Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, October 21

New Zealand has recorded more than 100 new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since the virus arrived on our shores last February, with 94 new infections in Auckland and eight in the Waikato region.

The previous highest daily total, 94, was reported on Tuesday.

As of 10am on Thursday, 62 of the 102 new cases have been epidemiologically linked to an existing case - including 30 household contacts - but a link has yet to be found for 40. Investigations are continuing to help determine their connection to the outbreak.

"The sharp rise in cases is a reminder of the infectiousness of COVID-19, and particularly the Delta variant, and the importance of vaccination as the best protection," the Ministry of Health said.

It has been revealed that one of the new cases in Waikato had travelled to Hawke's Bay last week while they were infectious, later testing positive after returning to Te Awamutu. Their vaccination status is unknown, however both of their contacts have tested negative. The first location of interest for Hawke's Bay - Kmart in Napier - was identified by the Ministry of Health late on Thursday afternoon.

Immunologist and senior lecturer Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu says New Zealand is "continuing to break records - just in the wrong places".

Hospitalisations of COVID-positive patients also reached a record high on Thursday, with 46 cases now either on a ward or in intensive care. 

"Having the COVID-19 vaccine demonstrates our commitment to protecting others, including our most vulnerable, and this includes our younger children who still don't yet have access to a vaccine that will keep them safe from COVID-19," she said on Thursday.

"Please get vaccinated and help keep others around you safe."

On Wednesday, the Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, warned case numbers are now expected to double every 10 to 12 days.

On Friday evening, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced that alert level 3 for affected areas of the Waikato region will be extended until at least 11:59pm on Wednesday, October 27. The settings will be reviewed again that day.

Meanwhile, students in years 11 to 13 are preparing to return to school on Tuesday, October 26.  Education and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday that while senior students can get back to the classroom, those in years 1 to 10 will need to wait a while longer. 

What you need to know

  • 102 cases were reported on Thursday, 94 in Auckland and eight in Waikato - the highest daily case number since the virus arrived in NZ
  • Hospitalisations have also reached a record high - 46 COVID-positive patients are currently either on a ward or in the ICU
  • One of Waikato's new cases travelled to Hawke's Bay last week while infectious. A location of interest has already been identified - Kmart in Napier
  • Six more North Shore party attendees have been slapped with fines
  • Students in Years 11 to 13 and their teachers will return to school on Tuesday, October 26 while Year 1 to 10 students remain at home
  • Two more peope are to appear in court following the anti-lockdown protests at Auckland Domain
  • Auckland remains in alert level 3 - Northland moved to alert level 2 at 11:59pm on Tuesday
  • Restrictions for the areas of Waikato currently under alert level 3 will remain in place until at least next Wednesday
  • Click here for all the locations of interest.

These live updates have now finished.

9pm - Suspected anti-vaxxers have been making bogus COVID-19 vaccination bookings in one of the least protected areas of the country.

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners president Sam Murton said there had been a spate of fake bookings in Tairāwhiti over the past few days, including in the lead-up to Super Saturday on October 16.

Read more here.

8:20pm - Four airport security officers are challenging the Government's 'no jab, no job' policy in court.

The four lost their jobs after refusing to get the vaccine, which has been mandated for the border workforce.

Their lawyer, Sue Grey, went to the Wellington High Court on Thursday to challenge the legality of the order - and ended up debating what COVID-19 actually was.

"We've got people that test positive that don't have symptoms. It seems to be an art more than a science, perhaps you could say it like that," Grey said.

"Sure, but I think I can safely assume COVID exists, can't I?" Justice Francis Cooke responded.

The Government's mandate clearly states that staffers who work at the border, the port or in managed isolation and quarantine facilities must get the vaccine. Grey said that since April, the four workers have been "coerced and bullied" to receive the injection.

The four aviation security officers have name suppression and the airport they were employed at cannot be revealed. Some claimed they didn't even interact with international air travellers, but were still informed on August 26 that they would be fired if they refused to get the jab by the end of that month.

Read more here.

8pm - Despite the record number of cases and hospitalisations on Tuesday, New Zealand's ongoing battle against COVID-19 hasn't reached the same lows as other nations.

On Thursday's show, The Project compared New Zealand's death rate to those of other nations. To date, 28 people with COVID-19 have died from the virus in Aotearoa.

Singapore, which has a similar population size, has recorded 264 deaths due to COVID-19. If New Zealand had Singapore's death toll per capita, we would have recorded 210 deaths. 

If New Zealand had Australia's death toll per capita, we would have recorded 303 deaths.

If New Zealand had Sweden's death toll per capita, we would have had 7000 deaths - and if we had the United Kingdom's, we would be looking at about 10,000 deaths.

If we had the United States' death toll per capita, that number jumps to nearly 11,000.

"We've had a really good run until now and we've had most of our period over the last 18 months with zero community cases in New Zealand - and that's been fantastic," COVID-19 modeller Dion O'Neale told The Project on Thursday evening.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, October 21
Photo credit: The Project

7:45pm - Millions in Melbourne are readying to emerge from one of the world's longest COVID-19 lockdowns later on Thursday, with pubs, restaurants and cafes rushing to restock supplies before opening their doors - even as cases hover near record levels.

Since early August, residents in Australia's second-largest city have been in lockdown - their sixth during the pandemic - to quell an outbreak fuelled by the highly infectious Delta strain.

Officials promised to lift lockdowns once more than 70 percent of people aged 16 and over in Victoria state were fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday confirmed the state had reached that target. Further restrictions are set to ease when the double-dose vaccination rate hits 80 percent and 90 percent.

"The longest road has been journeyed in Victoria and that long road really starts to open up tonight," Morrison told Seven News on Thursday.

From 11:59 pm (local time) on Thursday, pubs and cafes can have 20 fully vaccinated patrons indoors and 50 outdoors, while hairdressers can allow entry for five customers. Masks will still be mandatory both indoors and outdoors.

By then, the city of five million would have spent a cumulative 262 days, or nearly nine months, under stay-home orders since March 2020 - the world's longest, exceeding a 234-day lockdown in Buenos Aires, according to Australian media.

Read more here.

7:30pm - Restrictions for the areas of Waikato currently under alert level 3 will remain in place until next Wednesday.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday that keeping these areas under alert level 3 continues to be "the most prudent course of action".

"Alert level 3 will continue until 11:59pm on Wednesday, October 27 and will be reviewed on that day," he says.

"I know this will be frustrating for people in these areas. It's clear that people in the region as a whole have been following the rules, but the eight new cases today, all in the Te Awamutu area, show how stubborn Delta can be."

Seven of the eight new infections have been linked to existing cases, but the other is still being investigated. It follows four new cases on Wednesday and seven on Tuesday.

"While most of these have been household contacts or people linked to known cases, there is a risk the virus will spread further, which means we are taking a cautious approach," Hipkins says.

"I again urge people in Waikato to get vaccinated. It's the best way to protect yourselves and your loved ones. More than 1058 people received a first dose yesterday and 2218 got a second dose."

With the long weekend coming up, he urges people to stay at home in their bubbles. He warns police are continuing to carry out checks in alert level 3 areas.

He also encourages people in Te Awamutu to get tested if they, or anyone in their household, has symptoms - or if they have travelled out of Te Awamutu over the past week for work or other activities, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not.

7pm - Opposition leader Judith Collins is calling on the Government to allow fully vaccinated Kiwis more freedoms, including reopening hospitality venues, gyms and bars to double-jabbed residents. 

"Ninety percent of Aucklanders have had one dose and three-quarters are fully vaccinated," Collins said on Thursday. "National has called on the Government to allow fully vaccinated Aucklanders to work and play.

"Auckland's lockdown is now clearly about suppressing the virus rather than eliminating it. In these conditions vaccinated Aucklanders pose little risk and should be able to work and play.

"Cafes, bars, gyms and countless other businesses should be able to welcome back fully vaccinated customers with little public health risk, just as has been done in countless cities overseas."

The Government is expected to announce the details of its new 'traffic light' framework on Friday.

6:45pm - New Zealand has become the second black cab off the rank securing a post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK. 

From day one, tariffs will be removed from 97 percent of New Zealand products entering the UK, including wine, our biggest export. That industry will save $14 million immediately. 

Our second-largest export, lamb, won't get full free access for another 15 years. 

While dairy is our largest international export, we have long been effectively locked out of the UK market. But in five years, there will be free access to export New Zealand-made butter and cheese. 

It's expected when the deal is fully implemented that our exports to the UK will increase by 40 percent, adding nearly $1 billion to the economy. 

And those dreaming of a post-COVID OE could be about to benefit too. New Zealand is pushing for an upgrade to our working holiday scheme, which sees thousands of young Kiwis jet off to London for an OE.

"I myself was one of the benefactors of that scheme," Ardern said. 

New Zealand could be set for a similar deal to Australia, which would raise the age-limit from 30 to 35 and allow Kiwis to work there for three years rather than two. 

Read more here.

6:30pm - Senior students across Auckland will be returning to the classroom next Tuesday - but Takapuna Grammar on the North Shore has decided not to reopen just yet.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced that schools will reopen to pupils in Year 11, Year 12 and Year 13 from October 26 as senior students cram for upcoming exams and external assessments.

But following the announcement, Takapuna Grammar School's principal emailed students' parents to say they would be continuing with remote learning until at least the end of next week, according to the New Zealand Herald, who viewed the correspondence.

In her email, principal Mary Nixon said that reopening on Tuesday was "not practical nor necessary" as an immediate option. She said the school already had a detailed plan in place that was working for students.

Practice exams would stay online, Nixon said, as they had already been carefully arranged by staff to suit students' requirements. It was "untenable" to have students sit their exams in-person at this stage, she wrote.

6:15pm - The first location of interest has been identified in Hawke's Bay after an infectious person visited the region last week before testing positive.

The location of interest is Kmart on Ford Rd in Onekawa, Napier.

Here are the latest locations of interest as of 6pm:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, October 21
Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, October 21

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

5:45pm - A COVID-positive man who absconded from an Auckland managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility was able to escape due to technical problems.

A review released on Thursday by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the agency that controls MIQ, shows the 23-year-old man was able to escape the Novotel and Ibis Ellerslie because CCTV door alarms linked to the stairwell didn't go off as "the audio cable was in the wrong computer port".

At the time of his escape, the hotel had only been a quarantine facility for one week. Previously, it was used as managed isolation for non-COVID-positive returnees from overseas.

The 23-year-old was admitted to the Novotel on September 1 and was quarantined with one other person from his bubble. 

The report says a review of CCTV footage found he had left and returned to his room twice between 11:40pm and 12:40am. He eventually left his room a third time at 1:04am and escaped the facility by scaling perimeter fencing.

While the alarm wasn't tripped in the stairwell, he was seen on CCTV leaving his room - which was when security staff should have escalated the response, the report says.

After leaving, the man then walked for three hours in the cold and rain to a house in Ōtāhuhu.

"He deliberately tested how far he could venture from his room, and when outside, concealed himself from detection before scaling the perimeter fences," the report says.

Staff also hadn't conducted a first wellbeing check before he absconded seven hours later.

Read more here.

5:30pm - New analysis suggests unvaccinated people could be reinfected with COVID-19 every 16 months on average. 

A recent study at the Yale School of Public Health in Connecticut, US, published in The Lancet Microbeanalysed immunological data from close viral relatives of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to determine how long natural immunity from infection lasts for unvaccinated individuals - indicating when they should expect to become reinfected with COVID-19.

The findings suggest reinfections are becoming more common as immunity against COVID-19 wanes. Professor Jeffrey Townsend and his colleagues noted that if there were no vaccines and no infection prevention measures, such as masking or social distancing, reinfection should be expected "on a three-month to five-year timescale - meaning that the average person should expect to get COVID every three months to five years".

In a model where everyone has either been infected with or vaccinated against the virus, unvaccinated individuals should expect to be reinfected with COVID-19 roughly every 16-17 months on average, the study found.

"Our results are based on average times of waning immunity across multiple infected individuals," study co-author Hayley Hassler told Yale Daily News. "Any one of those individuals may experience longer or shorter durations of immunity depending on immune status, cross-immunity, age, and multiple other factors."

Read more here.

5:15pm - Aotearoa is still in a strong position to battle COVID-19 despite the record number of new community cases on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield said based on the current trajectory, there could be up to 180 cases a day within two to three weeks. The number of hospitalised cases would depend on how many had been vaccinated, he said.

Not many cases are going undetected, according to the latest modelling, he said, and the current numbers were expected.

"Our sense at the moment is we are finding most of the cases out there."

Robertson said the day-to-day fluctuations could be a "bit of an emotional rollercoaster".

"We can expect to see case numbers rise. We do still want to keep them under control and we are working hard to do that and we thank Aucklanders in their cooperation in doing so.

"While keeping a lid on case numbers is important to reducing hospital admissions and reducing pressure on our health system, case numbers in and of themselves are not the only measure we need to use to assess the severity of the outbreak."

It's estimated that in future, 90 percent of cases will be able to be treated at home - but the vaccine remains the key to keeping communities safe, he said.

"We are in a strong position but we do need to build on that and see more people vaccinated."

Read more here.

5pm - "We're continuing to break records, just in the wrong places," says Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, an immunologist and a senior lecturer in Pathology & Molecular Medicine at the University of Otago Wellington.

Thursday saw the highest daily number of COVID-19 cases recorded in Aotearoa since the virus first arrived on our shores in February 2020 - 102 new infections were reported, 94 in Auckland and eight in Waikato.

The highest number of hospitalisations was also recorded on Thursday - 46 cases are currently receiving treatment, seven of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units.

"The highest daily number of COVID-19 cases ever recorded in Aotearoa New Zealand was today at 102 community cases. The highest hospitalised number of cases was also recorded today, at 46 - we're continuing to break records, just in the wrong places," Dr Sika-Paotonu said on Friday.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted inequities in health for Māori and Pacific communities that have persisted over decades and generations. Our COVID-19 response has managed to cast a spotlight on the accessibility issues and the barriers faced by many in society when trying to access care – and in the COVID-19 context, includes trying to get a vaccine, test or other services."

She says the Government's vaccination targets must include a goal of inoculating at least 90-95 percent of Māori and Pacific peoples to help protect vulnerable communities, including children and young people.

As of Thursday, 67 percent of eligible Māori have received their first dose (384,711) and 46 percent (265,424) are fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, 81 percent of eligible Pacific people have had their first dose (233,071) and 61 percent (175,061) are fully vaccinated.

"Leaving our most vulnerable behind and unprotected will have consequences that will be far reaching and will speak to generations to come. How Aotearoa New Zealand responds and treats the needs of the most vulnerable during this COVID-19 pandemic is indeed revealing our moral compass as a society and will define us all as a nation for generations to come," Dr Sika-Paotonu continued.

"Having the COVID-19 vaccine demonstrates our commitment to protecting others, including our most vulnerable, and this includes our younger children who still don't yet have access to a vaccine that will keep them safe from COVID-19.

"Please get vaccinated and help keep others around you safe."

4:35pm - Here are the latest locations of interest as of 4pm:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, October 21

4:25pm - An update on Waikato's COVID-19 response from the District Health Board (DHB)

Latest update on COVID-19 testing 

There were eight new cases confirmed in Waikato overnight, all in the Te Awamutu area. Seven of the cases have been linked to existing cases and the public health team expect to speak with the remaining case today. All exposure events for those seven cases have been confirmed as either between individuals and/or in a private setting.  

To date, Waikato has recorded 64 cases during this outbreak.

Location of COVID-19 cases 

  • Raglan - 23
  • Hamilton - 19
  • Cambridge - 2
  • Kawhia - 1
  • Te Awamutu/Kihikihi - 17
  • Whatawhata - 2.

For privacy reasons, the Waikato DHB is no longer reporting Kihikihi separately to Te Awamutu. Where population numbers are low there is increased risk that detailed information may lead to identification of individuals.  

Pop-up testing sites are operating on Thursday in Te Awamutu, Raglan and Hamilton.  

The low number of locations of interest in Waikato throughout this outbreak indicates contact has largely been limited to private settings and between individuals, rather than in public spaces where there is a greater risk of exposure. 

Public health investigations into the new cases are continuing.

People can also get tested on appointment at GP practices across the region, including designated GP practices that take enrolled and non-enrolled patients. See Healthpoint for a full list of options. 

Latest update on COVID-19 vaccinations 

Reporting on vaccination rates is at TLA level provided by the Ministry of Health. This data is accurate as of 2pm, October 20 and is the latest data available. 

Territorial local authority 

1st doses 

2nd doses 

1st doses, eligible population 

Fully vaccinated, eligible population 


Hamilton City 



86.19 pct 

69.52 pct 


Hauraki District 



76.52 pct 

56.23 pct 


Matamata-Piako District 



82.82 pct 

61.22 pct 


Ōtorohanga District 



75.80 pct 

54.15 pct 


Ruapehu District 



73.54 pct 

51.66 pct 


South Waikato District 



75.27 pct 

53.19 pct 


Thames-Coromandel District 



82.99 pct 

68.91 pct 


Waikato District 



83.01 pct 

65.19 pct 


Waipa District 



86.89 pct 

67.99 pct 


Waitomo District 



76.73 pct 

57.12 pct 


Waikato region 



83.57 pct 

65.47 pct 

Vaccination data 

To date (as at 10.37am, October 21), 532,916 vaccinations have been delivered in Waikato. 

  • 298,587 first doses have been administered 

  • 234,329 second doses have been administered 

  • On Wednesday, 3276 vaccinations were delivered across the Waikato. 

Pop-up vaccination sites and vaccination clinics 

There are number of pop-up vaccination centres operating across Waikato this week. Details are at

The Cambridge community vaccination centre at Cambridge Community Marae is closed from October 20.  Vaccinations will continue to be available at Cambridge Medical Centre (bookings essential via or 0800 28 29 26) and Unichem Cambridge (offering both walk-ins and bookings). There is good capacity at both sites to support the community. Vaccinations are free wherever you go. 

  • Mobile vaccination clinics are rolling out across the takiwā with regular visits to locations through to the end of the year. The schedule is on the Waikato DHB website and will be regularly updated with more dates and locations.   

  • Also visit the Waikato DHB FB page for up to date mobile vaccination clinic locations. 

  • In Hamilton and elsewhere in the Waikato, you can get your vaccinations at GPs, pharmacies, mobile sites and at our vaccination centres. There's lots of options, so come along and meet the friendly vaccination teams. 

  • Walk-in appointments are available at many vaccination sites across Waikato. 

  • People can now also bus free to and from their vaccination appointment if they show proof of their booking. See for more details.

4:10pm - Ministry of Health adds Taumarunui to wastewater testing

The Waikato's Medical Officer of Health, Dr Richard Vipond, has requested Ruapehu District Council to start testing wastewater from the Hikumutu wastewater treatment plant in Taumarunui for COVID-19.

The council's environmental manager, Stuart Watson, said although there is currently no evidence of COVID-19 in Taumarunui, the decision by the Ministry of Health to start wastewater testing is a precautionary move to confirm if COVID-19 has spread into the area.

"As testing resources are limited the Ministry of Health, who determines what populations to test, needs to take a strategic approach on where to test," he said on Thursday.

In this case, the decision to start testing Taumarunui's wastewater is in response to COVID-19 being detected in neighbouring regions.

The council has just received the test kits and the first wastewater samples will be taken on Monday, October 25.

Testing will now be completed weekly as a normal course of business, the council's chief executive, Clive Manley, confirmed on Friday.

If the results indicate that COVID-19 is in the Taumarunui community, health authorities have a range of responses, he said, from pop-up testing and vaccination clinics to increasing the alert level restrictions.

Ohakune and Raetihi will not be tested for now, "but that could easily change if their situation does", Manley said.

4pm - Across the Tasman, thousands of households with school-aged children across New South Wales are set to receive a $250 voucher as a token of appreciation for enduring months of lockdown.

Premier Dominic Perrottet made the announcement as part of a $2.8 billion 'Economic Recovery Strategy' to turbocharge the state's financial bounceback.

The vouchers, which will be available to every household with a school-aged child in 2021, can be used on accommodation as part of the 'Dine and Discover' programme. 

The vouchers will be redeemable through Service NSW in early 2022.

"This is a big thank you to every single mum and dad right across the state," Perrottet told reporters on Thursday.

"We know it has been an incredibly difficult time of juggling kids, work and family life but we all owe you a great deal of gratitude.

"We want you to get out, with your kids, or take some respite from them and go out with your partner, and enjoy the best that New South Wales has to offer.

“This is a big thank you, it has been tough, it has been a challenge with close to three months of homeschooling, but you have been the primary educators to ensure none of our children gets left behind."

3:50pm - Police have taken further action as part of an investigation into the mass gatherings held at the Auckland Domain earlier this month, Superintendent Shanan Gray, the relieving Auckland City District Commander, said on Thursday.

Two people, a 44-year-old woman and a 36-year-old man, have been summoned to appear in the Auckland District Court on November 11, 2021.

They will be appearing on charges relating to organising and attending mass gatherings held on October 2 and October 16, in breach of alert level 3 restrictions.

Enquiries are ongoing, Gray said.

"We cannot rule out further enforcement action being taken in this matter."

3:30pm - Auckland's beloved Farmers Santa Parade has been cancelled due to the ongoing restrictions - and unfortunately, Santa Claus hasn't been able to book a slot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).

Santa Parade chair and CEO of the Auckland Business Chamber, Michael Barnett, apologised on behalf of Santa, but assured the public he would make it to New Zealand in time for Christmas.

"Santa Claus will be stuck in MIQ until December 24 and with great disappointment has told his elves and fairies that the much-loved Farmers Santa Parade will not be able to go ahead for the first time in decades," Barnett said. "Santa is so sorry, but he too has to follow COVID-19 restrictions.

"His busy schedule getting everything ready for his deliveries on Christmas Eve and delays in shipping meant he couldn't book his slot in quarantine earlier even as an essential worker.

"But kids, do not worry. He will be here on time on Christmas Eve and making his way to your place.

"And while we will miss the parade, remember nothing can spoil Christmas and the spirit of goodwill."

2:29pm - Students at Kāpiti College have confronted a group of anti vaxxers who swarmed their school. 

Students at the college said the anti vaxxers made them feel uncomfortable. 

Olive Armstrong, a Year 12 student at the school, told Newshub 20 to 30 people, many holding protest cards, gathered outside the college, at each of its three entrances. 

"As I'm coming around, I see all these people just holding up signs about us getting vaccines and just not to trust it basically. As I'm coming around, I'm just thinking, 'what the hell is going on?'." 

Read the full story here.

2:28pm - New locations of interest have been added including two in Warkworth. 

New World Warkworth on Sunday October 17 between 1:49pm and 2:00pm and Countdown Warkworth on Saturday and Sunday between 4:00pm to 5:00pm and 1:22pm to 1:49pm respectively. 

Other locations include, Countdown Hobsonville on Saturday October 16 between 11:00am and 12:00pm, Gilmours North Shore on the same day between 12:31pm - 1:31pm and Greenhithe Pharmacy Unichem on Thursday 14 between 11:15am - 11:30am and Wednesday 20 between  2:00pm - 2:30pm. 

Bunnings Warehouse on Constellation Drive is also a location on Saturday between 12:03pm - 1:27pm as well as Countdown Lynnmall on Sunday October 10 between 8:39pm - 9:00pm and and Saturday 16 between 8:04pm - 8:24pm.  

2:13pm - An investigation report into the absconding incident at the Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie MIQ facility on September 2,  2021 has made a number of recommendations.

Joint Head of MIQ, Brigadier Rose King said she welcomes the report and action is underway. 

"MIQ has served New Zealand well, helping to bring over 180,000 people home safely," King said. 

"The MIQ system is something that continually evolves and changes – which reflects the changing nature of the COVID-19 virus. As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, we review incidents to ensure we capture any learnings and make any necessary changes.

"We've taken a really close look at how this incident occurred to see how we can strengthen the wider MIQ system and improve the processes across all of our facilities.

King says the report recommendations include:

  • Developing an MIQ Community Case Management framework so that information relating to community cases can be more effectively shared between agencies to ensure safety, wellbeing and risk factors are understood
  •  Introducing a wellbeing and risk profile assessment for community cases
  •  Updating and improving site security plans and settings, including a review of CCTV controls, improving training for security staff and ensuring there is a shift supervisor for the security team.

 "Of the more than 180,000 people who have been through MIQ since March 2020, we have had 13 incidents involving 18 absconders. Every single event is extremely disappointing and they are all taken very seriously. But people in our facilities are not prisoners, or under arrest. We expect community cases and returnees from overseas to follow the rules and the overwhelming majority do their part to keep New Zealand safe," King said. 

"We will be doing our utmost to ensure that our processes are tightened, where appropriate, and the community is kept as safe as possible from further incidents such as this."

1:58pm - Physiotherapy New Zealand Chief Executive Sandra Kirby is welcoming news that the level 3 restrictions have been eased to allow them to treat patients. 

"It's not quite business as usual but it’s a lot closer. Up until now we've only been able to treat patients in urgent situations but I'm pleased to say the rules have changed. As long as clinics have procedures such as patient screening and preparation in place, which physiotherapists are more than capable of providing, they can use their clinical judgment when deciding who to treat.

"This is a huge step forward. Patients who have been unable to get the care they need to function better or to treat a deteriorating condition will now get support," Kirby said. 

1:41pm - Bloomfield said he is not sure whether the case who travelled to Hawke's Bay is vaccinated or not. 

1:36pm - He says he supports anything that lifts vaccination rates. 

1:35pm - Robertson says Worksafe has risk assessment tools available to see whether a company can require staff to be vaccinated. 

1:34pm - Robertson says the Waikato review will be undertaken this afternoon and possibly released later today. 

1:27am - Bloomfield said only 1.7 percent of cases in the current outbreak have been fully vaccinated. 

1:26am - Bloomfield said the R value is still 1.2 to 1.3 which means case numbers will continue rising. But he said hospitals are less likely to get overwhelmed if there are high rates of vaccination. 

1:22pm - Bloomfield said it is still unknown how Delta made its way into the community. He said they know which hotel and person it came from but just not how it got out into the community. 

1:18pm - Robertson says they believe they can still stamp out the outbreak in the Waikato. 

1:17pm - Bloomfield also revealed The Ministry has updated its guidance for Allied Health professionals working in settings outside DHBs, clarifying they can all provide services under alert level 3.

There are more than 43 different Allied Health professions which include physiotherapists, chiropractors and osteopaths.

The Ministry has worked with the sector on maintaining a balance between protecting patients and maintaining their general wellbeing. The change will enable roughly 2000 allied health professionals in Auckland alone to continue to see patients, ensuring more people are treated in the community, and preventing some trips to primary care or hospital settings.

1:15pm - There are seven people with COVID in the ICU, Bloomfield says. 

1:14pm - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says he knows today's cases might be concerning. He says cases are expected to rise but we do want to keep them in control. 

He urged Aucklanders to follow the rules over the long weekend and get vaccinated if they haven't been. 

Roberston says case numbers aren't the only thing to take into account in the outbreak.

"The bottom line is the vaccine is the key to keeping you, your family and your community safe." 

1:10pm - One of the new Waikato cases took a permitted trip to Hawke's Bay recently. They were infectious while in Hawke's Bay and there are two contacts so far. But Bloomfield says there are no cases in Hawke's Bay currently.

Both contacts have been tested and have returned negative day six results.

1:08pm - There are 46 people in hospital with seven at North Shore hospital, 14 in Middlemore, 24 at Auckland Hospital and one in Waikato. 

Bloomfield said Waikato's eight new cases are all in the Te Awamutu region and residents need to get tested if they, or someone in their house, has symptoms. Or if they've traveled in and out of Te Awamutu in the past week.

1:01pm - There are 102 new community cases of COVID-19 to report today; 94 in Auckland and eight in Waikato. As at 10am, 62 of these cases are linked - including 30 household contacts - and 40 remain unlinked, with investigations continuing to help determine their connection to the outbreak.
Ashley Bloomfield says the sharp rise in case numbers is a reminder of the infectiousness of COVID-19, and particularly the Delta variant, and the importance of vaccination as the best protection.

12:52pm - You can watch the 1pm stand up here.

12:50pm - The Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has congratulated a Tairāwhiti trust which led a fundraising effort to boost access to vaccinations in the region.

However, Foon says the situation may point to gaps in the health system which need to be looked at, particularly as it pertains to Māori.

Despite Super Saturday being touted as a major success, the East Coast region of the North Island struggled with turnout and continues to be one of the least vaccinated areas in the country. This led to the Te Aroha Kanarahi Trust setting up a Givealittle page aimed at purchasing their own vaccination van, including staff. At recent count over $123,000 was donated to the effort.

Mr Foon says it is a great initiative but it should not have been left just to the community to move with such urgency.

"The problem with some of the Ministry of Health processes is that there is a lot of red tape and it doesn't appear nimble enough to make quick decisions when needed."

Foon, who was mayor of Gisborne for 18 years before retiring in 2019, says providers like Ngāti Porou Hauora are doing their best but there is a lot of paperwork and processes to go through before action is seen on the ground.

"I acknowledge East Coast MP Kiri Allan is in discussions with Ngāti Porou Hauora and the DHB to work out what is best for the community, but iwi voices have been vocal from the pandemic outset on the development of an effective vaccine strategy," Mr Foon says. 

He says he hears the frustrations of primary Māori health providers at the coal face.

"This kōrero should have been had months ago."

Foon says the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that indigenous communities, such as Māori, have the right to participate in decisions that affect them, underscoring responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

"At a high level, the right to health care and protection is also fundamental and expressly referred to in a number of legally binding international treaties."

He also said public health experts cited issues with the initial vaccine rollout for Māori, as the booking system relating to age brackets didn't seem to take into account the lower life expectancies for tangata whenua.     

"Since then, the vaccination rates have been on the back-foot however I am hopeful with initiatives like the latest work by groups like Te Aroha Kanarahi Trust and the attention that it brings to communities like this, that we are on a positive trajectory." 

Mr Foon says a whānau-inclusive approach was always going to be important to reach Māori communities who are mobilised and motivated by the collective. 

He hopes a vaccine van can provide vaccine access to many of the young people who work across isolated parts of Te Tairāwhiti as well as their whānau.

12:34pm - Four bus trips on Bus 901 from Constellation Station to Smales Farm via Wairau Road have been added to the locations of interest. 

The trips were all on Saturday 16 October between 8:30am to 8:47am, 9:00am to 9:20am, 11:00am to 12:20am and 12:30pm to 12:5pm. 

12:11pm - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield are providing a COVID-19 update at 1pm. 

12:06pm - As an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 fatalities engulfs Romania, funeral home owner Sebastian Cocos is struggling to source coffins and keep up with a faster pace of burials.

But for him, nothing brings home the scale of what is currently the world's deadliest epidemic more than the mourners who keep returning.

"There were families who buried up to four people in two weeks, and that is not easy," he told Reuters.

Based in the central city of Ploiesti, Cocos is also president of a national funeral home association.

With COVID-19 killing one person every five minutes on average this month in a country where the inoculation rate is worryingly low, he says activity both at his funeral home and across the industry has risen 50 percent.

And he has a stark message for the majority among his compatriots who remain unvaccinated.

"There is no comparison for ... what is going on now," said Cocos, who has been in the business for 12 years. "I recommend to everyone that they get vaccinated, otherwise they will end up in our hands."

- Reuters

11:20am - Households spending outpaced income in the June quarter of 2021, Stats NZ figures show. 

"After high levels of saving through 2020, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, households have spent more than they have earned during the first half of 2021," national accounts senior manager Paul Pascoe said.

Full details can be found here

10:45am - The Warehouse is considering mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for all employees. 

The Warehouse Group CEO Nick Grayston says the company has started consulting team members about the proposal. 

"This week we've engaged with all of our team members across The Warehouse Group on how best to keep one another safe from the risks of COVID-19 and this includes a proposed policy to make COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for all team members by 1 January 2021.

Grayston said the Warehouse also supported team members to get vaccinated by offering on-site workplace vaccinations, as well as a one-off incentive payment of $100 to all fully vaccinated employees. 

"We're committed to keeping our team members as well as our customers and the many others who come into contact with us healthy and safe. The best way for us to do this is by our team being fully vaccinated.

"We have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace and we will be consulting with our team and seeking their views on a proposed policy to make COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory by January 1 2022 for all team members."

10:37am - An adviser to the Government says allowing older students back to school in Auckland and Waikato poses a significant risk. 

Dr Dion O'Neale from Te Pūnaha Matatini, which provides advice on the COVID-19 response, told Morning Report a small number of cases at school could lead to an outbreak. 

Read the full story here

10:22am - New locations of interest have been added including Countdown Roselands in Papakura on Thursday, October 14 between 6:15pm - 7:00pm and Life Pharmacy in Papakura on Friday, October 15 between 3:30pm - 4:00pm. 

Countdown Manukau is also a location on Monday, October 18 between 3:25pm - 3:35pm and Wednesday, October 20 10:38am - 11:00am. 

9:48am - While normal life is getting back to normal in Northland, lurching in and out of lockdown is taking a toll. 

Read more here.

9:23am - For Kiwis who are hesitant to get the vaccine, the Unite Against COVID-19 website has a helpful Q&A section. 

Find out everything you need to know about the vaccine here

9:08am - The Biden administration on Wednesday outlined its plan to vaccinate millions of U.S. children ages 5 to 11 as soon as the COVID-19 shot is authorized for them, readying doses and preparing locations ahead of the busy holiday season.

Unlike the mass vaccination centers used in the initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the White House said it is working to set up clinics in more than 100 children's hospital systems nationwide as well as doctor's offices, pharmacies and potentially schools.

If Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and BioNTech SE's vaccine wins wider authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the plan aims to ensure quick and equitable distribution, the White House said.

FDA officials are reviewing the Pfizer/BioNTech application seeking authorization of its 2-dose vaccine for younger children, with its panel of outside advisers scheduled to weigh in on Oct. 26. The FDA typically follows the advice of its panel but is not required to do so.

- Reuters

8:46am - Brazilian senators investigating the handling of the country's COVID-19 outbreak have dropped a recommendation from their draft report that President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with genocide and homicide, instead accusing him of "crimes against humanity."

Senators leading the congressional probe met late on Tuesday to discuss a report prepared by opposition Senator Renan Calheiros, and agreeing to remove the homicide and genocide accusations due to what one senator called technical reasons.

The draft report still needs to be voted on by the Senate commission and could be vetoed and altered.

"The decisions were technical, not political," opposition Senator Humberto Costa told Reuters. "We can't run the risk of the report being thrown out by a judge because the characterization of the crimes was not precise."

In practice, the senators' decision changes little for Bolsonaro, who has dismissed the probe as politically motivated. It is highly unlikely that the far-right politician will face trial on any such charges, which would have to be brought by Brazil's prosecutor general, whom Bolsonaro appointed.

Read the full story here.

- Reuters

8:22am - Health Minister Andrew Little is offering reassurances that the nearly 100 people isolating at home are low risk. 

"The people who are isolating at home are infected, they are at low risk of transmission to others and are therefore being allowed to isolate at home. 

"But the reality is, once we move to where we get to the acceptable isolation level is that people will continue to get infected with COVID and in fact most people will be able to or need to recover in their home or of their home is too overcrowded with too many people we will find a facility for them to go to.

"So there will be a lot more people recovering in the community than at the moment, when we get to those acceptable vaccination levels. Because, for people who are vaccinated, they will simply not get as sick as people who are unvaccinated with COVID."

8:16am - As of 1pm on Wednesday, 3,593,488 first Pfizer doses have been administered and 2,837,706 second doses. 85 percent of the eligible population in New Zealand has had one dose and 67 percent have had two doses. Ashley Bloomfield has said we need a vaccination rate of 90 percent or higher. 

8:01am - Year 12 student Skyler knows first-hand the impact COVID-19 can have on the classroom.

"It was actually really scary once we found out, I mean I had several friends who came down with COVID," Skyler told Newshub. 

Her school Marist College was the country's second-largest cluster last year, with 96 people from her community testing positive for the virus.

"I had a lot of teachers that got really sick and that was really worrying. Not just for my education, but when you're at a school as strong in heart and spirit and community as my school is, you worry about each other - you really do," she says. 

And that worry hasn't gone away - she's in two minds about being able to return to school next week.

"[Staff] are being very reassuring to us with everything. But you've still got at the back of your mind the 'what if' that you can't control," Skyler told Newshub.

"It's a double-edged sword. I want to go back to school because I'll learn better, but I don't, because I don't think it's safe enough yet," she says. 

Read the full story here

7:51am - An Auckland emergency nurse says overworked nurses fear hospitals aren't ready for the COVID-19 tsunami - and often think about quitting.

"The nurses are really, really feeling it - feeling really anxious. They feel like there's a tsunami coming. They can see it coming ... and what do they do? Do they run towards it or do they back off?" She told RNZ.  

Read the full story here

7:27am - Speaking with The AM Show, Little said surgeries are postponed in level 4 and 3 but are picked up in lower levels. He said cancer treatments are continued throughout levels. 

But he conceded breast cancer screening have to be put off during lockdown. 

7:26am - Little says once we get to high vaccination levels there will be more people isolating at home because they won't get as sick.

7:23am - Health Minister Andrew Little says everyone who is isolating at home is low risk and following the rules. 

Little says welfare checks are being carried out but it's a high trust model. He says he's not aware of claims made by the employer of a case on Waiheke Island. 

7:05am - Britain's health minister Sajid Javid on Wednesday resisted calls from doctors for fresh measures to halt a rising wave of COVID-19 infections despite their warnings that hospitals are on the edge of being overwhelmed.

Britain reported 223 new deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest daily figure since March, and cases are the highest in Europe, with nearly 50,000 new infections reported on Wednesday. 

Read the latest COVID-19 update from around the world here

6:52am - A Kiwi ship crew has been denied an exemption to avoid MIQ despite being at sea for 18 days. 

The 100% Kiwi crew of the NZ based ship MMA Vision managed by Taranaki based company Kingston offshore was undertaking survey work of the sea floor for the new Southern cross cable. When completed the submarine cable will double New Zealand's internet capacity. 

The 18 crew members  all undertook PCR tests and received negative results  before boarding in Auckland over two weeks ago, they then travelled to 150km east of Lord Howe island, just past the Kermadec rise in the middle of the Tasman sea, to undertake their surveying work.

On their return trip to New Plymouth the vessel has been advised that although they have not been to another country or even sighted another island since leaving, because they left New Zealand's EEZ (Economic exclusion zone) they are now required to complete a 14 day isolation period onboard the vessel  in New Zealand waters before they are allowed to come ashore.

Once this period of isolation has been completed it will be 32 days since the crew of the MMA Vision last stood on solid ground.

Kingston Offshore says it applied for an exemption and the New Plymouth DHB have conducted a risk assessment and agreed that the risk is low, and exemption should be granted, however The Ministry of Health declined the application for exemption citing safety concerns.

6:46am - Healthcare professionals are worried the move to allocate 300 managed isolation and quarantine spots per month to health workers has come too late.

Healthcare workers in New Zealand say while it's a good move, it's too little too late, especially with the country's COVID-19 cases on the rise.

"You look at what they've gone through in both the first and second waves in Italy, UK, US, and you see their ICU capacity, hospital capacities have been overwhelmed. It is absolutely worrying," Dr Daniel Owens, the clinical director of Whangarei ICU, tells The Project.

"I think you would be naive not to be scared about what's coming."

Read the full story here

6:40am - An Auckland hotel has announced it will only take fully vaccinated guests from November. 

The Hotel Britomart, including its restaurant Kingi, is introducing a vaccine mandate ahead of any Government licence to do so.

The hotel's owner also operates The Landing, a luxury holiday accommodation in the Bay of Islands, which is also part of the vaccine mandate.

Read the full story here.