Twenty-eight new cases of COVID-19 have been recorded on Friday, all but one of which are in Auckland - the only region remaining in lockdown after Northland shifted to alert level 3 last night.
Forty-three people are currently in hospital, with nine receiving treatment in the ICU.
The outbreak now stands at 764 cases, comprising eight sub-clusters - the largest of which are the Assembly of God cluster in south Auckland, with 347 cases, and the Birkdale Social Network cluster, with 74 cases.
Whole genome sequencing has linked 632 cases to the current outbreak - 733 cases have been epidemiologically linked with 31 outstanding.
But questions have been raised over the level of security at MIQ facilities after an individual with COVID-19 allegedly escaped the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie on Thursday, spending more than 12 hours in the community before capture. Newshub understands he also had taken off from home isolation previously.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says on initial information, the situation is "relatively low-risk", but critics say the public deserved to know about the incident earlier.
What you need to know:
- Northland has moved to alert level 3, meaning Auckland is now the only region still under alert level 4 lockdown
- Twenty-eight new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Friday, bringing the outbreak total to 764 - 27 in Auckland and one in Wellington
- Forty-three people are in hospital, nine of whom are in the ICU
- A person has been arrested after they allegedly absconded the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie quarantine facility early on Thursday morning and was later granted bail
- Pressure on Auckland hospitals from COVID-19 means some services are being transferred to other centres
- The key points about COVID-19 alert level 3 can be found here
- Click here for the latest locations of interest - a map can also be found here
These live updates have now finished.
3:30pm - We are now finishing our live coverage on today's COVID-19 developments.
However, we are providing live updates on an unfolding incident at Countdown supermarket in LynnMall, west Auckland. It's understood a man has injured multiple people.
3:20pm - University of Canterbury mathematical modeller Professor Michael Plank says there is still a good chance the Government's commitment to the elimination strategy will pay off, but success is not guaranteed.
"There is a chance that elimination will be unsuccessful because the Delta variant is so infectious and spreads so quickly," he said, as reported by the New Zealand Herald. "But even if we can't eliminate it, giving it our best shot will put us in the best possible position going forward by keeping case numbers low and buying time to get more people vaccinated."
However, shifting to a containment strategy would lead to the virus inevitably spreading, risking a significant surge in infections.
"Our models show that, if restrictions were loosened significantly, cases would grow very quickly and, at our current levels of vaccine coverage, could overwhelm our hospitals within weeks," Plank said.
The state of Victoria in Australia has now shifted to a containment approach, but the New Zealand Government has continued to reiterate its commitment to the elimination strategy.
3:05pm - Police have all released some up-to-date data on compliance.
Since alert level 4 came into place, 163 people have been charged with a total of 174 offences nationwide as at 5pm on Thursday.
Of the charges filed, 113 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 38 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, 18 for Health Act Breaches, and five for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.
In the same time period, 456 people were warned for 459 offences.
Of the formal warnings, 194 were for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 149 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, 115 for Health Act Breaches, and one for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.
Since August 19, 2021 - the second full day of lockdown - police have been issuing infringements for restriction breaches.
As at 5pm on Thursday, police have issued 3082 infringements nationwide - 2876 of these were primarily for people failing to remain at their current home/residence and undertaking non-essential personal movement,
Since the new Health Order came into force on Wednesday, 206 infringements have been issued as follows:
- Left home / residence other than for essential personal movement (AL4) – 110
- Left home / residence other than for essential personal movement (AL3) – 76
- Other breaches under the new Health Order – 20.
Police have now received a total of 15,269 online breach notifications - 9273 were about a gathering, 4501 were about a business, and 1495 were about a person.
In addition to the online breach notifications, a total of 9875 calls were made to the 105-phone line.
The majority (7165) of calls were requests for information, and 2710 were to report perceived breaches.
3pm - Police checkpoints are now operating in both north and south Auckland with both running smoothly overnight and no issues reported, says Police Commissioner Andrew Coster.
Between 11:59pm on Tuesday and 3:30pm on Thursday, a total of 7663 vehicles were stopped at the five checkpoints on Auckland's southern boundary.
Only 267 vehicles turned away for non-essential travel, which is less than 4 percent of all motorists.
The checkpoint that saw the most vehicles attempting to travel for non-essential purposes was the southbound station at SH1/Mercer off-ramp, where 115 vehicles were turned away.
Data for the five northern checkpoints will be available on Friday, but very low numbers of cars passed through and only a small number were turned around.
Overall, members of the public had the correct documentation to show police at both ends, which was greatly appreciated.
"As is expected, we are seeing an increase in traffic today but wait times are minimal," Coster said.
"We are still having the odd person attempting to travel outside the restrictions, including a couple who told police at the Mercer checkpoint they were going for a drive, however staff noticed on their phone that they had the directions to McDonalds Huntly open."
The couple were issued with an infringement notice and told to return home.
2:45pm - Speaking at the 1pm press conference earlier this afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson confirmed the man who escaped from the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie on Thursday would have scaled two fences.
He noted it was "the first time someone had absconded" from a facility since the Defence Force were introduced to MIQ last year. The monitoring of CCTV footage at MIQ facilities is being reviewed.
He confirmed the police officers who apprehended the escapee are either fully or partially vaccinated.
Robertson also "rejected the assertion" that the Prime Minister put public safety at risk by not releasing information about the escapee at yesterday's press conference, adding that it was an "evolving situation" at the time.
He also said an administrative "error" with the wage subsidy website led to it being closed to applications for a few hours last night.
2:30pm - University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker remains confident New Zealand will eliminate the virus, but acknowledges there is a risk the Government's strategy could fail.
"There has always been a risk that we would fail against the Delta variant," Professor Baker said, as reported by the New Zealand Herald.
If the outbreak were to surge uncontrollably, Auckland's lockdown could possibly be extended until Christmas, he suggested.
"I don't think we even fully necessarily grasp what it will be like if we lose control of this virus."
2:15pm - We are now back online after an internet outage.
1:15pm - Robertson is now speaking about economic support during the outbreak. On the Resurgence Support Payment, IRD has approved more than 140,000 applications, totalling $454m.
To get this, businesses must have been operating for at least six months. However, considering the length of the higher alert levels, the Government is reducing the eligibility period from six months to one month.
On the wage subsidy, more than 242,000 applications have been approved, totalling payments of close to $1b.
1:10pm - Robertson thanks contact tracers and frontline staff for their work during this outbreak. He also says it is vital that we keep testing rates up to have confidence we are catching any COVID in the community. The latest batch of results are "encouraging", but we must keep at it.
Regarding the alleged COVID escapee, Robertson says he was tested as he was a close contact of another case. On Wednesday afternoon, the man was told of his result while he was exercising. He returned home and drove a car to friends to drop it off. That friend was already a contact in isolation. Later, he agreed to be transferred to MIQ. At 6:18pm on Wednesday, he was taken to the facility. He allegedly left the facility early the next morning, as has been reported.
Robertson says the man then walked home. That has been confirmed through the use of CCTV footage. There are no locations of interest and no contacts. Police later went to his house and took him into custody.
He says there was no risk to public safety from this incident based on the information available. However, Robertson says it was "regrettable" and an investigation is underway.
1:05pm - Dr McElnay thanks healthcare workers from around the country for volunteering to assist colleagues in Auckland. More than 100 staff have been identified to be available to work in Auckland, with 22 already deployed.
More than 89,000 doses were administed on Thursday. Of these, 64,000 were first doses and 25,000 were second doses. There were more than 89,000 bookings on Thursday.
1pm - Grant Robertson and Dr Caroline McElnay have arrived.
Dr McElnay reveals there are 28 new COVID-19 cases in the community, with one in Wellington. They are a close contact of an exisiting case and already in a MIQ facility. The total is now 764. Thirty-three have recovered.
She says we cannot become complacent despite the low number of cases. Investigations have led to the number of unlinked cases dropping from 65 to 31.
Of Thursday's 49 cases, 86 percent were contacts and 51 percent were household contacts. Thirty-five percent were infectious in the community. They either visited a supermarket, a health care provider or were an essential worker.
There are 43 cases in Auckland hospitals. Nine are in ICU and three are ventilated.
Dr McElnay says there are more than 37,000 individual contacts, with 31,668 or 84 percent have been followed-up. About 87 percent of contacts have been tested.
There are no unexpected wastewater detections.
12:40pm - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay will hold a press conference at 1pm. We will livestream that above and have it on Three.
During one of the Government's near-daily press conferences, COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins told the nation he understood it was difficult to "spread" your legs during lockdown - a gaffe that saw cool-as-a-cucumber Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, even raise an eyebrow in amusement.
12:15pm - There's a number of new locations of interest. They include two Mobil service stations, a laundromat and a cinema. Find more about them here.
12:05pm - While the COVID-19 alert level 3 and 4 lockdowns here in Aotearoa have seen lots of people out pounding the pavements or biking around the neighbourhood, research has shown around a third of Brits saw their exercise decrease during lockdown - and experts warn those reduced levels of activity may extend post-pandemic.
A recent study of over 35,000 people in the UK found that 29 percent reduced their levels of physical activity during and after the first lockdown during the months of March to August last year.
11:55am - National's Judith Collins wants to know why the Government isn't moving the South Island to alert level 2, noting there hasn't been a case of COVID-19 there in almost a year.
"None have been reported from the latest Delta outbreak and, as of yesterday afternoon, just 22 contacts were awaiting or overdue their day 12 test, out of more than 37,000 total contacts in this outbreak," Collins said.
"It doesn’t make sense, then, that the South Island, despite being Covid-free, should be subject to level 3 restrictions – effectively the same as level 4, but with takeaways.
"In the meantime, South Island people and businesses are being put under unnecessary stress for no good reason."
She said if officials can quarantine Auckland from the rest of the country, it "seems reasonable it can police entry points into the South Island which is, after all, separated from the North Island by a fairly large body of water".
"Unless the Government is again keeping vital information from New Zealanders, there’s no reason why the South Island’s alert level shouldn’t be dropped to level 2 with immediate effect."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this week that alert level settings for outside of Auckland will be reviewed on Monday.
"We will undertake a very genuine risk assessment about the ability to move alert levels. It’s certainly not the case that we’ve predetermined it has to be three weeks - we haven’t," she said.
"We will very genuinely, after seven days, assess that risk and make a decision based on it - and, yes, we haven’t had a case in the South Island for a long time, and we want to keep it that way. So that’s our goal. If we can get them up to fewer restrictions safely, we will."
11:40am - Newshub has had confirmation that a student flew from Auckland to Wellington without an exemption despite alert level restrictions being in place.
A statement from Victoria University says:
"A resident of one of our halls of residence arrived back in Wellington on Wednesday, after breaching the New Zealand Government travel orders. The resident was intercepted before they returned to their hall.
"The resident is isolating in alternative university accommodation under Public Health Authority oversight.
"This matter has been referred to the Police.This follows another student returning to one of our halls last Sunday. Neither student had an exemption to travel or permission to return."
Police have also confirmed they are aware of the incident and will be speaking to the person as well as working with health officials to manage the situation.
"We will be undertaking an assessment as to what enforcement action may be taken."
11:25am - Is it the podium of truth, or the podium of omission, asks The AM Show's Ryan Bridge.
"The fact that a man escaped from an MIQ facility is bad enough. The fact he allegedly escaped through a door after already being busted for leaving isolation the day before is, hmm - sounding pretty bloody stupid.
"This guy, based on his posts to social media, has zero regard for the cops. It literally says 'F*** the Cops' on his page.
"He also appears to have zero regard for COVID-19. He was in the community for more than 12 hours, running around with no mask or PPE, while infected with the deadly Delta strain.
"And we were kept in the dark about it."
11:10am - Westpac is also waiving contactless debit merchant service fees for eligible small businesses for September and October.
"We know many Kiwi businesses are doing it tough, but we’ve also seen remarkable adaptability and innovation to not just survive but come through the pandemic stronger than ever," acting head of institutional and business banking Andrew Bashford says.
"Together we’re determined to help them get through the latest lockdown disruption and look ahead to a big summer of business activity.
"This fee waiver comes on top of an overhaul to our merchant service fee structure in September 2020 that is already helping thousands of Kiwi businesses boost their bottom line."
Eligible small businesses will be contacted with further details of how the fee waiver will be applied to them, Westpac says.
11:05am - Simon Bridges says the daily 1pm press conferences on the COVID-19 outbreak are increasingly taking place at the "podium of convenience" rather than the "podium of truth".
National and ACT are angry Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern didn't mention the fact a man carrying the infectious Delta variant of the virus was on the loose in Auckland, when she and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield spoke to media on Wednesday afternoon.
He escaped a managed isolation and quarantine facility in the early hours of the morning, and wasn't arrested until later that afternoon. Ardern was informed shortly before going live to the nation at 1pm, but didn't bring it up.
"There are still so many questions that we still don't have answers to," National's Bridges told The AM Show on Friday morning.
10:55am - Here is the Ministry of Health's summary of the outbreak as of Thursday. The 53 new cases include 49 in the community and four in MIQ.
10:40am - A family with COVID-19 has been transferred to a different managed isolation and quarantine facility after the mother, enraged after waiting hours for her children's meals, erupted in an aggressive outburst against staff, leaving her room against protocol and screaming abuse at personnel.
In a livestream shared to her Facebook on Wednesday afternoon, the woman, who Newshub has decided not to identify, claimed that after a long wait for their lunch, her children were given a "half-eaten" pizza by staff at the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie, a hotel currently operating as a quarantine facility in Auckland.
In the video, titled 'F**k yous Novotel', the woman - who is a positive case of COVID-19 - filmed herself striding down the hallway of the hotel, declaring she was "f***ing fuming".
10:30am - Barfoot and Thompson says the lockdown in Auckland has had a small impact on property sales in the region in August.
Managing director Peter Thompson says a reason sales and prices have stood up well is the systems and procedures the industry and others professions have put in place to allow trading to continue.
"This enabled vendors and buyers to progress negotiations and contractual proceedings around properties that had been viewed prior to the lockdown commencing.
"By the end of the month this sales pipeline was shrinking, and not surprisingly, sales for the month at 1020 were down significantly on the level of trading we experienced for the previous three months.
"Based on weekly sales data, sales numbers are two thirds of what they might otherwise have been had the lockdown not occurred.
"Regardless, at 1020 they were excellent for a winter month. If you exclude last year, when the market was still recovering from last year’s two-month lockdown, sales were more than 20 percent higher than we normally achieve in August."
The median price in Auckland increased 2.6 percent to $1,130,000 and the average eased by 0.2 percent to 1,181,596.
"These figures put the year-on-year median price increase at 23.9 percent and the average price increase at 18.7 percent.
"Given the circumstances, new listings for the month at 1258 were excellent although down on where the market was at prior to lockdown.
"It ensured that buyers had a modest level of choice, and at month end we had 2601 properties on our books, 28 lower than at the start of the month and our lowest number in more than four years.
"Two-thirds of the homes we sold in the month were for more than $1 million, and 12 percent of all sales were properties that sold for $2 million or more.
"Given that the Covid -19 lockdown is continuing into September for Auckland, potentially resulting in fewer new listings coming to market, sales numbers may well be down in September. This is likely to see prices holding or increasing, rather than falling.
"Three trends which emerged during the month in both the urban and rural markets were the number of virtual appraisals and viewings taking place through the use of new technology; the number of appointments being made for viewings when we move to a level which allows them to take place; and those looking to get ahead of the market committing to buying ‘sight unseen’ but adding a clause to the sales agreement reserving the right to inspect and approve within 3 or 4 days of lockdown being lifted.
"These developments are assisting the market to move forward while under lockdown.
"Sales in the rural and lifestyle markets throughout the Northland and Auckland regions were largely unaffected, with sales in dollar terms being their highest in 18 months.
"In the Far North interest remained high in beef and dairy listings, while to the north and south of Auckland, buyers were in the market for kiwifruit and avocado farms and potential greenfield developments."
10:15am - There are a number of new locations of interest, including AUT's South Campus, Mobil New Lynn and two laundromats. Find the full list and times here.
10:10am - Countdown has announced it will open its Auckland supermarkets from 7am to 8am for medical personnel, MIQ and emergency workers "giving them time and space to carry out their shop and pick up the food and essentials they may need".
"These workers, particularly those caring for hospitalised COVID-19 patients or the large number of Kiwis currently in managed isolation, are working under huge amounts of pressure," said general manager of corporate affairs Kiri Hannifin.
"Opening our doors to them an hour ahead of the public will give them the ability to shop in peace and access to freshly stocked shelves."
The priority access hour for stores from Pokeno to Warkworth is open to NZ Police, fire service, MIQ, ambulance, paramedic, DHB, hospital and medical personnel with proper ID.
10:05am - We are expecting a 1pm press conference on Friday with deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay at this stage.
We will livestream that on our website and also broadcast it on Three.
9:55am - Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Sexual Violence Marama Davidson has released a statement reminding Kiwis there is support for anyone feeling unsafe during lockdown:
"We know that family violence and sexual violence can escalate in times of crisis, including isolation," says Marama Davidson.
"As the lockdown continues, families and relationships may face additional stresses and fatigue. It is important to remember that you do not need to stay in your home or bubble if it is an unsafe environment.
"Throughout lockdown, I have been in regular contact with service providers, officials and engaging with members of the public daily to understand people's experiences across Aotearoa and whether any additional support is required.
"Support services, such as refuges are working hard to support women and children to stay COVID safe and free from violence. They continue to encourage people to reach out, they are ready and available to help.
"Many social services are providing supportive early interventions to help families and de-escalate the potential of violence. The preliminary data on reporting of family violence to Police has increased and I am pleased that people are reaching out and seeking help.
"I encourage anyone who feels unsafe to reach out to their support network or contact one of the support services listed on the Government's COVID-19 website. For support with anxiety, distress or mental wellbeing, you can call or text 1737 to talk with a trained counsellor for free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"I also want those who are feeling stressed, angry or worried about their behaviour, to know that there is help available for them too. Acknowledging these feelings takes courage, especially during these difficult times. I encourage you to reach out for support and help, and to remember that you too can leave a situation if you need, in order to keep your loved ones safe.
"We all need to be checking on our whānau, friends and neighbours to make sure they are safe in their bubble. If you are concerned about someone, reach out to support services.
"Family violence and sexual violence crisis services can operate under Alert Level 4 and Alert Level 3. The Government recognises this is critical so our communities know there are specialist services available and ready to help.
"People in danger or an emergency should contact Police on 111, follow the operator's instructions if you can't speak. If you cannot call, leave your bubble and ask a neighbour or passer-by to call for you."
You can also look for the shielded site button at the bottom on websites like The Warehouse, TradeMe, Countdown and others including the Joint Venture website, www.violencefree.govt.nz – these shielded sites let you safely contact Women’s Refuge.
9:45am - A Dunedin nurse who's leaving his family behind to help with Auckland's COVID-19 effort says he's doing it to keep them - and the whole country - safe.
Mike O'Brien is one of more than 100 nurses who have answered the call from Auckland's district health boards to help as cases escalate putting pressure on the hospitals.
As an infection prevention and control specialist at Southern DHB, his job is to stop diseases spreading in hospitals - and for the last 18 months he's been focused on COVID.
There are only a few like him in every DHB so, with so much COVID in Auckland, his skills are needed there.
9:30am - ASB has announced it is waiving contactless card merchant fees throughout alert level 3 and 4.
"While we are receiving fewer calls for financial support this time around, we’re pleased to be able to put more money in the hands of our business customers because we know every little bit of relief counts, especially at the moment," said executive general manager for business banking Tim Deane.
"The financial wellbeing of our customers is top of mind for us and we are here to help them get through. We’ve reintroduced relief measures we had in place during previous lockdowns so businesses that need our support can take advantage of them quickly."
9:15am - A man with COVID-19 allegedly escaping from a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility and into the community has raised questions about security at the sites.
Some critics, like ACT"s David Seymour, ask why the man didn't have greater security when he took off from home isolation the day prior. MBIE, however, says facilities are not prisons.
9am - Here is some advice from clinical psychologist Dr Sarb Johal to help get through a weekend lockdown.
"Make sure your basic resources are covered, ask for help if you need it and be considerate of others’ needs too, particularly if there are queues or waits for tests/results, long waits at the supermarket, or you feel tempted to book up delivery slots 'just in case'.
"Pay attention to what is happening around you and check advice about how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, but try not to stray into information overload. Set a limit on how many times a day you check the news or go on social media."
Read his full advice in the Twitter thread below.
8:45am - ACT's David Seymour has released a statement saying Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's decision to not speak about the COVID MIQ escape at her 1pm briefing "shows how far her Government is prepared to go to avoid scrutiny".
He says by not mentioning it, Ardern was able to avoid questions from journalists as well as scrutiny at the final sitting of Parliament for the week.
"This morning she has sent her Deputy Prime Minister out to answer the questions she should have faced yesterday. Grant Robertson has described it as 'relatively low risk'.
"It's time this Government started being transparent and faced up to the scrutiny it needs. Start treating New Zealanders like adults and give us the information we need and deserve. It's time to cut the spin and give us the story."
Seymour notes that deputy Robertson says Ardern only received information minutes before the press conference.
"Why did she not delay her arrival and get the facts, as she has so often has? She had no intention of telling the public in any event," Seymour says.
"Robertson has described the escape as 'relatively low risk', but this only shows further hypocrisy. It seems Delta is 'relatively low risk' when the Government is in trouble. On the other hand, the South Island remains in lockdown because the Prime Minister says 'there's just no margin for error with Delta'."
8:35am - Bay of Plenty District Commander Superintendent Andy McGregor has just released a statement urging people in the region to adhere to alert level 3 restrictions and stay close to home this weekend.
"Alert Level restrictions are in place for the safety of the everyone," he said.
"Now is not the time to lose sight of that and jeopardise our efforts to date.
"People should be staying at home unless they have a reason to travel such as accessing permitted services and if you’re heading out for exercise, whether that’s a walk, bike ride, swim or other activity, keep it local.
"Police will be out and about at popular recreational spots to remind people of the restrictions in place.
"Motorists should also expect to be stopped and asked about the nature of their travel.
"Anyone going long distances to mountain bike trails or beaches can expect to be turned around.
"Mountain biking is permitted at Alert Level 3 . However riders need to stick to easy trails they’re familiar with.
"Choose a trail close to home and don’t go on tracks that are grade 3 or above.
"Now is certainly not the time to take up a new sport or hobby.
"Should you run into trouble with weather or injury and require help, you immediately put others at risk.
"Do the right thing this weekend – keep it safe, keep it local."
8:25am - There are three new locations of interest on Friday morning:
- Round The Clock Superette Manurewa - Sunday August 29 between 1:30pm and 2:45pm
- Countdown Hunters Plaza Papatoetoe - Thursday August 26 between 12pm and 1pm
- Pakn'Save Sylvia Park - Tuesday August 31 between 8pm and 9:30pm.
8:20am - National's Simon Bridges has told The AM Show there are a large number of questions about the COVID MIQ escape that he would expect answers to already. He is also critical of the Government for not speaking about the incident at the 1pm briefing on Thursday.
"It's starting to look like that podium of truth, as it is so-called, is more a podium of convenience where we get told what the Prime Minister and Ashley Bloomfield want to tell us rather than what we need to know."
But Labour's David Parker said "generalities wouldn't have helped". There have been very few things that have gone wrong at MIQ, he said, and police have handled the current situation appropriately.
8:10am - With Northland now at alert level 3 while Auckland remains at level 4, checkpoints have been put in place. They have been put in place at:
- SH1/Mangawhai Road (Twin Coast Discovery Highway)
- Mangawhai Road / north of Coal Hill Road
- Black Swamp, west of Rako Road
- Mangawhai Road and Cames Road
- Mangawhai Road and Ryan Road
- Note: Mangawhai Road also known as Twin Coast Discovery Highway
8am - One hundred nurses and doctors from around the country are on stand by to help out in Auckland as the Delta outbreak continues to pile the pressure on the region's hospitals.
However, clinicians warn this may mean patients in other regions get bumped off surgical lists, unless nation-wide workforce shortages are fixed.
7:45am - From the biggest single-day rise in cases in months for India to Australian doctors warning hospitals there won't be able to cope with the government's reopening plans, a lot has happened overseas in the last 24 hours.
7:30am - The Prime Minister found out just a few minutes before the 1pm briefing that there had been an incident at MIQ, Robertson said. It was a live operation and would have been "irresponsible" to give details while it was underway and she didn't have all the information.
He said Jacinda Ardern had "very sketchy details" at the time about the incident.
The deputy Prime Minister said after the man first tested positive for COVID-19, he went for a drive in a car, and then returned home before being moved to MIQ.
7:25am - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has told The AM Show that the COVID-19 escape is 'relatively low-risk" on the information available at the moment. The individual appears to have gone to only one residence and that is where he stayed until he was picked up by police. Work is ongoing to see if he had contact with anyone else, but the community was in level 4, lessening the risk, Robertson said.
"Clearly not an acceptable situation, but currently deemed to be relatively low-risk," Robertson said.
One of the pieces of information being looked into is how he got from the facility to his house, he told The AM Show.
Family members have been very cooperative, Robertson said, and people who were in the house the man went to have been tested.
MIQs aren't prisons, the deputy Prime Minister said, but in this case it is clear something has gone wrong. The vast majority of people who have gone through the MIQ system have followed the rules, he said.
7:20am - Seymour said the real issue is the Government not letting Kiwis into its confidence and not revealing vital information.
"That's what a Government should do," Seymour said.
If the public knew the person was in the community, they could avoid him and tell police if they see him, he said.
7:15am - ACT's David Seymour has told The AM Show that his first thoughts when he hears about the COVID-19 MIQ escape is about the "people who are desperate to get into MIQ".
While Kiwis wanting to return to New Zealand for emergency reasons can't, he said this individual just "wastes" his spot there. It also happened as Aucklanders remain under harsh alert level 4 restrictions.
"This guy, by not following the rules, makes a mockery of the whole thing," Seymour said.
Considering the man left home isolation the day before, he should have had proportinate security.
He said it was easy to be hard on the Government for "letting him escape", but sometimes you get people who don't want to play along, and as the pandemic goes on, people will get more desperate.
7:10am - 1News has spoken to the mother of the COVID-positive man who allegedly escaped MIQ on Thursday. She said his father phoned the police when the man left home isolation the day before.
"I needed the help from the police just to keep my son inside the house and don’t go outside to spread the virus to other people. We want to protect the community and that’s why I tell my husband to call the police to help us."
Discussing his alleged escape from the MIQ facility, the mother said she believes he was "stressed and worried" and needed support.
"Someone to talk to him and explain it clearly to him and I think that the main reason he left the quarantine facility is he is stressed out."
She apologised to "all the communities that are looking at us negatively".
7am - University of Auckland emeritus professor of medicine Des Gorman told Newshub that the alleged COVID escapee's behaviour was "completely unacceptable"
"Clearly, completely and utterly irresponsible behaviour. But to take 12-and-a-half hours to find him, it really is very amateurish. If I compare this to how things are managed in Singapore or Israel, this really is amateurish at the extreme of that range."
MBIE says MIQ staff were first alerted to the individual not being at the facility at 11am by someone else in his bubble. According to CCTV footage, he had left just after 1am. It was after 2pm, that police captured him at a residence.
Prof Gorman is also critical towards the Government for not revealing details of the incident at the 1pm briefing. He said the Government had a tendency not to reveal some important information. He wants to know daily how many people are being infected outside of their homes.
"To not tell us this guy had absconded and is on the run, despite the fact that knew about it at the 1pm briefing is extremely disappointing and just not acceptable."
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday the Prime Minister had "preliminary information" at 1pm. He wouldn't be drawn on why she didn't bring it up.
The only silver lining, Prof Gorman said, was that the community is in level 4 lockdown, lessening the opportunity for spread. However, the man may have infected others in the house he went to, he said.
6:40am - Stuff is reporting police are investigating a third student after she flew out Auckland without permission despite the COVID-19 alert level rules.
The individual, who travelled to Wellington, stays at one of Victoria University's halls of residence and is now isolating at alternative university accomodation. She was reportedly intercepted before returning to the halls.
6:30am - Far North Mayor John Carter told The AM Show the community is "pretty excited" for the region to be at alert level 3. It came after no unexpected wastewater results were picked up on Thursday.
"We are pleased to be de-linked, but at the same time, we also understood we needed to be safe so we reluctantly accepted the fact that we wanted to be assured that there were no issues that we couldn't deal, that we could go to alert level 3 safely."
Most businesses are looking to open as much as possible, he said, but they're looking forward to alert level 2 when services can move beyond takeaways. They're also still unable to go south as Auckland blocks the way to Waikato.
6:20am - National's Chris Bishop is among those demanding answers over the escape. He said on Thursday evening that it was a "very concerning situation" that will cause people to worry about the safety and security of MIQ.
"Three questions arise from today’s news. The first is why it took ten hours for Police to be informed of the escape. Police have confirmed the person escaped at 12.34am, but they were only told at 10.30am the next morning. Why the delay?
"The second question is at what time management at the MIQ facility knew or suspected this person had escaped.
"If there is a sizeable gap between the MIQ facility finding out and informing the Police, then that is even more concerning. There should be protocols in place for situations precisely like this because, let’s face it, it’s not the first time that people have tried to escape from MIQ.
"The third question is why the Prime Minister did not see fit to inform the public of the escape at today’s press conference. This is hardly the transparency expected from a Government that said it would be the most transparent government in New Zealand history, and it is hardly using the podium as the ‘Podium of Truth’ as the Prime Minister has called it before."
In an update on Thursday night, MBIE said CCTV footage shows the man allegedly left at 1:07am after taking off down a fire stairwell and hiding in bushes as a MIQ staff member passed. Someone in his bubble at the facility - but not in his room - alerted staff he was gone at 11am, which is when police began their search, MBIE said.
An investigation into the incident has now been commissioned. More details from MBIE are here.
6:10am - Late on Thursday night, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) released further details around the alleged COVID escapee.
A timeline is now beginning to emerge regarding what happened, with the person out of their room for about 10 hours before staff were notified the individual was gone.
6am - Good morning and welcome to Newshub's live updates for Friday.
The AM Show is now on-air and will have the latest details about the outbreak as questions mount over how an individual with COVID was able to escape MIQ. There are a number of guests on the show to discuss that, including deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and ACT's David Seymour.