As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 17

Eleven new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded on Friday, with the outbreak now surpassing 1000.

Of the 1007 cases, more than half - 549 - have recovered. As of Friday, 14 people are hospitalised with COVID-19, three of whom are in an intensive care or high dependency unit.

Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, says health officials are "cautiously optimistic" the outbreak has been ring-fenced, with a number of subclusters now either contained or dormant. 

Of Friday's 11 new cases, two have yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. However, Dr McElnay says most unlinked cases are being connected following further investigation, with the number of "mystery" infections dropping dramatically over recent days.

On Thursday, officials revealed one of the latest cases is a truck driver who had recently travelled through Waikato and the Bay of Plenty for work, stopping in Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga. The Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said the driver's role mainly involves picking up and delivering stock to supermarkets. It's not yet clear if the driver was infectious during his travels.

Twenty-seven Foodstuffs' employees have been stood down as a precaution after the driver visited several supermarkets in Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

A number of businesses, including a Mt Maunganui bakery and several petrol stations, have now been identified as potential exposure sites. Anyone who was at a location of interest at the relevant time is asked to self-isolate for 14 days, get tested immediately and seek additional swabs on days five and 12, or self-monitor for symptoms.

It comes as Aucklanders prepare to shift to alert level 3 on Tuesday, with the Government making an in-principle decision earlier this week to move the region out of lockdown on the night of September 21. Minister David Parker confirmed on Friday morning the move is looking "likely", but was quick to add that it's "not definite" until the Prime Minister confirms the region's next steps on Monday.

It has also been announced that the preliminary eight-week suspension of the quarantine-free travel arrangement with Australia has been extended for an additional eight weeks, with the pause set to be reviewed again in mid-to-late November. 

What you need to know

  • Eleven new cases were announced on Friday, all in Auckland - two have yet to be epidemiologically linked

  • There are now 1007 cases in the current outbreak, 549 of whom have now recovered
  • The quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel bubble has been suspended for a further eight weeks
  • Twenty-seven Foodstuffs employees have been stood down after the COVID-positive truck driver visited several stores in Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty
  • A number of new locations of interest have been identified in Waikato and Bay of Plenty in relation to the truck driver
  • A trio of men have been arrested after leaving Auckland and travelling to Turoa Ski Field

  • School holidays remain unchanged for the Auckland region
  • The pause on MIQ bookings will be lifted on Monday, starting with 3000 rooms released through a new randomised booking system. Here's what you need to know
  • Cabinet has made an in-principle decision to move Auckland to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday, September 21. The rest of the country is currently in alert level 2

  • You can see the latest locations of interest here.

These live updates have now finished.

7:15pm - Police are making enquiries after three people travelled from Auckland to Gisborne last week.

The group reportedly crossed the Alert Level 4 boundary after providing an exemption on Wednesday 8 September and drove to Gisborne.

Police were notified of the incident yesterday.

All three have returned negative Covid tests before travelling to Gisborne. 

Police continue to make enquiries into the matter and are speaking to the individuals and their families.

6:15pm - Auckland hospitality venues are likely to lose money for another month, says Jamie Freeman, the President of Hospitality NZ's Auckland branch.

He says businesses have only just recovered from losses incurred during 2020 lockdowns and are now all back in debt - with no idea if they can recover this time.   

“The whole of Auckland has done it hard, but hospitality has had the worst of it - zero income for a month with large bills like rent still to be paid.  

“Most hospitality businesses have gone into debt during this lockdown, and won’t break even under Level 2 restrictions either.” 

Freeman said the failure of the rest of the country to bounce back under Level 2.5 was deeply worrying for Auckland hospitality. 

“We’re deeply concerned that once we get to Level 2.5, people are still not going to venture out. Auckland businesses have to consider the possibility of not making a profit for at least another month, and maybe more. That’s a dire situation. 

“We urgently need weekly resurgence payments, and a promise of a wage subsidy under Level 2. It's possible that only a special Auckland business hardship grant will prevent some local businesses folding.” 

5:30pm - Auckland Council is urging residents to stay home and stay local for what it hopes will be the region’s last weekend at COVID-19 alert level 4. 

"Aucklanders have once again done a great job dealing with the challenges of lockdown," said Mayor Phil Goff.

"We are close to stamping out the spread of COVID-19 once more, and it’s important we all stay the course so we can move down alert levels and enjoy life with fewer restrictions. 

“Remember to stay home unless you are accessing essential work or services, and stick to your bubble. If you go out for exercise, stay within your local area. 

“If you haven’t already done so, please get vaccinated this weekend. You can go to a drive-through centre or community vaccination clinic without having to book, or get an appointment at

“Please also remember that if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, or were at a location of interest at the specified time, you must immediately self-isolate and get a test. By working together we can keep everyone safe.”   

4:40pm - The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) has changed its concert schedule due to the uncertainty around the city's alert levels.

The following concerts will not take place as per the advertised dates and times. 

  • Metlifecare Unwrap the Music: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture - Tuesday 28 September, Auckland Town Hall = CANCELLED
  • The New Zealand Herald Premier Series: Musical Landscapes - Thursday 7 October, Auckland Town Hall = POSTPONED/ new date TBC
  • Superheroes Live in Concert - Thursday 14 October, Aotea Centre = CANCELLED

"APO Ticketing and Ticketmaster will be communicating with all ticketholders directly and any rescheduled performance dates will be shared with these ticket holders as soon as possible," it said in a press release.

"During this lockdown period the APO will be sharing special Encore Livestream performances online, in place of the usual Live Thursday evening concerts."

3:40pm - New requirements for evidence of COVID-19 test at checkpoints

Police are reminding all permitted workers, including freight drivers, intending to travel through the Alert Level Boundary checkpoints around Auckland to ensure they carry evidence to prove they have had a COVID-19 test in the past seven days.

A number of vehicles, including heavy freight trucks, were turned around at the checkpoints overnight following the new requirement for permitted workers to provide this evidence if crossing alert boundaries, which came into effect at 11.59pm yesterday.

A number of truck drivers were turned around overnight and again today for failing to provide the necessary evidence.

Some drivers did not have any evidence of having had a COVID-19 test in the past seven days, while a few drivers were turned away after providing records of tests they’d had from more than seven days ago, which is outside the required time period.

Other vehicles were turned away because one or more of the occupants inside the vehicle did not have proof of having had a COVID-19 test in the past seven days.

Police will continue to stop and check that permitted workers, including freight drivers, travelling through these checkpoints are able to provide this evidence.

Evidence of the test can include a text message, which will be automatically generated when the test is taken, or paper confirmation issued by the testing centres.

If the worker has had a medical examination instead of a test, they must have an electronic or paper copy of that medical certificate to show Police at the checkpoint.

Permitted workers must also continue to carry evidence for their reason for crossing the Alert level boundary, and photo identification.

Further information can be found here:

Other checkpoint incidents

While overall compliance levels remain extremely high, Police are continuing to see a few incidents of people deliberately breaching the restrictions at the checkpoints.

Yesterday afternoon a vehicle failed to pull over at the northern SH1 checkpoint and fled north.

The driver of the vehicle was subsequently located last night and spoken to by Police.

Police are making further enquiries to establish the full circumstances surrounding this incident and charges are likely.

In another incident, a driver was stopped and questioned at the same checkpoint yesterday.

It was established they had spent the past three weeks in Auckland at a friend’s house and wanted to travel back to their residence in Northland.

After being advised this wasn’t allowed and being directed to turnaround, the driver ignored Police and continued to drive north.

Officers from the checkpoint followed the vehicle and signalled it to pull over before the driver eventually turned around and went back through the checkpoint.

The driver will be receiving an infringement notice.

Police at the northern SH1 checkpoint also noticed a woman travelling back into Auckland who was let through from Northland on the premise that she was feeding stock.

As she travelled through the checkpoint, officers spotted shopping in her vehicle, which she admitted to when questioned.

She was issued with an infringement notice for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

The actions of these individuals are incredibly disappointing, while also posing a risk to the wider community.

With Alert Level restrictions in place for several weeks, Police have a very low tolerance for anyone deliberately ignoring the restriction rules and enforcement action is likely to be taken.

Checkpoint compliance update

(Please note, the latest figures available are up until 11.59pm yesterday, before the new checkpoint requirements for Covid-19 tests came into effect. The earliest figures around vehicles being turned around today at checkpoints won’t be available until tomorrow.)

As of 11.59pm yesterday, a total of 149,309  vehicles have now been stopped at the 10 checkpoints on Auckland’s northern and southern boundaries since 11.59pm on 31 August.

A total of 1,652 vehicles have been turned around during this time.

15,824 vehicles were processed at the checkpoints yesterday while only 119 vehicles were turned around.

A total of 40 vehicles were turned away at the Northern checkpoints yesterday while 79 vehicles were turned around at the Southern checkpoints.

Tāmaki Makaurau compliance update

Since Alert Level 4 came into place, in Tāmaki Makaurau 77 people have been charged with a total of 81 offences as at 5pm yesterday (16 September 2021).

Of these, 64 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 14 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, one for Failing to Stop (COVID 19-related), and two for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.

In the same time period, 177 people were formally warned for a range of offences.

To date, Police have received a total of 8,781 105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau.

Alert Level 2 compliance update

Six people have been charged with a total of nine offences in Alert Level 2, as at 5pm yesterday (16 September 2021).

Of these, six are for Failing to Comply with Order (Covid-19), two for Failing to Stop (Covid-related), and one for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.

In the same time period, three people have been warned – two for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction and one for Failing to Comply with Order (Covid-19).

To date, Police have received a total of 506 105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Alert Level 2.

2:40pm - Air New Zealand to operate quarantine flights between Australia and New Zealand

Here is the full press release from Air New Zealand:

Following Friday's announcement from the New Zealand Government that quarantine-free travel is to remain suspended for a further eight weeks, Air New Zealand will be operating a limited number of quarantine flights between Australia and New Zealand to help get people home.

Due to this, and the ongoing uncertainty of the length of the Australian Government pause, quarantine-free services between September 25 and November 30 with the two nations will be cancelled.

For customers flying to Australia

The Australian Government has provided Air New Zealand with a limited number of managed isolation spaces meaning the airline can now operate a handful of quarantine flights to help get people back to Australia.

All current flights from New Zealand to Australia between September 25 and November 30 will be cancelled. Customers will receive a cancellation email later on Friday and be given a credit for their flight.

The quarantine flights from New Zealand to Australia will be available to book from 10am NZT, Monday, September 20. Once customers have booked their flight, they will automatically receive an MIQ room allocation. The cost of mandatory isolation is not included in the flight booking.

Flights will be available for customers to book via the Air New Zealand website. The airline asks that customers do not contact its call centre as these flights are available online only, and there will be no waitlist.

For customers flying to New Zealand

For New Zealanders wanting to return home from Australia, the airline will be operating quarantine flights for customers who secure an MIQ space made available by the New Zealand Government.

All current flights from Australia to New Zealand between September 25 and November 30 will be cancelled. Customers will receive a cancellation email later on Friday and be given a credit for their flight.

The airline's quarantine flights from Australia to New Zealand will be available to book following the release of the Government's managed isolation rooms at 9am NZT, Monday, September 20.

Air New Zealand asks that customers please align their MIQ booking with a day that matches the airline's new schedule. Customers will have 48 hours to book their flights following securing an MIQ room.

All flights to New Zealand will be available for customers to book via the Air New Zealand website, or via a travel agent. The airline asks that customers do not contact its call centre.

Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty says so long as there are MIQ spaces available in either Australia and/or 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.

"Our teams have worked tirelessly to get these managed return flights up and running so we can reconnect customers with their loved ones. Should we receive additional allocations, these will be made available for customers to book online only, and we recommend that customers continue to check our website for updates."

Once the quarantine flight schedule is confirmed, it will be available to view on the Air New Zealand Travel Alerts page.

2:25pm - New locations of interest and potential exposure events are in, including a number of supermarkets.

  • BP Service Station Building, Tauriko
  • Z Hautapu, Cambridge
  • GAS Paeroa
  • BP Tauriko, forecourt only
  • Pak'nSave Mangere
  • Pak'nSave Ormiston
  • Pak'nSave Pukekohe.

For dates, times and advice, check the Ministry of Health's list of locations of interest here.

1:57pm - Robertson says any decisions made by Cabinet on Monday will be primarily based on the latest public health advice.

When asked if Cabinet would also consider the public sentiment towards lockdown in Auckland, Robertson said officials want residents to know "how much we appreciate what they've done".

"What we have done has worked… the sacrifice has absolutely been worth it," he said.

"Keep the faith and we'll come back to you on Monday with our decision."

1:52pm - Regarding cases who have been active in the community while infectious, Dr McElnay says it isn't due to people flouting lockdown restrictions.

Nine of Thursday's 15 cases were infectious while in the community.

She says people need to remember that contact tracing isn't always a linear process and not every contact is identified immediately, so people will often go about their business - such as visiting the supermarket - without knowing they are a close contact, or even infectious. 

Robertson says this weekend - possibly Auckland's last in lockdown - is a great opportunity to get vaccinated. 

He says testing rates have been very good and officials want to see those numbers continue. 

"We want to see the continuation of the very solid trends we've had," he said. "We want to make sure the number remains high."

1:47pm - Dr McElnay has reiterated that health officials are "cautiously optimistic" the outbreak has been contained.

She says the number of "mystery" cases can fluctuate as cases can't always be automatically linked, but a connection is often established after an investigation.

She says the number is "moveable" and is constantly updated. 

"We will be looking at what that pattern tell us," Dr McElnay says.

"We've got a cautious optimism that the vast majority of this outbreak has been contained… we're able to link the majority [of cases] and we're following up the ones that we can't."

1:40pm - Ministry of Health media release

Here is the Ministry of Health's press release for Friday:

Eleven community cases of COVID-19; five cases in managed isolation; more than 60,000 vaccines administered on Thursday.



Number of new community cases


Number of new cases identified at the border


Location of new cases


Location of community cases (total)

Auckland 990 (535 of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (15 of whom have recovered)

Number of community cases (total)

1,007 (in current community outbreak)

Cases infectious in the community *

Nine (60 pct) of yesterday's 15 cases have exposure events

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious *

Six (40 pct) of yesterday's 15 cases

Cases epidemiologically linked

Nine of today's cases

Cases to be epidemiologically linked

Two of today's cases

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)

973 (in current cluster) (13 in past 14 days unlinked)

Number of sub-clusters

Nine epidemiologically linked subclusters. The three largest subclusters are the Māngere church group: 384; and Birkdale social network cluster: 79; secondary community transmission associated with the Māngere church group 164.

And ten epidemiologically unlinked subclusters.

Cases in hospital

14 (total): North Shore (2); Middlemore (8); Auckland (4)

Cases in ICU or HDU


Confirmed cases (total)

3,658 since pandemic began

Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)

149 out of 1,840 since 1 Jan 2021



Number of active contacts being managed (total):


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

94 pct

Percentage with at least one test result

88 pct

Locations of interest


Locations of interest (total)

135 (as at 10am 17 September)



Number of tests (total)


Number of tests total (last 24 hours)


Tests in Auckland (last 24 hours)


Tests rolling average (last 7 days)


Testing centres in Auckland




Wastewater detections

Auckland eastern suburbs (catchment includes Pakuranga, Shelley Park, Bucklands Beach)

COVID-19 vaccine update


Vaccines administered to date (total)

4,569,255; 1st doses: 3,015,345; 2nd doses: 1,553,910

Vaccines administered yesterday (total)

60,506; 1st doses: 36,666; 2nd doses: 23,840


1st doses: 282,828; 2nd doses: 135,945

Pacific Peoples

1st doses: 182,388; 2nd doses: 93,880

NZ COVID-19 tracer


Registered users (total)


Poster scans (total)


Manual diary entries (total)


Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday


*Yesterday we reported 13 community cases, however in today's reporting of yesterday's cases who were infectious in the community, we are reporting 15 – this is due to two different data systems and a small lag in data reportage.

**Recovered cases can continue shedding viral matter for weeks after recovering.

With more than 700 recovered cases linked to this outbreak, we will see detections of COVID-19 in wider wastewater that are likely linked to recovered cases. Nonetheless, public health officials will continue to investigate positive detections and take urgent repeat samples where appropriate.

1:33pm - The COVID-positive truck driver went to get tested after a household member began presenting symptoms.

Dr McElnay says the driver accompanied their household member, who was symptomatic, to get tested - before they could be identified as a possible contact.

Both tested positive. 

The driver had been tested independently in August, so his travel for work - and the associated potential exposure sites - fell in the middle of both tests.

1:25pm - Robertson says a state-by-state approach to trans-Tasman travel is not on the cards at the moment.

He agrees that given the circumstances, it is looking "unlikely" that quarantine-free travel across the Tasman will be reopened in another eight weeks' time.

When asked if there is a possibility families will be reunited for Christmas, Robertson says he doesn't want to preempt anything.

"The more people we get vaccinated, the more options open up for that period of time."

1:20pm - Quarantine-free travel with Australia to remain suspended for a further eight weeks

Here is the press release from COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins:

  • Suspension to be reviewed again mid to late November
  • Decision brought forward to enable access from Australia to first tranche of around 3000 rooms in MIQ
  • Air New Zealand working at pace to put on more flights from Australia from October.   

The suspension of quarantine-free travel (QFT) with Australia has been extended, given the current Delta outbreaks, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. 

"When QFT was established with Australia, both our countries had very few recent cases of COVID-19 community transmission, and a very similar elimination strategy. This has changed significantly leading to our decision to suspend QFT for a further eight weeks," Hipkins said.

"Uncontrolled community transmission is still occurring in Australia, with case numbers continuing to steadily increase in New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory. A small number of cases also continue to appear intermittently in other states and territories. In New Zealand as well, we're getting on top of an outbreak in Auckland. 

"Protecting New Zealand from any possible further spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 is our absolute priority. We have made great progress to contain our current outbreak and are working hard to ease restrictions next week. Reopening quarantine-free travel with Australia at this point could put those gains at risk.

"The decision is critical to provide clarity for people in Australia to make informed decisions about their ability to shelter in place in the longer-term or whether to seek return flights and book space in MIQ.

"One of the reasons we established QFT with Australia was because our countries share so many close connections, and I acknowledge that this further suspension will be disappointing for many people.

"We're announcing the decision today so that people in Australia can participate in the MIQ room release on Monday for rooms in October and November. Travellers from Australia need to visit the MIQ website to find out how to participate. There will be a second room release later in the month.

"A third red flight from Australia to New Zealand is also planned for those in emergency situations. This follows the two red flights that returned stranded Kiwis home to New Zealand on 5 and 15 September."

The costs of flights and MIQ will need to be covered by travellers, and a pre-departure test from an accredited laboratory, also at the traveller's cost, will be required within 72 hours of travel.

"We will review this decision in mid to late November to give more time for our vaccination rates to climb higher. It will be heavily influenced by the policies we're working on for the Reconnecting New Zealand strategy.

"This recognises that the QFT was established on the basis that there was little to no community transmission in Australia, and that future settings are likely to change," Hipkins said.

The start of a maritime QFT system with Australia will be paused and reconsidered in 2022.

QFT from Australia to New Zealand was suspended on Friday 23 July, and the suspension was due to end on 24 September.

1:17pm - Robertson says the preliminary eight-week suspension of quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia has been extended for a further eight weeks.

The initial eight-week pause is due to end on Friday, September 24.

The pause will be reviewed again in mid-to-late November.

Robertson says they have announced this extension to the pause on Friday so New Zealanders stranded in Australia can take part in the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) room release on Monday. Around 3000 rooms will be made available.

A third managed red-zone flight will be made available for those in emergency situations, he says. 

1:14pm - Finance Minister Grant Robertson says if Cabinet proceeds with its in-principle decision to move Auckland to alert level 3 on September 21, there will be a significant boost to economic activity.

He says 85 to 90 percent of economic activity is possible under alert level 3 restrictions, which allow businesses to reopen for contactless trading.

The current alert level settings - with Auckland under alert level 4 and the rest of the nation under alert level 2 - are costing the economy around $700 million per week, he says.

However, if Auckland moves to alert level 3, that will reduce to $260 million per week.

Robertson says $2.2 billion in economic support has been paid out during this outbreak.

1:11pm - There are 1064 active contacts, 94 percent of whom have been contacted and 88 percent have been tested.

1:10pm - A wastewater sample collected on Monday from an east Auckland catchment has returned a positive result. This catchment covers Pakuranga, Bucklands Beach and Shelly Park. A follow-up sample was collected on Wednesday.

Dr McElnay says it's important to remember a number of recovered people have returned home from quarantine facilities. Recovered people can still shed viral fragments.

1:08pm - On Thursday, 7400 tests were taken in Auckland, 1710 of which were taken from the seven suburbs of interest.

Over the past seven days, around 58,000 people have been tested across Auckland, which is "a huge effort".

On Thursday, around 15,000 tests were processed nationwide.

1:06pm - Regarding the COVID-positive truck driver, both the driver and a member of their household have been transferred to a quarantine facility.

The driver travelled to a number of supermarkets in Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty for work, Dr McElnay said. She has confirmed the driver was masked and practiced social distancing.

These supermarkets are not listed as locations of interest as the driver visited delivery areas that are not accessible to the public. Staff who came into close proximity to the driver have been classified as contacts and stood down.

1:04pm - Dr McElnay says of the nine epidemiologically linked, two are active, seven are contained and one is dormant.

Of the 10 epidemiologically unlinked clusters, two are active, three are contained and five are dormant.

"We are closing in around this outbreak and we can be cautiously optimistic about the containment of it," she says.

1:03pm - The 11 new cases bring the outbreak to 1007, 549 of whom have recovered.

Of the 11 new cases, two have yet to be epidemiologically linked.

1:02pm - There are 11 new community cases of COVID-19 to report on Friday.

12:50pm - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay will provide the latest updates on the outbreak at 1pm.

As always, you can watch the press conference live on Three or via our livestream, which will be available above these live updates.

12:40pm - Police have dealt with three university students from Auckland in the past 24 hours who allegedly crossed the alert level 4 border illegally to return to Gisborne. 

12:25pm - Police, the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB), Ruapehu District Council and iwi are working closely together to ensure the community is safe after three Auckland men were arrested in Ohakune on Thursday after travelling to Turoa Ski Field.

The trio were arrested after staff at the ski field became suspicious of documentation used to obtain a ski pass.

The three men travelled to Ohakune after using essential worker passes to travel through the checkpoint at Auckland's southern boundary.

Two of the men are aged 23 and the other is 18. They have been charged with failing to comply with a directions/restriction/prohibition (COVID 19) and take/obtain/use a document for pecuniary advantage.

The men, who returned to Auckland on Thursday evening, have been bailed to appear in Auckland District Court on September 23.

Inspector Nigel Allan, the police area commander for Whanganui-Ruapehu, said the behaviour of the three men was unacceptable.

"We have tested the three people involved and all have tested negative. People can be reassured that there is no risk to the community from this breach," WDHB chief executive Russell Simpson.

"However, it is important that everyone follows the rules to protect the community from the Delta strain of the virus which is easily transmissible, spreads rapidly and is, therefore, particularly dangerous."

Anyone with any cold, flu or COVID-like symptoms should call their doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and get advice about being tested.

Local iwi Ngati Rangi and Uenuku noted that they found the actions of these men highly offensive. 

"We are trying to keep our communities safe.  Now is not the time to go for a joy ride," said Ngati Rangi Deputy Chair, Whetu Moataane.

Uenuku Chair, Aiden Gilbert added that if the alert levels are good enough for everyone else then stick to them.  "We are all in this together," he said.

Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron said that he wanted to thank the ski field staff for their vigilance, and the police for their quick action in charging the people involved - which sends a clear message to others thinking of doing anything similar.

"It is very disappointing that a minority of people think it is OK to do something like this, but they should note that there are systems and processes in place that mean they are very likely to be found out and charged.

"We have no tolerance for people breaching the alert level rules and putting our communities at risk."

12:10pm - A number of new locations of interest have been identified across Waikato after a COVID-positive truck driver travelled to Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga for work.

They are:

  • Z Bombay - Saturday, September 11, 5:35am - 6:35am
  • Z Hautapu, Cambridge - Friday, September 10, 9:40am - 9:42am
  • Maramarua General Store - Saturday, September 11, 1:25pm - 2:40pm
  • Ngatea Lotto and Foodmart - Thursday, September 9, 12:10pm - 1:20pm
  • Tuck Shop, Cambridge - Wednesday, September 15, 8:50am - 10am
  • GAS, Paeroa - Thursday, September 9, 11:20am - 11:28am.

Anyone who visited a location of interest at the specified time 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.

11:50am - The abuse of bus drivers must stop, says Auckland Transport (AT) and the New Zealand Police.

Due to an increase in bus drivers being assaulted and verbally abused, Auckland Transport (AT) and the police have joined forces to create the 'Be Kind to Bus Drivers - Kia Atawhai i ngā Kai Taraiwa Pahi' campaign.

As part of the initiative, police officers have been boarding buses and patrolling bus stops throughout Tāmaki Makaurau.

Pirihimana (police) are also working with AT to deliver additional de-escalation training to bus drivers, where they will be taught how to diffuse negative situations to further support their safety and the safety of passengers.

To supplement these activities, AT's transport officers will have a greater presence in areas that have seen an increase in anti-social behaviours.

Since August 1, there has been 35 reported incidents involving abuse or aggression towards Auckland's bus drivers - despite low patronage due to alert level 4.

Mayor Phil Goff says bus drivers, who are essential workers, are doing the community a service.

"They are putting themselves at risk and don't deserve the additional pressure of a minority of people being abusive towards them," he says.

"I support the police taking a zero-tolerance approach towards anti-social behaviour by those who think it is OK to abuse or threaten others.

"I know most people in the community appreciate and respect those who are providing essential services and I ask that at this difficult time everyone makes the effort to be considerate towards others."

Senior Sergeant Mark Clayton says such behaviour will not be tolerated.

"From our engagement with bus drivers we've heard stories of verbal abuse and assaults which are totally unacceptable. We want to assure bus drivers and members of the public that we won't put up with any anti-social behaviour," he said.

AT's chief executive Shane Ellison says the safety of bus drivers and their passengers is paramount.

"Safety is our top priority on the network. We want drivers to know that we are doing everything we can to support them in their roles and that they are haumaru (safe)."

He adds the recent rise in attacks shouldn't deter anyone from using public transport.

"Not only do we have transport officers, but there is CCTV on all public transport in Auckland. We work closely with police on reported incidents and treat these matters with utmost concern."

Bus driver Selina Jackson says being treated with respect is a basic request.

"We're just ordinary people, we're just doing our job. We want to enjoy our job and we want to get you to where you want to go, when you want to get there."

Bus drivers who feel threatened should immediately call 111.

11:35am - The owner of Uppercrust Bakery, a new location of interest in Mt Maunganui, believes around 20 to 40 people would have visited the store during each of the two-hour periods identified as potential exposure events by the Ministry of Health.

Earlier on Friday, the bakery was added to the official list of locations of interest after a COVID-positive truck driver crossed the Auckland boundary and travelled to Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga for work.

The potential exposure events are on Saturday, September 11 and Tuesday, September 14. 

Owner JP Van Der Meys says the entire team has been affected, meaning the bakery is unable to open for 14 days.

"[It was] pretty much a panic situation… The bakery was all prepped and ready to go, and now we're locked down for 14 days. It's a bit tough," he told Newshub.

The family-operated business consists of five staff members - JP, his wife, his daughter and two other girls.

As the bakery was potentially exposed to the virus on a Saturday and a Tuesday, both his weekend and weekday staff are required to isolate - meaning the team is "100 percent down".

"In those two-hour periods, [there were] maybe 20 to 40 [customers] - but everyone has been quite respectful and given that 2m [distance] so we're pretty lucky for our customers being so vigilant and wearing masks as well, so that's real good," he said.

He says he and his family went for their first tests today and will take their day five tests on Sunday. He noted they have "mixed and mingled" with friends since the potential exposure, who are now also considered close contacts.

"It's a wide-range thing... not just a family and a bakery, we're part of the community as well."

And JP has a message to his loyal customers and staff.

"To all our loyal customers who are supporting us through social media, it's been amazing to see… to my staff and their families obviously in lockdown, good work, good job, and we'll see you back hopefully on the 30th [of September]."

For residents who are keen to support a local bakery when Uppercrust is back in business, JP recommends the steak and blue cheese pie, and the pork belly and apple. 

"We make amazing pies and obviously as a truck driver, he knows where all the good pies are, he's stopped in a couple of times now."

11:20am - The New Zealand Principals' Federation (NZPF) welcomes the announcement that school holiday dates will remain unchanged and start from Saturday, October 2 as scheduled.

"Young people thrive on certainty and the education workforce has worked hard to pivot to remote learning at level 4 and hybrid models down the levels. It makes good sense to avoid disrupting the systems, set up to date, to support students during the latest COVID-19 crisis," the president of NZPF, Perry Rush, said on Friday following Education Minister Chris Hipkins' announcement. 

"The impact of isolation on young people and growing mental health concerns underlines the importance of helping young people experience a holiday period where they can reconnect to their peers and family. Holding the school holidays to the anticipated date best enables this to occur."

He says maintaining the scheduled school holiday dates will provide young people with a sense of certainty in what is a very uncertain time.

"There is no guarantee that the final term of the year will be without serious COVID-19 challenges and the potential for further lockdowns. Holding to the current school holiday plan enables young people to be best prepared to cope with the uncertainty of what may lie ahead."

11:15am - The 200,000th dose of the Pfizer vaccine has been administered in the Bay of Plenty, a significant milestone in the region's vaccination rollout.

"The rollout of the free vaccine offers us the best protection against the virus. I'm pleased our community is thinking of their whānau and getting vaccinated," Bay of Plenty DHB COVID-19 Incident Controller Trevor Richardson said on Friday.

As of September 7, more than 50 percent of Bay of Plenty residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

"The rollout has significantly ramped up in the Bay, and we're now administering over 20,000 doses in the district each week," Richardson said.

"We have nearly 40 sites administering the vaccine throughout the district. Walk-ins are welcome at community vaccinations centres at Baypark in Mount Maunganui and on Quay Street in Whakatāne.

"Many sites are also operating drive-through vaccinations, and are open late and during weekends."

People can get vaccinated t their local community vaccination centre, general practice or pharmacy, or through  mobile outreach programmes.

"Chat with your grandparents, mum and dad, brothers and sisters, and friends and whānau to see if they need help getting to a clinic or making a booking," Richardson said.

"The recent community cases have reminded us that our immunity against COVID-19 is incredibly important and getting vaccinated is the best way to protect us, our whānau and our community."

11am - School holidays remain unchanged for Auckland region

School holidays in Auckland will continue to be held at the same time as the rest of the country, starting from Saturday, October 2, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Friday.

"I've carefully considered advice on the implications of shifting the dates and concluded that on balance, maintaining the status quo is the best course of action," Hipkins said.

"This wasn't a straightforward decision. I acknowledge the added pressure currently on parents and families in Auckland, but as Education Minister, my primary concern has to be the effects on children's education and wellbeing and on the good running of our schools.  

"Keeping the holidays as they are will avoid disrupting the plans already in place for students, families and educators, including curriculum and activity planning and families planning their holidays, and will reduce anxiety.

"It also means we don't have to extend the length of term four, when fatigue among students is at its highest at the end of a school year. 

"It has the added advantage of there being higher vaccination levels among students aged 12 and over when they return to the classroom, which principals have advised is important for student mental health and wellbeing.

"I'd like to thank all the students, parents and teachers who have shown resilience and flexibility to continue learning from home this term, and the concerted efforts of all Aucklanders to stop the spread of Delta."

Education Minister Chris Hipkins.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty Images

10:40am - In case you missed it, Labour Minister David Parker was challenged during The AM Show this morning on the Government's "impossible" aim for no COVID-related deaths when New Zealand eventually reopens to the world.

The Revenue Minister wrongly claimed no one had died in the present outbreak - a woman in her 90s died at North Shore Hospital, which was reported on September 4.

Read more here.

10:25am - Affected staff at BP Connect in Tauriko are isolating and undergoing testing after the gas station was identified as a location of interest.

The gas station was listed a potential exposure site on Friday morning.

On Thursday, officials revealed that one of the latest cases of COVID-19 is a truck driver who had recently travelled to Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga for work. It's not yet clear if the driver was infectious at the time. 

A spokesperson for BP told Newshub the gas station had been temporarily closed for deep-cleaning, but has since reopened.

"The safety and well-being of our customers and team members continues to be our utmost priority alongside maintaining safe, compliant and reliable operations. BP Connect Tauriko was temporarily closed for deep-cleaning and has since reopened," the spokesperson said.

"We are following Ministry of Health guidelines after being named as a location of interest and ask our customers to do the same. Our team members have been notified. Impacted team members are isolating, undergoing testing and closely monitoring for any symptoms."

10:10am - A new location of interest has been identified in Auckland - Dawson Road Foodmarket in Flatbush.

There are three potential exposure events for the foodmarket, which is located on Dawson Rd in Clover Park.

Anyone who visited the foodmarket between 8:30am-10:30am on Thursday, September 9; Friday, September 10; or Tuesday, September 14 is asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days from 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.

10am - In case you missed it, one of the newest locations of interest is Uppercrust Bakery in Mt Maunganui.

A truck driver who crossed Auckland's boundary for work travelled to Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga while potentially infectious with COVID-19.

In a post to its Facebook on Thursday night, the bakery warned its customers they would be contacted by health officials if they had been in-store between 10:10am and 12:05pm on Saturday, September 11, or between 9:55am and 11:50am on Tuesday, September 14. 

"On a positive note you have all been really good [at] wearing your masks and we have been handing masks to non-compliant people," staff said.

The bakery is currently closed and hopes to reopen on September 30.

9:45am - The Privacy Commissioner is warning against paper-based contact tracing registers out of concern that people are gaining access to the personal information of others.

Businesses are required to display a QR code and provide an alternative record-keeping system for contact tracing purposes.

In a statement on Friday, Privacy Commissioner John Edwards said he fears paper-based contact tracing registers are being used in ways that breach peoples' privacy.

Ensuring record-keeping systems protect peoples' privacy is a legal requirement under Privacy Act 2020.

Edwards says although most businesses know they need to provide a manual alternative to the QR code, paper registers leave the contact details of customers visible to other members of the public.

"Using an open sheet or register left in a public-facing position where personal information is visible to others is a leading cause of COVID-19-related privacy breaches. It's important that businesses provide other methods of collecting and storing contact tracing records, but in ways which also protect the privacy of those whose details are being collected," Edwards said.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has published guidance on mandatory record-keeping for contact tracing.

Privacy-protective ways of collecting and storing information for contact tracing include:

  • Setting up a ballot box with individual paper slips or cards for people to fill in the name, date, phone number and time

  • Having an employee manually record visitor details - this ensures staff maintain control over the records and do not leave contact information visible to others

  • Considering an electronic system, like a tablet sign-in app, work timesheet or an existing booking system

  • Using a mobile phone to receive texts from customers or visitors. Simply post the phone number around the entrance to the business or organisation for customers to text their contact details. The phone will automatically record the phone number, date and time.

Other resources, including ballot box templates, are available on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

9:30am - Friday's "bubble walk" forecast, provided by MetService:

9:20am - Immunosuppressive drug tocilizumab, used mainly to treat arthritis, will now be funded by Pharmac to treat patients with moderate to severe cases of COVID-19.

The drug is facing massive demand around the world, with its manufacturer, Roche, unable to supply the drug to New Zealand for three months from October. 

On Thursday, Pharmac confirmed it will be widening funded access to tocilizumab to treat moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, subject to access criteria, from October 1, 2021.  This means prescribers will not have to make applications to Pharmac for tocilizumab to be funded for the treatment of COVID-19 for each individual patient, as they have been doing up until now.

Prior to the announcement, the drug had been funded for the treatment of more than 30 patients through Pharmac's exceptions decision-making process, in which each case was individually approved by the agency.

Pharmac also announced on Thursday it will begin funding an alternative drug for people with severe rheumatoid arthritis who have been affected by the shortage.

Speaking at the press conference on Wednesday, Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said studies have shown that tocilizumab, a monoclonal antibody, may help hospitalised patients by reducing the severity of their infection.

In addition to tocilizumab, there are several other monoclonal antibodies in trials or already approved overseas under emergency authorisation, Bloomfield said.

In a statement on Friday morning, Auckland City Hospital intensive care specialist, Dr Colin McArthur, said when used in conjunction with steroid medication, tocilizumab is of "great benefit" in improving the outcome for patients.

"There is now strong evidence that tocilizumab reduces mortality from severe COVID-19 and reduces the need for patients to be on a ventilator in intensive care. Given in conjunction with steroid medication such as dexamethasone, this treatment is of great benefit in both improving the outcome for individual patients, but also reducing the demand for intensive care," he said.

"This combination of treatments works by modifying the body's immune response, which in some cases can cause severe lung damage. Tocilizumab is only given to patients who are in hospital requiring extra oxygen and have signs of active inflammation."

Dr McArthur says the funding of tocilizumab is "very important" for New Zealand's healthcare system.

"The announcement from Pharmac of specific funding and arrangements to maximise the supply of tocilizumab during a period when there is a global shortage will be welcomed by all those involved in the hospital care of patients with COVID-19. In particular, the ability of this treatment to reduce the need for intensive care is very important for the New Zealand healthcare system."

9am - A pensioner stranded in Queensland with serious health issues is struggling to pay for her medication and is desperate to get home to Hokianga before her superannuation is cut off. 

RNZ's Checkpoint has heard from several superannuantiants who are stuck in Australia for a number of reasons due to the closure of the trans-Tasman bubble.

If a superannuant is out of Aotearoa for more than six months, their pension could be suspended.

New Zealand woman Kathryn has health issues including cancer and chronic lung disease, but after a long time apart - among other difficulties - her daughter in Australia needed her. 

About a week after Kathryn arrived at her daughter Janie's home on the Gold Coast, the bubble was shut. 

And now, months after the closure of trans-Tasman travel, the family is having trouble with Kathryn's much-needed medication. Janie said it has been a nightmare.

Read more here.

8:45am - From the end of the year, Wellington's Bay Plaza Hotel will no longer be used as a managed isolation facility - partly because its ventilation system does not meet the standard required to deal with the more virulent Delta variant.

Associate deputy secretary of managed isolation and quarantine, Andrew Milne, said a review of the hotel's ventilation system had shown "significant investment" was needed to bring it up to scratch.

"This is not a reflection on its ability to function as a hotel, or on its ability to continue safely operating as a managed isolation facility for the next few months," he said.

Although experts assessed the risk posed by its ventilation systems as "low", only rooms with mechanical ventilation have been used "to reduce the risk of people coming into contact with infectious aerosols in the facility".

As a result, this halved the number of beds available at the Bay Plaza to 32 - so its decommissioning as a managed isolation facility would only reduce national capacity by less than 1 percent, Milne said.

Read more here.

8:30am - David Parker has incorrectly claimed that no one has died from COVID-19 in this current outbreak.

Speaking to The AM Show on Friday morning, the Revenue Minister said the Government's objective has always been to save lives - and for no one to die of COVID-19. 

The topic arose after he and National MP Simon Bridges discussed what percentage of people would need to be double-jabbed before the country can reopen its borders and phase out the need for lockdowns.

When asked by host Ryan Bridge if the Government accepts that people will likely die from the virus if it ditches the elimination strategy, Parker said he is certain the health system is well-equipped to keep people safe.

"Even with the people that we've had in hospital with this outbreak, no one has died. It does put pressure on the health system, but if you can keep your numbers low, the health system can keep people safe," he said.

However, that is not the case - on Saturday, September 4, it was confirmed that an elderly woman in her 90s had died from COVID-19 the previous night. The woman, who passed away in Auckland's North Shore Hospital, had a number of underlying health conditions - which meant it was not clinically appropriate for her to receive ventilation or ICU care.

When pressed by Bridge if he was saying deaths were totally avoidable when the country eventually reopens to the world, Parker reiterated: "Our objective is for no one to die of COVID. That's always been our objective - to save lives."

"It's a bit like saying we don't want anyone to die in hospital from cancer or from heart attacks, and we don't do our absolute utmost so that they won't," he continued.

"But you know, our objective is to keep people safe. We will always have that focus."

National's Bridges added that if the Government had ramped up its vaccination rollout sooner and outlined clear targets from the get-go, New Zealand would be better placed to consider loosening its restrictions. 

"I think actually if we had a faster vaccination programme, if we had targets, we'd be in a position to be freer - and certainly not have the longest lockdown that we've had."

8:15am - New locations of interest outside of the Auckland region have been identified.

It follows the news that a truck driver who crossed the Auckland boundary for work - travelling to Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga - has tested positive for COVID-19.

The locations are Uppercrust Bakery, Mount Maunganui and BP Tauriko.

Anyone who was at the bakery between 9:55am and 11:50am on Tuesday, September 14, or between 10:10am and 12:05pm on Saturday, September 11, are asked to self-isolate for 14 days after the date of exposure and get tested immediately. Subsequent tests should be taken on day five and day 12. Record your visit online or call Healthline so contact tracers can get in touch.

Anyone who visited BP Tauriko on Saturday, September 11 between 7:45am and 9:15am is also asked to self-isolate for 14 days after the date of exposure and get tested immediately. Follow-up tests should also be taken on day five and day 12. Record your visit online or call Healthline so contact tracers can get in touch.

Another potential exposure event has also been added for SuperValue Flatbush in Auckland's Clover Park. Anyone who was there between 4:50pm and 6pm on Tuesday, September 14 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.

7:40am - Minister David Parker says setting a vaccination target for New Zealand may cause people to "ease off" once the goal has been achieved, a possibility the Government is trying to avoid.

The Government is planning to phase out the need for lockdowns once a high number of New Zealanders are fully vaccinated. There has been discussion over recent days about what percentage of the population should be double-jabbed before officials look to return the country to some sort of pre-pandemic normality, such as reopening the borders.

Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, has suggested anything north of 90 percent, but Parker says the Government is wary that efforts will diminish once a certain target has been met.

"We haven't set a percentage. The Prime Minister said everyone will have the opportunity to have a vaccine before the end of the year. That's going well - over 70 percent have at least had their first shot. The higher the percentage the better - we don't want to put a target that then sort of, people ease off once you hit," Parker said.

"We want as many people as possible to do their bit to replace the border armour, if you like, with personal armour - where we're all doing our bit and helping each other, as well as protecting ourselves."

National MP Simon Bridges, the former leader of the Opposition, said he wasn't sure what target he would put in place if the party was in power - but said he agreed with the stance of business advisor Rob Fyfe.

The former CEO of Air New Zealand called on Wednesday for an ambitious vaccination target that would allow the country to start rolling out a phased reopening, suggesting anything north of 80 percent.

"I would just say actually Rob Fyfe had it exactly right - we do need to set a vaccination target so we can have a freer economy and society so we can do things like not have the lockdowns, not have to worry so much about the gathering numbers, and have freer borders," Bridges said.

7:30am - Revenue Minister and Associate Minister of Finance David Parker says Auckland is on track to move to alert level 3 next week.

Speaking to The AM Show on Friday morning, Parker said the Prime Minister has signalled that Auckland is likely to shift out of lockdown on Tuesday, September 21 - but was quick to add "it's not definite".

"Yes I think so, it's not definite - but the signal's been given by the Prime Minister that Auckland's likely to move into level 3 next week and we're all hoping for that eventuality," he said.

Tuesday will mark five weeks in lockdown for the region.

7:20am - In case you missed it, a testing tent went up in flames during the early hours of Friday morning.

Fire and Emergency staff were called to the blaze on Dawson Rd, outside the Local Doctors clinic in Otara, at 2:30am.

One appliance attended and the flames were extinguished quickly, a spokesperson said.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 17
Photo credit: Newshub
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 17
Photo credit: Newshub

6:55am - A number of COVID-19-related events happened around the world overnight. Check out Newshub's wrap here.

6:45am - Fire crews have extinguished a blaze at a COVID-19 testing tent in south Auckland.

They were called to Dawson Rd in Otara at around 2:30am on Friday morning.

Police have been approached for comment.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 17
Photo credit: Newshub.

6:30am - Three men have been arrested after police say they travelled from Auckland to Ohakune despite alert level 4 restrictions.

Here is a statement from Inspector Nigel Allan, Area Commander Whanganui Ruapehu:

Three men from Auckland have been arrested in Ohakune today after travelling to Turoa Ski Field.

The trio were arrested after staff at the ski field became suspicious of documentation used to obtain a ski pass.

The three men travelled to Ohakune on Wednesday after using genuine essential worker passes to travel through the checkpoint in place south of Auckland. 

Two of the men are aged 23 and the other is 18. They have been charged with failing to comply with a directions/restriction/prohibition (COVID 19) and take/obtain/use a document for pecuniary advantage.

They have been bailed to appear in Auckland District Court on 23 September. After being bailed they were directed to return to Auckland tonight and local staff will be checking to ensure this has occurred.

Police are working closely with iwi and communities to ensure that they are safe. The behaviour of these three men is unacceptable from both a community and Police perspective and we want to remind everyone that the restrictions in place are there to help keep everyone safe and reduce any spread of COVID-19 in the community.

As shown by the actions taken today where people choose to deliberately breach the restrictions in place Police will take enforcement action.