Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 21

Auckland is shifting down to alert level 3 this week after more than five weeks in lockdown. 

It comes after fears three infections in Waikato on Sunday - all linked to a remand prisoner at Auckland's Mt Eden Corrections Facility - would ruin any hope of a move.

The level change will come into effect at 11:59pm on Tuesday, for at least two weeks. The rest of New Zealand will remain at alert level 2 until Auckland is out of level 3.

Northern parts of Waikato, near where the cases were, are in a 'bespoke level 4" for the next five days, meaning they will be under lockdown conditions during this period.

What you need to know:

  • Auckland to shift down to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday for at least two weeks

  • The rest of New Zealand will stay at alert level 2 for as long as Auckland is at level 3

  • A Section 70 Health Order has been put in place for northern parts of Waikato for five days
  • Fourteen new cases of COVID-19 were announced on Tuesday. 

  • Three household members of a remand prisoner announced as a COVID-19 case on Sunday tested positive in Waikato

  • There are nine people in the household. Five others have tested negative and the ninth household member will be tested on Monday

  • A pop-up testing centre has been set up at the Wharekawa Marae in Whakatīwai

  • A pause on managed isolation bookings has been lifted

  • Click here for locations of interest.

These live updates have now finished

8:20pm - A Government minister has received special treatment, leaping ahead of the tens of thousands of Kiwis desperate to get home who've missed out on managed isolation rooms.

After failing to get a spot through the lottery, Climate Minister James Shaw and his entourage got a room anyway to return from a climate conference in Glasgow - but no one told Shaw.

Read the full story here.

7:30pm - The rules for prisoner transfers out of Auckland are changing after a Black Power member was taken to his bail address in the Hauraki District where four others were infected with COVID-19. 

The situation triggered a level 4 lockdown in the area. 

The prisoner was picked up on September 8 at around 10am by his sister as his conditions specified. But it wasn't just his sister in the car - there were three people in total. Who else was in the car isn't known, and officials did not check. 

"We don't normally check the car when somebody comes to collect somebody," explained Corrections' chief custodial officer Neal Beales.

"We've got no jurisdiction or ability to say 'well, that person shouldn't be in that car with you'."

GPS records show the prisoner stopped at a house in Mt Albert, with the next stop at a house in Mangere, and then on to a supermarket in Pokeno. Finally, there was a quick stop on the roadside near his bail address in Whakatiwai. 

But the direction from the court was clear - the prisoner was to make no unnecessary stops. 

The rules will now be changed, so that if prisoners are being delivered to an address at a lower alert level, the person picking them up must come from that lower level.

Read the full story here.

7pm - Associate Minister for Health (Māori Health) Peeni Henare and Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson say funding of $38 million will ensure Māori health providers provide ongoing support to Māori communities while responding to COVID-19. 

"Māori are one of the most at-risk communities for COVID-19 and vaccination rates for Māori are behind the general population," Henare said.

"However Māori health providers are well connected to their communities and have demonstrated their ability to protect whānau and get them vaccinated so we are increasing their support so they can keep doing that work without having to pull back."

Henare said it's "critical" further resource is given to Māori health providers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

"There is clear evidence that Māori health providers are making inroads into our hard to reach communities and those who may be vaccine hesitant. It's important they can continue this work with the funding and resources they need," Henare said.

Out of the total fund, $17 million will go to providers to help them adapt their current services to support the response, while also maintaining other essential services.

6:15pm - The Ministry of Health has added a new visit to Pak'nSave Sylvia Park to the list of locations of interest.

Kiwis who visited the supermarket on Friday 17 September from 9:30am - 11:45am are asked to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after being 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," the Ministry said.

6pm - Newshub Live at 6 is on now where our reporters will have the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak. Watch the show here or on Three.

5:45pm - Air New Zealand is extending its temporary service between Wellington and Kerikeri from September 29 until October 5, while Auckland is in alert level 3.

 Northland mayor Sheryl Mai said she is "delighted" by the news.

"These flights will keep residents in Northland connected with the rest of the country, while also giving local tourists the opportunity to visit us for a short break and help boost our economy," she said.

If Auckland stays in alert level 3 for longer, Air New Zealand said it will look at extending the Northland services.

5:25pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has issued an "ambitious but doable" vaccine challenge to Aucklanders ahead of the next decision on COVID-19 alert levels.

"So far we've had 1,132,510 Aucklanders who have now had their first dose - which represents 79 percent of the city's eligible population - and I'm hopeful we'll get to 80 percent very, very shortly," she told media at the coronavirus 1pm press conference on Tuesday.

"But every remaining person who remains unvaccinated is at risk and poses risk, so my challenge to Auckland is now this: let's keep going - let's see if we can get to 90 percent by the time Cabinet considers our alert level 3 settings in two weeks' time.

"Now that is an ambitious challenge, but it is doable. I've seen modelling that suggests if we go hard and do this right we can reach that goal, but it will require a team effort."

Read the full story here.

4:50pm - Aucklanders have already begun queuing for takeaways ahead of the change of alert levels down to level 3 from 11:59pm.

A TikTok video shows people in tents camping outside the KFC in the south Auckland suburb of Papakura in anticipation from Tuesday afternoon.

"Bring on level 3," the person behind the camera says.

Read the full story here.

4:35pm - A man has been arrested following an investigation into a cowardly assault on a customer at a Pukekohe supermarket on Sunday 19th September.

A spokesperson for police said the alleged offender was abusive and threatening towards staff and customers after being asked to wear a mask while inside the shop.

"He then allegedly punched a 70-year-old male customer in the face, threatened staff and left prior to Police arrival," the spokesperson said.

"The elderly victim was shaken but did not require medical treatment, while other customers and staff were also shaken by the aggressive behaviour of the man.

"Police have been liaising with and supporting the victims involved following this incident."

4:10pm - Police are reminding motorists there are still requirements to cross Auckland’s boundaries despite the upcoming changes in alert level for Auckland.

"Overall, most people have the correct documentation with them when arriving at one of the checkpoints set up," a spokesperson said.

"These checkpoints are in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and police ask motorists to be patient when they arrive at these locations so our checks can be carried out.

"There are still instances where people are presenting at these checkpoints without a permitted reason to cross the boundary."

Police have also noticed some motorists have been driving at excessive speed at the boundary checkpoints and are urging them to stick to the temporary speed limits.

"Enforcement action is available to Police and infringement notices have been issued to motorists found to be travelling in excess of the temporary limits," the spokesperson said.

"This includes one incident where a man was stopped at one of the northern checkpoints in the early hours of Monday morning.

"He presented appropriate documentation and was free to go, but then chose to accelerate aggressively and was detected driving over 90km/h leaving the checkpoint.

"This could have been an uneventful journey for him, but instead he found himself being issued with several infringement notices."

As of 11.59pm on Monday, a total of 196,193 vehicles have now been stopped at the 10 checkpoints on Auckland's northern and southern boundaries since 11.59pm on August 31.

A total of 2432 vehicles have been turned around during that time.

Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 21
Photo credit: RNZ

3:40pm - Two people have been issued infringement notices after a person was found hiding in the boot of a car and attempting to cross the Auckland border in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

A spokesperson for police said at 2:40am, a vehicle was stopped at the Mercer checkpoint intending on travelling south out of Auckland.

"The driver claimed he was transiting through Auckland to the Waikato region, however after Police spoke to him it was found not to be the case.

"While at the checkpoint, another man was found hiding in the car's boot. Both men, aged 25 and 26, were issued with infringement notices."

3:30pm - Kiwis are shopping online more than ever before, new data has revealed.

SLICE Digital has been monitoring online sales from online stores including Countdown, Healthpost, Kathmandu, OnceIt and TheMarket and has found since the increase in alert levels on August 17th, online traffic and sales through the SLICE Digital platform has increased hugely. 

Traffic was up by 78 percent in the second half of August versus the first half. 

Online sales for SLICE Digital clients have increased by 162 percent across the same period, with hundreds more sales taking place every week.

For September, the data continued to show an increase in traffic and sales, even as the country - apart from Auckland - moved down alert levels. For the comparable period, August 1st to 16th versus September 1st to 16th the platform saw traffic increase by 67 percent and sales increase by 129 percent.

"It is no surprise that Kiwis have increased their level of online shopping, we saw the same trend in previous lockdowns but the levels of adoption just keep going up," CEO Gavin Male said.

"The first lockdown back in March 2020 saw a huge number of Kiwis transition to online shopping for the first time, and whilst the volume dropped back for some when we came out of lockdown, a significant change had occurred with more people than ever now confident to shop online."

Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 21
Photo credit: Getty Images

2:50pm - The Waikato DHB has issued an update on COVID-19 testing in the region after testing numbers peaked on Monday.

On Monday, 477 swabs were taken at Wharekawa Marae while 310 were taken at Founders Theatres and 78 at Mangatangi Marae.

Overnight the Waikato DHB processed 916 tests, including around 400 priority tests from those areas targeted.

So far, the total number of vaccinations delivered in the Waikato to date is 377,616. Of these, 248,730 were first doses and 128,886 were second doses.

Of the eligible population, 69.5 percent have had one dose and 36 percent are fully vaccinated.

2:08pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the increased penalties for rule-breakers will help minimise the rise of COVID-19 spreading. 

"Throughout this Delta outbreak we’ve seen the overwhelming majority of people doing their bit by complying with alert level restrictions, which are there to protect our communities by stopping the spread of COVID-19.

"Police continue to report high compliance levels at checkpoints and in their day-to-day interactions with people across the country.

Hipkins said disappointedly however a small number of people are putting Aotearoa's COVID response at risk. 

"I think all New Zealanders would agree that this behaviour is unacceptable. Rule-breaking risks spreading the virus, and the fees which have been in place no longer properly reflect the significant social and economic impacts of a single case of COVID-19 getting out in the community.

 "Breaches by a small minority create a risk for everyone, and these new penalties will provide further deterrence to those who choose to break the rules," Chris Hipkins said. 

Chris Hipkins
Chris Hipkins Photo credit: Getty Images

1:51pm - Co-leader of the Māori Party Rawiri Waititi says the Government is looking to add two additional MIQ facilities in Rotorua. With one, functioning as a quarantine facility for infectious cases of COVID-19.

"Sources have indicated that two additional MIQ facilities in Rotorua are being looked at, with one potentially going online as a quarantine facility. This changes the prospects completely for the people of Te Arawa and Rotorua.

"What our people need to understand, is the difference between isolation and quarantine. Currently, there are three isolation facilities in Rotorua. Any person who tests positive in these hotels are shuttled to an Auckland quarantine facility, where they are kept - whilst infectious."

Waititi says the addition of a quarantine facility in Rotorua would be "disastrous" for Rotorua and Māori. 

"It adds more pressure on the local health system and ultimately means more lockdowns. This would be disastrous for Rotorua, and especially Māori who make up 45 percent of the Rotorua population.

"With predispositions to poorer health outcomes a worry, so too are poor Māori vaccination rates provided by Lakes DHB." 

1:46pm - Across the ditch New South Wales has recorded 1022 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.

Ten people have also died with the virus - eight men and two women. 

The deaths include one person in their 50s, one person in their 60s, two people in their 70s, five people in their 80s and one person in their 90s.

Six people were from south western Sydney, one person was from western Sydney, one person was from south eastern Sydney, one person was from northern Sydney and one person was from Sydney’s north west.

Of the 10 people who died with COVID-19, six were not vaccinated, two people had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and two people – a woman in her 90s and a man in his 80s, both with serious underlying health conditions – had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

1:43pm - When asked whether Judith Collins might be fined after footage showed her in a cafe without a mask, Ardern said it wasn't for her to enforce. 

1:40pm - Ardern said Kiwis shouldn't be dismissive of people who have concerns about getting vaccinated and should talk it over with them to help them to feel comfortable. 

1:39pm - The Prime Minister wouldn't answer whether she would put Auckland back into alert level 4 if case numbers increase over the coming days. Instead, she said people need to get tested, stay home if they're sick and avoid mingling with others. 

1:33pm - There are 15 people with COVID-19 in hospital and four in ICU. Of the cases in hospital one is at North Shore Hospital, four are at Auckland City Hospital and 10 are at Middlemore. 

1:30pm  - Ashley Bloomfield says he's aware a COVID-19 positive man snuck into North Shore Hospital. He says staff have been stood down and tested and the Ministry is working with the hospital to manage the breach. 

1:24pm - Ardern said anyone who is going back to work in alert level 3 should get vaccinated today.

She said she wants 90 percent of Aucklanders to have had one dose of the vaccine within the next two weeks. 

1:18pm - The Prime Minister also revealed infringement fees for breaching COVID-19 rules have been increased from $300 to a maximum of $4000 for individuals and $12,000 for companies. 

When the fine is imposed by the courts the maximum is now $4000 for individuals and $15,000 for companies.

The new fines will take effect in November. Ardern said the increase reflects the severity of breaches.

1:13pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the best way to flush out mystery cases is to get tested. 

Ardern said everyone in the Clover Park area, a current neighbourhood of interest, is being asked to get a test. A new testing centre has been set up at the Manukau sports bowl. 

1:08pm - Ashley Bloomfield said while case numbers will bounce around, only 14 new cases is "encouraging". 

He said 500 swabs have been taken in upper Hauraki with nearly 400 coming back negative. But he still urged people to get tested if they haven't been. 

He said wastewater testing is being carried out in Hauraki over the coming days. 

1:02pm - There are 14 new community cases of COVID-19 and one historical case at the border today.

The new cases are in the Auckland region. One of the cases is a household contact in upper Hauraki. The new cases bring the total number of COVID-19 cases 1085. 

Of the new cases the majority of them are household contacts and others are known close contacts. Only one of today's cases is unlinked.

12:55pm - Watch the full COVID-19 update here.

12:33pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will be providing a COVID-19 update at 1pm. The presser will be livestreamed above.

12:25pm - Auckland mayor Phil Goff says the alert level drop is a big relief but warned the city isn't "out of the woods yet". 

"I think this will be a big relief for all of us in Auckland, that we're taking the first step back to normality, but we need to be very clear that the best insurance policy about going back into lockdown, or staying a long time at level 3  is everyone getting vaccinated and everybody strictly observing the rules that are set. 

"The critical message is, I think, if everybody gets vaccinated, and we'll hit 80 percent by Wednesday this week, that is the best insurance that we can take out against going back into high level of lockdown."

11:33am - Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has revealed "about two dozen" other prisoners have been released from jail and left Auckland since lockdown began.

It follows a remand prisoner being released on September 8, who went on to infect three members of a household in the Waikato. 

It's unclear if any of the other inmates released were tested prior to leaving Auckland, or what public health protocols were in place. However, the Minster says people are released from prisons all the time and they have a right to go home.

Read the full story here.

11:22am - Newshub can confirm the prisoner who tested positive for COVID-19 is a patched Black Power member.

10:49am - Police have moved the Waikato checkpoints in line with the country’s bespoke requirements for those who live in or have been to the Upper Hauraki area.

Police say mobile reassurance patrols will be operating in some rural areas. 

The existing checkpoint north of Whakatiwai has been removed but all other checkpoints on Auckland’s southern boundary will remain in place.

These extra checkpoints will require 20-30 extra police staff, and will be resourced from within the Counties Manukau and Waikato policing districts.

The checkpoints will be stopping vehicles and questioning drivers, ensuring there is no non-essential movement through the region.

Police warned anyone attempting to travel across the regional boundaries separating aert level 3/4 and alert level 2 areas, should expect to be stopped and asked for proof of essential travel.

The exemption process will run the same way as it has previously.

Police have set up static checkpoints in the following locations:

  • East Coast Road / Miranda Road
  • SH2 / Monument Road – Maramarua
  • SH2 / Rawiri Road – Maramarua Golf Club

10:31am - Wintec is hosting a series of COVID-19 vaccination events at its central city Hamilton and Rotokauri campuses. 

The events, which are open to everyone in the community, will be held on September 22 and 29.They are being run by Your Health New Zealand on behalf of Waikato District Health Board (Waikato DHB).

Wintec Chief Executive David Christiansen says the events are a way Wintec can contribute to the Prime Minister's recent call to "vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate" . 

"We have the means, the support and two accessible locations at our Hamilton City and Rotokauri campuses, so it makes sense to make them available and encourage as many of our community as possible to get vaccinated against Covid-19," says Christiansen.

"This is one way we can contribute towards everyone feeling safer and returning to having more freedom."

Christiansen says the events are not just for Wintec staff and students, they are free for everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand aged 12 and over who can now book their free COVID-19 vaccination.

The Wintec Vaccination events are on:

Wednesday 22 September 2021 at The Atrium, Wintec House, Wintec City campus, 10am-2pm

Wednesday 29 September 2021 at Wintec Health Services, Rotokauri campus 10am – 2pm.

To book for the Wintec vaccination events, visit or call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 and name Wintec as your preferred location. 

10:09am - The Botany Downs Countdown has had the window of interest widened. Anyone who visited the store on Sunday, September 19 between 12:30 pm - 2:30pm must monitor symptoms for 14 days. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result and until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.

9:55am - Here's a reminder of the rules under alert level 3. Auckland is moving to alert level 3 at 11:59pm tonight.

What's allowed at alert level 3

Under alert level 3, people are told to stay in their household bubbles. Bubbles should be exclusive, with social visitors not allowed to enter your home.

The bubbles are made up of those in your immediate household but can be expanded to connect with close whānau, to bring in caregivers or to support isolated people. 

Physical distancing is still required, with two-metre distances advised outside your home or one metre in controlled environments like workplaces.

Schools and Early Childhood Education centres can open but will have limited capacity, and attendees should stay at home wherever possible.

Businesses will not be allowed to offer services involving close personal contact, unless it is a supermarket, primary produce retailer, pharmacy, petrol station or hardware store providing goods to trade customers, or an emergency.

Other businesses can open, but physical interaction with customers is prohibited.

Public venues, such as libraries, cinemas, museums, food courts, gym and playgrounds will be closed.

Gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed only in the case of weddings, funerals and tangihanga, with physical distancing and other public health measures mandatory at these events. Gatherings beyond this 10-person limit are not allowed under any circumstances.

Healthcare services must use non-contact consultations where possible, and people at high risk of severe illness are encouraged to stay at home.

Click here for all the alert level 3 rules. 

9:31am - The National Party is hitting out at the Government over confusion surrounding the wage subsidy scheme. 

Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston says the Government has sent mixed messages about whether companies are eligible for the subsidy at alert level 2. 

"On the one hand Labour MP Ginny Anderson made a deliberate public broadcast in Parliament last week to say all businesses in regions at alert level 2 were eligible to receive the wage subsidy.

"Ms Anderson's remarks were not caveated by any statement about the need to connect the revenue drop to regions at Alert Level 3 or 4.

"Whereas Finance Minister Grant Robertson has clearly caught some businesses unaware by stating the revenue drop has to be directly connected to Auckland being at Level 3 or 4," Upston said in a statement on Tuesday. 

She said National has received reports of Government departments providing different advice as well. 

"This is yet another botch up about the wage subsidy scheme at a time when Kiwi businesses and their employees are under stress.

"The Government decided to add new requirements to the wage subsidy process. It was incumbent on the Government to make sure its systems and communications were prepared for these new requirements.

"The fact that even Labour MPs cannot communicate full and accurate information about the wage subsidy scheme shows they had not prepared properly for another outbreak of COVID-19." 

Information about the wage subsidy scheme can be found here

9:11am - A new survey shows businesses across the country are stressed and anxious about lockdowns, low earnings and uncertainty.

The BusinessNZ Network Pulse Survey was conducted during September 2021, tracking the views of 456 member businesses of the BusinessNZ Network.

It found they are generally supportive of the COVID policies but want to see more movement on vaccinations, testing and tracing, and more targeted Government support.

The survey shows most Auckland businesses are reeling from lockdown restrictions, with a high proportion unable to operate. Around 40 percent of NZ businesses overall report being unable to trade under level 4 conditions, but for Auckland the proportion could be twice as high, given survey comments. 

The survey found businesses in Auckland want to see essential services reviewed so that more can operate safely under level 4 restrictions.

South Island businesses are concerned about getting goods from Auckland during level 4 lockdown and say better COVID policies for testing and tracing would have allowed the South Island to avoid current level 2 restrictions.

The survey found 84 percent of businesses throughout the country expect their earnings will be negatively affected over the next 3-6 months.

9:00am - There is good news for takeaways starved Aucklanders with McDonald's  confirming its Auckland stores will be open from 7am Wednesday. 

"We can reunite at last! Our McDonald’s restaurants located across Auckland will be working hard to re-open by Wednesday 22nd September at 7am, to be able to serve you the favourites that you crave via Drive-Thru and McDelivery," the company said in Facebook.  

But there's bad news if you were hoping for a soft server or shake. 

"Over the next few days while we get back on our feet, we will be offering a reduced menu so please be patient with us. This means we won't be able to offer soft serve, shakes, Gourmet Creation burgers, McWraps and salads on reopening day, but the rest of your favourites will be available. See you soon." 

8:34am - Auckland business leader Michael Barnett is questioning the Government's view that level 3 restrictions allow up to 90 percent of normal economic activity to continue, claiming it's actually far less than that. 

Read the full story here.

8:20am - Countdown Botany Downs has been revealed as a new location of interest. 

Anyone who visited the store on the corner of Te Irirangi and Ti Rakau Drives on Sunday September 19 between 1pm and 2pm must monitor symptoms for 14 days. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result and until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.

A full list of locations of interest can be found here

8:15am - Chief District Court Judge Heemi Taumaunu has released a timeline of the travel by the remanded prisoner with COVID-19.


  • April 27 – The person was arrested on breach of bail and other charges. He has been  continuously remanded in custody since that date.  
  • August 11  – Sentencing set down for September 24, 2021. Provision of advice to the  court (PAC) Report and appendices directed. The person remanded in custody.  
  • August 23  – Electronically monitored bail application filed.  
  • September 2 – Electronically monitored bail report completed.  
  • September 6 – Audio-visual link appearance for electronically monitored bail  application. Adjourned to following day for "clarity re: paperwork re: Level 4 lockdown and  travel out of Auckland." 
  • September 7  – Audio-visual link appearance. Electronically monitored bail granted to  take effect from 9.00am, September 8, 2021 on the basis that a specified family member was  to collect him from Mt Eden Correctional Facility and "transport him directly to [bail address] without any unnecessary stops and [for them] to return directly to the Auckland border."
  • September 8 – The person is released from Mt Eden Corrections Facility. 
  • September 16 – The court was advised that the electronically monitored bail address is no longer available for the person. Electronically monitored bail is revoked and a warrant to  arrest issued. 
  • September 17  – The person appears in the Manukau District Court and is remanded in  custody.  

7:47am - Epidemiologist Michael Baker said the Government's decision to shift Auckland's alert levels is a "calculated risk".

"Many of the epidemiologists and modellers I've talked to - there's not a lot of us in the country - I think the consensus view is that this is quite a significant risk.

"We know that alert levels 3 and 4 are there to stamp out outbreaks, but with the Delta variant it's changing - it's so infectious."

Baker said we are still seeing unexpected cases regularly despite a five week level 4 lockdown, which makes the move even more risky. 

"We've got this long tail of cases, and we're seeing pretty much every day an unexpected case. These are really important because some of these people have been out in the community….They are a sign of transmission in the community, and if that transmission carries on that means that the outbreak could get out of control at some point. 

"Really, at alert level 3 it's possible to stamp out the outbreak fully and return to elimination status, but it's just going to be a bit harder."

He said if we manage to stamp out all the cases the entire country can move down alert levels. But he said if we see increasing cases in level 3 we could find ourselves in some form of restriction for months. 

"If we don't succeed in stamping it out and we get this gradual increase in cases - which we could see at alert level 3 - then we could be in that state for months to avoid the situation we're seeing in Victoria and New South Wales.  

7:41am - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking he feels "pretty comfortable" with the alert level decisions yesterday. 

"It would have been nice if those [case] numbers were a bit lower but most of them were contacts of cases and nearly half of them yesterday were already in MIQ."

Bloomfield said lockdown achieved what it was meant to and without level 4 we would likely have thousands of cases by now. 

He said elimination is still possible in level 3, even though we were still getting new cases everyday in level 4. 

"We've done it from [level] 3 before and yes that wasn't Delta but this time we've got vaccination on our side as well and we're just about to crack 80 percent of Aucklanders having had one dose."

7:38am - Instead the Prime Minister said she's "keen" for the country to do some preliminary modelling to find out the difference high vaccination rates make.

"One of the things that I said this week that I'm really keen for us to do is do some preliminary modeling, and I know the modelers want to do a little bit of extra work, but they have done some preliminary modeling of the difference that high vaccination levels make to the types of restrictions that you live with.

"You look around the world at other countries, you'll see that they have varying restrictions depending on the vaccination rates. So they've done some work on what that might look like in a New Zealand context and I think it'd be really interesting for New Zealanders to see that at different rates of vaccine, the difference that it makes for people's health, their safety and their everyday lives. So I'd be keen, once that's ready, to share that so that people can see that difference."

But she said for now the country will relying on an elimination strategy. 

7:32am - Ardern said if Kiwis want freedoms over Christmas they have to get vaccinated. 

"We all want to make sure that we have as many freedoms as possible at Christmas and we have that all within our power because the difference between now and past situations when we've been in lockdown, yes is Delta and it has made our job harder, but we have another tool, and that's called vaccination.

"That is something that everyone can do now, and make a joint effort to put us in the best position possible to have as few as restrictions as possible. "

But the Prime Minister wouldn't give an exact vaccine target for when the country would stop relying on lockdowns. 

7:21am - Ardern said level 3 isn't an excuse to socialise and urged people to stick to their current bubbles and get vaccinated. 

7:14am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show so far there have been no positive test results from northern Hauraki. 

"We've essentially created a level 4 situation for that community for the next five days just while we test and contact trace."

There have been 200 negative tests returned and 400 people tested in the region, Ardern said.

7:05am - Auckland mayor Phil Goff says the shift to level 3 is good for businesses but they still need to be careful. 

"It means that they can start tot operate again but is this a total get out of jail free card? No of course it's not...we still have to be cautious."

7:00am - Chief executive of the Auckland Business Chamber Michael Barnett says Auckland businesses are "extremely relieved" by the upcoming shift to level 3. 

"Many of them are absolutely drowning in debt and needing an opportunity to get back to business and do what they do well."

Barnett said while level 3 is good, many businesses will struggle to operate under the restrictions. 

"In actual fact if you have a look closely, about 50 percent of businesses will be able to operate at about half-pace. A further five percent would operate about 75 percent, and only 10 percent of businesses are going to be able to operate at 100 percent. So it's going to be a case of businesses being as innovative as they can to try and do as much business as they can in a level 3 environment.

"If you have a look at a business that's operating at 50 percent, they're going to have constraints. Some of them are going to be about supply, some of them are going to be the supply chain. I think the Government really should try and provide a flexible [level] 3 environment so Auckland can supply to the… rest of New Zealand and that the businesses here can get up and running again."

Barnett said businesses are concerned about the prospect of further interruptions if we end up moving in and out of lockdowns.  

6:52am - Click here to read the latest on the pandemic from around the world overnight. 

6:46am - Pfizer and BioNTech say their COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for use in five to 11-year-olds, and they plan to ask for regulatory authorisation as soon as possible to use the shot in children in that age range in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

The companies said their two-dose vaccine generated an immune response in the five- to 11-year-olds in a phase II/III clinical trial that matched what was previously observed in 16-to-25-year-olds. The safety profile was also generally comparable to the older age group, they added.

Read more here.

6:40am - The leader of the Opposition has admitted she made a mistake after footage emerged of her in a cafe in Queenstown without a mask. Under alert level 2 restrictions masks are mandatory when visiting shops and cafes. 

The video shows Judith Collins, Deputy National Party leader Shane Reti and local MP Joseph Mooney at Patagonia Chocolates in Queenstown. Reti and Mooney were also maskless in the footage. 

A spokesperson for Collins told NZ Herald she "diligently follows public health advice as it is communicated to the public". 

The spokesperson said the breach was an accident and the trio removed their masks "believing this was in accordance with advice that 'customers can take off their masks so they can eat or drink', as many other patrons in the café at the time clearly understood the rules to be also". 

"After consulting the COVID-19 website, Collins accepts that, by clicking through to additional level 2 advice, it specifies that when picking up a takeaway order a customer must remain masked. 

"She regrets not waiting another minute or two until seated at a table to remove her mask," the spokesperson told NZ Herald.