As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 7

It's the last day of alert level 3 for all of New Zealand - aside from Auckland - with the rest of the country preparing to shift to 'Delta level 2', a toughened version of the lower tier of restrictions, including tighter caps on gatherings and mandatory mask use for many indoor settings.

Auckland will remain in alert level 4 until 11:59pm on September 14, but the city's plummeting testing rate - compounded by fewer locations of interest and lockdown reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses - is cause for concern. Officials are warning Aucklanders to buck up and get back to the testing centre if they want to see a shift in alert levels. 

Twenty-one new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday after three consecutive days of 20, with the outbreak currently standing at 841 - the vast majority of which are in Auckland. Just 17 cases have been detected in Wellington. 

Meanwhile, experts are speculating on what a return to alert level 1 - our 'new normal' - might look like given the added restrictions at alert level 2. With the increased risk of the Delta variant, Professor Michael Baker believes some of the freedoms New Zealanders are accustomed to may be curtailed to add an extra layer of protection

Some businessowners have also expressed frustration at the new-look level 2, with the harsher caps on gatherings - with just 50 patrons allowed at indoor venues - halving the capacity for hospitality businesses compared to last year's level 2, reducing revenue for already struggling businesses.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also confirmed that the Government is "finalising arrangements" to secure additional supply of the Pfizer vaccine to keep up with the current demand.

The deal, the details of which remain scarce, will allow the Government to bridge a temporary gap in September caused by the recent surge in vaccinations. The additional supply will tide us over until a large shipment arrives from Pfizer in October.

Ardern said the negotiations were extremely complex and more information will be shared over the week. She confirmed the deal will allow New Zealand to maintain its current rate of more than 500,000 doses a week.

What you need to know:

  • Twenty-one new cases were recorded on Monday, all in Auckland, bringing the outbreak to 841
  • One-hundred-and-forty-seven people have now recovered
  • Auckland will stay in level 4 until 11:59pm next Tuesday, September 14
  • The rest of New Zealand will move to 'Delta level 2' at 11:59pm on Tuesday
  • Changes have been made to level 2, with indoor hospitality venues limited to 50 people, outdoor venues limited to 100 people and mandatory face coverings at most public venues
  • Mandatory record-keeping comes into effect from 11:59pm
  • Thirty-nine people are in hospital, six of whom are in intensive care
  • The wage subsidy is still available - if any part of the country is at level 3 or 4, people can still apply for the wage subsidy, including those in the South Island
  • The Government is finalising a deal to procure additional supply of the Pfizer vaccine for this month to keep up with the current demand
  • See all the latest locations of interest here.

Live updates have now finished.

8:25pm - With Auckland still at level 4 until at least next week, it means Northland is somewhat cut off and locals have to transit through the super city to get into Waikato and the rest of the country.

Newshub has compiled a guide of how transit through Auckland will work - including that you can't stop while travelling through and you must have proof of where you're going to.

Read all you need to know here.

7:25pm - Twenty-nine staff at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital are being treated as close contacts and have been stood down for two weeks after a patient who tested positive for COVID-19 visited the hospital.

The COVID-positive patient went to Middlemore at 5pm on September 4 with atypical COVID-19 symptoms. 

Of the 29 staff that are stood down, there are 11 doctors, 13 Registered Nurses, two Health Care Assistants, a phlebotomist, cleaner and ward clerk.

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

6:40pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it was "unfair" of ACT leader David Seymour to suggest pre-departure testing of passengers from Sydney could have prevented the current lockdown. 

"The view of the Health team was to allow them to come back and test them on arrival. So that was the advice that we were given," she said at her post-Cabinet press conference.

Ardern said pre-departure testing is just one layer of defence. 

"It is not perfect, absolutely not, because you go and get a test 72 hours before you depart, you still have a possibility of being infected in those 72 hours, or indeed, in your transit to New Zealand, and we've seen multiple situations where people have been infected with COVID-19 and often what is very long journeys back to New Zealand. 

"So it is another layer, it is not a perfect layer, we do not rely on it. That is why we test people when they arrive as well, and we continue to test them throughout the duration of their stay."

Read the full story here.

6:15pm - New locations of interest visits have been added, they are: New World Mt Roskill, Countdown Mt Roskill, SuperValue Palomino Henderson and Whenuapai Gardens & Orchard Manukau.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 7

 5:55pm - Newshub Live at 6 is just about to start where our reporters will have the latest on New Zealand's COVID outbreak. You can watch the show on Three or online here.

5:35pm - National's Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston is calling on the Government to extend the deadline for the first fortnight of wage subsidy applications.

"National MPs continue to be contacted by frustrated businesses who, through no fault of their own, missed the first deadline and are concerned that they might miss out on the wage subsidy," she said in a statement on Tuesday. 

"They are understandably anxious for their employees who could miss out on wages from the first two weeks while the country is at level 4.

"The early closure of applications for the first fortnightly round means many New Zealanders could miss out on an income through no fault of their own."

Upston said some businesses have also reported "significant delays" with payments despite submitting an application at the start of the period.

"The uncertainty these delays cause, coupled with the fact many are still recovering from last year's lockdowns, is pushing some to the brink of closure."

5:15pm - ACT Party leader David Seymour says pre-departure testing for international travellers could have prevented New Zealand's latest lockdowns.

"The Government's decision to drop pre-departure testing from Sydney has likely cost the entire country weeks of lockdowns," he says. 

"The Government dropped the requirement for pre-departure testing for Kiwis coming home from New South Wales, while practically every other location on earth requires pre-departure testing and MIQ if you want to come to New Zealand."

4:45pm - Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says Kiwis have mostly been complying with alert level restrictions during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

"We want to see this continue so we can all continue to move down the alert levels as quickly as possible," he said.

Police have issued some data about COVID-19 restriction compliance:

Since alert level 4 came into place, 197 people have been charged with a total of 212 offences nationwide as at 5pm Monday (September 6).

Of the charges filed, 193 were for offences committed in alert level 4 and 19 were for offences committed in alert level 3.

Coster said of these, 142 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 43 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, 19 for Health Act Breaches, and eight for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.

In the same time period, 501 people were warned for 504 offences.

Since August 19, police have been issuing infringements for COVID-19 related breaches. As at 5pm on September 6, police have issued 3711  infringements nationwide.

Of these, 2923 were issued under the previous Health Order, primarily for Person failed to remain at current home/residence other than for essential personal movement.

Since the new Health Order came into force on September 1, 788 infringements have been issued as follows:

  • Left home / residence other than for essential personal movement (AL4) – 436
  • Left home / residence other than for essential personal movement (AL3) – 270
  • Other breaches under the new Health Order – 82

Police have now received a total of 17,632 105-online breach notifications - 10,875 were about a gathering, 5042 were about a business, and 1715 were about a person.

In addition to the online breach notifications, a total of 11,054 COVID-19 related calls were made to the 105-phone line.

The majority (7911) of calls were requests for information, and 3143 were to report perceived COVID-19 breaches.

No significant issues have been reported at checkpoints over the last 24 hours.

Police commissioner Andrew Coster.
Police commissioner Andrew Coster. Photo credit: Getty Images

4:15pm - Several new locations of interest visits have been added to the Ministry of Health's list.

They include new visits for Pak'nSave Sylvia Park, Countdown Auckland Airport, Countdown Mt Roskill, Fresh Choice Otahuhu, Pak'nSave Botany, New World Botany, and Countdown Manurewa.

Some of the visits were as recent as last weeked.

Find the new locations, dates and times below, along with a full list of locations here.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 7
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 7

4pm - Police Commissioner Andrew Coster is urging Kiwis to familiarise themselves with the new COVID-19 restrictions as all of New Zealand - aside from Auckland - prepares to shift to 'Delta level 2'.

Auckland will remain in alert level 4 until at least 11:59pm on Tuesday, September 14.

"We understand people will be enthusiastic about the drop in alert level and getting back to some of the activities they love, but this outbreak is not over yet," Coster said on Tuesday.

"Police will continue to be out and about highly visible in our communities ensuring people are complying with alert level restrictions."

He noted Kiwis should remember to trace their movements and wear a face covering while out and about.

"We will continue to take a graduated approach as we all work through the new rules and ask for the public's patience in this. Police will take an education-first approach but will use enforcement where necessary.

"Police also extend huge thanks to our communities in Auckland who remain in alert level 4 and are doing the hard work as we enter the fourth week at alert level 4."

3:35pm - Waikato food festival Culinary Cambridge is one of the latest events to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The five-day event was originally scheduled for September 15-19 but has now been pushed back to the beginning of November.

Event organisers said the decision was made due to the current COVID-19 alert level restrictions including the level 4 lockdown in Auckland.

Destination Cambridge CEO Miff Macdiarmid said most suppliers will still be involved.

"It means we won’t have to cancel for a second year," she said.

Chris Bishop.
Chris Bishop. Photo credit: Getty Images

2:55pm - The National Party's COVID-19 Response spokesman, Chris Bishop, is berating the Government for not securing additional supply of the vaccine earlier in the year. 

It comes after Jacinda Ardern announced that a deal is being finalised with unspecified countries to ensure New Zealand has enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine to keep up with the surging demand.

No further details about the deal, such as the amount spent, the quantities, or the countries involved have been released at this time.

And now, Bishop is asking why this additional supply wasn't obtained sooner.

"Today's announcement of an announcement about a vaccine deal is good news but begs the serious question: why didn't the Government do this earlier in the year?" Bishop said in a statement.

"We have been told for months that there was nothing the Government could do to speed up vaccine supply, and in fact there was something almost immoral about securing vaccines that the rest of the world needed more than we did.

"The Government shouldn't have needed a Delta outbreak in the community to spur it into action. It should have been securing as many Pfizer doses as quickly as possible from the start of this year, to protect New Zealand against the Delta variant and to speed up our process of reconnecting to the world."

2:30pm - Essential workers between regional borders getting tested every week will allow other New Zealanders the freedom of lower alert levels, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

Ardern told Morning Report the Delta variant of COVID-19 had generated "more mystery cases for us a little later on in a level 4 environment than what we've had before".

It is one of the reasons the borders are being tightened and those crossing will need a weekly test.

"We're looking to work with employers, particularly in the freight industry to try and make it as easy as possible."

Read more here.

2:25pm - Two new locations of interest have been added to the list:

  • Pak'nSave Sylvia Park on Sunday August 29 between 11am and 4pm
  • Mojo's Superette Mangere Bridge on Saturday August 28 between 7:45pm and 9pm

2:15pm - While Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealed New Zealand's latest COVID-19 update, the NSW numbers came out.

The Australian state recorded 1220 new community cases. It saw eight deaths of people who had COVID-19. There have now been 30,456 cases reported since June 16, when the current outbreak began, and 139 deaths.

2:05pm - COVID-19 is, of course, the main topic at Parliament's Question Time. You can watch it here

Among the questions are:

  • Dr SHANE RETI to the Minister of Health: When he reportedly admitted recently there were gaps in hospital preparations for the Delta outbreak, what were those gaps?
  • JAN LOGIE to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Is he confident that Government policies are ensuring working people are safe and supported during the current COVID-19 outbreak?
  • CHRIS BISHOP to the Minister for COVID-19 Response: Has the Director-General of Health exempted, under clause 9 of the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Point-of-care Tests) Order 2021, any point-of-care tests from the prohibitions in that order, and what is current Government policy on rapid COVID-19 tests?

Find the full list here.

2pm - Here is the COVID-19 summary from the Ministry of Health after the latest update. The 22 new cases is made up of 21 community cases and a MIQ worker case which hasn't yet been classified as a border or community case.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 7

1:44pm - Dr Bloomfield says he is satisfied that clinicians made "good decisions based on the information they had at the time" regarding the case at Middlemore Hospital, who was left in a room with other patients while awaiting his test result.

He acknowledged there were a "couple of delays" that the DHB is investigating.

1:40pm - Dr Bloomfield says the case at Middlemore Hospital, which made headlines yesterday, is part of a family that makes up a number of today's cases.

Eight people out of a household of 11 have tested positive, including the Middlemore patient.

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service is confident they have found a link between the family and the outbreak and how they became infected.

1:37pm - Dr Bloomfield says officials are wanting to see a minimum of 7000 tests a day in Auckland, which would "equate to a good proportion of symptomatic people" in the region.

He noted that the number of symptomatic people has decreased due to lockdown reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses and fewer locations of interest being identified, leading to the plummeting testing rates.

He says officials are supplementing the number of swabs through the targeted testing of essential workers, which will start on Wednesday, as well as the additional testing of those crossing the alert level boundary. Anyone who is crossing the boundary is required to present evidence of a negative test in the past seven days.

1:30pm - Ardern says the Government is confident there is enough, and will be enough supply to continue to meet the vaccination demand.

She promises that every eligible Kiwi who wants a vaccine will be able to get one.

"We have ordered enough. It's a problem in some countries, but not here."

1:26pm - All the current cases in the outbreak are genomically linked to the first Delta case detected in New Zealand, Dr Bloomfield says.

1:23pm - Dr Bloomfield says 830 border workers will undergo saliva testing every two days. Other employers are providing their own saliva testing, such as Air New Zealand and Fisher and Paykel.

Dr Bloomfield says it is still a PCR test that goes through the same processing as a nasal swab.

There are no capacity constraints, he says, but the Government is introducing another provider for those crossing the Auckland boundary.

Ardern says there are currently 682,000 vaccines in stock, with roughly 510,000 located at sites across the country.

1:20pm - Ardern is also addressing vaccine supply. She reiterates that the Government has secured additional supply to tide us over until the shipment from Pfizer arrives in October - to ensure the surge in vaccinations can continue to be catered for.

She says more detail will be provided in the coming days. She has refused to answer questions regarding the cost, the quantities, or the countries involved.

"We're still finalising contracts, but there are some details we won't share."

She acknowledges "we had some limitations on supply" before the Delta variant was detected on our shores.

She says there is "no such thing as a simple swap of vaccines".

"There is a purchase arrangement in place."

The additional supply is being finalised for September, with demand increasing by 180 percent amid the current outbreak.

1:17pm - Ardern noted that buses will not take passengers if there are no seats available and will not permit standing. If a bus is full, with every seat taken, you will need to wait for the next service.

She addressed queries regarding travel through Auckland for people from Northland - this is permitted, but motorists will not be able to stop anywhere.

If you need to travel for personal reasons, such as a funeral or wedding, you can do those things as well.

"We want people in Northland to have the same level 2 experience as the rest of country," Ardern said.

Officials are anticipating there may be more traffic at Auckland's boundaries, and urged people to reconsider travel if it's not essential.

1:14pm - Ardern is now recapping the rules under 'Delta level 2'.

She reiterates that scanning in and masks will be mandatory for most businesses and locations.

All businesses remain eligible for the wage subsidy while any part of the country is at level 3 or 4.

She jokingly referred to an earlier exchange on The AM Show, and clarified that people do not need to wear masks in or around swimming pools, whether a spectator or a swimmer.

Masks are not a requirement at bars and restaurants as part of the Government's pragmatic approach.

1:12pm - More than 37,000 contacts are currently in the national database - around 91 percent of contacts have been tested.

Yesterday, 7251 swabs were taken, 5800 of which were in Auckland, a welcome boost.

Health officials are accelerating the rollout of saliva testing and are finalising the contract with a saliva testing provider. It's hoped this method will be helpful for those who require weekly testing, such as those who are required to cross the alert level boundary for work.

So far, 840 border workers have signed up for saliva testing. Health workers and returnees will soon have this option, which is meant to be more comfortable than nasal swabbing.

More than 66,000 doses of the vaccine were administered on Monday.

1:10pm - Whether one case is a border-related or community case remains undetermined.

As of Tuesday, 24 cases remain unlinked to the outbreak, but that number is expected to fall.

"Epidemiological links can take some time, but with genome sequencing, most cases can be linked," Dr Bloomfield said.

Eighty-five percent are contacts of known cases, and just four people were potentially infectious in community of today's case, connected to eight exposure events.

None of these exposures occurred after they were told to isolate.

Thirty-nine people are in hospital across Auckland, with four requiring ventilation.

1:07pm - There are 21 new community cases to report today, all in Auckland, bringing the outbreak to 841, with 147 recovered.

1:06pm - Ardern has taken the podium and is beginning with an opening announcement on vaccine supply.

To sustain the record high levels of vaccination, the country needed additional doses to supplement our supply, she said, and the Government began complex negotiations with Pfizer.

Ardern said she cannot confirm specific quantities or the countries involved, but said the Government has secured additional supply that will become available in September, sustaining us until a large shipment arrives in October.

More information will be provided in due course.

12:55pm - The Prime Minister and Dr Ashley Bloomfield will provide the latest updates on the outbreak at the 1pm press conference.

Watch the livestream above, or alternatively watch via our livestream page here.

12:15pm - A number of new locations of interest have been added as of 12pm.

See Newshub's infographic below to keep up-to-date with the latest. 

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 7
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 7
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Tuesday, September 7

12pm - Countdown has reintroduced its priority shopping hour for essential workers.

As reported by Stuff, workers on the frontline of Auckland's outbreak can now get their groceries ahead of the general public.

Supermarkets from Pōkeno to Warkworth are open to essential workers in healthcare, emergency services, and managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) from 7am to 8am daily, allowing them to beat the queues and stock up on their essentials.

Workers are required to present appropriate identification in order to enter the supermarket before 8am.

Countdown's spokeswoman Kiri Hannifin​ said the change was "just one small way" the supermarket chain could give back to essential workers in the Auckland region.

11:45am - Meanwhile across the Tasman, Victoria has reported a further 246 new locally acquired cases.

There are currently 1786 active infections in the state, which has endured consecutive lockdowns over the past 18 months due to repeated flare-ups of the virus. Last week, state officials said they would be dropping the elimination strategy.

11:25am - For people who are unable to work during lockdown, sleeping and eating might be some common pastimes.

However, as evidenced by last year's lockdown, many are forgoing their five-a-day in favour of unhealthier options, with a large percentage of Kiwis gravitating towards sweet and salty snacks.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday, Auckland University medical and health sciences lecturer, Dr Rajshri Roy, said a survey of 3000 New Zealanders from April 24 to May 13 last year found that lockdown had led to a significant increase in the consumption of unhealthy foods.

Thirty percent of participants reported eating more salty snacks, while 40 percent said they were consuming more sweet treats. One-third said they had increased their alcohol intake.

The survey found that over lockdown, people were tending to opt for more refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta, processed meats, and sugary drinks.

Dr Roy said 'fakeaways' - attempting to recreate your favourite takeaways at home - can be a good activity for the household bubble while in level 4 or level 3.

"It's good to get cooking, we have the time," she said.

11:05am - The ACT Party is urging the Government to help take the pressure off businesses - particularly those in the embattled hospitality sector - going into alert level 2, which has been toughened in response to the increased transmissibility of the Delta strain.

Some in the hospitality industry have expressed frustration at the new restrictions, arguing that capping indoor capacity at 50 patrons will fail to boost revenue or even cover staffing costs. 

In a statement on Tuesday, ACT's small business spokesperson Chris Baillie said a resurgence payment should be made available for every week that a business is under alert level 4 or 3, and extend to alert level 2 for the hospitality sector.

"Having a limit of 50 people in a cafe or restaurant is devastating for these businesses, they will likely lose more money than if they were to stay closed," Baillie said.

"If the Government insists on these strict rules, with no end date in sight, it has a duty to help these businesses so they can stay afloat and continue to employ people."

10:50am - There has been some confusion around the tweaks to alert level 2 - which comes into force at 11:59pm on Tuesday for all of New Zealand, aside from Auckland - particularly for businesses, who will be required to operate with capacity restraints, mandatory record-keeping and physical distancing.

A lot of the information can be found on the Unite Against COVID-19 website. Here are some helpful links that may answer some of your questions:

10:30am - Here's a recap of the rules at the Government's new-look 'Delta level 2':

  • Masks will become mandatory inside most public venues, such as shops, malls and other businesses - however, they can be taken off at cafes and restaurants to eat
  • Masks will not be mandatory for students or teaching staff at schools, but are strongly recommended - public schools are able to open from Thursday
  • No more than 50 people will be permitted inside indoor venues - indoor gatherings and events will also be capped at 50
  • No more than 100 people will be permitted at outdoor venues - outdoor gatherings and events will also be capped at 100
  • Record-keeping, such as written entries or scanning in with the NZ COVID Tracer, will become mandatory at most businesses and locations
  • Essential workers travelling between alert level 4 and alert level 2 will be required to show proof of a negative test in the last seven days
  • A 2m social distance should be maintained in public places such as gyms, shops and supermarkets.

For Newshub's recap of new-look level 2, click here.

For a detailed breakdown of what you can do at alert level 2, visit the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

10:15am - Still no new locations of interest, with the Ministry of Health's list updating every two hours. 

The latest potential exposure sites, added on Monday, include two pharmacies, a superette and a grocery store.

A third pharmacy added to the list on Monday was later removed, with McKinnon St Superette in Mt Roskill listed in the afternoon.

You can see the latest locations of interest and the official advice here.

9:55am - To recap, masks in schools are recommended, but not mandated, at the new-look level 2.

Public schools will be reopening their doors on Thursday as the country - excluding Auckland - prepares to enter 'Delta level 2' at 11:59pm. Private schools can choose to open on Wednesday.

The Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, confirmed on Monday that while face coverings are recommended in the classroom, they will not be made mandatory for teaching staff or students.

Masks are "strongly" encouraged in secondary schools, he said, but are merely an option for younger children.

However, some are calling the policy inconsistent, with the Principals' Federation calling for clarity on why masks are mandatory indoors in public venues, but are optional in schools.

9:35am - With masks to become mandatory in most indoor settings under the new-look alert level 2, the Prime Minister is reassuring New Zealanders that face coverings are not compulsory in the pool - or at least, in the pool area.

Ardern and the host of The AM Show, Ryan Bridge, had a laugh this morning when the Prime Minister's wording implied that masks "don't work as effectively" when worn in swimming pools. 

"My recollection is we haven't required them, we certainly haven't required them in swimming pools, those damp environments, they don't work as effectively," she said.

"You would hope we didn't make people use them in a swimming pool, they might drown," Bridge joked.

Laughing, Ardern clarified: "Not in the pool. If you are a parent watching your child at a swimming lesson, Ryan. I am not a complete idiot."

She later reiterated that New Zealanders are not, of course, expected to mask up when enjoying a swim.

"It's because I, of course, come at all sports as a spectator, not a participant - so it didn't even cross my mind that someone would think I actually meant a swimmer," she joked.

Read more here.

9:20am - Jacinda Ardern says businesses in the South Island struggling to retain their staff should know they can still apply for the wage subsidy, even at level 2.

There has been some frustration aimed at the toughened restrictions for alert level 2, which were introduced to counteract the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant.

Masks will be mandatory inside more public venues and stricter caps will be placed on both indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Some have expressed frustration that the additional restrictions will continue to hinder business, with Steve Pomeroy, the owner of Christchurch's Pomeroy's Old Brewery Inn, telling Newshub the limitations on customers will still be detrimental financially.

"We will have to let some staff go because we could be in this for months."

Speaking to The AM Show, Ardern reminded employers outside of Auckland that they are still able to apply for the wage subsidy under level 2.

"People who are in the South Island in that level 2 environment are still eligible to apply for the wage subsidy with the usual criteria," she explained. "You do not have to be [in level 3 or 4]. If any part of the country is at level 3 or 4, someone can apply for the wage subsidy. 

"So yes, in the South Island if you still fit the criteria of having had that revenue decline, then you are eligible for the wage subsidy. I have heard people in hospitality who haven't been aware of that." 

Information about the wage subsidy and resurgence support payment can be found on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

Read more here.

9:05am - 'Mystery cases' in Auckland's outbreak are causing some concern, with 33 cases yet to be linked to other infections.

 With Cabinet set to review Auckland's alert level next Monday, the number of unlinked cases would likely need to be reduced to give officials assurance that alert level 3 is the right move.

It comes as Auckland's testing rates plummet dramatically, with just 2088 swabs taken in Auckland on Sunday - significantly down from the daily average of more than 20,000 at the peak of the outbreak.

The drop in testing is being attributed to fewer locations of interest and lockdown reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses, meaning less people are presenting cold and flu-like symptoms.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there needs to be a boost in testing ahead of any alert level decisions. 

Testing is also being ramped up along the frontline, with essential workers travelling between alert level 4 and alert level 2 zones required to get tested once a week, with saliva testing available.

8:45am - New Caledonia will enter a two-week lockdown at midday on Tuesday after three cases of COVID-19 were detected in the community.

The three cases are unlinked and not connected to travel, suggesting the virus is circulating in the community.

President Louis Mapou said investigations have been launched immediately to identify the source of the transmission and contacts of the cases.

Read more here.

8:40am - The kaiwhakahaere of the Nurses Organisation, Kerri Nuku, is blaming short-staffing for Monday's breach at Middlemore Hospital.

On Monday morning, it emerged that a man had tested positive for COVID-19 at the Auckland hospital - and was kept in a room with three other patients, including a 91-year-old, while awaiting his test results.

The 91-year-old patient, who contacted ACT leader David Seymour to air his grievances, told the MP he was outraged by the "carelessness" of staff and was concerned there would be a wider outbreak at the hospital.

Later that day, Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, confirmed the hospital is reviewing its procedures after staff failed to isolate the man, who was symptomatic, from other patients.

Nuku told RNZ's Morning Report that short-staffing was to blame for the blunder and there had evidently been some miscommunication - which she said was due to the pressure healthcare staff are currently under.

8:30am - The Government is about to sign a deal involving multiple countries that will allow the vaccine rollout to continue at its current rapid rate.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB he wasn't in a position to announce the deal just yet, with "multiple actors" still needing to sign it off, but said it would likely be ready to reveal in the next day or two. 

"I'm aware that other countries announce these things before they've got a signed deal… we know what's going to happen, but until we've got absolute confirmation we are not announcing it."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told The AM Show at around the same time on Tuesday morning she would have a "little bit more to say" later this week, promising news by Friday. 

Read more here.

8:15am - No further locations of interest have been added this morning.

Four new potential exposure sites were identified on Monday, two of which were last updated at 6pm. Countdown Pharmacy in Mangere East was initially added, but was later removed. McKinnon Street Superette in Mt Roskill was listed later.

They are:

  • Richmond Rd Pharmacy, Grey Lynn: 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
  • Whenuapai Gardens & Orchard, Otahuhu: 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
  • Puhinui Pharmacy, Papatoetoe: 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
  • McKinnon St Superette, Mt Roskill: 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.

8am - A Tokoroa family who lost two brothers to COVID-19 is calling on Aotearoa to take the threat of Delta seriously.

Brothers Alan and Nigel Te Hiko died from the virus last year, and their family doesn't want any other whānau to experience the same grief they have suffered. 

Today, Alan's wife, Trish Te Hiko, says the whānau who survived COVID-19 are still grappling with long-lasting health impacts.

"My daughter - it's been a year since she had COVID and she's still suffering side effects from that. She can't taste, she can't smell," she says. 

"Alan's other brother that went to ICU as well - he had to re-learn how to breathe and now sleeps with a machine at night."

Alan's mokopuna, Calani Te Hiko, has one message for people who are doubting the validity of vaccinations.

"It's really easy, it's just a needle - it's better than being in a hospital bed fighting for your life or losing someone who means so much to you just because you want to be an egg and believe what everyone else says."

Read more here.

7:45am - Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says experts are unsure what a return to alert level 1 would look like after health officials toughened alert level 2 to provide extra layers of protection.

There are suggestions that a return to alert level 1 would not entail the same freedoms as before due to the increased transmissibility of the Delta strain.

"We will probably wind up at a new, revised alert level 1, I hope, in the not too distant future," Baker told The AM Show.

"I'm not sure if we'll ever get back quite to the level of freedom we've had for much of the last 18 months because the world has changed… the level of risk has risen but, certainly, we should back to something that resembles that [level 1] in terms of our ability to mix and so-on."

He noted the lower numbers are an encouraging sign, with 60 new infections recorded over the past three days. He is optimistic that Delta will be eliminated from Auckland if locals continue to adhere to the official advice.

Read more here.

7:30am - Speaking to Newstalk ZB, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins implied there could be an announcement this week regarding vaccine supply - the details of which possibly to be revealed on Tuesday.

Hipkins said he is "not in a position to confirm or deny" the announcement, but alluded to a deal, noting it could be revealed in the next day or two. 

Ardern offered slightly different information, telling The AM Show she doesn't have "anything further to share" regarding the Government's next steps for vaccine supply.

"At this stage I don't yet have anything further to share on future vaccine supply. But I hope to do so this week. [By Friday] would be my hope," she said. 

"I'll have a little bit more to say on how we've gone on sourcing that extra supply this week."

7:25am - Ardern also shed some light on the restrictions under the toughened alert level 2, with mask use to be mandatory for the majority of indoor settings. 

Under 'Delta level 2', people will be required to maintain a social distance of 2m when exercising in gyms. Masks are also strongly recommended. 

When asked if people would be able to remove their face coverings during intensive exercise, such as running on a treadmill, Ardern reiterated that officials "want people using masks".

"Primarily the change we made yesterday was about distancing at gyms. Mask use, of course we've always said in those indoor spaces we do want people using masks. In the outdoor space, we're being more open about it. So we are encouraging people to use them as much as they can in those indoor spaces," she said.

For parents monitoring their children in the pool, masks are not required.

"My recollection is we haven't required them - we certainly haven't required them in swimming pools. In damp environments they don't work as effectively. Not in the pool."

For weightlifting or body-weight exercises, Ardern again asked for masks to be worn.

"Yes, as much as possible we want to encourage people when they're in indoor spaces. The thing we've learned about Delta is when you're in those indoor environments - particularly when they've got average ventilation - we know it increases the risk. That's why we've just tried to encourage people. But we're being pragmatic."

In hospitality venues, when patrons are eating and drinking, face coverings are not required - however, all customers are asked to scan in using their NZ COVID Tracer.

"That's where instead we're supplementing it by asking everyone to scan in those environments. If you don't have to wear a mask, generally we're asking you to scan instead."

7:20am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is speaking to The AM Show.

When asked by host Ryan Bridge when New Zealand - excluding Auckland - could expect to shift to alert level 1, Ardern said "as soon as we're able to".

"Our public health experts have said they do intend to keep - as soon as we're able to - moving through the levels. It's not a matter of people in parts of the country having to be in this level 2 environment forever - we do intend to continue to move."