Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Sunday, September 26

Eighteen new community cases of COVID-19 have been recorded on Sunday, bringing the outbreak to 1165.

The vaccination campaign has also reached a significant milestone, with more than five million doses administered nationwide. As of Sunday, 5,020,900 doses of the vaccine have been administered, comprising 3.231 million first jabs and 1.789 million second jabs - meaning around 35 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated.

Of the 16 cases reported on Saturday, half were infectious while in the community and have associated exposure events

Of the 18 new cases, only two have yet to be epidemiologically linked. 

Twelve people are currently in hospital, with four either in intensive care or a high dependency unit.

A pharmacy, a Chemist Warehouse and a petrol station are the latest locations of interest to be linked to the outbreak as of Sunday morning. Unichem Pharmacy on Otara's East Tamaki Rd, the Chemist Warehouse in Westfield Manukau and Farro in Epsom were all visited by an infectious person this week. 

A Mobil petrol station in Glen Innes was also identified as a location of interest on Sunday morning after being visited by a confirmed case on Saturday, September 11.

What you need to know

  • Eighteen new community cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Sunday, all in Auckland
  • Two of the cases have yet to be epidemiologically linked
  • Twelve people are currently in hospital, four of whom are in the ICU
  • Half of Saturday's cases were infectious while in the community
  • New locations of interest added on Sunday morning include a Chemist Warehouse, a pharmacy and a petrol station - four of the new potential exposure events are from the past few days 
  • Waitematā DHB says the risk to staff at Waitakere Hospital is low after a person with COVID-19 presented at its emergency department on Friday
  • An investigation is underway after a rash-ridden woman at a Christchurch MIQ facility waited several days for a health check-up
  • Kiwis trying to permanently relocate from one alert level setting to another are feeling "blindsided" as the Government cracks down on who can cross domestic boundaries
  • The latest locations of interest are available here.

4pm - These live updates have now finished.

3:40pm - A non-profit organisation is calling on the Government to provide immediate support for embattled Auckland after the city lost $110 million in consumer spending during alert level 4, compared to 2019 levels. 

In a statement released on Sunday, organisation Heart of the City called for urgent action to support Auckland's struggling central businesses.

"With an average [loss] of about $85,000 per customer-facing business, action is needed now to avert a greater fallout in Auckland and its city centre," chief executive Viv Beck said.

"The cost of the latest lockdown is comparable to level 4 in 2020, bringing the total loss for around 1300 customer-facing businesses to nearly $800 million since January 2020.  That is an average of nearly $600,000 per business."

Beck says the ongoing restrictions are disproportionately impacting Auckland and its CBD, noting that businesses and sector groups have been calling for targeted support for "a very long time".

"These are not just numbers, they represent thousands of hard-working people, their staff, their families, their health - sympathy for Auckland must be backed up with tangible support," Beck said.

"The figures quoted for the Auckland economy as a whole do not reflect the reality for many businesses. The city centre has a diverse mix of businesses, many of whom can operate successfully remotely and there are some very good news stories amongst them. 

"However, many can't, and the impacts are very severe. The Government must be more proactive and give businesses as much certainty as possible, including what financial support will be available at level 2.

"It's too late to wait until the next alert level announcement on October 4 to know."

The organisation has asked Treasury to evaluate a low-cost, convenient and easy-to-repay 'overdraft' facility that would support a business through the restrictions, Beck says, as proposed last year by economist Dr Richard Meade.

"Other countries have done more to stimulate spending and support their hardest hit sectors and city centres - it's needed here too. This includes getting Government employees back to the office as soon as safely possible, as well as incentives to get people back on public transport. This would assist our businesses and be a great signal of support for recovery."    

3:20pm - In support of the Mental Health Foundation's annual Mental Health Awareness Week, the Sky Tower in Auckland will light up in dynamic blues on Monday night.

This year the theme is 'take time to kōrero / mā te kōrero, ka ora'. 

A SkyCity spokesperson said on Sunday the theme is about connecting with the people in our lives and creating a space for conversations about mental health and wellbeing.

The Sky Tower is the Southern Hemisphere's tallest free-standing structure. Based in the heart of Auckland, it is one of New Zealand's most recognisable landmarks.

SkyCity lights the Sky Tower for charities or community initiatives to mark national holidays, milestones or other celebrations or events, or to serve as a symbol of respect or solidarity.

Lifeline Aotearoa says calls and texts to its helpline have skyrocketed in the past 18 months - up 88 percent compared to 2019.

The charity provides free and confidential mental health support from qualified counsellors and trained volunteers.

Lifeline's operations manager, HelenaDe Fontenay, told RNZ on Sunday the charity had received about 8500 calls and texts during the first week of the current lockdown, which rose to 8700 in week two, 10,900 in week three, 11,167 in week four, and 10,713 in week five - when most of New Zealand was in alert level 2.

3pm - No further locations of interest have been added to the official list after five new potential exposure events were identified on Sunday morning.

The new locations of interest include Farro in Epsom, a Mobil petrol station in Glen Innes, a Unichem Pharmacy in Otara and two separate trips to Chemist Warehouse at Westfield Manukau. 

As always, you can keep up-to-date with the latest locations of interest via the Ministry of Health.

2:40pm - A COVID-19 modelling expert has warned Auckland is on a "knife edge" as daily case numbers continue to fluctuate. 

There was a "glimmer of hope" on Friday when the daily total finally fell into the single-digits, with just nine infections reported. But this weekend, 16 and 18 new cases have been recorded on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

 Te Pūnaha Matatini Professor Michael Plank told the New Zealand Herald the outbreak is proving particularly stubborn. On October 4, Cabinet will decide whether the region is ready to join the rest of the country at alert level 2, which will allow Aucklanders to reunite with their friends and loved ones.

But Plank says things go "either way".

"It's really on a knife edge and it could go either way depending on how things pan out at level 3," he told the Herald.

To ensure the region doesn't fall at the final hurdle, Plank is urging Aucklanders to continue adhering to alert level 3 restrictions - with reports that a number of residents are becoming lax with the rules.

More than 30 people were spotted playing touch rugby in a Mt Roskill park on Saturday, while Ponsonby Rd was reportedly "heaving with people".

Plank said the two weeks at alert level 3 will provide a reasonable timeframe to determine whether the virus is under control.

2:20pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has criticised former Prime Minister Sir John Key for likening New Zealand to a "smug hermit kingdom".

Hipkins, who was speaking on TVNZ's Q+A on Sunday morning, said he "really didn't agree" with an op-ed penned by the former Prime Minister, which called out the Government for its "enthusiasm to lock down our country, lock up our people and lockout our citizens who are overseas".

"I think it's a great piece of politics," Hipkins told Q+A. "Actually many things that John Key's arguing are already happening.

"I think that's an insult to New Zealanders who have actually achieved some of the highest rates of freedom in the world by going hard and going early when we've needed to."

In his column, which has been published by several local media outlets, Sir John claimed that New Zealanders should no longer be living "in a smug hermit kingdom", and called for a return to some form of pre-pandemic normality - "to get back 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".

Hipkins agreed that lockdowns would be phased out eventually, but reiterated that a high rate of vaccination is integral to the Government's next steps.

"Vaccination plays a really big role in what happens next," Hipkins said. "We can't keep using level 3 and level 4 restrictions, the level of restrictions we have at the border. 

"Again it is something that we will have to allow for greater movement at the border in the future." 

Read more here.

2:05pm - COVID-stricken New South Wales has recorded 961 new cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm on Saturday (local time) and nine additional deaths - six men and three women.

1:45pm - Meanwhile across the Tasman, Victoria has recorded a further 779 cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths. 

1:22pm - There are 18 new community cases to report today. Here is the Ministry of Health's full statement:

Eighteen community cases of COVID-19; one new case and two historical cases in managed isolation; over 5 million vaccines administered to date



Number of new community cases


Number of new cases identified at the border

One and two historical cases

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) 1,148 (934 of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (all of whom have recovered)

Number of community cases (total)

1,165 (in the current community outbreak)

Cases infectious in the community

Eight (50 pct) of yesterday's 16 cases have exposure events

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious

Eight (50 pct) of yesterday's 16 cases

Cases epidemiologically linked

16 of today's 18 cases. All 16 have been in isolation at home or in an MIQ.

Cases to be epidemiologically linked

Two of today's 18 cases. Investigations are continuing to determine a link.

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)

1,138 (in the current cluster) (Five 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, three are contained and seven are dormant.

Cases in hospital

12 (total): North Shore (1); Middlemore (5); Auckland (6)

Cases in ICU or HDU


Confirmed cases (total)

3,827 since pandemic began

Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)

160 out of 2,009 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

93 pct

Locations of interest


Locations of interest (total)

137 (as at 10am 26 September)



Number of tests (total)


Number of tests 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)

5,020,900; 1st doses: 3,231,444; 2nd doses: 1,789,456

Vaccines administered yesterday (total)

51,472; 1st doses: 19,350; 2nd doses: 32,122


1st doses: 309,516; 2nd doses: 156,823

Pacific Peoples

1st doses: 200,285; 2nd doses: 110,294

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents to date (total)

1,827,394; 1st doses: 1,174,052 (82 pct); 2nd doses: 653,342 (46 pct)

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday (total)

20,272; 1st doses: 6,568; 2nd doses: 13,704

NZ COVID-19 tracer


Registered users (total)


Poster scans (total)


Manual diary entries (total)


Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday


* One previously reported border case has been reclassified as historical, therefore the total number of historical cases reported since January 1, 2021 has increased by three today.

** Five million doses of vaccine administered: Vaccinators across the country have now administered more than five million doses. We want to reiterate our thanks to frontline staff administering the vaccines, especially during the current community outbreak. Your hard work is helping to keep New Zealanders safe. More than 200,000 Pasifika people have also now received their first dose of vaccine.

New case identified at the border

  • Arrived on September 21 from Russia via the United Arab Emirates and tested positive on day three due to routine testing. They are quarantining in Auckland.

Historical cases identified at the border

  • Arrived on September 11 from Sri Lanka via the United Arab Emirates and tested positive on day 12 due to routine testing. They are quarantining in Christchurch
  • Arrived on September 22 from the UK via Singapore and tested positive on day zero due to routine testing. They are quarantining in Christchurch.


Testing in Auckland continues to focus on Clover Park, Māngere, Favona, Ōtara, Manurewa, and Mount Wellington/Sylvia Park - 980 tests taken from these suburbs were processed on Saturday.Testing

There continues to be good uptake of testing for people connected to Clover Park with over 2140 tests processed since Sunday, September 19. We are continuing to encourage Clover Park residents, and those in the surrounding areas, to get a test regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19.

We have seen good testing numbers for Mt Wellington residents, with over 1300 tests processed in three days. The nearest community testing centres for people living in the Mt Wellington/Sylvia Park area are the pop-up CTC at the Auckland Netball Centre in St Johns and the Mt Smart Stadium Community Testing Centre in Penrose.  

A new pop-up testing centre opens on Sunday at the Tuakau Rugby League Club. From Sunday, the Pukekohe pop-up community testing centre will be at the Pukekohe Netball Centre.

1:15pm - While we wait for the Ministry of Health, here's a recap of Saturday's developments.

12:50pm - The Ministry of Health will release the latest updates on the outbreak in a statement at around 1pm. 

Newshub will publish the statement as soon as we receive it. 

12:35pm - A new survey demonstrates New Zealanders are generally supportive of lockdowns as a way of eliminating COVID-19 - but the results also signal some warning signs about the population's patience for future restrictions, as well as mandatory vaccinations.

The survey by Research New Zealand found 70 percent of Kiwis are in favour of lockdowns - however, 47 percent of those participants said they would only support the method until the vaccination target has been reached.

Research NZ surveyed 1000 people over the age of 18 from September 17 to 20, asking them two questions - whether they thought the country should continue using lockdowns as an elimination tool, and if vaccination should be mandatory for certain groups. Managing director Emanuel Kalafatelis discussed the report with Sunday Morning.

"We wanted to gauge whether the public thought New Zealand should continue aiming to eliminate COVID through lockdowns," he said.

"And then the second question was around measuring the level of agreement that vaccination should be mandatory for certain frontline groups, overseas visitors, patrons in restaurants and bars, and businesses if they requested it of their workers."

Nineteen percent of those surveyed said they are against lockdowns, but are still keen for some precautions to remain in place.

"Whilst they say they don't want to continue with lockdowns, many of them want to have strict rules around mask-wearing, testing and MIQ," Kalafatelis said.

When it comes to re-opening New Zealand's borders, 79 percent of those surveyed said they should only be opened to those with vaccination passports and a recent negative test.

Read more here.

12:25pm - Reports of people who believed they could cross Auckland's alert level boundary for work - but instead have been sent home - demonstrate why a more "rational and pragmatic approach" is needed, says National's Social Development and Employment spokesperson, Louise Upston.

"It doesn't make sense that a business is permitted to operate, but the staff required for the business to run cannot cross the border," Upston said on Sunday morning.

"New Zealanders have made great sacrifices to ward off the threat of the Delta variant of COVID-19. However people cannot live off the wage subsidy forever. They want to get back to work to support themselves and their families."

Upston notes that a number of Auckland's businesses rely on staff from neighboring communities, who would normally cross the regional border each day for work.

"The Government needs to clearly communicate what the rules are and why changes have been made from previous lockdowns," she said.

"Better still, the Government should take a more proportionate risk assessment and allow staff working for businesses in Auckland permission to cross the border.

"Extra safety measures are already in place due to Delta. In addition to providing business travel documentation, those who do need to cross the border also have to provide evidence of a test within the past seven days.

"If the Government doesn't apply a pragmatic approach to allowing businesses to operate, more Kiwis will lose their jobs.

"A more nuanced and mature approach is needed. There is no point in the rules allowing a business to open if its staff cannot get to work. The Government's inability to approach the rules in a pragmatic way is putting business and the livelihoods of New Zealanders at risk."

Travel across alert level boundaries for business or work is strictly limited. People are only allowed to travel across the boundary if that travel is permitted. Employers also need to make sure their staff have acceptable evidence on-hand to prove they are permitted to cross the boundary. Exemptions can also be applied for.

For more information on what is permitted travel for business or work, click here.

12:10pm - At the end of Auckland's first weekend under alert level 3, police say they are satisfied with an overall high level of compliance.

"It's important to remember that travel across an alert level boundary remains restricted and you will be turned away if you don't have the required evidence for permitted travel, as outlined on the COVID-19 website," a police spokesperson said on Sunday.

"Police are reminding people to keep their movements local, keep their bubbles tight and maintain physical distance from others when exercising outdoors, accessing essential services or collecting takeaways.

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

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

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.

Police have received a total of 691 online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau and Upper Hauraki.

12:05pm - An Auckland man has been caught attempting to avoid a checkpoint by driving up a farmer's water race.

In a compliance update issued on Sunday morning, police said the 55-year-old man had tried to avoid the Vipond Rd checkpoint at Auckland's northern border by driving up a water race, an artificial channel carrying water.

The farmer spotted the vehicle and notified police, who arrested the man. He will appear in court on charges of driving while disqualified, giving false details and breaching a COVID-19 order.

At the other end of the region, a driver was stopped at the southern Mercer checkpoint at about 7pm on Saturday for breaching their 24-hour bail conditions.

Another person was found hiding in the rear of the vehicle in an attempt to get through the checkpoint.

Neither had appropriate documentation to leave Tamaki Mākaurau, police said.

Both the driver, a 31-year-old male, and the passenger, a 27-year-old female, were arrested and will appear in court on Monday to face drug-related charges, along with breaching the COVID-19 order.

Approximately 30 minutes later, officers tracked down a driver who fled from the same southern checkpoint at Mercer.

The vehicle was located a short time later and the driver was charged with breaching COVID-19 restrictions and failing to stop for police.

The 30-year-old male will appear in court at a later date.

11:55am - A group of doctors have hit the phones to support COVID-positive Pasifika families who have been transferred into managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ). 

The chairperson of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs' Pasifika chapter, Monica Liva, said about 50 percent of the people infected with COVID-19 in Auckland are Pasifika.

She has been contacting Pasifika doctors who are able to talk to people in their first language, allowing them to air any concerns they might have. 

"It's also to take the load off the MIQ medical team, so that they can focus on the urgent COVID-19 needs," Dr Liva told RNZ. 

Meanwhile, the North Island iwi Ngāti Porou have launched a vaccination campaign aimed at rangatahi using the popular social media platform, TikTok. 

The video challenge calls on young people to encourage their whānau to get vaccinated. 

Ngāti Porou's Taryne Papuni told RNZ the iwi is hopeful that engaging young people via TikTok will help ramp up vaccination rates. 

"That's one of the mediums that they're always on, always on the TikTok or the Instagram," Papuni said.

"We thought yeah, we can reach a lot of our people, a lot of our young ones that way and hope that the young ones will actually lead for their elders." 

Read more here.

11:45am - Ever wondered what it would be like to share your name with a highly infectious variant of a deadly virus?

Well, that's now the reality for a number of Kiwi businesses named after the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet - from Delta Insurance to Delta Interiors to Ngāruawāhia's 121-year-old Delta Hotel.

And people called Delta are also struggling, with their unique name now indelibly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Read more here.

11:30am - Welcome to Newshub's live updates.

Five new potential exposure events have been identified by the Ministry of Health on Sunday morning, four of which are from this week. They are: 

  • Unichem Pharmacy, Otara - Thursday, September 23, 2:58pm - 3:08pm: Stay at home, test immediately as well as five days after you were exposed at this location of interest. Please continue to stay at home until you receive a negative day five test result. Record your visit online or call Healthline so our contact tracers can get in touch
  • Mobil, Glen Innes - Saturday, September 11, 1:35am - 3:45am: Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after you were exposed at this location of interest. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result AND for 24 hours after symptoms resolve
  • Chemist Warehouse, Westfield Manukau - Friday, September 24, 1:13pm - 1:43pm: Stay at home, test immediately as well as five days after you were exposed at this location of interest. Please continue to stay at home until you receive a negative day five test result. Record your visit online or call Healthline so our contact tracers can get in touch
  • Chemist Warehouse, Westfield Manukau - Thursday, September 23, 3:12pm - 3:22pm: Stay at home, test immediately as well as five days after you were exposed at this location of interest. Please continue to stay at home until you receive a negative day five test result. Record your visit online or call Healthline so our contact tracers can get in touch
  • Farro, Epsom - Wednesday, September 22, 1pm - 2pm: Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after you were exposed at this location of interest. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result AND for 24 hours after symptoms resolve.