As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 29

Forty-five new community cases have been reported in Auckland on Wednesday, a "sobering" but not "unexpected" number, according to health officials. 

Of the 45 new cases, 33 are known household or close contacts who were isolating during their infectious period, Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said at Wednesday's press conference.

He and COVID-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins, said although the surge might be shocking for Aucklanders, it's not necessarily about the number of cases, but the "nature and characteristics" of those cases.

Twelve of the cases are yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak, but there are some promising signs. 

Dr Bloomfield says the majority of the cases are linked to large households and people in emergency or transitional housing. He says mobile testing units will be deployed to affected housing units to encourage further swabbing and ensure no cases go undetected. 

Meanwhile, the National Party is urging the Government to adopt its three-pillar COVID-19 plan to get New Zealanders travelling again by Christmas, a strategy which aims to "supercharge" the vaccination rollout and scrap stay-at-home orders, putting an end to lockdowns.

The Opposition unveiled its plan on Wednesday morning, which outlines three phases - invest, evolve and open. The plan calls for the introduction of initiatives such as door-to-door vaccination and cash incentives to boost the faltering vaccination rate; upgraded testing, contact tracing and isolation; further investment in the healthcare system and in alternative treatments; and the introduction of saliva and rapid-antigen testing, among a raft of other measures. 

The plan also outlined a strategy for reopening the borders, which would allow Kiwis stuck overseas to return home for Christmas - or allow Kiwis stuck in New Zealand for 18 months to go on an overseas holiday for New Years.

It follows a night of heartbreak for many New Zealanders stranded overseas, as tens of thousands of people attempted to secure one of the 3800 managed isolation and quarantine rooms released to the Government's online lobby system on Tuesday night.

Roughly 31,000 people logged onto the website, hoping to nab one of the coveted spots - but for many it wasn't to be.

Eight new cases of the virus were reported in the community on Tuesday, a welcome drop from the 12 recorded on Monday and the 18 seen on Sunday. However, a number of experts have expressed doubt that Auckland is ready to move to alert level 2 next week, with ongoing concern regarding the number of unlinked 'mystery cases' and the stubborn tail of the outbreak proving resistant to public health efforts.

What you need to know

  • 45 new community cases were recorded on Wednesday, all in Auckland - 12 have yet to be epidemiologically linked
  • One of the new cases is an unlinked case who presented at Waitakere Hospital's emergency department - staff have been stood down as a precaution
  • The majority of the cases are linked to emergency or transitional housing units
  • A wastewater sample taken from Tauranga has tested positive for viral fragments, with further results expected on Thursday. People in the area are asked to get tested if they are presenting symptoms
  • Isolated lockdowns in Auckland would be tricky but are "not off the table", says Dr Bloomfield
  • A junior sailor in the Navy allegedly crossed the border without an exemption to attend a family funeral
  • Tens of thousands of people attempted to secure one of 3800 MIQ rooms on Tuesday night, many were unsuccessful 
  • National has unveiled its three-pillar COVID-19 plan, which would aim to have Kiwis travelling and 85 percent of the eligible population vaccinated by Christmas - with no lockdowns
  • The latest locations of interest are available here.

These live updates have finished.

9:30pm - Chris Hipkins says the Government is making a number of legislative changes to strengthen New Zealand's response.

"As we look towards a phased reopening of the borders and to reconnect with the world, we have to ensure we have a strong legislative base to help us respond when we do get cases in New Zealand," he says.

"This includes ensuring the testing network is well set up for continued high numbers of testing, any future surge or need for further capacity, and that we have security of testing materials even if there was to be a global shortage."

They are introducing a tougher penalty system for breaches of COVID-19 Orders that put others at greater risk from COVID-19. This will include a scale depending on the severity of the breach.

"And we are ensuring the right people have the right powers to act, so the system can be more agile in responding to an outbreak," Hipkins says.

"Over the past year we have identified some areas of the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act which could use improvement, so we are making changes to ensure the legislation is future-proofed, flexible and responsive.

"Most New Zealanders are familiar with key Orders already provided for under the existing Act – for example requiring returnees to go into MIQ and for people to wear masks on public transport – and the Amendment Bill will not be changing any of these."

The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2) includes:

  • Strengthening the infringement regime for COVID-19 breaches. This includes an increase in fees and fines to provide for a greater deterrent to breaches of the Order and better reflect the grave risk to the community when people do the wrong thing, and establish separate fees and fines for individuals and businesses
  • Expanding the purpose for which Orders under the Act can be made to keep people safe from COVID-19
  • Providing for more efficient management of COVID-19 testing infrastructure. This will improve quality control and create minimum standards for all testing providers
  • The ability for the Chief Executive of MBIE to make rules about the day-to-day operation of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities to ensure that they can continue to operate effectively
  • Changing the default liability for MIQ charges so that everyone will be liable for charges unless exempted in regulations
  • People who enter MIQ will be required to provide accurate contact information for invoicing purpose.

"The intention to switch the MIQ fees regime around so that everybody who is required or chooses to isolate in an MIQ facility must pay the charges unless they are exempt, as well as making it an offence not to provide accurate information, will enable a much easier and smoother invoicing system for all involved," Hipkins.

"The Amendment Bill was read for the first time tonight and will be referred to the Health Select Committee. Submissions to the Health Select Committee will open in due course."

7:15pm - Epidemiologist Michael Baker says it's clear the current outbreak isn't under control and it'll be hard to shift Auckland down alert levels next week if there's a pattern of high cases in the coming days.

The 12 mystery cases among today's numbers are of concern to him.

"If you're getting those cases every day, that's a sign that we haven't got control of the outbreak in Auckland at the moment," he tells Newshub.

Among the recent mystery cases is a remand prisoner and another person who turned up at Waitakere Hospital with COVID-19.

"That has always worried me because it means they must be part of a chain of transmission we don't know about," Prof Baker says.

"Every case that you see unexpectedly is potentially the tip of an iceberg."

Read the full story from Newshub's investigations reporter Michael Morrah here.

6:20pm - There are five new locations of interest. They are:

  • Chatters Laundromat Dawson Clover Park, September 20 from 8am to 9am and 10am to 10:30am
  • Flatbush Superette Otara, September 25 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm
  • Weymouth Beach, September 26 from 12:30pm to 1:30pm
  • Mobil Clendon Park, September 27 from 7:30pm to 7:40pm
  • Z Te Irirangi Dr Clover Park, September 28 from 11am to 11:10am.

6:10pm - The spike in today's new cases could be the first sign of a rise in transmission due to the drop to alert level 3, says Associate Professor Alex James of the University of Canterbury's School of Mathematics and Statistics.

"If alert level 3 can't contain this outbreak we may need to face the truth that elimination hasn't worked. We're also seeing a big slow down in vaccination rates which put the 90 percent goal even further away," she says.

"Children and young people are often the ones most affected by social restrictions. Kids in Auckland will have missed nearly a whole school term, do we want them to miss even more?

"We've seen from other countries the poor mental health outcomes and rising inequality that online school and closed nurseries bring. We need to start a conversation about how long we want this to go on for and how to find a middle ground between a long, detrimental lockdown and the possibility of upward spiralling case numbers in level 2."

5:30pm - Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins have denied that Auckland's move to alert level 3 contributed to the spike in COVID-19 cases. 

Forty-five new community cases were reported in the city on Wednesday, of which 33 are known household or close contacts who were isolating during their infectious period. The number was a significant increase from eight new cases reported in the community on Tuesday, 12 recorded Monday and 18 seen on Sunday.

But Hipkins said during the 1pm update earlier that Auckland could "possibly" still have seen the spike in cases if the city had remained in alert level 4. Dr Bloomfield said he agreed.

"As I said yesterday, there are only a small number of active subclusters here. We have over 20 different subclusters and most of those are finished - we are calling them dormant because they are not closed - or are well controlled. There are just a small number of active subclusters," he said.

"Those were there when we gave the advice to move down to alert level 3 and the control measures that are in place are identical."

Read the full story here.

Chris Hipkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
Chris Hipkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty Images

4:50pm - Police say they are conducting an internal investigation after an alleged police decision that allowed travel across the border for a member of staff.

"As Police currently understands it, this involved a member of Police accompanying a group of people across an alert level boundary so they could attend a burial a short distance away," a spokesperson says.

"Police have confirmed the travel was not permitted by [the Ministry of] Health, but further inquiries into the matter are required to more fully understand the context, including decision-making around the case. Police has also notified the IPCA."

4:45pm - It is "no surprise" the most marginalised people are being impacted the most in the outbreak, says Lesley Gray, a senior lecturer in the Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice and the University of Otago.

Several recent cases have been among those living in emergency and transitional housing.

"It is therefore no surprise that people with the least resources are being most impacted in this pandemic, in particular with the Delta variant that thrives in overcrowded environments," Gray says.

"This is not the fault of such populations, it is the circumstances and limited resources that limit options. Such circumstances are at the heart of the concept of disaster vulnerability. Our aim as a country should be to leave 'no one behind' when rebuilding from this pandemic."

4:20pm - There are four new locations of interest. They are:

  • Dawson Road Superette Lotto Flat Bush, September 15 from 10:15am to 11am
  • Allenby Park Papatoetoe, September 25 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm
  • BP Ellerslie, September 28 from 10:51am to 11:51am
  • Z Te Irirangi Drive Otara, September 28 from 11am to 11:10am.

4:05pm - Investigations are currently underwayafter reports of an alleged border breach by an Auckland-based Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) junior sailor last weekend.

The junior sailor, who is fully vaccinated, travelled to attend the funeral of a close family member. They had not applied for a Ministry of Health travel exemption, NZDF says.

The sailor has been instructed to isolate in their rural property in the Hawke's Bay and get a COVID test. 

The RNZN says it is investigating the alleged breach and the circumstances. The regional health authority has been informed.

"An investigation is currently underway into how the sailor managed to cross the border without an MoH exemption or essential travel status," says Commodore Melissa Ross, deputy chief if the Navy.

"While we acknowledge this junior sailor has experienced a significant loss and had wanted to support whanau, like many other New Zealanders in the same position, they must abide by the border restrictions in place and play their part in keeping New Zealand safe."

4pm - Professor Michael Plank, a mathematical modeller at Te Pūnaha Matatini and University of Canterbury, says the jump in new cases today is "concerning", but believes it's possible it will go back down again over the next few days.

"It has been nine days since the move to level 3 was announced and seven days since it took effect. Given the incubation period of the virus, this is the first time we would expect to see the effect of the alert level change in case numbers," he says.

"We have seen numbers bounce around before - today's cases include 33 household contacts or known contacts of a case. So it's possible they will go back down again over the next few days."

He is also worried that 12 cases are yet to be linked, some of which may have been infectious while in the workplace.

"If numbers do start to trend upwards again, the Government faces some tough decisions. Reducing the alert level is likely to cause an explosion in cases and, with a large number of people either unvaccinated or yet to receive their second dose, the population is still vulnerable," Plank says.

"Level 3 may be enough to keep the outbreak in check, but that could mean Auckland is stuck in level 3 for a long time until a lot more people have been able to get their second dose. The Delta variant is really good at finding unvaccinated people. So the message is clear: get vaccinated."

3:15pm - The Northland DHB has given an update after it heard community members' concerns about a potential COVID-19 exposure in the Kaitaia area.

Their public health unit says a woman who tested positive in Auckland was also in the Kaitaia area earlier this month. After investigations, evidence suggests that she wasn't infectious while in the area and like became infected after returning to Auckland, says Dr Ankush Mittal, public health medicine specialist at Ngā Tai Ora - Public Health Northland.

"Therefore, at present, the risk to people living in Kaitaia remains very low, and we advise that all activities under alert level 2 guidance can continue to operate." 

Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill says Police have carried out a thorough investigation into this woman's movements, including reviewing CCTV and ANPR footage. 

"We are confident the woman left Northland on 17 September where she crossed legitimately through our Northern Checkpoint and has stayed in Auckland until she was arrested on 23 September and has been the custody of both Police and Corrections since this date," Hill says.

Police don't have any evidence to suggest she returned to Northland, and if anyone had information to suggest otherwise, then they're asked to contact the DHB or Police. 

2:30pm - Expressions of interest for the Government's self-isolation pilot will open on Thursday, September 30.

The pilot will begin in October as a key step towards re-opening borders and developing new pathways for people to enter New Zealand, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said on Wednesday. If the pilot proves successful, it may allow more people to return to New Zealand without being required to enter a managed isolation and quarantine facility on arrival.

The MBIE will administer the pilot.

Expressions of Interest (EOI) will open from 9am on Thursday, September 30.

The pilot is open to 150 participants and is aimed at people who travel for business. Participants must have a requirement to travel internationally for business purposes (this includes sole traders) and would arrive back in Christchurch or Auckland from October 30 to December 8, 2021.

The pilot will also include a small number of ministers and officials attending overseas events as Government delegates.

Participants are required to be citizens or holders of a resident visa with a right to re-enter New Zealand; be fully vaccinated in New Zealand; and not travel to or through very high-risk countries.

Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga and Vanuatu are not included as part of this trial as one-way quarantine-free travel from these countries to New Zealand will begin in October.

Pilot participants will be required to self-isolate in approved accommodation for 14 days on their return to New Zealand. Participants must isolate alone or with members of the same travelling party in a private dwelling with no shared ventilation system.

The dwelling must have cellular coverage and be within a 50km radius (by road) of Christchurch International Airport or be within a 50km radius (by road) of Auckland International Airport and within the boundary of Auckland Council. Monitoring and testing over the self-isolation period will be mandatory.

Employers will need to submit an EOI on behalf of their employees.

All eligible EOIs will be put into a ballot and spread across the six-week arrival timeframe. If their EOI is accepted for the pilot, a self-isolation plan must be supplied.

Applicants will be advised by Friday, October 15 if they have been selected to participate in the pilot.

Participants or employers will need to pay for their own accommodation if a rental property is being used, their food and other personal costs. A fee of $1000 (incl. GST) per participant will also be payable for transport and other associated costs.

If participants need to enter MIQ because they fail to comply with self-isolation protocols, they will also be liable for MIQ fees.

Employers will be expected to take all reasonable steps to ensure their employees comply with self-isolation requirements if accepted into the pilot.

What does self-isolation look like?

When in self-isolation, participants must:

  • remain in their place of self-isolation for at least 14 days. They will not be allowed to leave the property at any time
  • isolate alone or with others from the same travelling party. They cannot isolate with family or any other household members
  • not allow any visitors to enter the premises, aside from medical staff for testing purposes and emergency or other essential services if required (e.g. fire, ambulance, police, tradespeople for urgent repairs)
  • provide their own food and supplies (contactless deliveries are allowed)
  • comply with all testing requirements set out by the Ministry of Health
  • comply with all monitoring requirements, which could include a smartphone app and/or regular and random phone-based checks.

Key dates for the pilot

  • September 30, 8am - EOI opens
  • October 9, 5pm - EOI closes 
  • October 15 - Applicants who have been selected for the pilot will be advised by this date. Final approval is subject to participants providing verification information and a self-isolation plan
  • October 30 - December 8 - Arrival dates for participants
  • December 22 - The final date, participants will finish self-isolation after 14 days.

2:20pm - Meanwhile, New South Wales has recorded 863 community cases in the 24 hours to 8pm last night (local time).

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state has recorded 61,231 cases of the virus.

Fifteen more deaths have also been recorded - eight men and seven women.

Two people were in their 40s, two were in their 50s, four people were in their 60s, three people were in their 70s, one in their 80s, and three people were in their 90s.

2:05pm - ACT leader David Seymour says the jump in cases shows the Government has "lost control" and its eradication strategy is ineffective against the Delta variant.

"The Government's strategy has been to eradicate COVID-19 from New Zealand with short, sharp lockdowns so we could enjoy relatively long periods of freedom, such as last summer. This summer is not looking the same," Seymour says. 

"Many of the cases may be within households, but the point of isolation is to ensure that COVID burns out within households. The fact new cases are appearing within households after 43 days of lockdown shows that lockdown is not working.

"Delta has changed the costs and benefits of the Government's strategy. The lockdowns are no longer short and sharp, and the payoff of freedom no longer guaranteed.

"The Government now needs to show leadership and clarity. The eradication strategy won't work this time. We are going to change course. We must move from eradication to harm reduction."

1:55pm - Here's a checkpoint compliance update from police:

Four people have been charged with a total of four offences in Auckland and Upper Hauraki as of 5pm on Tuesday since alert level 3 was implemented on September 21.

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, four people were formally warned.

Police have received a total of 1142 online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Auckland and Upper Hauraki.

As of 11:59pm on Tuesday, a total of 344,901 vehicles have been stopped at the checkpoints on Auckland's northern and southern boundaries, 5769 of which were turned around.

On Tuesday, 22,256 vehicles were processed at the checkpoints - 245 of those were turned around.

A total of 56 out of 4305 vehicles were turned away at the northern checkpoints on Tuesday, while 189 vehicles out of 17,951 were turned around at the southern border. 

As of 11:59pm last night, 12,413 heavy vehicles have been stopped and 553 turned around after attempting to leave Auckland, 47 of which were turned around yesterday.

1:50pm - There is one more day for border workers to get vaccinated - however, more than 98 percent of active staffers have already been vaccinated with at least one dose.

As of 11:59pm on Thursday, all border workers on the frontline are required to be vaccinated. As of this morning, 93 percent of the active workforce are fully immunised.

"This greater protection at our border gives us confidence that those people who are going to work and doing their jobs aren't going to get sick - or die - from COVID-19 if we see another international ship present with the virus in our waters, or have an incursion at an airport or MIQ facility," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

"Over the past 10 weeks, vaccination rates for active border workers across all sectors have climbed. This is testament to the hard work of the air and maritime sectors, employers, unions, DHBs, resident experts and border workers themselves for their work in this space."

In July, only 84 percent of the border workforce had been vaccinated with one dose. For port workers, there has been a significant jump - just 55 percent had at least one dose in July, to 95 percent today.

"All Government employed workers are now vaccinated, and this week's deadline brings private employers in as well. This is a significant step towards protecting New Zealanders from COVID-19 now and into the future," Hipkins said.

"This is increasingly important as we look to how we reopen to the world. The border will continue to be our first defence against COVID-19 and the people who work there must be protected. 

"Anyone who has been uncertain about getting vaccinated has one more day to ask any outstanding questions and get that first dose. You will then have 35 days to get your second one following the deadline.

"I encourage you to do this. It will keep you safe. I am extremely pleased and relieved this order comes into effect this week."

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 29
Photo credit: Getty Images

1:45pm - 45 community cases of COVID-19; more than 44,500 vaccines doses given yesterday; 15,000 tests processed

The Ministry of Health's full press release for Wednesday:



Number of new community cases


Number of new cases identified at the border

No 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) 1213 (969 of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (all of whom have recovered)

Number of community cases (total)

1230 (in the current community outbreak)

Cases infectious in the community

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

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious

Four (50 pct) of yesterday's cases

Cases epidemiologically linked

33 of today's 45 cases are linked. Of these 26 are household contacts.

Cases to be epidemiologically linked

Twelve of today's 45 cases. Investigations are continuing to determine a link.

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)

1193 (in the current cluster) (15 unlinked from the past fortnight).

Number of sub-clusters

15 epidemiologically linked subclusters. Of these, three are active, eight are contained and four are dormant. There are 10 epidemiologically unlinked subclusters. Of these, none are active, three are contained and seven are dormant.

Cases in hospital

16 (total): North Shore (2) Middlemore (7); Auckland (7)

Cases in ICU or HDU


Confirmed cases (total)*

3892 since pandemic began.

Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)

159 out of 2074 since 1 Jan 2021



Number of open 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

91 pct

Locations of interest


Locations of interest (total)

91 (as at 10am 28 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

There are no new unexpected wastewater detections. We are awaiting further results following the positive detection in Tauranga reported yesterday.

COVID-19 vaccine update


Vaccines administered to date (total)

5,132,627; 1st doses: 3,266,796; 2nd doses: 1,865,831

Vaccines administered yesterday (total)

44,649 1st doses: 13,519; 2nd doses: 31,130


1st doses: 314,427; 2nd doses: 163,804

Pacific Peoples

1st doses: 203,198; 2nd doses: 114,733

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents to date (total)

1,868,161; 1st doses: 1,185,737 (83 pct); 2nd doses: 682,424 (48 pct)

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday (total)

14,376; 1st doses: 3,884; 2nd doses: 10,492

NZ COVID-19 tracer


Registered users (total)


Poster scans (total)


Manual diary entries (total)


Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday


*There are four new recoveries to report and a case from Tuesday has now been reclassified as under investigation. Therefore the total case count has increased by 44 today.

Today's cases

Of today's new cases, 33 are known to be household or other close contacts of existing cases and many of them have been isolating throughout their infectious period, either at home or in an MIQ facility.

Of the 26 household contacts, 12 come from two households, with six in each. Many of these cases were 'expected' and likely to arise from household and other close contacts.

Presently 12 cases are unlinked and interviews are underway, however for six of those there are already potential links visible.

Now that Auckland is at alert level 3, some of these people may have been working in essential or permitted businesses during their infectious periods. This emphasises the importance of everyone in Auckland continuing to abide by alert level 3 measures - including mask wearing and staying in your bubble.

1:38pm - Hipkins says National's plan to throw open the borders "isn't a responsible way of dealing" with the huge demand for managed isolation spaces. 

He says if the borders were to open, we could be seeing around 385,000 travellers per month - and "the reality is COVID will be coming with some of those people".

"It would be very very difficult to keep COVID-19 out, it would be impossible," Hipkins says.

He says National's comparison to the UK would translate "per-head" in New Zealand's population to around 16,000 cases, 460 hospitalisions and 54 deaths per week.

"If we were [like] the UK, that's what we would be dealing with," he says.

1:27pm - Hipkins says he hasn't had a chance to read National's COVID-19 plan, which was released this morning.

He says he will reserve judgement, but notes National wanting to "throw open the borders" indicates they are "willing for Kiwis to get COVID for Christmas".

He says they haven't provided any data modelling or insight into how they would manage the virus in the community.

1:22pm - Dr Bloomfield says there were households two or three weeks ago which involved people with gang affiliations. He says public health staff have engaged with gang leaders, which has led to a good uptake of testing.

These are not the same households as today's cases, he says.

Hipkins says he doesn't agree with experts who say "we are losing control" of the outbreak.

"We are dealing with larger groups of people, so that means larger numbers," he says.

He believes the contact tracing system is working effectively, but notes that any increase "is of concern".

1:18pm - Dr Bloomfield says the outbreak is primarily focused in "large households" and on Monday, health officials had been expecting between 45 and 50 cases to arise later in the week.

He says "quite a proportion of cases are among groups in transitional or emergency housing". Teams are working with range of agencies to support these people, he says, who due to a range of reasons, often "move around" quite frequently.

He says teams will be providing mobile testing at affected housing units in south Auckland.

1:16pm - Hipkins acknowledges 45 cases is a "sobering number", but says it's not necessarily about how many cases there are, but the "nature and characteristics" of the infections.

"We do expect there will be blips. We have seen blips already in this outbreak, where we have had a bad day… I would encourage people not to read too much into it at this point," Hipkins said.

"We need to hold our nerve here."

1:13pm - Officials have formally signed off on funding for a new managed isolation and quarantine facility in Christchurch, the Elms Hotel.

The new facility will provide an additional 85 rooms.

1:12pm - Hipkins says 44,000 doses of the vaccine were administered yesterday, with 78 percent of the eligible population having had their first dose. He says there has been "real growth" in the number of second doses, with 44 percent now fully vaccinated.

From midnight tomorrow, all border works in a role where they may come into contact with COVID-19 must be vaccinated.

Currently 98 percent of active border workers have been vaccinated with at least one dose - 93 percent are fully vaccinated. This includes 95 percent of port workers, a significant increase.

1:09pm - The Bay of Plenty DHB has reported a slight increase in testing after a wastewater sample in Tauranga tested positive - Dr Bloomfield says he wants to see more.

Anyone with symptoms in the Tauranga or Mt Maunganui area should get tested.

One of the cases is an individual who went to the Waitakere Hospital emergency department on Saturday, September 25 for a non-COVID-related condition. They became unwell the next day with symptoms and got tested. 

A small number of staff have been stood down as a precaution.

1:06pm - At alert level 3, some cases may have been working for essential businesses, Dr Bloomfield says.

This emphasises the importance of abiding by level 3 measures.

Employers need to actively support staff who are not vaccinated to get vaccinated today, he says.

Despite the high number, Dr Bloomfield says it's important to note that many are linked and the surge was "expected".

Workers in the construction, hospitality or retail sectors should get two tests five days apart over the next two weeks, with or without symptoms, as health officials ramp up surveillance testing.

1:04pm - Of the 45 new cases, 33 are known household or close contacts who were isolating throughout their infectious period.

Twenty-six of these are household contacts, 12 of which were from two households of six.

Twelve of the cases are unlinked, but with "potential links visible".

1:03pm - There are 45 new community cases to report.

12:45pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will front today's press conference at 1pm.

As always, you can watch the press conference live on Three or via our livestream, which is available above.

12:35pm - Across the Tasmn, 950 new community cases have been recorded in Victoria, as well as seven deaths.

12:25pm - Thirteen police officers in Auckland have tested negative for COVID-19 after a person who spent time in custody last week was recorded as a positive case.

The woman was arrested on September 23 and taken to the North Shore Policing Centre in Mairangi Bay. She was then driven to the custody unit at the Henderson police station in west Auckland.

When the woman was arrested for a breach of bail and burglary offences, she was asymptomatic and went through a health screening test before she was taken to the custody unit.

The 13 officers who came into close proximity with the COVID-positive offender are now awaiting their day-five tests and will receive advice from the Ministry of Health regarding their return to work, a police spokesperson told Newshub.

All staff were wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) - two were in correct PPE, however the other 11 officers "fell short at various levels" in their wearing of the equipment. 

"Therefore as a precaution the staff were advised to self-isolate at this stage for 14 days. Just to be clear, all the staff had masks on, the issue was more with how the mask were worn," the spokesperson said.

"We have previously said this will be addressed with the staff individually and we won’t be commenting further for privacy reasons."

12:10pm - One new location of interest has been identified. 

A COVID-positive shopper visited an Auckland shopping complex just two days ago.

Anyone who visited Kelston Mall in Glen Eden on Monday, September 27 between 2pm and 2:30pm 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.

11:50am - COVID-19 is "seated" in Auckland's gang communities and among rough sleepers, the Ministry of Health told MPs at an online select committee on Wednesday.

"If we think about the current outbreak, how it seems to have seated itself in a gang environment and the homeless, these are people that are less likely to be trusting of the health system," Pacific health director Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone said at the briefing.

"Finding people within these communities that can promote the vaccine will be very important," she told MPs.

"These are things we've started to work on."

Clifford-Lidstone said there are three key groups: people who are committed to getting the vaccine; those who are undecided; and those who are "reluctant".

She said work can be done with those undecided individuals, many of whom just "need more information" from trusted sources.

Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, said there is a small group of religious leaders among the Pacific community who are "fixated" on promoting anti-vaccination messages on social media, including that it's everyone's "individual right" to refuse the vaccine. Sio argued vaccination is about everyone's right to life.

"I don't have time for them," he told the committee.

It's understood three gangs have been affected by the virus. Mongrel Mob members in Auckland were required to isolate earlier this month after a COVID-positive woman discharged herself from Middlemore Hospital and went to the gang's pad, where she lives, while awaiting her test result.

Last week, a patched member of Black Power also contracted COVID-19 and spread it to his family at their home on the Hauraki Plains.

A prospect for the Hells Angels also reportedly became infected.

11:30am - Pfizer and BioNTech SE on Tuesday (local time) submitted initial trial data for their COVID-19 vaccine in five to 11-year-olds and said they would make a formal request with US regulators for emergency use in the coming weeks.

The US Food and Drug Administration said earlier this month it would look to complete its data review for this age group as quickly as possible, likely in a matter of weeks. That could mean an authorisation of the shot for children by the end of October, sources have told Reuters.

A decision on the vaccine's use in younger children is eagerly awaited by millions of Americans as coronavirus infections have soared in children to hit their highest point in early September, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The vaccine, which is already authorised for 12-to 15-year-olds and fully approved for ages 16 and up, induced a strong immune response in the target age group in a 2268-participant clinical trial, the companies said on September 20

- Reuters

11:20pm - In case you missed it, the police officer who allegedly breached Auckland's border restrictions by travelling to a funeral without an exemption was reportedly transporting iwi contacts, according to the New Zealand Herald.

It's understood the police inspector convinced officers manning the checkpoint at the southern border to let him pass without an exemption for non-essential travel earlier this month, when Auckland was still in alert level 4.

According to the Herald, the officer had been transporting iwi contacts he deals with through his job to a funeral as a favour. 

He reportedly was driving a private vehicle and was in full police uniform.

Here's what police had to say earlier: 

"Police is conducting an internal investigation following an alleged police decision to allow travel through a boundary checkpoint without an appropriate exemption. As Police currently understands it, this involved a member of Police accompanying a group of people across an alert level boundary so they could attend a burial a short distance away.

"Police have confirmed the travel was not permitted by Health, but further inquiries into the matter are required to more fully understand the context, including decision-making around the case. Police has also notified the IPCA."

Newshub has contacted the police for confirmation of this report.

11:10am - Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor Daniel Newman is calling for incentives to help boost the flagging vaccination rate. 

On Wednesday, the National Party unveiled their COVID-19 policy, which includes a focus on "super-charging" the vaccine rollout with a suite of measures, including door-to-door vaccination in communities with low rates of immunisation, on-the-ground teams talking to the vaccine-hesitant, and cash and voucher incentives to encourage uptake.

"I support incentives. The value of every arm jabbed and every vaccine administered far exceeds the cost of an incentive to get that person over the line," Newman said. 

"I support policies that mandate incentives and the current public vaccination campaign will fall short without them."

As of Tuesday, 78 percent of the people who contracted COVID-19 in the ongoing outbreak were unvaccinated - just 4 percent were double-jabbed.

"This is rapidly becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated, given that those who are unvaccinated have been 19 times more likely to get COVID-19 so far. Of the 83 who were hospitalised in this outbreak up until a few days ago, 70 were unvaccinated whereas no one who was fully vaccinated ended up in hospital," Newman said.

"So I agree with National's approach whereby incentives and bespoke vaccination outreach is mandated. This needs to be an approach that applies in South Auckland and it needs to continue until our vulnerable population groups are fully vaccinated too."

11am - ACT is welcoming the Opposition's COVID-19 Response plan, with party leader David Seymour calling on the Government to get on-board.

"Nine of National's 10 steps announced today can also be found in ACT's three COVID-19 response documents and statements released over the past year," Seymour said shortly after National's press conference, where party leader Judith Collins and her MPs unveiled their three-pillar plan to reopening New Zealand.

"ACT has been calling to supercharge the rollout, order vaccine boosters, upgrade our contact tracing, roll-out out saliva testing and rapid testing, a COVID response agency, vaccine authentication, investment in COVID-19 treatments and preparing hospitals for months," he said.

"While we have not called for purpose-built MIQ we have called for Private MIQ. The way this Government builds, the pandemic will be over before it gets resource consent.

"It's a clear signal that ACT and National have the ideas and the follow-through to present an alternative Government. Such an alternative is clearly needed as Ardern retreats into a smug but increasingly indebted 'Hermit Kingdom'."

Earlier on Wednesday ACT also called for more frequent and widespread wastewater testing with "daily and transparent reporting".

On Tuesday, a sample taken from a Tauranga catchment tested positive for viral fragments. 

"What are the wastewater test results for each site, each day?" Seymour said. "Taxpayers are funding the data and advice received by the Ministry of Health, but it guards it jealously.

"It's time for the Government to practice what it preaches about openness and transparency, treat us like adults and show us what it is using to make decisions."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub

10:45am - Epidemiologist Rod Jackson says 90 percent vaccination in Auckland is "not enough".

Speaking to Newstalk ZB on Wednesday morning, Jackson said even with high levels of vaccination, half-a-million children are currently ineligible for the jab and therefore potentially at risk.

He told host Mike Hosking the Government needs to pull out all the stops, with concerns the campaign is stalling as vaccination rates creep into the higher numbers. As of Monday, 77 percent of eligible New Zealanders have received their first jab - but on Tuesday, little more than 12,000 received their first dose, the lowest number since mid-July.

Health officials have acknowledged that the higher the rate, the harder it gets to keep progressing - as the New Zealanders yet to be immunised are largely those who are hesitant, reluctant, or staunchly against vaccination.

"This is war," he said.

Jackson says it's vital that anyone travelling out of Auckland is double-jabbed - movement across the regional boundary was broadened on Tuesday, allowing Aucklanders to travel outside the region for shared childcare arrangements, permanent relocation or to return home.

He believes no one should be entering the country without both doses. 

Jackson added that unlinked 'mystery cases' are still the key consideration when weighing up whether Auckland is ready to move to alert level 2 next week.

"The only thing that influences whether we go to level 2 or not is whether we've still got unlinked cases - that's it," he said.

Unlinked infections are cases that have yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. The majority are usually linked in the following days, however it can be a sign that undetected chains of transmission are still circulating in the community. 

10:30am - COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says it's possible to get 85 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated by Christmas, but they have no data modelling to support that.

He says the "suite of measures" outlined in the plan will allow a high rate of vaccination by the end of the year. Initiatives would include deploying teams to talk to the vaccine-hesitant and go door-to-door with vaccinations to encourage uptake, as well as cash or voucher incentives and clinics positioned outside venues such as churches and nightclubs.

When asked about Professor Shaun Hendy's modelling - which predicted around 7000 deaths at 80 percent vaccination with moderate health measures - Bishop said it's up to debate and has been challenged by other modellers.

He said the Delta variant is here and even if the outbreak is eliminated, it will still come back.

"We need to reopen, while mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.

"There will be COVID in the community, it's how you deal with COVID in the community."

10:15am - Here's a full breakdown of National's COVID-19 plan.

10:08am - Collins says the plan is focused on super-charging the vaccine rollout and enhancing contact tracing, testing and isolation measures.

The party's COVID-19 Response plan comprises three pillars - invest, evolve, and open.

The first pillar focuses on super-charging the vaccination campaign by going door-to-door in vulnerable communities with low rates of vaccine uptake. There will be a move to boost saliva and rapid-antigen testing, as well as the creation of a new response agency and additional investment in hospitals, ICU capacity and alternative treatments. 

The second pillar focuses on utilising technology over lockdowns. When 70 to 75 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, the plan would put an end to nationwide lockdowns.

The third pillar focuses on reopening the country and providing a pathway to "reconnect New Zealand to the world". When 85 to 90 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, international travel would be categorised into green, orange and red zones.

People who are fully vaccinated and returning from green-zone countries would be able to travel freely, Collins said. A negative test would be required before departure and a rapid test would be conducted on arrival.

People who are fully vaccinated and returning from orange-zone countries would spend one week at home in isolation and use an app to check in daily. 

Travel from red zones would resemble the current system. Unvaccinated Kiwis would be required to go through managed isolation and quarantine and undergo routine testing. 

Under green and orange, immigration settings would return to normal, Collins said, such as allowing international students to re-enter the country.

However, people who are not citizens or permanent residents - and are unvaccinated - would not be allowed entry. 

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 29
Photo credit: Newshub

10:06am - National's plan allows for vaccinated travel

Press release:

National's plan to reopen New Zealand would reunite Kiwi families, allow New Zealanders to travel overseas for business and pleasure, boost tourism and international education, and end the depressing and outrageous human lottery that is the MIQ debacle, National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

"Once New Zealand reaches a milestone of 85 percent of the aged 12 and above population fully vaccinated, we should start to safely reopen to the world. 85 percent would give us one of the world's highest vaccination rates.

"Alongside the public health measures outlined in our plan, a milestone of 85 percent means we can manage COVID-19 coming through the border.

"National's reopening plan is based on a traffic light system and prioritises fully vaccinated travellers. Non-citizens and non-permanent residents who are not vaccinated would be banned from travelling to New Zealand.

"The low-risk (green) pathway is for travel from jurisdictions where there are either no or little cases of COVID-19, and where vaccination rates are above 80 percent.

"Vaccinated travellers from these jurisdictions would be able to come to New Zealand with a pre-departure test and a rapid and saliva test on arrival at the port of entry. Assuming all tests are negative they would be free to enter New Zealand without any isolation.

"In the first instance we expect this to apply to travellers to and from Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT, the Cook Islands and possibly Taiwan.

"The medium-risk (orange) pathway is travel from jurisdictions where COVID-19 is spreading but under control, and where vaccination rates are above 50 percent. Judgments would be made by National's proposed dedicated COVID-19 agency, Te Korowai Kōkiri.

"Vaccinated travellers from these jurisdictions would be able to come to New Zealand with a pre-departure test and a rapid and saliva test on arrival at the port of entry.

"They would then be required to spend seven days in home isolation and encouraged to take rapid tests which would be provided for free upon arrival. Enforcement would be via spot checks, and the possible use of digital monitoring apps like Singapore's 'Homer' app.

"We expect this to apply to travellers to and from NSW, Victoria, Singapore, the USA, the UK and many European countries.

"People who test positive either at ports of entry or in the community would either be required to isolate at home or in purpose-built quarantine, with assessments made by public health teams.

"Under this plan, Kiwis coming through the green and orange pathways would be able to come home by Christmas.

"Kiwis have done the hard yards, they've willingly followed harsh lockdown measures and other restrictions. It's time they're offered a vision for the future and a plan for how this hard work has paid off. National's plan does just that."

10:05am - Ten steps for vigorous suppression of COVID-19

Press release:

The time will soon come for New Zealand to pivot from an elimination strategy to one of vigorous suppression, National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

"New Zealand is at a tipping point. Delta is in the country right now and may never leave. Even the Government admits it may not be possible to get cases back to zero and if we do Delta will be back again anyway.

"The Government is being intellectually dishonest in maintaining the fiction that borders can reopen while New Zealand simultaneously maintains an elimination strategy. In a world with Delta, that is impossible.

"National is the only major party being upfront with New Zealanders. The time will soon come when we need to pivot to vigorous suppression of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

"This is a strategy where New Zealand aims to keep the number of COVID-19 cases very low, but not necessarily at zero. There will likely be cases of infection under this strategy, but the aim is to rapidly respond when they occur and minimise the number of people infected.

"Once we reach a milestone of 85 percent of the country vaccinated, vigorous suppression becomes possible when supplemented with National's ten steps to tackle COVID-19.

"National has outlined ten steps we urgently need to take to respond to COVID-19 and set ourselves up to begin to reconnect with the world. They are:

1.    Supercharge the vaccine rollout

2.    Order vaccine boosters

3.    Upgrade our contact tracing capability

4.    Roll out saliva testing at the border and in the community

5.    Roll out rapid tests for essential workers and in the community

6.    Create a dedicated agency, Te Korowai Kōkiri, to manage our COVID-19 response based in Manukau not Wellington

7.    Build purpose-built quarantine facilities

8.    Launch a digital app for vaccination authentication

9.    Invest in next-generation COVID treatments

10.  Prepare our hospitals and expand ICU capacity.

"These 10 steps are important measures New Zealand needs to take to evolve our response away from lockdowns and help us open up to the world.

"If we implement these steps, we have options for our future. Kiwis can then look to reunite with family, travel overseas for business and pleasure and we can welcome tourists and students for international education.

"Once we reopen to the world, the future is in the hands of New Zealanders."

10am - Collins says that under National's COVID-19 Response plan, "Kiwis will be able to fly".

She acknowledged the Government's elimination strategy did work, but it has run its course - and Kiwis stuck overseas have been given no timeframe for when they will be able to return home.

"Elimination had its role, but now we need to vaccinate our way out of lockdown," Collins said. 

She said there has been a lack of consistency from Government officials, with reluctance to provide specific figures. 

"National knows if you want people to come along for the journey, you need to tell them where we're going," she said.

"If adopted, National's plan means Kiwis could come home for Christmas, or take an overseas holiday for New Years."

9:55am - Opposition leader Judith Collins is set to unveil the National Party's COVID-19 Response plan at 10am.

At a stand-up on Tuesday, the MP said the plan's ultimate goal was to get New Zealanders travelling again by Christmas. 

The plan has been developed by Health spokesperson, Dr Shane Reti and COVID-19 Response spokesperson, Chris Bishop, along with the advice of epidemiologists and data modellers.

Collins will be joined by Dr Reti, Bishop and Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford. 

Watch the stand-up live here.

9:45am - Leading epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says Auckland remains on a "knife edge" as daily case numbers remain relatively steady, despite a slight dip on Tuesday.

The tail of the outbreak is proving difficult to squash, with a number of new cases continuing to crop up each day. Eighteen new infections were reported on Monday, with 12 and eight on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Cabinet is set to convene on Monday to discuss the current alert level settings and the next steps for Auckland. The region entered alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday, September 21 for a preliminary two-week period, but experts have since expressed doubt that Auckland will be ready to move to alert level 2 on October 5. 

Professor Baker told the New Zealand Herald the virus appears to still be stubbornly circulating in communities with lower rates of testing, with the tail proving "very resistant" to elimination efforts.

"The tail has been very resistant to whatever we're doing. The difficulty now is whether you can even think of moving out of alert level 3 until we're getting no more of these unexplained cases," he said.

Baker has been calling for a more targeted approach by sending teams of healthcare workers to households in the most affected neighbourhoods, encouraging them to get tested or offering on-the-spot vaccinations.

"The numbers have stayed in this range, hovering at around 20 per day with a slight downward trend for four weeks. That means despite the trend looking slightly positive, we're not going to get there on the current pattern."

9:35am - No new locations of interest to report so far this morning. The latest potential exposure events were added by the Ministry of Health on Monday and Sunday.

The most recent addition is the 77 Convenience Store Victoria St, located on Victoria St West in Auckland's CBD. Anyone who visited the store between 1pm and 7pm on Thursday, September 16 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.

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

9:25am - Here's a recap of our vaccination figures:

9:15am - More than 30,000 people are waiting for their citizenship to be approved after a blowout in processing times.

The introduction of an online system and COVID-19 restrictions are being blamed for waiting times of up to a year - despite applicant numbers falling in 2020.

Government figures show 94,000 people have applied for citizenship since 2019, but only 64,000 have been approved. That includes citizenship granted to immigrants after at least five years of residence and citizenship by descent, for overseas-born children of New Zealanders.

Citizenship by grant now takes 10-11 months to be looked at by a case officer and another one to two months to be decided after that. Citizenship ceremonies add another two or three months to the process, although they are suspended during the current outbreak.

"COVID-19 lockdowns have affected our ability to deliver these services. Our citizenship system, which holds highly secure and privacy protected data about individuals and their families, is only accessed from our security-controlled offices," the Department of Internal Affairs' general manager of service and access, Julia Wootton, told RNZ.

:Citizenship is not considered an essential service so while the country or various regions are at alert level 4 or 3, we have limited staff on site delivering essential services only."

Read more here.

9:10am - The drive to get 90 percent of New Zealand's eligible population vaccinated against COVID-19 is stalling as the campaign approaches the stubborn last 10 percent - but the Government seemingly doesn't have a timeframe for when the target might be reached.

As of Monday, 77 percent of New Zealand's eligible population - those aged 12 and over - had received their first dose of the vaccine, roughly 65 percent of the total population. Forty-four percent had received both jabs - about 37 percent of the total population.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Monday the Government is aiming for 90 percent coverage among the eligible - around 76 percent of the total population - before looking to scrap stay-at-home orders and ease restrictions at the border.

In an interview with The AM Show on Wednesday, Associate Minister of Health, Dr Ayesha Verrall, seemed reluctant to provide any insight into the Government's data modelling - information that could provide an estimate for when the target might be achieved. 

But Verrall could not provide any clear timeframe, instead saying a vaccination rate of 90 percent could be reached "in a matter of weeks" - or it could "take much longer".

Read more here.

8:45am - Bay of Plenty Civil Defence says more results from wastewater testing are expected on Thursday. It comes after a positve result in Tauranga on Tuesday. That doesn't necessarily mean there is transmission, but instead may mean someone who previously had the virus and is still shedding it could be located there. 

"We are waiting with interest to hear about follow up wastewater tests in our rohe. We expect those results tomorrow. meantime there is increased testing available, so if you have any symptoms, you should be able to get a test pretty quickly."

8:35am - NZ Herald reports the police officer who allegedly breached the Auckland southern boundary by travelling to a funeral without an exemption was transporting iwi contacts that he deals with through his job.

He reportedly was driving an unmarked car and was in full police uniform.

Here's what police had to say earlier: 

"Police is conducting an internal investigation following an alleged police decision to allow travel through a boundary checkpoint without an appropriate exemption. As Police currently understands it, this involved a member of Police accompanying a group of people across an alert level boundary so they could attend a burial a short distance away.

"Police have confirmed the travel was not permitted by Health, but further inquiries into the matter are required to more fully understand the context, including decision-making around the case. Police has also notified the IPCA."

8:15am - Judith Collins says the National Party plan to let Kiwis into the country for Christmas has been "expert-reviewed", but it apparently doesn't put a number on how many could die as a result.

But like driving, Collins says it will include some risk.

Read more here.

8am - The Government has announced a "targeted support package of reprioritised funding" for the arts and culture sector.

"Government has brought forward $37.5 million from within the COVID Recovery Programme," a statement from Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepuloni says. "This will span across protecting jobs and supporting at risk organisations, key infrastructure, artists, sole-traders, creatives and projects, as well as a future-focused fund aimed at providing confidence for performances and events.

"For immediate relief, those in the sector will be able to apply for the Cultural Sector Emergency Relief Fund from Friday 1 October through Manatū Taonga’s website."

The minister says she is confident the package will help those in immediate need.

"It'll also give the sector confidence to plan and host performances and events without fear of significant losses if cancellation or postponement occurs due to COVID-19.

"The COVID-19 Alert Level restrictions, whilst necessary, have had an impact on the arts and culture sector. However, I want to acknowledge the resiliency of the many artists, sole-traders, musicians, and creatives and how swift they’ve been in their responses by offering digital experiences and helping us to feel connected at a time when we’re physically not."

$10 million is for cultural agencies to enable them to support at risk organisations, infrastructure, artists and projects, $5 million is for the emergency relief fund and up to $22.5 million is to provide confidence for cultural performances and events. 

"Our immediate aim is to absolutely help organisations which may be at risk now, but we also want to give the sector the confidence needed to maintain and resume activity in the next 6-8 months. 

"That’s why, as part of the package, we’re also proposing up to $22.5 million which is intended to help future-proof the sector’s planning and hosting of performances and events."

7:45am - Here is a reminder of the Ministry of Health's case update for Tuesday:

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 29

7:30am - Thousands of Kiwis hoping to secure a highly sought-after spot in MIQ are disappointed in the Government's booking system.

Almost 4000 more rooms were released on Tuesday night but those desperate to book a space found themselves logging on to join an impossibly long queue.

Carol Higson was one of them. She had to watch her mother take her final breath over Facetime.

Read more here.

7:15am - Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall told The AM Show that Delta has had a "challenging" long tail. While we had a "good day" on Tuesday, officials are carefully tracking the data day-by-day, she said. There are multiple factors that play into the decision on whether to shift alert levels. 

Regarding the positive Taurange wastewater sample, Dr Verrall said we do sometimes get positive samples that don't reflect transmission occurring. New samples have been collected and are now getting tested.

She also spoke about a man in Rotorua unable to enter Auckland to support his partner giving birth to triplets before returning home. Dr Verrall said it sounded like an extremely stressful situation. 

6:55am - The Government is going to pilot self-isolation for 150 people through October to December. This will allow them to isolate at home upon return to New Zealand, rather than in a MIQ facility.

The AM Show is asking for you thoughts of the scheme. Vote in their online poll here.

6:45am - National's Judith Collins was on The AM Show on Wednesday morning ahead of her party releasing its much anticipated COVID-19 plan.

Asked if it would be good news for someone stuck in London, unable to secure a MIQ room, Collins said they'd be quite happy. 

"We have got a plan for you that will make you extremely happy… if the Government undertakes this plan, they start now, you will be able to get home for Christmas."

She remained tight-lipped about the details, but said the plan had a "whole raft of policies". 

"We are so excited about this as we have had it expert-reviewed… We are very careful with the people who we have had expert-review it, because we don't want them obviously being attacked by the Government."

National earlier this month released a plan it said would fix the MIQ system. It had five points: 

  1. A ban on bots and third party providers
  2. A new prioritisation system to allocate space (a ‘points system’)
  3. The introduction of a waiting list
  4. Transparency over room release dates
  5. The introduction of a Kiwi Expat Advisory Group

6:35am - Police have confirmed an investigation is underway after a member of police was allegedly allowed through a boundary checkpoint without an exemption.

"Police is conducting an internal investigation following an alleged police decision to allow travel through a boundary checkpoint without an appropriate exemption," a spokesperson said.

"As Police currently understands it, this involved a member of Police accompanying a group of people across an alert level boundary so they could attend a burial a short distance away.

"Police have confirmed the travel was not permitted by Health, but further inquiries into the matter are required to more fully understand the context, including decision-making around the case. Police has also notified the IPCA."

6:30am - Around 31,000 people tried to secure themselves one of 3800 rooms in MIQ on Tuesday, leaving many heartbroken and social media filled with images of people at the back of the virtual queue.

The Grounded Kiwis group - which is wanting to see the MIQ system changed - was up all night tweeting about the experience. 

"Who would have thought that one of our most fundamental rights would be subject to a lottery?  But here we are," the group said in one tweet.

"Congratulations to everyone who won a spot in the second virtual lobby process. But Kiwis shouldn’t have to play a lottery in order to come home."

Speaking to Newshub on Tuesday, sociologist Professor Paul Spoonley said demand clearly outstripped supply. 

"It is extremely difficult. I think we have used the description of it being a lottery, and it is a lottery. I think the Government is going to have to move to a system which prioritises certain people because of whatever factors. We are going to have get a lot more sophisticated about who we let into those MIQ spaces."

He said if the Government was to go down that route, there would be big questions about who would be prioritised.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hit back at suggestions the system is a lottery, telling Parliament on Tuesday that "is not how I would frame the MIQ booking system". 

"We have released, in recent weeks, enough rooms for an additional 5,000 individuals from over 100 different countries, and this evening there is another release of well over 3,000 rooms across the October, November, and December period. 

"Unfortunately, at the time this year when we had rooms available - which, if I recall correctly, was around the middle of the year, particularly around June; there were rooms available and vacant - that was not the time when there was high demand."

6:25am - Kia ora, good morning, and welcome to Newshub's live updates for the day.