Coronavirus: Grant Robertson urges Aucklanders to stick to rules after 'large number' of cases reported from indoor gatherings

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson is urging Aucklanders to stick to alert level 3 rules amid a "sobering" number of new daily COVID-19 cases.

Seventy-one cases were announced on Thursday, which is the highest number of new infections since September 1 when 75 were reported.

Robertson says transmission is mostly occurring within households and health settings, and a "large number" are from gatherings taking place inside people's homes. 

Under Auckland's current rules, a maximum of 10 people from two different bubbles can meet outdoors. People are strongly encouraged to keep a distance of two metres from those outside of their bubbles and wear a face covering. Indoor gatherings that include people from outside of your bubble are not allowed.

"My message today is clear. We need people in Auckland to stick to the alert level 3 rules. As the Director of Public Health [Caroline McElnay] just said, this outbreak is not in a small number of clusters in a small geographical area, it is affecting people in all parts of Auckland, which makes it everyone's job in Auckland to help prevent its spread," Robertson said during Thursday's COVID-19 update.

"Level 3 has worked to contain outbreaks in Auckland before, but with Delta, we know we are facing a more tricky and challenging opponent. We also know that the longer restrictions are applied, the more fatigue creeps in and our guard can slip, but I can't urge people enough that now is not the time for complacency."

He says there are two things he'd like New Zealanders, particularly those in Auckland, to do. The first is to get vaccinated and the second is to follow the rules, including staying in your bubble, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distancing, and not mingling with family and friends other than outdoors.

While the number of people who have their second dose of the vaccine is sitting at about 66 percent and is rising, he says he wants that number to be over 90 percent. Currently, about 87 percent of eligible Aucklanders have had their first vaccine.

McElnay also says if Aucklanders follow level 3 rules it's expected they'll be able to keep on top of the city's outbreak, but if not, there could be a dramatic rise in cases soon.

"We expect the doubling of [daily new] cases over the next 14 days. That's assuming the trend continues and we don't know if that's likely to be the case, because again, reiterating what the Deputy Prime Minister has said, by people following the rules in alert level 3, we expect that we're able to get a lid on the situation in Auckland," she says.

Robertson disagrees that the Government has lost control of the COVID-19 response.

"We are in one of the trickiest bits of COVID-19, but we still have in place some of the strictest alert level restrictions in the world," he says

"We have one of the lowest hospitalisation results in the world. We have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world. We are at a very difficult point in COVID as we transition to a framework where vaccination provides us all with that personal armour and we can move forward from there."

Auckland's current alert level settings will be reviewed on Monday.