Coronavirus: Why the Government isn't willing to let Aucklanders leave city even at COVID-19 alert level 2

Don't get too excited about the COVID-19 alert level dropping to 2, Aucklanders - it's more likely to be a Delta-style level 2.

After Wednesday's 45 cases, there were 19 on Thursday - 18 in Auckland and one at Mangatangi School in Upper Hauraki.

It's bad news for Auckland parents hoping to escape for the school holidays next week, as the Prime Minister hints the boundary will stay in place - with only people with special exemptions allowed to leave.

The border is Auckland's gateway to freedom and inter-regional travel, but with volatile case numbers even if Auckland drops to level 2, it will likely remain firmly shut. 

"I know that will be hard to hear, but it is not one of the things we're currently considering," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

'Hard to hear' is possibly an understatement. Next week is the start of the school holidays, and Tim Clerke and his family say level 2 would mean nothing if you can't leave Auckland. 

"It's hardly a move to level 2 when we really just don't have that freedom yet," he said.

"We do feel quite disappointed that there hasn't been the forethought to deal with a lot of the issues that are now hitting us."

Tim, Nikki and their family had planned to get away to Ohakune.  

"It's all just adding up to quite a disappointing time I guess."

On top of that, Nikki runs a tour company and has lost tens of thousands of dollars in bookings for trips out of Auckland. But her main concern is her children. 

"I just want the kids to be kids again. I want them to go out and be able to play and be with their friends and get some life back for their kids, where they can enjoy it and not be locked in their homes," she said.

Here's why the Government's not willing to let Aucklanders out. 

The number of active sub-clusters has increased. There are now six and there's a new one called the 'Southeast Cluster', which is made up of five households. 

The second new one in the west Auckland Cluster. That's seen Henderson and Papakura added to the 'suburbs of concern' list, alongside Clover Park, Māngere, Favona, Manurewa and Mt Wellington. 

On top of that, there have been 15 mystery cases in the past 14 days.

Nineteen recent cases were people in transitional housing.  

"So some of the challenges that we face with these families for mobile testing is definitely fear," said Janet Masoe-Hundal, The Fono Lead Mobile Tester.

Masoe-Hundal says it's fear families will be separated. 

She and her team of mobile testers are seeing some of Auckland's most marginalised. 

But they say such families are often receiving multiple calls from the Ministry of Health or Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS), which adds to confusion and anxiety.

They now want greater control of the response. 

"It's very frustrating on our end to not have that control and we really believe 'Pacific for Pacific' - and that model works because we know how to connect with our people, we know how to look after our people," Masoe-Hundal said.

And they know what's needed. 

The Fono's mobile team is doing around 25 to 30 tests a day and their message is clear - get it done, it's not that bad. 

The Prime Minister said the government had worked proactively with pacific health teams but indicated that if providers did have concerns they’d work with them to resolve the issues. 

And there is evidence of the success of testing and vaccinations in breaking transmission.

Remember the Assembly of God (AOG) church cluster? Speaking for the first time publicly, the head of the church spoke of how grateful he was to New Zealand. 

"I would like to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation for all the prayers, the words of encouragement and comfort," said Fereti Toleafoa, AOG Church of Samoa NZ Superintendent.

 The church had 386 COVID cases, and 381 have now recovered. Just five people are in hospital, two of which are in the intensive care unit - but they've just woken up. The AOG cluster is now considered contained. 

"If we can do it, you can do it as well. And we did it all with the walk of God," said Rebecca Toleafoa, of the AOG Church of Samoa NZ.

And Fereti Toleafoa - himself vaccinated and awaiting his second dose - wants others to do the same. 

"I send a message to all the churches in Auckland to have a test and vaccination."

Have faith, he says, we can get through it.