As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1

There are 75 new cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, bringing the total to 687 - the vast majority of which are in Auckland. 

One of these new cases is in Wellington.

Thirty-two people are in hospital with the virus - 14 are in Auckland City Hospital, 13 in Middlemore Hospital, and five in North Shore Hospital.

Wednesday marks day one of alert level 3 for all areas outside of Northland and Auckland. Northland will stay at level 4 until Thursday night - unless any worrying wastewater results come in - while Auckland remains at the harshest lockdown for another two weeks. 

What you need to know:

  • New Zealand, south of Auckland, has moved to alert level 3, with Northland and Auckland remaining at alert level 4
  • Seventy-five new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Wednesday, bringing the outbreak total to 687
  • Of the cases, 641 are located in Auckland and 16 in Wellington
  • Thirty-two people are in hospital, eight of whom are in the ICU
  • A Corrections officer at Spring Hill Corrections Facility in Te Kauwhata, Waikato, was announced as a case on Tuesday - however, the officer is counted as an Auckland case
  • 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 finished.

9:05pm - Wednesday marked day one of level 3 for much of the country, a daily increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases, and about 40 supermarkets across Auckland named as locations of interest.

Here's a wrap of the day's events.

8:35pm - Police are warning people trying to get through COVID-19 checkpoints with outdated documentation that they'll be turned away.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment says it's now issued over 3300 businesses with exemption documents so staff can travel between alert level 4 and level 3 areas.

Police Inspector Kay Lane says a dedicated truck lane again ensured freight flowed easily, and officers have had few problems with motorists.

"They've got the QR code, they've got their driver's license ID and that makes it seamless for us. There's been a really good attitude coming through the checkpoints."

The only issue is people "do need a reminder that they need updated letters from MBIE not documents from previous lockdowns".

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Karen Rutherford here.

8:05pm - There are two new locations of interest. They are: 

  • Tasi Market Massey, Monday 23 August from 7:30 am - 7:00 pm and Saturday 28 August from 7:30 am - 7:00 pm
  • Lavengro Dairy Papatoetoe, Friday 20 August from 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm.

7:30pm - A new graph shows how New Zealand's slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout has managed to overtake the US, UK and Australia in daily vaccinations.

Our World in Data has released data tracking the number of daily COVID-19 vaccine doses administered per 100 people per country.

It shows the rolling seven-day average per 100 people in the total population.

One graph, which features the daily vaccination rates of Australia, UK, US, Canada, the World and New Zealand shows Aotearoa's rapid increase in our vaccine rollout.

Canada, the US and UK's daily vaccine rates take off in December 2020 while Australia and New Zealand are quite far behind, only joining the graph in February 2021.

Check out the graph here.

6:45pm - The debate over MPs coming together physically during a COVID outbreak shows no sign of slowing down, with ACT taking a swipe at the Greens over their reluctance to attend Parliament. 

MPs met for the first time on Tuesday since the latest Delta outbreak, with tension in the air after National and ACT refused to accept a virtual gathering, while the Greens and the Māori Party refused to attend due to health risks. 

The Greens made an appearance on Wednesday after Wellington shifted to alert level 3, but in a speech debating COVID-19 laws, Green MP Jan Logie made it clear that she did not want to be there and would have preferred a Zoom meeting. 

"While I'm loath to be here, instead of on a Zoom meeting of our Parliament, I rise to take a call - reluctantly - on behalf of the Green Party on this call of motion to approve these latest COVID orders," Logie said. 

"My reluctance has nothing to do with the orders but just having to be here and undermining our effort of providing strong, clear leadership to the country about taking this virus seriously. 

"If we've got the ability to work at home, we should be doing that, because this is a serious issue for us as a country, and as much as I enjoyed listening to the history of Chris Bishop's participation... it does not seem to me a priority for the business of this House."

Read the full story here.

David Seymour and Jan Logie.
David Seymour and Jan Logie. Photo credit: Parliament TV

6:15pm - The Ministry of Health has added some more supermarkets to its list of locations of interest. They are:

  • Tasi Market Massey, Friday 27 August from 7:30 am - 7:00 pm and Sunday 29 August from 7:30 am - 7:00 pm
  • Tasi Market Massey, Sunday 22 August from 7:00 am - 7:00 pm and Wednesday 25 August 7:30 am - 7:00 pm
  • Puhinui Road Dairy Papatoetoe, Friday 20 August from 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • Tasi Market Massey, Saturday 28 August from 7:30 am - 7:00 pm
  • Pak'nSave Westgate, Thursday 19 August from 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm and Sunday 22 August from 11:00 am - 11:30 am.

6pm - Wellington Police say they will increase their road policing visibility, including increased compliance checkpoints and road patrols, as the city settles into alert level 3.

They say they've seen a significant increase in traffic across the region since the move to alert level 3.

Compliance checkpoints will be undertaken at fixed locations on state highways as well as local roads where there have been high traffic volumes. Police say motorists should expect to be stopped and asked about their travel purpose, and warn they will turn people around if they aren't allowed to travel under level 3.

"We've been really pleased with compliance as a whole in Wellington District, since we went into alert level 4 in August," says District Commander Superintendent Corrie Parnell.

"While we are fortunate to now be in alert level 3, it  is not the time to lose sight of our collective goal, which is to stamp out COVID."

5:35pm - If your Warrant of Fitness has expired during lockdown, don't worry - police officers will use their discretion when it comes to fining you.

That's the official word from the NZ Transport Agency, which says it's also looking at whether exemptions may be needed if the current lockdown goes for longer. 

While non-essential businesses remain closed during lockdown, it means people are prevented from renewing their WOFs.

Read the full story here.

5:10pm - Punjab Express in Tauranga is offering free meals to those in need.

A sign in front of their shop says people who need help during lockdown shouldn't be hesitant to come and see them.

"Just the tiniest bit of compassion can actually go a long, long way," the person who spotted the sign told Newshub.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1
Photo credit: Supplied

4:50pm - An Auckland woman is "frustrated" and "disappointed" with the COVID-19 testing system after it took five days for her to be notified that her test was neither positive nor negative - it was "unable to be processed" - and she needed to queue up again.

Dani told Newshub she followed health advice to go and get a COVID-19 test after realising she had been at a location of interest - AUT's North Campus - on August 16.

She waited almost five hours in line to get tested at the Northcote pop-up testing centre on August 23 and expected it to take at most three days for her results to be processed and relayed to her.

But after five days with no results, she began to get "anxious" and "paranoid" that she had done something wrong.

"I was getting a little bit worried as I knew some people who got theirs done and got their results back the day after, or at the most three days. At first, I thought that I had given the nurses the wrong information," she said. 

Read the full story here.

4:30pm - Nineteen supermarkets have been added as locations of interest. They are: 

  • Farro Fresh Grey Lynn, Thursday 26 August from 1:45 pm - 2:00 pm
  • Countdown Ponsonby, Sunday 22 August from 12:42 pm - 1:42 pm and Thursday 26 August 12:57 pm - 1:57 pm
  • Countdown Warkworth, Thursday 26 August from 6:33 pm - 7:17 pm
  • Pak'nSave, Mangere, Sunday 29 August from 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm
  • Pak'nSave Sylvia Park, Friday 27 August from 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
  • Countdown Mt Roskill, Saturday 28 August from 5:15 pm - 5:45 pm
  • Countdown Three Kings, Tuesday 24 August from 5:26 pm - 5:45 pm
  • New World Papatoetoe, Sunday 29 August from 2:09 pm - 2:39 pm
  • Pak'nSave Clendon, Friday 20 August from 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
  • Pak'nSave Clendon, Saturday 21 August from 12:45 pm - 2:00 pm
  • Pacific Fresh Manurewa, Tuesday 24 August from 11:30 am - 11:45 am
  • Tasi Market Massey, Sunday 29 August from 8:00 am - 10:30 am
  • Pak'nSave Sylvia Park, Thursday 26 August from 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm
  • Pak'nSave Clendon Clendon Park, Thursday 19 August from 5:30 pm - 8:30 pm
  • Countdown Papatoetoe, Saturday 28 August from 8:00 pm - 8:10 pm
  • Pak'nSave Westgate, Thursday 19 August from 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm and Sunday 22 August from 11:00 am - 11:30 am
  • Pak'nSave Sylvia Park, Wednesday 25 August from 2:48 pm - 3:00 pm
  • New World Southmall Manurewa, Friday 27 August from 3:00 pm - 3:30 pm
  • Countdown Mangere East, Sunday 29 August from 1:00 pm - 1:45 pm.

4:20pm - The three millionth COVID-19 PCR test was done today, the NZ Medical Association says.

Chairperson Dr Alistair Humphrey says he takes his hat off to those who've been part of the testing regime.

"It's not glamorous or cool, and it's certainly not easy. It's demanding, it's uncomfortable, and it's exhausting," he says.

The New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science says the first COVID PCR test in New Zealand was performed in late January 2020, the 1 millionth test on October 11, 2020, the 2 millionth test on April 25, 2021 and the 3 millionth test today.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 27: Staff wearing PPE are seen amongst massive queues at a pop-up COVID test site at Albert Park Lake on May 27, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. Victorian health authorities remain on high alert as they work to contain a COVID-19 cluster in the community. There are now 15 cases linked to a current cluster which spans several households and a workplace, with numerous exposure sites across many different parts of Melbourne and Bendigo. Coronavirus restrictions were reintroduced on Monday with masks now required inside while private gatherings are now limited to five people in Greater Melbourne, and public gatherings are limited to 30. The recent outbreak in Melbourne has been linked to the South Australian hotel quarantine breach earlier this month. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images

4pm - Metro Auckland's first marae-based drive-through vaccination centre has launched in Papakura.

It is also the first day of a four-day pop-up vaccination event in Mangere being run in partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Northern Region Health Coordination Centre vaccination programme director Matt Hannant says the drive-through and pop-up centres are part of their focus on supporting Māori and Pacific communities.

"Our local Māori and Pacific partners have been very much leading the way in the vaccination rollout, and I particularly want to acknowledge Papakura Marae and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their vital contributions in helping to protect our whānau and communities from COVID-19," he says.

"The drive-though model is also proving really successful in terms of increasing our vaccination capacity so we will be continuing with all our current sites at least while we are in the level 4 lockdown with discussions underway as to how we could keep that going even once we move down the alert levels."

The marae drive-through centre will vaccinate around 300 people per day, increasing to around 500 people when it's fully up and running.

The church pop-up centre will run from September 1 to 4. It will focus on vaccinating the church's congregation with other members of the community through both drive-throughs and walk-ins.

It's expected they'll vaccinate up to 3500 people over four days.

3:45pm - Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson has announced a new Māori Communication Portal on the Te Puni Kōkiri website.

"We've done some good work so far. But there is so much happening that we have to bring all that information under one umbrella," he says.

Although will remain as the main source of information, the website will be the "go-to" place for Te Ao Māori.

The site includes information on the Karawhiua Māori vaccination campaign led by TPK - co-delivered by Te Hiringa Hauora (Health Promotion Agency) and supported by the Ministry of Health and the Unite Against COVID-19 teams.

"Basically, anything and everything that Māori need will be on our website from; where you can get vaccinated and tested, to where you can get Whānau Ora or a wage subsidy, we will try to have all the relevant information that our whānau might need," Jackson says.

3:30pm - Two people flew out of Auckland without exemptions on Monday - one to Wellington and one to Dunedin, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says.

"We have been working with local public health officials to manage any risk and both people have been issued infringement notices," he says.

In other compliance news, as of 5pm on Tuesday, 139 people have been charged with a total of 148 offences nationwide since alert level 4 began.

The charges filed are:

  • 95 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19)
  • 34 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction
  • 15 for Health Act breaches
  • 4 for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.
  • In the same time period, 374 people were warned for 377 offences.

As at 5pm Tuesday, police have issued 2707 infringements nationwide. They are:

  • Person failed to remain at current home / residence - 2494
  • Person failed to wear a face covering on premises - 56
  • Person failed to comply with applicable physical distancing rule - 74
  • Obstruct/Hinder Medical Officer of Health or Person Assisting Med Officer/Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19) - 40
  • Person failed to wear a face covering on public transport - 6
  • Person in control of premises failed to close as required - 7
  • Person in control of workplace failed to display QR code - 19
  • Person organised a gathering in an outdoor place - 11.

3:15pm - Over in Australia, the state of Victoria is extending its lockdown until September 23.

State Premier Dan Andrews says the extension is to slow the spread and help keep residents in the state safe.

"Due to the level of community transmission and number of unlinked cases, almost all restrictions will remain in place."

Earlier on Wednesday, Victoria recorded 120 new community cases and two deaths.

3:05pm - Coromandel Police had to speak to a small group of community members on Tuesday after they set up an "unlawful" checkpoint.

"Police staff educated the group, reminding them of the alert level restrictions and emphasising that their actions in setting up the checkpoint were unlawful," a spokesperson says.

"Following the interaction with Police the group chose to end their checkpoint and return to their homes." 

The police spokesperson says they're urging everyone to limit their movement while that area is in level 3 and police will continue to stop people at random across the country to make sure they're only travelling for essential reasons.

The Facebook post the community group posted.
The Facebook post the community group posted. Photo credit: Facebook

2:55pm - Today's jump in case numbers is "expected" and daily cases will bounce around, says Professor Michael Plank of Te Pūnaha Matatini and the University of Canterbury.

"What matters is the trend and it looks like we are seeing the beginnings of a downward trend, but it is still early days," he says.

"Around three quarters of yesterday's cases were not in the community whilst infectious. This is good news as it means the majority of new cases are not at risk of spreading the virus to other bubbles. It will now be important to see the number of cases in the community whilst infectious coming down over time. This will be a key indicator that the outbreak is coming under control."

About 7 percent of cases in this outbreak so far have needed hospital treatment and a "substantial portion" of those are in younger age groups.

"This is partly thanks to the vaccine protecting people in older age groups where vaccine coverage is higher. But it reinforces how dangerous the Delta variant of COVID-19 is," Plank says.

"Recent evidence from England shows that Delta has around double the risk of hospitalisation compared to older variants. This shows how important it is to pull out all the stops to control this outbreak."

2:35pm - Scientists are urging people to chill out about the threat posed by a "highly mutated" new variant of the coronavirus, saying there's little evidence yet it'll be any worse than the current dominant strain. 

But one says it could potentially be a stepping stone to a variant even worse than Delta, which Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said was "like dealing with a whole new virus". 

The new variant C.1.2 was first detected in South Africa in May, and has since been picked up around the world - including a case found at the border here in New Zealand in June. 

Its evolution was detailed in a new paper by South African scientists uploaded in August, showing it has between 44 and 59 mutations that make it different to the original SARS-CoV-2 virus that was found in Wuhan at the end of 2019 - more than any other found to date. 

"There's a general concern that SARS-CoV-2 - the virus that causes COVID-19 - is continuing to have mutations," University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker told Newshub.

"Some of these give it an advantage... they become Variants of Interest if they display some features that potentially make them more dangerous, then Variants of Concern if they're having a negative effect on our ability to manage the pandemic."

Read the full story here.

2:15pm - Seakraft in Wainuiomata has built a contactless slide so people can pick up their takeaways.

The cardboard slide extends from the counter near the back of the store right to the main entrance, where there is an Eftpos machine and some hand sanitiser.

2pm - Judith Collins and Jacinda Ardern are going head-to-head in Question Time in Parliament.

You can watch along live here.

1:50pm - Hipkins says he's had "a mixed bag of responses" on moving exam dates for students.

He says he's heard that teachers are grateful but students aren't so happy and tend to want their exams to be over sooner.

On giving COVID-19 vaccinations at schools, Hipkins says children going with their parents will likely be the way they reach most of the younger age group.

He says it will likely be more efficient for children to go to an existing vaccination site rather than set a new site up at school that only runs for one day.

1:35pm - Hipkins says they are still working with quarantine-free travel partners to bring in RSE workers who don't have to go into MIQ. 

He says his first preference is to bring in workers who don't fill up the MIQ system since it is currently under stress with infected community cases also in facilities.

1:20pm - The Ministry of Health has changed how its releasing the daily case data. 

"As part of the now established rhythm of providing information about the current cluster, the Ministry of Health’s daily 1pm statement will focus on the data reporting on key actions being taken to support the COVID-19 response from the health sector," it said.

"The explanation about the actions in the COVID-19 response and the context for the data will be provided in the regular media stand-up."

Here's how it now looks:

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1

1:15pm - Hipkins says as of 11:59pm on Tuesday, 3.5 million Pfizer doses have been administered. More than 2.2 million people have had at least one dose. The rate has grown significantly since mid-July, he says. This is when we started receiving larger deliveries. The rate has gone from about 190,000 per week to 540,000 per week over the last couple of weeks.

There is still an issue around making sure all communities are being addressed. Around 37 percent of Maori and 47 percent of Pacific people have had at least one dose. However, these populations are younger, so may not have been as represented in earlier vaccine groups.

Hipkins says the pause on new MIQ vouchers will be extended "for a few more weeks". This comes as facilities are being repurposed to look after community cases. He acknowledged this will be difficult for Kiwis wanting to come home and asks for them to be "patient". When large releases come in the future, this will be foreshadowed. There will also be a virtual queue for people to be randomly picked out of, removing the need for people to be the fastest to hit the button.

He asks people who are wanting to come back to New Zealand for a summer holiday to think about staying out of the lobby, so people who need to come home desperately can get a voucher.

1:10pm - There are 32 people in hospital, all in Auckland. Eight of these are in ICU, with three on ventilators.

Dr Bloomfield says there were more than 22,000 tests processed nationwide on Tuesday with about 6500 swabbed in Auckland.

There have been no unexpected wastewater detections.

Out of caution, about 40 supermarkets are being added as locations of interest. These have been visited by people subsequently identified as cases. A risk assessment has been done on each. The events are deemed to be low risk due to the protocols in place.

1:05pm - Chris Hipkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield have arrived. 

Hipkins says compliance at the level 4/3 border is high and most people have the correct documentation. Police will provide a more detailed update later on Wednesday or on Thursday. More than 3000 businesses have documentation for their employees to cross the border, he says.

The minister notes that all Kiwis over 12 can have the vaccine from Wednesday. He says this is a "big step" forward in efforts to protect New Zealanders from COVID-19.

Dr Bloomfield reveals there are 75 new COVID-19 cases as part of the Auckland outbreak. There is one case in Wellington, a household contact of an existing case who has been in isolation since August 24. They had previously returned three negative tests and is asymptomatic.

The Director-General says it is expected numbers will bounce around, but they are trending down generally.

Of the 49 cases reported on Tuesday, 57 percent were household contacts and 75 percent didn't create any exposure points. Just 25 percent were infectious in the community.

There is a 90 percent probability the 'R' value remains under one, Dr Bloomfield says.

12:45pm - There's not a lot of good news across the ditch...

Australia's COVID-19 crisis continues to worsen, with New South Wales' outbreak expanding out of control and Victoria announcing another 120 cases on Wednesday - the largest spike in daily cases in the state in more than a year.

It comes as Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews prepares to give an update on a potential easing of lockdown restrictions later in the day.

Of the new cases, 64 are linked to known outbreaks and 56 are mystery cases, while two people who had contracted COVID-19 died.

Read more here.

12:25pm - Countdown is giving 100 percent rent abatement to non-essential tenants who have been unable to trade during the alert level 4 lockdown.

That includes cafes, hairdressers, takeaway outlets, real estate agencies and restaurants who have stores within Countdown supermarkets or shopping centres. Rent relief will also continue for non-essential tenants unable to trade at level 3.

"We have more than 60 small businesses as our tenants across New Zealand and quite simply, we feel this is the right thing to do.  We are privileged to serve New Zealanders through lockdown, and hopefully offering rent relief will relieve some pressure and allow our tenants to focus on other expenses," said director of property Matt Grainger.

"This is especially needed in Auckland where we’re looking at another two weeks of Alert Level 4.  The outlook is uncertain for many small businesses and we want to help our tenants bounce back from this as much as we can."

12:10pm - Several organisations in New Zealand supporting Pasifika families with basic necessities during alert level four lockdown are seeing greater numbers requesting help.

A Pasifika-led social services organisation, Pasifika Futures, said since lockdown began last month, they have handed out 12,242 packages of support through their 28 partners across Aotearoa, New Zealand.

The support includes food packages, blankets, children activities and mental health support.

Read more here.

11:50am - Inspector Kay Lane of Counties Manukau police has released a statement saying officers are pleased with the level of compliance at checkpoints south of Auckland.

"The Police checkpoints south of Auckland ran smoothly overnight with limited issues," Insp Lane says. 

"We have five checkpoints in operation as Auckland and Northland remain in Alert Level 4 and the rest of the country in Alert Level 3.

"We will have official numbers of vehicles through the checkpoints and those turned around tomorrow, but we can say the numbers were fairly low and only a small number were turned around.

"Police were generally pleased with the compliance and most members of our community had the correct documentation ready to show Police.

"We thank our community for this.

"We are expecting more numbers through the checkpoints today but so far there are minimal wait times."

Anyone with questions about the exemption process can visit the Covid19 website.

11:40am - Socially-distanced Parliament is back again on Wednesday. There are six questions from Judith Collins, David Seymour, Dr Shane Reti, Michael Woodhouse, Chris Bishop and James Shaw.

Find them here.

11:25am - There will be a 1pm press conference on Wednesday afternoon. It will feature COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. We will stream that above and you can also watch on Three.

11:15am - Judith Collins has lashed out at journalists, claiming they haven't been asking questions about the vaccine rollout because they "don't want to", preferring instead to engage in a "political attack" on the National Party. 

In a heated interview on TVNZ's Breakfast the National Party leader objected to host Indira Stewart's line of questioning, accusing her of being "more interested in talking about me" than the vaccine rollout and the media of asking soft questions of the Prime Minister. 

Read more here.

11:10am - In her remarks at the 1pm press conference on Tuesday, Jacinda Ardern said that alert level 3 still "requires a high degree of caution because the risk of COVID in the community remains high".

"So here are the golden rules for everyone south of Auckland for the next seven days, as we enter into alert level 3: stay at home, keep your bubble small, and exercise and shop locally. Keep your distance from people - Delta is highly infectious - continue working from home if possible, and keep children and young people at home with you. 

She also reminded people to get vaccinated, with everyone over 12 now eligible. Travelling to get a vaccination is essential movement. Auckland transport is also allowing those going to their booking to ride for free.

10:50am - Inspector Kay Lane says it’s smooth sailing across all checkpoints.

She says "less than 30 people have been turned around for not having the correct documentation or just thinking they can try their luck".

Newshub has spoken to two workers who’ve been waiting 48 hours for passes from MBIE, others have applied for and got their essential worker documentation through within an hour.

10:35am - Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says state highway road works have begun again in Waikato and Bay of Plenty now that the regions are in alert level 3. All non-essential work had been paused at level 4, but it won't be a return to normal at level 3.

"We're working with contractors on specific COVID-19 plans for each of our work sites. Every one of these plans will align with the new Health Order and strict industry standards provided by Construction Health and Safety NZ," said regional manager infrastructure delivery Jo Wilton.

"These standards and guidelines include measures for pre-planning work, documenting the health and safety of staff, ensuring safe physical distancing is maintained, cleaning of all plant, tools and vehicles, and being able to quickly and accurately trace people should they come in contact with someone who contracts COVID-19."

10:20am - The Employers and Manufacturers Association has been reassured any backlog in applications for workers to cross Auckland's southern border will be small.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said 2524 businesses had been given permission to travel between level 3 and 4 borders from today.

Employers and Manufacturers Association spokesperson Alan McDonald had heard about 5000 had applied and was worried about a backlog when travel was essential for so many firms.

Read more here.

10:10am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is encouraging locals to get vaccinated now that everyone over 12 can get the jab. He said the latest outbreak has shown that the virus can affect people of all ages. 

"Stopping the spread of the virus through a swift and strong lockdown which will stay in place until we have suppressed community contagion is how we will get back to living safely and normally. But longer term, a high level of community vaccination is how we will beat the disease, prevent deaths and serious illness and eventually open our borders.

"More than 1.1 million doses of the vaccine have now been administered in Auckland and the city has one of the highest per capita rates of vaccination in the country.

"That’s a great result, but we need to see the rate of vaccination increase even further in Auckland. We are the gateway city for New Zealand and with more than twice as many Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities as the rest of the country combined, we are most vulnerable to further incursions."

He wants Auckland prioritised for the vaccine as quickly as possible "to reduce the likelihood of further outbreaks and damaging lockdowns, which then spread to the rest of the country".

"Please also continue to follow the rules of Alert Level 4. It’s encouraging that case numbers have now declined for two consecutive days. This shows that the lockdown and public health measures are having the intended effect and slowing the spread of the virus.

"But it’s important that we stay the course so that we can once again stamp out COVID-19 and return to life as normal."

10am - The Restaurant Association is calling on Kiwis to support local cafes and restaurants as parts of the country can again get takeaways.

"Our industry has been one of the hardest hit during the pandemic. Those that are reopening are looking forward to serving their local communities again and need the support of their local community to make the reopening viable," says Restaurant Association Chief Executive Marisa Bidois.

"Our restaurants and cafes are a much loved part of our communities. We know that diners have their favourite places so for anyone now bored of their own cooking or trying to avoid the supermarkets this is the perfect opportunity to get out and revisit your local eateries."

"Many establishments have now honed their processes, menus and technology for safe level 3 operations, so getting take out is a very safe and a delicious alternative to home cooking.

"The opportunity to reopen for takeaway offers a tiny glimmer of hope for our businesses to live another day.

"But we can only do this with the support of the NZ public who we are confident will want to see their favourite establishments stay afloat.

"For those businesses not yet open for business, such as those in Auckland or not able to adapt to takeaway, gift voucher sales are also hugely valuable.

The hospitality industry employs 130,000 people across the country meaning thousands of livelihoods are at risk, the association says.

 "We enjoy a vibrant and diverse dining scene in New Zealand and we want to see that continue so we are calling on Kiwis to continue to support their local establishments."

9:50am - Ashley Bloomfield says the theories Jacinda Ardern comes up with on the origins of the Delta outbreak are "usually good".

But he does worry she - not to mention himself and other experts - might have missed something. 

Read more here.

9:35am - As mentioned earlier, from Wednesday, everyone over the age of 12 can get vaccinated. Already, according to data from Our World In Data, New Zealand has far surpassed other countries' peaks in terms of the number of doses being administered per day per 100 people.

However, it's raised questions about whether New Zealand will have enough supply to maintain that rate when we aren't expecting our large delivery of doses until October.

9:25am - Ashley Bloomfield says Auckland could potentially come out of alert level 4 before the daily numbers are at zero, as long as new cases haven't been out and about potentially infecting other people. 

Auckland will be at level 4 for another couple of weeks at least, with dozens of cases a day still being found. The past two days have seen numbers fall however, signs the strict lockdown is working.

Wednesday's number could break that trend though, with the results of a round of close contact testing due. 

Read more here.

9:10am - There is just one new location of interest on Wednesday morning - the Crystal Laundromat East Tamaki in Clover Park, Auckland between 11am and 2pm on Saturday August 28. 

A number were added on Tuesday night. They include Fresh and Save Glen Innes, Super Value Supermarket Limited Glen Innes and Riverside Dairy Point England.

Full information can be found here.

8:50am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on MoreFM's Breakfast Club on Wednesday responded to questions about how soon the South Island could move to alert level 2 considering it still has no cases of COVID-19. 

Ardern said officials are looking for an extra level of reassurance with more testing in coming days before a review next Monday.

"Our goal is to move through restrictions as quickly and as safely as possible. I am absolutely focused on trying to get people back as quickly as possible to normality, but I don't, equally, want to put anyone at risk. I want the South Island to stay COVID-free and that is my goal."

At the same time, she said she wants to support businesses. The Government's doing this, she said, through the wage subsidy and Resurgence Support Payment.

8:35am - Urgent building work is underway at Auckland City Hospital to prepare more room for COVID-19 patients.

There were 32 patients in hospitals across the region on Tuesday, 18 of whom were in Middlemore, 12 at Auckland City and two at North Shore.

RNZ understands both Auckland City and Middlemore are near - or at - capacity for the vital negative pressure rooms that help prevent the spread.

Read more here.

8:20am - Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says the police checkpoint has been operating "really smoothly". Traffic is flowing well, he says, and officers haven't had any difficulties.

While standing up a checkpoint is a "big commitment", he says police have the resources to deal with it. He says police have gained a lot of experience since the last time they've done the checkpoints.

Coster says officers will be reasonable with locals who live on the border who may need to move within the town and surrounding areas. 

8:15am - National's Judith Collins spoke to The AM Show earlier about returning to Wellington for Parliament and if she lies awake at night worrying about things. 

Collins said she doesn't think about anything at night, and just goes to sleep - recommending Jacinda Ardern do the same because "there's no point". 

Read more here.

8:05am - The alert level shift isn't the only big development on Wednesday. From September 1, everyone over the age of 12 in New Zealand can get vaccinated against COVID-19. It doesn't matter what someone's citizenship or visa status is. You can book online here.

7:55am - Wellington's cases of COVID-19 are being allowed to exercise in an underground car park, prompting concern that managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) workers are being put at unnecessary risk.

All of Wellington's confirmed cases of the Delta variant are housed at the Grand Mercure hotel, with the exception of at least one person who is in hospital.

An aerosol chemist says the enclosed air of an underground car park heightens the possibility of transmission, while a public health expert says the hotel does not sound fit to operate as a quarantine facility.

Read more here.

7:45am - Vaccinations will continue indoors at the Henderson Trusts Arena centre on Wednesday.

The normally drive-through clinic had to transition indoors on Tuesday after the severe weather west Auckland saw early that morning.

"All those who have appointments, please wear the appropriate safety equipment, masks, gloves etc," a statement said.

"You will be directed to carparks by wardens and advised when to walk into the vaccination area.

"Whanau groups must stay within their bubble and note the 2 metre social distancing guidelines.

"Everyone booked today will be vaccinated.

"Meanwhile Maori in west Auckland, who don’t have an appointment should instead go to the other Waipareira’s second Vaccination Centre in Catherine Street, Henderson."

7:35am - The AM Show's Ashleigh McCaull says there was a queue nearly out onto the street at Basin Reserve McDonald's when the store opened at 7am. 

"I was speaking to the first lady in the line and as she was leaving the car park, she was woohooing and cheering with delight."

7:20am - Of Tuesday's cases, more than half were infected in a household, the Director-General says. A small number were at essential workplaces and the rest were infected at locations of interest. Most of the location of interest cases were infected prior to the lockdown, Dr Bloomfield says.

He says having MPs in the House on Tuesday looked "pretty low risk" with only a small number of politicians there. He provided advice about minimising risk, but doesn't have a view on whether its appropriate for MPs to travel to Wellington.

7:15am - Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield tells The AM Show that he is hoping for another low number of cases on Wednesday.

But he expects the numbers to bounce around a bit, especially as day 12 tests are about to come in for some contacts. He believes some of those will be positive. However, it appears the peak has passed, he says.

Final wastewater testing is expected on Thursday in Northland and everything is on track for the region to move down alert levels, he says.

When Auckland moves down to alert level 3 depends on the types of cases that pop-up, such as if they are household members of cases rather than mystery cases. He expects the numbers to come down quickly over the next week.

Four people are isolating at home with the approval of the Medical Officer of Health, Dr Bloomfield says. That's because they have medical needs that mean they can't be moved to a MIQ facility. They don't have visitors and security is provided, he says.

Dr Bloomfield says there are now three quarantine facility - the Jet Park, Novotel Ellerslie and the Holiday Inn.

7am - The AM Show's Sinelle Fernandez says the queue at the northern boundary in Mercer, heading south, is starting to build up now as the sun comes out. 

"Where before we were seeing cars come in two or three at a time, now we are seeing them travel in five or six at a time."

She says its been relatively smooth for police, who have only had to turn back two vehicles in the last hour.

6:45am - While New Zealand saw its case numbers drop on Tuesday, other places around the world are seeing them soar in the face of Delta.

Find out what happened around the world overnight here.

The AM Show's Ashleigh McCaull says there's not many people lining up for McDonald's on Wednesday morning. The Basin Reserve store doesn't open until 7am.
The AM Show's Ashleigh McCaull says there's not many people lining up for McDonald's on Wednesday morning. The Basin Reserve store doesn't open until 7am. Photo credit: The AM Show.

6:30am - Speaking to The AM Show, National's Judith Collins said having Parliament resume on Tuesday allowed the Opposition to ask some "very sensible questions" of the Government and allow for "scrutiny that I think has been lacking for some time".

Collins pushed back on suggestions that the party should have allowed a virtual Parliament to take place. She says this has "never been tested in New Zealand for Parliament" and worries that Speaker Trevor Mallard would just "mute" National MPs.

The party leader said the Government has had months to get an alternative system in place, but hasn't.

6:25am - The AM Show's Sinelle Fernandez is at the northern boundary in Mercer, south of Auckland. She's witnessed a couple motorists be turned back for not having the appropriate documentation to cross the border. But police tell her, overall, it's been fairly quiet without any major incident.

It's important, she says, that people realise they can't use the same documents as they did when the boundary was up previously. They must register for new ones.

6:20am - The AM Show reporter Ashleigh McCaull is at the Basin Reserve McDonald's in Wellington. She says it isn't as busy as when she was there last year when Wellington moved to alert level 3.

"The hype compared to last year isn't the same," she says.

At about 6:20am, there were just seven cars in the queue and that line had only just begun building up in the last ten minutes.

6:05am - Anyone travelling across the northern boundary is being reminded to come with the right documentation - or be turned away. There's a number of reasons why someone can cross the border, including to care for animals, in an emergency, or if they work at an essential service.

The full list of reasons and the evidence required can be found at these links:

6am - It's time for The AM Show. Among Wednesday's guests is Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and National's Judith Collins. We will also cross live to alert level 3 Wellington and the northern boundary. Watch here.

5:55am - What you need about COVID-19 alert level 3:

  • People must stay in their household bubbles, but they can be expanded slightly to bring in caregivers or support isolated people
  • More businesses can open, but only according to strict rules. Contactless deliveries and pickups can take place - but all staff and customers must wear a mask
  • Restaurants and cafes can open for pickups and deliveries, so long as staff and customers do not come into contact
  • Non-essential businesses that require close and physical contact are not permitted to open
  • Weddings, civil unions, funerals and tangihanga are allowed for up to 10 people. Other gatherings remain banned
  • Like alert level 4, outdoor exercise is permitted - but should remain local
  • People should continue adhering to 2m social distancing guidelines
  • If it's possible to continue working from home, do so
  • Schools remain closed except for children of essential workers where there are no alternative childcare options
  • Public venues, including libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools and playgrounds and markets, remain closed
  • Travel remains restricted to work and accessing essential services or picking up contactless goods. Travel between Auckland and greater New Zealand also remains highly limited and will only be permitted for people with essential work exemptions, and for emergencies, care or support for someone critically ill.

Read more about the Prime Minister's comments on alert level 3 here.

5:50am - If you need a reminder, here is where the 'northern boundary' is. A police checkpoint is located in Mercer, in northern Waikato.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1
Photo credit: PMO.

5:45am - Kia ora, good morning and welcome to Newshub's live updates for Wednesday. It's a big day for much of the country which has moved to alert level 3, or as it's also known, level 4 with takeaways. 

A police checkpoint was operating overnight at Mercer, south of Auckland, with officers speaking to motorists wanting to move between regions and checking they have an appropriate reason to do so.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1
Photo credit: Newshub.
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1
Photo credit: Newshub.
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1
Photo credit: Newshub.
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 1
Photo credit: Newshub.