Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20

Auckland is shifting down to alert level 3 this week, the Prime Minister has announced, following the announcement of 22 new community COVID-19 cases on Monday.

It comes amid 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, have been issued a Section 70 health order for the next five days, meaning they will be under lockdown conditions during this period.

In a statement on Sunday night, the Ministry of Health said two of the prisoner's three household contacts attend Mangatangi School, which has closed for the day.

The trio along with an adult caregiver has been moved to a quarantine facility. The ministry said at least one of the children was symptomatic while at school on Thursday.

The ministry said there were nine people in the household altogether, with five others testing negative for COVID-19 and one person being swabbed on Monday.

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
  • Twenty-two new cases of COVID-19 were announced on Monday, including the three in Waikato
  • There are now 1068 cases in the current outbreak, 694 of whom have now recovered
  • 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
  • Cabinet has made an in-principle decision to move Auckland to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will provide an update on that decision at 4pm on Monday
  • Click here for locations of interest.

These live updates have now finished.

9:15pm - The Ministry of Health says under the Section 70 notice, affected people are required to do four things:

  1. Isolate at their usual home, except to go for testing
  2. Monitor the locations of interest list, and contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or complete the location of interest form if they have been at a location of interest, for advice about testing
  3. Monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and contact Healthline for advice on getting a test if symptoms develop
  4. Remain isolated at their usual place of residence until 11:59pm Friday 24 September or otherwise advised by a Medical Officer of Health.

Failure to comply with a Section 70 notice can result in a fine of up to $4000 or six months' prison.

"The ongoing public health risk of the highly transmissible Delta variant is high, and these restrictions are designed to prevent the spread of the virus to other parts of New Zealand - ultimately to keep the whole country safe," Dr Bloomfield said.

"Any time a person receives a direction from a Medical Officer of Health they must comply with it. Public health officials will also discuss with these people the support available to help them meet these requirements."

The ministry says it's closely monitoring the situation and will issue updated health advice if and when required.

9:10pm - Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the health order applies to anyone who has already been contacted by Auckland Regional Public Health Service or contact tracing teams and been informed they are a contact.

"The dispersal of potential contacts across the region increases the potential for wider transmission of COVID-19," he said.

"We consider this health order to be a prudent measure while contact tracing and testing is underway to rule out any wider spread."

The direction applies to any person who, at any time, since Wednesday, September 8 has:

  • Resided in the northern Hauraki area
  • Visited a household, location, or attended an indoor gathering in the northern Hauraki area
  • Worked in the northern Hauraki area

9pm - The movement in, out and around northern Hauraki is now restricted as a precautionary measure, the Ministry of Health has confirmed, following the three cases of COVID-19 detected there over the weekend.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has issued a new direction under Section 70 of the Health Act.

This requires those who may have come in contact with these cases to get tested and isolate at home until 11:59pm this Friday, or until otherwise advised by a Medical Officer of Health.

The updated boundary lines can be seen on the map below. The orange section is the Auckland region and the blue line indicates the upper Hauraki area under the Section 70 notice.

Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Photo credit: Ministry of Health

8:55pm - Dr Andrew Chen, Research Fellow at Koi Tū - Centre for Informed Futures at the University of Auckland, says it's critical that Aucklanders keep up QR code scanning at level 3.

"Contact tracing enables public health officials to identify people who may have been infected quickly, and reduce the time that people may have been infectious in the community," he told the Science Media Centre.

"Digital contact tracing using information from the NZ COVID Tracer app significantly speeds processes up in comparison to pen and paper approaches. It is one tool in our response to COVID-19, alongside other tools like vaccination, physical distancing, and wearing face masks."

Dr Chen says there's been a significant increase in the number of people participating over the last couple of weeks, with much of New Zealand at level 2.

"There are now over 2.1 million devices participating in Bluetooth Tracing every day, which is over half of the adult population," he said.

"We are seeing the most QR code scans per day at the moment (around 2.5-2.6 million per day), and expect this to increase further over the coming weeks as movement increases."

8:45pm - Professor Marc Wilson, the Acting Dean of Victoria University of Wellington's School of Psychology, says he thinks the alert level change is a good thing - or at least the best thing to do right now.

"That's to say, we're hearing a little about level 4 fatigue, and about now is when I think it might be a good idea to drop to Level 3 - which is closer to Level 4, than 2 - to provide people with a breather," he told the Science Media Centre.

"This may not be the right thing to contain the virus, however. By that I mean that the right thing to do is probably to continue to keep to level 4 from Waikato upwards.

"But I think that without some reinforcement, Aucklanders (and those north and just south) need to get the sense that their efforts are recognised, or they may look to the recent cases of folks breaking the rules as role models, rather than the people they don't see - because they're at home, sticking to Level 4!"

8:27pm - Those working on the City Rail Link (CRL) will get back to work on Wednesday with Auckland shifting down alert levels on Wednesday.

expects a rapid and successful return to work at CRL construction sites on Wednesday with strict health and safety protocols operating in line with the Government’s Covid-19 Alert Level 3 announcement.

All sites at New Zealand's largest transport infrastructure project - Mt Eden, Karangahape, Aotea and Britomart - are re-opening after Auckland's six-week lockdown.

“We’re an important part of the New Zealand economy with our big workforce and our big spend locally on construction materials so we’re keen to get cracking again. That's good news for Auckland and good news for New Zealand," says City Rail Link CEO Dr Sean Sweeney.

A karakia, led by Auckland Iwi kaumātua, will be held at dawn at the Aotea site to bless the resumption of work.

Around 750 workers will be back on CRL sites immediately under level 3 with a gradual return to around the 850 working under normal conditions. Office-based support teams will continue to work from home during level 3.

Dr Sweeney says COVID-19 will have a big impact on the schedule that was determined before the project started.

"Current covid-related impacts, and those before, are of a scale and uncertainty we could not have reasonably predicted a couple of years ago," Dr Sweeney said.

"They are exceptionally hard to rigorously quantify and will not be able to be fully determined for some time yet. But it is highly likely there will be significant consequences for the project."

8:15pm - Even though indoor gatherings have been increased from 50 to 100, some South Island leaders are furious they're staying at level 2.

They say some businesses are being brought to their knees even though there's been no community cases for nearly a year.

"We should have been at 1, two weeks ago, or earlier," said Pete Marshall, from Corbridge Estate Event Venue.

"It's outrageous, there is no justification, this is day 318," added Westland Mayor Bruce Smith.

Watch Juliet Speedy's full report here.

8pm - A survey of the Motor Trade Association's (MTA's) 800 Auckland members last week found stress levels are high and more than a quarter are not sure if they will still be in business by 2022.

The MTA, which represents represents automotive businesses across New Zealand, says the cost to business is raising worrying mental and financial health concerns.

"Our members have drained their reserves - financial and mental - and need more help from Government," MTA CEO Craig Pomare said.

"While the move to Level 3 is welcome, we need to move to Level 2 in two weeks and we need legal mechanisms to negotiate reductions to rent and other fixed costs, and new ways for businesses to operate at Level 4.

"It is becoming increasingly important to balance the public health outcomes alongside the economic and mental health impact these lockdowns are having on business owners."

Key points from the survey:


  • 66 percent reduced wages for their staff, mostly by 20 percent.
  • Nearly 30 percent asked some or all their staff to use annual leave.
  • 96 percent accessed the Wage Subsidy (August 2021); around 5 percent found the process complex, and one member did not apply for the subsidy because of the complexity.
  • 98 percent accessed the Covid Resurgence Payment; about 10 percent found the process complex, and one member did not apply for the payment because of the complexity.
  • 63.5 percent have not negotiated payment deferral or relief with suppliers.
  • 42 percent have not negotiated rent deferral or relief with their landlord.
  • 28 percent are not sure they will still be in business at the end of 2021.

7:45pm - Auckland Councillor Daniel Newman says those in the region are paying a heavy price for a late start to mass vaccination against COVID-19.

Newman, who represents the Manurewa-Papakura Ward, says the lockdown has "denied Aucklanders their personal freedom, cost hundreds of millions of dollars and strained community welfare agencies across the region".

And he believes a late start to vaccination is at fault.

"New Zealand was the last country in the developed world to embark on a mass public vaccination strategy and we were one of the slowest to ramp up vaccination efforts despite knowing the Delta variant put our community at a much higher risk," he said.

"When Delta did escape into the general population it hammered vulnerable communities in South Auckland first.

"The penalty for not getting ahead of Delta with an early mass vaccination programme is the longest lockdown applied to the most vulnerable people, thousands of whom live in large and overcrowded households where it is impossible to maintain physical distance."

Newman says vaccinations are the only way out of lockdown.

"Our public health system cannot cope with increased hospitalisations that occur when unvaccinated people get exposed to COVID-19. On the other hand we are seeing a very low rate of infection and hospitalisations among those who are fully vaccinated."

7:13pm - Frustrations are reaching boiling point for Kiwi athletes stuck overseas following Monday morning's release of MIQ rooms.

Over 25,000 Kiwis entered the virtual lottery for just 3000 rooms, and with sportspeople trying to come home to continue their careers it could force families to move overseas.

Among tens of thousands of other Kiwis to miss out on spots are Olympic bronze medallists, triathlete Hayden Wilde and tennis player Michael Venus.

Watch Luke Robinson's full report here.

7:05pm - A big development in what we know about the remand prisoner at the centre of a small outbreak in Waikato.

It's alleged he breached his bail conditions on multiple occasions.

Corrections GPS records show the man made four stops on the way to his bail address at Whakatiwai, including stopping at two private homes in Mt Albert, one in Mangere and a supermarket in Pokeno.

It's also been established the prisoner was picked up from jail by three people.

Read Newshub Investigations Reporter Michael Morrah's full story here.

6:58pm - Auckland's public transport system continues to operate with strict health and safety requirements in place at alert level 3.

Commuters must maintain physical distancing and scan the Ministry of Health’s NZ COVID Tracer app QR code and wear a face covering on buses, trains and ferries and at bus stop and stations. They must also tag on/off with their AT HOP card.

Buses, trains and ferries will continue to operate on weekend timetables until further notice so customers can continue to rely on the AT Mobile App and journey planner to plan their journey.

Auckland Transport says those travelling on public transport should avoid peak times unless it is necessary.

"This is to further ensure that the required distancing between staff and customers can be maintained. Passengers must get on and off the bus through the backdoor but any passenger with mobility issues can still use the front door of the bus."

6:43pm - More criticism of the Government's COVID-19 strategy from ACT leader David Seymour, who describes it as "rudderless".

He says there's little difference between the state of play in Auckland now and a fortnight ago - "the only thing that's changed is politics".

"The Government is now accepting what ACT has been saying all along, it needs to balance COVID with all aspects of New Zealanders wellbeing," said Seymour.

"COVID is very important but it is not the only challenge to New Zealanders wellbeing and for more and more people it's not the most urgent either. We just spent an extra week at level 4 for no reason at all by the Government's own admission.

"Now, it's totally unclear what the future holds because the next decision will be as logical as the last. The only new thing today was Jacinda Ardern's new triumph of spin terminology 'transmission to secondary households', also known as community transmission."

6:32pm - Professor Nick Wilson, of the University of Otago's Department of Public Health, says shifting Auckland to level 3 is a "relatively brave move" given the outbreak is "clearly not fully under control".

"Hopefully the Government will also shortly move to intensify a range of control measures that will increase the chances of eliminating this outbreak," he said.

"A range of other improvements include accelerating vaccination efforts in Auckland, enhancing surveillance, and increasing the economic support package for people in Auckland as some of us have recently argued for.

"It is important that all these measures are considered as the price of failure is very high as can be seen with the situation in Victoria and New South Wales in Australia.

6:28pm - Professor Michael Plank, a COVID-19 modeller from Te Pūnaha Matatini and University of Canterbury, has described the move to alert level 3 as a "calculated risk".

"Although the majority of the cluster has been controlled and most new cases are household members or known contacts, we are still seeing some stubborn spread between households that is proving difficult to stamp out," he said.

"There is a danger that the increased number of people out in the community and the workplace at level 3 will add fuel to a smouldering fire and lead to an increase in cases."

Prof Plank says new cases are being infected mainly through extended family and friends, which means some increase in the number of workplaces and services operating at level 3 may represnt a relatively low-risk way to relax the lockdown.

"But, it also means it's absolutely crucial that people continue to stick to their bubble and don't take level 3 as a signal that it's OK to meet up with family and friends," he said.

"If people do this, there is still a good chance this outbreak could be eliminated under level 3. But we will need to keep a close eye on cases and for signs that the virus is spreading between households.

"If the outbreak starts to gather steam, it may yet be necessary to tighten restrictions again. An uncontrolled outbreak still has the potential to rapidly overwhelm our health system.

"Once vaccination rates are higher this threat will start to recede, but we are still months away from getting everyone fully vaccinated. In the meantime, please enjoy the additional freedoms of level 3 responsibly and most importantly stick to your bubble."

6:15pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is welcoming the move to alert level 3, saying Cabinet's decision will be a relief for Aucklanders who have done their bit to keep New Zealanders safe.

"Level 3 provides some limited extra freedoms to Aucklanders and will allow some businesses, such as the construction industries, to restart operations, as well as click-and-collect from retail and hospitality industries," he says.

"However, we must not become complacent. As long as COVID-19 remains in the community we are still at high risk. We must stay the course and follow the Alert Level 3 rules that will help keep us safe."

Mayor Goff says getting vaccinated is "critical" to helping the region continue to move down alert levels.

"We are fast approaching 80 percent of Aucklanders getting their first dose," he said.

"We need to maintain this momentum and seek to vaccinate the maximum number of Aucklanders to reduce the chance of COVID being a risk to people's wellbeing.

"There are still around 300,000 Aucklanders needing to get their first vaccination and making strong inroads into providing the opportunity and encouragement for them to get vaccinated is the best insurance policy against having further lockdowns. 

"If you have not yet been vaccinated, make it a priority this week."

6pm - Now if you were following the live updates earlier, you would've seen police said they searched the car of two gang associates at the Auckland-Waikato border overnight, finding $100,000 in cash and "a car boot-full of KFC".

If you thought that was an exaggeration, you're not alone.

But the cops have released a few photos of their haul and you have to admit, it is a pretty impressive amount of food.

Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Photo credit: Supplied / NZ Police
Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Photo credit: Supplied / NZ Police

Oh and here's a photo of the cash.

Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Photo credit: Supplied / NZ Police

5:50pm - Some more details on those cases in northern Waikato, with the Ministry of Health confirming the final household member of the house where the remand prisoner stayed has now been tested and results are pending.

"An investigation into the epidemiological link is ongoing - our working hypothesis being that the individual was infected in Auckland after leaving prison, rather than by someone in the local community where he was staying," a press release reads.

"Further tests, including whole genome sequencing of the first close contacts, are due tomorrow. The ongoing investigation from Auckland Regional Public Health is looking to establish epidemiological links to the wider Auckland outbreak, guided by the whole genome sequencing results as they become available.

"The five further household members isolating at home returned negative results yesterday, giving us confidence that they have not been infectious in the community. All three positive cases, and an accompanying adult caregiver, have been moved to a quarantine facility.

"To date negative results have been returned from testing of close contacts among prison staff, other prisoners, police and court staff.

"A pop-up testing centre in the northern Hauraki town of Wharekawa marae in Whakatīwai has been busy today testing locals. Waikato DHB reports 340 tests have been taken as of 2pm today."

5:44pm - Air New Zealand's quarantine flights to Australia sold out within three minutes of going on sale this morning, the airline says.

Chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty says the airline was allocated a very limited number of managed isolation spaces to return customers home to Australia.

"Because of the MIQ constraints in Australia, we were only allocated a total of 385 seats to Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne between 25 September and 30 October. On some flights, as little as 10 seats were available," she explained.

"Despite this, we are committed to helping people get home. It’s an incredibly unfortunate situation for many people who are either stuck here in New Zealand or in Australia and our heart really does go out to those customers who weren’t able to secure a spot.

"We are in constant conversations with the Australian Government around whether any additional allocations will be made available. If more space does open up, customers will be able to book through our website."

Air New Zealand says there was also a jump in bookings in flights from Australia to New Zealand when more MIQ rooms went live on Monday.

"As the New Zealand Government has extended the travel pause with Australia for a further eight weeks, customers wanting to return home to New Zealand will need to have an MIQ room allocation," said Geraghty.

"Once the New Zealand MIQ rooms went live this morning, we saw an initial spike in bookings.

"There are still seats available on all flights to New Zealand during the suspension period, so we encourage anyone who has an MIQ spot and hasn’t booked a flight yet, to do this promptly to avoid missing out."

5:37pm - Earlier, Newshub was alerted to a social media post by a staff member at Tiaho School in Hawke's Bay, explaining that a student who had just returned from Auckland had been sent home as a precaution.

However the Ministry of Health says it has seen no evidence of a positive case in Wairoa and has not given the school specific advice to do this.

A Tiaho School spokesperson says the pupil returned to the region last week following strict exemption travel processes, including negative COVID-19 test results prior to leaving Auckland.

"The pupil is symptom-free. The school has worked with Hawke’s Bay’s Public Health Unit which has determined there is very low risk to the public," they said.

"However, out of an abundance of caution and to allay any concerns, a second COVID test has been taken with a result expected tomorrow. The school looks forward to the return of the pupil."

5:30pm - Ardern says it’s encouraging the vast majority of people are following through and getting a second dose for full protection.

She adds people with vulnerabilities should consider a shorter timeframe to get their second dose, but the standard interval is six weeks.

5:19pm - In a post-vaccine environment, COVID-19 restrictions could become more local, Ardern says, citing the Section 70 notice announced by Dr Bloomfield in northern Waikato as an example.

Dr Bloomfield says modelling shows vaccine rates will move above 90 percent in the first half of October.

He says alert level 3 is restrictive and he's confident that it, along with testing and isolation and vaccination, gives them all the tools they need to stamp out outbreak.

He's not planning to move back to level 4, and wouldn't have advised moving out of it unless he felt confident level 3 would work.

5:16pm - Ardern says testing remains important, particularly in the seven suburbs of interest in Auckland. Clover Park is a new area.

She says it's possible to get to zero cases and it's something we've done before from level 3. She says it's "absolutely a tool in our stamp it out strategy".

5:10pm - Coming back to the prisoner again, Ardern says they were infected on September 8 and symptom onset was on September 11.

They believe he caught it in the car, and are looking into how long the person who transported him to his residence remained with him after doing so.

5:06pm - Ardern says the cautious approach is ongoing is because of boundary issues with people breaking the rules.

The Prime Minister says we have to accept it's not easy to build a wall across the country, but she points to the infection of a truck driver reported last week to show a risk remains.

5:03pm - Dr Bloomfield says the R level at the moment was at 0.4, and is now still well under 1. That means on average, every 10 people with COVID-19 will infect less than 10 people.

He says the vast majority of cases each day are known household contacts, noting that 10 reported on Monday were already in an MIQ facility.

Dr Bloomfield says according to modelling, cases will continue to rumble along a bit, but will decline.

4:56pm - Asked how the Mt Eden prisoner was able to get remanded to Waikato, Ardern says this was someone who was GPS monitored, which has given them useful information.

Under their bail conditions, they needed to be transported by a specified person to their residence for their bail, and they needed to take a direct route to that environment.

She says they are currently trying to figure out if that person who took them their residence followed all the rules, though Ardern says they weren't infectious during their trip there.

The Prime Minister says they have a "reasonable understanding" of what’s happened. She says it's clear they became infected by someone involved in their journey to the bail address.

Rules stated that they should be directly dropped off, Ardern says. They want to see if rules were broken to tighten up procedures.

4:52pm - Ardern says if every Kiwi gets vaccinated, New Zealand can ditch lockdowns for good.

She says this would be a game-changer for New Zealand, but reiterates vaccination rates would have to be high for Cabinet to take this approach.

Dr Bloomfield says the aim is for at least nine in every 10 eligible Kiwis to get vaccinated.

Modelling of vaccination influence on restrictions will come this week, Ardern says.

4:49pm - Masks are still not mandatory at primary schools, but the advice for now is to encourage their use in this environment.

Ardern says there's still a zero tolerance approach to COVID-19, but says moving Auckland to alert level 2 is less about getting to zero cases and more about wherever cases arise, stamping them out.

The Prime Minister says Cabinet wants "a level of comfort" that cases are "way under control" before they move the region to level 2. She won't give a specific number of cases that would indicate the outbreak is under control.

4:43pm - Dr Bloomfield says there's good evidence there is not widespread undetected transmission in Auckland. He acknowledges cases are still popping up that are initially unlinked, but says usually there is eventually a link.

He says this is confined largely to south Auckland.

The Director-General of Health says elimination is about zero tolerance for Delta in the community, and level 3 is an opportunity to keep getting vaccination rates up and protect elderly.

Ardern says in level 4 everyone should still stay at home wherever possible. She acknowledges at level 3 there is a bit more movement, but she's asking elderly not to join that if they're not vaccinated.

4:39pm - Does Cabinet still think Delta can be eliminated? Ardern doesn't answer directly, saying they saw in Australia how quick it moves, which is why they went to level 4 first.

She says level 3 is a continuation of the 'stamp it out' approach.

Asked if Cabinet will commit to not yo-yoing up and down alert levels, Ardern says all the protections that level 3 provide will be important. She doesn't want people intermingling and contact is still restricted.

"That remains critical," she says.

4:36pm - Asked why a decision wasn't made to move Auckland to level 3 earlier, Ardern says the extra time would let them assess whether there was containment - and officials believe that goal has been reached.

She says level 4 has done the job they needed it to do, establishing a ring around the initial case and its spread.

"Now we need to keep going," she says, describing level 3 as an 'opening up' level.

4:33pm - Ardern's message to the eldery is if you have not yet been vaccinated, please stay at home until you have had a jab.

The Prime Minister says that's about 23,000 people, and a letter was sent out last week to remind them to get one.

Pharmacies are doing medication deliveries and food can be delivered, Ardern reminds those in the older generation needing to stay at home.

Ardern says those travelling through a boundary checkpoint for a personal reason must show proof of negative test results.

4:30pm - Businesses can open at level 3, but only with strict rules, Ardern says. She urges bosses not to let their workers come in sick, and to encourage them to get vaccinated.

Businesses can now access their workplaces to prepare.

She asks people to keep working from home where possible, and says kids should only go to school if they need to. For the most part, schools remain closed, and face coverings are mandatory at all high schools at level 3 inside.

Events and gatherings still can't happen at level 3, Ardern says. Contactless delivery can occur, but staff must wear a face covering.

4:23pm - Ardern says keeping bubbles tight is important, and this is part of level 3.

She says level 4 has helped contain the outbreak, but level 3 still allows us to keep people safe.

Bubbles remain in place at level 3, Ardern says, however Aucklanders are allowed to make minor extensions to theirs to include some others, such as lonely people or the elderly.

She says the outbreak is being spread between households, so if you break your bubble, you may risk spreading virus to your loved ones.

4:19pm - Cabinet has decided to move Auckland to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday for at least two weeks.

"Level 4 has done what we needed it to do," Ardern said.

She adds that as long as Auckland is at level 3, the rest of New Zealand will be at alert level 2. However those in alert level 2 can now increase gathering sizes to 100.

4:17pm - There is no significant undetected community transmission, Ardern says.

She knows level 4 has been tough for Aucklanders, but says it's made a difference as almost all cases in the last 14 days have been household or known cases.

But there is still a risk, she says.

4:15pm - Dr Bloomfield says he's putting in place a Section 70 notice to require people north of State Highway 2 to extend the road boundary to the east of Maramarua and southeast of Firth of Thames.

People who live there and north of those roads must stay at home in that region and can only go out for food or seek healthcare for the next five days.

Ardern says the approach is a bespoke level 4 lockdown requirement around where those cases have popped up. She says we've been thrown curveballs before and a strong local approach will help to stamp Delta out.

4:12pm - Ardern begins by speaking about the new cases in Auckland and Whakatiwai. She says the majority are household contacts; five are unlinked but have tentative links.

Testing around Whakatiwai has happened and there are still only three positive cases, testing sites have been set up. There have been over 300 swabs in the small community.

4:10pm - The Prime Minister and Director-General of Health have arrived at the Beehive Theatrette podium.

We'll bring you everything they say as soon as they say it.

She says they're late because her computer froze.

4:05pm - Still no sign of the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health.

3:50pm - A reminder Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will give an update on alert levels very shortly.

Ardern last week said Cabinet had made an in-principle decision to move Auckland down to alert level 3 at 11:59pm on Tuesday - but recent COVID-19 developments may have scuppered those plans.

We'll also find out whether Waikato will move up alert levels in response to its new cases.

The post-Cabinet press conference is scheduled to begin at 4pm. You can watch it on Three or watch the livestream on the Newshub website.

3:40pm - The emergence of Delta in Waikato has brought into question whether a remand prisoner from Mt Eden Prison in Auckland should have been allowed back to their nine-person household in Kaiaua/Whakatīwai.

Professor Claire Breen, of the University of Waikato's Faculty of Law, University of Waikato, says there's a "balancing act" that needs to be struck in the midst of a lockdown.

"A person on remand in prison has the right to apply to be released on bail," she explained.

"Then it is up to a judge to decide whether to release that person, with the judge looking at questions like whether that person has somewhere to stay and what special conditions apply. One of these conditions could be release on bail with electronic monitoring (EM) to a specific address, for those who apply for it.

"On the other hand, the courts still have to be satisfied that, amongst other things, that the proposed EM address is appropriate for the purpose of bail with an EM condition and what 'appropriate' means in the context of a level 4 lockdown, where considerations of public health must also be taken into account."

3:30pm - The Auckland pair arrested in Wellington for allegedly breaching COVID-19 orders have been granted name suppression.

A police spokesperson confirmed over the weekend that a 24-year-old woman and a 41-year-old man were arrested in the capital on Saturday and charged with Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19).

Both appeared in court via AVL on Monday.

The woman has been granted bail to a New Plymouth address and is due to reappear in court on October 11 and the male has been remanded in custody until the same date.

Neither offered a plea.

3:20pm - In locked-down Tāmaki Makaurau, 86 people have been charged with a total of 90 offences since this latest outbreak started, police say.

Of these, 73 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 14 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, 183 people were formally warned for a range of offences.

To date, police have received a total of 9767 online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau.

At Auckland's 10 northern and southern checkpoints, a total of 180,339 vehicles have now been stopped. A total of 2286 vehicles have been turned around during this time.

At southern checkpoints a total of  1741 vehicles have been turned around, while at northern checkpoints, a total of  545 vehicles have been turned around since September 6.

As at 11:59pm on September 19, 1656 heavy vehicles had been stopped and 125 of them turned around attempting to leave Tamaki Makaurau - 13 of which were turned around on Sunday.

3:15pm - In another incident - this time at the boundary between Auckland and Northland, police turned around a man who claimed he wanted to cross the border to charge his electric vehicle.

That was despite there not being a charge station where he said he was going.

Police say they woill continue to stop and question motorists travelling through the checkpoints, and "enforcement action will be considered for people deliberately attempting to breach the restrictions".

A spokesperson says police will also be patrolling rural and backroads to ensure people are not trying to use them as a way through boundaries.

Further details around the requirements for permitted travel can be found here.

3:10pm - Police have released their latest daily compliance update - and while they're happy with the actions of most people, there are some who have deliberately flouted the rules.

Among them are two gang associates, police say, who were stopped at the Auckland-Waikato border with $100,000 in cash and "a car boot full of KFC". Yep, you read that right.

"Officers noticed a suspicious looking vehicle travelling on a gravel road and upon seeing the Police car, the vehicle did a u-turn and sped off trying to evade Police," a spokesperson said.

"The vehicle eventually pulled over and Police established they had been travelling from Hamilton trying to get into Auckland. The vehicle was searched and Police located the cash, alongside empty ounce bags and a large amount of takeaways."

Both men, aged 23 and 30, were summonsed to appear in court for breaching the Health Order, with further are charges are likely. 

2:50pm - The AM Show's Mark Richardson has questioned whether Aucklanders are "level-4ing well enough", suggesting that if compliance is already shoddy, prolonging lockdown won't make it any more efficient. 

"I don't think we're level 4-ing well enough, that's my issue. If we keep staying at the current level we'll just go on, and on, and on, and on, and on - so make a decision to go either way," he said on Monday morning.

Richardson said he'd rather spend a week completely housebound - with army personnel out on the street to enforce compliance - than the current situation. 

"You know what, if you could guarantee me that we did a week of basically [being] locked in our houses, with the army stationed out on the road to ensure we don't leave our houses, and this would knock [the outbreak] on the head, I would take that option."

Read more here.

2:40pm - Basketball star Tai Webster has been released by the NZ Breakers by mutual consent after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

It's understood a lack of vaccine will make it difficult for him to travel, with Victoria announcing plans over the weekend to make certain freedoms available only to those who'd received the jab.

In a press release, Breakers owner Matt Walsh said he respected Webster's decision to remain unvaccinated.

"Tai was amazing for us last year and we wish him the absolute best. I fully support each player's freedom of choice in regards to the vaccine.

"The club will keep the door open for Tai, but unfortunately we are living in extraordinary times and without being vaccinated he will not have freedom of travel which would allow him to play for us this season."

Read more here.

2:30pm - We're just 90 minutes from the 4pm press conference in which we'll find out whether Auckland will shift down alert levels - and indeed whether Waikato might move up, in light of the region's new cases.

You can follow along to all the latest updates here. The press conference will be live on Three and streamed live on the Newshub website.

2:20pm - National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop has put the new 'virtual lobby' system for booking MIQ rooms on blast, describing it as "a depressing debacle".

"The virtual lobby system used for the first time this morning solves nothing and has just created even more angst amongst the thousands of Kiwis trying to come home," he said.

"How is it fair that someone sleeping in a car overseas with an expired visa is treated the same as someone who wants to come home to New Zealand for a holiday at Christmas time?"

Bishop says there are some Kiwis stuck offshore who aren't legally allowed to be in the country they're stuck in who still can't get home.

"This is an awful situation and one entirely of the Government’s own creation," he went on.

"There are people trying to move back to New Zealand permanently with skills and experiences gained overseas treated the same as someone who is just coming for a short period...

"When we have a health workforce shortage, why do we treat nurses and doctors the same as other occupations when granting space? It doesn’t make sense. We should be rigorously targeting health sector skills."

He says the Government should implement a point-based priority system, similar to the way in which skilled migrants are assessed for eligibility for entry to New Zealand.



“Let’s be clear – there are many good reasons for people to want to come to New Zealand through MIQ, but we need to be realistic. Some reasons have more merit than others, but the system treats everyone the same.

"COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has argued that this would be too complex, but it doesn't have to be," he said. "He should task his officials with getting on with it and implement it for the next round of MIQ room bookings.”

2:10pm - Waikato DHB chief executive Dr Snee says all tests will be fast-tracked, with results expected late on Monday.

He says the Waikato DHB and ARPHS are working rapidly to confirm whether there had been any further transmission.

"Our advice to the local community is to exercise an abundance of caution at this stage.

"If you are able to stay home, please do. For those who do need to go out, please take extra care to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands regularly."

Dr Snee said the DHB was following this advice with a restricted visitor policy from 2pm on Monday and services across all hospitals reduced to acute and urgent care only from tomorrow, with outpatient clinics utilising virtual and phone consults wherever possible.

Thames Hospital also began surveillance testing of all incoming patients from last night.

"These are difficult decisions to make as they have a significant impact. However, the decision has been made to take a cautious approach, prioritising the safety of our patients and staff.

"Once we have a better understanding of whether there has been further community transmission, we will review this decision.

"The DHB will be contacting all affected individuals to discuss options for treatment and/or deferral if required and we apologise for any inconvenience or distress this disruption may cause."

2:05pm - The Waikato DHB is asking those who live near the three cases in the region - those in Kaiaua, Whakatīwai, Mangatangi, and Maramarua - to take extra precautions as health officials continue investigations on Monday.

Three household members of a remand prisoner with COVID-19 were confirmed as testing positive for the virus on Sunday. Two of the three household members attended Mangatangi School on the Hauraki Plains.

"Anyone who attended the school on Wednesday 15 September and Thursday 16 September is considered a close contact and has been asked to self-isolate and seek a COVID-19 test," the DHB says.

"The DHB's Public Health unit are working closely with the school, which was not opened today, to provide guidance."

In addition, a drive-thru testing centre has been set up at Wharekawa Marae on Monday and Tuesday from 9am-3pm. The centre had processed 150 swabs in the first two hours of operation.

1:55pm - ACT leader David Seymour says if Cabinet decides to shift Auckland down to alert level 3 later on Monday, it needs to admit this would represent an abandoment of the elimination strategy.

"During the first lockdown, the Government kept New Zealanders in Level 4 based on the four-day average of 10 cases of the less contagious strain," he said.

"If it now moved to Level 3 on a four-day average of 20 cases of Delta, and persistent unlinked cases each day, then surely the elimination strategy is over?"

Seymour says there would be "no science" behind moving Auckland to level 3 - just politics.

"The Government is realising, too late, that it has to balance all parts of New Zealanders’ wellbeing," he went on.

"The Government needs to tell us what the strategy is and what it’s done to support any new strategy. Does it think COVID-19 can be eliminated at Level 3 and how long will it take?

"It needs to get the rules of the game straight. The continuous changes to the level system are confusing and often don't make sense... If the strategy has changed, then Jacinda Ardern needs to drop the spin, treat us like adults and tell us how the new strategy will work."

1:50pm - A few further details from the ministry's latest COVID-19 update.

Seven suburbs of interest

Testing in the seven suburbs is continuing with 946 tests taken yesterday across Mt Eden, Massey, Māngere, Favona, Papatoetoe, Ōtara and Manurewa.

The Ministry has asked people in these areas, both with symptoms and without, to get tested to help rule out undetected community transmission.

Today we are asking in particular for anyone living in Clover Park, on the south east side of Papatoetoe, to please get tested.

Testing in Kaiaua

There has been a good community turn out for testing in Kaiaua this morning. By 11am today, 150 swabs had been taking. The Waikato DHB has reported wait times of about 30 minutes.

Further update

There will be a further update on the latest cases this afternoon.

1:45pm - More from the Ministry of Health's 1pm press release.

SO/Auckland Hotel MIQ worker update

After further investigation, including retesting, the positive COVID-19 test result returned by the SO Hotel MIQ facility worker last week has been determined to be a false positive.

The individual has been notified and will be able to be released from the quarantine facility today.

The Ministry of Health would like to thank the person for their cooperation.

As a result, the net increase in community cases today is 21.

Whakatīwai cases

The three cases recorded in Whakatīwai fall within the Counties Mānakau DHB catchment and are being counted in the Auckland total.


The number of epidemiologically linked subclusters now sits at ten. The new one is associated to two households in South Auckland.

Whole genome sequencing

ESR has now analysed whole genome sequencing from samples taken from several recent cases. This shows the truck driver and a couple who went to Middlemore Hospital with COVID-19 symptoms are genome linked to the main outbreak cluster.

Wastewater testing

Following confirmation of the three cases in northern Hauraki, ESR is currently sampling from Kawakawa Bay and Pukekohe.

Samples are being collected from three sites in the region. In addition, new samples are being collected from Cambridge, Ngatea, and Paeroa. Results are expected later in the week.

1:27pm - By the numbers:

Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Photo credit: Ministry of Health

1:22pm - There are 22 community cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the Ministry of Health says.

"The three cases recorded in Whakatīwai fall within the Counties Mānakau DHB catchment and are being counted in the Auckland total," a ministry spokesman said.

"Of today's 22 new community cases, 17 are linked to known cases. Of the five unlinked cases today; three are from one household; the other two are being interviewed.

"There has been a good community turn out for testing in Kaiaua this morning. By 11am today, 150 swabs had been taken."

1:07pm - Still nothing from the Ministry of Health on New Zealand's latest COVID-19 cases. We are awaiting a press release that we'll report as soon as it comes to hand.

1:02pm - Across the Tasman, COVID-19 cases in New South Wales have dropped to triple digits.

"NSW recorded 935 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night," the state's health department said on Monday.

"Sadly, NSW Health is today reporting the deaths of four people with COVID-19.

"There are currently 1207 COVID-19 cases admitted to hospital, with 236 people in intensive care, 123 of whom require ventilation."

12:55pm - We are just moments away from the Ministry of Health revealing the latest COVID-19 cases, due via a press release at 1pm. We'll bring you the information as soon as it comes to hand.

12:50pm - Cabinet is meeting to decide whether Auckland will move down COVID-19 alert levels.

Epidemiologist Rod Jackson says Cabinet should consider Waikato in its alert level changes.

"Yesterday I was thinking we needed another week [at level 4]. In the middle of the night, I was thinking, 'oh, maybe we could do level 3.'

"This morning with the news of the Waikato [cases] I am thinking we are not there yet," he told The AM Show on Monday. 

12:42pm - The Motor Trade Association (MTA) is calling for Auckland to move down COVID-19 alert levels this week.

"Our members have drained their reserves - financial and mental - and need more help from Government. Along with an immediate move to level 3, and a prompt move to level 2, we need legal mechanisms to negotiate reductions to rent and other fixed costs, new ways for businesses to operate at level 4," MTA chief executive Craig Pomare said.

"It is becoming increasingly important to balance the public health outcomes alongside the economic and mental health impact these lockdowns are having on business owners."

12:34pm - The Opportunities Party (TOP) is urging the Government to introduce purpose-built managed isolation (MIQ) facilities after tens of thousands of people attempted to take advantage of Monday morning's release of newly released spots.

A total of 3000 rooms were made available at 9am - however, as many as ten times that number of people are online attempting to get the green light to come home.

"MIQ is the only way into New Zealand. It is designed to be the gate that keeps COVID out," TOP COVID-19 Response spokesperson Ben Peters said.

"As a matter of expedience and urgency, hotels were rapidly converted into managed isolation facilities. These hotels are usually located in busy urban areas and the worst place to host potential COVID cases. 

"TOP has been calling for purpose-built MIQ outside of Auckland for over a year now. The evidence is crystal clear," Dr Peters said in a statement.

12:31pm - The emergence of COVID-19 cases in Waikato just before the foreshadowed decision to shift Auckland down alert levels may have thrown a spanner in the works. 

So what do the cases mean for Auckland? Read digital political reporter Zane Small's analysis here.

12:27pm - The Ministry of Health will be providing the latest COVID-19 case details via a press release, due at 1pm. We'll report the cases and any other developments as soon as they come to hand.

At 4pm, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will hold a press conference at Parliament to provide an update on alert level settings. You can watch that live on Three and in the video above.

12:18pm - Across the Tasman, Australia's Victoria has reported its biggest daily rise in COVID-19 cases this year, while some curbs were eased in Sydney despite persistent infections.

A total of 567 new community infections were detected in Victoria, the majority in Melbourne, up from 507 on Sunday, and one new death was recorded. Daily cases have topped 500 for the past five days.


12:12pm - As Auckland enters its sixth week under a COVID-19 lockdown, one of the city's bar and restaurant owners says he's currently losing up to $20,000 a week.

Wynyard Quarter is one of Auckland's main dining precincts and is normally a hive of activity. But after five weeks in alert level 4, the street is a ghost town and it's taking its toll on restaurant owners. 

Dianna Vezich reports.

12:05pm - National MP Simeon Brown is lashing out at Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis after the Mt Eden prisoner who later tested positive for COVID-19 was originally remanded in Waikato.

"Kelvin Davis needs to explain why a remand prisoner was released on EM (electronically monitored) bail from a level 4 area to a level 2 area," said Brown, the National Party's Corrections spokesperson.

"People can't even get exemptions to leave Auckland to visit dying loved ones," Brown wrote on Twitter.

11:59am - Last week, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield set New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccine target at 90 percent or above. 

And new research shows getting it is possible but there's a lot of convincing to do. The latest vaccine hesitancy research shows 79 percent of Kiwis are keen to get the jab, 7 percent are unsure and could be convinced, 14 percent say they're unlikely to get vaccinated and only 7.4 percent completely ruled out getting the jab.

11:47am - Aucklanders are being told to keep their eyes on the prize of eliminating COVID-19 again.

Public health expert Colin Tukuitonga believes another week at alert level 4 is needed to get on top of the virus.

Tukitonga, an associate professor from the University of Auckland, says anything less than level 4 would devastate some communities.

"I think it's premature to be considering discarding our elimination strategy at this time," he told Newshub. "There are too many people in our community, particularly Māori and Pasifika people, that remain unvaccinated."

11:38am - Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson says the new COVID-19 cases in the region are a predictiment.

 "We thought that we were safe and secure and as we find out, we're not," he told Newshub. 

11:30am - Anyone who has a connection to Mangatangi School is urged to get a COVID-19 test. 

Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Photo credit: Newshub
Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Photo credit: Newshub

11:23am - The ACT Party is hitting out at the Government, accusing them of stopping everyone from leaving Auckland except for criminals.

"Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson's excuse that a man with COVID-19 crossing the border to the Waikato was 'a decision for the courts' simply doesn't wash," ACT leader David Seymour said in a release on Monday. 

"Most of us thought if you crossed the border illegally, you'd get arrested. Who knew that if you get arrested first, you can cross the border legally?"

Seymour said the Government has managed to lock Auckland down but not ensure people aren't being bailed outside of the city. 

"The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 gives the power to the Government to make orders that can lock New Zealanders in their homes, detail the type of food we can purchase, provide case by case decisions on business openings and travel, and establish enforced borders between regions.

"It is remarkable that despite this, the Government does not believe it has responsibility for the bailing of an individual through the Auckland border. It can dictate every other part of life.

"In case the Government forgot, bail conditions are also set by the Bail Act 2000. This isn't the court's fault. They play by the rules Parliament sets. The Government just didn't set any.

Seymour said people who are trapped in Auckland and haven't been able to leave to attend the funeral of a loved one "have the right to feel let down by the Government". 

"It's time to set clear rules of the game for everyone and for the Government to step up and admit when it gets it wrong."  

11:15am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is facing a tough decision over whether to move Auckland to alert level 3 despite three new COVID cases in the Waikato. 

Ardern said last week Cabinet made an in-principle decision to move Auckland down to alert level 3 this week, depending on how the outbreak was looking. 

Ardern seemed optimistic on Sunday but the emergence of cases beyond Auckland might spook officials. They may heed the advice of experts like Otago University Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist, who told The AM Show the Waikato region should be ring-fenced. 

It may be that Auckland shifts down to alert level 3 as planned, while the Waikato joins them by going up from level 2. 

Ardern will announce the Government's decision at 4pm. You can watch the stand up on Three and at

Read the full story here.

11:08am - Journalist and filmmaker David Farrier is also struggling to get an MIQ spot. Farrier posted screenshots of his attempt to book a room, showing nearly 15,000 people ahead of him.

"Well that was fun," said Farrier sarcastically, after previously publishing articles on his struggle with the MIQ system.

Read the full story here.

10:57am - A elderly supermarket shopper has been assaulted in Auckland after reportedly asking another customer to put a mask on.

TVNZ says the assault happened at Countdown Pukekohe on Sunday afternoon. 

10:53am - A Christchurch man is sounding the alarm about two men going door-to-door pretending to be from the Ministry of Health offering COVID-19 vaccines for $100.

The ministry says it's a scam and a police investigation is underway.

Katie Doyle of RNZ reports.

10:43am - Comedian Melanie Bracewell has posted a screenshot on Twitter of where she sat in the queue for a managed isolation room. There were 22,991 people ahead of her, all in line for one of those 3000 rooms.

10:33am - Epidemiologist Michael Baker believes the new COVID-19 cases in Waikato proves the need for students to wear masks.

"Alert level 2 still doesn't have enough controls on transmission of this virus particularly for students who go to school," he told The AM Show. "There may be a bit of physical distancing but there's not enough constraint of this virus so really this is a reason that we need an alert level 2 where everyone indoors is wearing masks including at school and school buses."

10:24am - Corrections Association vice president Peter Dennehy says it's concerning the COVD-infected Mt Eden prisoner is yet to be linked to the original Delta outbreak.

"It could run rampant through a prison site which is why all of the sites, since last year, have been following the process very accurately," Dennehy told Newshub. 

10:14am - Another eight COVID-19 locations on interest have been added by the Ministry of Health, including BP Māngere and New World Southmall in Manurewa. The affected Mangatangi School in Waikato has also been added, with two potential exposure events.

Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Photo credit: Ministry of Health

10:02am - Waikato District Mayor Alan Sanson is demanding answers as to why an Auckland prisoner was remanded in the region.

Sanson told Newshub the decision was stupid.

"If we dodge this bullet we are incredibly lucky but I just feel so sorry for those communities up there that now have to endure that."

9:54am - Across the Tasman, Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases on Sunday as states and territories gradually shift from trying to eliminate outbreaks to living with the virus.

Victoria, home to about a quarter of Australia's 25 million people, recorded 507 cases as its Premier Daniel Andrews said a weeks-long lockdown will end once 70 percent of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, whether or not there are new cases.

Andrews said  the state might reach that vaccination threshold around October 26. About 43 percent of Victorians have been fully vaccinated and just over 46 percent of people nationwide. 


9:43am - Tens of thousands of people have attempted to take advantage of Monday morning's release of newly released spots in managed isolation which would allow them to be back in New Zealand for Christmas.

A total of 3000 rooms were made available at 9am - however, as many as ten times that number of people are online attempting to get the green light to come home.

Travel editor Dan Lake reports.

9:38am - Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson is furious an Auckland prisoner was remanded into the region despite the two areas being in different COVID-19 alert levels. 

Sanson told Newshub he's "absolutely gutted" about the new COVID-19 cases in Waikato and furious the prisoner was remanded into a region with a different alert level. 

"I'm incredibly concerned the courts in Auckland remanded an Auckland-based person into the Waikato under a totally different COVID-19 alert level.

"I just cannot believe somebody in the courts of Auckland was so stupid to do that. And I want to know who that person is and why the courts think they sit above what is a health order prohibiting people to move across that border unless you're an essential person and I am damn sure remanding someone to an address in Kaiaua isn't essential.

"So that's the answer to a question that I would like from someone within the Justice Department."

9:36am - The anticipated shift to COVID-19 alert level 3 is still on the cards for embattled Auckland, says Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, despite daily infections remaining firmly in the double-digits and the news of new cases in Waikato.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday morning, Robertson said health officials will consider whether restrictions in Waikato need to be toughened, but noted that no advice about shifting the region to alert level 3 - or extending Auckland's boundary to include the affected area - has been given at this stage.

He acknowledged that bumping up the restrictions in the region could "potentially" be a next step. 

"We'll take that advice from health officials… [Kaiaua/Whakatīwai] is an area about 5km across the boundary and it's a relatively isolated community. We'll listen to the advice that we get, but I haven't received any advice at this stage indicating we need to [act on that] this morning," he said. "We'll look at the advice we get to see if that is needed. Both level 4 and level 3 have significant restrictions. Equally, the reason why we kept the rest of New Zealand at level 2 while Auckland is in level 4 is to make sure there is mask wearing, social distancing and limits on gatherings - this is a good reminder as to why we do that."

9:29am - Auckland City Mayor Phil Goff is calling for a COVID-19 alert level 3 move this week.

"The psychological pressures of the long level 4 lockdown are growing, and the financial pressures on businesses and jobs. Families are separated, there's people who don't have income coming in - there are lot of people who are just on the edge at the moment," he told RNZ's Morning Report.

"I always listen to the epidemiologists - but they're looking at it through one lens... there are other implications of staying at level 4."

9:22am - Waipareira Trust chief executive John Tamihere hopes saliva COVID-19 testing may be the answer to increasing vaccination rates in vulnerable communities.

Tamihere told Newshub the trust has already trialled the idea at the Ranui Caravan Park with great success.

He says people are more open to the non-intrusive test.

9:09am - Infectious diseases modeller Shaun Hendy says it may not be a bad thing if new COVID-19 cases have come from the Mt Eden prisoner - so long as they're linked.

"I think we are presuming the person who was on remand in Auckland is the person who has taken it outside of Auckland, that's probably the best-case scenario," he told The AM Show earlier.

8:54am - Waikato District Mayor Allan Sanson is demanding answers as to why the Mt Eden prisoner was remanded across the Auckland border.

Sanson told Newshub a prisoner isn't an essential worker.

"I just cannot believe somebody in the courts in Auckland would be so stupid as to do that," he said. "I want to know who that person is and why the courts think they sit above what is effectively a Health Order." 

8:38am - The Ministry of Health has added six new COVID-19 locations of interest. They include Māngere's Health Centre Doctors, the Palm Super Mart in Manurewa and several supermarkets.

Live updates: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, September 20
Photo credit: Ministry of Health

8:24am - Coromandel MP Scott Simpson told Newshub he was surprised and concerned when he learnt of the COVID-19 cases in Waikato.  He says the community is also very concerned. 

"There is going to be a local pop up testing centre at the local marae and that will give people some certainty they can at least get tested."

He says students and family members from the school community are also being tested. 

"Now is the time for the community to do the right thing. To get tested if they have symptoms, to wash their hands, to wear their masks all the things that we would normally expect if a community outbreak of COVID had occurred."

Simpson said the cases are a "big blow" for the community and country. 

"I would imagine this will have an impact on their [Cabinet's] thinking. We don't know what that thinking will be but we will have to wait and see until this afternoon."

He says he's confident the community will do the right thing and get tested for COVID-19.

8:10am - Officials say there's still a chance for Auckland to move to alert level 3 despite the emergence of three new COVID-19 cases in Waikato.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says knowing the source of new cases is an important factor.

"What we need to know is if we have the outbreak under control, and over the last few days you would've heard health officials say they're cautiously optimistic about that. We've got a number of cases, but we're able to link those cases very quickly in most cases," he told The AM Show.

7:57am - Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told The AM Show Waikato could potentially move to COVID-19 alert level 3.

"We'll look at the advice that we get to see if that is needed. Both level 4 and level 3 have significant restrictions.

"Equally the reason why we kept the rest of New Zealand at level 2 while Auckland is in level 4 is to make sure there is mask wearing, social distancing and limits on gatherings, this is a good reminder as to why we do that."

7:53am - It's unlikely Auckland will move to COVID-19 alert level 3 on Wednesday after the three new cases were found in the Waikato, experts say.

"Yesterday I was thinking we needed another week. In the middle of the night, I was thinking oh maybe we could do level 3. This morning with the news of the Waikato I am thinking we are not there yet," epidemiologist Rod Jackson said on Monday. 

"Whatever we do we have to stamp out this outbreak because not enough people are vaccinated."

Disease modeller Shaun Hendy agreed, telling The AM Show it's too early to know how widespread the virus is in the Waikato. 

"I think we are presuming the person who was on remand in Auckland is the person who has taken it outside of Auckland, that's probably the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is it's actually been in the Waikato and it's come through the kids at school. 

"We've just got to wait and see and we really need people connected to that school and community to go get tested to ensure we are not looking at a widespread cluster out there." 

7:42am - Auckland University disease modeller Shuan Hendy says there's a chance the infected children have spread COVID-19 to others.

 "People connected to that school, if you've got kids at that school, I think it's time to go get some tests," he told The AM Show earlier.

7:30am - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has told The AM Show a decision has yet to be made about whether Auckland will move down alert levels.

Robertson said Cabinet will get the latest advice from the Ministry of Health on Monday.

He noted a move to alert level 3 was still a move with "significant restrictions".

People would still be expected to remain in their household bubbles and travel outside of Auckland would remain restricted, he said.

7:29am - COVID-19 testing efforts will be ramped up in the small Waikato town Mangatangi will be ramped up on Monday. 

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson has told Newshub locals are concerned about the COVID-19 cases.

A pop-up testing centre will be set up on Monday at the Wharekawa Marae in Whakatīwai.

7:15am - Deputy PM Grant Robertson tells Newstalk ZB that officials looking to link Waikato COVID-19 cases to the existing cluster ahead of Monday's alert level decision for Auckland.

7:07am - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson has told RNZ the Ministry of Health will on Monday provide advice on whether Waikato should join Auckland at increased alert levels. 

6:44am - Boredom is being blamed for an increase in the number of Aucklanders fleeing the city's COVID-19 lockdown.

Since alert level 4 came into force, 84 people have been charged with COVID-related offences by police. Two people were arrested at the weekend for allegedly breaching the Auckland border and driving to Wellington.

Auckland University law professor Bill Hodge told Newsub level 4 is tedious.

"There's a lot of lockdown fatigue," he said. 

6:30am - There's still hope Auckland will move out of lockdown despite the increase in positive COVID-19 cases at the weekend.

The Government on Monday afternoon will announce whether the city will drop to alert level three this week. 

Infectious diseases modeller Professor Mick Roberts says the good news is the majority of the cases have been linked to the original Delta outbreak.

"It seems as if the epidemic is more or less under control," he told Newshub. "As long as level 3 restrictions are observed I think we could go down to level 3 at midnight Tuesday."

6:15am - Should Auckland move to COVID-19 alert level this week as planned? Vote in The AM Show Question of the Day here.

6am - In a letter to parents on Sunday, Mantatangi School confirmed it would be closed on Monday.

"We have received an informal notification of a positive COVID test in our school community," the letter said.

"The public health unit are urgently completing COVID testing.

"It is imperative that if you or any family members are feeling unwell or exhibiting any of the symptoms outlined on the COVID website that you should get tested and follow their guidance/instructions."

5:45am - Corrections Assocation vice president Paul Dennehy told Newshub it's inevitable more COVID-19 cases will pop up behind bars as a result of the Mt Eden infection.

Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay confirmed on Sunday four police staff were in isolation as a result the case. Five Corrections staff had also been identified as contacts and were isolating, she said.

5:30am - The Mt Eden prisoner with COVID-19 is yet to be linked to the original Delta outbreak.

He was taken into custody on Friday night.

"Whilst we've not formally linked the case yet, there is a tentative link but more is being done to sure that up - but I want to acknowledge both the police staff and the Corrections staff involved in this case," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Sunday.