As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, September 16

Thirteen new community cases of COVID-19 were recorded on Thursday, all of which are in Auckland, bringing the outbreak to 996. 

Of the 13 cases, three have yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. However, all but one are known contacts of existing cases. Of the 996 cases in the outbreak, 966 have been epidemiologically linked, with 10 unlinked "mystery cases" from the past fortnight.

Of the 14 cases recorded on Wednesday, five were infectious while in the community and have associated exposure events.

Speaking at the press conference on Thursday, Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said one of the new cases is a truck driver who travelled across Auckland's boundary to Waikato and the Bay of Plenty for work. The driver made stops in Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga, however it is not clear whether this was during their infectious period. It's not clear whether the driver is vaccinated, however their work is limited to pick-ups and drop-offs of supermarket stock.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also revealed that alert level 1 will remain the same despite the heightened risk posed by the Delta variant. As Auckland moves down the alert levels, restrictions will be either lifted or eased accordingly for the rest of the country, she said. Officials anticipate that when Auckland enters alert level 3, the 50-person cap on indoor gatherings under alert level 2 will be extended to 100.

Meanwhile, the first vaccination buses were deployed to Auckland communities on Thursday to ramp up the rollout and further encourage uptake.

The fleet was unveiled and blessed at Auckland Airport this morning, the six black-and-orange buses emblazoned with signage such as "Vaccinate for Auckland" and "Roll up your sleeves, Auckland". Three of the six buses will be deployed on Thursday afternoon, with the first trip scheduled for Pukekohe, in a bid to boost uptake in communities with low rates of immunisation. It's hoped the mobile service will also help to deliver the jab to those who are unable to access vaccination sites.  

What you need to know

  • Thirteen new cases were announced on Thursday, all in Auckland - three have yet to be epidemiologically linked, however all but one are linked to known cases
  • There are 996 cases in the current outbreak, 460 of whom have now recovered
  • Nineteen people are in hospital, four of whom are in ICU
  • Twenty-seven Foodstuffs employees have been stood down after the COVID-positive truck driver visited several stores in Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty
  • The first vaccination buses will be deployed to Auckland communities on Thursday to ramp up vaccination rates in the region
  • The pause on MIQ bookings will be lifted on Monday, starting with 3000 rooms released through a new randomised booking system. Here's what you need to know
  • From 11:59pm tonight, permitted workers crossing Auckland's borders will be required to present evidence of a COVID-19 test in the past seven days
  • Middlemore Hospital is now testing every ward patient for COVID-19, whether they are symptomatic or not, to ensure the virus is not circulating undetected in south Auckland
  • Cabinet has made an in-principle decision to move Auckland to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday, September 21. The rest of the country is currently in alert level 2
  • You can see the latest locations of interest here
  • Testing location details are here.

These live updates have finished.

8:35pm - Foodstuffs has confirmed the truck driver who tested positive for COVID-19 worked for one of its partners - and 27 employees have been temporarily stood down as a result.

Head of corporate affairs Antoinette Laird says the driver picked up loads from the Foodstuffs North Island Landing Drive Distribution Centre in Auckland and delivered to "a number" of Foodstuffs stores in Auckland and the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. 

She says the Foodstuffs sites do not need to be added as locations of interest on the Ministry of Health's website as the delivery areas aren't accessible to members of the public.

"The driver's routes and destinations have all been logged, they have followed all PPE and COVID-19 protocols that we have in place at our sites," Laird says.

"Public health has carried out its initial investigations and given guidance that team members at Foodstuffs North Island Landing Drive Distribution Centre should self-isolate if they have been in proximity of the driver when they were on site.

"This guidance was immediately followed and 27 of the team have been stood down to self-isolate on full pay. This will not affect operations or our ability to get products to stores."

Laird says truck drivers who come to Foodstuffs sites and stores are required to follow strict protocols, including cleaning, physical distancing and mask-wearing. Truck drivers don't enter the shop floor of stores or sites as part of their delivery or pick up routine.

6:45pm - A family at the centre of the country's biggest COVID-19 clusters say they were in tears and felt blindsided after all seven of them tested positive for the virus. 

The family is among five others linked to the church cluster in Auckland that has just left quarantine (MIQ). 

Holding her two boys, Patricia Tosoga reflected on her family's ordeal with Delta.

"We were so blindsided by it because only one of us from our household went to the service and then came home, and our whole family got it," she told Newshub.

That service in Māngere was just over one month ago. Now, finally, her family of seven is out of MIQ. 

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

6:15pm - The Ministry of Health had provided an update on two of the cases who tested positive today that are being investigated by public health staff.

Truck driver

Auckland Regional Public Health has now completed its initial interview with the truck driver who returned a positive test result as confirmed earlier today. This case has been linked to the existing outbreak.

A small number of exposure events are in the process of being worked through by public health staff.  Any that are locations of interest will be listed on the Ministry of Health website. We anticipate the first of a handful of Auckland locations, expected to be supermarkets and dairies, to be published this evening. Where we can readily identify contacts, these exposure events will not be listed.

There are four other household contacts who are in self-isolation and are being tested.

Middlemore patient

The patient who tested positive at Middlemore hospital on Wednesday evening has also been interviewed, and is now in isolation at home awaiting transfer to MIQ.

The individual is in a household where no other cases have been identified at this stage.  All household members are in isolation and we continue to look for links to other cases.  

The other five previous cases identified through exposure events at Middlemore hospital have all been linked to the outbreak on further investigation.

6:10pm - There are some new locations of interest. They are:

  • Saveway Asian Supermarket Papakura, Tuesday 7 September from 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
  • Z Bombay, Saturday 11 September from 5:35 am - 6:35 am
  • SuperValue Flatbush Clover Park, Thursday 9 September from 4:45 pm - 5:30 pm
  • Z Te Irirangi Dr Clover Park, Monday 13 September from 7:45 am - 8:00 am
  • Countdown Mangere Mall Mangere, Sunday 12 September from 12:55 pm - 1:55 pm
  • Manuroa Superette Takanini, Monday 13 September from 1:41 pm - 2:45 pm
  • FreshChoice Mangere Bridge, Sunday 12 September from 12:40 pm - 1:40 pm.

5:40pm - A business advisor is outraged the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) provides only 48 hours for companies to submit revenue figures in their applications for the wage subsidy.

Meanwhile businesses who provide estimates rather than revenue figures have two weeks to apply for the subsidy, and MSD says it's because that allows them to get money out the door quicker.

That's not good enough for business advisor Geoff Neal, who told Newshub forcing businesses to use estimates rather than actual figures, "actually results in much higher administration costs for both the business and MSD".

"Saying things like 'businesses can apply two weeks before that deadline with estimates' is not acceptable for multiple reasons," Neal says.

"The deadline was eight/nine days in previous lockdowns [and] the complementary Resurgence Support Payment administered by the IRD in parallel doesn't have a deadline."

Read the full story here.

5:10pm - Kahungunu Whanau Services (KWS), a kaupapa Māori organisation based in central Wellington, has launched Waka Ora, a mobile COVID-19 vaccination service.

It was set up to offer the vaccination to people who are experiencing homelessness in emergency and transitional housing. It is also available to the essential workforce in the city.

KWS, with support from Tu Ora primary health organisation, can also educate people on the vaccine in preparation for the rollout. 

KWS CEO Ali Hamlin-Paenga says it's important that people are well informed.

"We must look at Māori-led solutions that are accessible, safe, and delivered by familiar faces. A Māori response must be resourced well and given the space to be agile and not forced to deliver inside the square of the system. These communities know us and trust us as a service that delivers," she says.

Hamlin-Paenga says the service will show up wherever it is needed, whether that's in someone's home on their street or at a marae. No appointments are needed.

4:40pm - National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti is calling on the Government to reduce the compliance for GPs to allow them to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. 

He says Australia was on track to authorise 1300 GPs by July to give the Pfizer vaccine.

"That's more than the 1000 GP practices in New Zealand that could be used to help administer the COVID vaccine. That means more Australian GPs in one month can vaccinate than all of the GP practices in New Zealand," Dr Reti says.

"The Prime Minister proudly said this week there are about 113 GP practices that could give the vaccine in Auckland. Given there are around 400 practices in metropolitan Auckland she has no reason to be proud of squandering the time from when vaccines were available in February and Delta arriving in April."

He says the GPs are vital in the national immunisation programme and there is "no good reason" why they haven't been used.

"One barrier to GPs becoming authorised has been the huge compliance burden with the process taking six weeks, an 80 page operating manual and several site visits," he says.

"The Government needs to reduce the compliance for GPs and get those Auckland GPs vaccinating. We are already disastrously late involving GPs and if we want to be vaccinating as many people as possible as quickly as possible, then GPs are a vital tool to do so."

4:10pm - Qantas may be planning a return to the international skies this December, but seats onboard will come at a high cost, especially when compared to rival airlines flying to the same destinations.

The Australian carrier has made no secret of the fact that it will resume international services this summer with massive advertising campaigns rolled out to encourage people to get vaccinated, something that will be compulsory for all passengers flying on Qantas.

But vaccinations may not be the only thing that prevents Qantas from filling its planes with people. Airfares released for many of its international routes reveal the airline's ticket prices are sometimes double those on competing airlines, according to prices listed on

Read the full story here.

3:40pm - ExportNZ executive director Catherine Beard says she welcomes the announcement that some MIQ rooms will be set aside for urgent exporter travel.

"We have been talking and writing to MBIE officials and ministers for months about setting aside MIQ rooms for exporters who have had urgent travel requirements but no way of being prioritised for MIQ rooms. While this is a modest allocation of rooms, it is at least a step in the right direction," she says.

"Exporters have been doing it increasingly tough to be cut off from their customers for so long, particularly as the rest of the world starts to get back to business, doing trade shows and having face to face meetings."

Beard says while it is a step in the right direction - and exporters appreciate the efforts of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise - the Government needs to focus on developing solutions that will increase capacity for safe people movement through the border.

"Business needs the 'reconnecting with the world' work sped up alongside the vaccination rates. Everyone having to go through the 'eye of the needle' that is MIQ just will not work for much longer and will see exports suffer."

3:15pm - As mentioned earlier, New Zealand will keep the same alert level 1 settings it's always had once the country is ready to shift back down, despite the threat of the Delta variant.

Ardern says level 1 means there's no COVID-19 in the community and New Zealanders can live "pretty normal lives".

Additionally, once Auckland moves to level 3, the rest of the country's level 2 restrictions will ease slightly.

"That remains the objective of alert level 1 and we don't believe it needs to change, even with Delta. But the most important consideration here is that alert level 1 has always been for an environment where there is no risk of community transmission, where COVID, or indeed Delta, doesn't present a risk. When it's outside our border walls, not in it," she says.

Read the full story here.

2:45pm - To recap, one of the latest cases is a person who presented at Middlemore Hospital's emergency department.

The person, who arrived at the hospital for an unrelated issue, was not symptomatic and answered the screening questions in negative. However, they were still swabbed due to the hospital's broader surveillance testing and returned a positive result.

The person, who is not a known contact, is being interviewed to determine any links to the community.

2:30pm - One new location of interest has been identified as of 2pm.

It is Saveway Asian Supermarket on Great South Rd in Papakura.

Anyone who was there between 4:30pm and 5pm on Tuesday, September 7 is asked to self-monitor for symptoms of the virus 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. 

The other potential exposure events listed on Thursday are:

  • Mascot Dairy, Mangere - Monday, September 13, 12:30pm and 12:45pm
  • Mayfield Superette Otara - Friday, September 10, 6pm - 6:15pm.

2:20pm - Meanwhile, New South Wales has recorded 1351 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night (local time) and 12 deaths.

The total number of cases in New South Wales since the beginning of the pandemic has risen to 48,152.

More than 1200 people with the virus are currently in hospitals across the state.

2:15pm - On Wednesday afternoon, a man was turned around at Mercer's southern checkpoint after he was found to be attempting to travel from Auckland to Raglan, police said on Thursday. 

The man then attempted to exit Auckland by taking an alternative route, where he was stopped again at a different checkpoint.

The man was issued a warning and an infringement notice for breaching the Health Order. 

A woman was also caught after she drove through the southbound Mercer checkpoint without stopping on Wednesday afternoon.

The vehicle was subsequently stopped by police a short distance away from the checkpoint - the woman was found to be a suspended driver.

She was given an infringement notice for breaching the Health Order and has been forbidden to drive.

"We want to remind the public that police will continue to stop and question motorists travelling through the checkpoint and enforcement action will be considered for people deliberately attempting to breach the restrictions, which are in place to help keep everyone safe and reduce any spread of COVID-19 in the community," a police spokesperson said.

"Police are also reminding motorists that from 11:59pm tonight, permitted workers crossing the alert level Boundary will be asked by police at the checkpoints to provide evidence of having had a COVID-19 test in the past seven days.

Further details around the requirements can be found here.

2:10pm - Here are some checkpoint figures from Thursday:

  • As of 11:59pm on Wednesday, a total of 133,485 vehicles had been stopped at the 10 checkpoints situated along Auckland's northern and southern boundaries since 11:59pm on August 31
  • A total of 1533 vehicles had been turned around during this time
  • On Wednesday, 16,238 vehicles were processed at the checkpoints
  • Only 148 were turned around, less than 1 percent of all vehicles
  • A total of 28 vehicles were turned away at the northern checkpoints on Wednesday while 120 vehicles were turned around at the southern checkpoints.

Here are some compliance figures for Tāmaki Makaurau:

  • Since alert level 4 came into place, 75 people have been charged in Auckland with a total of 79 offences as of 5pm on Wednesday
  • Of these, 63 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 13 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, one for Failing to Stop (COVID 19-related), and two for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer
  • In the same time period, 170 people were formally warned for a range of offences
  • To date, police have received a total of 8597 breach reports online relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau.

2:05pm - Police are urging anyone experiencing abuse or violence during Auckland's ongoing lockdown to seek support.

Preliminary data shows the number of family harm incidents reported to police decreased by 2.3 percent from August 27 to September 2 and 1.5 percent from September 3 to September 9.

"We know family harm incidents are typically underreported to police and, in the current situation, it may be more difficult for some to reach out to us," police said on Thursday.

"Alert level restrictions can put additional pressure on families and increase the risk of violence from a partner or family member. That's why we want anyone experiencing harm at home to know that Police are here to help, no matter the alert level.

"If you feel scared, threatened or unsafe please call us on 111. If you cannot call, leave your bubble and ask a neighbour or passerby to call for you. We also urge anyone with concerns about a loved one or friend to call us on their behalf - you could be saving their life."

2pm - The Government must release Māori vaccination data to Whānau Ora providers, says National's Whānau Ora spokesperson Harete Hipango.

"Yesterday Health Minister Andrew Little admitted that the Government needs to do more to increase the COVID-19 vaccination rates among Māori in Aotearoa - it's something we've heard over and over," Hipango said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

"But at the same time his Government won't release data crucial to help Whānau Ora engage with Māori and encourage uptake of the vaccine."

Hipango says the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards should be making the data available to community providers to enable more engagement with the vaccine rollout.

"New ways to engage like the vaccination bus are fine, but the Government should also be focusing on strategies which are fundamental to maximising the uptake of the vaccine for New Zealand's vulnerable groups, of which we know Māori are one.

"Excuses like privacy reasons aren't good enough given the current low uptake of the vaccine by Māori. We need to get as many people vaccinated as possible and this is one way to target a group who have been slow to engage.

"Whānau Ora is about family wellbeing, and right now an important part of that wellbeing is getting whānau vaccinated. The Government should be using all the tools in the toolbox to do so, and that includes giving Whānau Ora access to data that will encourage vaccine uptake."

1:56pm - Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson is now taking questions on the economy and GDP.

1:54pm - A follow-up sample has been collected in Snells Bells after viral fragments were detected in the wastewater on Wednesday.

The results are expected over the coming days.

Dr Bloomfield says officials are determining whether any Snells Beach residents have recently recovered from the virus or returned from quarantine.

None of the new cases are from the area.

1:49pm - Regarding the one case today that is not a contact of a known case, Dr Bloomfield says the person had been screened at Middlemore Hospital and presented no immediate risks. They were swabbed as part of the hospital's surveillance testing and returned a positive result despite being asymptomatic. He has no further information regarding possible contacts.

1:43pm - Ardern is urging people to get vaccinated for the sake of Aotearoa's children, who are not eligible for vaccination.

Only people aged 12 and over are eligible for the jab in New Zealand.

She says we are increasingly seeing children infected with the virus due to adults not getting vaccinated.

"If you don't feel like doing it for yourself, do it for our kids."

1:41pm - Dr Bloomfield says the case numbers demonstrate the outbreak is "very [much] under control". A few groupings in south Auckland are still presenting cases, he says, but health officials are aware of where these locations and where cases may continue to crop up.

These groupings will be subject to further testing and contact tracing, he says.

However, the current outlook is that health officials have increasing confidence the outbreak is controlled.

1:32pm - Last night, Newshub revealed the man who allegedly escaped from quarantine earlier this month was released early from MIQ and sent home without spending a full 14 days in a facility.

The Ministry of Health has admitted quarantine facilities in Auckland aren't yet following strict new rules because of capacity constraints. As the Delta variant is more infectious, the ministry recently increased the quarantine period for cases from 10 to 14 days.

But in Auckland, the epicentre of the Delta outbreak, they're only phasing that rule in when capacity allows.

Dr Bloomfield says protocol is currently a minimum of 10 days and at least 72 hours without symptoms, but health officials are working to increase this to 14 days.

He says the case was asymptomatic throughout, and the current protocol is very good. He says he has a lot of confidence in Auckland clinicians' judgements.

The escapee also went back into an alert level 4 setting, he says.

Ardern says every person who is released from MIQ is clinically assessed before leaving - "and that's the most important thing".

1:27pm - The driver works in food provision for supermarkets, Dr Bloomfield says, and their contact is very limited to pick-ups and drop-offs.

Officials are not sure if they are vaccinated.

There is nothing to suggest the driver has done anything they shouldn't have.

Truck drivers are not required to wait for a negative result as they are often crossing the alert level boundary every day.

1:25pm - The truck driver travelled to Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga for work, but it remains unclear whether these movements were during their infectious period.

Dr Bloomfield says any locations of interest will be made public, however there may not be any as the driver may have only had contact with a small number of people or certain individuals.

The driver had been tested on August 22 and tested negative.

1:20pm - Ardern says that after receiving advice from Dr Bloomfield, Cabinet is satisfied that alert level 1 of the framework can remain the same.

It follows a revision of alert level 2 to toughen the restrictions in response to the Delta variant, including tighter caps on gatherings and mandatory record-keeping and mask use in the majority of indoor settings. 

Ardern says because alert level 1 indicates there is no risk of transmission in the community, the guidelines can remain the same, with people living "pretty normal lives" alongside mask use and scanning in.

"We don't believe it needs to change, even with Delta."

However, while Auckland is still in alert level 4 or alert level 3, the risk is still there. As Auckland moves down alert levels, alert level 2 restrictions for the rest of the country will either lift or ease.

Ardern says caps on gatherings will likely ease, with officials anticipating that indoor settings - such as hospitality venues - will be able to cater towards 100 people instead of 50. 

"As Auckland moves down, the rest of New Zealand can ease a little too while remaining on high-alert."

1:17pm - Ardern says we have hit another significant milestone in our vaccination rollout, with three million first doses now administered.

She says we have the capacity "to do more", with the goal of getting 80 percent of Aucklanders vaccinated with their first jab by the end of the week.

"We need to do even better," she said. "Get out there and do it today, head to your nearest drive-through or walk-in provider."

Three vaccination buses were deployed to Auckland communities this morning with the other three to be sent out over the next couple of days. 

The buses will be positioned in places where people can maintain a safe social distance.

1:14pm - A pop-up testing centre will open at the Mobil on State Highway 1 at Meremere.

A delivery of 100,000 rapid antigen tests has arrived, with some to be used in Middlemore Hospital's emergency department.

Dr Bloomfield has praised the great work of nurses who are going into homes, providing reassurance to people and ensuring they are getting the healthcare they need.

1:12pm - A truck driver who crossed Auckland's boundary for work has tested positive.

The driver is being interviewed by Auckland Regional Public Health and officials are working to determine any locations of interest. 

The driver tested positive after isolating as a household contact of an existing case.

1:10pm - Dr Bloomfield is now at the podium.

Of the 996 cases, 460 cases who have recovered - 15 in Wellington and the remainder in Auckland.

All but one of Thursday's community cases are linked to known cases, most being household contacts. An interview is underway with the outstanding case. They presented to Middlemore Hospital with no symptoms and tested positive.

On Wednesday, 17,578 swabs were processed, 9100 of which were in Auckland - including 2500 across the seven suburbs of interest.

1:01pm - There are 13 new community cases of COVID-19 to report today, bringing the outbreak to 996. 

The Ministry of Health's statement:

Thirteen community cases of COVID-19; three border cases and two historical cases in managed isolation.



Number of new community cases


Number of new cases identified at the border

Five (two of these cases are historical)

Location of new cases


Location of community cases (total)

Auckland 979 (445 of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (15 of whom have recovered)

Number of community cases (total)

996 (in current community outbreak)

Cases infectious in the community

Five (42 pct) of yesterday's cases have exposure events

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious

7 (58 pct) of yesterday's cases

Cases epidemiologically linked

10 of today's cases

Cases to be epidemiologically linked

Three of today's cases

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)

966 (in current cluster) (10 unlinked from past fortnight)

Number of sub-clusters

Nine epidemiologically linked subclusters. The three largest subclusters are the Māngere church group: 381; and Birkdale social network cluster: 77; secondary community transmission associated with the Māngere church group 164.

There are ten epidemiologically unlinked subclusters.

Cases in hospital

19 (total): North Shore (3); Auckland (6); Middlemore (10)

Cases in ICU or HDU


Confirmed cases (total)

3,643 since pandemic began

Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)

149 out of 1,825 since 1 Jan 2021



Number of active contacts being managed (total)


Percentage who have received an outbound call from contact tracers (to confirm testing and isolation requirements)

95 pct

Percentage with at least one test result

90 pct

Locations of interest


Locations of interest (total)

129 (as at 10am 16 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




Wastewater detections

A follow up sample has been collected from Snells Beach, following the reported detection yesterday, with results expected in the coming days

COVID-19 vaccine update


Vaccines administered to date (total)

4,507,944; 1st doses: 2,978,105; 2nd doses: 1,529,839

Vaccines administered yesterday (total)

62,782; 1st doses: 39,775; 2nd doses: 23,007


1st doses: 278,614; 2nd doses: 133,830

Pacific Peoples

1st doses:180,003; 2nd doses: 92,498

NZ COVID-19 tracer


Registered users (total)


Poster scans (total)


Manual diary entries (total)


Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday


12:35pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will provide the latest updates on the outbreak at today's 1pm press conference.

As always, you can watch the press conference live on Three or online via our livestream, which will be available at the top of this page.

12:25pm - COVID-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank told Newstalk ZB this morning his modelling showed that reopening New Zealand's borders with a vaccination rate of 70-80 percent would still leave the country vulnerable.

As of Wednesday, 38 percent of New Zealand's eligible population are fully vaccinated, with 70 percent receiving at least one dose.

"It will be difficult to avoid large scale health impacts - that could include tens of thousands of hospitalisations and potentially thousands of deaths," Prof Plank said.

"So we really need to try and get that vaccination coverage into the 90s, which would make the situation more manageable."

He believes getting the vaccination rate above 90 percent would provide better protection against "inevitable" outbreaks of the virus when New Zealand eventually reopens to the world.

12:10pm - A third potential exposure event for Mascot Dairy in Mangere has been added to the Ministry of Health's official list of locations of interest.

Anyone who was there on Monday, September 13 at 12:30pm 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.

12pm - COVID-19 data modeller and physicist Shaun Hendy says measures such as widespread mask use and contact tracing may need to be kept in place in the future to reduce the ongoing impacts of the virus.

"Obviously we've been using lockdowns over the last 18 months to deal with outbreaks so the higher our vaccination rates, the more effective lockdowns become, and the shorter period of time they may need to be imposed and maybe they could be less stringent," Hendy told RNZ.

"Also, we could make sure we keep some of the measures in place for the coming years that we have been using, such as encouraging widespread mask use, making sure that we're scanning [in], and maybe considering event size restrictions - possibly during winter months when we'll be more at risk."

11:50am - The Government is topping up the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund by an additional $7 billion, Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced on Thursday.

"The stronger economy has been reflected in the Government's books, with a lower debt position and deficits than had been predicted, and well below that of other nations that we compare ourselves against," Robertson said.

"Ministers have decided to use the greater fiscal headroom to top up the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund (CRRF) by an extra $7 billion. There is also an additional $3 billion available to spend from money previously allocated in the fund that has not been spent. We have already boosted support to business in this lockdown and the extra funding will be targeted at further economic support as well as building resilience in our health system, supporting the vaccination rollout and border and MIQ provision.

"We are in a strong economic position to protect lives and livelihoods and plan for the gradual and careful opening up of New Zealand to the rest of the world to secure the recovery. Our focus remains on keeping New Zealanders safe, accelerating the recovery and dealing with long-standing issues such as climate change, housing and child wellbeing despite the uncertainty and volatility globally around the ongoing impact of COVID-19."

Robertson also said the economy showed strong momentum in the period leading up to the recent outbreak, boding well for a solid economic rebound.

GDP rose 2.8 percent in the June quarter, following on from a 1.4 percent increase in the previous March quarter. This was a significantly better result than most forecasters had predicted. Treasury had forecast a rise of 0.8 percent in May's Budget, and economic commentators using more recent data had forecast around a 1.2 percent rise. Internationally, the OECD average was 1.6 percent.

"This is a very positive result and shows New Zealanders' confidence in our economic recovery roadmap. Excluding the September 2020 quarter, this is the strongest quarterly growth that we have seen since 1999. The economy in the June 2021 quarter was 4.3 percent above where it was in the pre-COVID December 2019 quarter," Robertson said.

"Household spending remained buoyant, led by retail spending on electronics and furniture, eating out and holidays. The services industries, which make up two-thirds of the economy, grew strongly with higher activity in engineering, architectural and consulting services.

"Activity in the construction sector continued to rise, driven by residential building, while there was solid growth in manufacturing. Businesses' confidence in the economy was also reflected in investment levels, which remained high and above pre-COVID levels in the December 2019 quarter.

"This bodes well as we come out of lockdown. It shows our science and health-led plan has continued to work for the economy. Our quick and decisive response to this outbreak, including providing cashflow and confidence through schemes such as the Wage Subsidy, will also help the economy to rebound quickly again. We do know, however, that the impact has been uneven and we will continue to work with affected sectors to support them in these challenging times."

On an annual basis, the economy grew 5.1 percent. The size of the economy was $340 billion.

"New Zealand continues to outperform many of the countries we compare ourselves against," Robertson said.

Compared with New Zealand's 2.8 percent quarterly growth, Australia rose by 0.7 percent, the United States by 1.6 percent and Japan by 0.5 percent, while Canada declined by 0.3 percent. Only the United Kingdom grew by more, up 4.8 percent, reversing recent falls in activity.

11:25am - Here are some photos of the vaccination buses at the Auckland Airport unveiling this morning. The fleet is being blessed before the six buses are deployed to communities with the lowest rates of immunisation.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, September 16
Photo credit: RNZ / Mariner Fagaiva-Muller
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, September 16
Photo credit: Newshub
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, September 16
Photo credit: RNZ / Mariner Fagaiva-Muller

11:15am - "Shot Bro. We're taking the vaccine to the people with the launch of the first vaccination buses in Tāmaki Makaurau this morning," says Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.

11:05am - Vaccination buses will begin operating from this morning to boost rates of immunisation in harder-to-reach areas of the Auckland community.

The fleet of six buses, on loan to the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC), have been unveiled at Auckland Airport's Park & Ride facility. The converted black-and-orange Park & Ride buses are emblazoned with signs such as, "Roll up your sleeves, Auckland" and "Vaccinate for Auckland".

Minister Willie Jackson and Mayor Phil Goff have been at the airport this morning for the unveiling.

The mobile vaccination service will help those in the community who may not be able to access centres and clinics.

The Government is aiming for 80 percent of Aucklanders to have had their first shot by the end of the week.

Pukekohe is one of the first suburbs to get a visit from a bus this afternoon.

The name of the bus service has now been narrowed down to four favourites - Jabba Waka, Shot Bro, Jabbin' Wagon and Vaxi Taxi.

10:50am - Police are reminding workers travelling through Auckland's border checkpoints that they will soon be required to produce evidence of a COVID-19 test in the past seven days.

From 11:59pm on Thursday, September 16, permitted workers crossing the alert level boundary in or out of Auckland must carry evidence of having a COVID-19 test in the past week. If a worker is unable to have a test, they must present a medical certificate verifying this and that they are not symptomatic.

Permitted workers must continue to carry evidence for that reason in order to cross the alert level boundary, as well as photo identification.

"All permitted workers planning to travel through any of our Tāmaki Makaurau checkpoints should expect to be stopped by police and asked to provide evidence of having had a COVID-19 test in the past seven days. If they fail to produce this, they will be turned around," says Superintendent Shanan Gray, Tāmaki Makaurau Deployment Manager.

Evidence of the test can include a text message, which will be automatically generated when the test is taken, or paper confirmation issued by the testing centres.

If the worker has had a medical examination instead of a test, they must have an electronic or paper copy of that medical certificate to show police at the checkpoint.

Drivers of freight vehicles will also be checked at random and asked to provide evidence of having had a COVID-19 test in the past seven days.

Police are aware of the vital role our trucking industry plays in keeping New Zealand freight moving, however it's important that all drivers travelling through our checkpoints are complying with the regulations in place.

"Any truck drivers stopped and questioned by police who do not have the appropriate proof of permitted travel and evidence of a COVID-19 test within the last week, will be turned around."

Police have put processes in place, including adjustments to freight lanes, to ensure the compliance checks at the checkpoints run efficiently with as little disruption to travel flow as possible.

"Overall compliance has been fantastic at the checkpoints with less than one percent of drivers being turned away for not travelling for permitted reasons or not carrying the relevant supporting documents.

"We urge motorists travelling through these checkpoints to be prepared with all the necessary evidence required to ensure the checkpoints continue to run smoothly. We thank everyone for their cooperation and patience as we all work together to help prevent the spread of COVID-19," says Superintendent Gray.

Further information can be found here.

10:25am - To recap, just one new potential exposure site has been identified this morning.

Anyone who visited Otara's Mayfield Superette on Johnstones Rd on Friday, September 10 between 6pm and 6:15pm is asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the date of exposure.

If symptoms do 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 latest locations of interest via the Ministry of Health's official list, or via our infographic below - just click on the 'Added' heading to sort by the most recent.

10:10am - COVID-19 business adviser Rob Fyfe says he wants the Government to set a clear vaccination target for New Zealand to aim for so the borders can eventually reopen.

Last month, the Government announced its intention to reopen Aotearoa to the world by introducing a risk-based border from early next year - plans that were put on the back-burner in light of Auckland's latest outbreak.

Former Air New Zealand chief executive officer Fyfe told RNZ's Checkpoint the outbreak does not change the need to reopen the country and if anything, it creates more urgency.

He said there are three areas that need to be freed up to allow the economy and society to function.

"Lockdowns are clearly very debilitating, the constraints in terms of people being able to come into the country and cross the border are very debilitating and restrictions on gathering limits, particularly for hospitality, are causing a lot of grief at the moment."

Fyfe said it appears north of 80 percent of eligible people need to be vaccinated before the country can successfully open up.

"We need everyone that can to present themselves [for vaccination] and the faster the better... I would like to see a figure and I'd like to see an ambitious figure for what the vaccine level needs to get to."

Read more here.

10am - Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has defended his colleague Kelvin Davis, who over the weekend said "ignorant" people were "staying home" despite "millions of public funding" targeted at lifting the poor rate of uptake among tangata whenua. 

The latest figures show amongst eligible people (aged 12 and over) uptake amongst Māori is the lowest of any ethnicity tracked by the Ministry of Health. Just 23 percent of eligible Māori have had two jabs, compared with 37.5 percent of Pākehā, 41 percent of Asian people and 31.7 percent of Pasifika. 

The Māori-Crown Relations Minister told Newshub Nation on Saturday it wasn't the Government's fault Māori weren't coming forward to get jabs.

"There's no excuse for being ignorant. It's a simple message, go and get vaccinated. It's okay to blame the Government but we have to take responsibility for ourselves as well. The right thing to do is to go and get vaccinated," Davis said. 

"How many more millions of public funding do we need to keep giving to Māori service providers so more Māori go and get their vaccines? We're saying here's the money, go and inform the Māori communities of the benefits of the vaccine. But at the end of the day, people are staying home."

Davis' comments came in for stinging criticism from the Greens' Elizabeth Kerekere, who called them "disappointing" and said "pointing the finger back at our people will only dampen communication to get the vaccination".

But Jackson said Davis had a point.

Read more here.

9:45am - The Bangladesh cricket team will have been able to visit New Zealand twice this year - before many New Zealanders abroad have been able to return at all.

Also coming through New Zealand's hotly contested managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system is the Netherlands cricket team, who are ranked lower than Afghanistan in the International Cricket Council (ICC) One Day International (ODI) rankings.

Other special group MIQ allocations have been made public, including over 1300 rooms set aside from now until February for staff from international Antarctic programmes, and 400 rooms for businesspeople and entertainers going to Expo 2020 Dubai from October.

This is while many New Zealanders cannot return home due to the scarcity of rooms in the system.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said one week in mid-August, there was an average of 19,781 unique users on the site each day. There are only 4000 total rooms available each fortnight, or less than 300 a day on average - so at that point there were 65 times the number of people looking for rooms as there were rooms available.

Following Bangaldesh's arrival - the third time New Zealand will have played them in a series within 12 months - the South African and Dutch cricket teams will arrive for a late summer tour. All three teams are granted 35 rooms each, sponsored by Sport NZ.

Read more here.

9:30am - Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson says the vaccine rollout "hasn't been perfect", acknowledging the significant disparity between Māori and Pākehā vaccination rates.

Only 23 percent of eligible Māori are fully vaccinated, compared to about 37.5 percent of eligible Pākehā, according to the latest figures - 41 percent of Asian people and 31.7 percent of Pasifika are double-jabbed.

Speaking to The AM Show on Thursday morning, Jackson said more could have been done to encourage uptake of the vaccine among Māori, but said broader factors could also be at play.

"It's been tricky. Could we have done things better? Of course, of course. And we're working closely with our providers now... We've been learning along the way. But I think in the main, we've done quite well with our Māori providers - we've got our funding for them in terms of Whānau Ora, we're working with them closely at ground level, but it hasn't been perfect," he said.

"You know, there's a lot of resentment sometimes... particularly in the regions, if you go to the North and talk to Hone Harawira, you've got some of the anti-vaxxers out there. Look, some of them hate the Government whether it's National or Labour. You're not comparing apples with apples sometimes, you know?... It's very tough when some of our people have got a history and generations of resentment against us."

Jackson said officials are in the process of finding and developing new strategies, praising the work of Minister for Whānau Ora and Associate Minister of Health (Māori Health), Peeni Henare.

"We're trying to find new ways and strategies of working with our people on the ground. Our man Peeni Henare, our minister's been doing really well." 

Jackson will be at Auckland Airport on Thursday alongside Mayor Phil Goff and Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister of Health (Pacific Peoples), Aupito William Sio, for the launch of the vaccination buses.

"Today we're launching three buses out there at the airport, our vaccination buses. I'm going to be down there... We have to get to the community."

9am - Shot Bro is currently in the lead for the name of New Zealand's vaccine bus, according to a poll.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday night posted the shortlist of names to her Facebook page for Kiwis to vote on.

"Several new buses are being launched as part of our vaccination campaign," she said in the post.

"They'll be out and about making it easier for people to be vaccinated closer to home. In Australia, they did something similar and called it 'Jabba the bus'.

"Of course we're not competitive, but it did make us all wonder if we could come up with something I asked for suggestions. Here's what people came up with."

The finalists are Jabba Waka, Shot Bro, Jabbin Wagon and Vaxi Taxi. 

Shot Bro is currently in the lead with 13,000 votes, while Vaxi Taxi is coming in second with 8000 votes so far.

8:40am - The Ministry of Health has confirmed there is one new location of interest on Thursday morning.

It's Mayfield Superette Otara at 15 Johnstones Road.

Anyone who was there on Friday, September 10 from 6pm - 6:15pm is asked to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after the time 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.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, September 16
Photo credit: GoogleMaps

8:25am - New Zealand has the "incredible luxury" of seeing how reopening plans go overseas, an epidemiologist has claimed, giving us a better idea of what level of vaccination coverage will be needed to avoid mass death.

Read the full story here.

8:10am - Foran said he believes the trans-Tasman bubble New Zealand had with Australia - with no pre-departure testing - will be very difficult to replicate.

"It's most likely countries will probably fall into the bucket of needing some degree of vaccination and some degree of testing."

The AM Show news presenter Amanda Gillies questioned Foran on if staff, who are enforcing mandatory face mask rules, are safe. 

"I would say on most occasions people are very accommodating and realise what they need to do," he said.

"Obviously there are some situations but they are very minor and our staff handle those wonderfully well. They are well trained and we are working through the process as everyone in New Zealand is."

Air NZ CEO Greg Foran.
Air NZ CEO Greg Foran. Photo credit: The AM Show

7:50am - Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said the company is still in the consultation phase of considering whether to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all staff.

He expected it would conclude midway through next week. 

"I would say they are receptive [to the idea] and certainly what we have seen with Air New Zealand across the businesses, particularly with our frontline staff, is that we have a vaccination rate at this point of about the mid-80 percent and over 90 percent with one dose.

"So we have had pretty overwhelming support for getting vaccinated. But we want to hear everyone's point of view and that's what we want to do with the consultation process."

7:30am - Jackson said he had been told that vaccination rates were so high in Ireland because residents there are "scared sh*tless" by COVID-19, due to the high death rates the country has seen.

He said in New Zealand there is a small group of anti-vaxxers but there is a larger group of Kiwis who are vaccine hesitant.

"Our job over the next few  months is to move those people from vaccine-hesitant to getting vaccinated."

He said the vaccine hesitant need advice and the Government needs to implement strategies to get through to them.

Jackson said there is only two ways to deal with Delta - vaccines or lockdowns.

"My message to New Zealanders is if you hate lockdowns, get a shot. If you really hate lockdowns, get two."

Rod Jackson.
Rod Jackson. Photo credit: The AM Show

7:10am - Epidemiologist Rod Jackson told The AM Show on Thursday Ireland is the "poster child" for COVID-19 vaccination rates this week with up to around 90 percent of the population vaccinated, he said.

"I don't think they have opened up yet but we can watch over the next few months and I think that's an incredibly luxury we've got that we can see what happens to Denmark, because they have opened up now, Ireland … and Norway, which is another country which is a bit behind them with the vaccines, but all three countries are very similar to ours in populations so it's an opportunity for us to see what happens there."

However, he noted there is one "big, big difference" between us and those countries - "they've had a lot more cases and a lot more deaths". 

"Denmark has had 100 times more deaths from COVID than New Zealand. Ireland has had 200 times as many. Norway has done okay, they've had 800 deaths, but we've had 30 so they are still 20 times [higher]. But they have all had a lot more cases and a lot more deaths so they are starting from a different level."

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, September 16
Photo credit: Getty Images

6:50am - Middlemore Hospital has started testing every ward patient for COVID-19, whether they are symptomatic or not.

Mobile testing teams are going bed to bed offering tests to all patients.

Last week, five COVID-19 patients were treated at the hospital with no idea they had the virus until they were tested there.

The latest testing is for patients staying in all areas of the hospital, including those in for cancer treatment or surgery.

However, the hospital's chief medical officer Pete Watson thought it was unlikely anyone would have the virus, as case numbers continue to fall.

Read the full story here.