As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 15

There are 14 new cases of COVID-19 in the community today - all in Auckland. This brings the total number of cases in this outbreak to 983.

A total of 456 people have recovered from the virus. Of these, 441 are in Auckland and 15 in Wellington.

All cases announced on Wednesday have been epidemiologically linked. Just eight in the past 14 days are yet to be linked.

This comes as Aucklanders awake to another day in COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown but the Government has confirmed they have made an in principle decision to move down to level 3 next Tuesday night.

The rest of the country is currently in alert level 2, where they will remain until at least next Tuesday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that future lockdowns can be avoided if as many people as possible are vaccinated.

"Yes, our view is vaccines replace lockdowns, but there is still having to keep a good eye on all our experts and what it more broadly means for every single country," she said.

What you need to know

These live updates have finished.

6:30pm - The National Party's disability spokesperson Penny Simmonds says the Government needs to do more to vaccinate the disabled community.

"It beggars belief that Ministry of Health data shows that only 37 percent of those with the most compromised health have received their first vaccination, compared to close to 70 percent of the general population."

She says there isn't a vaccination strategy for disabled New Zealanders and Disability Issues Minister Carmel Sepuloni is in "catch-up mode".

"Ms Sepuloni told media this week that 'we need to promote vaccination amongst disabled people', but that should have been happening months ago. It's just another example of how unprepared this Government has been for the arrival of Delta," Simmonds says.

"The Government has known how important it is to vaccinate as many people as possible to protect the country against COVID-19 and that includes our disabled community. The minister should've had a plan to work with advocacy groups, taking vaccinations into disabled workplaces, support centres and the homes of those who live with disabilities."

Simmonds adds they would've expected Sepuloni to ensure MIQ facilities were accessible and had plans in place for carer support to be available, and all this should've been communicated to the disabled community to make sure it was easier to get vaccinated.

6pm - Have you wondered why grapes have been more expensive than usual lately? You're not the only one.

The price of grapes appears to be skyrocketing over lockdown, with Countdown selling imported red and green grapes for $17.99/kg and $18.99/kg on Wednesday.

But it's unlikely that supermarkets are deliberately skinning customers - the cost of freighting grapes in by air to provide continuous supply is what's driving up prices, Countdown says.

The Statistics New Zealand Food Price Index shows grape prices rose 32 percent in the month to August - 9.5 percent over the year. The weighted average price for grapes was $11.52/kg, Statistics New Zealand confirms. Additionally, tomatoes rose 16 percent, contributing to an overall 0.3 percent monthly increase in the price of food typically brought by Kiwis.

Read the full story here.

5:30pm - Corrections has dispelled rumours that it is in lockdown due to COVID-19 cases.

Christchurch Men's Prison director Jo Harrex says it is not in lockdown, nor are there any confirmed cases among prisoners at any of their sites.

"We continue to have a number of controls in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 coming into the prison. This includes health screening for every person who enters the prison, and continuing our policy of separating people coming into custody for their first 14 days from those who have been in prison for longer," she says.

"Due to a human error a remand prisoner newly received into the prison on 4 September was only separated for 10 days, instead of our standard 14, from those who have been in prison for longer, before being transferred to another unit within the prison yesterday.

"Staff realised the error within an hour and immediately acted to further isolate the prisoner and other men in the unit he had been in close contact with. The man has no symptoms of COVID-19 but has been tested by health services staff on site as a precaution."

Harrex says this man and his close contacts in the unit will continue to be managed separately as a precaution until a negative test is returned. Staff who came into contact with the prisoner were wearing PPE.

"I would like to apologise to the small number of men impacted by the error. We have provided information to all of the men so they fully understand the controls we are putting in place for their health and safety. They will continue to have access to Health Services staff who will assist them with any questions or concerns."

5pm - The University of Waikato is hosting a vaccination clinic and drive through vaccine service on Thursday to mark Kīngitanga day. 

The clinic will be available to all students, staff and the community but is focused on raising vaccination rates amongst Māori and Pacific students as a priority. 

This initiative is a collaboration between kaupapa Māori health provider Ngā Miro Health Centre, K'aute Pasifika, the Waikato District Health Board and the University and is the first to be held on a university campus in New Zealand.

Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai, the University of Waikato's deputy vice chancellor Māori, says the initiative is designed to support increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates among Māori and Pacific communities and builds on the work that Ngā Miro has been doing with the university in a mobile vaccination drive across the university's halls of residence. 

"Bringing Ngā Miro, which is located at Tūrangawaewae Marae, and K'aute Pasifika onto campus as part of the Kīngitanga Day programme felt like a natural opportunity. Kīngi Tūheitia's words provided impetus for the university and further reinforced the connection," Tiakiwai says.

Dr Keakaokawai Varner Hemi, the University of Waikato's assistant vice chancellor Pacific, says the clinics are an opportunity to protect communities and keep families safe.

"Our ancestors didn't have the opportunity to be vaccinated. But we do. When we get vaccinated, we are protecting our aiga, our tamariki and older people, and our communities – and keeping that from happening again."

The vaccination clinic will be open from 10am - 3pm at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts and a drive through clinic will also be available at Gate 2B, Knighton Road.

The vaccination clinics are a drop-in service, so no set appointment is necessary, but people attending need to use reasonable precautions including wearing a mask and remaining appropriately distanced.

4:30pm - There are two new locations of interest. They are:

  • Unichem Pharmacy Papakura, Tuesday 7 September from 4:20 pm - 4:45 pm
  • Gilmours Manukau, Saturday 11 September from 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm.

4:15pm - An Auckland restaurateur has written an open letter to Mayor Phil Goff, urging him for "help to get through the chaos that COVID has brought".

Tony McGeorge, the owner and operator of Café Hanoi, Saan, Ghost Street, and Xuxu, says the lockdown in Auckland has brought uncertainty and he fears it will continue for months to come.

"We're not arguing against a lockdown. We're not saying we must open up and learn to live with COVID. We're saying that more needs to be done to mitigate its impact on good businesses and the people they employ," he writes in his open letter.

McGeorge says there are four issues that need urgent action: Auckland businesses needing access to wage subsidies at alert level 2 and into 2022, MIQ facilities aren't in the CBD from next year, a mass vaccination centre is in the CBD immediately, and investing in an activity to help the CBD rebound.

"January and February 2022 will be difficult trading without overseas tourists. Perhaps a 'Summer in the City' weekend break campaign including hotels, airlines, hospitality etc may encourage domestic travellers to choose AKL over a weekend somewhere else," McGeorge says.

"Promotional activities will have only limited impact but will help so long as the other actions have been addressed.

"Auckland is blessed with outstanding restaurants, something of which the city is rightly proud. At the moment the industry is struggling, and we require your urgent assistance."

3:45pm - Police have given an update on checkpoint and compliance data.

As of 11:59pm on Tuesday, a total of 117,247 vehicles have been stopped at the 10 checkpoints on Auckland's northern and southern boundaries since 11:59pm on August 31.

A total of 95,935 cars have been stopped at the five southern checkpoints. Of these, 1072 were turned away for non-essential travel, including 100 yesterday.

At the five northern checkpoints, which have been in place since Northland dropped to level 3 at 11:59pm on September 2, a total of 21,312 vehicles have been stopped. Of those, 313 vehicles were turned away for non-essential travel, including 18 yesterday.

On compliance in Auckland since alert level 4 came into place, 75 people in the city have been charged with a total of 79 offences as of 5pm yesterday.

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, 167 people were formally warned for a range of offences.

To date, Police have received a total of 8,380 online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau.

3:15pm - The "abundance of options" for Manurewa residents to get vaccinated gives an opportunity to close the vaccination gap for targeted groups in the area, Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor Daniel Newman says.

Manurewa is a suburb of interest in the current outbreak.

"The toll of COVID-19 coupled with the protracted level 4 lockdown has been very tough for our community. The call on welfare services to support the immediate needs of vulnerable families, whanau and aiga living at home has stretched welfare agencies to the limit," Newman says.

"The task now is to accelerate our vaccination efforts. This will start with a stand-up vaccination event at the Manurewa Netball Centre on Friday and Saturday this week. This community vaccination event is being managed by the Counties Manukau District Health Board and is being actively promoted by our local school communities. We need everyone to come and participate; come with their bubble and knock our local vaccination numbers through the roof."

Newman says community-based vaccination events with no bookings required coupled with direct-to-whanau mobile vaccination clinics will help to break down the barriers of distance and physical isolation.

"There are no reasons to delay vaccination, the time is now."

2:45pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is urging all those in the city who haven't got their COVID vaccination yet to get it as soon as possible.

He says Aucklanders can now get vaccinated at a community vaccination site without having to make a booking.

"This will remove barriers for Aucklanders who may struggle to use the vaccination booking website, whether that be because of limited access to technology or difficulty booking in a large family," Goff says.

"Now all you need to do is show up at a community site, so don't wait, go and get vaccinated now. Almost 27,000 people received a vaccine dose in Auckland yesterday and we want everyone in the city to get their first dose by the end of this week, so let's keep up the momentum and keep everybody safe."

He encourages people to get tested if they have symptoms or if they have no symptoms but are invited to be tested - especially for people in and around Mt Eden, Massey, Favona, Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Māngere and Manurewa.

Phil Goff.
Phil Goff. Photo credit: Getty Images

2:15pm - There are four new locations of interest. They are: 

  • Bus 325 Preston Road to Dawson Road, Thursday 2 September from 11:45 am - 12:00 pm
  • Bus 325 Fleet 5406 Preston Road to Dawson Road, Thursday 9 September from 1:18 pm - 1:30 pm
  • Bus 325 Fleet 5810 Dawson Road to Preston Road, Thursday 9 September from 2:31 pm - 2:45 pm
  • Supavalue Supermarket Clover Park, Friday 10 September from 5:00 am - 5:15 am and Saturday 11 September from 5:45 am - 6:00 am.

1:55pm - The Funeral Directors Association is calling on the Government for a "further change of heart" for funerals and tangihanga now that lockdown has been extended.

President Gary Taylor says they sent a proposal to Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield to seek a change to allow funerals under alert level 4 and increase the number allowed to attend inside at alert level 2.

The association wants funerals to be allowed at level 4 with revised health and safety protocols and limited numbers and for the number inside at a funeral in the controlled environment of the funeral home to be increased to 100.

"We know that the medium to long term mental wellbeing of grieving families can be severely impacted by the lack of a meaningful farewell," Taylor says.

"With the extension to the lockdowns, we believe that by adopting our proposal the Government can show them the kindness they need and manage the risk of transmission at the same time."

He says the proposal includes requirements to maintain separation, limit the spread of the virus and encourage vaccinations among those attending.

"We see an opportunity to make funerals and tangihanga safe at alert level 4 and encourage vaccine uptake by requiring the limited number of mourners to have at least the first dose of vaccine,” said David Moger, chief executive of the Funeral Directors Association.

"This thinking will enable families to grieve safely under alert level 4 and at the same time provide a real motivation for the vaccine programme."

1:45pm - MBIE has issued a statement confirming how the new MIQ system will roll out with the introduction of the virtual lobby.

"The pause on the release of managed isolation vouchers will end on 20 September as MIQ rolls out a virtual lobby for the next release of MIQ vouchers," a spokesperson confirmed.

"The release of approximately 3000 rooms across September – December will take place at 9am NZT on Monday 20 September, in the Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS)."

Joint Head of MIQ Megan Main said the lobby system is being tried out to make booking more transparent and will create a more level playing field for people trying to access the booking site.

"We know that the current environment is difficult, where demand for MIQ rooms is significantly greater than the number of rooms available. I know people spend many hours in front of their computers constantly refreshing in the hopes of securing a voucher. I know this lack of certainty has been really challenging for people. The lobby means we can let people know in advance when room releases are happening."

The way it will work is that people can enter the lobby one hour prior to the room release – so from 8am NZT on 20 September. 

Everyone has an equal chance of getting through to try to secure a room. Once the room release starts, all of the people in the lobby will be automatically moved into a queue.

"There is no limit on how many people can wait in the lobby and there is no need to keep refreshing the website anymore," Main said. 

"People will be able to see their place in the queue. To enter the lobby, people will need to enter a passport number – this must match a passport number of someone who is travelling, which is entered in the Managed Isolation Allocation System website (it must be the same passport number which will be on the MIQ voucher).

"It's important that people know their preferred flight route and select the correct date for arrival. We don't want people to just grab any date. Flights from most locations around the world only arrive on particular days so people need to make sure they're booking an MIQ date that aligns with the arrival date of a flight from their location. People need to look at the flight checker on the website before the lobby opens, and select the appropriate date for arrival."

Once all rooms have been taken, the lobby will be closed and anyone in the queue will be informed that they have unfortunately missed out this time. But there will be more rooms coming and people will be told in advance so they can plan to enter the lobby on time.

 The lobby will also be used for re-released rooms, as people's plans change and bookings are cancelled. Previously, these rooms were automatically re-released back into the system for people to book, however MIQ will now hold these and then release them in scheduled releases, with the lobby in place.

People are advised to check the MIQ website for instructions about the room release.

1:34pm - The Ministry of Health has released a comment on COVID-19 tests.

"Thank you to everyone in Auckland who has come forward to be tested," a spokesperson said.

"We saw an increase in testing in Auckland yesterday – with 10,341 swabs taken yesterday, up from 7057 the day before.

"We are continuing to remind people across Auckland to get tested if you have symptoms, or if you have no symptoms but are invited to be tested, especially if you live in and around Mt Eden, Massey, Favona, Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Māngere and Manurewa."

1:30pm - The pause on MIQ bookings will lift on September 20 as the local pressure on the facilities is easing.

Rooms will become available between now and Christmas.

On Monday from 9am, 3000 rooms will be released, along with 4000 a fortnight over the coming months.

The Government expects there to be more demand than supply and it is expected the pressure on MIQ will continue until at least the end of the year. Hipkins said it was because a larger proportion of people have come back to NZ than to other countries.

But in the new MIQ lobby, it won't be first come, first served. People will be randomly allowed into the queue. There will be no need to refresh the website.

Once all rooms are taken, the lobby will be closed until the next trache.

Hipkins said it is important people know the preferred flight route and date of arrival. Don't just grab any date.

The MIQ slots won't include red zone flights from Australia. Another voucher release in September may include Australia flights.

1:25pm - By the end of this week, the Government wants everyone in metro Auckland to have had at least their first dose of the vaccine.

1:24pm - On Tuesday, 62,000 doses  of the vaccine were administered around New Zealand, including 26,000 in Auckland.

Of the eligible population nationwide, 70 percent have had one dose, 36 percent have had two.

However they confirmed there are some challenges, including that vaccination rates among Māori and Pacific peoples are not keeping up.

1:21pm - The 250,000 doses of COVID-19 from Denmark have arrived in Auckland.

1:20pm - Dr Bloomfield has also made a shoutout to midwives, particularly those in Auckland.

Much of their work is face to face and they are having to take precautionary measures and wear PPE.

He said babies don't know its lockdown and they continue to arrive.

Dr Bloomfield reiterated the importance of pregnant women getting the COVID-19 vaccine. He said there are no additional safety concerns for pregnant people.

1:17pm - Dr Bloomfield touched on the worker at Auckland's So/ Hotel who tested positive for the virus. 

He said there is a potential link to a community case.

The infection is not being considered a result of in-facility transmission.

Health authorities are undertaking genome sequencing and the worker is now in an MIQ facility.

1:15pm - There are currently 996 contacts of COVID-19 cases who are under active management. Of them, 93 percent have had direct contact, 91 percent have also returned a test.

1:14pm - Dr Ashley Bloomfield has issued a "huge thanks" to Aucklanders for getting tested for COVID-10. 

Nationwide 15,105 tests were processed on Tuesday.

Police will also start checking to make sure people crossing the alert level border have had a test.

1:12pm-  There are also three historical cases which were identified at the border.

They include two people who flew to New Zealand from India via Serbia & Montenegro arriving in the country on September 8. They are in a managed isolation hotel in Christchurch.

Another person came from the USA direct arriving Sep 9 and is also staying in MIQ in Christchurch.

1:10pm - There has also been unexpected detection of COVID-19 in wastewater testing from Snells Beach (from 7 September, delay due to logistical issue). There is now additional testing underway.

1:08pm - Of Tuesday's 15 COVID-19 cases three were infectious in the community and 13 were in  isolation throughout the period they were infectious

Of today's cases, all 14 have been epidemiologically linked.

There are now 20 cases in hospital, three in North Shore Hospital, 11 in Middlemore and six in Auckland.

Four cases are in ICU or HDU.

1:05pm - The Ministry of Health has confirmed the cases are all located in Auckland. There have now been 966 cases in Auckland (441 of whom have recovered), and 17 in Wellington (15 of whom have recovered).

1pm - There are 14 new community cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand on Wednesday.

12:55pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and and Dr Ashley Bloomfield are fronting Wednesday's COVID-19 update at 1pm. You can watch Newshub's livestream video of the briefing at the top of the page.

12:45pm - Supavalue Supermarket Dawson and Z Browns Road Manurewa have been added to the list of locations of interest.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 15

12pm - University of Otago law professor Christopher Gale has slammed Kiwis for how they have treated the couple accused of flouting alert level 4 lockdown rules to travel to Wānaka.

"If you give an apology and you get on with life, these things normally blow over… if you continue to have name suppression, the situation gets worse and worse," he told Newshub.

"I'm not sure what to do about social media - amplification of stigmatisation and shaming seems to be going on quite a lot right now. We saw it was Dr [Siouxsie] Wiles earlier this week, we're seeing it again now.

"Not only was this couple vilified and actively hated... but there was a report that someone who had a very similar name was vilified and had threats against her as well. 

"I thought we were supposed to be a laid-back culture and a bit caring - we're not being caring with this at all… are we going to shame, deplatform and unperson people because we did something we disapprove of, or are we going to have some understanding and forgiveness?"

He said the death threats the couple have recieved are horrible.

"I think social media at the moment has become an amplifier of negative thinking, an amplifier of bad things."

11:30am - Australia's chief medical officer professor Paul Kelly has issued an update on New Zealand green zone flights.

He noted the number of community Delta cases had continued to rise since the last review of the situation on September 7.

"Considering this, the Australian Government will continue the pause of green zone flights from New Zealand until 11:59pm (AEST) on 21 September 2021, with all flights being classified as Red Zone flights until this time."

Pof Kelly said he and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) would continue to monitor the situation and provide revised guidance when further information becomes available. A further review of the travel arrangements will be undertaken on Tuesday 21 September 2021.

"All passengers on flights originating from New Zealand up until 11.59pm (AEST) on 21 September 2021 will need to go into 14 days of supervised hotel quarantine on arrival in Australia and adhere to the requirements of the State and Territory in which they enter," he said.

"As New Zealand authorities continue to address and contain this outbreak, further time is required to monitor the number of new locally acquired cases of COVID-19. This information will help to determine potential risk from people travelling quarantine-free from New Zealand to Australia with the view that green zone travel from New Zealand to Australia is enabled as soon as it is safe to do so."

11:15am - ACT leader David Seymour says the Government needs to "seriously update" its transparency around COVID-19 data so Kiwis can understand the situation and the response.

"ACT is calling on the Government to start releasing data openly, transparently, and apolitically. Data should be released, systematically, daily, in tables, so that data is comparable day to day and week to week," he says.

"Here are some examples of data that taxpayers own, that should be freely available instead of selectively released data.

"How many people are booked for vaccination in days to come? The Government has made much of vaccine bookings when it suited them. It should publish a table of how many bookings have been made for each day in the future. It would be helpful to know this because the numbers seem to have fallen even as the Prime Minister says there's no limits

"What are the wastewater test results for each site, each day? We are told there are no 'unexpected' results

"What is the case data, including how many cases have been hospitalised, how many of them were vaccinated, what is the estimated date of infection. A good example of how this kind of data could be shared is Singapore. A country that won't let you chew gum at least tells you what's going on, with daily case details here.

"What is the performance of contact tracing, day by day? How many contacts, how many contacted, how many awaiting a day five and day 12 test? We need to know if contact tracing is containing outbreaks, or superfluous and we're just using lockdowns to kill off viruses anyway."

ACT leader David Seymour.
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub

10:45am - The Financial Markets Authority (FMA) is warning Kiwis to be on the lookout for three scams that have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes as there has been a rise in complaints about investment scams and fraud in the first half of this year – up 79 percent on the same period in 2020.

The three types of scams on the rise are:

  • Social media contact scams: scammers using social media platforms to identify and/or make contact with possible victims – friending and messaging them, asking questions or making suggestions in post comments, conducting fake surveys.
  • Romance-investment hybrid scams: targeting prospective victims on popular dating apps, winning people’s trust with sophisticated back-stories and accomplices, before convincing victims to transfer money overseas to buy supposed investments.
  • Impostor websites: using the names, logos, addresses, certifications and other details of legitimate NZ businesses, to fool investors that the website and/or its managers are part of, or associated with, the legitimate business. Two recent examples included scammers impersonating Kiwifruit company Zespri and derivatives issuer Rockfort Markets.

FMA's general counsel Liam Mason said scammers are taking advantage of the pandemic crisis either by using COVID-19 as part of their pitch, or using the economic climate to prey on peoples' fears and desires.

"Scammers are constantly looking to evolve their approach and this treacherous trio of scams can be sophisticated, the red flags are not always obvious. Scammers want to be believed and are willing to play the long game to gain your trust over several months," he said.

"We strongly encourage New Zealanders to only deal with locally-registered entities and if you see an investment opportunity, step back and ask yourself if this is real. Don't be rushed, be sceptical and ask lots of questions."

 Some of the signs of a scam include little or no information in writing, asking for payments via unusual platforms, continually requesting money and exerting pressure. 

10:15am - Six new location of interest visits have been added to the Ministry of Health's list. They include: Chapel Park Superette and Lotto Flat Bush, Gull East Tamaki Otara, SuperValue Supermarket Clover Park, Mayfield Superette Otara, Tripoli Super Seven Panmure and Mobil Glen Innes.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 15

10:05am - Queenstown-Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult says he accepts the apology of an Auckland couple who allegedly breached lockdown to travel to their family's holiday home in Wānaka - but warns the duo to stay away from the area for "a fair old while".

"Look, I hear their apology, I guess we accept it," he said. "There's a lot of anger and a lot of hurt down here though around their actions. A lot of people are calling for all sorts of punishments, which are probably a little over the top… we now leave it to the police to take the matter further."

He also offered some advice to the alleged rulebreakers.

"These people have said they did a stupid thing, they acknowledge that, they put a community in danger - thank goodness we're now assured that there is no ongoing danger. I think we should now leave it to the police to take it forward," he said.

"If I was them I probably wouldn't come back to the community for a fair old while. I think I'd put some distance between now and their next visit, that would be my best advice to them.

"It is a tight community and quite understandably people were really, really unhappy about this, right across the district… it'll take a while to get over this."

Read the full story here.

Queenstown mayor Jim Boult and the two Aucklanders who allegedly breached alert level 4 restrictions.
Queenstown mayor Jim Boult and the two Aucklanders who allegedly breached alert level 4 restrictions. Photo credit: The AM Show, social media

9:35am - Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall says to date only one death in New Zealand has been associated with the COVID-19 vaccination.

"This case is still active with a coroner and the causes and circumstances of this death have yet to be determined," she said.

Judge Marshall said the Coroners Court continues to work alongside the Ministry of Health to help identify any cases that may be linked with COVID-19 vaccinations.

One case they are currently looking into is the death of an Auckland student.

"I am aware of ongoing speculation about the cause of death in a case involving an Auckland teenager that was recently referred to the Coroners Court," she said.

"Based on the information available to date, it does not appear that the death in question is linked to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

"However, this issue will be investigated carefully by the coroner and pertinent information will be requested from various agencies, including the COVID-19 Vaccination Independent Safety Monitoring Board.

 "It could be a number of months before the final post mortem report is received and all information relating to this death is obtained from relevant agencies. The coroner's findings in relation to this point will be made available once the inquiry has been completed."

Read the full story here.

9:15am - Collins has come out in support of the new mobile vaccination clinics being rolled out this week, saying they are a "good idea".

She was asked if she had any ideas for the name of the bus.

"We don't want to call it the COVID bus, do we? Because that sounds really bad," she told host Ryan Bridge. "I think maybe it's the 'Save a Child Bus'." 

Kiwis on social media have come up with several suggestions for the name so far including: 'Jabb'n Wagon', 'Double Jab Ute', 'Vaxi Taxi', 'Jab Cab', 'Jablian Savea' and the 'All Vax'. 

Read the full story here.

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: The AM Show

9am - Collins was asked if National would ditch New Zealand's elimination strategy, but she said the country is "not at that point" yet.

"We believe very clearly that you don't get these options without vaccination rates being a lot higher. We've been saying now… 70 to 75 percent you start getting some options rather than locking down a third of the country, or even in some cases the whole of the country. So that has to be it. I'm saying to the Prime Minister and the Labour Party, come up with your own target because the only target we've heard so far is from Stuart Nash, which is 90 percent - which would be great, but I'm just not sure that's realistic."

8:45am - National Party leader Judith Collins spoke to The AM Show on Wednesday about the Auckland couple who are accused of flouting alert level 4 restrictions by travelling to Wānaka.

"I noticed last night they had now dropped their name suppression bid, that they had apologised, that they are mortified," Collins said.

"Obviously for their family as well this is a really awful thing for them to have done, but I think it's really bad for Wanaka, for the people around, and it showed an irresponsibility. So these are quite serious issues. 

"Apart from that, as I understand it's with police, so I really don't think that I want to weigh into that one given that they've already fronted up, they've apologised. They haven't turned around and spun a story about it."

8:25am - Auckland bus 325 from Preston Road to Dawson Road is the latest location of interest. If you used the service on Thursday 2 September from 11:45 am - 12:00 pm or on Thursday 9 September from 2:31 pm - 2:45 pm, you must follow the official health advice below.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, September 15

8:10am - Little said he is expecting to recieve a strategy soon outlining what New Zealand's COVID-19 response will look like when the country no longer uses the elimination strategy.

"I'm expecting a specific strategy in the next three or four weeks on what it looks like when we don't resort to lockdowns… 

"We're looking around the world to see what other countries are doing. On the weekend I was talking to my Australian counterpart, the Minister of Health there Greg Hunt and what they are doing. Their strategy is very much about maximising anybody who is infected with COVID to be cared for in the community, be cared for in the home, with health services being able to ring in, check in on a daily basis, provide help. And if there's an indication someone needs to be hospitalised, that can happen. 

"Getting the hospitals geared up with the right facilities in the right places to be able to accommodate people not just in ICU but on wards as well - specific dedicated COVID wards. I've asked the Ministry of Health to look at all of that, do some modelling about what numbers we might expect. In the end, the way we avoid putting undue pressure on the health system is maximising the number of people who are vaccinated. We've really got to get those numbers up."

Little said he understands New Zealand will need to reopen to borders at some point, start to allow gatherings and other events.

"But we can only do that when vaccination rates are high; we are starting on that trajectory, we're well into that trajectory, but we need to make sure the health system is capable of coping if there is an outbreak under those changed circumstances. So this is what we're working on."

He noted hospitals are gearing up to anticipate that change.

"That work is well underway. In the end things will change most significantly when we get those vaccination rates up… but I think in regions like Northland for example, where vaccination rates are lower compared to other parts of New Zealand, we need to get those rates up. The message to people everywhere is vaccination isn't just about you and your own health. It's actually about your family, your whanau, your loved ones, your community."

7:45am - Little told The AM Show it was positive only 15 cases of COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday.

He said it's looking like Auckland could move down to alert level 3 next Tuesday.

"That's our plan. The numbers are looking good so far if yesterday's numbers are anything to go by.

"We have still got 10 unlinked cases to continue to investigate and it was good that of the 15 cases yesterday none was unlinked, so this is looking good."

He said the Government had expected the slight rise in cases earlier in the week.

"We expected there to be a bit of a heightened blip in the early part of this week - that has happened and as I say, the numbers have started coming down again so look, we'll keep everything crossed but so far the indications are as good as they could be."

Health Minister Andrew Little.
Health Minister Andrew Little. Photo credit: The AM Show

7:25am - Health Minister Andrew Little has revealed he was advised of the positive COVID-19 case at the So/ MIQ hotel on Tuesday night.

He confirmed the worker is fully vaccinated and had little contact with other people in the facility.

The worker is considered "low-risk".

7:15am - The Minister of Health Andrew Little is on The AM Show at 7:20am to give an update on New Zealand's COVID-19 outbreak. He's also expected to be questioned about the elimination strategy and how hospitals are managing during the outbreak.

Watch the interview live here.

7:05am - The Ministry of Health has provided some more information about the Auckland MIQ worker who tested positive for COVID-19.

They returned the positive result as part of routine surveillance testing, a spokesperson said.

"An investigation to determine the source of the worker’s infection is underway.

At this stage, Public Health Officials investigating the case have not identified any clear evidence of in-facility transmission.

"The worker is fully vaccinated, has been regularly tested and is now isolating in a quarantine facility. The hours worked by the worker means they had limited contact with guests at the hotel.

"Following initial investigation, two close contacts have been identified. Both are household contacts of the case."

So/ Hotel in Auckland CBD.
So/ Hotel in Auckland CBD. Photo credit: GoogleMaps

6:55am - The Auckland couple accused of flouting alert level 4 lockdown rules to cross the border and travel to Wānaka have been named.

Name suppression lapsed on Tuesday night for 35-year-old William Willis and his 26-year-old partner Hannah Rawnsley.

According to websites, Rawnsley is a lawyer at Auckland firm Roddie Sim, while Willis is a horse breeder and equestrian who'd competed internationally.

Read the full story here.

6:38am - A staff member at Auckland's So/ hotel - an MIQ facility - has tested positive for COVID-19.

The Ministry of Health confirmed to Newshub an investigation is underway to work out how the worker became infected.

There was not yet any clear evidence of in-facility transmission.

"The worker is fully vaccinated, has been regularly tested and is now isolating in a quarantine facility," a spokesperson said.