men dropping by more than two years.

Life expectancy fell by more than six months compared with 2019 in 22 of the 29 countries analysed in the study, which spanned Europe, the United States and Chile. There were reductions in life expectancy in 27 of the 29 countries overall.

Read more here.

8:15am - Speaking to The AM Show about the latest Colmar Brunton poll results, right-leaning commentator Trish Sherson said it's tough news for both major parties, but it's interesting to see Labour's support fall during a lockdown. During last year's COVID-19 outbreak, Labour saw its support jump significantly.

Sherson says it reflects what she believes is Kiwis' frustration with the COVID-19 response.

But left-leaning commentator Mike Williams believes Labour will be happy with the poll considering the Labour-Green bloc remains ahead of the centre-right.

7:55am - Ryan Bridge writes that last night's Colmar Brunton poll will have Labour worried as they're going backwards in a lockdown. 

"COVID-19 has been the single issue Kiwis have trusted them with more than anything - but in the middle of Delta, rather than a big pat-on-the-back, boost-in-support they got last lockdown, they're less popular than before it.

"Kiwis are no longer saying, 'shot bro',  they're saying, 'bro, where is your plan?'"

Read Bridge's full editorial here.

7:40am - The Northland Regional Council says it is offering free travel on scheduled public transport - the regional Buslink network and Whanagrei's CityLink buses - to help locals attend COVID-19 vaccine appointments. 

The initiative will apply to Far North Link, Mid North Link, Hokianga Link, CityLink, Hikurangi Link, Whangarei Heads Link and Bream Bay Link. 

Councillor Rick Stolwerk, chair of the Northland Regional Transport Committee, says the free rides will be available from Friday until December 31.

"If you require a caregiver to accompany you to attend a vaccine appointment, your caregiver can also travel for free," he says.

"Alternatively, if you have dependents that you need to look after (under 12-years old) your dependents can also travel for free."

The free travel is only available on the day of the appointment. 

"To travel for free, you must show the bus driver your appointment confirmation – which is either a text/email on your mobile phone – or a letter."

The bus driver will be checking that the appointment letter/text is dated for the day of travel. 

Fface masks and scanning QR codes are mandatory when onboard services and at bus terminals and bus stops.  

"If you don’t have an appointment but get vaccinated at a walk-in clinic, your return journey home will be free on the bus if you show proof of your vaccination that day."

7:25am - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson is speaking to The AM Show. 

Labour has seen its support drop 3 percentage points in the latest Colmar Brunton poll. During the last nationwide lockdown, the party's support increased, but this time it is different.

Robertson says Labour is consistently seeing "very strong results" in both public and internal polls. He is comfortable with the results and feels like the Government is "getting on with the job" with Kiwis backing the approach.

In regards to summer festivals, Robertson confirms there won't be a cap on attendees at alert level 1, if we are at that point. The goal is to get to level 1, he says, just like last summer. He says he understands the pressure the event industry is under and conversations are underway, but it's hard to provide certainty during a pandemic.

Getting to the 90 percent vaccination mark opens up a number of opportunities, he says.

A vaccine certificate could become available in early November, Robertson says. The aim is for this to be digital and the technology is currently being worked on, he says. This will be managed by the Ministry of Health, with some assistance from private organisations.

Officials are also working on what the alert level framework may look like with a vaccinated population, he says.

Grant Robertson.
Grant Robertson. Photo credit: Getty Images.

7:15am - Speaking to The AM Show, concert organiser Brent Eccles says he has spoken with the Government about summer and festivals. He wants to know the Government's plans, but expects that will come in the next week and that there will be a requirement for people to be vaccinated to attend festivals.

Eccles says organisers need to know about the Government's plans well in advance, including how to deal with people who already hold tickets but don't want to get vaccinated. This won't just affect festivals, he says, but also other concert venues.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday said the Government would give organisers notice about their intentions.

Eccles tells The AM Show that he believes there may be a cap on gatherings that have a mix of vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, but no cap on concerts where everyone is vaccinated.

"There is a lot of pain out there... most of our stuff is just parked, we can't do much until we get some idea of the road through. I believe it is going to happen, it is a little bit frustrating it hasn't happened sooner, but I think it is just around the corner," he says.

He says it is very difficult to get tour parties into MIQ at the moment due to the large number of people who are in performers' entourage.

7:05am - As we look to the future of New Zealand's COVID-19 response, there's increasing talk about how businesses will deal with mixing the vaccinated with the unvaccinated.

Maybe it's a vaccine passport, but there are questions about the legality of it and who would hold responsibility - the Government or businesses.

However, some of the big names in Wellington's hospitality scene are on the fence. The idea has been floated for months now.

Read more here.

6:50am - Coming up on The AM Show on Tuesday morning, concert promoter Brent Eccles will speak about the impact of COVID-19 on summer music festivals (including whether attendees will need to be vaccinated), deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson will provide the latest update, while Trish Sherson and Mike Williams will dissect the latest political poll and how this outbreak has affected parties' support.

You can watch the show on Three or by clicking this link.

6:40am - Here's a reminder of Monday's case update:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 28

6:30am - Te Pūnaha Matatini COVID-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank has told Newshub that while the outbreak's rolling average is slowly dropping, overall he would describe the case numbers as being "flat".

Twelve new cases were reported in the community on Monday, which is down from 18 on Sunday, but still above nine recorded on Friday. 

"I think what that shows is that the tail of this outbreak is rumbling along and there is a stubborn amount of transmission between housheolds, not in any large numbers but just to keep this tail going," Prof Plank says.

Among Monday's 12 cases were two yet to be epidemiologically linked. While these 'mystery cases' are often linked in the days after reporting (there are just seven still unlinked from the last fortnight), Prof Plank says it's a sign contact tracing has "not quite ring-fenced the outbreak completely".

"A link can be established later on but it suggests that that case has probably been out in the community during their infectious period and so it potentially could have passed it on to other people and that is how the virus is able to keep spreading through the community."

Ultimately, he says it is too early to say if level 3 was working in Auckland.

"I really think it could go either way at this stage. We have only been at level 3 since Wednesday, so not even one week yet. We haven't really seen the effects of that come through in the case numbers yet."

The effects of alert level 3 would start to be seen by the end of the week, he says.

"It is possible that they could start to track up at that stage if level 3, with more people being out and about, has allowed the virus more opportunity to spread."

6:25am - Kia ora, welcome to Newshub's live updates for Tuesday.