Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 27

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government is aiming to phase out the need for lockdowns and gradually begin reopening the country when 90 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Prime Minister told The AM Show on Monday the plan was to achieve a vaccination rate of around 90 percent - or roughly 76 percent of the total population - before officials would look to ease restrictions at the border and scrap the need for stay-at-home orders.

Due to the highly changeable nature of the virus, Ardern has previously been reluctant to provide definitive figures. She has also noted that setting a concrete target might see the vaccination effort fall short, or "lower ambition". 

But on Monday, the Prime Minister said she wants 90 percent.

"I want 90 [percent]. I want really high rates. That's how you prevent those extra restrictions," she said. "The general principle is with high vaccination rates, we do not want to have to continue to use lockdowns and that's our plan."

It follows stinging criticism from former Prime Minister Sir John Key, who on Sunday described the Government's response to the pandemic as keeping New Zealand locked away in a "smug hermit kingdom"

Appearing on The AM Show prior to the Prime Minister on Monday, Sir John called on the Government to outline a game plan that provides a clear pathway towards reopening the country. He said the Government tends to operate on a strategy of "hope and fear", but now is the time for clarity. 

"That was assumably the reason why [Prime Minister] Jacinda [Ardern] got Shaun Hendy out on Thursday to tell us 'an enormous number of people could die' if we don't get vaccinated [sic]," Sir John told The AM Show.  "Fear and hope are not a strategy... We've had COVID-19 around for 18 months now."

The former Prime Minister also suggested cracking down on unvaccinated young people by taking away their liberties, such as requiring bars, nightclubs and popular events such as Rhythm and Vines to have a 'no vaccine, no entry' policy.

"What we need is some carrots and sticks in the system... We can't afford to keep doing what we're doing, that's the simple truth of it."

It comes as the daily case numbers continue to fluctuate, with one expert, Professor Michael Plank, saying Auckland is balanced precariously on a "knife edge" as the outbreak proves difficult to squash. After plummeting to single-digits on Friday, new cases quickly bounced back to the high teens over the weekend, with 16 and 18 new cases recorded on Saturday and Sunday respectively. 

However, Sunday also saw a significant milestone in the vaccination campaign, with more than five million doses administered nationwide. 

A further 12 community cases have been reported on Monday, all of which are in Auckland. Two have yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. Ten of Sunday's 18 cases were infectious while in the community and have associated exposure events.

What you need to know

  • Twelve new community cases of COVID-19 have been recorded on Monday, all in Auckland
  • Two of the cases have yet to be epidemiologically linked
  • Thirteen people are currently in hospital, four of whom are in the ICU
  • Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show the Government hopes to begin reopening the country and phasing out stay-at-home orders when 90pct of the eligible population is vaccinated
  • Former Prime Minister John Key has said the Government can't rely on "fear and hope" as a strategy and has called on them for a clear game plan out of COVID-19
  • Vaccine certificates have received a mixed response from the Restaurant Association, with some hospitality owners concerned about policing and enforcement
  • Ardern confirmed this morning the Government is actively considering vaccine certificates, particularly for events
  • Ten Auckland police officers have been stood down and part of a police station has been closed after an offender tested positive for COVID-19
  • Health staff are door-knocking in areas with high rates of infection, offering tests and vaccinations
  • The latest locations of interest are available here.

These updates have now finished.  

6:20pm - Export businesses are welcoming news of the Governement's self isolation trial. 

Hamilton start-up Manta5 is tired of our shut borders. In July they gave up on waiting and sent four double-vaxxed staff off to Europe without the promise of return. 

"The standing joke up in Europe is 'oh you're from New Zealand, you're the guys who have to go to jail when you go home and you've got to pay for it'," says chief executive Mark Robotham. 

"For us as a small export business that employs people, we want to grow and pay more tax. We live in the global economy so we've got to exist in the global economy.

"I just can't understand why it's taken them so long."

Read the full story here.  

5:40pm - The Government has also released more details about the self-isolation trial being launched this week. 

COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the self-isolation pilot is the first step towards reconnecting Kiwis with the world. 

"As part of the Reconnecting New Zealanders plan announced in August, the self-isolation pilot will look at self-isolation for vaccinated travellers who have not been to very high-risk countries.

"The pilot is to explore a new pathway of entry into New Zealand and allows the Government to test operational readiness, identify areas where further work is required to scale up the approach and provide valuable insights into our options for the future.

"Expressions of interest are being called for up to 150 people to participate in the pilot. The pilot is aimed at business travellers, to travel overseas on a short business trip and self-isolate in approved accommodation for 14 days on their return.

"Self-isolation must be in a private dwelling with no shared ventilation system. The dwelling must have cellular coverage. Monitoring and testing over the self-isolation period will be mandatory," Hipkins says. 

The participants must be a New Zealand citizen or holders of a resident visa with a right to re-enter New Zealand, be fully vaccinated in New Zealand with the Pfizer vaccine, and not travel to or through very high-risk countries. Travel must be for business purposes which cannot be carried out from New Zealand.

Hipkins said employers will need to apply on behalf of their employees and can submit their expression of interest from 9am, Thursday September 30 until 5pm, Saturday October 9.

"Businesses are encouraged to check the criteria carefully. As demand is expected to be higher than the numbers in the pilot, all eligible EOIs will be put into a ballot and spread across the six-week arrival time frame.

"Public safety and keeping COVID-19 out of the community still remains our top priority."  

5:21pm - The Government has released more details about when the RSE bubble will open. 

 From October 4 RSE workers from Vanuatu can begin arriving into New Zealand and from October 12 RSE workers Samoa and Tonga from can begin arriving into New Zealand.

"We're pleased to announce that RSE workers from Vanuatu can begin arriving into New Zealand from 4 October, with Samoan and Tongan workers arriving from 12 October,"  Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

"This will provide much needed certainty for our growers as they gear up for summer and autumn harvesting." 

People arriving under the scheme must meet strict health conditions. These include requirements to be vaccinated with at least one dose pre-departure, complete a period of self-isolation on arrival and return negative COVID-19 tests at day 0 and day 5. Employers will be providing the self-isolation facilities. They must also complete their vaccination post-arrival. 

4:55pm - Ardern says there are currently no plans to mandate vaccines for truck drivers but is encouraging them to get vaccinated. 

4:50pm - Bloomfield says the average number of cases is coming down, even with active subclusters, which is a good sign ahead of next Monday's alert level decision. 

4:44pm - Ardern said the COVID-19 found in China on Kiwifruits from Aotearoa is unlikely to be linked to our outbreak. She says the shipment left the country before COVID-19 was discovered. 

4:37pm - Ardern says the Govt might introduce vaccine certificates in an effort to give Kiwis a "classic Kiwi summer".

She says officials are working hard to ensure the outbreak is contained by then and are looking at ways to reduce restrictions to maintain that goal.

4:35pm - Bloomfield responded to the increase in exposure events over the past week. He says the events are mostly in places where they are expected such as supermarkets and sometimes workspaces. 

4:32pm - In response to a question about Sir Taylor's NZ Herald article on rapid antigen testing and why it’s taking so long, Ardern says it’s being looked at currently. She says rapid antigen testing is being used in Middlemore for staff at the moment and the Government is looking into wider use.

4:27pm - Ardern says the self-isolation trial has been kept small because we are still working on getting people vaccinated. She says once more people are jabbed next year it will be safer to expand. 

4:23pm - Ardern says Delta has not changed her consideration to make the vaccine mandatory, saying it's not something she has considered and the vaccine should be talked about on its merits. 

4:22pm - Ardern says the fact we've got 80 percent vaccination in Auckland is great but "we just need more". 

She says it's not enough to just ask people to get vaccinated because people will have questions, which is why having discussions with vaccine hesitant people is important. 

Ardern says the Government is exploring vaccine certificates, saying they can make a difference for people considering whether to get a vaccine.  

4:17pm - Ardern says quarantine free travel for RSE workers will reopen after it was paused. 

On October 4 it will open for Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga. They must have had one dose of vaccine, must isolate at place of work on arrival and must have two tests

4:14pm - Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand will be introducing a self-isolation pilot - an alternative to MIQ where people can self-isolate. She says Cabinet has decided on timeframes and details will be released later this week when expressions of interest open. The pilot will involve 150 people and focus on businesses and employees. It will include a small number of Government officials but will be mostly for the private sector. 

Ardern says anyone in the trial must be fully vaccinated. 

4:07pm - Ashley Bloomfield says pleasingly the number of active cases is declining with 965 recovered cases. He said we are making progress and clusters appear to be contained or dormant with just four sub-clusters with cases emerging.

3:53pm- You can watch the livestream here.

3:48pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be holding her post-cabinet press conference at 4pm. It will be livestreamed on 

3:42pm - The events industry is struggling with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 restrictions amid Auckland's Delta outbreak. 

A new survey by the New Zealand Events Association (NZEA) found 55 percent of respondents say the recent restrictions have had a "considerable" financial impact on them. A further 23 percent said it had a "moderate" financial impact. 

The NZEA says more Government support is urgently needed. 

3:00pm - While much focus of the vaccine rollout has centred on Auckland, a trio of regional DHBs at the other end of the country are also leading the way.

Nelson Marlborough, Southern and South Canterbury - alongside Auckland - have administered more jabs than any other area.

Nelson Marlborough is leading the country with 124.7 doses per 100 people. Of those 12 and over, 77 percent now had their first dose.

While that sat a little behind Auckland, almost half of those in the top of the south were fully vaccinated, well ahead of New Zealand's biggest city.

Read more here.

2:40pm - Taiwan allows returnees to self-isolate at home or at one of 127 approved hotels - a policy former Prime Minister John Key and ACT leader David Seymour believe New Zealand should adopt. 

Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center tracks individuals undergoing 14-day quarantine after entry - it's mandatory for all arrivals from overseas, with a few exceptions for business.

Airlines require travellers, both citizens and foreign nationals, to scan a QR code that directs them to fill out an online health declaration form before boarding their flights. Passengers must register with a Taiwanese number. 

Returnees are tracked through Taiwan's 'Electronic Fence System', which uses phone data to ensure people don't leave their location. Police reportedly show up within minutes if the reception is poor or the phone runs out of battery. 

Rather than using GPS tracking, the five major telecommunication companies in Taiwan work with the government to "triangulate the location of their cell phone relative to nearby cell towers".

A failure to answer the phone can prompt authorities to send text messages such as: "Please return home immediately. Violations of home isolation/home quarantine regulations will result in fines and mandatory placement."

Those who don't comply face stiff fines ranging from NZ$470 to $47,000. 

Privacy concerns have been raised. Paul Huang, a local freelance journalist, wrote for the BBC: "When entering the border, I was only notified that my phone would be tracked and that the local township official would give me a call daily. I was not made aware of any rights I had and did not sign documents consenting to surveillance."

ACT leader David Seymour has been pushing the Government to model its approach on Taiwan since August last year - and former Prime Minister Sir John Key says we should listen to him. 

Read more here.

2:20pm - Here's a checkpoint compliance update from police:

Since alert level 3 came into place, four people have been charged with a total of four offences in Tāmaki Makaurau and Upper Hauraki as of 5pm on Sunday.

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

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

Police have received a total of 935 online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau and Upper Hauraki.

Checkpoint figures

As of 11:59pm on Sunday, September 26, a total of 301,154 vehicles have now been stopped at the checkpoints on Auckland's northern and southern boundaries, with a total of 5221 vehicles turned around.

Just 9234 vehicles were processed at the checkpoints on Sunday with 318 of those turned around.

A total of 76 out of 1650 vehicles were turned away at the northern checkpoints on Sunday while 242 vehicles out of 7584 were turned around at the southern checkpoints.

As at 11:59pm on Sunday, 10,562 heavy vehicles have been stopped and 450 of them have been turned around after attempting to leave Tāmaki Makaurau, with 18 of those turned around on Sunday.

2:10pm - New Zealand Herald journalist has apologised for a tweet in which she called prominent COVID-19 researcher and commentator, Professor Shaun Hendy, a "bogus" modeller - saying her criticism was meant to be sent via a private message.

The apology came after Hendy, a disease modelling expert from the University of Auckland, asked for an explanation after seeing a screenshot of the tweet. 

NZ Herald head of business, Fran O'Sullivan, deleted her accidental tweet shortly after it was posted over the weekend.

She said the post was intended to be sent via private message to Rodney Jones, another modeller. Jones last week described modelling by Hendy, which suggested 7000 Kiwis could die a year if New Zealand's vaccination rollout stalled at 80 percent, as "rushed" and "overcooked".

"Thanks for your well-timed article," O'Sullivan said. "The inexplicable refusal to apply math to decision-making and rely on bogus modellers like Hendy is extraordinary."

O'Sullivan has since written an apology to Hendy, which she also shared on Twitter.

Read more here.

2:03pm - New South Wales has recorded an additional 787 cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Sunday night (local time).

Twelve more people have also died from the virus - six men and six women. Four were in their 60s, two were in their 70s, four were in their 80s, and two were in their 90s.

1:45pm - The District Custody Unit at Waitākere Station has been closed after a person who was processed through the cells on September 23 tested positive for COVID-19, Waitematā District Operations Manager Inspector Jason Edwards confirmed to Newshub.

Police were notified by Corrections of the positive case on Sunday afternoon.

When the officers arrested the woman for a breach of bail and burglary-related offences last week, she was asymptomatic and went through a screening test before she was taken into custody.

"We are now working closely with Ministry of Health and our partners on this matter and have reviewed CCTV footage to check who has had contact with the woman. Due to this, we now have 10 Authorised Officers who have been stood down to be tested and self-isolate for 14 days," Insp Edwards said.

The three officers who dealt with the initial arrest of the woman and brought her into the custody unit are also being tested and are self-isolating.

A number of results have already been returned, all of which are negative.

"Police is taking every precaution which includes having a deep clean of the custody unit carried out today.

"Not all of the staff involved in the arrest and management in the District Custody Unit had full PPE on and we will be addressing this with them.

"We expect the custody unit will reopen later today and in the meantime all arrests that require a person to be detained are being taken to the Auckland City District Custody Unit based at Mt Eden."

1:30pm - Two major police hubs in Auckland have reportedly been closed after a woman, who was arrested last week, tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the New Zealand Herald, parts of both the North Shore Policing Centre in Mairangi Bay and the Henderson Police Station in west Auckland were shut down on Sunday night as a precaution after the woman returned a positive result.

Several sources confirmed to the Herald that the woman, who was arrested on Thursday, was driven to the custody unit in Henderson after being interviewed at the North Shore Policing Centre.

As a result, everyone who was arrested in the Waitematā District - which covers Waitākere and the North Shore - is now being transported to Auckland City for processing, says the Herald

The custody unit in Auckland Central is based at Mount Eden Prison.

A number of police staff are now also isolating after coming into contact with the woman.

Newshub has contacted the police for more information.

1:10pm - There are 12 new community cases of COVID-19 to report today.

Here is the Ministry of Health's full statement:

Twelve community cases of COVID-19; more than 1.8 million second doses of vaccine administered to date



Number of new community cases


Number of new cases identified at the border


Location of new community cases


Location of community cases (total)

Auckland (including 4 cases in Upper Hauraki; all of whom are in the same household) 1,160 (948 of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (all of whom have recovered)

Number of community cases (total)

1,177 (in the current community outbreak)

Cases infectious in the community

Ten (56 pct) of yesterday's cases have exposure events

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious

Seven (39 pct) of yesterday's cases

Cases epidemiologically linked

Ten of today's 12 cases. All 12 have been in isolation at home or in an MIQ.

Cases to be epidemiologically linked

Two of today's 12 cases. Investigations are continuing to determine a link.

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)

1,148 (in the current cluster) (Seven unlinked from the past fortnight).

Number of sub-clusters

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

Cases in hospital

13 (total): North Shore (2); Middlemore (5); Auckland (6)

Cases in ICU or HDU


Confirmed cases (total)

3,838 since pandemic began

Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)

160 out of 2,020 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)

92 pct

Percentage with at least one test result

90 pct

Locations of interest


Locations of interest (total)

117 (as at 10am 27 September)



Number of tests (total)


Number of tests processed (total last 24 hours)


Tests processed in Auckland (last 24 hours)


Tests rolling average (last 7 days)


Testing centres in Auckland




Wastewater detections

No unexpected detections in the last 24 hours

COVID-19 vaccine update


Vaccines administered to date (total)

5,045,901; 1st doses: 3,239,791; 2nd doses: 1,806,110

Vaccines administered yesterday (total)

24,710; 1st doses: 8,182; 2nd doses: 16,528


1st doses: 310,671; 2nd doses: 158,219

Pacific Peoples

1st doses: 201,227; 2nd doses: 111,705

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents to date (total)

1,838,320; 1st doses: 1,177,179 (82 pct); 2nd doses: 661,141 (46 pct)

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday (total)

10,812; 1st doses: 3,022; 2nd doses: 7,790

NZ COVID-19 tracer


Registered users (total)


Poster scans (total)


Manual diary entries (total)


Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday


*We're reporting one community case today that had previously been under investigation and is now confirmed, and is linked to the current outbreak. The case has now recovered. The case spent 14 days in a quarantine facility along with household members who also tested positive for COVID-19.

One of the border related cases from yesterday has now been reclassified to under investigation. The net increase of cases today is 11.

Testing update

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

In some cases, public health staff have been sending mobile testing units to areas where there have previously been cases and encouraging residents to get tested at their home.

If you do receive a knock at your door, we'd strongly encourage you to take up the opportunity to get tested and if you haven't already been vaccinated, to do so with one of the registered vaccinators on board the mobile unit.

Please get tested if you are a contact, have visited a location of interest at the specific dates and times, are connected to a suburb of interest or have any symptoms of COVID-19 – even those with very mild symptoms need to get tested and isolate at home while waiting for test results.

For these suburbs, there were 705 tests processed on Sunday (26/09). Note this number includes both asymptomatic and symptomatic tests.

For all testing locations nationwide, visit

12:55pm - The latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak will be issued by the Ministry of Health in a statement shortly. 

12pm - The Ministry of Health will be issuing a statement with the outbreak's latest developments at 1pm.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will front a post-Cabinet announcement at 4pm. She will be joined by Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

11:50am - Wellington City Council is urging residents to opt for reusable face coverings instead of disposable, single-use masks.

In a tweet on Sunday, the council said a number of single-use masks are being found at the city's recycling sorting plant. 

"These cannot be recycled and have to be manually removed from the sorting line, which slows things down," it said.

"Please consider reusable masks which are kinder to our environment."

Reusable face masks are available to purchase from a number of online retailers.

Alternatively, you can make your own at home - here's how.

Here are some locally made options - and here's a step-by-step guide on how to clean your face covering.

11:35am - As of Sunday (local time), the US has administered more than 390 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines and distributed more than 470 million doses, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.

According to the agency, more than 210 million Americans have received at least one dose. More than 183 million are now fully vaccinated.

More than 2.6 million Americans have received an additional jab of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine since August 13 - when authorities authorised a third dose for people with compromised immune systems who are likely to have weaker protection, despite the two-dose regimens.

- Reuters

11:25am - A survey of people who attempted to secure a room in managed isolation last week gives the new 'virtual lobby' system a rating of 3.6 out of 10, according to RNZ.

The group Grounded Kiwis says of 902 respondents, 98 managed to obtain a voucher - or just 11 percent.

A quarter experienced technical difficulties, such as a timed-out session or an inability to log out.

Those who didn't secure a voucher said they were "devastated", "heartbroken", "disappointed", and "frustrated".

Grounded Kiwis says a third of the respondents talked about their desire be reunited with their whānau.

The top response from people who secured a voucher was a sense of relief - followed by guilt.

11:15am - Some information from the Ministry of Health about the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine's efficacy.

11:05am - In case you missed it, the hospitality sector is unconvinced by the prospect of vaccine passports, with a survey of Restaurant Association members returning a mixed response.

Earlier this morning, Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois said 70 percent of its members had supported the notion of a vaccine certificate shortly before the latest outbreak - but since then, many members have reconsidered. 

"Our members are now seeing that the biggest challenge is in policing such a mandate," said Bidois.

When asked if they would support the introduction of a passport-style document proving a person has been vaccinated - which would be presented upon entry to hospitality venues and events - only 26 percent supported the idea, and only at alert level 2 or higher. Twenty-three percent supported the idea at all levels, and 16 percent were unsure.

Members said the biggest challenges would be policing and enforcing the passport if it became mandatory, with the onus being on staff to turn away patrons who disregard the policy.

"With some of the population likely to remain unvaccinated, it means our businesses might be managing very complex situations," Bidois said.

10:45am - Aucklanders are urging their fellow city-dwellers to follow the rules after people reportedly flocked to popular beaches over the weekend, with pictures showing a number were unmasked and failed to maintain physical distancing.

It was Auckland's first weekend in alert level 3 after six weeks of lockdown, and many Aucklanders were out and about enjoying the warmer spring weather.

But there are concerns that some residents travelled further than they should have - and weren't observing the rules.

"To see people converging at such numbers, I find it very hard to watch because we've really, really hunkered down and tried so hard," local cafe owner Sharon Maxey told RNZ. "Think of the community. Think of not just yourself. I understand it's very, very difficult and mentally it's very challenging and difficult but please think of the country at large."

Mya Fraser lives close to One Tree Hill - a popular walking spot. She has also noticed Aucklanders have become more lax with the rules since shifting to alert level 3.

"We've noticed the volume of cars just even on the main street. It's been crazy. It's almost double what we would normally get on a normal day. Even walking around Cornwall Park daily and we've noticed groups of up to 15 just walking around and you can tell they're definitely not from the same household," she said.

"You know with decisions coming up in terms of how long we're going to stay in level 3, it's kind of making me doubt that we're going to see a lot more freedoms coming our way if we're not too careful, so [I'm] definitely quite concerned."

Read more here.

10:30am - In case you missed it, here are the pandemic's latest developments from around the world.

10:15am - Intensive care specialists say ICUs would struggle with an influx of COVID-19 patients, even with high vaccination rates, due to a shortage of beds and staff.

Modelling released last week revealed a grim glimpse into New Zealand's future if the vaccination rate fails to surpass 90 percent, with 7000 deaths projected in one year with moderate public health measures in place. If coverage does reach the golden 90 percent, it's predicted deaths will drop to about 50 in a year.

But those on the frontline say they are "very concerned" about the health system's capacity to cope with the projected number of patients. Speaking to Stuff, ICU specialists have urged New Zealanders to get the jab not only to protect themselves, but to prevent hospitals becoming overwhelmed.

Dr Alex Psirides​, a Wellington-based ICU doctor, told Stuff there are not enough ICU beds for "business as usual" - let alone for a surge in COVID-19 patients.

10:05am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government "hopes" to move away from severe restrictions, such as lockdowns, when enough people are protected against COVID-19 - with a target to get 76 percent or more of New Zealand's total population vaccinated.

Comparatively, Australia has pledged to ease its restrictions when 70 percent of its eligible population is vaccinated, and ditch lockdowns at 80 percent - which Prime Minister Scott Morrison expects to happen by Christmas. 

But Ardern says her Government is basing its plan on facts, statistics and overseas evidence. Last month, before the emergence of Auckland's ongoing outbreak, Ardern released a four-phase plan to ease restrictions and reconnect the country over the next six months.

"The general principle is with high vaccination rates, we do not want to have to continue to use lockdowns and that's our plan," Ardern told The AM Show on Monday.

For a full recap of Ardern's comments this morning, click here.

9:45am - A recap of the most up-to-date vaccination numbers:

  • Vaccines administered to date: 5,020,900 - 3,231,444 first doses, 1,789,456 second doses
  • Vaccines administered on Saturday: 51,472 - 19,350 first doses, 32,122 second doses
  • Māori: 309,516 first doses, 156,823 second doses
  • Pacific people: 200,285 first doses, 110,294 second doses
  • Vaccines administered to Auckland residents to date: 1,827,394 - 1,174,052 first doses (82 pct), 653,342 second doses (46 pct)
  • Vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday: 20,272 - 6568 first doses, 13,704 second doses.

Vaccinators across the country have now administered more than five million doses. More than 200,000 Pasifika people have also now received their first dose.

9:30am - Health expert Michael Baker says the persistent numbers, plus the odd case continuing to crop up without clear epidemiological links, are signs the virus is still transmitting in parts of Auckland.

"The concern I have, is that we are not really getting any better," he told RNZ.

It's time for a rethink, he says - an intense, targeted campaign in the areas where the Delta variant is attempting to settle in.

Professor Baker says it must go further than identifying suburbs of interest and ramping up testing rates. He suggests social workers and police should be coordinating with health officials to reach marginalised groups, such as gangs. Teams could also go door-to-door in areas of concern, he says, asking to swab people with symptoms and offering vaccinations.

"It's really down to that level of intensity of approach if we are really going to stamp out the virus in Auckland at the moment," he told RNZ.

University of Auckland public health specialist Collin Tukuitonga supports the approach, saying Auckland is at a turning point.

He told RNZ that eliminating the outbreak is still a possibility - albeit a remote one.

Read the full story here.

9:15am - Hospitality New Zealand's Auckland president, Jamie Freeman, spoke to TVNZ's Breakfast this morning about the significant financial toll the lockdown has taken on the sector. 

Between August 18 and September 3, the sector lost approximately $358 million - the equivalent of roughly $23 million a day, Freeman said.

The losses will continue to rise the longer Auckland remains under alert level 3 restrictions, he told Breakfast.

Without a quick return to alert level 1 or targeted financial support, it's thought hundreds of businesses could be on the precipice of permanent closure, Freeman said.

9am - An editorial by former Prime Minister Sir John Key - lambasting the Government for locking New Zealand "in a smug hermit kingdom" - has sparked heated debate since it was published by several media outlets on Sunday.

If you haven't seen it yet, you can read it on Newshub here

Former PM Sir John Key.
Former PM Sir John Key. Photo credit: Getty Images

8:45am - In case you missed it, former Prime Minister Sir John Key has doubled-down on his criticism of the Government and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sir John, who wrote a column published on Sunday describing New Zealand as a "smug hermit kingdom", says  the Government is relying on a strategy of "hope" and peddling "fear". 

"That was presumably the reason why [Prime Minister] Jacinda [Ardern] got Shaun Hendy out on Thursday to tell us 'an enormous number of people could die if we don't get vaccinated'," Sir John told The AM Show on Monday.

"Fear and hope are not a strategy. They don't actually work and if you don't believe me, go down to the local dairy and have a look at a packet of cigarettes - the health officials want you to have pictures on those of people's organs eaten away by cancer - that doesn't work."

In his column, Sir John said instead of keeping Kiwis "in a smug hermit kingdom", the Government should be outlining a plan to return the country to some form of pre-pandemic normality - "to a life where New Zealanders can travel overseas - for any reason - knowing they can return home when they want to, and where we again welcome visitors to this country".

But leading epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says Sir John's view is "simplistic" and "broad".

"There are very few countries that have suddenly just flung open the borders and said, 'we've got no restrictions anymore'," said Baker. "That is one of the problems I always have with broad things like that."

Read more here.

8:20am - It's unlikely New Zealanders will be legally required to provide a vaccine passport to business owners in order to use their services.

Officials from different sectors have been working this year to create a 'health pass' system. The concept was originally intended for international travellers, but is likely to be rolled out domestically.

Legal advice suggests any enforced use of the passports in a domestic setting could be open to challenge under human rights law.

RNZ understands officials could be on uneven ground if they tried to make vaccination passports mandatory in venues such as restaurants and bars, or at events such as rugby games or concerts.

As such, introducing vaccine certificates will see the onus put on business owners, who will be left with a moral decision around whether to serve people without verification of vaccination.

It comes as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government is actively considering introducing the certificates to provide greater certainty for the struggling events industry. 

Earlier on Monday, the Restaurant Association said a survey of its members had found a "mixed response" to the concept of the certificates, with many concerned about policing and enforcement.

Read more here.

8:05am - One new potential exposure event has been added to the Ministry of Health's list of locations of interest on Monday morning.

Anyone who visited Mobil petrol station on Apirana Rd in Glen Innes on Saturday, September 11 between 1:35am and 2:45am 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.

7:53am - Ardern said the Government is actively considering introducing vaccine certificates to help provide some greater certainty for the events industry. 

She says the certificates could ensure that events are still able to go ahead for those who have proof of vaccination. 

She says the Government hopes to progress the concept "quite quickly".

"That kind of certainty would be welcomed by the sector... it's under active consideration right now."

7:50am - When asked to define what a "high rate" of vaccination is, the Prime Minister said the Government is aiming to inoculate around 90 percent of the eligible population - which would work out to be about 76 percent of the total population.

Once that 90 percent target has been reached, the Government hopes to phase out the need for harsher measures, such as lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, and ease restrictions at the border.

"Our hope would be yes, to be in a position where we don't have to use those measures anymore," she said.

"My intention would still be to try and not use restrictions that include stay-at-home orders because those are really tough on people."

She reiterated the Government hopes to return New Zealand to some form of pre-pandemic normality once that high rate of vaccination has been achieved. 

"Yes, that is our plan," she said. 

"I want 90 [percent]. I want really high rates, because that's how you prevent those extra restrictions being in place... I've always wanted to have the fewest restrictions possible while keeping people safe and getting back to normality as soon as possible."

She noted that "very few countries" are currently operating without any border restrictions, and pilots are in the pipeline to trial at-home isolation.

7:45am - Jacinda Ardern says easing restrictions at the border next year is the Government's intention.

She reiterated the Government still plans to "vary up what we do at the border" once there is a high rate of vaccination. 

She says a strategy of "hope and luck", as suggested by Sir John Key, has not achieved the lowest case numbers in the OECD, the lowest death rate, low unemployment and an economy that returned to "pre-COVID levels". 

"That was not luck. That was a plan. It was a plan every single New Zealander has played a role in.

"Our plan going forward is to continue to use the best evidence and international advice that we can as we roll out the next stage."

7:40am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is about to appear on The AM Show. You can watch the interview live here.

7:30am - Sir John Key says the Government should have planned ahead when they had the chance. 

"We've had COVID around for 18 months now. The Prime Minister stands up at a press conference in a very self-congratulatory way and says 'it's great we locked you down hard and fast' - when you're Prime Minister, stopping things immediately is the easiest thing to do," he told The AM Show.

"Where was the forward-planning to say all of these things that we need, like better ICU beds and more nurses - where was all that planning over the last 18 months? The reason we locked down 'hard and fast' is because we failed to buy the vaccines when we were offered them. 

"Over time, the future Ministers of Finance will say to the New Zealand people… we can't afford [what you want] because the biggest bill the minister will have in that budget will be paying interest on the debt."

7:25am - Sir John said he is worried the Government will not put plans in motion to reopen the country to the rest of the world if their specific vaccination target is not reached.

He said the eligible people who refuse to get vaccinated will likely not change their minds.

"If someone chooses not to take the vaccine, it's not the Government, or a politician, or me advocating to open the borders, that's responsible for that - it's called personal responsibility. If you're Destiny Church or these people I see protesting all the time, they're never going to change their minds, so what are you telling me, the country's never going to open up?" he told The AM Show.

"It's not a secret, it's called leadership - you get out and say to the people, 'on this date, at this level of vaccination, we are opening - and for all those people who are reluctant to [get vaccinated]', we're going to put some tension in the system'."

7:20am - Former Prime Minister Sir John Key has spoken to The AM Show about his controversial column on Sunday that likened New Zealand to a "smug hermit kingdom".

He told The AM Show the backlash to his opinion piece, which was published by a number of outlets, is "predictable".

In the op-ed, the former Prime Minister accused the Government of locking up, locking down and locking out New Zealanders - and called for a clear plan on how the country could be reopened to the rest of the world. 

"Don't we all deserve a bit of clarity? When the All Blacks ran out on Saturday night, they knew the game plan. What's our game plan for opening up?" Sir John said.

"Health officials want to peddle fear, that's presumably the reason why [Jacinda] Ardern had Professor Shaun Hendy out on Thursday to tell us an 'enormous amount of people could die' if we don't get vaccinated. Fear and hope are not a strategy, they don't actually work.

"In my view, we need some carrots and sticks in the system. Young people frankly are under no pressure to get vaccinated. Tell them, 'you can't go to Rhythm and Vines, you can't go to a nightclub, you can't go to a bar' - and see how many of them still think a spoon is going to stick to their left arm where they're getting the vaccine. We can't afford to continue doing what we're doing."

7:15am - A new survey of Restaurant Association members shows a mixed response to vaccination passports in hospitality venues.

When asked if they would support the introduction of a passport-style document showing a person has been vaccinated to enter hospitality venues and events, 26 percent supported the idea, but only at alert level 2 or higher; 23 percent supported the idea at all levels; and 16 percent were unsure.

When asked what they perceived to be the main challenges associated with introducing a vaccine passport, members expressed concern about dealing with customers who disregard the policy.

This was closely followed by the practicalities of enforcement, which ranked as the second biggest challenge.

Coming in third was the challenge around communicating the rule to both local and international customers.

Additional staffing and training ranked as the fourth and fifth biggest challenges for businesses.

This is the second time the Restaurant Association has surveyed its members on this topic - and viewpoints are shifting.

"An earlier survey conducted just before the delta outbreak showed 70 percent of members were in support of vaccination passports, but as the practicalities of managing customers on site has kicked in, our members are now seeing that the biggest challenge is in policing such a mandate," said Marisa Bidois, the CEO of the Restaurant Association.

"It is clear from this feedback that hospitality businesses are actively thinking about how we live with Delta in the community and our establishments.

"Whilst everyone wants to keep their staff and their customers safe, the practicalities of enforcing poses its challenges for our business owners.

"With some of the population likely to remain unvaccinated it means our businesses might be managing very complex situations."