The Government has finalised an agreement with Spain to procure 250,000 additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, supplementing our supply to keep up with the current demand.
During Thursday's press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the delivery of 250,000 doses is on-track to arrive from Madrid on Friday morning.
She thanked the Spanish government and its Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, for their help and cooperation.
It's the first of two deals, with details of the second agreement to be revealed over the coming week. The additional supply will allow the vaccination rollout to continue at the current pace throughout September, until a large scheduled shipment from Pfizer arrives next month.
Thirteen new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Thursday, bringing the outbreak to 868 - 264 of which have now recovered. However, the number of cases yet to be linked to the outbreak has risen to 30 - a point of concern as health officials consider whether Auckland is ready to move to alert level 3.
The region continues to remain in lockdown, with discussions about a potential shift to alert level 3 set for Monday. Auckland's testing rate has seen a welcome boost after numbers plummeted for several days, fuelling concerns that cases were going undetected. On Wednesday, 8472 swabs were taken across the region.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson says the ongoing lockdown in Auckland - plus the restrictions for the rest of the country - is costing around $1 billion per week. Speaking to The AM Show, the Deputy Prime Minister said the extreme economic nosedive is worth New Zealand getting back to its 'new normal' at alert level 1.
He said the Government is currently looking at providing additional financial support for Auckland's businesses. As the region remains in lockdown, businesses elsewhere around the country are still able to apply for the wage subsidy scheme despite being at alert level 2 - the subsidy is available while any area of the country remains at alert level 3 or 4. However, when Auckland joins 'Delta level 2', the subsidy will no longer be accessible for struggling business owners.
What you need to know:
- The Government has secured an additional 250,000 vaccine doses through an agreement with Spain, with the delivery set to arrive tomorrow
- Thirteen new cases were recorded on Thursday, all in Auckland, bringing the outbreak to 868 - 264 people have now recovered and one case has been reclassified as a border infection
- Six of Thursday's cases were infectious in the community
- The number of unlinked cases to the outbreak has increased to 30
- The rest of New Zealand moved to 'Delta level 2' at 11:59pm on Tuesday - Auckland will stay in level 4 until 11:59pm next Tuesday, September 14, with discussions about the next steps on Monday
- Thirty-one people are in hospital
- Finance Minister Grant Robertson says the ongoing lockdown in Auckland - plus other restrictions across the country - is costing about $1 billion a week
- See all the latest locations of interest here.
These live updates have finished.
7:30pm - The third patient at Middlemore Hospital who shared a room with a COVID positive man says it was obvious the hospital was poorly prepared, calling the management of the case "a major mistake".
"This is a major, major mistake really," they exclusively told Newshub. "All I want to say is they need to really be careful."
The third patient questions the hospital's level of planning around the case.
"If there was a plan for him and he needed to be tested and everything, they shouldn't be bringing him here," he says.
6:15pm - There are three new locations of interest from the Ministry of Health - all are Countdown supermarkets. They are:
- Countdown Papatoetoe, Sunday 5 September from 8:45 am - 10:00 am
- Countdown Sunnynook, Friday 3 September from 10:15 am - 12:00 pm
- Countdown Sunnynook, Monday 30 August from 12:00 pm - 12:45 pm.
5:50pm - Auckland warehouses are overflowing with building materials that importers have been prohibited from distributing during lockdown despite severe shortages.
Building Federation chief executive Julien Leys said level 4 restrictions had left distributors hamstrung.
He told of one business that unloaded 70 containers a week but could not shift the product from its warehouse under restrictions.
"They have no more space left, they are literally running out of space. It's across the board from the bigger suppliers to the smaller building suppliers who normally only keep about one months' inventory," he said.
5:10pm - Police have released COVID-19 compliance data for all of alert levels 3 and 4.
Since level 4 came into place, 204 people have been charged with a total of 219 offences nationwide as of 5pm yesterday.
Of the charges filed, 197 were for offences committed in level 4 and 22 were for offences committed in level 3, a police spokesperson says.
Of these, 146 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 44 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, 19 for Health Act breaches, and 10 for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.
In the same time period, 529 people were warned for 532 offences.
Of the formal warnings 234 were for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 160 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, 136 for Health Act breaches, and two were for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.
Police have also issued 3953 infringements nationwide. Of these, 3550 were issued in level 4 and 397 in level 3.
4:40pm - The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) says no doctor should be involved in patient care unless they're vaccinated against COVID-19.
They say doctors and other healthcare workers are more likely to be exposed to the virus in the course of their work.
"First of all, we believe all doctors should be vaccinated - end of story," NZMA chairperson Dr Alistair Humphrey says.
"Principle 1 of the Code of Ethics for the New Zealand Medical Profession is that the health and well-being of the patient is a doctor's first priority."
He says MIQ workers are required to be vaccinated to prevent spread into the community, and it's also important doctors and healthcare workers are too.
At such time the pandemic passes, the position could be revisited, Dr Humphrey adds.
NZMA says most doctors are already fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
4:10pm - With the rest of the country cautiously opening up to level 2, Aucklanders are still staring down the barrel of a couple more weeks of restrictions at levels 3 and 4, and many people are getting pretty over it.
While the 2020 lockdowns saw many of us walking daily, placing soft toys in windows for children to spy and baking loaves of fresh sourdough to keep us nourished, this lockdown has seen many people just struggling to fill the day.
Lisa Grey, burnout expert and lead clinical researcher at wellness company BePure, says she's seen an increasing number of clients battling with stress and burnout in her clinic this year, and this lockdown is not set to help matters.
"For some of us, lockdown provides a chance to slow down, avoid the morning rush and get more sleep. For others, lockdown presents a new challenging reality that takes a toll on our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing," she tells Newshub.
"Temporary unemployment, financial stress, home-schooling, and social isolation are just a few of the challenges many members of our community are facing at present."
3:40pm - Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced more support for Fiji amid their COVID-19 outbreak.
The $12 million package will support ongoing equipment and supply needs, including testing capacity, oxygen supply and personal protective equipment (PPE) stocks. It will also be directed towards urgent and essential operations costs, including funding for technical assistance, surge support for Government operations, and support for monitoring of community isolation cases.
New Zealand will also contribute NZ$1 million to the International Red Cross Global Appeal for COVID-19 tagged to support the Fiji Red Cross Society's National Response Plan focused on vaccine roll out, blood donations and training of volunteers for home-based care.
"New Zealand is committed to supporting our Pacific neighbours through these unprecedented times. We need to look beyond our own borders in the fight to eradicate COVID-19," Mahuta says.
"This latest package of support will continue our efforts to assist the Government of Fiji and civil society partners to assist the most vulnerable communities impacted by COVID-19 over the next 12 months."
Previous support the New Zealand Government has given Fiji includes the delivery of 100,000 doses of vaccines and funding the recruitment of 190 Fiji graduate nurses to provide surge capacity across the health system.
Mahuta says the Government is staying in touch with Fiji to respond to any more assistance requests.
3:15pm - News that 250,000 COVID-19 vaccines will arrive from Spain tomorrow has come as a relief for one immunisation expert, who says it would've been disappointing if New Zealand had to put the brakes on the vaccine programme now.
Professor Nikki Turner, director at the Immunisation Advisory Centre, says she is impressed at the community response to the vaccination uptake.
"Clearly most of our community now has a good understanding of why we need to get as many people as vaccinated as possible. Alongside this, our health sector shows a range and depth of innovative approaches to offering vaccination," Turner says.
"Now the challenge is to keep up this momentum and reach out to all our communities, particularly to support those who may have a range of barriers and concerns around vaccination."
She says the arrival of Delta has pushed the vaccine rollout pace to a new level, and prior to this variant, New Zealand was in danger of being complacent that COVID-19 could be fully kept out of the country.
"What is clear now is that we cannot in the long term keep this virus out completely. However, what we can do is buy ourselves time while we ensure as many New Zealanders gain immune protection via vaccination," Turner says.
"The data is very clear now that the vaccine we are using (Comirnaty) remains highly effective against severe disease and death from the Delta variant, somewhat less effective against mild and non-symptomatic disease, but still with some effect.
"Recent USA data shows that vaccinated people have an eight-fold reduction in disease incidence and a 25-fold reduction in hospitalisation and death. When COVID disease does come back into the NZ community, it will be crucial to have high immunisation rates to minimise the impact on our communities and our health services."
2:50pm - The latest spending figures released today by Auckland non-profit Heart of the City confirm a loss of nearly $750 million in consumer spending since the first border closure in February 2020 - which equates to an average of $560,000 per business.
This includes around $294 million in the hospitality and restaurant industry and $320 million in the retail sector. Heart of the City says additional financial support is required urgently to support businesses to survive.
"The coming months for many businesses will be untenable if urgent financial support is not put in place," says Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck. "Furthermore, if there isn't the investment now and businesses are left to fail, recovery will take longer and we'll risk having a lot more people dependent on the Government downstream."
Even if Auckland moves down to alert level 3 next week, the new restrictions at 'Delta level 2' will make many sectors not viable to operate, says Beck, including hospitality, events and the arts - spelling a difficult summer ahead for many.
Heart of the City has a number of initiatives underway to maintain a vibrant city centre and support recovery such as events and activation, outdoor dining extensions, an empty tenancy programme, a push to improve access and incentivise people to get people back on public transport when they safely can, along with dealing with crime, antisocial behaviour and social issues. The organisation is working with property owners, government agencies, both central and local, along with other business, industry and social service groups.
"COVID has dealt the city centre a real blow, and whilst it's not just a city centre issue, there is a disproportionate impact and there is much to lose. We want to see energy and focus on recovery, with appropriate support in place for businesses that keep people employed and provide the money to pay for recovery through taxes," Beck says.
2:40pm - Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor Daniel Newman says the 250,000 additional vaccines are vital to maintaining the pace of vaccination in COVID-stricken south Auckland.
On Thursday, Newman says the Government's agreement with Spain has reassured him that community-based vaccination events will continue to go ahead.
"As we continue to live with the consequences of the level 4 lockdown, clinicians and community leaders throughout south Auckland have been relentlessly pushing for everyone to get vaccinated immediately. Drive-through vaccinations and new pop-up vaccination events continue to be organised because we simply have to shift the dial and sustain uptake at record levels," Newman said.
"New events are being organised and no resource is being spared to ensure that every New Zealander aged 12 and over receives their jabs. This is particularly crucial in South Auckland where initial uptake was slow.
"People in our community do not need to book. Drive-through vaccination locations such as the Papakura Marae and Auckland Airport means people can get vaccinated today, right now. I want people to do that because vaccinating our entire adult population is necessary if we are to restore personal freedoms and reunite with loved ones who live outside of Auckland."
2:30pm - World of WearableArt (WOW) has made the decision to cancel its 2021 WOW Awards Show, after postponing in late August in the hopes of rescheduling to an alternative date.
Chief executive David Tingey says the decision had been made in consultation with WOW's strategic partners, Wellington City Council and WellingtonNZ.
"This has been a very tough decision but we’ve had to accept that we have no other choice. We've explored every option with our strategic partners. There are many layers involved in rescheduling an event of WOW's scale and complexity. Among the factors we considered was the time needed for rehearsals, key cast and crew availability, production partner and equipment availability and the ongoing uncertainty of Aotearoa's COVID-19 alert levels. In the end we came to the conclusion that we needed to face reality, the risks were just too high."
WOW founder Dame Suzie Moncrieff says the organisation is working on a new format to complete the 2021 competition.
"We are working now on how we can complete the 2021 WOW Awards Competition, albeit in a different form. We will announce the new format as soon as we are able to."
Wellington Mayor Andy Foster says the decision has "gutted" those involved, but the risk was simply too high to deliver the show.
"WOW brings huge benefits to our city economy, vibrancy and provides significant employment for performers, artists, trades and support teams. We will continue to work in close partnership to support delivery of an incredible WOW show in 2022."
All ticket holders will be contacted directly to confirm whether they would prefer a refund, transfer to 2022 or to support WOW by gifting the full or partial value of the ticket.
2:20pm - Here is the full statement from the Prime Minister's office regarding the Government's vaccine agreement with Spain:
More than a quarter of a million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine are on their way from Spain to New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.
The additional doses will arrive in Auckland on Friday morning to help meet the current surge in demand for vaccination.
"It's been heartening to see so many New Zealanders getting vaccinated recently and the additional doses that we have purchased from Spain will help us provide additional capacity and walk-in sites through September," Jacinda Ardern said.
"We're vaccinating well ahead of plan and these additional vaccines will ensure we can continue to ramp up our vaccination programme.
"The Spanish shipment is in addition to New Zealand’s regular weekly delivery from Pfizer which is also expected this weekend.
"We expect to receive a total of 1.8 million doses from Pfizer throughout the month of September, in addition to the doses purchased from Spain. This means we don't have any plans to slow down the rollout.
"This is the result of excellent collaboration between officials from New Zealand, Spain, the European Commission and Pfizer to secure this agreement. I wish to say thank you to those involved especially President Pedro Sánchez of Spain.
"We are deeply grateful to Spain for their cooperation and agreement to sell these doses to New Zealand. This reaffirms the strong links between our countries and is in the spirit of the global values shared by New Zealand and Spain.
"We also wish to extend our appreciation to the European Commission, for coordinating this purchase and to Belgium for their important role in producing the vaccines that New Zealand is the recipient of.
"We expect to make a further announcement about an agreement to buy additional Pfizer vaccines from a second country next week."
2:15pm - Ministers are facing questions from MPs on the financial support available to businesses while Auckland remains under hard lockdown restrictions.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson told The AM Show each week of lockdown is costing New Zealand about $1 billion in lost economic output.
2:10pm - The locations of interest have again been updated as of 2pm.
Two new locations have been added. One listed earlier today has also been updated.
- SupaSave Supermarket, Otara - Saturday, September 4, 5pm - 5:45pm: Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after you were exposed at this location of interest. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result AND until 24 hours after symptoms resolve
- Bargain Chemist, Manukau (retail store only) - Saturday, September 4, 10:33am - 10:40am: Stay at home, test immediately as well as 5 days after you were exposed at this location of interest. Please continue to stay at home until you receive a negative day 5 test result. Record your visit online or call Healthline so our contact tracers can get in touch.
- ASB ATM next to Papatoetoe Countdown - Thursday, September 2, 10:45am - 11:15am: Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after you were exposed at this location of interest. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result AND until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.
1:55pm - The Ministry of Health's full statement:
Thirteen community cases of COVID-19; two new border cases and three historical cases in managed isolation; more than 4.1 million vaccines administered.
Number of new community cases
Number of new cases identified at the border
Five (two plus three historical)
Location of new cases
Location of community cases (total)
Auckland 851 (256 of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (nine of whom have recovered)
Number of community cases (total)
868 (in current community outbreak)
Cases infectious in the community
Six (40pct) of yesterday's 15 cases have exposure events
Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infected
Nine (60pct) of yesterday's 15 cases
Cases epidemiologically linked
Seven of today's cases
Cases to be epidemiologically linked
Six of today's cases
Cases epidemiologically linked (total)
838 (in current cluster) (30 unlinked)
Number of sub-clusters
Eight epidemiologically linked subclusters. The two largest subclusters are the Mangere church group: 374; and Birkdale social network cluster: 76
There are nine epidemiologically unlinked subclusters.
Cases in hospital
31 (total): North Shore (6); Auckland (13); Middlemore (12)
Cases in ICU or HDU
Confirmed cases (total)
3,491 since pandemic began
Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)
134 out of 1,673 since 1 Jan 2021 **
Number of contacts identified (total)
Percentage who have received outbound call from contact tracers (to confirm testing and isolation requirements)
Percentage with at least one test result
Locations of interest
Locations of interest (total)
122 (as at 10am, 5 September)
Number of tests (total)
Number of tests total (last 24 hours)
Tests rolling average (last 7 days)
Tests in Auckland (last 24 hours)
Testing centres in Auckland
No unexpected detections in past 24 hours
COVID-19 vaccine update
Vaccines administered to date (total)
4,100,658; 1st doses: 2,711,485; 2nd doses: 1,389,172
Vaccines administered yesterday (total)
66,935; 1st doses: 48,491; 2nd doses: 18,444
1st doses: 250,521; 2nd doses: 122,266
1st doses: 159,836; 2nd doses: 83,252
NZ COVID-19 tracer
Registered users (total)
Poster scans (total)
Manual diary entries (total)
Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday
New cases identified at the border
- Arrived on September 4 from the UAE on a direct flight, tested positive on day three, quarantining in Auckland
- Arrived on September 6 and tested positive on arrival, quarantining in Auckland. Full travel history to be determined
Historical cases identified at the border
- Arrived on August 25 from South africa via Qatar and Australia and tested positive on day three, quarantining in Auckland
- Arrived on September 2 from Sri Lanka via Qatar and Australia and tested positive on day one, quarantining in Auckland
- Arrived on September 2 from Qatar on a direct flight and tested positive on arrival, quarantining in Auckland.
*Today's community case total includes a case we reported on Tuesday as one that was yet to be classified. It has now been classified as a community case.
**There's a total of four historical cases to report today – the fourth is a previously reported community case which has been reclassified.
1:45pm - Meanwhile, New South Wales has recorded a further 1405 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night (local time) and five more deaths.
1:35pm - Ardern and Dr Bloomfield have addressed reports of a visitor having sex with a patient at an Auckland hospital.
Health and safety representatives are calling for Auckland DHB to toughen its visitation rules to align more with those across the rest of the country.
Dr Bloomfield says sexual relations with a patient is "a high-risk activity", while Ardern says it should not be considered appropriate in general, regardless of whether it's during a COVID-19 outbreak.
1:30pm - Addressing pre-departure testing, Dr Bloomfield says Australia essentially was exempt from pre-departure testing as all returnees were being immediately sent to managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ), where new arrivals undertake regular routine testing.
Ardern says a decision was made to put people on red zone return flights, but as the window for the flights was very short, it didn't seem pragmatic to require returnees to get tested before departure.
Dr Bloomfield says pre-departure testing is "one part of a suite of things" officials do to reduce the risk of a border incursion. He added that pre-departure testing is considered less efficient than day-zero testing.
1:23pm - Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency Pasifika Futures has been involved in a number of ways to address the concerns of Pasifika communities, says Ardern.
"We're working hard with people going into MIQ. We need to make sure we're continuing to support them once they're there."
It follows a Pasifika community leader, Tuala Tagaloa Tusani, expressing concerns that people are not receiving adequate care after he struggled to get admitted to hospital - despite presenting severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Tusani, the chairman of the ASA Foundation - a charity that helps vulnerable families - was struggling to breathe and claims when he asked for help, he was told to take Panadol.
1:19pm - Ardern says she has never categorised the blunder at Middlemore Hospital as "a failure", noting that healthcare staff have been dealing with the stress of winter illnesses and the outbreak of RSV.
She says the public health system has always been prepared for a surge in COVID-19 cases.
"I don't think that's fair. In these stressful environments, staff are trying to do the right thing... but we'll always be willing to look back and see what could've been done better."
1:16pm - Ardern says the additional doses from Madrid will ensure we can continue to keep up with current rate of vaccination until our scheduled deliveries arrive in October.
She notes that New Zealand has been vaccinating at a higher rate per capita than the US and the UK at the peak of their rollouts.
Eighty-seven percent of those aged 40 and over have received one dose - 54 percent of those 12 and over have also received at least one dose.
"High vaccination uptake is part of our path to open up properly," Ardern says. "If everyone who can be vaccinated is, you are potentially saving the life of someone who can't be."
1:12pm - Ardern has revealed that New Zealand has finalised an agreement with Spain to procure 250,000 additional doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
These doses are in addition to our scheduled deliveries.
The delivery departed Madrid at 1am (NZ time) and are due to arrive tomorrow morning.
It marks the first of two deals, with a larger order also in the pipeline - the details of which will be revealed in the next week.
Ardern has thanked the Spanish government, the team at Pfizer and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez for making it happen.
1:10pm - Health officials are widening the scope of surveillance testing. There are still 23 community testing sites operating in Auckland.
Of the 38,126 contacts in the database, around 87 percent have been tested. Public health teams are following up on the remaining 13 percent.
"Testing numbers have picked up, which is fantastic," Ardern said, but warned it must continue.
1:08pm - On Wednesday, 17,684 tests were processed, 8472 of which were in Auckland.
Dr Bloomfield reiterates that testing "is fundamental to us getting confidence the outbreak is controlled".
1:07pm - Thirty cases have yet to be linked to the outbreak, an increase of five on yesterday.
Six of yesterday's 15 cases were infectious in the community.
Thirty-one people are in hospital, five of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units, with three requiring ventilaiton.
1:06pm - There are 13 new cases in the community today, bringing the outbreak to 868 - of those, 264 have recovered. All of the cases are in Auckland.
12:55pm - A reminder, you can tune into the 1pm press conference on Three or online - you can watch the livestream above or via our dedicated page.
12:45pm - There are four new locations of interest:
- Galaxie Dairy, Mt Eden
- Skinny Handy Dairy, Papatoetoe
- Snowhite and Bone-Dry Laundromat, Papatoetoe
- SupaSave Supermarket, Otara.
12:35pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will provide the latest updates on the outbreak at 1pm.
You can watch the press conference live on Three or online via our livestream.
12:25pm - New data from job site SEEK shows lockdown had a swift impact on new job listings, with a 12 percent drop in August compared to July.
The drop put an end to five consecutive months of record-breaking job numbers across Aotearoa.
SEEK country manager Rob Clark said the introduction of alert level 4 restrictions in August had an instant impact on the number of listings.
"Looking at the weekly job ad volumes, there was a 20 percent drop in job ad numbers compared to the week before August 18 and a further 12 percent in the last week of August, resulting in a 12 percent drop overall from July to August."
12:15pm - Pre-departure testing is now required of travellers from Sydney, prompting ACT leader David Seymour to speculate that the previous lack thereof may have caused the Delta outbreak in Auckland.
Joint head of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ), Brigadier Rose King, announced on Wednesday a second 'red zone' flight from Sydney to Auckland next week on September 15.
All travellers on this flight must have the right to enter New Zealand, must not have been at a location of interest in the previous 14 days, and must present a negative pre-departure test when checking in at the airport.
Previous red zone flights from Sydney have not required a pre-departure test. The Ministry of Health said the step wasn't necessary as travellers on red zone flights went straight into MIQ upon arrival.
But COVID-19 somehow managed to slip through. The Government confirmed last month the Delta outbreak was linked to a new arrival from New South Wales, which is reporting more than 1000 cases a day.
Seymour asked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament earlier this week if she regretted the decision not to require pre-departure tests from Sydney travellers, "just as Auckland enters its fourth week of lockdown".
"The truth is it was a simple step that could have prevented this lockdown," Seymour said at the time.
12pm - The Ministry of Health has released the vaccination status of the cases in the current outbreak.
Of the 859 cases associated with the outbreak, just 4.4 percent are fully vaccinated.
As of 3pm on September 8:
- 4.4 percent (38) have had two doses
- 13.5 percent (115) have had one dose
- 82.1 percent (702) have had no vaccine.
For the 88 people hospitalised during the current outbreak:
- 17 percent had yet to receive their first dose prior to testing positive for COVID-19 (15 people)
- 1.1 percent had been fully vaccinated prior to testing positive for COVID-19 (one person).
Many of these vaccinations were administered just before the cases were detected - and so the vaccinations may have happened after exposure to COVID-19.
When taking the timing of vaccination into account, of the 88 hospitalised cases:
- 4.5 percent had been vaccinated once two weeks before testing positive for COVID-19
- No cases had been vaccinated twice two weeks before testing positive for COVID-19.
11:45am - A reminder on face coverings at alert level 2:
11:30am - Popular Wellington cafe Prefab Eatery is ceasing its operations immediately, according to reports.
It's understood the 180-seater eatery - the flagship cafe for the ACME brand - has found the new-look 'Delta level 2' too restrictive to re-open, with the rules enforcing a 50-person cap for all indoor events and venues.
The New Zealand Herald understands staff have been informed of its closure, with all roles to be made redundant in due course.
Co-founders Bridget Dunn and Jeff Kennedy told the Herald no one has been made redundant at this stage.
11:20am - Northbound or southbound motorists who need to travel through the Auckland region are urged to do so "without stopping" - but of course, that is not always possible.
With everywhere other than Auckland at alert level 2, people travelling to or from Northland - such as from Whangarei to Hamilton - are required to drive through the COVID-stricken region to get to their destination.
Travelling through Auckland is permitted for several reasons, such as going to work, moving to your primary residence, or attending a funeral or wedding. Motorists are required to present evidence that they are travelling for a permitted reason.
So for what reasons are motorists allowed to make a quick stop when travelling through Auckland? Click here to find out.
11:10am - The Opposition is calling on the Government to provide greater certainty to those impacted by the early closure of the first round of wage subsidy applications.
Many New Zealanders were wrongly advised that applications for the first fortnight had closed during the evening of September 2 - despite the fact 11:59pm was previously advertised as the deadline. The following morning, problems with the online portal were encountered by those attempting to lodge applications.
On Wednesday, National's Social Development and Employment spokesperson, Louise Upston, wrote to Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni requesting they allow applications for the first round to be made until September 17, regardless of whether the early closure impacted a business or not.
"We acknowledge the Government has said applicants impacted by the error can contact the Ministry of Social Development and 430 businesses have done so to date," Upston said on Thursday.
"However, the Government should publicise what steps are undertaken when applicants phone the Ministry of Social Development. It is important this process is consistent and fair for everyone.
"Second, the Government should make clear that businesses impacted by the early closure will not be disadvantaged. Just saying 'phone the Ministry of Social Development' does not provide any assurance to anxious businesses and their employees that their application will be accepted."
Upston says new businesses had no prior experience with the scheme and some needed more time to ensure their revenue decrease met the criteria.
"It is only fair in these circumstances that a grace period is provided. New Zealanders shouldn’t miss out for the first fortnight the whole country was at alert level 4."
11am - Air New Zealand has launched an additional daily service between Kerikeri and Wellington to help connect Northland to the rest of the country.
The airline will run a direct daily service between Kerikeri and the capital using its Q300 turboprop fleet, in addition to the service currently operating between Auckland and Whangarei.
Air New Zealand's chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty says while Auckland is at alert level 3 and above, these services will operate to enable a direct link to Northland from another port.
"We want to help keep our northern neighbours connected to the rest of the country. With transit rules through different alert level regions limiting domestic leisure travel, this service will go a long way in supporting Northland and its local economy and community."
At this stage, the flights will be available from September 13 to September 21, but this may be extended should Auckland remain in alert level 3 or 4 for longer.
"We look forward to visitors from across the nation coming north to enjoy our hospitality which of course will help our businesses and as a consequence, will benefit all Northlanders," says Northland Mayor John Carter.
10:40am - Mention of the Delta variant was noticeably absent from the Government's two most recent COVID-19 plans, claims Chris Bishop, the National's Party COVID-19 Response spokesperson.
According to Bishop, the Government's Aotearoa New Zealand COVID-19 Testing Plan and the Aotearoa New Zealand COVID-19 Surveillance Strategy were both updated in August 2021 - but the word 'Delta' isn't mentioned once in either of the documents.
"Frankly, this is incompetent. Delta was first identified as a COVID-19 variant in December 2020. It has been in our MIQ facilities since early April. By August, 93 percent of all cases in the United States were the Delta strain. Across the ditch in NSW, the Delta outbreak started in June and should have been a warning to New Zealand about the risks of an outbreak here," Bishop said on Thursday.
"We had our own narrow escape when a COVID-positive Australian tourist came to Wellington with the Delta strain.
"Instead, in August, the New Zealand Government published strategies which don't even mention the strain nor the way in which it has 'changed the game', as the Prime Minister says.
"We have heard countless times throughout this outbreak that Delta is uniquely fast-spreading and more transmissible. However, the Government doesn't seem to have taken its own words seriously as we now know there are no plans to address the unique strain."
10:20am - To recap, two additions have been made to the locations of interest list this morning. The page was updated again at 10am, however the advice for both new entries remains the same.
Anyone who visited Mobil on Walmsley Rd in Favona between 11:59pm and 12:15am on Friday, August 27 or Pak'nSave Mangere between 8pm and 9pm on Sunday, August 29 are 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 you get a negative test result AND until 24 hours after symptoms resolve."
10:10am - There are urgent calls for Auckland District Health Board to amend its visitor guidelines for alert level 4 after allegations emerged of a visitor having sex with a patient at one of the city's hospitals.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and health and safety representatives say the policy should be altered to align with that of other DHBs, which only allows visitors on compassionate grounds. Earlier this week, Newshub revealed nurses were concerned about the policy allowing two visitors, one at a time.
Nurses at Auckland DHB say they are seeing hundreds of visitors a day, which is causing issues with compliance - including claims that a visitor had sex with a patient.
Auckland DHB's health and safety representative Benjamin Basevi told Newshub nurses need a safe working environment.
"What we are asking them [Auckland DHB] to do is cease the visitor policy they currently have in place for alert level 4 and replace it with a policy that truly reflects the level four requirements as is in most DHBs around the country."
10am - A person has been arrested after a wild window-smashing rampage in the central Auckland suburb of Eden Terrace.
Several cars and businesses were targeted, including a gym.
Masked officers were seen escorting the man into the police vehicle.
9:55am - Aucklanders cannot get complacent if they want to see the end of lockdown, says Professor Shaun Hendy, with the region now into its fourth week at alert level 4.
Speaking to Newshub on Thursday, the physicist and data modeller said until the virus has been eliminated, there is always the risk of it "getting away from us again" - as seen across the Tasman in Victoria, a state that has endured back-to-back outbreaks.
"I don't want anyone to be complacent, nonetheless we continue to see this downward trend in numbers. It tells us what we're doing at the moment is working - we just need to keep up those basic practices - sticking to our bubbles, wearing masks when we're outdoors or going to the supermarket, all those things that have worked so far and have brought those numbers right down. We need to keep those up for another couple of weeks and we'll have this outbreak eliminated," says Hendy.
9:50am - In case you missed it, the three patients most at-risk of contracting COVID-19 from a man they shared a room with at Middlemore Hospital have returned negative day-three tests.
The patients, including a 91-year-old, spent hours in the small ward with the man - who was symptomatic - while his test was processed. He later tested positive for the virus.
The patients' earliest day-three test results were all negative on Wednesday night, and more results were due this morning. Crucial day-five swabs will be taken tomorrow.
Middlemore Hospital chief medical officer Dr Pete Watson said he was relieved the three patients had tested negative, noting transmission may have been mitigated by the room's airflow. The man was also wearing a mask, he added.
"[The patients] were understandably anxious, upset, confused and wanted some explanation," he said.
One of the four wards that were closed due to the risk of transmission via the hospital's ventilation has now been reopened.
9:40am - A public health expert has provided some strategies schools can implement to boost ventilation in the classroom.
Dr Julie Bennett, a senior research fellow at the University of Otago's Department of Public Health in Wellington, notes that ventilation rates in New Zealand's schools have been shown to be inadequate.
"The virus that causes COVID-19 can spread via airborne transmission, with virus-laden aerosols able to remain suspended in the air for long periods before being inhaled into the airways, triggering new infections. Indoor spaces with low levels of ventilation are high-risk settings for transmission," she said.
"While some ventilation improvements will require structural alterations to school buildings, there are strategies that schools can implement, especially with the arrival of spring."
Strategies schools can implement include:
Increasing natural ventilation - bring as much outdoor air in as possible by opening windows to get across room air-flow
using child-safe fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows - safely secure the fans to blow potentially contaminated air out and pull in outdoor air
holding activities, classes and breaks outdoors if the circumstances allow
using CO2 monitors in classrooms to indicate when to take action, such as opening the windows or moving outside
using potable air cleaners - high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units for settings where natural ventilation isn't feasible and in high-risk areas, such as sick bays.
Dr Bennett says it's important staff remain mindful of ensuring the classrooms are warm enough.
"Ventilation strategies should work together with other outbreak control measures such as mask-wearing, cohorting, staying home when unwell, and vaccinating staff and students. Optimising ventilation in schools has multiple co-benefits aside from COVID-19 prevention, including prevention of other respiratory infections."
9:30am - As students head back to school on Thursday, clinical psychologist Jacqui Maguire has some helpful tips for preparing the little ones for their return to the classroom.
"Talk to your children about the big day," she says. "Ask them how they are feeling about their return to school? What are they looking forward to? What will they miss about lockdown?
"Pre-empt the changes that they might notice - e.g. explain about masks and why people are wearing them. Remind them of the safety measures (washing their hands, coughing into elbows). If your child is 12 and over, ask their opinion on if they want to wear a mask or not? Discuss the pros and cons with them."
She says communicating in an age-appropriate manner is also key, as it enables children to feel seen, heard and understood.
"If your child is expressing concerns about returning to school, get a very clear picture of their worries. Be a curious scientist by leaving assumptions at the door, and naively enquiring about their thought process. Once you can understand their worries, you have the ability to validate their concerns and derive a plan to manage those," Maguire said.
"Again, remember that children are resilient. If they feel like the adult has the logistics and concerns under control, it provides them the optimal opportunity to be a child. Good luck, and I hope all our young people enjoy being back in the classroom with their friends."
9:20am - Public schools outside Auckland will be re-opening on Thursday under the revised alert level 2 settings, which encourage tamariki over the age of 12 to wear masks.
Under the new-look level 2, schools are asked to put extra public health measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Students and teachers do not need to physically distance, but parents, carers and whānau who visit the school are urged to maintain a keep 2m distance from people they do not know.
Dr Mikael Boulic, a senior lecturer at Massey University's School of Built Environment, says good ventilation is key to reducing transmission of respiratory particles in the classroom.
He Wharekura Oranga research has shown only around 40 percent of teachers open the windows during teaching time, meaning there is little to no natural ventilation. As a result particles, droplets and potential virus could linger in the classroom.
"Good ventilation will be needed to reduce the level of respiratory particles. In addition to the Government recommendations (social distancing, mask wearing and hand-washing to lower the risk), when the weather is fine (spring season starting!) a couple of windows on both sides of the class - for cross-ventilation - could be kept open during teaching," says Dr Boulic.
"Then when the kids have a break outside, teachers could try the 'flush effect': all windows and doors open at the same time for 10-15 minutes to efficiently ventilate the classroom. This will also help with cognitive performance, as a high level of CO2 (low ventilation) is connected to poor cognitive performance at school."
9:05am - Professor Shaun Hendy says it's "disappointing" investigations into the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility failed to determine how exactly COVID-19 entered the community.
The index case in the outbreak has been identified as a returnee from Sydney who tested positive on their second day of managed isolation. They arrived in New Zealand on August 7 and were soon transferred to the Jet Park quarantine facility.
However, it remains unknown how the virus managed to escape the facility, with no known links between the returnee and the first case identified in the community, a man from Devonport on Auckland's North Shore. Multiple theories as to how the virus was transmitted to the public have been raised and debunked, with an investigation and comprehensive review into the Crowne Plaza returning no viable leads. Experts say the risk of transmission from within the facility to the public is negligible.
The facility will be reopened to returnees on Thursday.
"I think it's disappointing that we haven't been able to locate the exact failing that led to the Delta strain getting out of the Crowne Plaza. It would have been very, very helpful to have identified that breach in order to improve our systems. We are dealing with Delta now, and we'll only be dealing with more Delta cases at the border over the next few months... so it would have been really useful to have figured out what exactly had happened," Hendy told Newshub.
"It is slightly concerning that we don't know that. We do at least have the genomic link to the person who arrived, so that helps reduce the risks that there are undetected chains out there. Nonetheless, I think it would have been very helpful to discover exactly what happened in the Crowne Plaza that led to this breach."
8:50am - Professor Shaun Hendy has acknowledged the incident at Middlemore Hospital could facilitate further spread of COVID-19, although the risk is probably low.
A symptomatic man who later tested positive for COVID-19 was kept in a room with three other patients while his swab was processed, potentially exposing multiple staff and patients to the virus.
Speaking to Newshub on Thursday, Professor Hendy said the blunder has put additional stress on already under-strain medical staff, with 29 workers now required to isolate for two weeks.
"You don't want to see this kind of thing happen. Obviously it's difficult in a hospital environment when you do have people coming in potentially off the street, and you have to triage those people. There's always a risk of something like this happening," he said.
"The good news in some ways is it has happened in a hospital environment - that makes it easier to contain than for example in a supermarket. But it puts our medical services under strain, and there is the potential for further spread, although I suspect that's probably lower."
Professor Hendy said the incident should be chalked up to a learning experience.
"Our hospitals do need to be prepared for COVID patients to walk off the street. Ideally that's not how they are found, but it's certainly a possibility. We should have good protections and controls in place and staff should be resourced enough to be able to react quickly to this.
"That being said, it's obviously a difficult situation at the moment in the healthcare sector, having to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances. But I think we need to learn from this incident and put in place better systems."
8:40am - Auckland University physicist and data modeller, Professor Shaun hendy, says Auckland should feel confident for a shift to alert level 3 next week if the downwards trend in case numbers continues.
Cabinet's decision will be based on a few factors, he says, such as new cases not being infectious in the community - so no exposure events - and strong epidemiological links between infections.
"As well as people keeping up testing rates... it would be great to keep those high. It would give the Government extra confidence that we don't have undetected chains of transmission," Hendy told Newshub on Thursday.
"Certainly, it's still possible at this stage we could move to alert level 3 next week. Don't quite order the takeaways just yet, but maybe start perusing the menu."
8:30am - Experts have been blindsided by reports that the Government is setting its sights on the Novavax vaccine for next year's booster programme, according to Stuff.
On Wednesday, Stuff revealed in a report that the Government intended to use Novavax for what is understood to be a mass booster programme, subject to Medsafe approval. Officials have previously said that the jury is out on whether booster shots are an absolute necessity - however, some research indicates the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine does wane over time.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told the outlet that 5.36 million courses of Novavax are due to arrive in early 2022 - news that came as a total surprise to University of Auckland vaccinologist, Helen Petousis-Harris.
"Usually approval is granted by Medsafe first before a purchase comes. Is the horse leading the cart? This is complete news to me. I am a bit irked that I know nothing," she told Stuff.
Fran Priddy, the clinical evaluation director at Malaghan Institute and Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand, also said she only found out about the news via Stuff.
8:15am - Hospitality businesses - primarily in Auckland - are threatening to stop paying GST and remain closed under alert level 2 unless the Government offers more financial support.
A collection of about 30 business owners held a video conference on Tuesday to discuss the implications of the new 'Delta level 2' on the hospitality sector. Under the new-look level 2, a maximum of 50 people are permitted at an indoor venue, significantly reducing capacity for some businesses. Patrons and workers are also required to maintain physical distancing.
Some are arguing the new restrictions will severely impact their ability to trade - yet another blow to businesses already crippled by more than three weeks of lockdown. There is also the matter of the wage subsidy scheme - the support is only available while an area of the country remains in either level 3 or level 4. Once Auckland, the last region to remain at level 4, shifts to level 2, the subsidy will no longer be accessible - despite the rest of New Zealand, now at level 2, still being able to apply for as long as Auckland is in level 4 or 3.
Robertson says there will not be any leniency towards businesses who boycott GST.
"No. I understand the stress and the pressure these businesses are under. If businesses are unable to meet particular payment dates, there is the ability for the commissioner of Inland Revenue to waive penalties for that. I'm not sure the commissioner would look fondly on people who were deliberately doing that," he said.
"But if there were good reasons for that, the commissioner has the ability to grant a waiver of penalties for people who make late payments… What I'm encouraging all businesses to do is to hang tough, to know we understand how difficult this is."
8:10am - Two more locations of interest have been identified as of 8am.
Another date has been added for Pak'nSave in Mangere - Sunday, August 29 - and a gas station in Favona has also been added. Anyone who was at the supermarket between 8pm and 9pm, or at the gas station between 11:59am and 12:15pm on Friday, August 27, is asked to monitor for symptoms.
"Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after you were exposed at this location of interest. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result AND until 24 hours after symptoms resolve."
7:50am - Robertson has also addressed complaints from Auckland business owners regarding the wage subsidy scheme. Under the scheme, while any part of the country remains at alert level 3 or alert level 4, other regions are still able to apply for financial support. This means that businesses outside of Auckland can continue to apply for a wage subsidy despite being at alert level 2.
However, Auckland's business owners argue that when the stricken region does eventually move to level 2, they won't have that same luxury - as at that point, no other area of the country will remain at level 3 or level 4.
Robertson noted that businesses outside of Auckland are only eligible for the wage subsidy if they can prove the lockdown in Auckland is responsible for a loss of revenue of more than 40 percent. For example, a tourism operator in Nelson who is entirely reliant on Aucklanders for bookings is still able to access the subsidy scheme while Auckland is under level 3 or level 4.
He says he understands the point businesses are making: "What Aucklanders are talking about is, is there something for when Auckland goes down to alert level 2? As I say, we're continuing to look to see what we can do."
The Resurgence Support Payment is still available, he says, and officials are considering what else can be done to help.
"We will take an ongoing look at this. The longer an outbreak goes on, I know how tough it is for businesses. We've put into the economy about $2 billion over the last couple of weeks to support people through this. As we have done in the past, we will continue to adapt our processes and schemes to the situation we find ourselves in… We as a country have managed to have our businesses open for more days over the last 18 months than almost any other country in the world."
7:40am - The Finance Minister says a week at alert level 4 in Auckland comes with a price-tag of around $1 billion.
Treasury has not yet had a chance to model the changes the Government made to alert level 2 restrictions, which came into effect for the rest of New Zealand at 11:59pm on Tuesday.
Speaking to The AM Show, Grant Robertson, also the Deputy Prime Minister, said the pay-off is New Zealand returning to normal.
"In general we know a week around alert level 4 in Auckland - and another alert level in a different part of the country - is going to cost the country you know, close to $1 billion a week. But the pay-off for all of us is the fact that we get back to normal, we get back to alert level 1. We proved that last time and the New Zealand economy did very well."
7:30am - The three patients most at-risk of contracting COVID-19 from the positive case at Middlemore Hospital have returned negative results.
The patients, who shared the same ward as the symptomatic man while his test was processed, were isolated after he returned a positive result.
The results of their day-three tests came back negative on Wednesday night. They will undergo their day-five tests on Friday.