As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 20

Aucklanders are entering day 64 of lockdown after daily COVID-19 cases shot to an all-time high on Tuesday.

It comes as Northland wakes up to extra freedoms after it dropped to alert level 2 overnight. 

Auckland and the Waikato had their alert level restrictions extended on Monday. Auckland will spend at least another two weeks in level 3 while the Waikato's restrictions were extended until a Cabinet review on Friday. 

Auckland is currently in the first phase of the Government's three-step roadmap for the region, which allows up to 10 people from two households to meet outdoors with physical distancing and mask use.

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern blamed a lack of compliance for some of the new cases. 

Tuesday marked New Zealand's highest daily case total since the beginning of the pandemic. Ninety-four new cases were recorded, 87 in Auckland and seven in Waikato, with 53 yet to be linked to an existing case.

Ardern said anyone who hasn't been vaccinated should do so warning unvaccinated people will eventually miss out on everyday activities. 

What you need to know

  • 94 community cases of COVID-19 were reported on Tuesday. Of those 87 are in Auckland and seven are in Waikato. 
  • Of Tuesday's cases 41 are linked, 26 of which are household contacts and 53 remain unlinked
  • Tuesday's case numbers are the highest ever daily cases in New Zealand
  • A person on Waiheke Island has tested positive for COVID-19
  • Six more North Shore party attendees have been slapped with fines
  • A woman who allegedly fled MIQ staff has turned herself in to police
  • Auckland and Waikato are staying in level 3, and Northland moved to level 2 at 11:59pm on Tuesday
  • Dr Ashley Bloomfield has called Auckland's vaccination milestones "brilliant news", hinting restrictions may soon be eased if the all-important 90 percent double-dose target is reached.
  • Click here for all the locations of interest.

These live updates have finished.

8:30pm - National has declared December 1 'Freedom Day' - but even sooner if we hit 85 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated. 

It's also promising a whopping $1 billion for all workers, which works out to a not-so-whopping $4.03 each week. 

But within National's plan was one glaring omission. It left out half the population: women. 

Read and watch the full story from Newshub political reporter Amelia Wade here.

8pm - The New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association Te Wehengarua (PPTA) says secondary teachers are dismayed and angry at the Government's announcement that senior students in level 3 areas will return to the classroom from next Tuesday.

"We're not sure who Minister Hipkins consulted before he made his announcement, but he certainly didn’t talk to PPTA," says Melanie Webber, president of PPTA Te Wehengarua.

"We have strongly supported public health advice, including mandatory vaccination for teachers, throughout this pandemic. However, we have not seen any public health advice that enables these actions announced today.

"It's beyond belief that in the very week the case numbers in this pandemic in New Zealand have reached an all-time high and are expected to increase significantly, coupled with the fact that young people aged between 12 and 19 have the lowest vaccination rates, that the Government would open up secondary schools to hundreds of thousands of students."

Webber says the Government seems to have gone from acting out of an abundance of caution to a "reckless disregard for the consequences "in the blink of an eye".

"This decision has huge implications for teachers' workload. Teachers will be required to teach both face to face and online, and while they will try to do the very best they can, it will be impossible to deliver quality teaching when they're flicking between channels trying to cater for everyone," she says.

"Many teachers are also anxious about how they're going to look after their own children. With strict limits on numbers at childcare services in alert level 3, many teachers may be forced to bring their own little kids to school with them."

The announcement that external exams will go ahead is also of serious concern.

"Our advice was for only NCEA Level 3 external exams to be run in areas currently under level 3 lockdown in order to give those students in their final year of NCEA the opportunity to achieve the best grade and allow exams to run safely," Webber says. 

"Level 1 and 2 NCEA students would receive an unexpected event grade instead of sitting external exams. This would have been the safer option and would have considerably reduced anxiety for many students. Indeed, with the increasing nervousness in Auckland around rising case numbers, the fact that students are being required to sit external exams will significantly add to their anxiety levels."

7:30pm - One of the most important ways COVID-19 cases are identified and the spread of Delta is investigated has been sidelined.

Health officials have revealed they're no longer spending time trying to find out how mystery cases became infected, and the focus is instead turning to isolating contacts of mystery cases.

There have been 166 mystery or unlinked cases recorded in the past two weeks. 

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says that is a real concern and without that deeper level of contact tracing, New Zealand risks losing control of the virus.  

"I suspect this is one of the most important parts of contact tracing and it's not a part we'd want to lose," he says.

"Otherwise you will lose control of the outbreak."

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's investigations reporter Michael Morrah here.

6:45pm - Some South Islanders say they feel forgotten as the Government neglects to include them when talking about "the team of 5 million".

And as the South Island's COVID-free streak increases, so too does the frustration. The virus isn't in the community but it's still closing business doors, with alert level 2 restrictions enough to suffocate firms in the South Island.

"To be in level 3 or 2 or anything is bizarre and especially when it's not backed up by the science," said Westland District Mayor Bruce Smith.

"People are a little bit unsure," said Grey District Mayor Tania Gibson. "We haven't got any COVID yet as we see up in the North Island. 

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Kaysha Brownlie here.

6:10pm - There are several new locations of interest. They are:

  • West Liquor Lincoln Green Henderson, October 14 from 12pm to 12:10pm
  • Mr Meats Plus Henderson, October 14 from 12:30pm to 1pm
  • BP Connect Howick, October 14 from 3pm to 3:30pm
  • FreshChoice Te Awamutu, October 15 from 12:15pm to 12:30pm
  • Countdown Te Awamutu, October 15 from 5:45pm to 7:55pm
  • Airport Superette Mangere, October 16 from 6:46pm to 6:48pm
  • Countdown Auckland Airport, October 16 from 6:54pm to 7:10pm
  • Socials Laundromat Takanini, October 16 from 7pm to 9pm.

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

5:10pm - Police say they've taken further enforcement action as part of an investigation into a mass gathering at a Redvale property at the weekend, commonly referred to as the 'influencer party'.

A spokesperson says they're continuing to identify and speak to attendees that were at the house, and have begun giving infringement notices to those found having breached COVID regulations.

So far, six infringements have now been issued and one Youth Aid referral made on those who were present. This is in addition to a 28-year-old man who received a court summons earlier this week.

"Police expect further infringements to be issued and we are continuing to identify individuals who attended, the spokesperson says.

"Police are advising those who were present at this gathering that rather than wait for Police to come to them, there is an opportunity to take accountability for their own actions and contact Police about this matter."

These people can contact police through 105 and quote the file number 211017/9625.

"Police reiterate that we will not tolerate this type of breach of alert level restrictions and would like to thank those members of the public who reported the matter to us."

5pm - Labour and National's political truce seems to be short-lived, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rubbishing the Opposition's proposed 'freedom day' plans. 

National would end lockdowns and reconnect to the world when 85 to 90 percent of the eligible population among all regions and ages are vaccinated, or on December 1 - whichever comes earlier. According to health data, 66.6 percent are currently fully vaccinated. 

National leader Judith Collins asked Ardern in Parliament if she agreed that "we need to have a date of 1st of December by which her Government needs to complete the vaccination programme that they promised to do this year". 

Ardern, who is set to reveal the Government's vaccination target on Friday after previously refusing to as per on health and overseas advice, made fun of the fact that National had changed its targets. 

"On 23rd of August the leader of the Opposition said a target of 70 to 75 percent; on 18th of September Chris Bishop said the first target should be 70 to 75 percent and actually all on the same day of the 19th, Shane Reti said 90 to 95, Judith Collins said that they'd give a date by the end of November, and Chris Bishop said 85 to 90," Ardern said. 

"So Mr Speaker, I'm not sure what I would be agreeing with."

Read the full story here.

4:30pm - There are six new locations of interest. They are: 

  • Chemist Warehouse Flat Bush, October 12 from 5:31pm to 5:41pm
  • BP Connect Hobsonville, October 13 from 9:09am to 9:15am
  • West Liquor Royal Heights Massey, October 14 from 10:36am to 10:45am
  • Pak'nSave Clendon, October 14 from 1pm to 2pm
  • Countdown Papakura, October 17 from 6:30pm to 7pm
  • Pak'nSave Wairau Valley, October 18 from 10:40am to 11am.

4:15pm - Police say they're continuing to investigate the two COVID-positive women who travelled around Northland and will follow up with them once they've finished their stay in quarantine.

"No decision around any charges will be made until the investigation has been completed and they have been interviewed," a spokesperson says.

3:45pm - A woman who allegedly absconded from her southeast Auckland home last night while being escorted by MIQ security has handed herself into police.

A police spokesperson says she isn't being taken back to an MIQ facility and will instead be taken straight to the Auckland District Custody Unit in Mt Eden to appear in the Manukau District Court tomorrow via AVL on a charge of failing to comply with a health order (COVID-19).

As this matter is now before the courts, police say they are unable to comment further.

3:40pm - The following is a compliance update from police:

Tāmaki Makaurau, Northland and parts of Waikato compliance update:

Since alert level 3 came into place, 28 people have been charged with a total of offences 29 in Tāmaki Makaurau, Northland, and parts of the Waikato, as at 5pm yesterday (Tuesday 19 October 2021).

Of these, 17 were for failing to comply with order (COVID-19), nine were for failure to comply with direction/prohibition/restriction, two were for assaults/threatens/hinders/obstructs enforcement officer, and one was a Health Act breach.

In the same time period, 29 people were formally warned.

Police have received a total of 5019 105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau, Northland, and parts of the Waikato.

Checkpoint figures:

As of 11:59pm yesterday, a total of 773,879 vehicles have now been stopped at the checkpoints on Auckland's northern and southern boundaries, with a total of 9786 vehicles having been turned around.

A total of 24,844 vehicles were processed at the checkpoints yesterday with 167 of those vehicles being turned around.

A total of 51 out of 5023 vehicles were turned away at the Northern checkpoints yesterday, while 116 vehicles out of 19,821 were turned around at the Southern checkpoints.

As at 11:59pm last night, 45,896 heavy vehicles have been stopped and 1264 of them have been turned around attempting to leave Tāmaki Makaurau, with 17 of those turned around yesterday.

It's important to remember that travel across an alert level Boundary remains restricted and you will be turned away if you don't have the required evidence for permitted travel, as outlined on the COVID-19 website.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 22: People wait for coffee outside Honey Bones cafe in Grey Lynn on September 22, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. Restrictions have eased for Auckland residents, with the Greater Auckland area moving to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 settings from 11:59pm on Tuesday. Under Alert Level 3 settings, essential businesses and services can operate but must ensure appropriate physical distancing and contact tracing, with early learning centres and schools to  reopen for children up to Year 10 whose parents or caregivers need to return to work. Restaurants and cafes can reopen for takeaway, delivery or drive-through only. The only gatherings allowed under alert level 3 are weddings and civil union ceremonies, funerals and tangihanga, with up to 10 people only. People must remain in their household bubbles when not at work or school and masks remain mandatory outside of the home.  (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images

3:20pm - The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists Toi Mata Hauora says it welcomes the Government's announcement to guarantee 300 MIQ spaces a month for health professionals.

ASMS executive director Sarah Dalton says not being able to get desperately-needed health staff into the country has been a frustration.

"We were hearing how broken the MIQ system was for health professionals, and it was something we had repeatedly raised. We are thrilled the Government has listened and taken action," she says.

Even without COVID-19, she says hospitals and health services have been struggling with significant staffing shortages.

"Services are crying out for skilled staff. The number of vacancies is putting staff under immense pressure and is a major cause of burnout. It didn't make sense to have people stranded overseas."

Dalton adds if COVID-19 becomes endemic, it will stretch resources further and shows there is a need for proper workforce supply planning.

2:50pm - There are five new locations of interest. They are: 

  • BP Opaheke, October 11 from 12pm to 12:15pm
  • Countdown Papakura, October 13 from 12pm to 12:30pm
  • Countdown Papakura, October 15 from 2pm to 2:30pm
  • Princes St Foodmarket Pukekohe, October 16 from 10:25am to 11:05am
  • BP Opaheke, October 18 from 10:45am to 11am.

2:27pm - National's Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith is criticising the Government's decision to keep year 1 to 10 students home for the time being. 

"While we welcome a return of senior students, the risks of continuing to deny 5-14 year-olds a proper education outweigh the risks of returning," he said. 

"Auckland's kids have become the collateral damage from our slow vaccination uptake and poor Government planning.

"After two months out of the classroom, more and more students are disengaging, and this has the potential to blight the prospects of tens of thousands of kids."

2:17pm - The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier is launching a broad investigation into the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) booking system after receiving hundreds of complaints.

Boshier says he has identified some common themes in about 200 complaints relating to the booking system.

Many of the complaints come from people who are having difficulties around the world obtaining vouchers for places in managed isolation or have concerns about the booking system overall.

"The complaints fit into four broad categories - they claim the allocation system is unlawful, unfit for purpose, unfair, and poorly managed. I have decided to do my own independent investigation into them all.

"One of the specific complaints is that disabled people are being disadvantaged. I have concerns about whether the online booking system is accessible and whether suitable alternatives are being offered for those who have difficulty using this digital platform."

Boshier says he has notified the agency in charge of the booking system, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, of his intention to investigate.

"I want to give the public some assurance that the MIQ booking system is working as well as it should.

"While I could investigate each of these complaints in turn, I don't believe this is the most efficient way of addressing any underlying issues. That is why I am looking at them together."

"When a new complaint comes in, my team will assess whether it should be addressed as part of this investigation or investigated and resolved individually."

The Chief Ombudsman will continue monitoring the wider MIQ system to identify any other interventions that may be needed.

He acknowledges the MIQ system was set up quickly in response to an immediate crisis.

Because it is a broad investigation, it will not directly result in anyone being granted a voucher right now or given priority in the queue.

"My message to anyone wanting a space is to continue to use the existing channels. If you believe that you meet the criteria for an emergency allocation, you should apply for it in the usual way. Otherwise, you should continue to seek a place through the virtual lobby."

He aims to report to Parliament on his substantive findings early next year.

1:59pm - Hundreds of people have gathered outside Henderson police station after a man, believed to be Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki, was taken into custody and charged with failing to comply with an order (COVID-19) under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act and Alert Level 3 Order. 

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 20
Photo credit: Newshub
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 20
Photo credit: Newshub

1:52pm - Hipkins acknowledged it will only get harder to ensure people are still getting vaccinated as the rollout goes on. 

He said booster shots are available and they are just waiting on approval and advice about when they should be administered. 

Hipkins said they are aiming to start booster shots before Christmas, pending approval. 

1:50pm - Bloomfield said he doesn't have today's numbers but yesterday 88 people were isolating at home. 

1:49pm - Hipkins said he is concerned by students dropping out during lockdown to support families, instead of learning online. He said that's why older students are being allowed back to school. 

1:48pm - Hipkins said it's likely there will be "some changes" to the MIQ system this year. 

1:45pm - Bloomfield said case numbers are expected to double every 10 to 12 days. 

He said the COVID-19 Response system will continue to adapt to manage demand. 

1:44pm - The Ministry of Health says it won't endorse a graphic design company's $20 stickers indicating their staff had been vaccinated, saying it's "disappointing" businesses are "taking advantage of the current situation".

Web and graphic design company Studio Frank has been selling stickers labelled 'All our staff are fully vaccinated' to businesses for $20 or on digital download for $10.

The Ministry of Health group manager of national digital services Michael Dreyer said while it's positive that businesses want to promote that their staff are fully vaccinated, people should know there is only one official way to confirm vaccination status.

"There is only one official COVID-19 record – the Ministry of Health's My COVID Record, which provides a record of people's vaccination status – and people should follow that process. The Ministry of Health does not endorse any product or certificate outside those available through the official Ministry channels," he said.

"While it is important that as many New Zealanders get vaccinated as possible, it would be disappointing if businesses were to take advantage of the current situation. We understand that some businesses might want to support the vaccination effort, but we'd encourage them in other ways, such as providing flexibility to allow staff to get vaccinated."

Read the full story here

1:40pm - Hipkins said COVID could still make its way to the South Island which is why it is still at alert level 2. 

"I will just remind everyone in the South Island we're in this position because one person contracted the virus."

He said one case can change things very quickly which is why the South Island isn't in level 1. 

1:36pm - Hipkins urged schools to contact local health providers to get COVID-19 vaccinations happening in schools. 

1:33pm - COVID-19 has now been detected in wastewater in all Auckland city sample testing sites.

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) has been testing wastewater samples weekly from a range of sites around New Zealand during the COVID-19 response.

The test results, for the week ending October 9, show COVID-19 has been detected at all city locations and 15 of the Auckland region's 23 testing sites.

The only areas to test negative were rural suburbs including: Wellsford, Warkworth, Waiuku, Snell's/ Algies, Kingseat, Kawakawa Bay and Clarks Beach. Waiheke Island wasn't tested.

Warkworth has also previously received a positive test result during the week ending September 18.

Read the full story here

1:31pm - Bloomfield said the criteria for the third dose is extremely narrow and will apply for only a small number of immunocompromised people. He said it will be given on prescription. 

1:30pm - Bloomfield confirmed the Waiheke case is an essential worker who is isolating safely at home. They've been assessed as low risk and travelled to the island on the ferry and were in a car the entire time. He says there are no exposure events on Waiheke Island. 

1:26pm - Bloomfield says he isn't worried the low dose and expired vaccine botch-up will erode public trust in the rollout. He said the fact they were caught and that it's such a small number shows the system is working. 

1:25pm - Hipkins says the Government has launched a new initiative urging 16 to 29 year olds to get vaccinated by December. 

1:22pm - Six people received a low dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Bay of Plenty and a small number of people received expired vaccines in Wellington, National Director COVID-19 Vaccination and Immunisation Programme Jo Gibbs has revealed. 

People in the Bay of Plenty who were affected have been contacted and offered vaccination.

The clinical processes and systems around the administration of the vaccination are being reviewed and the District Health Board (DHB) is working with the provider to strengthen these to prevent an incident like this from happening again. 

Last week around 15 people in Wellington received a COVID-19 vaccination 24 hours after it expired. No one has been harmed from receiving the expired doses.

Capital & Coast District Health Board has contacted the affected people and is encouraging them to get vaccinated again.

The Ministry apologises for what has happened and reassures the public that such incidents are not common.

1:19pm - Hipkins says NZCEA and scholarship exams will proceed but Auckland, Northland and Waikato students are eligible for an unexpected event grade. He said they must still sit exams where possible.

1:15pm - Students in years 1 to 10 may return to school before the end of the year but are a higher risk group, Hipkins says. 

Next Tuesday, Cabinet will consider whether younger students should return to school. 

1:13pm - Chris Hipkins says students in years 11, 12 and 13 can return to school from October, Tuesday  26. Students must wear face masks when at school and are able to be vaccinated.

1:11pm - Bloomfield also urged people in New Lynn and the North Shore suburbs of Rosedale, Redvale, and Bayswater - either vaccinated or unvaccinated - to get tested as soon as possible if they have even mild symptoms.

Testing is available at Community Testing Centres in:

Health New Lynn, Totara Health Services, McCrae Way, New Lynn – 8.30am – 4.30pm  

North Harbour Stadium, Oteha Valley Road in Carpark B – 8.30am – 4.30pm

Northcote Community Testing Centre, Corner of College Road and Kilham Avenue – 6.30am – 6.30pm

An additional testing site will be available from tomorrow in Wairau Valley.

1:09pm - Bloomfield said New Lynn's Shadbolt Park has been reclassified as an exposure event rather than as a location of interest. It has now been taken down from the Ministry of Health website list of locations of interest.

He said public Health staff have looked into the event more carefully and assessed it as an exposure event as it is small and involved only a handful of people, who have all been identified and are in the process of being traced and tested.  At this stage no one else is being sought in relation to the event.

1:08pm - There are 43 people in hospital. Seven in North Shore, 13 at Middlemore, 22 at Auckland Hospital and one in Waikato. 

1:08pm - Ashley Bloomfield says the total number of cases in this outbreak is now 2158. He said while it's lower than yesterday, case numbers are expected to keep rising.

1:01pm - There are 60 new community cases of COVID-19 to report today; 56 in Auckland and four in Waikato. As at 10am, 38 of these cases are linked and 22 remain unlinked, with investigations continuing toLihelp determine their connection to the outbreak.

12:43pm - Education Minister Chris Hipkins will be announcing the Government's plan for students to return to school in locked-down Auckland and giving a COVID-19 update at 1pm. You can watch the livestream above. 

12:35pm - Several new locations of interest in Te Awamutu have been added to the list. 

FreshChoice Te Awamutu on Tuesday October 12 between 6:30pm and 7:30pm has been added. College Superette Te Awamutu has also been added. Visitors on Tuesday and Wednesday October 13 between 12:30pm and 1:30pm are being asked to monitor for symptoms.

Pukekohe also has new locations including BP Connect Counties Pukekohe on Saturday October 16 between 9:00am and 10:30am and Westside Superette on Saturday between 9:15am and 10:50am. 

Countdown Westgate in Massey, west Auckland on Thursday October 14 between 2:00pm and 4:00pm is also on the list. 

12:28pm - Police have laid charges against four people in relation to mass gatherings over the weekend. 

Today, in Auckland, a 63-year-old man has been charged in relation to an event at the Auckland Domain held in breach of alert level 3 restrictions.

He has been charged with Failing to Comply with an Order (COVID-19) under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act and Alert Level 3 Order and is also appearing before the Court for breach of bail conditions.

He has been taken into custody and is due to appear in Court today via audio visual link.

Police said they cannot rule out further enforcement action at this stage.

Meanwhile, in Waikato District two men have been summoned to appear in the Hamilton District Court in relation to a mass gathering at Claudelands Park, Hamilton on Saturday. 

A 46-year-old man has been charged with failing to comply and is due to appear on November 17. 

A 56-year-old man has been charged with organising a mass gathering and failing to comply and is due to appear on November 16.

In Northland District, a 47-year-old man has been summoned to appear in the Whangārei District Court on October 25 in relation to organising a mass gathering at Mander Park.

Given these matters are now before the Court, Police are limited in further comment at this stage.

Police are reminding anyone that there are restrictions in place for regions under alert level 3, which includes limits on gatherings to weddings, funerals and tangihanga with no more than 10 people. 

Police said enforcement action will be strongly considered for instances such as these which are in breach of the restrictions.

12:15pm - Yesterday's Waiheke Island case was a close contact of an existing case in Auckland, The Ministry of Health says. 

"The case on Waiheke Island is an essential worker that is part of the home isolation interim model. Auckland public health officials have interviewed the case and can confirm there were no locations of interest to report," a spokesperson said. 

They said two GPs on the island are providing COVID-19 testing. 

"We are now supporting 101 COVID-19 cases across 55 households in the wider Auckland community, to safely isolate at home. 

"Home isolation is part of an interim model initially involving a limited number of people and gives time for primary care such as GPs to be ready to take on case management. 

"For privacy reasons, the Ministry of Health is not able to share further personal information about this case," the spokesperson said. 

11:21am - Joint Head of MIQ Brigadier Rose King has issued a statement after three people escaped from MIQ overnight. One of the escapees is still at large. 

Read the full statement below:

MIQ can confirm that three COVID-19 positive cases community cases staying at the Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Hotel managed isolation and quarantine facility allegedly absconded last night. One is still at large.

In the first incident, two community cases allegedly absconded at approximately 5.40pm, Tuesday 19 October 2021. The individuals were apprehended by Police and taken into custody at approximately 5.45pm. They were observed by Police and MIQ Security the entire time.

One was on day 6 of their stay and the other on day 7.  

A 26 year old man has been charged with failing to comply with a health order (COVID19) and will appear in Auckland District Court via AVL today. A 33 year old man will be summonsed to appear in Court at a later date.

Ministry of Health public health believes, based on information provided by MIQ, that there is likely to be a low risk to the public from the short period that the two cases were out of the quarantine facility.

In a second incident, at approximately 9.55pm, a COVID-19 community case, who had arrived directly from hospital, requested to return home briefly to retrieve personal items, care for a pet, lock their house from a residence in South East Auckland. A security escort was set up to allow this to occur. They were given 10 minutes to do what they needed to. At the 10 minute mark the security detail went to retrieve them and found the individual had disappeared from the address. Police were immediately notified and this individual has yet to be found.

The Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Hotel is operating as a dual managed isolation and quarantine facility. It has 168 quarantine rooms. There are currently 142 community cases there, 131 of them are in quarantine.

These incidents are really disappointing and unacceptable to me.

These facilities are not prisons and these individuals have wilfully absconded. There are rules in place for every single returnee from overseas and now the positive community cases, and we expect people to follow these during their stay in managed isolation or quarantine. This is so they can return to the community safely, while ensuring the safety of all New Zealanders. Deliberate breaches like this can put the wider community at risk.

Our role is to protect New Zealanders from Covid. We have had more than 180,000 people come through our facilities and when an incident like this happens I can assure you I take it very seriously.

Police and the Ministry of Health are leading the work on gaining an understanding the movements of these individuals since they left the facility. We are investigating how this happened. 

11:15am - The Government is changing the way managed isolation is co-ordinated for health workers, guaranteeing 300 spots a month for the health and disability sector.

“Our world-class workforce is vital in rebuilding the health system and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Andrew Little said.

“Whether it’s bringing doctors or nurses in from other places or New Zealanders bringing their skills home, we need to be able to get them into the country and into the workforce.”

At the moment, healthcare and disability workers deemed critical to the country are eligible for MIQ rooms set aside for people with “time-sensitive” travel.

“But they are competing with others who are also in this category, and that’s making it harder for our health services to get some of the people they need,” Andrew Little said.

“Health managers need to be able to bring the people they need into the country and know that they can get them places in MIQ.

“We have already brought in thousands of health workers, but lately employers have been telling me that it’s getting harder to secure places, so we’re sorting that out.

“Under the changes I am announcing today, the Ministry of Health will have priority access to 300 MIQ rooms a month and will work with District Health Boards and Primary Health Organisations to allocate them to the people we need to get here the fastest.”

Health and disability workers who are not citizens or permanent residents will still need proof of a job in New Zealand and must meet immigration requirements.

The new system comes into effect on November 1, with the first rooms allocated in late November.


Health and disability workers critical to the health system will still be eligible for emergency allocations if needed, and any existing bookings for healthcare workers will stand.

11:00am - A 26-year man has been charged with escaping a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility, according to Stuff

Police and The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which runs MIQ, have been contacted for comment.  

10:42am - The senator leading a probe into Brazil's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has recommended that President Jair Bolsonaro face 13 criminal charges, including homicide, for decisions that allegedly encouraged the virus' spread and helped lead to more than 600,000 deaths, according to a draft report seen by Reuters.

It remains highly unlikely, however, that Bolsonaro will face a trial on any such charges, which would have to be brought by Brazil's prosecutor general - a presidential nominee. Bolsonaro has dismissed the probe as politically motivated.

- Reuters

10:15am - The EMA is welcoming National's plan saying it would help businesses by freeing up restrictions for vaccinated staff. 

"Many of the measures recommended in the plan line-up with the policies we've been asking the Government to introduce, and National's plan will provide an interesting contrast to the Government’' announcements on Friday," says EMA Chief Executive, Brett O'Riley.

O'Riley says National’s recommendations to provide legal backing to businesses on vaccinations and vaccine passports in the workplace; reopening inter-regional and international borders; widespread rapid antigen and saliva testing; and vaccination targets pegged to allowing the economy to reopen provides the clarity that businesses have been asking for.

"We're hoping for similar clarity from the Government later in the week."

10:08am - Hairdressers and barbers are calling for more targeted financial support as Auckland's lockdown bites. 

Read more here.

10:01am - Read National's full plan here.

10:00am - National has launched its plan to support businesses throughout New Zealand's COVID-19 recovery. 

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins said the 'Back in Business' plan contains a package of urgent measures to ensure businesses survive the next 12 months, and includes a clear, detailed strategy to update our approach and unleash our economy.

"The Government needs to provide businesses with two things: support and certainty. Businesses need support to address the immediate costs that this and previous lockdowns have imposed on them, and certainty that by the end of next month at the latest, we will be in a position to reopen our economy and our borders.

"Businesses don’t want pity and they don’t want handouts. They just want a fair go. They want to be trusted to get on with the job of creating value, serving their customers, and employing others.

"With our vaccination rates finally increasing, there is now light at the end of the COVID tunnel. We need to make sure we don’t fall at the final hurdle by allowing this lockdown to destroy thousands more otherwise viable businesses.

"If we want those businesses to be around once we are through this pandemic, we need to act."

Main points of National's plan include:

1.     Immediate support to help businesses survive the lockdown.

2.     Short term tax cuts and incentives for businesses and workers.

3.     Targeted support for hospitality, accommodation, tourism and events.

9:33am - For the second day in a row, Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki says he's been summoned to the Auckland Central police station.

"It is the second round now. They want me to come into central police station again and they are going to have another bite of the cherry," Tamaki said on his wife's Facebook Live as they drove into Auckland on Wednesday morning.

"I never ever thought I would be going to the central police station, a police station at all, for standing up for our rights and freedoms and opposing this Government's restriction and control over their people, but that is exactly what is happening."

The duo visited the police station on Tuesday morning, claiming Brian had been asked to attend to be charged with breaching his bail conditions, but they said when they arrived they were told the Crown had "intervened" and he was allowed to return home. Police, however, told Newshub their investigation was ongoing.

It follows a gathering of about 2000 people at the Auckland Domain on Saturday, the second protest of its like this month. Police labelled the event a "significant breach" of the COVID-19 alert level restrictions, which don't allow for mass gatherings. Current rules permit up to 10 people to meet outdoors from two households.

Read more here

9:18am - The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners is urging people to keep building on the high levels of vaccinations seen during last weekend's 'Super Saturday' vaxathon events to protect themselves and their communities against COVID-19.

The College is concerned to hear some New Zealanders are delaying their COVID-19 vaccination because they are "waiting for a safer or more effective vaccine".

College President Dr Samantha Murton says, "Hearing the reasons for delaying vaccination can be frustrating, especially as we continue to see rising positive case numbers in this Delta outbreak.

"We all want to return to a new normal, with fewer restrictions, and it is high vaccination rates that will allow us to do so."

This frustration is echoed by the College's Medical Director Dr Bryan Betty.

"The Pfizer vaccine has been administered to millions of people around the world and is one of the most tracked vaccines in history, and there is enough supply to fully vaccinate every eligible New Zealander.

"Recent figures show vaccination makes you 19 times less likely to end up in hospital, 11 times less likely to die, and four times less likely to test positive to COVID-19 in the month immediately after the second dose."

The College supports the recent announcement to have mandatory vaccinations for those working in the health and disability sector, saying it is a bold, but necessary step to keep our communities safe. 

9:10am - Watch Chris Hipkins full interview on The AM Show here.  

9:01am - Gorman says case numbers are unlikely to overwhelm the health system due to our high vaccination rates. 

"There's a Greek chorus of epidemiologists and modellers claiming the world's about to end and we're going to have 1000 cases. 

"Almost 90 percent of us in Auckland have had our first vaccination. We're not going to get those rampant numbers. As for the health system, the health system always copes. "Basically if we put more critically ill people in ICU it will displace some people down to high dependency units. It will displace some people to the wards, it will displace some people to home but this happens every winter during the flu season. 

"The system adjusts, the system prioritises. The cost of a large number of cases of unvaccinated people with COVID going to the hospital is some people with heart disease, or cancer will miss out on the care they need . There will be a price to be paid but the health system will cope."

8:51am - Des Gorman told The AM Show while it's not ideal, yesterday's high case numbers aren't surprising. 

"This is just the new normal, these numbers are not surprising and they will go up into the low 100s I'm sure of it. 

"The health system will cope. I mean 90 percent of all Aucklanders have had at least one vaccination. This is not going to go berserk. We are going to have a modest increase in numbers and the health system will cope."

8:43am - In the United States thousands of unvaccinated workers are facing potential job losses as a growing number of states, cities and private companies start to enforce mandates for inoculation against COVID-19.

In the latest high-profile example, Washington State University (WSU) fired its head football coach and four of his assistants on Monday for failing to comply with the state's vaccine requirement. The coach, Nick Rolovich, had applied for a religious exemption from the mandate earlier this month.

Thousands of police officers and firefighters in cities like Chicago and Baltimore are also at risk of losing their jobs in the coming days under mandates that require them to report their vaccination status or submit to regular coronavirus testing.

While controversial, the mandates have been effective at convincing many hesitant workers to get vaccinated against the virus, which has killed more than 700,000 people in the United States. Some 77 percent of eligible Americans have received at least one shot of a vaccine, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters last week.

- Reuters  

8:35am - Britain has recorded 223 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for COVID-19, the highest figure since March, according to official data.

And the World Health Organization is leading a programme to ensure poorer countries get fair access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. The programme aims to secure antiviral drugs for patients with mild symptoms for as little as $10 per course.

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

8:28am - Judith Collins spoke with The AM Show about National's plan to end COVID-19 lockdown restrictions by  December 1.

Watch the full interview here.

8:13am -  Pak'nSave in Mount Albert has been added to the locations of interest list. Anyone who visited on Thursday, October 14 between 5:20 pm and 6:30 pm must self monitor for symptoms for two weeks.  If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you get a negative test result AND until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.

7:59am - Hipkins also confirmed paramedics are considered frontline healthcare workers and are therefore required to be vaccinated under the mandate.

7:40am - Hipkins also confirmed students won't be required to be vaccinated to go to school. 

"No, we've always been really clear that we wouldn't require people to be vaccinated in order to access essential services like health and education… those working in those environments, yes we've got a vaccination requirement for them, but not for the students - not for the patients."

7:16am - Hipkins, who is also the Education Minister, told The AM Show secondary school students will get "certainty" this afternoon. But he wouldn't reveal the details until later in the day. 

"We will set that out this afternoon. I know that's something the kids sitting at home fretting want some answers on." 

7:15pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says overall case numbers are growing and more than 200 cases a day are expected at the outbreak's peak. 

"I think we are on an upwards trajectory in terms of case numbers but the trajectory doesn't tend to follow a straight line, so it's possible there will be some dips and bumps and peaks along the way. " 

But Hipkins says vaccination rates are already having an impact. 

"I think one of the things modellers have a variety of different views on is where this is likely to peak in terms of the average daily case numbers. It could be as low as an average of 200 cases a day or it could be significantly higher than that. What we're seeing already across Auckland is the high rates of vaccination… are having an impact on the overall spread of COVID-19 and on the daily case rate that we're seeing… we can take some reassurance that vaccination is playing a role here."

7:02am - University of Auckland professor of medicine Des Gorman told The AM Show he's concerned by the Government's claims our COVID-19 response will become 'world-leading again'. Gorman says our response shouldn't be about who is best but what's best for the country instead. 

"What we need is a plan..a timeline back to normal. We need a timeline otherwise we are just going to drift away for months." 

6:49am - Education Minister Chris Hipkins will reveal today whether schools will reopen in Auckland. 

Auckland schools have been shut for nine weeks because of the Delta outbreak and some teachers think it's time for students to return to the classroom. 

Read the full story here

6:40am - Epidemiologist Tony Blakely says he's confident Auckland will be out of its COVID-19 lockdown by Christmas.

Prof Blakely was asked if restrictions could realistically be lifted by Christmas despite such a rise in cases.

"Yes," said Prof Blakely, a University of Melbourne epidemiologist originally from New Zealand.

"You're nearly at 70 percent double vaccination - already in Melbourne, for example, at 70 percent we're starting to release," he told The Project.

He said the idea would be to release Auckland from lockdown while vaccination coverage was going up behind the scenes.

"For places like New Zealand or WA [Western Australia] for example, who haven't been living with the virus, you'd probably hold on to 80 percent before you let the lockdowns go - and then you'll ease out of them - still aiming for 90 percent [vaccination] by Christmas."

Read the full story here

6:35am - National is calling for lockdown to end when vaccination rates hit 85 to 90 percent or by December 1, whichever comes first, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says. 

"We would put an end to lockdowns, reopen our economy and reconnect to the world when we hit 85-90 per cent vaccination, along with district health boards and age-based milestones, or on December 1, whichever comes earlier.

"These very clear and deliberate targets underpin our economic plan - Back in Business - which we will be formally announcing later this morning.

"The undeniable fact is that we cannot allow things to continue as they are. Our largest city has been in lockdown for almost 10 weeks and there's still no end in sight.

Collins says the Government has no plan and Kiwis need to be given hope. 

"We have a plan and we have targets - targets everyone can rally behind and commit to. Targets that can give hope to many, many New Zealanders who have almost given up.

"Hope for businesses that there's a way through, hope for parents that their children will be able to return to school, hope for people waiting for important surgeries, hope for Kiwis overseas that they can come home and be reunited with family for Christmas.

"But, as we announced in our 'Opening Up' COVID response plan, a vaccination rate of 85-90 per cent is just one part of what needs to happen to restore the freedoms we've been forced by this Government to give up.

"We would boost ICU capacity, put rapid antigen testing and saliva testing in place, and step up vaccination of people in vulnerable communities. We will purchase and rollout vaccine boosters, as well as secure effective therapeutic treatments.

"If the will is there, we can do it. We urge the Government to adopt our plans - New Zealanders need certainty now, more than ever."