Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 1

A west Auckland construction site is closed after a worker tested positive. 

Ryman Healthcare has confirmed to Newshub a worker for a subcontractor at a retirement village construction site on Lincoln Rd, Henderson tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

According to a statement, the individual had not been on site since last Friday. He had been told over the weekend he was a close contact of another case, so he stayed away and isolated. 

He tested positive for the virus and the site was closed "out of an abundance of caution" on Wednesday. Workers were stood down, asked to isolate and get tested and all results have returned negative so far. There were about 100 people on the site. 

The site is part of a new retirement village development, but is "separated off so there is no crossover". No residents have been affected "but we have kept them informed throughout, and kept the same Level 3 protocols in place".

Nineteen new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Friday in Auckland. One of these is unlinked.

What you need to know:

  • 19 new community cases were recorded on Friday in Auckland - one has yet to be epidemiologically linked. There have been 1268 cases in this outbreak.
  • A Ryman Healthcare construction site has closed after a worker tested positive earlier this week, but have been away from the site since last Friday
  • One MIQ worker has tested positive, but it's unclear if they are community or border-related case. They are not yet counted in the total

  • Two COVID-19 cases arrived at Middlemore Hospital's ED on Wednesday night out of the blue unaware they had the virus. Sixty-six patients are being considered close contacts

  • Experts say the chances of Auckland moving to alert level 2 are slim if the city continues to see mystery cases or the vaccination rate doesn't pick up

  • The Prime Minister has signalled the Auckland boundary will remain even if the region moves to alert level 2 next week

  • The latest locations of interest are available here.

These live updates have now finished.

7:05pm - Marisa Bidois, CEO of Restaurant Association, says the closure of Auckland Viaduct restaurant Euro shows the "devastating" effects of the current COVID-19 lockdown.

"We are saddened to lose this iconic Auckland restaurant from our harbour.

"Euro has long been a jewel of the viaduct harbour serving up some of our finest NZ produce to local and international diners alike.

"Euro is a classic example of [a] restaurant that would have continued to thrive had it not been for [the] devastating effects of COVID-19 on our industry. Their closure is yet another casualty of the pandemic and highlights the critical need for targeted support for those businesses disproportionately affected."

6:45pm - Auckland GPs are spearheading a new initiative to initiate conversations with patients about the COVID-19 vaccine and to provide support to those who are feeling hesitant.

The initiative will initially focus on Māori and Pacific patients living across the metro Auckland region who have not yet had their first doses.

"We know some people still have questions about the vaccination, and we want to provide them an opportunity to have a rich, individualised discussion in a supportive environment," says Dr Sarah Hartnall, clinical lead of the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) which is funding the initiative.

"GPs already have a close, trusted relationship with their patients and will be able to respond to their unique health needs and concerns. For example, if someone is pregnant they may have particular topics they want to discuss with a trusted health source before they make the decision."

6:20pm - Fresho Mount Roskill, Kelvin Fruit and Veg Manukau and Kawakawa Bay Superette 1561 Clevedon have been added to the locations of interest on Friday evening.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 1

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

Simeon Brown.
Simeon Brown. Photo credit: Newshub

5:45pm - National's police spokesperson Simeon Brown says having gangs flout COVID-19 restrictions in Auckland is "demoralising" for the Kiwis who have diligently adhered to the rules.

Headhunters gang members appeared to flout the COVID-19 alert level 3 rules with a funeral procession through west Auckland involving dozens of cars on Friday.

Police confirmed they had responded to reports from members of the public about people gathering at a Henderson funeral home on Paramount Dr.

"Those gathered were spoken to and reminded about the rules at alert level 3. All were compliant with police and have since moved on from this location," a spokesperson said.

"However, police now understand there are some groups that are gathering in various locations in West Auckland. Police will be monitoring this situation and will be responding to any reports of gatherings."

Brown said many New Zealanders have had to miss funerals for loved ones along with other major milestones.

"No doubt the gang members who gathered in West Auckland today were grieving the death of the person whose funeral they were attending. However, they are no more entitled than any other person in New Zealand to ignore COVID-19 restrictions," he said.

"While the Government is unwilling to openly discuss it, there appears to be a considerable barrier to Auckland reducing its case numbers and that is that increasing numbers of gang members are COVID-positive, but are not willing to isolate or comply with regulations.

"Aucklanders are fed up. Businesses are shutting for good. The rest of the country can't get on with life properly while our largest city is out of action. It is wrong that the rules are being applied in such an ad hoc manner by the Government.

"This is just not good enough. The Government needs to make it clear that the rules apply to gang members and if they break them they will be treated just like everyone else.

"As one onlooker in West Auckland today remarked to the NZ Herald, the Prime Minister is willing to make a lot of excuses for gangs. Perhaps it's time for some tough love?"

5pm- The Ministry of Health as announced it is trialling the use of Near Field Communications (NFC) tags with the NZ COVID Tracer app at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington and a number of small businesses from October 4.

The tags will be placed in public places around Victoria University's Kelburn, Pipitea and Te Aro campuses, as well as two cafés in Molesworth Street – Mojo Summit and Hauora – and a Wellington Fitness Centre, HealthFit Collective.  

Wellingtonians with a compatible phone and the latest version of the NZ COVID Tracer app will be able to record a diary entry by holding their unlocked phone near a NFC tag.  This will open the app and add the entry.

The Ministry said the NFC tags will usually be placed near existing QR code posters, so they will be easy to find. 

4:30pm - Two new location of interest visits have been added: 

  • Countdown Victoria Street West
  • Fresho Mount Roskill

This comes after Z Beach Rd Auckland CBD and Sensational Chicken Mount St Auckland CBD were added to the list at 12pm and Meat World Onehunga at 10am on Friday.

There are now 105 locations on the Ministry of Health's list.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 1
Australian PM Scott Morrison.
Australian PM Scott Morrison. Photo credit: Getty Images

4:05pm - Scott Morrison spoke to the media on Friday afternoon about the plan to reopen Australia to international travel.

"It's time to give Australians their lives back," he said.

"We've saved lives. We've saved livelihoods, but we must work together to ensure that Australians can reclaim the lives that they once had in this country, and we must work together to achieve that goal. That's what the national plan is all about."

3:45pm - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed the country will "reopen to the world" in November, according to The Guardian.

3:35pm - NZ Post has issued a statement confirming a "staggering" number of parcels from Auckland shoppers has created a delay of five working days for parcel deliveries.

An email from the organisation says it is currently delivering over half a million more parcels a week than usual - the equivalent of an extra 400 courier drivers.

"COVID isn’t stopping Kiwis from shopping up a storm online.

"And although most of NZ is now operating under easing Alert Levels, we’re still seeing a staggering number of parcels being sent – particularly in Auckland. 

"This, combined with Alert Level 3 restrictions, means things are taking a little longer than usual in our biggest city."

NZ Post says the delays may continue until there is a change of alert level in Auckland and safety restrictions ease.

There are also small delays for parcels around the rest of New Zealand - up to one working day.

3:05pm - Here's the latest from police on compliance from Kiwis in alert level 2:

Thirty one people have been charged with a total of 36 offences in alert level 2, as at 5pm yesterday (30 September 2021).

Of these, 31 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), two for Failing to Stop (COVID-related), two for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction and one is for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer.

In the same time period, 10 people have been warned – six for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction and four for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19) and one person has received a youth referral for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19). 

To date, police have received a total of 1,242 105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in alert level 2.

2:45pm - Police have issued an update on Aucklanders compliance with the COVID-19 restrictions.

A spokesperson confirmed since alert level 3 came into place, six people have been charged with six offences in Auckland and Upper Hauraki as of 5pm on Thursday.

"Of these, three were for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, two were for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), and one was a Health Act Breach.

"In the same time period, 13 people were formally warned. Police have received a total of 1,386 105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau and Upper Hauraki."

2:25pm - Euro Bar & Restaurant in Auckland will remain closed.

The waterfront establishment has issued a statement on Facebook saying challenges posed by COVID "have meant that it is no longer sustainable to reopen, despite doing everything in our power to do so".

"We’re incredibly proud of everything we’ve achieved since Euro first opened in 1999 and it’s been our privilege to welcome you through our doors over the last 22 years. We’re particularly proud of our amazing Euro team - for the consistently exceptional food, beverage and service they’ve delivered and all the good times our guests have experienced.

"Euro holds a special place in the hearts of so many - whether you’ve celebrated a special occasion here, attended one of our legendary long lunches or simply dined with us, we’re extremely grateful to each and every one of you for your continued support.

"It’s been an amazing journey and while we wish we could have had one last hurrah with you all, we’d like to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the wonderful memories."

2:15pm - Here is a summary of Friday's case update from the Ministry of Health:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 1

2pm - A supplier to City Rail Link's contractor, Link Alliance, also makes deliveries to an independent construction site where someone with COVID-19 symptoms was identified. 

Ryman Healthcare has closed its site in Henderson until next week after a worker for a subcontractor tested positive. Other workers have been tested and so far all results are negative.

"The Link Alliance understands one of its suppliers also makes deliveries to a building site unconnected to CRL in west Auckland where a person with COVID symptom was identified," a CRL spokesperson said in a statement.

"The Link Alliance has been informed that the supplier was not making deliveries to the west Auckland site at that time. "

City Rail Link says it is working under level 3 restrictions with health and safety measures in place, including social distancing, wearing masks, and with cleaning regimes. 

"Health and safety messaging is reinforced at start-up and toolbox meetings, and the project encourages all workers to get vaccinated.    

"These measures are industry-approved protocols introduced during the pandemic last year.

"After a recent request from the Ministry of Health, the Link Alliance will undertake two series of COVID-19 tests with workers within the next fortnight, even if there are no symptoms of Covid-19. 

"The tests are voluntary. The Ministry’s request has been made to Level 3 businesses, including those in the construction and infrastructure industries.  The request is a nationwide one, and not related to events in west Auckland."  

1:50pm - A woman who managed to climb out of a rabbit-hole of misinformation and conspiracy theories is now encouraging others to get vaccinated against COVID-19 so they can protect their families and visit relatives still in the islands.

Halaevalu Tongauiha says she's not an anti-vaxxer, but was sucked in by false information on social media.

"There were multiple stories, conspiracies and rumours circulating on social media at the time, and it made me feel afraid for myself and especially for my children because of what I'd seen and heard," she told The AM Show on Friday.

Read more here.

1:35pm - Robertson says he isn't particularly concerned about transmission within the construction sector, no more so than any other sector. He says all businesses are operating under alert level 3 rules. 

"If a construction site is operating, it needs to operate safely. It needs to consider the flow of people coming in and out of the site and to ensure physical distancing requirements remain."

1:30pm - Robertson wants to see the same level of testing seen on Thursday to continue over the weekend. Typically, the testing rates drop off over weekends.

He says the strategy remains zero tolerance and wants to see the number of mystery cases be as low as it possible. But that doesn't mean zero, he says.

With Delta, the focus is on the nature of the cases rather than the total number, Robertson says. 

1:25pm - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to announce the country will open its borders to the world in November, as much as a month before it was initially planned.

Australian media reports the announcement will be made on Friday evening.

Unlike other countries, Australia isn’t intending to restrict travel to countries based on their COVID-19 situation. There will be no red, yellow, green zones - vaccinated people will be free to travel anywhere in the world so long as they quarantine at home for seven days upon return.

Read more here.

Speaking about Australia's plan at the press conference, Robertson rejected it showed New Zealand was falling behind the rest of the world in opening up. He said New Zealand has a plan to reopen early next year.

1:15pm - More support is being given to the international aviation sector. Here's the statement from the Transport Minister:

The Government has extended support for the international aviation sector to maintain international passenger services, remain connected with important trade partners and support the economic recovery, Transport Minister Michael Wood announced today. 

"The Maintaining International Air Connectivity (MIAC) scheme was due to end on 31 October 2021, but we have extended it to 31 March 2022 to help with demand over the peak summer cargo season," Michael Wood said. 

"Extending the MIAC scheme gives us regular international air services for passengers and freight, and also protects our links to critical supplies like vaccines and medicines. It ensures we have the capability required for our businesses to tap into international markets and support our recovery.

"Since May 2020, temporary Government support has enabled more than 8,800 flights carrying over 169,000 tonnes of airfreight worth around $13.5 billion. During the same period, nearly 85,000 people have returned to New Zealand on supported flights – 45 per cent of the total number of people to pass through MIQ facilities.  

"When the pandemic first began, New Zealand could have been cut off from regular air services to the rest of the world. Even now, the number of passenger flights into New Zealand is only a quarter of its pre-COVID levels and many of those planes carry very few passengers, which shows how critical MIAC is for keeping us connected currently.

"Te Manatū Waka Ministry of Transport is working with airlines to confirm the routes and services which will be supported over summer. I expect the exact schedule of services under the MIAC extension will be finalised over the coming weeks.

"Going forward, we will reduce the level of support we provide as the Reconnecting New Zealanders strategy is implemented and border restrictions begin to ease. We expect to be able to wind down the scheme and are beginning work on how we will make this transition in a way that provides certainty and ensures that critical freight continues to flow," Michael Wood said.

More information on the MIAC scheme can be found on the Ministry of Transport website and exporters should contact their usual freight forwarder.

Support from the MIAC scheme was originally budgeted at $170 million for 1 May to 31 October 2021. In providing the extension, the Government has agreed to an additional $195 million to support flights from 1 November 2021 to 31 March 2022. There is an additional $25 million allocated to ensure that connectivity is maintained with countries we have quarantine-free travel if there are pauses or suspensions.

1:10pm - There were 11,000 tests taken in Auckland on Thursday and 19,000 processed nationwide. There has been a strong turnout in Henderson and Papakura, the two new suburbs of interest.

Robertson is now speaking. He says it is "encouraging" that there is just one new unlinked case and it's important to note that case numbers are stable and reflect expected cases. But we can't be complacent. He wants people to get tested and keep testing rates up. Testing will be a factor Cabinet considers during its meeting on Monday. There are also many available slots for people to get vaccinated.

Since this outbreak, more than 652,000 wage subsidy applications have been approved with $3.3 billion paid out, he says. More than $914 million has been paid out through the Resurgence Support Payment.

1:05pm - Dr McElnay says there are 19 new cases of COVID-19 in the community, all in Auckland. Only one is unlinked. She says just one case of Thursday's 19 is unlinked and investigations are ongoing into that. From cases over the last 14 days, nine remain unlinked. 

There are five active sub-clusters, meaning cases are showing among unknown contacts.

It's "clearly good" to see a levelling off of case numers, Dr McElnay says. Infections in households are making up most of our cases. She says there could be an additional 35 cases in coming days among household contacts. Fluctuation should be expected.

There are 23 people in hospital, two are recovered and four are in ICU. 

Of the 34 close contacts of Wednesday night's Middlemore cases who remain in hospital, a further six have been discharged. They are being followed up along with 32 other patients already discharged. Cases showing up at Middlemore should be expected, as there are cases in the area, Dr McElnay says.

The MIQ worker reported as positive on Thursday is now in a quarantine facility and close contacts are being identified. The source remains under investigation.

12:55pm - We are awaiting Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay for Friday's 1pm press conference. You can watch that above or on Three.

12:45pm - Ryman Healthcare has confirmed to Newshub a worker for a subcontractor at a retirement village construction site on Lincoln Rd, Henderson tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.

According to a statement from Ryman Healthcare spokesperson David King, the individual had not been on site since last Friday. He had been told over the weekend he was a close contact of another case, so he stayed away and isolated. 

He tested positive for the virus and the site was closed "out of an abundance of caution" on Wednesday. Workers were stood down, asked to isolate and get tested and all results have returned negative so far. There were about 100 people on the site. 

The site is part of a new retirement village development, but is "separated off so there is no crossover". No residents have been affected "but we have kept them informed throughout, and kept the same Level 3 protocols in place". 

"He worked in a bubble with two others and he did everything right – we were informed quickly and our protocols worked – so we thank him for doing the right thing," King said.

"His close workers have tested negative as well. We have had a range of protocols in place on all our sites for 18 months and we take a cautious approach to COVID-19.

"We have a wellbeing coordinator on site who checks everyone in, and they fill out a health declaration each day. The coordinator takes their temperatures, ensures they are well and makes sure they follow the protocols, including wearing masks and distancing."

There is a 92 percent vaccination rate in the construction team "and we have run vaccination clinics for everyone we can - and we have had a great response".

"Tests are continuing and at this stage we are hoping to reopen next week.

"Workers returning will be required to have had a negative test before starting back."

The impacted construction site.
The impacted construction site. Photo credit: Newshub.
It will remain closed until next week.
It will remain closed until next week. Photo credit: Newshub.

12:35pm - Auckland Hospital is preparing to deal with an average of six  COVID deaths a week next year, even with a 90 percent vaccination rate.

Rapid work was underway at Auckland District Health board to plan for life with  COVID after borders open up, with modelling helping bosses to plan.

It paints a sobering picture of what having  COVID permanently in the community will look like.

Read more here.

12:20pm - There are two new locations of interest:

  • Sensational Chicken on Auckland CBD's Mount St - Friday, September 24 between 7:22pm and 8:02pm
  • Z Beach Rd, Auckland CBD - Saturday, September 25 between 5:15pm and 5:45pm

12pm - A top researcher with Te Pūnaha Matatini questions Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern letting her social media posts be "polluted" with anti-vaccination comments. 

Ardern on Sunday posted on Facebook and Instagram an image with the text "Let's talk about vaccine side effects" with the hashtag #vaccine. 

"I was reading some research today, on why some people have chosen not to be vaccinated to protect them against COVID-19 yet. One of the most common is that they're worried about the side effects. So let's talk about that!" Ardern captioned the image. 

But Ardern's posts were soon flooded with anti-vaccination comments, many of which were filtered out by Facebook's artificial intelligence and human fact-checkers and moderators to enforce its community standards.

Read more here.

11:50am - Stuff reports an Auckland businesswoman has been summonsed to appear in court after allegedly breaching the COVID-19 restrictions by visiting the Marlborough Sounds.

She reportedly had documents allowing her to cross the Auckland boundary for work reasons, but only to go to Wellington. But, as Stuff reports, she allegedly flew across the Cook Strait to go to a property valuation in Onahau Bay.

Read Stuff's report here.

11:40am - Following on from comments he made to Newshub earlier, Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts has released a statement calling for the wage subsidy to continue at level 2 if Auckland's boundary remains up. 

"For tourism businesses in Auckland and around the country, the boundary restriction will have the same impact as Auckland remaining at Alert Level 3," he says.

Roberts says with New Zealand's borders closed and no international visitors, 42 percent of the total visitor market is unavailable. Aucklanders provide another 20 percent of that total visitor spend across New Zealand - and are also unavailable.

"So while borders are closed, including Auckland's, the available visitor market is about a third of what it was. It's tough to survive when two-thirds of the customer base is gone."

He says many businesses were hoping for increased traffic during the school holidays.

"The wage subsidy should continue. Keeping Auckland's boundaries closed will present trading conditions just as difficult for tourism businesses as Level 3. Many of our operators around the country will still have at least a 40 percent reduction in revenue and be able to meet the wage subsidy criteria if it is still offered. And in Auckland, a hotel that's empty now will still be empty at Level 2."

He said businesses should encourage people to be vaccinated.

11:20am - Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles says that if we "give up now", there will be high levels of hospitalisation and deaths by Christmas.

"Please get tested if you have symptoms, if you aren’t vaccinated, get vaccinated. Help your friends & family get vaccinated."

11am - We have one new location of interest:

  • Meat World Onehunga - Saturday, September 25 between 1:44pm and 3pm.

This is the advice: "Stay at home, test immediately as well as 5 days after you were exposed at this location of interest. Please continue to stay at home until you receive a negative day 5 test result. Record your visit online or call Healthline so our contact tracers can get in touch."

10:50am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says anti-vaccination activists planning to gather and protest this weekend are "probably beyond redemption" and will end up costing the taxpayer when they end up in ICU. 

One of the organisers of Saturday's protest is Brian Tamaki, head of Destiny Church, who Goff thinks is an "idiot". 

"I think we're all keen to come out of it as soon as possible - me in particular. I've got two sons and two grandkids just across the border in Raglan and Te Kauwhata. I haven't seen them for a long time, except on Skype," Goff told The AM Show on Friday.

Read more here.

10:30am - Medsafe has recorded the death of a 17-year-old following their first COVID-19 vaccine but it believes the dose was not a factor.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board has reviewed the teenager's death but believed it was not linked to the vaccine.

"The board noted that expert haematology advice has been sought regarding other factors potentially involved and a report had been made to CARM regarding another 'suspect medicine' (ie, possible cause), which would be considered by the Medicines Adverse Reactions Committee (MARC) in due course," the board said.

Read more here.

10:15am - The mental health and wellbeing service Fresh Minds is expecting a "tsunami" of referrals from GPs for people facing mental health challenges once restrictions ease due to the strain of the lockdown.

It says after the 2020 lockdown, it had a 24 percent increase in referrals to its psychology service, including a lift in young people seeking support through school-based services. It expects the same after this lockdown. 

"We know that distress in our communities is significant during and following lockdowns. We have already seen the severity of people’s anxiety symptoms vastly increased", says psychologist and Fresh Minds general manager, Tania Wilson.

"We've seen an increase in clients who have worries about money, employment issues and they’re concerned about how they can afford even the most basic necessities such as food. There are also stories of large families all together in one house where tension and conflict may be high, and the other extreme where those living alone are feeling really isolated and lonely."

The service is currently able to provide support through phone and video calls, but it can be difficult for some to find a quiet space to speak with psychologists in crowded homes.

10am - There were a large number of locations of interest revealed on Thursday. Here's the list from the Ministry of Health:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 1
Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 1

9:20am - A senior Government minister says a move back to level 4 in Auckland is "very unlikely", as it would risk breaking the "social contract" with the city's residents.

After managing to crush the daily infection figure to single digits earlier this week, Wednesday brought a shock 45 new cases, with another 19 reported on Thursday. Coming a week after the city moved from level 4 to 3 - and the return to work of thousands of people - epidemiologists and other experts are concerned.

But Labour MP David Parker told The AM Show on Friday going back to level 4 was "very unlikely". 

Read more about why here.

9am - Here's the latest update on the vaccination rollout:

  • 45 percent of the eligible 12+ population is fully vaccinated (1,893,034 people)
  • 78 percent have had their first dose (3,281,176 people)
  • 80 percent are either booked in or have had at least one dose (3,381,948 people)
  • 40,874 doses were administered on Wednesday, of which 13,914 were first doses and 26,960 were second
  • 83 percent of Auckland residents have had their first dose and 48 percent are fully vaccinated

8:40am - Wondering what has happened around the world overnight? Newshub has a wrap of all the international COVID-19 events. You can find it here.

8:25am - Here's a reminder of Thursday's case summary from the Ministry of Health:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 1

8:05am - Middlemore Hospital's chief medical officer Peter Watson told RNZ earlier that the two individuals who visited the hospital's emergency department unwittingly with COVID-19 didn't know each other. He said they were two of six cases that had recently been through the hospital.

"The staff are all very well prepared for this. We are really used to working with COVID cases now. Middlemore Hospital has had more cases through the hospital than any other hospital so we know how it works. The staff are all protected and vaccinated."

Dr Watson said the overall public health risk is low, but every patient who had been in the cases' vicinity was followed up on. As not everyone in the ED is in an isolation room, there is "a potential risk of exposure to other people who are in that area". Sixty-six patients have been deemed close contacts.

7:50am - When the coronavirus infects cells, it not only impairs their activity but can also change their function, new findings suggest.

For example, when insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas become infected with the virus, they not only produce much less insulin than usual, but also start to produce glucose and digestive enzymes, which is not their job, researchers found. 

"We call this a change of cell fate," said study leader Dr Shuibing Chen, who described the work in a presentation on Tuesday at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, held virtually this year. 

Read more here.

7:30am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff tells The AM Show he doesn't know how long the boundary will remain in place. He says we all keen to see it lifted and tells people to follow the rules in the meantime.

He also sends that message to Brian Tamaki, the Destiny Church leader who is holding anti-lockdown protests across the country this weekend. The mayor says it is "irresponsible" and Tamaki is acting against science by not supporting public health measures.

The mayor also hit out at those not getting the vaccine,

"The anti-vaxxers are probably beyond redemption... these are the people who have said they are against it, under no circumstances will they get it, that is their right," he says.

Goff says officials are working with those who are hesistant or need help to get over barriers to get vaccinated. These are the people we need to work alongside to show the consequences of not getting the vaccination, the mayor says.

He wishes anti-vaxxers would take reasonable steps to help themselves and the community. Holding large events that could become superspreaders may undermine the wider response, Goff says.

7:15am - Speaking to The AM Show, National's Simon Bridges says Aucklanders are frustrated and want a plan. Is the plan centred around vaccination rates or COVID-19 rates in the community, he asks. 

"Let's see the plan. National has one... let's see Labour's," Bridges says.

Labour minister David Parker says it's hard to put a date on opening up as case  numbers are going up and down and vaccination rates aren't high enough yet. He says moving to alert level 4 is "very unlikely". You have "got to maintain a social contract to keep people with you". 

He says we are trying to get vaccination rates up and will eventually be amongst the top countries in the world. 

Bridges says we are at a point where there need to be timeframes and clear targets. He believes this will help with holding Government to account.

7:05am - Psychologists say there's emerging evidence of long-term and in some cases 'severe' effects from time spent in MIQ, brought on by a lack of control, autonomy and social contact.

While many returnees relish the two-week hotel stint, others say they're being caught completely unprepared by the mental health toll.

Debbie described her time in the Crowne Plaza hotel in July as being "stuck in a strange altered reality" where she had no idea how angry, distressed and "weird" she would feel.

"I really hit the bottom. I just sat and cried at the wire fence. I just couldn't move and I just felt like I couldn't do it - and this was only on day 2," she said.

Read more here.

6:50am - Haydn Marriner, Destination Rotorua marketing manager, tells The AM Show that taking Auckland out of the domestic tourism pool during school holidays isn't positive, but he hopes Kiwis from other regions turn up. 

He says tourism businesses will still be operating, but just with fewer Aucklanders, which might be a plus for some. 

Locals in Rotorua are trying to order takeaways and from restaurants as much as they can to support the hospitality businesses, Marriner says.

6:40am - Chris Roberts, chief executive of Tourism Industry Aotearoa, says the Prime Minister hinting at Auckland's boundary remaining if the region moves to alert level 2 wasn't surprising, but it will have a big impact on businesses. 

"For tourism businesses, Auckland level 2 with a closed boundary is essentially the same as level 3," he told Newshub.

"Auckland tourism businesses will have no visitors and the rest of the country will have no Aucklanders so the whole country is affected in terms of really having a handbrake on domestic travel."

Roberts said Auckland was the biggest domestic tourism market and without Aucklanders travelling the rest of the country, businesses will be operating at minimal levels. 

"It is going to be more difficult times unfortunately for tourism businesses all around the country."

He wants to see more support from Government, especially as the wage subsidy isn't currently set to roll over when Auckland reaches level 2.

"Health comes first. The right precautions need to be in place, but these decisions come with consequences. Unfortunately for tourism businesses, not only in Auckland, but right around the country, this decision has a major impact and businesses will need support."

6:30am - NZ Herald is reporting that authorities have developed plans for an uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak, which reportedly includes limiting ED access and doctors possibly making ethical decisions around which patients to treat.

It's reported the plans include three alert levels, with the highest - red - potentially being triggered when there is some or all of these factors: multiple COVID patients at a hospital, ICU at capacity, uncontrolled transmission and all available staff redeployed to critical care. Emergency departments may then be limited to those with "high acuity medical and trauma care" and most surgeries would be cancelled.

Read more from NZ Herald here.

6:25am - Kia ora and welcome to Newshub's live updates for Friday.

There was big news on Thursday night, as the Ministry of Health revealed two exposure events at Middlemore Hospital.

Here's the full statement the ministry sent through:

Counties Manukau DHB has advised the Ministry of Health of two COVID-19 exposure events at Middlemore Hospital.

Both cases arrived at Middlemore’s Emergency Department last night seeking treatment for issues unrelated to COVID-19.

In the first case, the patient answered no to all screening questions but, while in triage, clinical staff noted a very minor cough and took steps to isolate and test them. They subsequently returned a positive COVID-19 result.

This patient is now in COVID-19 isolation ward at Middlemore Hospital.

In the second case, the patient answered yes to one of the screening questions, which was also a symptom consistent with the non-COVID-related reason for going to hospital. They were tested and given initial treatment.

After learning of their positive test result, the second patient chose to self-discharge but is now being managed by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS).

All staff were wearing the appropriate PPE and as such no staff members are required to stand down.

Acting out of an abundance of caution, ARPHS have determined that 66 patients should be considered as close contacts as a result of both exposure events.

To date, 34 of these patients remain in the hospital and have been moved to isolation wards, while 32 patients who have been discharged or did not require admission following their ED visit are now under the management of ARPHS for testing and follow up.

The risk to public health of these events is deemed to be low. A further update will be available at the 1pm tomorrow.