Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24

Aucklanders are encouraged to get vaccinated this weekend, the region's first at alert level 3 during this Delta outbreak.

Nine new community cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Friday, all in Auckland. These are all linked to the outbreak.

Meanwhile, new COVID-19 modelling paints a grim picture, with health systems forecast to be overwhelmed if only 80 percent of New Zealanders get vaccinated against the virus. Officials want to reach above 90 percent for lockdowns to be put to the side.

The Prime Minister has set Auckland the challenge of getting to 90 percent vaccinated by October 4, when Cabinet will consider if the region can move to alert level 2. Earlier this week, it moved past the 80 percent mark.

While he wouldn't characterise it as a target, Labour MP David Parker told The AM Show on Friday that if we can get to 90 percent vaccinated "we can open up safely without lockdowns and people can get all the freedoms back that we used to, travel, get back to the new normal".

What you need to know: 

  • Nine community cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Auckland on Thursday

  • The case total of New Zealand's Delta outbreak is now 1131

  • New modelling shows even if New Zealand reaches a COVID-19 vaccination rate of 80 percent, there would still be 60,000 hospitalisations and 7000 deaths per year, without restrictions

  • Forty percent of New Zealanders are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

  • Work is underway to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for health workers.

Live updates have now finished.

6:50pm - The Mental Health FOundation says Kiwis are embracing this year's Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) and its theme 'take time to kōrero', which begins on Monday.

Over 13,000 Kiwis, organisations, schools and kura will take part in wellbeing activities throughout the week. 

MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says as New Zealanders adapt to changing alert levels, it's important than ever to connect with others and create space for conversations about mental health and wellbeing.   

"All New Zealanders have had a tough couple of months going through lockdowns to fight the spread of COVID-19," Robinson says.  

"Aucklanders in particular have borne the brunt of an extended lockdown period. It's only inevitable that frustration is setting in as we move in and out of different levels of contact. It's so helpful to connect with others, have a kōrero and a laugh, whether over the fence, within your whānau bubble or via technology.  It's the little things that we do to support each other that can make a big difference in our lives."

 Health Minister Andrew Little added that he thought the theme "is great". 

"You never know when someone, who is feeling vulnerable, stops to talk, just how much of a difference that can make."

6:25pm - The Ministry of Health has announced several location of interest visits to:

  • BP Connect Weymouth Manurewa
  • Pak'nSave Ormiston
  • Countdown Mangere Mall
  • Countdown Botany Downs
  • Kainga Ora Apartments Parnell
Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24
Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24

6pm - Newshub Live at 6 is on now where our reporters will have the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak. Watch the show here or on Three.

5:45pm - Māori health experts say the age-based approach baked inequities into the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and giving Māori and Pasifika vaccination priority could have dampened the Delta outbreak.

A Rotorua district health board member and Whānau Ora representative says the rollout typified a "back of the queue, back of the bus" approach to Māori.

 - RNZ

5pm - Auckland Council is asking Aucklanders to follow COVID-19 rules and stay local as the region approaches its first weekend in alert level 3.

"While the single-digit case numbers announced on Friday were encouraging, it is important to remember that COVID-19 is still out in the community, and we have to stay vigilant," Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says.

"Please continue to follow the rules of alert level 3 over the weekend, stay local and stay within your bubbles. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, get a test. I encourage everyone who has not already been vaccinated to get it done this weekend."

4:25pm - If you were at Countdown Mt Eden on Sunday September 19 from 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm you will have to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after exposure.

The supermarket is the latest location of interest added by the Ministry of Health.

"If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result AND until 24 hours after symptoms resolve," the Ministry said.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24

4:05pm - Auckland Council is urging businesses to familiarise themselves with trading rules and restrictions under the new-look alert level 2.

Cafes, restaurants, bars and night clubs can open under COVID rules but there is a maximum number of patrons - 100 people, all seated inside at one time and 100 people, all seated within a defined outdoor space. Police will be enforcing the rules.

The council says businesses looking to change the layout of the premises to accommodate these numbers need to be aware of the changes particularly the rules relating to bathroom areas.

"We encourage you to check out those changes to familiarise ahead of a drop to Level 2," said councillor Linda Cooper, chair of the Regulatory Committee.

"While Auckland Council can be responsive when it comes to council's bylaws, a significant constraint on what can be done with outdoor dining is imposed by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

"In addition, we expect some delay from both the police and Medical Officer of Health who have reporting responsibility for alcohol licensing applications. Both parties are heavily involved in the COVID response, and the Government has extended the period in which these agencies have to report on all alcohol licence applications. Businesses with licensed outdoor dining areas are reminded to check their alcohol licence before extending the footprint of their outdoor dining space."

Cooper said Auckland Council and Auckland Transport are committed to fast-tracking new licences and extensions to food-only outdoor dining applications during alert level 2 to help businesses make use of outdoor space.

3:30pm - From a photography scavenger hunt to a dance off, Auckland Council has rounded up a list of activity ideas for families to get active outdoors this weekend.

Read the full list here.

3pm - Another long COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland is making it harder for seniors to avoid loneliness.

Auckland Age Concern told RNZ social workers have been taking phone calls daily from older Kiwis, to reduce feelings of social isolation.

Among those was 75-year-old Wayne, who lived alone in Manukau.

He said during the second COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland last year, he "just sunk down right into depression".

"I was just about ready to do myself in. In fact, I tried, but thank goodness it didn't work."

After a temporary stint in a rest home, he is back living alone this year in an apartment, but this lockdown he is doing more to look after himself.

Age Concern Auckland chief executive Kevin Lamb told RNZ that with every day of lockdown, loneliness was becoming a greater challenge for seniors overall.

"For older people who are lonely and isolated, who are living alone, it's been very difficult. But also people who may be a couple sharing a home, particularly if there's a burden of responsibility one of the couple to look after themselves and their partner and they're not getting that normal outside help. That's putting extra burden on someone and that can be very, very challenging as well."

2:30pm - Disease modelling expert Shaun Hendy's projection that thousands of Kiwis could die of COVID-19 in the year after dropping lockdowns has been met scepticism in some quarters.

Some say the projections don't match what is being seen elsewhere around the world, like in Singapore. But does that argument stack up?

Read more here.

2:20pm - "As of 11.59pm yesterday, a total of 256,962 vehicles have now been stopped at the checkpoints on Auckland’s northern and southern boundaries since 11.59pm on 31 August," police say.

"A total of 4,035 vehicles have been turned around during this time.

"21,854 vehicles were processed at the checkpoints yesterday while 457 vehicles were turned around, less than half the number of vehicles turned around the previous day.

"A total of 80 vehicles were turned away at the Northern checkpoints yesterday while 377 vehicles were turned around at the Southern checkpoints.

"As at 11.59pm September 21, 7,564 heavy vehicles have been stopped and 328 of them have been turned around attempting to leave Tāmaki Makaurau.

"56 of those vehicles were turned around yesterday.

"Since Alert Level 3 came into place, in Tāmaki Makaurau three people have been charged with a total of three offences as at 5pm yesterday (23 September 2021).

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

"In the same time period, one person was formally warned for a range of offences.

"Police have received a total of 268 105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau."As at 11.59pm September 21, 7,564 heavy vehicles have been stopped and 328 of them have been turned around attempting to leave Tāmaki Makaurau.

"Nineteen people have been charged with a total of 22 offences in Alert Level 2, as at 5pm yesterday (23 September 2021).

"Of these, 18 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), two for Failing to Stop (COVID-related), one is for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction and one is for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.

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

"To date, Police have received a total of 945 105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Alert Level 2."

2:15pm - Police are reminding people to stick to the rules and not burst their bubble this weekend at alert level 3. 

"While it may be tempting to visit friends and relatives, under Alert Level 3 you must ensure your bubble remains as small as possible.

"Police across Tamaki Makaurau will continue to be carrying out visibility patrols over the weekend to ensure that the public are adhering to the restrictions in place under Alert Level 3.

"Police are continuing to see higher levels of traffic attempting to go through the border checkpoints since the move to Alert Level 3."

2:10pm - Police says they made "multiple arrests in relation to incidents at the Southern checkpoints" on Friday.

"A 63-year-old man was arrested at the Oram Road checkpoint after refusing multiple times to provide any of his details to Police.

"The man was given a warning and continue to refuse to give any details and was subsequently arrested where he resisted Police.

"He has been summonsed to appear in the Pukekohe District Court.

"A 31-year-old female was arrested at the same checkpoint after she was identified as being wanted to arrest in connection to burglaries in Cambridge.

"At the Rawiri Road checkpoint, a vehicle was observed travelling through the freight lane at speed last night without headlights on.

"The driver of the vehicle was stopped on SH2 and a search of the vehicle located a rifle in the boot.

"A 41-year-old man is facing a number of charges including unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition."

2pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has just released this statement about upper Hauraki's move to alert level 2:

Upper Hauraki will move to Alert Level 2 from 11:59pm tomorrow, 25 September, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today.

After positive cases were detected in the Upper Hauraki area on Sunday, extra Alert Level restrictions were put in place to immediately prevent any wider transmission of the virus.

"We've seen an incredible response from the community to this situation, with people getting tested, following the health advice and sticking to the higher Alert Level requirements," Chris Hipkins said. 

"More than 1,000 tests have been undertaken in the immediate area since Monday, with the only positive results being from the original household.

"All close contacts from the Mangitangi School exposure event including staff and students have been tested, with all tests returning negative.

"Widespread wastewater testing in Maramarua, Meremere, Ngatea, Paeroa and Waitakaruru this week has produced no unexpected detections."

The public health assessment is that it is now safe for Upper Hauraki to move to Alert Level 2 with the rest of New Zealand, except Auckland which remains at Alert Level 3.

Key health measures remain in place at Alert Level 2 including wearing a face covering where required, scanning and keeping a record of visits and travel, and keeping up physical distancing and good hygiene practices like handwashing.

At Alert Level 2, you can go to work, and all businesses and services can open but must follow public health rules. These include physical distancing, some workers wearing face coverings, and displaying the NZ COVID Tracer QR code.

Early learning services, schools, kura and tertiary education facilities can open.

"It's important for people to stay vigilant and keep monitoring themselves and their whānau for any symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should get tested as soon as possible," Chris Hipkins said.

"Getting vaccinated is also crucial as it is one of the most important and effective tools we have for stopping the spread of Delta."

Testing sites and vaccination sites are available at the Healthpoint website:

The Section 70 Direction applying to people who departed the Upper Hauraki area before 7:30pm on 20 September was lifted yesterday. 

Auckland remains at Alert Level 3, with all settings currently in place to be reviewed on Monday 4 October.

1:50pm - South Korea has set a record for daily COVID-19 cases at 2,434, breaking the previous record set last month, as the country grapples with a wave of infections that began in early July, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said Friday.

The mortality rate and severe cases remain relatively low and steady at 0.82 percent and 309, respectively, helped largely by vaccinations that prioritised older people at high risk of severe COVID-19, KDCA said when reporting figures for Thursday.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum stressed the need for virus-prevention rules to be stricter as adherence could have been lax during this week's three-day holiday.

"If prevention measures are not managed stably, the gradual recovery to normal life will inevitably be delayed," Kim told Friday's COVID-19 response meeting.

- Reuters

1:30pm - There is one new historical case found at the border. They arrived on September 17 from Serbia and Montenegro via the United Arab Emirates. 

1:20pm - Dr McElnay says the Pfizer vaccines have a 95 percent level of efficacy against death and severe disease. There is a slightly lower level of effectiveness against mild disease and transmission. But officials are awaiting the latest updates for Delta transmission.  

Regarding the modelling's credibility, Robertson won't comment. He says there are different models but the consistent message is everyone should be vaccinated. He says the modelling is not scaremongering.

1:15pm - Here is the summary provided by the Ministry of Health:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24
Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24

Overall, Robertson says compliance has been high but there have been a couple examples of mingling between households. He says that may not be flagrant breaches. Cases have been very cooperative, he says.

1:10pm - Dr McElnay says most routine vaccines can be given before, after or the same time as the Pfizer vaccine, excluding the shingles vaccine. This advice will be given to health professionals. Previously, there needed to be a period of time between the vaccines.

Robertson confirms that upper Hauraki will move to alert level 2 on Saturday night.

He says the small number of cases on Friday is "encouraging", indicating that Aucklanders' hard work is paying off. But the job is not yet done and he urges people to follow the rules this weekend.

Robertson says officials feel like they are getting on top of the outbreak, but people need to stick to it. Cases may bounce up and down a bit in the coming week, he says.

1:05pm - Dr McElnay has revealed there are nine new community cases of COVID-19, all in Auckland. The total associated with this outbreak is 1131, of which 902 have recovered. 

Of the nine new cases, all are linked. Three are household contacts and six are cases. Of Thursday's 15 cases, only one remains unlinked.

There are 13 people in hospital, with three in ICU.

Testing numbers in Auckland dropped on Thursday, with 6928 swabs taken. There were 14855 swabs processed across the country. In one suburb of interest, Mt Wellington, there were 297 swabs taken, while in Clover Park, 1725 swabs have been taken since Tuesday. Since September 1, 20.8 percent of that suburb's population has been tested. But officials still want people to come forward for testing.

All upper Hauraki test results have come back negative, barring the initial cases. There has been a good uptake of vaccinations in the area, Dr McElnay says, with 60.1 percent of residents there having had their first dose.

There were more than 49,000 vaccine doses administered nationwide. Sixteen-thousand of these were in Auckland.

12:45pm - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay will provide the COVID-19 update at 1pm.

You can stream that above or watch on Three.

12:15pm - There are two new locations of interest:

  • Pak'nSave Mangere - Tuesday, September 21 between 7:45am and 9:15am
  • Countdown Mangere East - Wednesday, September 22 between 9am and 9:45am

Full information is found here.

12pm - A new statement from Auckland Unlimited says the Auckland Diwali Festival will not go ahead this year due to uncertainty about whether the region will be down to Alert Level 1 at the time of the festival on October 30-31.

The statement reads:

Organiser of the festival, Auckland Unlimited, says the decision follows the Government’s announcement on 20 September that Auckland will be in Alert Level 3 until at least 5 October.

The festival can only be delivered at Alert Level 1. A final decision about the delivery of the festival needed to be made by 1 October due to planning and financial implications.

However, Aucklanders will still be able to celebrate Diwali online and further details about online Diwali celebrations will be announced in mid-October.

Mayor Phil Goff says Aucklanders will be understandably disappointed that the festival will not be able to go ahead as planned.

"Diwali is one of the most popular festivals on our annual events calendar, with tens of thousands of Aucklanders taking part in the celebrations each year. Sadly, the significant uncertainty caused by COVID-19 means it is no longer feasible to host the event this year as we normally would.

"While the public festival can’t go ahead, I encourage Aucklanders to celebrate Diwali at home or with wider friends and family should alert level restrictions allow it. We will continue to light up our public landmarks in celebration of the Festival of Lights, and Auckland Unlimited will be providing a range of entertaining and educational content online at," he says.

The festival’s COVID-19 contingency plans and timelines for decision making had been discussed in advance and had the support of the Diwali Advisory Group and key event stakeholders.

"In planning any major festival or event in the COVID-19 world, the need to postpone or even cancel is a risk that is planned for, along with alternatives such as celebrating online as we are," says Richard Clarke, Head of Major and Business Events, Auckland Unlimited. 

"We know everyone was really looking forward to this festival, with a high number of stallholder and performer applications. Right up to the most recent announcement, the Auckland Diwali Festival team have remained hopeful, and planning continued for the major event."

"We want to thank everyone involved in the festival, from our planning team to performers and stallholders, sponsors, and the community for their support and understanding."

"This year was set to be the 20th Auckland Diwali Festival, and this will be a much-anticipated event when we can finally come together to celebrate that special milestone," says Clarke.

Auckland Diwali Festival is one of New Zealand’s largest cultural festivals and an important opportunity to celebrate traditional and contemporary Indian culture and Auckland’s Indian communities.

The Auckland Diwali Festival is delivered by Auckland Unlimited, on behalf of Auckland Council. Asia NZ Foundation is the founding partner of the festival.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24
Photo credit: Auckland Unlimited.

11:40am - Have you been paying attention to the news? Test your current affairs knowledge with Newshub's weekly quiz

11:30am - A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel on Thursday recommended a booster shot of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for Americans aged 65 and older and some adults with underlying medical conditions that put them at risk of severe disease.

But the panel declined to recommend boosters for younger adults, including healthcare workers, who live or work in institutions with high risk of contracting COVID-19, which could narrow the scope of the US Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorization issued on Wednesday.

- Reuters

11:15am - The closing of the trans-Tasman bubble and the New Zealand lockdown has left Kiwis and Aussies stranded on each side of the Tasman for weeks as flights are grounded or cancelled and it has pushed some to extreme measures.

After weeks of stress, expense, cancelled flights and Covid-19 tests Tim Knowlman, his husband Poroutu and their 13-month-old daughter booked a charter plane to take them across the Tasman and are now in managed isolation in Brisbane.

Read more here.

10:55am - A new report has put forward a stark projection of what New Zealand's future could look like with COVID-19, even with high rates of vaccination - but a leading immunologist says it's important to remember the modelling  is just a prediction, and a number of factors are not accounted for.

Read more here.

10:35am - Modelling presented on Thursday suggested that New Zealand needs to be looking at 90 percent of those aged over 5 to be vaccinated before lockdowns can be safely put to the side.

Here's the latest summary of New Zealand's vaccination rollout, showing that 63 percent of Kiwis have had their first dose. At the moment, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is only approved for those over 12.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24
Photo credit: Ministry of Health.

10:20am - The Government agreed to subsidise international sports stars' managed isolation and quarantine bills last year - paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per team.

In documents sourced by RNZ, officials asked teams to chip in $7000 per player, but acknowledged the total cost of their isolation could be double or triple that fee.

Read more here.

10:05am - There are five new locations of interest. Find full information here.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24
Photo credit: Ministry of Health.

9:55am - If you need a reminder of Thursday's COVID-19 update, here's the Ministry of Health's 1pm case summary:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24

9:40am - A COVID-19 modeller has described the government's release of data on vaccination, disease and deaths rates as a side show causing unnecessary fear.

The modelling done by Te Pūnaha Matatini at the University of Auckland shows if 80 percent of the population over the age of five is vaccinated 7000 people a year could still die from the virus and 60,000 end up in hospital.

Read more here.

9:30am - The Hororata Community Trust has decided to cancel the 11th Hororata Highland Games planned for November 6.

"The Hororata Highland Games is a significant outdoor event attracting around 10,000 people annually, and can only operate in alert level 1," said chair Richard Lang.

"It is not a decision we take lightly, but our community has been through a lot recently with floods, wind and snow, and given the current uncertainty with COVID alert levels we have needed to make a firm decision now to cancel the Games. The Trust, first and foremost, is here for the wellbeing of our community and in uncertain times we need to give certainty."

Ticketholders can choose to be refunded or "donate their purchase to the Hororata Community Trust and in return will be offered a 50 percent discount off tickets to the next Hororata Highland Games".

"Any donations will go towards the work the Trust does to support its rural community. Competitors and stallholders will also be refunded."

9:25am - No new locations of interest have been shared so far on Friday. 

9:20am - Simon Bridges says the Government shouldn't be relying on "scare tactics" to get people vaccinated against COVID-19.

At Thursday's 1pm press conference Government advisor Shaun Hendy, a disease modelling expert at Te Pūnaha Matatini, presented modelling which suggested 7000 Kiwis could die a year if New Zealand's vaccination rollout stalls at 80 percent of those currently eligible, even with continued isolation and quarantine measures for those who contract the virus.

Read more here.

9:10am - A 27-year-old Cambridge man accused of altering an official COVID text stating he was negative, to say he was positive, has been turned away from court.

He was due to appear in the Hamilton District Court on Friday morning but says he has been traveling in and out of Auckland.

He was refused entry.

8:55am - Professor Shaun Hendy, who spoke on Thursday about Te Pūnaha Matatini's modelling, has responded to claims the modelling is just scare tactics and fear-mongering.

"When I get negative feedback (and I get a lot) in my inbox or mentions, very little of it expresses any fear. Generally it’s very angry, and almost inevitably features accusations of 'fear-mongering," he said.

"What I think is actually going on is that the modelling is undermining hopes for when things can return to normal and that makes some people despairing and angry. I get that - it was incredibly disheartening when we ran the numbers for Delta back in June.

"This new report actually offers a way forward, but it is going to take more work than perhaps many had bargained for. It’s ok to feel angry about that (perhaps just not take it out on my inbox). It is also fine to remain optimistic that new data will change these conclusions.

"But we do need to think hard over the coming months about our strategy and ignoring what the best data we have right now is telling us is not going to help us put together a good plan."

8:40am - New Zealand needs to find better ways to deal with the effects of COVID-19 or risks being left behind by the rest of the world, according to Orion Health's chief executive.

Businesses are calling on the Government to drastically revamp managed isolation to stop them being kneecapped on the international stage because they can not travel.

Orion Health chief executive Ian McCrae told Checkpoint that in the context of trying to deal offshore, New Zealand was "essentially a hermit nation".

Read more here.

8:25am - The AM Show reporter Sinelle Fernandez is at the launch of a new bus vaccination service targeting the Samoan community. She says that while there was hesitancy within the community about vaccines at the start of alert level 4, that has shifted.

"Once we saw cases emerge among the Samoan Assembly of God church, that turned into determination and vaccination numbers spiked. The Samoan community is pledging to get 100 percent vaccinated by the end of the year."

Officials say the new service is 'for our people, by our people', creating a safe space for the community.

8:15am - As New Zealand tries to stamp out its Delta outbreak, the virus continues to spread around the globe and other countries are having to make their own decisions about how to respond.

Read Newshub's wrap of what happened around the world overnight here.

8am - Two new 'Busifika Vax' buses are rolling out on Friday. Run by Bader Drive Doctors and South Seas Healthcare, the buses will deliver vaccinations at the Mangere Town Centre, touted as one of the largest Samoan community vaccination events to be held in South Auckland. 

The three-day event aims to vaccinate up to 3000 people predominantly from the Samoan community. 

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24
Photo credit: Newshub.

7:45am - Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel thinks the coronavirus pandemic could be over in a year as increased vaccine production ensures global supplies, he told the Swiss newspaper Neue Zuercher Zeitung.

"If you look at the industry-wide expansion of production capacities over the past six months, enough doses should be available by the middle of next year so that everyone on this earth can be vaccinated. Boosters should also be possible to the extent required," he told the newspaper in an interview.

Read more here.

7:30am - Speaking to The AM Show, Labour MP David Parker said there has been lots of scenarios modelled. If we get to 90 percent vaccinated, we can open safely without lockdowns and get freedoms back, Parker said. 

"Our position is crystal clear. We think if we get to 90 percent vaccination, we can open up safely without lockdowns and people can get all the freedoms back that we used to, travel, get back to the new normal," the Labour minister said.

However, he wouldn't characterise that as a target. 

"We have deliberately never set a target. I am not doing that today."

National's Simon Bridges said we don't need scare tactics. We should try for 90 percent, but we have to be skeptical of one model, he said. New Zealand can't stay shut down and locked up for years, the MP said. 

7:20am - Additional protections may be needed for minorities beyond blanket vaccinations, said Le Gros, including other types of treatments or booster shots. These may come in the new year, he said.

He believes we can get to 90 percent and lead the world. We don't have other issues some countries have, he said, like a large population not being jabbed for religious reasons.

7:15am - Immunologist Graham Le Gros tells The AM Show that the new modelling is just a "projection", not a definite outcome. It doesn't count if a booster shot is introduced or other measures are used, he said. 

He was "heartened" by the Pfizer trial results showing the vaccine is effective for people down to the age of five. 

"It looks like you can go all the way down to five-year-olds and you get a good immune response, so the vaccine really works," Le Gros said. "[Researchers] weren't so concerned about the adverse reactions because we know 220 million people have received this vaccine - it is so safe."

"It looks like we are in a really strong position, if it was possible, to get up to 90 percent."

New Zealand has given Medsafe approval for the vaccine to those over the age of 12 at this stage.

Getting 90 percent of people aged over five vaccinated is a big task, but "we have got a chance", Le Gros said.

6:50am - A Cambridge man has been arrested after allegedly altering a COVID-19 test result to say he was positive.

The 27-year-old got a text saying he didn't have the virus two days after getting tested on September 20, but changed it to say that he did. 

Read more here.

6:40am - New Zealand is donating more Pfizer vaccines to the Pacific Islands and AstraZeneca doses to the COVAX Facility.

Here's a statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and associate Health Minister Aupito William Sio: 

Foreign Affairs Minister Hon Nanaia Mahuta and Associate Health Minister Aupito William Sio announced today that New Zealand is donating additional Pfizer vaccines to the Pacific and AstraZeneca vaccines to the COVAX Facility, to support equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

"New Zealand is donating 708,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to the COVAX Facility to support vaccine programmes in developing countries," said Nanaia Mahuta.

"We are also committing to provide Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau to support the vaccination of their 12-15 year-olds from October this year," said Aupito William Sio.

"These vaccines are part of our ongoing commitment to supporting the global effort to combat COVID-19. We know that we all need to play our part – these vaccines will provide a line of defence to countries who most need it," said Nanaia Mahuta.

The COVAX doses have been allocated to Samoa, which will receive 25,000 doses, and Indonesia which will receive 683,000 doses, to be delivered to the countries in October. These doses are in addition to our existing donation of 1.668 million AstraZeneca doses to COVAX, announced earlier in the year.

"COVAX exists to enable global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, ensuring widespread vaccination around the world. New Zealand is committed to supporting those efforts," said Nanaia Mahuta.

"Aotearoa's deliveries from Pfizer will ramp up over the next few months to provide enough vaccines for everyone in New Zealand to be vaccinated by the end of the year. We will also be able to assist our Pacific neighbours using New Zealand's surplus doses to support their vaccination programmes," Aupito William Sio said.

New Zealand purchased additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine to help maintain the pace of the domestic roll out, and has now purchased over 10.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The surplus doses will be shared with the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau. 

"We are sharing vaccines with our partners in the Pacific to help protect the region's precious tamariki and tamaiti against COVID-19. The donations will make a tangible contribution to COVID-19 resilience in the region, as many of these countries have large youthful populations," said Aupito William Sio.

"We are also working closely with the governments of Tonga, Samoa and Fiji to donate vaccines for their younger population. These discussions are well underway," said Nanaia Mahuta.

6:30am - Startling modelling was released on Thursday, showing that it's possible 7000 people will die each year from COVID-19 if just 80 percent of those over the age of 12 get vaccinated.

A range of scenarios were presented to the public, with a rate of above 90 percent among all those over five bringing the potential annual death toll down to about 50. It should be noted this is just one model and it is yet to be formally peer-reviewed.

These are the key numbers, looking at infections, hospitalisations, deaths and peak hospital occupancy each year at a range of vaccination rates and at different levels of vaccine effectiveness: 

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, September 24
Photo credit: Te Pūnaha Matatini

6:20am - Coming up on The AM Show on Friday, Ryan Bridge will be joined by Graham Le Gos, an immunologist to discuss New Zealand's vaccination strategy, as well as MPs David Parker and Simon Bridges.

6:10am - Kia ora and welcome to Newshub's live updates for Friday, September 24. After moving to alert level 3 on Tuesday night, Auckland is about to spend its first weekend of this outbreak with the slightly eased restrictions.

It comes as the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health continue to stress the need for people to be vaccinated - something startling modelling released on Thursday showed the need for.