Kiwis in Northland and parts of Waikato are waking up to another day in alert level 3 after Cabinet on Wednesday decided to extend their lockdowns for a further five days.
The Northland region and the Waikato area covered by alert level 3 - which spans Hamilton City, Raglan, Huntly, Te Kauwhata, Ngāruawāhia, and the Waipā, Waitomo and Ōtorohanga districts - will remain under the restrictions until at least 11:59pm on Monday, October 18.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins had told The AM Show there were "positive" signs Waikato could shift to alert level 2, but Cabinet decided against the move after two new cases were reported in Hamilton - both of which have yet to be linked to the outbreak.
"[The Ministry of] Health believes the risk from these cases - a couple - is low and there will be few locations of interest," he told RNZ. "However we need to assure ourselves that there is not undetected transmission before lowering alert levels. Genome sequencing is underway and will hopefully shed new light on these cases."
Meanwhile, Hipkins said Cabinet could not justify a shift to alert level 2 for Northland after two confirmed cases travelled extensively throughout the region last week. The first of the two women to test positive has proved uncooperative, making it difficult for officials to glean sufficient information about their movements. Hipkins said he was concerned that people who possibly had contact with the women may be reluctant to get tested out of fear of "potentially exposing some other aspects of their lives they don't want to".
Seventy-one new community cases have been reported on Thursday, all in Auckland - "a sobering but not unexpected" surge, according to Dr Caroline McElnay. Twenty-eight of the new cases have yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak. A number of Wednesday's cases have also yet to be linked, including the two detected in Hamilton. Wastewater samples collected from Te Awamutu and Raglan have also tested positive for the virus.
In other developments, two women have been arrested and charged in Blenheim for allegedly travelling from Auckland without exemptions or evidence of a negative pre-departure test. They are currently awaiting their results. According to the New Zealand Herald, the women are both sex workers and are being uncooperative with authorities.
What you need to know:
- Auckland will remain in alert level 3 under step one of the Government's 'roadmap to recovery' until at least next Tuesday.
- Northland and parts of Waikato will remain in alert level 3 for a further five days until at least 11:59pm on Monday, October 18.
- Seventy-one new cases were recorded on Wednesday, all in Auckland - 28 of the cases have yet to be linked to the outbreak. The two cases reported in Waikato on Wednesday also remain unlinked.
- COVID-19 has been detected in wastewater samples from Te Awamutu and Raglan. Follow-up samples are being taken.
- Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie has yet to receive the vaccine, saying her preference is to wait for Novavax.
- Epidemiologist Amanda Kvalsvig has called a return to alert level 4 in Auckland the "best and probably only chance" at reversing the current trends.
- Two staff members and two patients have tested positive following an exposure event at North Shore Hospital's dialysis unit over the weekend.
- An early learning centre teacher has tested positive in Auckland - 11 close contacts have been identified so far, six of whom are children.
- Judith Collins has lambasted the Government as "self-congratulatory" despite officials having "no clear plan" after moving away from the elimination strategy.
- Dr Ashley Bloomfield has granted a coalition of around 25 businesses across a range of sectors an exemption to import 300,000 rapid antigen tests.
- Two women have been arrested and charged in Blenheim after allegedly travelling to Blenheim from Auckland without exemptions.
- Click here for all the locations of interest.
These live updates have finished.
6:30pm - Police have arrested and charged a 36-year-old man for allegedly breaching COVID-19 restrictions after he travelled from Auckland to Wanaka.
The man left Auckland and travelled to Wellington on October 8 before heading to Wanaka on October 12.
He has been charged with failing to comply with a COVID-19 order and is due to appear in the Queenstown District Court on October 18.
Otago Lakes Central Police say they would like to remind people that they need an exemption to travel outside of a level 3 area.
"Police will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those who are deliberately breaching lockdown restrictions," a spokesperson says.
6pm - It's time for Newshub Live at 6pm for the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak. You can watch online here or on Three.
5:25pm - A few hearts may have sunk in Auckland on Thursday afternoon as Public Health Director Dr Caroline McElnay gave an alert level 3 rules reminder.
"A reminder that at alert level 3, travel is restricted and only allowed in your local areas for permitted reasons, which include going to work if you need to, shopping for food, and getting exercise," she told the 1pm press conference.
You'd be forgiven for being a bit confused, because wasn't Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern telling Aucklanders a few weeks ago they'd be able to "connect with loved ones outdoors" and "move around Auckland for recreation" under new Step 1 rules?
Yes, Ardern did say that, so never fear Aucklanders - you can stick to your weekend plans.
"Dr McElnay was just reminding people that there are restrictions in place," a Ministry of Health spokesperson told Newshub when asked for clarification.
The spokesperson pointed to the official United Against COVID-19 website, where the rules state Aucklanders under Step 1 can "meet close friends and whānau from 1 other household at the park for a picnic or BBQ", and also go hunting, golfing, or participate in outdoor exercise classes, among other activities.
4:50pm - The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) says it is pulling out all the stops and gearing up for Super Saturday.
Not only will people be able to get vaccinated, but there'll be free ice cream, sausage sizzles, live music, and spot prizes on offer at many vaccination centres and pop-up events held across Auckland.
Thirteen percent of the city's eligible population is yet to receive their first dose.
Opening hours across the majority of the region's 16 community vaccination centres and drive-throughs have been extended for Saturday. Among them is the CBD vaccination centre, which is being donned with rainbow decorations and there will be live music, a sausage sizzle, and spot prizes. At Albany, there will be free coffee, a Mr Whippy truck visit, spot prizes, and chocolate fish handed out to those who receive their dose.
NRHCC programme director Matt Hannant is urging anyone who is still to get their first dose to come along, as well as people who need their second dose. Second doses can be given 21 days after the first dose.
"It's eight weeks to go until summer, so we're encouraging everyone to get their vaccinations this weekend to help ensure you're set to get out and about and enjoy the summer," he says.
"Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect you and your whānau from COVID-19. With COVID-19 cases in the community, this weekend is a really important time to be getting answers to your questions and getting vaccinated."
People can find their nearest vaccination centre or pop-up event at vaccinateforauckland.nz.
4:20pm - There are several new locations of interest. They are:
- SuperValue Raglan, October 5 from 11:30am to 12:30pm
- BP Raglan, October 8 from 3:45pm to 4:45pm
- Four Square Raglan, October 9 from 7:45am to 9:45am
- SuperValue Raglan, October 9 from 8:30am to 9:15am
- Liquorland Kohimarama, October 10 from 1pm to 2pm
- New World Southmall Manurewa, October 11 from 9:30am to 12:30pm
- Ashby Cafe St Heliers, October 12 from 9:45am to 9:50am.
4:10pm - Hawke's Bay DHB is going to give away three iPhone 13s and seven $100 Prezzy cards as part of its Super Saturday push to get people vaccinated.
Along with giveaways, there'll be food and music at larger events.
"As part of a special one-off Super Saturday incentive the DHB, with the very generous support of Spark Health, will automatically put everyone who has their first dose of the vaccine from any of the Hawke's Bay clinics into a draw to win one of three iPhone 13 or one of seven $100 Prezzy cards," chief executive Keriana Brooking says.
The winners will be drawn next week.
She says nearly 30 vaccination clinics in the region will be open on Saturday, with some open until early evening, and goBay buses will be free. A free shuttle through Kahungunu Health Services - Choices Hastings is also available and whānau can call 08002COVID to book.
"The Super Saturday clinics will make it super easy to get vaccinated. Either get your first dose, or if it has been over three weeks since your first dose, get your second," Brooking says.
The region has administered more than 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines.
3:40pm - The following is a Q&A with Dr Mataroria Lyndon (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Whatua, Waikato), the equity lead at Mahitahi Hauora Primary Health Organisation in Northland and a senior lecturer in medical education at the University of Auckland. It is courtesy of the Science Media Centre.
Why are rural communities more vulnerable to COVID-19?
There are geographic barriers to accessing healthcare and services generally, including COVID testing and vaccinations. If COVID-19 spread within rural communities there would be greater challenges in accessing care, providing healthcare, and pressure on local health services too.
How does access to health services differ from urban areas?
There are differences in access to health services in some rural communities like the Far North where there are shortages of health professionals or ability to enrol with a GP. Geographic barriers or the distance needed to travel to health services is also a burden for rural communities. Outreach/mobile services for testing and vaccination is an important strategy in addressing some of the barriers rural communities face.
What will be the issues when someone living rurally needs more specialised COVID-19 hospital care?
They will likely need treatment at a secondary care hospital particularly if ICU level care is required. They will be further away from home and whānau support. More COVID cases in regional/rural hospitals could also impact on capacity for managing other health conditions.
What unique challenges face rural Māori?
There are barriers to accessing care, as outlined above, however, Māori are also likely to have more comorbidities, substandard housing, and less likely to be enrolled with a GP or access health services so are at greater risk from COVID-19 and severe disease.
3pm - The countdown to Super Saturday's Vaxathon is on - and the COVID Vaccination Healthline team is ready to answer Aotearoa's vaccination questions in the lead-up to the big day.
The COVID Vaccination Healthline team are working to get people prepared for 'Super Saturday' on October 16. The team are standing by to support and assist New Zealanders with queries about the vaccination drive. They can help with:
- locating where to get vaccinated
- problem-solving transport issues
- answering any question that people are curious about – don't hold back, nothing is off the table
- talking to someone who knows
- advising on sites that have mobility assistance, arranging sign language interpreters, etc
- supporting people with needle anxiety.
Call the COVID Vaccination Healthline team 0800 28 29 26 for free advice 8am-8pm (and to midnight on Saturday, October 16). Extra staff are on board to get people ready.
2:30pm - Two new locations of interest have been added as of 2pm. They are:
- Countdown Chartwell in Hamilton
- Leabank Superette, Manurewa.
|For more information and advice, click here.|
2:20pm - Endemic COVID-19 will expose lack of health workforce investment and cost lives
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialist Toi Mata Hauora says endemic COVID-19 is set to expose the long-term lack of investment and planning in New Zealand's health workforce - which will cost lives.
In a statement on Thursday, ASMS executive director Sarah Dalton says frontline intensive care unit (ICU) specialists do not share the Government's confidence around ICU bed capacity. She says there are real fears about what lies ahead.
"We have been repeatedly told by our ICU specialists that there has been no meaningful investment or expansion in ICU capacity and in many parts of the country staffing levels are running at unsafe levels," Dalton said.
"A number of our regional hospitals won't be able to keep patients because their ICUs are so poorly equipped, meaning staff and patients will have to be juggled across different parts of the country."
One ICU specialist recently said they only had two specialists left in their department and if one is sick, the other must work continuously. That senior doctor had recently worked 84 hours in one week - 14 of those unpaid.
All parts of the health system are under pressure and as more resources are shifted to cope with COVID-19, backlogs will become bigger and there will be even longer delays in diagnosing and treating patients, Dalton said.
"That is an added stress for senior clinicians who will be forced to make the tough decisions around further rationing of patient care.
"Planned care is already being delayed due to overwhelming acute demand, even in regions which haven't seen COVID-19 cases yet".
Irrespective of the size and nature of any COVID-19 surge, the health system must make workforce planning and supply its number one focus, she says.
"It's all very well to acknowledge the pressure our doctors are under, but it's time for the Government to show some commitment to keeping them safe and supported which includes fair pay and decent conditions of work."
2:10pm - Here is the Ministry of Health's full statement with Thursday's developments:
71 community cases of COVID-19; one case at the border; 87 percent of Aucklanders have one vaccine dose
Number of new community cases
Number of new cases identified at the border
Location of new community cases
Location of community cases (total)
Auckland 1,736 (1,172 of whom have recovered); Waikato 37 (two of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (all of whom have recovered)
Number of community cases (total)
1,790 (in current community outbreak)
Cases infectious in the community
25 of yesterday's cases have exposure events (45pct)
Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious
30 of yesterday's cases (55pct)
Cases epidemiologically linked
43 of today's 71 cases
Cases to be epidemiologically linked
28 of today's 71 cases. Interviews are ongoing to determine how they're linked
Cases epidemiologically linked (total)
1,665 in the current cluster (102 unlinked from the past 14 days)
Number of sub-clusters
16 epidemiologically linked subclusters. Of these, four are active, one is contained and 11 are dormant. There are 14 epidemiologically unlinked subclusters. Of these, four are active, one is contained and nine are dormant.
Cases in hospital
33 (total): North Shore (4); Middlemore (17); Auckland (11); Palmerston North Hospital (1)
Cases in ICU or HDU
Confirmed cases (total)
4,472 since pandemic began
Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)
169 out of 2,657 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)
405 (as at 10am 14 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
COVID-19 was detected in wastewater samples from Te Awamutu and Raglan. Follow-up samples are being taken
COVID-19 vaccine update
Vaccines administered to date (total)
6,044,813; 1st doses: 3,496,757 2nd doses: 2,548,056
Vaccines administered yesterday (total)
68,787; 1st doses: 15,704; 2nd doses: 53,083
1st doses: 357,690; 2nd doses: 230,423
1st doses: 222,680; 2nd doses: 154,180
Vaccines administered to Auckland residents to date (total)
2,194,081 1st doses: 1,252,558 (87pct); 2nd doses: 941,523 (66pct)
Vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday (total)
21,049: 1st doses: 3,725; 2nd doses: 17,324
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
- Arrived October 13 from Singapore on a direct flight and tested positive on day three of their stay in MIQ.
Auckland health officials continue to carry out asymptomatic workplace testing to help rule out any undetected community spread. Both essential workers who work at level 4 and people in workplaces that are permitted to operate under alert level 3, including construction, hospitality, education, retail workers and community healthcare workers are encouraged to be tested regularly.
Any groups already undertaking surveillance testing, such as workers crossing alert level boundaries or border workers, do not need to participate in this additional testing.
There are 20 community testing centres available for testing across Auckland today, some with extended hours. A full list of testing centres can be found on the Healthpoint website.
There are currently eight suburbs of interest, where people with or without symptoms are asked to get tested. They are:
- Clover Park
- Mount Wellington/Sylvia Park
- Red Beach.
People who don't have symptoms and get a one-off COVID-19 test for surveillance purposes do not need to isolate while they wait for their result.
Waikato DHB is setting up a pop-up testing centre in Te Awamutu today following a positive wastewater detection in the area. The testing site will operate from 2pm to 5pm today.
Waikato DHB Public Health staff are investigating whether the wastewater detection represents a new current case or an old case who may be shedding the virus. In the meantime, anyone in Te Awamutu who has COVID-19 symptoms or has visited a location of interest should get tested immediately.
COVID-19 was also detected in a sample from Raglan on Tuesday. This follows earlier detections from samples taken last week. Anyone in Raglan with symptoms or has been at a location of interest at the relevant time is being asked to get tested.
Two community cases in Waikato reported yesterday remain unlinked but some potential connections have been identified and investigations continue. Results of whole genome sequencing are expected tonight. Hamilton residents are encouraged to keep checking the Ministry's website for any locations of interest.
Vaccination rates in Waikato remained high yesterday with 6327 people getting a dose. There were 3680 swabs taken in Waikato yesterday.
Northland testing and vaccination centres
In Northland, people are asked to keep checking the Ministry of Health website for locations of interest in the region.
Today there are seven community testing sites and eight community vaccination centres operating. Details of locations and operating hours can be found on the Healthpoint website.
On Wednesday, 3464 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered - 1215 first doses and 2249 second doses. To date, there have been more than 200,000 doses administered in Northland.
For testing, the region saw 2125 tests completed yesterday, taking the total since October 6 to 9582 tests.
2pm - Robertson says there are enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine in New Zealand to start rolling out booster shots and "work is underway" on the next stage of the vaccination campaign.
"There is a lot of work to be done to work out the best way of doing that," he says. "That work is ongoing."
He reiterates "very, very few" cases are being caused by transmission in workplaces.
Robertson says the Government has "absolutely not" lost control of its COVID-19 response.
"Where we are today is one of the trickiest bits of COVID-19, but we still have in place some of the strictest alert level restrictions in the world. We're still able to stand up here each day and tell you how many cases there are, that those cases are being followed up. We have one of the lowest hospitalisation rates in the world, we have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world.
"We are at a very difficult point in COVID as we transition to a framework where vaccination provides us all with that personal armor and we can move forward from there. During this period, we need people in Auckland to obey the alert level 3 restrictions and that is what will make sure we keep the outbreak under control."
1:45pm - The Ministry of Health has confirmed 28 of today's cases have yet to be linked to the outbreak, not 32 as reported in the press conference.
1:41pm - Robertson reiterates that public health advice has not changed regarding the current alert level settings for Auckland, amid calls from experts to return the region to alert level 4 lockdown.
Health officials continue to monitor the circumstances of the outbreak, he says.
"Alert level 3 remains a way we can manage this virus."
Regarding the small number of cases arriving in New Zealand from overseas - and whether or not it's an indication that restrictions at the border could be relaxed - Robertson says it's a "judgement we need to be looking at". He says officials are looking at the "relative risks" associated with the border.
1:37pm - The reproduction rate is sittin at around 1.2 and 1.3, Robertson says. Health officials understand that if the alert level restrictions are adhered to, that rate should remain around 1.2 or below.
Robertson says we are "heading towards the triple-digit mark", but that can still be managed if people follow the rules.
1:32pm - The alert level boundary around Auckland's border is "by and large working", Robertson reiterates, but the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is reviewing the system to see if any amendments can be made.
He says with the large number of people crossing the boundary, officials "need to be careful about its management".
1:30pm - Dr McElnay says the number of cases is expected to double over the next fortnight.
1:22pm - Robertson has responded to Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sarah Goudie's reluctance to get immunised with the Pfizer vaccine, saying it's important community leaders "show leadership" at this time of uncertainty.
"We encourage all New Zealanders to get vaccinated. It's vitally important for all of our futures… it's particularly important for community leaders to show leadership and get vaccinated," he says.
"It's clear [Goudie] is espousing views that are not going to help us get vaccinated."
He reiterated that a "very small number of people" in New Zealand are medically unable to use the Pfizer vaccine.
"I would urge that Mayor and every Mayor in New Zealand to promote vaccination."
Dr McElnay says the vaccine is safe and effective and has been widely used across the world.
1:17pm - The two women who allegedly travelled from Auckland to Blenheim without exemptions have tested negative for COVID-19, Robertson says.
He says the incident is still under investigation and it's not yet clear how the women were able to cross Auckland's boundary without exemptions. They reportedly also did not have evidence of negative test results prior to departure.
"The boundary is by and large working well," he says. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is now taking a look at how exemptions are granted.
1:14pm - Applications for the fourth round of the wage subsidy scheme close tonight, Robertson says, with applications for the fifth round opening on Friday morning.
1:11pm - "We can actively manage this outbreak at alert level 3," Robertson says. The Government is still acting on public health advice, he added, and that advice hasn't changed.
Very few of the current cases are the result of transmission within workplaces, he says. Transmission is mainly occurring within households, healthcare settings, and due to gatherings inside people's homes - which is a breach of the current restrictions.
It is affecting people in all parts of Auckland, he says.
"Now is not the time for complacency."
Robertson has two demands for Aucklanders - firstly, get vaccinated. Secondly, follow the rules - stay in your bubble, wear your masks, maintain physical distancing and only mingle in outdoor settings.
"We need people in Auckland to stick to the alert level 3 rules."
1:08pm - There have been no further detections of COVID-19 in the wastewater catchments in Palmerston North, Dr McElnay says.
However, viral fragments have been detected in Te Awamutu and Raglan catchments.
1:07pm - There are no new cases in Waikato today. The two cases reported yesterday remain unlinked, however some possible links to existing cases have been identified.
Genome sequencing for the two cases is expected later today.
No positive cases have been detected in Northland so far.
1:05pm - Thirty-three cases are in hospital, five of whom are in intensive care or high-dependency units.
Twenty-one of yesterday's cases also remain unlinked.
1:04pm - There are 71 new community cases of COVID-19 to report today.
The number is "sobering but not unexpected", Dr McElnay says.
Thirty-two cases have yet to be linked to a current case - 25 interviews have been delegated to public health teams outside of the Auckland region to help manage the workload.
The outbreak now stands at 1790 cases - 1189 of which have recovered.
12:45pm - Here are the new locations of interest as of 12pm.
The dates and times indicate a worker at Sandringham Superette has likely contracted the virus.
Lawson Convenience Store has also been identified as a potential exposure site.
12:30pm - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay will provide the latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak at 1pm.
You can watch the press conference live on Three or above via our livestream.
11:45am - The ACT Party is applauding the Government for introducing rapid antigen testing - "seven short months after we first called for it", leader David Seymour said on Friday.
Earlier on Friday morning, the Government confirmed a coalition of around 25 major businesses had been granted an exemption to import 300,000 rapid antigen tests into the country to trial across their critical worksites.
"ACT has consistently called for use of better technology during this pandemic. Not only did the Government not embrace rapid antigen testing, it made it illegal to import them," Seymour said.
The Government has long faced calls to introduce additional testing measures alongside the tried-and-trusted PCR swabs, including saliva testing and rapid antigen tests. It's hoped the rapid tests will provide an extra layer of protection and reassurance for essential workforces - instead of employees waiting up to several days for a result after getting a PCR swab, they can see whether they are negative or positive in 15 to 20 minutes.
"In June in Parliament, I questioned the Government about why it wasn’t allowing them," Seymour continued.
"News today that 'select businesses' will now be able to use this technology is a positive step forward. But it should have happened months ago.
"It's time for the Government to finally get real... and install a multi-agency, public and private sector Epidemic Response Unit that can transparently contract the right technology to respond to COVID-19."
11:30am - Under-served communities to face backlash because of Government’s elimination strategy flip-flop
Māori lives matter - that should be front and centre of the Government’s push to vaccinate at least 90 percent of the population, says Hāpai Te Hauora, a Māori public health organisation.
Hāpai Te Hauora, a tripartite owned and governed by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Whātua, Raukura Hauora O Tainui, and west Auckland urban Māori organisation Te Whānau o Waipareira, is calling on the Government to once again adopt the elimination strategy and give up its new suppression-based approach.
With Māori vaccination rates the lowest of any nationality in Aotearoa, the elimination strategy, which has served as a korowai for Māori and under-served communities, has been dropped - and this will no doubt, according to the Māori advocates, researchers and academics, result in the loss of lives with Māori being a major casualty, the organisation said on Thursday.
Along with other Māori providers, Hāpai also made submissions to the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No 2) which highlighted serious areas of deprivation within Māori and Pasifika communities.
"It serves as a reminder, that we must recognise the high levels of state mistrust for Māori communities, borne of the persistent processes of colonisation which disenfranchised whānau from their lands, culture, language and economic base. It also begs us to recall the calls of key advocacy voices such as Te Roopu Whakakaupapa Urutā and others who have dedicated their lives to Public Health and the oranga of ngā iwi Māori," Hāpai Te Hauora chief executive officer, Selah Hart, said in a statement.
Hāpai Te Hauora director John Tamihere, who is in high court proceedings with the Ministry of Health over the Māori data, said Māori organisations must be given the opportunity to look after their people.
"It is extremely frustrating that we have to take the director general of health to court to access data that should be given and that we could quickly use to locate and vaccinate our people," Tamihere said. "Especially when the ministry hand that same data to third parties without our consent. If Māori lives are lost because of this denial, we will take civil action in manslaughter."
Hart has reiterated a statement from the collective's submission to the Government.
"We as an organisation strongly urge that Aotearoa re-adopt its position of elimination of COVID-19 and that all amendments to the COVID-19 Public Health Act Response Bill (No 2) be reconsidered in light of the intention to eliminate COVID-19 from all parts of Aotearoa. It is sub-standard in every aspect of the powers and responsibilities of the legislature, that the halt, and pivot away from eliminating COVID-19, was simultaneous with COVID-19 being endemic in Māori and Pasifika communities."
General manager Boyd Broughton says Māori public health decisions cannot be "governed by 'social licence' over public health data and evidence".
"The decision to shift from an elimination strategy to a strategy of suppression, when Māori vaccination rates are lower, and Māori case numbers are rising, paints Māori as an accepted collateral damage. Te Hā Oranga finds that unacceptable."
The organisation is calling on the Government to urgently consider how the COVID-19 response can give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to recognise Māori as Te Tiriti partners with equal decision-making in regards to the pandemic response, as well as further acknowledging the efforts of marae, hapū and iwi in responding to the pandemic over the past two years.
"Māori and other indigenous nations have the knowledge and expertise to allow them to efficiently lead responses to pandemics and to protect indigenous people and others from the adverse effects of pandemics. We believe that efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic must be done in accordance with mātauranga Māori which has proven that what works for Māori works for all."
11:20am - Meanwhile across the Tasman, Victoria has recorded a staggering 2297 new cases of COVID-19, with New South Wales reporting 406.
Victoria has reported more than 2000 new cases for the first time in the pandemic - 2297 local cases were recorded in the past 24 hours, as well as 11 deaths.
11:15am - New Zealand businesses get the green light to import 300,000 rapid COVID-19 tests
Some of the country's largest companies will be able to introduce rapid antigen testing to their critical worksites this month after the Government responded to calls from the business community to allow rapid tests to be imported into New Zealand.
More than 25 companies sought emergency approval from the Government last week to allow rapid surveillance testing to get underway in New Zealand, providing an additional layer of protection for employees and helping to ensure workplace continuity.
On Thursday, the coalition of businesses confirmed a $3 million-plus order for 300,000 Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Ag Rapid tests to be imported into New Zealand after the Government, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Health gave their support for trials to begin.
"This is all about businesses wanting to do the best they can to protect the health and safety of their teams, and in an environment where you have community transmission of the virus, rapid testing becomes a critical part of that," Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said on Thursday.
"Rapid antigen tests are also key to ensuring the continuity of critical worksites, those that provide the essential services and products that keep our country going.
"We thank the Government, MBIE and the Ministry of Health for their quick response to our request to import rapid antigen tests and we look forward to working with them as our essential workforces start using the tests in the days ahead."
The Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Ag Rapid tests, procured via medical supplies' wholesaler and distributor EBOS Healthcare, are expected to start arriving in New Zealand from October 21, 2021 and will be distributed to partaking businesses. Funded by participating companies, the tests will be trialled across a range of sectors including manufacturing, primary industries, energy, food production, telecommunications, freight, aviation and aged care.
Auckland Airport plans to introduce the rapid tests for a range of operational employees, but will initially focus on daily testing for essential employees working on critical infrastructure projects, such as airfield safety officers overseeing upgrades to the fuel pipeline on the airfield.
Mainfreight managing director Don Braid said: "Mainfreight has successfully introduced rapid testing in worksites in 26 countries around the world and we intend to replicate regular testing across our 83 sites in New Zealand, in the interests of our people and customers."
Foodstuffs North Island chief executive Officer Chris Quin said: "At a time where the challenge of Delta in New Zealand is greater than ever, it's been renewing for everyone to be able to work together across government and business to enable this additional testing solution. We need to do everything we can and this is a positive step in helping to further look after our teams in stores and in the supply chain New Zealanders depend on."
Rapid antigen tests are used widely overseas as an additional tool to curb the spread of COVID-19, providing on-the spot results in minutes to help identify chains of transmission, provide reassurance to employees and ensure workplace continuity.
The tests, which will not take the place of existing PCR tests for border workers or those who are experiencing symptoms, provide results in about 15 minutes, unlike PCR tests which can take days to return results. They generally cost about $10 to $15 each.
The companies taking part in the trial include: Mainfreight, Foodstuffs North Island, Genesis, Hynds Pipe Systems, Mercury, Summerset Group, Wellington Airport, Christchurch Airport, Sky NZ, Queenstown Airport, Spark, Vodafone, The Warehouse Group, ANZ Bank, Contact Energy, Fulton Hogan, Countdown/Woolworths NZ, Fletcher Building, Carter Holt Harvey, Meridian Energy, DHL Express NZ, Air NZ and Auckland Airport.
11:05am - Two women have been charged with breaching the Health Order after they allegedly travelled from Auckland to Blenheim without exemptions, a police spokesperson has confirmed to Newshub.
"The women, aged 48 and 49, have both been charged with failing to comply with the Health Order and are due to appear in the Blenheim District Court today," the spokesperson said.
"Police and the Ministry of Health continue to investigate the women's movements, including when and how they have managed to travel to Blenheim.
"The women have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting test results. All staff interacting with the women wore full PPE."
The six officers who arrested the women were initially stood down as a precautionary measure, however following advice from health officials, police have subsequently been advised the staff are not required to isolate.
According to the New Zealand Herald, the women allegedly failed to produce evidence of negative tests prior to departing Auckland and did not have exemptions to travel. They were reportedly arrested at a local motel.
A source told the Herald the women did not resist arrest but have since been uncooperative with authorities and have refused to provide information about their movements
10:55am - Age Concern Auckland, a charitable organisation dedicated to residents aged 65 and over, is urging the community to get vaccinated to protect our elderly and vulnerable loved ones.
Ahead of the 'Super Saturday' vaccination drive on October 16, Age Concern Auckland CEO Kevin Lamb is urging all Aucklanders to get vaccinated to help protect not only themselves, but the older members of the community.
"Age Concern Auckland sees first-hand the impact that lockdowns are having on the mental health and wellbeing of our older people, 20 percent of whom are already struggling with loneliness and isolation," Lamb said on Thursday.
"Being afraid to go out is adding to this and means so many additional older people are really suffering. Lifting our community vaccination level will help ease restrictions and mean that we can all enjoy a more normal existence."
Lamb also urges older people who aren't yet vaccinated to get in touch with Age Concern Auckland about support options or accessibility information.
"We have information about accessible vaccination centres and vaccination options if you are older and no longer drive or are housebound. A lot of work has been put into ensuring that everyone has access to vaccination, so please reach out if you are older and struggling to get vaccinated, we may be able to help."
10:45am - Two sex workers have reportedly been arrested at a Blenheim motel after travelling from Auckland without an exemption.
The pair also failed to produce negative test results before departing Auckland, according to the New Zealand Herald.
A source told the Herald that police were alerted to the women being in Blenheim on Tuesday. Officers located the pair at a local motel and they were taken into custody.
Neither of the women were carrying an exemption for essential or personal travel or evidence of a negative test for COVID-19, says the outlet.
They have reportedly been charged with failing to comply with the current Health Order.
Newshub has contacted the police and Ministry of Health for further information.
10:35am - Several new locations of interest have been identified as of 10am, including the Supervalue Parkwood in Hamilton and the public toilets on Cliff St in Raglan.
Countdown Roselands in Papakura is a new location of interest in Auckland, as well as Life Pharmacy in Birkenhead on the North Shore.
New potential exposure events have been added for Pak'nSave on Henderson's Lincoln Rd, as well as for Countdown in Onehunga and Greenlane.
10:30am - Government green lights rapid antigen testing
Some of the country's largest businesses have put in an order for 300,000 approved rapid antigen tests for their workforce after working at pace with the Government on a new scheme unveiled by Associate Minister of Health and Research and Science and Innovation, Ayesha Verrall.
A coalition of around 25 businesses across a range of sectors has been granted an exemption by Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, to import and use approved rapid antigen tests.
The development comes just a week after Verrall announced the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is collaborating with business and the Ministry of Health to support and accelerate additional levels of testing for New Zealand's workers.
"As we enter a new phase of our COVID-19 response, with more and more New Zealanders gaining protection through vaccinations, we can expand the tools we use to find and stamp out the virus," Verrall said on Thursday.
"Some of the businesses in this group are already using rapid antigen tests successfully overseas, and their international experience has helped develop this New Zealand scheme. We will continue to refine, learn and iron out any issues in this first phase, before we look at how this testing can be rolled out as part of our wider COVID-19 response.
"To begin with, businesses will use nasal swabs. Rapid antigen testing can provide a result within around 15 minutes. But they tend to be less sensitive at detecting cases, so PCR tests will remain the mainstay of COVID-19 testing in most situations."
Rapid antigen testing will sit alongside other COVID-19 testing used in New Zealand, and vaccinations, to boost the public health response.
"Businesses are focused on protecting the health and safety of their teams, as well as ensuring their critical work sites can continue to operate when there are cases of the virus in the community. Rapid testing is a vital added layer of protection to help identify chains of transmission and ensure workplace continuity," Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said.
"We thank the Government, MBIE and the Ministry of Health for their quick response to our request to import rapid antigen tests, and we look forward to working with them as our essential workforces start using the tests in the days ahead."
The coalition of businesses covers industries including manufacturing, energy, food production, telecommunications, freight, aviation and aged care. They have signed up to a charter with MBIE and the Ministry of Health, committing to work together and share insights to inform any wider roll-out of rapid antigen testing to other work sites.
"This is about supporting businesses to increase levels of testing amongst their workers, harnessing innovation, and supporting the COVID-19 economic recovery. Our priority is to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. We are committed to engaging and working constructively with businesses and communities, as we continue to swiftly identify and respond to cases of COVID-19," Verrall said.
10:10am - The Government spent the first half of 2021 in "self-congratulation mode" despite having "no clear plan" to cope with an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant, which found a firm foothold in Auckland two months ago, Opposition leader Judith Collins said in a scathing statement on Thursday.
New Zealand is at "a tipping point" in the fight against COVID-19, Collins said. With the elimination strategy no longer viable against the Delta variant, she says it's clear the Government "doesn't know what to do next" after becoming overly complacent following their sucess against the virus last year.
“New Zealand went all-in on the elimination strategy. It was effective in 2020 but Labour's failure to plan for Delta meant it has failed in 2021," Collins said. "The daily 1pm press conferences have turned into a litany of bad news and there is no clear plan from the Government.
"The Government has ruled out a return to a level 4 lockdown but it has so far refused to publish the health advice, despite repeated calls for them to do so. Independent public health experts are confused by the Government's approach, and who can blame them.
"It's clear now that the Government spent the first six months of this year in self-congratulation mode, happy to have the developed world's slowest vaccine rollout."
The steadfast commitment to the elimination strategy blindsided the Government, who believed the model could continue to work indefinitely despite the different set of challenges posed by the Delta strain, Collins continued.
"There has been no back-up plan. They went all-in on the final hand of a poker game, hoping for a royal flush. The odds were stacked against New Zealand and so it has proved.
"The key question confronting New Zealand is, where do we go from here?"
The Opposition is calling on the Government to urgently upscale saliva testing capability, order vaccine booster shots, rollout rapid antigen tests, particularly to essential workers crossing alert level boundaries, and outline a series of vaccination targets that will lead to relaxed restrictions.
"Rather than vague aspirations about picnics, New Zealand needs a clearly defined pathway from here."
9:50am - "Super (Shot) Saturday this weekend will pull out all the stops to get Aucklanders vaccinated. We're asking for a massive push from all our communities across the region to drive our vaccination levels up as high as possible," says Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
9:35am - A reminder of the current vaccination numbers:
9:20am - The Mayor of Thames-Coromandel is ignoring the Government's call to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Sandra Goudie says she is waiting for an alternative to the current Pfizer vaccine before getting the jab.
While she is not saying "no" to vaccinations, she believes the Novavax jab is more appropriate for her - despite it still pending Medsafe approval.
Earlier this year, Goudie came under fire for not scanning QR codes - and later admitted she had become complacent.
Goudie's latest comments about the vaccine have sparked backlash, including from prominent broadcaster Hillary Barry.
"The people of Thames-Coromandel deserve so much better," Barry wrote on Facebook.
Newshub on Thursday asked Goudie if she felt she was letting other New Zealanders down by waiting for the Novavax jab.
"That's some people's point of view," she said.
"Like everybody else, we all have a choice so I choose to exercise my choice and I'm sticking with that, and I'm not going to get into a discussion or a debate around my choice.
"You always base your choices on the knowledge you have - I do my own research if you like,and I'm sure other people do too, and so from there you make choices."
9:10am - The Prime Minister will travel to the Taranaki region on Friday to support local vaccination initiatives.
Jacinda Ardern has been out on the road across the North Island, reaching communities with some of the lowest rates of vaccination.
It's hoped the Prime Minister's presence will encourage uptake and give some hesitant residents the final push towards getting the jab.
Speaking at Tuesday's press conference, Ardern said the upcoming Super Saturday vaccination drive - October 16 - will give everyone the chance to roll up their sleeves and help make New Zealand "one of the most vaccinated, and therefore protected countries in the world".
Currently 82 percent of eligible New Zealanders - those aged 12 and over - have had their first dose of the vaccine. About 58 percent have had their second dose and are fully vaccinated.
In Auckland, 87 percent have received their first dose and 63 percent are fully vaccinated.
"Overall these are good figures and according to Our World in Data, put us ahead of the United States and Germany and just behind the United Kingdom," Ardern said.
"But they aren't high enough yet to feel confident that we can ease restrictions dramatically without seeing a big surge in cases that could overwhelm our health services.
"So instead of big surges in cases, we want to see a big surge in vaccinations this week."
8:50am - Scientists who've gone out of their way to try and help the public understand the COVID-19 pandemic say they're being increasingly targeted for abuse and threats of violence.
An international survey of scientist who've made media appearances to talk about COVID-19 has found more than a fifth - 22 percent - have "received threats of physical or sexual violence", 15 percent have had their lives threatened and about two-thirds are having second thoughts about sharing their expertise ever again. The results were published in journal Nature on Thursday.
New Zealand scientists have not been immune.
"This is not completely new but it has become much more intense and vitriolic during the pandemic," Shaun Hendy, a disease modeller at University of Auckland research centre Te Pūnaha Matatini, told Newshub.
"While academics have been targeted online by people like Cameron Slater for some time, it has now become much more widespread with a small minority of people becoming attracted to conspiracy theories that claim the threats from COVID are exaggerated, faked, or part of a plot.
"These notions are currently being promoted by the far right and anti-vax groups and it's very sad to see this is such a widespread phenomenon with scientists around the world being targeted in this way."
8:25am - Visits to Hillpark Bakery Manurewa, Leabank Superette Manurewa, Hillpark Superette Manurewa, Kiwi Bakery Manurewa, and Mobil Clendon Park are the latest locations of interest.
8am - New toy sales on Trade Me have increased by 40 percent as Kiwis rush to get their kids toys for Christmas amidst global stock shortage fears.
Spokesperson Millie Silvester said while there's still 72 sleeps until December 25, global toy shortage fears have pushed some parents to get started on their Christmas shopping already.
"With global supply chain issues, there's going to be a shortage of toy products this silly season. This means if you want that 'it' toy for your child this Christmas - get in quick or risk missing out."
In September, the number of new toy sales on the site were up 40 per cent when compared with the year prior.
"We have thousands of stores on Trade Me selling new goods and they're telling us that Kiwis have started their Christmas shopping earlier than normal this year while the digital shelves are full."
The toys which saw the biggest increases were trampolines, Lego items and kids bikes.
7:30am - Clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland has spoken to The AM Show about doom scrolling.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic can create a funnel of anxiety-inducing information.
Sutherland said while Kiwis should continue to stay informed about current affairs through the news, it's also about finding a healthy balance where it doesn't impact your mood.
"I think we often wait to feel happy… [we need to] think about what can I do to lift my spirits up again."
7:10am - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says the Government is considering more support for Auckland businesses.
He told RNZ's First Up he's aware of how tough the ongoing lockdown is on businesses in the hospitality, events and accommodation sectors.
7am - An Auckland Councillor says patchy vaccine uptake in south Auckland shows a "radical overhaul" is required in Government if vulnerable communities are to be safe.
Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor Daniel Newman says vaccination teams and community organisations are doing an "amazing job" to protect vulnerable communities in south Auckland, but says other agencies are either absent or seemingly indifferent to the crisis that is about to hit thousands of unvaccinated residents.
"The Auckland region is about to surpass 90 percent first dose vaccine uptake yet thousands of eligible people, particularly Maori and young people, will have no protection whatsoever. Those people are primarily located in low income communities where deprivation and hesitancy is highest.
"The public vaccination campaign was initially slow and not well targeted, but that is changing now. We're in a race against COVID-19 and unfortunately the pandemic is now seeding and transmitting among the unvaccinated population."
Newman says with Delta's speed of transmission, along with vaccine hesitancy, more help is needed.
"Kainga Ora is a major landlord in South Auckland. Its tenancy manager and senior managers all need to be in South Auckland knocking on doorsteps to plead for uptake of the Pfizer vaccine. Kainga Ora needs to help organise events in cul-de-sacs where vaccinators can undertake direct-to-whanau vaccinations while fulfilling mandatory observation on people's front lawns.
"Kainga Ora needs to help fund kai incentives to get its tenants vaccinated. The value of a vaccination massively exceeds the cost of the incentive.
"The Ministry of Education needs to mandate vaccination events in every South Auckland school. The Ministry needs to stand in between school boards and the public and stare down vocal opposition from anti vax parents who resent school-based vaccination events.
"Corrections needs to be organise prisoners serving home detention and those on bail to attend vaccination events. This cannot be left to individual prisoners to negotiate with their GP and Corrections officer, a proactive approach is necessary to help keep people safe.
"Oranga Tamariki needs to reach out to every vulnerable family, whanau or aiga and urge uptake of the vaccine. Once again, kai packs need to be offered and transport arranged to get people to a vaccination site.
"If we do all of these things, coupled with the vaccination events that are taking place around the clock, we may have a chance of getting communities that are currently sitting at around 70 percent closer to or over 90 per cent on first dose vaccination. Once we get that, we can plan for a final push to convert to full vaccination in three weeks."
6:40am - ACT leader David Seymour is calling on the Government to set a date for Freedom Day and create a plan.
"This proposal is not radically different from the Government’s eventual plan, we are simply saying they should set a timeframe and stick to it," he said.
"The Government might be able to afford procrastination, too many others can't.
"The Government got caught on the hop by Delta and not offers only uncertainty. It has gone on for too long. People will put up with a lot if they know when it ends, but Jacinda Ardern is careering from week to week with one madcap initiative after another."
Seymour said Kiwis in level 3 are "at boiling point" and need something to look forward to.
"ACT would take the following steps to Freedom:
1. Set the date and stick to it
2. Supercharge vaccination with community partnerships and financial incentives
3. Engage every sector in all-in sprints to reduce transmission, vaccination and death
4. Remove restrictions as we know them and get on with life."
6:15am - A new survey has revealed more than one in three businesses (34 percent) have changed their views on working from home, to offer it permanently to some workers outside of lockdowns. However, 73 percent of these organisations report some employees feel isolated at home and prefer the team environment of the office.
This increases to 80 percent within smaller businesses of fewer than 50 employees.
These organisations also said flexible working has reduced their teams’ ability to collaborate (20 per cent) and has had a negative impact on office culture (five per cent).
The research, by Southern Cross Health Insurance and BusinessNZ, surveyed 116 private and public sector businesses of all sizes, representing more than 95,000 employees.
Southern Cross Health Insurance CEO Nick Astwick said the pandemic has resulted in a material shift in the way people work, communicate, and connect, and New Zealand businesses have been at the forefront of embracing this change.
"Businesses have had it pretty tough but they moved quickly to adapt and reimagine how to operate in this new COVID-19 world so their organisations and people can flourish.
"The challenges of remote working outlined in the report are likely to have intensified during the latest lockdown, but businesses have continued to step up to support the wellbeing of workers as the effects of the pandemic continue."
6am - The AM Show is on now. You can watch the show here at newshub.co.nz or on Three or listen on Magic Talk.
5:50am - Sandra Goudie, the mayor of Thames-Coromandel, is yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but says she's not opposed to getting it.
Goudie confirmed to Newshub she currently isn't vaccinated against COVID-19 and that her preference is to receive the Novavax vaccine, which is one supplier the Government has an agreement with.
She said it's her "personal choice" to receive this vaccine over Pfizer, but didn't go into further detail.