As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8

Northland will be moving back to a strict alert level 3 lockdown from 11:59pm on Friday night after a positive case travelled extensively around the region.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the woman, who is now in an Auckland MIQ facility, travelled to the region on October 2 from Auckland reportedly under false pretenses and was there until the evening of October 6.

The woman has not been cooperating with health authorities and it has been very difficult to get information about the case, Hipkins says.

Information the woman supplied when she got tested for COVID-19 wasn't enough to contact her, so police had to track her down.

A person that the woman travelled to Northland with has potentially been identified. They are being tracked down.

"We believe this new information warrants an alert level change decision to keep Northland people safe," Hipkins said during an impromptu press conference on Friday night.

"We recognise that it is unusual to put a region into alert level 3 when there are no further cases. However, it's vitally important that we get ahead of any potential spread, and set up widespread testing and continue contact tracing efforts.

"Restrictions will remain in place until 11.59pm Tuesday and will be reviewed at Cabinet on Monday."

The Ministry of Health has announced the first locations of interest for Northland. They are the BP Connect Wylies petrol station on Maunu Road, Woodhill, and the Z Kensington service station in Whangarei. Full information on the locations can be found here.

Hipkins says every Northlander needs to stay home, get tested as soon as possible if they have symptoms, and continue to check the Ministry of Health website for updated locations of interest.

What you need to know

  • Northland will move to a strict alert level 3 lockdown from 11:59pm on Friday night after a positive case travelled extensively around the region.
  • The woman has not been cooperating with health authorities. Police are attempting to track down another woman she travelled to the region with. Authorities are also working to determine locations the case visited.
  • Auckland moved into phase one of the Government's 'roadmap to recovery' on Wednesday. The region remains at alert level 3.
  • Forty-four new cases of COVID-19 have been reported on Friday - 41 in Auckland and three in Waikato. Of the new infections, 12 "mystery cases" have to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. Twenty are household contacts and 12 are known contacts.
  • Two possible exposure events occurred at Middlemore Hospital this week, involving the same patient.
  • The alert level 3 boundary in Waikato has been extended to include the Waitomo, Waipā and Ōtorohanga Districts after cases were detected outside of the former boundary in Kāwhia and Karāpiro.
  • Data shows Murupara in the Bay of Plenty is the town or suburb with the lowest vaccination rate nationwide.
  • The Govt will be piloting rapid antigen testing in workplaces after a coalition of businesses called for urgent approval for 370,000 rapid tests to be imported into NZ.
  • It's understood two people have tested positive in Kāinga Ora properties in Beach Haven, according to a letter from Auckland Regional Public Health Service.
  • Click here for all the locations of interest.

These live updates have now finished.

8:30pm - Newshub understands the Government is preparing a revamped alert level system, based on a traffic light, for life after lockdown.

Green Light or "Prepare" will be a lot like level 1. No masks would be required, there would be some mandatory scanning, and vaccine certificates at large events. It would be used when there's isolated local transmission.

The Orange Light or "Reduce" has light restrictions, such as capacity limits in retail stores and workplaces, hospitality, events, and churches are given a choice: become a vaccine only venue and carry on with no restrictions or have restricted numbers and revert to spaced out seating. 

That gets triggered if there are limited active clusters in more than one area. 

Red light or "Restrict" would see limited gatherings, potential inter-regional travel restrictions and hospitality businesses would only be open to vaccinated people who'd be separated inside. 

Read the full story here.

8:15pm - Retail NZ's chief executive Greg Harford says the level 3 lockdowns in Northland and Waikato are devastating for local businesses and is causing huge concern for retailers around the country.

"Many Auckland retailers are already on the brink of disaster after seven weeks of lockdown, and businesses in the Waikato and Northland will be bracing themselves after the expansion of level 3 restrictions announced today," Harford says.  

"As the level 3 area continues to expand, businesses further south are asking if their regions will be next.  This is at a time when nearly a third of retail businesses are not sure they will survive the next 12 months.

"The fact is that even level 4 restrictions in Auckland did not effectively stop the spread of COVID-19, and the ongoing lockdowns, including the new Auckland 'Roadmap' are causing economic carnage, without stopping the spread of COVID-19.  It is more important than ever that we get the population vaccinated to help businesses recover.  The Government should, at the very least, set a date by which vaccinations need to be completed, make it easy businesses to require their employees to be vaccinated without risking a personal grievance, and provide greater financial support for businesses through this period."

7:35pm - Lesley Gray, a senior lecturer for Otago University's Department of Primary Health Care & General Practice, says it isn't surprising COVID-19 cases are popping up in regions adjacent to Auckland after restrictions in the city were relaxed earlier this week.

"I am concerned that we still have low vaccinations numbers in some areas and especially in populations likely to be most severely impacted by the Delta variant. While we can argue 'why' that is, we are at a pivot point in this pandemic for Aotearoa New Zealand.

"I would like to see the vaccination rates in North Island at higher levels before any further significant relaxation of alert level restrictions. 

"Now is not the time for the Auckland region to be relaxing alert levels and while I appreciate this is a huge ask of Auckland region residents, I urge people to behave as if they are still in alert level 4 to minimise rapid escalation of this virus. For those in the rest of NZ, please behave as if everyone around you has the potential to be COVID-19 positive and raise your family/whānau levels of preventive actions, especially this coming weekend. 

"While the government may have shifted their approach, the population of NZ can still make a difference by the decisions and actions we take."

7:10pm - ACT leader David Seymour says the Government should release all information on the Northland COVID-19 cases.

"It's implausible that police have tracked the person's movements but don't know what they were doing or whether they were gang affiliated," he says.

"Once again, the Government is keeping the public in the dark for its own ends."

He says Kiwis making sacrifices deserve to know what the Government knows.

"It's necessary for public safety, and democratic transparency, as well as keeping confidence in the Government's COVID-19 response," he says.

"It's implausible that the Government has decided to put a whole province of 120,000 people into alert level 3, but doesn't know whether one person has criminal records, what their occupation is, or whether they have gang affiliations."

6:58pm - The press conference has now concluded.

6:51pm - Newshub has been told the person was a sex worker, however Hipkins wouldn't confirm this.

He said he hasn't been briefed on their occupation.

6:48pm - Hipkins is hopeful genome sequencing will provide a link to the current outbreak.

6:45pm - Hipkins says he wouldn't take off the table identifying the person who tested positive so Kiwis can say if they have been in contact with them.

However they will not be releasing any identifying details right now.

6:44pm - When making the decision to move Northland to alert level 3, Hipkins says they considered the low vaccination rates in the area.

6:43pm - Hipkins is urging Northlanders to get tested for COVID-19 if they are symptomatic.

He says these cases highlight the risk of COVID-19 to the unvaccinated.

"People should get vaccinated now, not wait."

6:41pm - Hipkins says he doesn't know why the person was in Northland.

A person they travelled with has potentially been identified. They are being tracked down.

It is believed both people are women.

6:40pm - Hipkins says it has been very difficult to get information about the case.

Information they supplied when they got tested wasn't enough to contact them.

Hipkins says they took some time to track them down and police were called in to assist.

Since being tracked down the person has not been forthcoming with their movements. The person is not cooperating with the process.

Hipkins says the person seems to have obtained a document to travel across the border under false pretences. This is not yet verified, he said. By the time this was revoked, they were already in Northland.

6:38pm - Hipkins says the alert level change has been made out of "an abundance of caution".

He says the individual has not been cooperative with contact tracing efforts although information suggests they did not travel to Northland alone.

The individual stayed in the area from October 2 to 6.

Information from police shows they travelled widely around the region.

6:35pm - The first locations of interest for Northland are the BP Connect Wylies petrol station at 49 Maunu Road, Woodhill, Whangarei from 11.20pm on 2 October to 12.20am 3 October, and the Z Kensington service station, corner of Kamo Road and Nixon Street, Whangarei from 3.45pm-4.45pm on 4 October.

 Testing centres operating in the Northland region are at Kaitaia Hospital; 1 Sammaree Place in Kerikeri, Dargaville Hospital; 20 Winger Crescent in Kamo; and Pohe Island in Whangarei.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8
Photo credit: Getty Images

6:33pm - Hipkins confirmed the person who tested positive is now in an Auckland MIQ facility.

"Updated information provided by the police today shows the case moved extensively around Northland after travelling there on 2 October," Hipkins said. 

"We believe this new information warrants an alert level change decision to keep Northland people safe.

"We recognise that it is unusual to put a region into alert level 3 when there are no further cases. However it's vitally important that we get ahead of any potential spread, and set up widespread testing and continue contact tracing efforts.

"Restrictions will remain in place until 11.59pm Tuesday and will be reviewed at Cabinet on Monday."

He said the level 3 is strict, as with Waikato.

"The easing steps announced for Auckland earlier this week will not apply to Northland. The Auckland boundary will stay in place. 

"A public health investigation continues to identify close contacts and any potential locations of interest.  

"The information we have at this stage is that the person was in Northland from the afternoon of 2 October until the evening of 6 October. They are believed to have travelled around the region, including in Whangarei, Kamo, Paihia and Kawakawa, before returning to Auckland.

"Widespread testing and wastewater testing will take place over the weekend. 

"Every Northlander needs to stay home, get tested as soon as possible if they have symptoms, and continue to check the Ministry of Health website for updated locations of interest. And of course vaccination centres continue to be open in Alert Level 3.

"We know many people in Northland live rurally, but the advice is the same for everyone – get vaccinated, get tested, and follow the Alert Level 3 requirements.

"As we have seen in Waikato the virus is finding its way into rural areas and finding unvaccinated people. Distance is no barrier.”

"It’s never been more urgent to get vaccinated and we urge everyone to act now – don’t wait. Information on vaccine centres is available on the HealthPoint website."

6:28pm - Northland will move to alert level 3 restrictions from 11:59pm tonight following recent information on the risk presented by the positive case initially tested in Whangarei earlier this week and confirmed in Auckland yesterday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

6:27pm - The Ministry of Health has released a bunch of new locations of interest in Hamilton, Auckland, Raglan, and Whangarei.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8

6:10pm -  COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is holding a press conference at 6:30pm after a positive case visited Northland on Friday.

6pm - It's time for Newshub Live at 6pm for the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak. You can watch online here or tune in on Three.

5pm - The EMA (Employers and Manufacturers Association) is calling on the Government to provide a precise plan for getting businesses and their people back to work.

Chief executive Brett O'Riley says the alert level 3 step process is confusing and offers virtually nothing for business.

"With increasing numbers of employees being vaccinated - and our members telling us they are willing to be tested at work - where's the plan to make this happen not just for the good of our economy and business, but for the wellbeing of our communities and people?" he says.

"Our member businesses are telling us that in addition to bearing the brunt of restrictions for the country financially, it's the uncertainty of when they might get back to work that’s plaguing them and causing immense financial and mental pressure."

He says the Government needs to provide a detailed plan which includes immediately reducing the revenue loss qualification for the Wage Subsidy and Resurgence payments by 10 percent to 30 percent.

"Of equal importance now is supporting the return to the workplace for people's mental health,"  O'Riley says.

"While more contact has been enabled with whānau in controlled circumstances, this doesn't apply if you've got a staff member who’s really suffering and you would like to support by safely paying them a visit."

"Our members are doing a great job of supporting their people in a huge variety of ways, but more needs to be invested by Government in terms of targeted programmes for workplaces and giving them the same right to personal support.

"That and a precise plan for when and under what specific conditions they can get back to work will help them immensely."

4:20pm - Here are the latest locations of interest, added by the Ministry of Health at 4pm:

  • Pak'nSave Manukau
  • Four Square Heaphy Terrace (multiple visits)
  • Gilmours Manukau
  • Ali Turkish Kebabs Raglan
  • Kwiki Mart Superette Northcross
  • Chemist Warehouse Flat Bush
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8

3:50pm - Four police staff members from the Auckland City District are self-isolating after they were exposed to a person who has since tested positive for COVID-19.

Superintendent Shanan Gray, Relieving Auckland City District Commander, said police responded to reports of concern for a woman’s welfare shortly before 1pm on Tuesday October 5.

"She was located on Miro Road and was spoken to by Police, who transported her to Auckland Hospital for a mental health assessment," Gray said.

"Once at the hospital it was established the woman was displaying COVID-like symptoms and she has subsequently tested positive.

"The four officers who had been dealing with the woman were stood down the same day to be tested and required to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution."

Gray confirmed one of the officers returned a positive COVID-19 test late Thursday night.

"Police is working with the Ministry of Health to manage the situation.

"The other three officers have since returned a negative day-1 test and will continue to self-isolate and be regularly tested."

A fifth police officer, who was not involved in the exposure event, but who lives at the same address as one of the four officers is also considered a close contact and is self-isolating as a precaution.

Gray said the four police staff involved in the incident were fully vaccinated but enquiries are continuing into the extent of PPE use at the time of the incident.

The police station where the officer who tested positive is based has under gone a deep clean along with the patrol car involved.

3:45pm - Auckland police have provided an update on residents' compliance with alert level restrictions.

A spokesperson said since alert level 3 came into place, 13 people have been charged with a total of 14 offences in the city and parts of the Waikato, as at 5pm on Thursday.

"Of these, 10 were for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), two were for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, one was a Health Act Breach and one was for assaults/threatens/hinders/obstructs enforcement officer. In the same time period, 19 people were formally warned.

"Police have received a total of 2729  105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau and parts of the Waikato."

On compliance for the parts of the country in alert level 2, 27 people have been charged with a total of 42 offences.

"Of these, 36 are for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), three for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, two for Failing to Stop (COVID-related), and one is for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer," the spokesperson said.

"In the same time period, 16 people have been warned - 10 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction and six for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19).

"One person has received a youth referral for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19).

"To date, Police have received a total of 1668  105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in alert level 2."

3:25pm - Thursday was a record day for Māori COVID-19 vaccinations with over 10,000 vaccines administered.

Associate Minister of Health (Maori Health) Peeni Henare says it was the highest number in the vaccine campaign so far.

On Thursday, 10,145 doses were administered around New Zealand - of which, 4010 were first doses and 6135 were second doses. 

Henare says over the past three weeks, the number of first doses administered to Māori increased by almost 20 percent.

"There is now real momentum in the Māori vaccination campaign. Right across the country, Māori are rolling up their sleeves to get vaccinated to protect their whānau and community," Henare says.

"Our kaumātua are leading the way, with 91 percent of those aged 65 and over having had their first dose and 81 per cent fully vaccinated. And I know our elders are now encouraging our rangatahi to get vaccinated too.

"We're also seeing big increases in Tāmaki Makaurau, with 65.3 percent of Māori having had their first dose, that's up from 52.8 percent three weeks ago."

2:40pm - The Retirement Commissioner says seniors stuck overseas due to the lack of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) spots should get an added six months before they're fined and their pensions are halted.

It comes as some older New Zealanders approach their 30th week abroad, which as it stands, means they'll stop receiving their payments if they don't return home.

They're among more than 25,000 New Zealanders worldwide who tried to secure one of just 3700 MIQ spaces that were made available earlier this week.

Under the law, a person is entitled to the first 26 weeks of their normal rate of superannuation while overseas, provided they return to New Zealand within 30 weeks. If they don't, they're required to pay back the previous six months of their superannuation.

Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson said while this policy is understandable in ordinary times, the extraordinary situations people now find themselves in means the policy is unsympathetic.

"This has come to a head during the opening and closing of the travel bubble in June and July. We have a number of pensioners who travelled overseas when the bubble was open, mostly to visit family and to provide assistance, I haven't found very many who were actually going on holiday, they were going over to provide support, with no expectation that the bubble would close for such a long time.

"The risk they took was travelling, of course, but the bubble was never intended, I think, to go this long and the difficulty in getting in through MIQ is a new problem."

Read more here.

2:10pm - A number of new locations of interest and potential exposure events have been added by the Ministry of Health.

The majority of the new additions are in Auckland, however George's Beach Club, Raglan Roast Coffee and Raglan Bakery have also been added for the surfing hotspot.

New locations of interest in Auckland include Hilltop Dairy in Orewa, the Spencer on Byron in Takapuna, Z gas station at Auckland Airport, Toby's Seafood in Otahuhu, Bunnings in New Lynn and Inverell Superette in Wiri.

Click here for advice.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8

1:45pm - The Ministry of Health's "block" on Māori health information is "an embarrassment", says National's Whānau Ora spokesperson Harete Hipango.

The Ministry of Health has refused to provide patient data to Māori health providers, which could help them lift vaccination rates.

On Thursday, it was reported that Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency's chief executive John Tamihere was taking the Ministry of Health to court for refusing to hand over the personal details of Māori yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The papers were filed in the High Court at Wellington on Thursday afternoon and lawyers are seeking an urgent hearing.

Tamihere says if he was armed with the information, his own Waipareira Trust and other Māori health providers could target Māori populations in areas with the lowest rates of uptake.

"I support Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency's chief executive John Tamihere in his decision to take the Ministry of Health to court for refusing to hand over the personal details of unvaccinated Māori. It's a kick up the backside and the Government needs to hurry up and do what they've been pressured to do for weeks," Hipango said on Friday.

"The facts are clear. Māori are 50 percent more likely to die from COVID19 than Pākehā. Meanwhile, just 58 percent of eligible Māori have had their first jab, compared to 80 percent for the general population."

She says the Opposition has been calling for additional measures to boost Māori vaccination rates, including resourcing to Whānau Ora and Māori health providers to let them develop programmes "that will actually work".

"It would allow data held by District Health Boards and Primary Health Organisations about patients to be automatically accessed by Whānau Ora providers, and would establish a Rangatahi Advisory Group to specifically advise on how to engage with young people," she said.

"Where is the plan from Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare, whose job it is to protect our Māori communities?

"In the meantime, we'll be strongly backing the Super Saturday vaccination event on October 16 but we and Te Whānau O Waipareira still have concerns about what it will achieve for Māori.

"My message to all New Zealanders, especially Māori, is help drive the numbers up by going out and getting vaccinated on Super Saturday."

1:20pm - Here are the key takeaways from today's update:

  • There are 44 new community cases, 41 in Auckland and three in Waikato - 20 are household contacts, 12 are known contacts, and 12 remain unlinked
  • Seventeen of the 29 cases reported on Thursday were infectious in the community
  • There are 25 people in hospital, five of whom are in the ICU or a high dependency unit
  • The three new cases in Waikato are all linked and contacts of existing cases. Interviews are continuing to determine any further contacts or locations of interest
  • An Aucklander who recently travelled to Northland and returned a weak positive result in Whangārei - and was later confirmed as a case on Thursday - was transferred to a quarantine facility in Auckland last night
  • Counties Manukau DHB has advised the Ministry of Health of two possible exposure events at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital, both involving the same patient 
  • As of this morning, 42 patients and 18 visitors have been identified as contacts
  • No staff are required to stand down as they were wearing the appropriate PPE
  • There have been reports that people are being turned away from Auckland Airport due to not having a test result, or their result being too old. People leaving Auckland for personal reasons are reminded they must have acceptable evidence of a permitted reason to cross the alert level boundary, and have evidence of a negative test within the last 72 hours.

1pm - There are 44 community cases of COVID-19 to report today - 41 in Auckland three in Waikato.

Here is the Ministry of Health's full press release:

44 community cases of COVID-19; three new cases in managed isolation; more than 82,000 vaccines administered yesterday   

There are 44 new community cases today.Twenty of these are household contacts, 12 are known contacts, and 12 remain unlinked with investigations continuing to determine how they are linked to the current outbreak. 

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay says: "We acknowledge today's numbers are higher than recent days. This is not unexpected because there have been a number of contacts of new cases and we can expect to get fluctuations from day to day."



Number of new community cases


Number of new cases identified at the border



Location of new community cases

Auckland (41) Waikato (3)

Location of community cases (total)

Auckland 1450 (1068 of whom have recovered); Waikato 25; Wellington 17 (all of whom have recovered)

Number of community cases (total)

1492 (in current community outbreak)

Cases infectious in the community  

17 of yesterday's 29 cases have exposure events

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious  

12 of yesterday's 29 cases

Cases epidemiologically linked

32 of today's 44 cases

Cases to be epidemiologically linked

12 of today's 44 cases.  

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)

1444 (in the current cluster) (26 unlinked from the past 14 days)

Number of sub-clusters

16 epidemiologically linked subclusters. Of these, six are active, one is contained and nine are dormant. There are 14 epidemiologically unlinked subclusters. Of these, five are active, none are contained and nine are dormant.

Cases in hospital

25 (total): North Shore (2); Middlemore (12); Auckland (10); Waikato Base Hospital (1)

Cases in ICU or HDU


Confirmed cases (total)

4169 since pandemic began

Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)

166 out of 2,353 since 1 Jan 2021



Number of active contacts being managed (total):


Percentage who have received an outbound call from contact tracers (to confirm testing and isolation requirements)


Percentage with at least one test result


Locations of interest


Locations of interest (total)

206 (as at 10am 8 October)



Number of tests (total)


Number of tests total (last 24 hours)


Tests processed in Auckland (last 24 hours)


Tests rolling average (last 7 days)


Testing centres in Auckland




Wastewater detections

No unexpected detections in the last 24 hours

COVID-19 vaccine update


Vaccines administered to date (total)

5,621,078; 1st doses: 3,400,749; 2nd doses: 2,220,329

Vaccines administered yesterday (total)

82,303; 1st doses: 19,705; 2nd doses: 62,598


1st doses: 336,832; 2nd doses: 198,104

Pacific Peoples

1st doses: 214,878; 2nd doses: 136,202

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents to date (total)

2,044,163: 1st doses: 1,226,962 (86pct); 2nd doses: 817,201 (57pct)

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday (total)

26,277: 1st doses: 4,638; 2nd doses: 21,639

NZ COVID-19 tracer


Registered users (total)


Poster scans (total)


Manual diary entries (total)


Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday


New cases identified at the border

There are three new border cases:

  • the first arrived from China on September 24 and tested positive on day 12. Their full travel history is yet to be determined
  • the second arrived from Russia on October 5 and tested positive on arrival
  • the third arrived on October 7 from a to-be-confirmed location, but travelled via Qatar. They tested positive on arrival.

Waikato update

The three new cases in Waikato are all linked and contacts of existing cases. Interviews are continuing to determine any further contacts or locations of interest.  

There continues to be a strong response to calls for testing in Waikato with 5180 swabs taken yesterday. There are seven pop up testing sites operating today at Claudelands, Te Rapa, Karapiro, Raglan, Huntly, Kawhia and Tokoroa, with extended hours to cater for demand. The existing testing centre at Founders Theatre is also open.

Further details on exact locations and hours of testing sites are available on the Healthpoint and Waikato DHB sites.

The Ministry of Health urges anyone in the Waikato with any symptoms that could be COVID-19 to get a test.

Waikato turned out in record numbers yesterday to get vaccinated with 10,397 doses given, with large increases seen in rural areas. This equates to a 4 per cent increase in first doses across the Waikato in one day. 77 percent of people in the Waikato have now received their first dose and 52 percent are fully vaccinated. A big thank you to everyone who came forward.

Alert levels for the whole of the Waikato will be reviewed again on Monday.

Update on Auckland case who travelled to Northland

The case reported last night, who recently travelled to Northland, was last night transferred to an Auckland quarantine facility, under strict infection prevention and control procedures, including the use of full PPE.

The case was under investigation after returning a weak positive result from a test in Whangarei earlier this week and yesterday returned a positive test result in Auckland.

Public health staff are continuing investigations to identify whether there are any locations of interest or exposure events associated with the case.

In some instances, a location of interest may not be listed on our website. This doesn't mean no actions have been taken around tracing the movements of a case. The focus of publishing locations of interest is on locations where contact tracers don't have a good idea of who was there at the relevant time, like bars and supermarkets.  

For some locations of interest, like personal appointments, we have a good understanding of who was there at the relevant time and an effective means of contacting those people via existing communication channels and networks. These situations are closely managed by contact tracers, who may determine that the location does not need to be added to the list published online.  

Contact tracers are often dealing with people who are stressed and some people can find it difficult to recall where they've been, when they are under pressure.  

Locations of interest are added to the Ministry's website as quickly as possible. We ask people to check these regularly, especially if you have visited, or live in Auckland, Waikato or Northland.    

Northland testing centres

There are four testing centres operating in the Northland region. These are at Kaitaia Hospital; 1 Sammaree Place in Kerikeri, Dargaville Hospital; 20 Winger Crescent in Kamo; and Pohe Island in Whangarei.

Possible exposure event at Middlemore Hospital  

Counties Manukau DHB has advised the Ministry of Health of two possible COVID-19 exposure events at Middlemore Hospital, both from the same patient.

On Monday, October 4 the patient presented to the Emergency Department for a non-COVID related issue where they stayed until they were assessed and discharged. They answered no to all screening questions and were asymptomatic.

The patient again presented to ED on Thursday, October 7.

Following discussion with medical staff, the patient was isolated, tested and moved to a negative pressure room. They subsequently returned a positive result.

Although asymptomatic on their first visit (Monday, 4 October) ARPHS has determined that their infectious period encompasses this date and as such are acting out of an abundance of caution in identifying potential contacts.  

As of this morning 42 patients and 18 visitors have been identified as contacts.

No staff are required to stand down as they were wearing the appropriate PPE. While there have been a number of exposure events at Middlemore, this is not unexpected as there are a number of subclusters in South Auckland, for which Middlemore is the local hospital.  

Testing and vaccinations

The two best tools we have in the continued fight against COVID-19 are testing and vaccinations – the numbers for both continue to be high.  

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay says the 29,925 tests processed nationwide yesterday will help inform public health officials about any undetected community spread.

"However, it is more important than ever that we keep testing, especially over the weekend. The Ministry of Health urges anyone who has symptoms, no matter how mild, to please get tested."  

Dr McElnay also thanked everyone who's stepped up to be vaccinated this week.  

"Being vaccinated with two doses is the best way to protect yourself, your whānau and the wider community. We've seen people rolling up their sleeves in record numbers again, with each day's total higher than the previous day.  

"Yesterday, our total doses administered of 82,303 ranks in the top 10 highest daily totals since the programme began and is the highest daily figure since 3 September, and total doses administered to Māori was a record high of 10,145. I want to acknowledge the efforts of Māori providers and communities to support people to access vaccination.

"The number of second doses administered yesterday – 62,598 – was also the highest ever second dose daily figure. The more fully vaccinated people in the community, the safer we all are – and there is now more than 51 percent of the eligible population who have received two doses," she said.  

Travel from Auckland

We have heard reports that people are being turned away from Auckland Airport due to not having a test result or their result being too old.  

People leaving Auckland for personal reasons are reminded they must have acceptable evidence of a permitted reason to cross the alert level boundary and have evidence of a negative test within the last 72 hours.

Further details are available on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.  

Next update

The Ministry's updates over the weekend will be via media releases, unless there are any significant developments.

At this stage, the next press conference is scheduled for Monday, October 11.

12:35pm - There is no press conference today. Instead, the Ministry of Health will be releasing a statement with the latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak at around 1pm.

We will publish the statement as soon as we receive it.

12:20pm - The Medical Council has received 23 complaints about doctors who have actively spread anti-vaccination misinformation.

On Thursday, it was reported that anti-vaccination GPs have been hindering the rollout in Northland, where an essential worker has tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins subsequently denounced these GPs, but said any consequences were to be decided by the Medical Council.

"I can't speak about individual cases or individual notifications, but what I can say is that we very much exist on behalf of the public to ensure that doctors are practising safely at all times and our first concern to protect public safety," Medical Council chairperson Dr Curtis Walker told RNZ's Morning Report on Friday.

"We will examine the circumstances of what a doctor has said or done, carefully consider their responses, for example, if they're not going to do it again, or not going to post anymore videos or promulgate any further misinformation," Dr Walker continued.

"If that's the kind of response we sort of take a sort of a satisfied or an educative type approach, and a 'don't do it again' approach.

"If people are going to persist and in disseminating this information, then we will look at taking further action."

Read more here.

12:15pm - One new location of interest has been identified in Hamilton - the Sushi House in Te Rapa.

The potential exposure occurred from 12pm to 12:35pm on Friday, October 1.

Other locations of interest added on Friday include New World in Green Bay, Countdown in New Lynn's LynnMall and Supervalue in Titirangi.

Click here for advice.

12:05pm - Benee, Neil Finn and Ladyhawke are among a host of Kiwi music stars and promoters coming together for a new campaign urging New Zealanders to get vaccinated and save the live music industry. 

The #VaxForLive campaign launched on Friday morning with the tagline "Vax Together, Stay Together', and includes testimonials from Aotearoa's biggest artists on why the COVID-19 vaccine is vital. 

Crowded House and Fleetwood Mac member Neil Finn recalled playing local shows in March, highlighting the "joy and freedom" of live music. 

"Crowded House were truly blessed to play shows in Aotearoa NZ in March. Live concerts bring joy and freedom that lift the spirits of audience and artists alike," he said. 

"This summer NZ will be open again for concerts but you will need to be vaccinated against COVID. Come on everyone, we've had the vaccine, it's safe and it's keeping the ones we love safe." 

Read more here.

12pm - ProCare, New Zealand's largest network of primary healthcare professionals, has joined the growing number of organisations across Aotearoa who are calling for all frontline healthcare workers to be vaccinated.

"The call to see all frontline workers vaccinated is about protecting medical professionals and the patients they are seeing. Ultimately, it's about doing everything we can to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ensure Aotearoa can return to a sense of 'normality' as quickly as possible," Group CEO Bindi Norwell said on Friday.

"While infection controls, such as wearing PPE and streaming patients, are important, it's just one of the many tools that can be used to protect patients - especially for those patients that fall into the vulnerable category.

"In our view, when it comes to preventing the highly transmissible Delta variant, we need to be pursuing a 'PPE and vaccination' strategy - not a 'PPE or vaccination' strategy."

ProCare patients say they would feel far safer and more reassured if they knew doctors, nurses and managers at their general practice were vaccinated.

"As we saw with last year's lockdown, people are holding off visiting their general practice unless they feel they really have to, which isn't good for ongoing levels of healthcare. So, if patients know that any member of staff they come into contact with at their general practice is vaccinated, it means that they will be much more comfortable seeing their doctor or practice nurse about wider health issues," Norwell said.

ProCare provides community-based healthcare to more than 800,000 people across the greater Auckland region. As New Zealand's largest Primary Health Organisation (PHO), it represents 167 practices.

11:45am - 'Long COVID' has now been formally defined by the World Health Organization in a bid to help doctors assess and diagnose the syndrome. The illness affects more than a third of people who have contracted COVID-19, according to a recent study. 

Emeritus Professor Warren Tate, a biochemist and molecular biologist at the University of Otago, says the clinical case definition is a positive step forward for researchers.

The diagnosis applies to individuals with a history of probable or confirmed COVID-19 infection, usually three months from the onset of the virus, with symptoms that last for at least two months and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis, Tate explained.

Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, and cognitive dysfunction. Symptoms may be a fresh onset following an initial recovery from an acute COVID-19 infection, or persist from the initial illness. Symptoms may also fluctuate or relapse over time.

"This is a positive step in that now all research and clinical intervention will be working with a common clinical case definition for study recruitment and therapies," he said on Friday.

Read more about Long COVID here.

11:30am - A leading health researcher warns the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 could have devastating consequences if the virus seeps into communities with a high population of Māori, the group with the lowest rate of vaccination in New Zealand. 

Dr Rawiri Taonui told TVNZ's Breakfast that if the virus continues to spread throughout the country, finding firm foothholds in communities with low rates of immunisation, the outbreak could resemble the devastation of the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1918. 

Dr Taonui says evidence indicates the Delta variant had spread at a much higher rate among Māori after Auckland shifted to alert level 3 a little over two weeks ago.

"It's spreading into the marginalised periphery of the Māori community - and that's happened during the second week of the move to level 3 in Auckland," he told Breakfast.

"With the case confirmed in Whāngārei last night and Delta already in four or five towns in the Waikato, there's a real risk of Delta moving into high demographic Māori areas with very low rates of vaccination.

"So Northland, the Lakes District, Bay of Plenty, bit further south into the King Country and Taranaki. If we start seeing more than 50 cases a day and then maybe 100, then we're looking at a very serious situation akin to 1918.

"Akin to 1918 - the Spanish flu - in my opinion. I don't want to be right, but I think that that's what the numbers are starting to tell us."

Dr Taonui says the transmission occurring in transitional or emergency housing, the spread among gangs, and even Auckland City Mission becoming a location of interest are worrying signs the virus has latched onto marginalised and vulnerable communities.

11:20am - A woman working in a retail store on Auckland's North Shore says she is facing more abuse than ever before during the latest lockdown, with customers regularly threatening to attack and kill staff. 

The retail worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Newshub they were subjected to abuse during the first lockdown - but this time, it's significantly worse

"Even before COVID-19 or between the [alert] levels it was something we, unfortunately, were used to and we have learnt to brush it off our shoulders... but it is worse than I have ever, ever seen it. 

"This time around people just don't care, they're not patient, they are fed up and they just don't care.

"We probably get 80 customers a day who haven't made an order [online] and have just shown up and around 70 percent of them are irate."

Read more here.

11:10am - A teachers' union says it will support a vaccine mandate, but only if it allows other options for teachers who can't - or won't - get the jab. 

On Thursday, Newshub revealed the Government is planning to make vaccination mandatory for every teacher at every level of education. The mandate is being taken to Cabinet on Monday by COVID-19 Response and Education Minister, Chris Hipkins. 

It has support of Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft, who wants the mandate to go further - he is calling for vaccination to be made compulsory for anyone who works with children.

New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) director of campaigns Stephanie Mills told The AM Show the union will support the mandate, but only if teachers who are unable to get the jab - or who won't get the jab - are treated fairly and given the option of re-deployment.

"As a union we have followed public health advice all the way through this epidemic. It's served the country well and it's served our members well so far, so we will follow public health mandates - but we will also balance that with upholding rights and due process and fair process for any members who can't or won't get vaccinated," Mills said on Friday. 

"Anybody working in education has the right to go through a process which would consider them working not directly on the frontline which, of course, people in education do - they are not all in classrooms every day. 

"I think because we work with children most teachers know that the biggest path of transmission of the virus is from adult to children. So we definitely encourage people to get vaccinated because that's the best way to protect children and if you care about the children you work with, I think most teachers are going to be very seriously considering vaccination if they haven't already."

Read more here.

10:55am - Waikato DHB COVID-19 update

Following confirmation of a COVID-19 case in Waikato on Sunday, public health staff have been working closely with all affected individuals to identify any exposure events, provide guidance to any confirmed contacts and respond to new cases, the Waikato District Health Board said in an update on Friday morning.

As of Thursday, 22 cases were confirmed in the Waikato - 10 in Hamilton, 10 in Raglan, one in Karapiro and one in Kawhia. Since Sunday, the DHB has provided tests for close to 20,000 people. 

The executive director for hospital and community services, Chris Lowry, said the public health team has been in immediate contact with every new case and has so far been able to establish a clear point of exposure for each.

Lowry said a number of locations of interest in Raglan were identified quickly, but the lack of potential exposure events in Hamilton has caused some concern in the community.

"Exposure events for those initial cases in Hamilton could be traced to contact between individuals, generally in a residential or workplace setting, and public health staff were able to follow up with individuals directly," Lowry said.

"To provide some further context, through their interviews the public health team have identified 60 exposure events (where people have had contact with a known case) across a range of settings and there are 184 people who have been identified as contacts [who] are now in self-isolation or quarantine."

Publishing locations of interest is generally to identify locations where contact tracers do not have a good idea of who was there at the relevant time, such as bars and supermarkets.

Several locations of interest in Hamilton have since been announced in connection with new cases and this list is expected to grow, Lowry said, as the DHB continues its investigations.

"For the public health response to work we need to build trust and understanding with all parts of our community, including those where this may have waned in the past. This is a fundamental enabler for our response to be effective."

The DHB is also aware of social media posts targeting some families and individuals in relation to this latest resurgence of COVID-19.

Lowry said it was important that people are not punished for doing the right thing.

"We need everyone to feel comfortable they can seek a test, without fear of being targeted or harassed. Everyone who gets a test has our gratitude for doing their part."

10:50am - Across the Tasman, COVID-stricken Victoria has recorded a staggering 1838 new cases of COVID-19. Five more people have also died with the virus.

10:45am - The World Health Organization (WHO) this week issued a definition for "long COVID", a term used to describe the persistent health problems that affect some survivors of COVID-19. Scientists are still working to understand the syndrome.

Here is an explainer on what researchers know so far.

10:35am - The Opposition is pushing the Government to put in orders for a new pill that's shown early promise at fighting COVID-19. 

The National Party fears New Zealand will end up lagging behind the rest of the world regarding access to molnupiravir, potentially the first oral antiviral medication that is effective against the disease.

"That's what other countries we compare ourselves with are doing," Simon Bridges told The AM Show on Friday, referring to molnupiravir and other developing treatments. "They've got those forward orders, some of them have started dishing them out. We should be doing that as well… where's the detailed plan on these sorts of things?" 

The Government says it has been in talks with manufacturer Merck well before the results of the recent trial, which suggested the drug could reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death by about 50 percent in patients with mild or moderate COVID-19.

Here's everything you need to know about molnupiravir.

10:25am - A health expert says New Zealanders need to remember that gangs do not just involve gang members but also whānau, including mothers and children. 

Next week Dr Rawiri Jansen from the National Māori Pandemic Group and Dr Collin Tukuitonga from the University of Auckland's medical school will host a session for the Waikato chapter of the Mongrel Mob to provide accurate information about vaccination. 

Dr Tukuitonga told RNZ that health professionals have a duty of care to inform all New Zealanders about COVID-19 - and the community is willing to learn.

"These are folk who've asked for assistance with information and we're happy to front up and answer questions, as we've done with other groups," he said.

"Remember it's not just about Mob members, there are whānau involved. There are mums and young people, and we have a duty to inform them as best we can."

The Government has confirmed that a significant number of recent cases have involved gang members or associates.

10:20am - In case you missed it, the Ministry of Health has released a suburb-by-suburb breakdown of vaccination data, current to October 6.

Murupara in the Bay of Plenty's Whakatāne District is the area with the lowest rate of vaccination nationwide.

Of the roughly 1400 eligible people in Murupara, only 32.6 percent have received their first jab and just 16.1 percent are fully vaccinated. Both statistics account for the lowest rates in the country.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was in Murupara on Thursday in an attempt to encourage vaccination uptake.

The other two communities with the lowest uptake are Ōtangarei and Waima Forest in Northland - 45 percent and 45.1 percent respectively have received their first jab.

While 58.3 percent of Port Taranaki's eligible population have received their first dose, just 16.7 percent have had their second - the second-lowest after Murupara. Ilam University saw a high 89.9 percent of first doses, but only 27.8 percent have received their second.

The data showed about 35 areas with rates surpassing 95 percent, including downtown Auckland, central Wellington and Queenstown.

10:10am - One new potential exposure event has been added to the list of locations of interest.

Anyone who was at Countdown Manukau on Monday, October 4 between 9am and 4pm is asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the date of exposure. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until a negative result is returned - AND until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.

9:55am - More support for business available from today

The third round of the Resurgence Support Payment (RSP) opened for applications on Friday morning.

"The RSP helps businesses with their fixed costs, such as rent. It provides cashflow to businesses and supports them to pay their bills while the country is at alert level 2 or above," Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Friday.

"The payment was originally created as a one-off payment but last month the Government decided to make it a three-weekly payment in recognition of the pressure on many businesses.

"So far the RSP has paid out just over $947 million to businesses. Coupled with the Wage Subsidy Scheme, the Government has supported businesses and workers to the tune of $3.9 billion since the Delta outbreak began."

The RSP includes a core per business rate of $1500, plus $400 per employee, up to a total of 50 full-time equivalents (FTEs) which is a maximum payment of $21,500. Businesses with more than 50 FTEs can still apply but cannot get more than the maximum payment.

"The payment and eligibility criteria to qualify for the RSP remain the same as the previous two payments, including that those applying must experience at least a 30 percent decline in revenue over seven days (starting on or after October 1 for this payment) as a result of being at alert level 2 or higher," Revenue Minister David Parker said.

"The scheme will be available until all of New Zealand returns to alert level 1 for one month."

Inland Revenue encourages those applying to ensure the accuracy of the information they provide, as if it isn't correct that will delay processing. Businesses can apply for the payment by logging into their MyIR account. Further information can be found on the Inland Revenue website.

The fourth round of the Wage Subsidy remains open for applications until 11:59pm on Thursday, October 14.

9:40am - Here's a recap on the alert level 3 boundary extension in Waikato, which came into effect at 11:59pm on Thursday.

The border will be reviewed on Monday, October 11.

The boundary follows the coast south to Mōkau, then east along to northern Pureora Forest Park, and then north to include Te Awamutu, Karapiro and Cambridge, to meet the former boundary.

The extended boundary includes Hamilton Airport. Travel in and out of the area by road and air is restricted. People permitted to travel will need to carry evidence of why they are travelling. You can find permitted reasons to cross the boundary here.

View the boundary map and check your address here.

9:25am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will visit the small Hawke's Bay town of Wairoa on Friday, which has seen a decline in vaccination following good progress early on.

When the most recent lockdown was introduced across New Zealand, a third of Wairoa's eligible population was fully vaccinated.

But now, just 65 percent of residents aged 12 and over have had their first dose, compared to more than 75 percent of Hawke's Bay's eligible population as a whole.

Almost nine out of 10 people aged over 70 are fully vaccinated, RNZ reports, but vaccination uptake is low in younger generations.

Ardern is visiting North Island towns including Ruatoria, Rotorua and Hastings over the coming days to support local vaccination campaigns.

9:15am - Pfizer, BioNTech seek US COVID-19 vaccine clearance for children aged five to 11

Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and BioNTech SE have asked US regulators to authorize emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11, a group for whom no shot is currently allowed, Pfizer said on Thursday (local time).

The US Food and Drug Administration has set a date of Oct. 26 for its panel of outside advisers to meet and discuss the application, making it possible for children in this age group - numbering around 28 million - to begin receiving the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shortly afterward.

"With new cases in children in the US continuing to be at a high level, this submission is an important step in our ongoing effort against #COVID19," Pfizer wrote on Twitter.

The vaccine already has won US emergency use authorization in teens ages 12 to 15 and is fully approved by regulators for people ages 16 and up.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is one of three in use in the United States, along with the two-dose Moderna (MRNA.O) vaccine and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) version, neither of which has won full regulatory approval for any age group.

A rapid authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in young kids could help mitigate a potential surge of cases in the coming weeks and months, with schools open nationwide and colder weather driving activities indoors. If given regulatory authorization, the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine would become the first COVID-19 shot made available to children aged five to 11 in the United States.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been shown to induce a strong immune response in five to 11 year olds in a 2268-participant clinical trial, the companies said on September 20.

The two drugmakers are also testing the vaccine in children ages two to five years old and children ages 6 months to 2 years, with data expected in the fourth quarter.

The vaccine could be ready for roll out as early as November pending approval from federal regulatory health agencies, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said on CNN.

Once the authorization is granted, Zients said: "We are ready. We have the supply. We're working with states to set up convenient locations for parents and kids to get vaccinated including pediatricians' offices and community sites."

The United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Children currently make up about 27 percent of all US coronavirus cases and an increasing percentage of hospitalizations, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That reflects the high contagiousness of the coronavirus Delta variant among unvaccinated people.

While children are less susceptible to severe COVID-19, they can spread the virus to others, including vulnerable populations more at risk of severe illness.

A Pfizer spokesperson said the application to the FDA has been completed.

- Reuters

9am - The chair of the Medical Council says it has zero tolerance for anti-vaccination messages - particularly from those who have a duty to protect the community.

Northland DHB has confirmed two general practice clinics in the region don't support vaccinations against the virus.

A case of COVID-19 has now been confirmed in the region after an Auckland resident who visited Whangārei returned a weak positive result earlier this week. They were confirmed as a case on Thursday following a second swab.

Medical Council chair Dr Curtis Walker told RNZ's Morning Report spreading misinformation or anti-vaccination messages is unacceptable.

"Our first concern is to protect public safety... any advice provided around vaccination has to be evidence-based and expert-informed," he said.

"The medical evidence is the vaccination is safe, effective, and overwhelmingly supported by... evidence, and certainly the best way to protect whānau and communities from this pandemic. So that is the evidence-based advice that we expect doctors to give."

Dr Walker said the Medical Council has received 23 notifications about doctors spreading vaccine misinformation. Investigations could take up to six months, but interim measures could be taken in the meantime.

8:45am - To recap, two people have tested positive for COVID-19 on Auckland's North Shore, according to a letter from Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

Residents were notified on Thursday that two people in Kāinga Ora properties in Beach Haven had tested positive for the virus.

It's unclear whether these new infections are included in or in addition to the 24 Auckland cases reported on Thursday. 

Residents and visitors to the area are classified as casual contacts and are advised to get tested and monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

The letter said testing would be available for staff and residents on Sunday, but locals can also visit their closest community testing centre on College Rd in Northcote.

The letter also included a code to use when getting tested, according to the New Zealand Herald.

A Kāinga Ora spokesperson told the Herald it had been informed of the cases associated with the Beach Haven properties.

"Kāinga Ora has arranged further testing and mobile vaccination to be on-site at the weekend," the spokesperson told the outlet.

8:30am - Iwi checkpoints have been stationed at Waikato's border overnight, with Taranaki Māori erecting a control point for motorists passing through the region at the edge of the alert level 2 boundary.

Waikato's alert level 3 boundary was widened from midnight to cover the Waitomo District, including Te Kuiti, the Waipā District and Ōtorohanga District after more cases were detected in the region on Thursday.

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said due to the shifting boundary, Ngāti Maniapoto would be establishing iwi checkpoints at Mokau in partnership with police.

Mokau is located in the Waikato's Waitomo District, just north of the boundary with the New Plymouth District and the Taranaki region.

The checkpoints came into force at 11:59pm, she said.

"Whānau the boundaries move again as does COVID and we confirm tonight Ngati Maniapoto, Taranaki will be standing up iwi checkpoints at Mokau in partnership with police," Ngarewa-Packer said on Thursday night.

"Based off the districts we were advised of, from 11:59pm tonight, the districts in the three maps provided move into alert level 3 (Waipa, Otorohanga, Waitomo to Mokau).

"The iwi checkpoint with police comes into place at Mokau 11:59pm tonight. COVID is getting closer and we are buying as much time as possible to get as many vaccinated and prepared for next phase outbreak.

"COVIDis moving fast, NOW is the time to get yourselves vaccinated, there are many walk-in [centres]. Pls stay safe and look after one another."

8:15am - Twelve new potential exposure events have been added by the Ministry of Health at 8am.

All are in Auckland, spanning suburbs Mt Wellington, Ormiston, New Lynn, Titirangi, Green Bay and Flatbush.

New World in Green Bay and Countdown in New Lynn's LynnMall are among the latest locations of interest.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, October 8

8am - The Government has recently been consulting the private sector on a new "traffic light system" that might replace the alert level framework once New Zealand reaches higher levels of immunity, a source with knowledge of the discussions has told Stuff.

A 'green light' would mean almost no restrictions on travel, gatherings or business. Face coverings would be recommended, but not mandatory, some QR scanning would be required, and some larger events may require proof of vaccination, Stuff reports.

At orange, face masks would be required. Workplaces and retail shops would remain open, but there may be capacity limits. Churches and other venues, such as hospitality, may also remain open, with either social distancing or proof of vaccination.

Under red, private gatherings would be limited, as well as some inter-regional travel. Schools and retail would remain open but may have capacity limits, and hospitality venues would only open for table-service and vaccinated customers.

The different settings would be introduced based on the amount of transmission in the community, Stuff reports, with the 'red light' activating if COVID-19 threatens the healthcare system.

The system would be implemented instead of lockdowns once high vaccination coverage has been achieved, Stuff understands - to reiterate, this has not become Government policy.

7:50am - Patients who are unable to see physios due to the strict alert level rules are battling severe pain without proper rehabilitation, according to a group of physiotherapists, who are desperate to see clients in person

Under the current settings in Auckland, physiotherapists cannot have face-to-face contact with patients - even though other medical professionals can - as they are not considered an essential service. 

That is unlikely to change, according to the Government's new three-step pathway to reduce restrictions - that would see public pools and shopping malls open before physiotherapists can.

A petition has been launched in a bid to change that.

Physio Patrick Peng told RNZ's Checkpoint that businesses are not only struggling, but a lot of patients have been left in pain - and the telehealth service they are providing is not enough to assist them. 

Read more here.

7:45am - The Government is bowing to pressure from business leaders who want fast acting COVID-19 tests available in workplaces.

A coalition of 25 firms contacted the Government on Tuesday, pleading for clearance to import 370,000 rapid antigen devices within the next week.

Ministers and officials are to meet representatives from the group on Friday with a view to piloting the test in select workplaces.

Meridian Energy is the country's largest power generator and its employees are essential in keeping the lights on. The company wants to use rapid antigen tests to ensure that can still happen.

"One of the risks we're looking to manage is ensuring that we don't have a large number of our essential workers who are unable to work because they're sick with COVID-19," Meridian Energy's chief people officer Tania Palmer told RNZ.

Read more here.

7:35am - In case you missed it, National MP Simon Bridges told The AM Show this morning the Government's plan is "going backwards"  after the virus seeped outside of Auckland's boundary.

"If elimination was the strategy -  and I think the Government's moved on from that - the problem is we're going backwards. We've increased our geography, it's moved into the King Country and there's now a case in Northland. I think the thing we still don't see is an actual, detailed plan with dates, with targets. Aucklanders aren't even sure if they can go to the dunny at the moment. I think we've got to see the Government press in a bit more… with vaccination, we're all 100 percent in and 100 percent behind getting those rates up," he said.

He said the Government should be ordering promising alternative treatments, such as the antiviral drug molnupiravir, to help with the response. 

"I think it's negligent, I think it's what we saw on the vaccination [rollout] where the Government was woefully complacent… we should all vaccinate, we shouldn't be using these other drugs as an excuse… the drugs look incredibly promising… the Government should be getting in now, doing the talking now."

7:28am - Mayor of Whangārei Sheryl Mai says the local government is holding its breath after a weak positive result in the city was confirmed as a positive case.

"We are holding our breath and hoping that we don't have COVID-19 in Whangārei or Northland," she told The AM Show.

Mai says she hasn't been informed of any locations of interest yet.

"Like everybody this morning I got up and raced to have a look at the website to see if those locations of interest have been posted yet… nothing yet, but hopefully before too long we'll get those so we can all go back in our diaries and see where we've been."

The Ministry of Health's assessment of the individual is that the earlier weak result, combined with the positive result on Thursday, indicates the original test was taken in the early stage of their infection.

"I do hope that... the impacts of the disease will be minimised for that person," Mai says.

She says the possibility of a lockdown in Northland will have local businesses "trembling" - and could be the last straw for many.

"We trust that with all the information available the right decision will be made, but… we all want everyone to be safe. By far the best way that that can be is if everyone gets a vaccination." 

She noted "too many" suburbs in the region have low rates of vaccination and urged residents to get their jabs, as well as follow the basic public health measures - masks, physical distancing, staying home when sick, and getting tested if presenting symptoms.

7:22am - Revenue Minister David Parker says no decision has been made regarding a possible transition to step two of the Government's roadmap for Auckland next week.

"That decision hasn't been taken, but the most important thing is we keep pumping that vaccination ramp up... if anyone can crack 90 percent, we can," he told The AM Show.

Bridges says the new cases in Waikato and the confirmation of a positive case in Northland shows the response is "going backwards".

"We still don't see an actual detailed plan, with dates, with targets... we've got to see the Government press in a bit more," Bridges says. 

He says the Government has been "negligent" not to order alternative treatments that have shown "incredibly promising" results, such as the antiviral pill molnupiravir - echoing their woefully complacent" rollout of the vaccination campaign.

Trials of molnupiravir by pharmaceutical giant Merck and Ridgeback found the antiviral drug reduced the risk of hospitalisation or death by approximately 50 percent compared to placebos for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19.

Earlier this week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the government had agreed to buy 300,000 courses of the promising drug, if cleared by regulators. 

"Where's the detailed plan on these sorts of things?" Bridges says.

Unfortunately due to technical issues, the interview with Parker and Bridges has been cut short.

7:10am - Labour Minister David Parker and National MP Simon Bridges are about to appear on The AM Show's political panel to discuss the Super Saturday vaccination drive and COVID-19 response.

You can tune in live on Three or watch our livestream here.

7am - Bart Willems, the Chief Medical Officer in Northland, says the region is lagging behind in the vaccine rollout because locals simply aren't showing up.

"We are not getting feet through the door. That's our main challenge," he told Newshub.

"It's not about giving people access - it's about getting people convinced the vaccine is necessary and can protect them against COVID... it seems like people are still concerned about the safety of the vaccine. 

"We know there have been more than 5.5 million doses administered (in New Zealand), and only one fatality." 

While 80 percent of eligible Kiwis have had at least one dose, in Northland it's less than 70 percent. 

"We're really hoping we can reach those who are not yet vaccinated," Dr Willems said. "We need over 90 percent vaccinated to be safe, to make sure our healthcare services can stand up to the challenge... we've got a way to go. At the moment I am concerned… We need more people vaccinated, otherwise we will be in trouble."

6:40am - Wondering what's been happening in the pandemic around the world? Find out here.

6:10am - An expert has told the Government it's failed to act fast enough on saliva and rapid anti-gen tests.

"We're certainly at a different stage now, and it's going to be very difficult to control," University of Otago Professor David Murdoch told Stuff. The outlet also reports the Government is considering a traffic light system of restrictions to replace the existing alert levels, once it abandons lockdowns altogether.

Physios say they and their patients have been forgotten about in the new three-step move to level 2. 

Under the current Auckland rules they cannot have face to face contact with patients, even though other medical professionals can, as they are not considered an essential service - read RNZ's report.