As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 27

There are 74 new community cases on Wednesday, with six of those in Waikato.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced Waikato will see its restrictions ease slightly on Wednesday night, with a move to the first step of alert level 3, similar to Auckland's rules.

He also revealed the Ministry of Education is looking at a staged return to school for students at alert level 3. An indicative start date of November 15 has been put down.

What you need to know 

  • There were 74 new cases on Wednesday, with 68 in Auckland and six in Waikato
  • Waikato will move to the first step of alert level 3 on Wednesday night, similar to restrictions in Auckland
  • The Ministry of Education is looking at a staged return to school for students at alert level 3, with an indicative starting date of November 15
  • Vaccines will be mandated for staff at any business where vaccine passports are required for entry
  • An anti-lockdown hīkoi has been barred by police from crossing the Auckland boundary, with iwi Ngāti Whātua saying it's extremely disappointed at the group
  • The Government announced on Friday a new COVID traffic light system and beefed up financial support. Vaccine certificates will be used under the new traffic light system. 
  • Click here for all the locations of interest.

These live updates have finished.

9:10pm - Don't mark it on the calendar just yet but Chris Hipkins says kids in Auckland and Waikato - up to year 8 - could be heading back to school on November 15.

There's no word on years 9 and 10 yet, but Hipkins, who's both Education Minister and COVID-19 Response Minister, says he'd like to see them back at school this year, too if possible.

But his announcement probably won't get a pass mark from parents.

"I need more certainty, my children need more certainty. I've been told for weeks now 'you're going to find out, you're going to find out' - and it feels like an announcement about another announcement," health psychologist Emily Gorman says.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Tom McRae here.

8:30pm - Dr Dion O'Neale, principal investigator at Te Pūnaha Matatini and a lecturer in the Physics Department at the University of Auckland, says it's good to see the return to school for younger students being foreshadowed, but working with schools and resourcing them properly will be key.

"Modelling suggests that reopening all schools can represent a significant risk in terms of additional case numbers. This is because it creates new connections between parts of the interaction network for Auckland that would otherwise not be connected," he says.

"Although reopening schools might only see a 10-20 percent increase in the number of infections that occur directly in schools, the additional connectivity that results means that the total increase in the number of infections, is likely to be much larger - up to a doubling in case numbers."

Dr O'Neale says measures such as having students attend school in shifts, so that a reduced number of students are interacting there at any one time, is one way to reduce the number of new links that would be created by schools reopening and to avoid adding links in Auckland's community.

"In addition to measures that aim to avoid creating interactions, it will also be important to use the time before further schools reopen to make sure that the interactions that do occur are as safe as they can be," he says.

"This could mean things such as improving air quality in classrooms through ventilation or filtration, where possible. It will also need to include measures like establishing good masking practices for students going back to school."

8pm - Police say one woman was arrested today as the anti-lockdown hīkoi remains at Auckland's southern border.

Participants of the 'hīkoi' are aiming to travel to Waitangi in the Northland region to gather in the name of "freedom". But their attempts to break through the lockdown boundaries have angered police and iwi leaders, who are condemning their actions.

"Shortly after midday, a vehicle at the northern checkpoint at Te Hana blocked SH1 northbound," a police spokesperson says in an update on Wednesday evening.

"A woman was arrested and warned for obstruction and the vehicle was removed from the road."

Police say there are now no protesters at the northern checkpoint, however protestors remain at the southern boundary checkpoint.

7:30pm - The Government isn't ruling out mandating COVID-19 vaccinations in the construction sector as the race to 90 percent heats up, and the COVID-19 Response Minister is eyeing other industries too. 

Come next year, all tradies working on a renovation job at Ridgway School will need to be double-vaccinated to be on the site, because they're working around children. But the setor wants a mega mandate - all jabbed no matter the site, no matter the trade. 

"A mandate would just make things much safer and better for everyone else involved," Registered Master Builders CEO David Kelly told Newshub. 

Read and watch the full story from Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch here.

7pm - Dr Jin Russell, a developmental paediatrician at Starship Children's Hospital and PhD Candidate at the School of Population Health at the University of Auckland, says primary schools reopening will be met with a mixture of relief and anxiety by parents.

"A staged return, where students may attend on alternative days, can help reduce the risk of transmission, and is an approach that has been used overseas. Taking learning activities outdoors as much as possible is also a smart approach to lower the risk of any COVID-19 transmission," she says.

"It is welcome news that NIWA is working with the Ministry of Education around monitoring ventilation in schools. It is not clear what the timeframe is around this important work nor what practical steps will occur if and when poorly-ventilated classrooms are identified. Improving ventilation and air filtration is even more important as we plan ahead for the winter season of 2022 when classrooms will be more crowded."

Dr Russell adds that at a population level, the greatest acute health risks posed by reopening schools isn't to students themselves but to unvaccinated older family members. 

"Infected children may transmit the virus within their households. It is very important that anyone who is eligible to be vaccinated does so as soon as possible. Reopening schools also presents an opportunity to connect to families that have so far not been reached by the vaccine rollout."

6:30pm - Newshub understands shorter MIQ stays for Kiwis stranded overseas are coming soon.

The changes were supposed to be announced on Wednesday but were delayed until Thursday.

Instead of being locked up in an isolation hotel for 14 days, Newshub understands MIQ stays will be halved to seven day stays, followed by three days home isolation - and it's starting very soon.

"We'll make some changes fairly quickly and then I think some people will want the roadmap to further changes," Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday. 

Those further changes - likely coming next year - could mean even less time in MIQ or eventually just self-isolating at home.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien here.

6:20pm - There are several new locations of interest. They are:

  • Pak'nSave Westgate, October 19 from 10:30am to 12:45pm
  • Train Eastern Line Fleet AM945 Britomart to Orakei, October 20 from 5:30am to 5:41am
  • Train Eastern Line Fleet AMP945 from Orakei to Britomart, October 20 from 3:30pm to 3:45pm
  • Pak'nSave Royal Oak, October 20 from 6pm to 7:40pm
  • Train Eastern Line Fleet AMA103 from Orakei to Britomart, October 21 from 2:30pm to 2:46pm
  • Pak'nSave Henderson, October 21 from 6pm to 7:30pm
  • Chemist Warehouse Albany, October 22 from 1:30pm to 2pm
  • Train Eastern Line Fleet AMT714 from Orakei to Britomart, October 22 from 3:03pm to 3:20pm
  • New World Remuera, October 24 from 2:45pm to 3:30pm
  • New World Eastridge, October 24 from 3pm to 5:15pm.

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

5:45pm - An online vaccination map shows how much progress we're making to get New Zealand fully vaccinated.

The map was created by NationalMap Ltd to help accelerate our vaccination rates.

It uses data released weekly by the Ministry of Health to allow people to click each SA2 (statistical area 2), showing its name and the percentage of residents who've received dose 1 and 2.

Each SA2 is coloured by the number of people remaining to get double-vaxed and once the target of 0 in an SA2 is reached, that SA2's shading is removed.

In a statement today, Steve Critchlow, the group managing director of NationalMap Ltd creators Critchlow Geospatial, said the map had been updated to show we're another week closer to reaching our 90 percent target.

"Now we have 38 SA2 polygons that have cleared the 90 percent target, 14 more than last week (although the eligible population data could be dubious in newly developed areas)," he said.

In Auckland the areas that have hit 90 percent include Ormiston East, Glendowie North, Victoria Park, and the Symonds Street area.

Read the full story and see the map here.

5:15pm - Retail NZ CEO Greg Harford says he is welcoming the changes announced by the Government on rent relief support measures. 

"The changes agreed to by the Government today will be welcomed by retailers around the country. Backdating the rent relief clause to the start of the most recent lockdown will ensure rent relief can be sought in the most financially crippling alert level 3 and 4 periods," he says.

"Retail NZ has been asking Government to make changes to the Bill to better support businesses in need of rent relief. A significant number of retail businesses are in dispute with their landlords around rent relief relating to the current lockdown period. It is great news that Minister Faafoi and the Government have taken on board feedback from Retail NZ and is making sensible changes to strengthen the Bill."

Harford adds that the package of changes from the Government supports retailers and landlords to conduct negotiations on rent relief with clear guidance and support.

4:40pm - There are several new locations of interest. They are: 

  • Gull Henderson, October 12 from 3:45pm to 4:15pm
  • Countdown Pt Chevalier, October 19 from 1:15pm to 2pm
  • New World Eastridge, October 19 from 8:15pm to 10pm
  • GAS Chartwell, October 20 from 2:45pm to 4pm
  • Burger King Sunnybrae, October 20 from 11:15am to 12:30pm
  • McDonald's Northcote, October 21 from 11:15am to 1:30pm
  • FreshChoice Otahuhu, October 21 from 8pm to 8:45pm
  • FreshChoice Glen Eden, October 23 from 7pm to 7:10pm
  • New World Eastridge, October 24 from 4:30pm to 5:15pm
  • Pak'nSave Sylvia Park, October 25 from 12:45pm to 2:15pm.

4:15pm - The COVID-19 cases in Waikato are a "difficult to contact trace" group of people which is why the virus hasn't been stamped out there yet, Chris Hipkins says.

As he said at the 1pm press conference, cases are still emerging in Waikato and it "is not fully contained yet", with infections still in central Hamilton. 

He believes there could be a long tail to this region's outbreak, but still thinks it is possible to stamp it out, despite the difficulty around reaching parts of the community.

"They're in a more difficult to reach part of the community," Hipkins said during the 1pm COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

"I'm not saying [that they're being uncooperative]. I'm just saying that as with some of the other groups that we've dealt with, this is a more difficult to contact trace group of cases."

Read the full story here.

3:40pm - Minister for Justice Kris Faafoi has announced changes to improve commercial rent relief measures for landlords and tenants impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

The measures being introduced will offer more support measures, particularly for small to medium sized businesses that were hit by COVID restrictions.

"We are aware that many lease agreements already have provision for adjusted rent payments during an epidemic emergency, and many landlords and tenants have been able to negotiate agreed rent relief terms between themselves as a result of previous lockdowns," Faafoi says.

"In providing this support, we are also incorporating changes suggested by landlords and tenants to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee. The changes will provide additional clarity and options for landlords and tenants to agree a fair proportion of rent to be paid where COVID restrictions have impacted a business's ability to operate."

The changes introduced to the Bill will include a requirement to consider a commercial tenant's loss of income in determining what a 'fair proportion' of rent relief would be.

"This change protects against the new rent relief provisions being used where a commercial tenant has not actually had any serious loss of income as a result of lockdown restrictions because, for instance, they have been able to continue operating from home."

Other changes include:

  • A requirement that the parties to a commercial lease with this implied clause must respond to each other within 10 working days of communication about the clause.
  • Clarifying that parties may seek to resolve disputes through mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution before a referral to arbitration, and that the Disputes Tribunal’s jurisdiction is not excluded as an option.
  • Making the changes apply retrospectively from 18 August 2021, being the first day of the current COVID-19 Delta higher alert level restrictions.

"Applying these measures from 18 August means businesses which have suffered serious loss of income due to the recent Delta alert restrictions will be able to access help to agree fair rent relief," Faafoi says.

"These new provisions will only apply to leases which do not already provide for adjusted rent payment terms during an epidemic emergency to ensure, in particular, that small businesses get the relief they need when COVID-19 response restrictions prevent them being able to access their premises."

3:20pm - Chris Hipkins warns it's just a matter of time before the coronavirus spreads around the country.

He's urging people to get vaccinated in time since it's likely more cases will pop up outside of Auckland.

"No country has been able to stamp out Delta once it's taken hold and that's likely to be the same for us. So it's not a question of 'if' cases will emerge outside of Auckland, it is a question of 'when'," he says.

"That might sound stark, but as one of my colleagues said last week, Delta is now on your doorstep."

Read the full story here.

2:55pm - New modelling in a report from Te Pūnaha Matatini says vaccinations could lower the spread of COVID-19 by 67 percent by early January 2022. However, if there's a high spread of the virus, vaccination and current lockdown restrictions won't bring down the R number enough to protect NZ's healthcare system.

In this case, the authors say an alert level 4 'circuit breaker' in early November could make a major difference. The report is not formally peer reviewed.

Dr Samik Datta, a population modeller at NIWA, says the modelling is useful to help New Zealand plan for a range of scenarios, especially given just how difficult getting control of Delta is.

"The tool is also beneficial because it factors in age and considers how different groups of people interact with each other - school children mix with each other more than the elderly, for example," Dr Datta says.

"This gives a more detailed look at how different sections of society are impacted by the virus's spread."

But he says that there is a big gap since ethnicity hasn't been considered.

"Given the relatively high number of cases in Māori and Pasifika, this will need to be input into future models to ensure we can effectively predict and plan for the months to come."

2:25pm - The National Party has reacted to the Government's decision to put down an indicative date of November 15 for primary schools to reopen.

Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says the Government is moving too slowly and he wants to see more urgency.

"The 'plan' announced today is a vague suggestion that primary and intermediate schools might begin to open on 15 November, and no plan at all for years 9 and 10 – critical years of early adolescence when learning habits are formed," he said.

"Keeping kids out of school in Auckland for so long is doing more harm than good."

Goldsmith says students have become "collateral damage" from the "slow vaccination uptake" and the Government's "utter failure to plan and prepare for the Delta outbreak".

2:20pm - There are several new locations of interest:

  • Gull Petrol Henderson - Sunday, October 17 between 10am and 10:15am
  • Warehouse Stationery Lincoln Rd - Thursday, October 14 between 12pm and 12:15pm
  • Wendy's Hamburgers Mount Eden - Tuesday, October 19 between 5:15pm and 5:30pm
  • Chemist Warehouse Auckland Airport - Wednesday, October 20 between 3pm and 5pm
  • Mobil St Lukes - Wednesday, October 13 between 12:15pm and 12:30pm

Find full details here.

2:15pm - Here's the full statement from Chris Hipkins on the alert level decision for Waikato: 

Restrictions in the Waikato will be eased slightly from midnight tonight, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

"From 11.59pm tonight, people in the parts of Waikato at Alert Level 3 will be able to meet for outdoor gatherings between two households, with a maximum of 10 people," Chis Hipkins said.

"Recreational activities will be expanded to include golf, hunting, boating, fishing, and scuba diving, also with a maximum of 10 people. However people must stay within the Alert Level 3 boundary.

"Face-to-face appointments with a number of healthcare providers can restart and early learning centres can reopen, with a maximum of 10 children in each bubble.

"It's the same setting that Auckland is currently at, which is stage one of the reduced Alert Level 3 restrictions.

"The Government has followed public health advice. Waikato cases are predominantly confined to one network and there have not been any major exposure events.

"We're not, however, comfortable enough yet to drop settings any lower while we continue to see new cases emerge.

"More than 15,000 tests have been completed over the past five days, which is extremely encouraging and shows residents are doing the right thing by getting tested, but the situation in the area is not fully contained and we can't say at this point when that is likely to be. At this stage we remain committed to stamping COVID-19 out."

Cabinet will review the levels again on Monday 1 November, alongside Auckland's Alert Level settings.

"I acknowledge these ongoing restrictions are frustrating. So let's all get vaccinated, encourage our friends and family to get vaccinated. The sooner each region gets to 90% the sooner we'll all have certainty," Chris Hipkins said.

Northland will remain in Alert Level 2 with no new cases reported in the region since Sunday.

"We know however that Delta is highly transmissible and people in the region need to stay vigilant," Chris Hipkins said.

"Northlanders should continue to check the Ministry of Health website for locations of interest and monitor their symptoms. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, even if they are mild, should get tested as soon as possible.

"The same applies to the South Island. With no new cases reported following the positive case in Blenheim on Friday, it will remain at Alert Level 2.

"Again, we do need everyone in the South Island to keep up with important health measures like scanning and wearing a face covering, to help stop any potential spread of the virus."

2:05pm - Police have released their daily compliance report. Here are some of the key figures:

  • Since Alert level 3 started, 43 people have been charged with 46 offences across Auckland, Northland and parts of Waikato
  • Of these, 33 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, one was a Health Act breach and one was for failing to stop (COVID-19 related) 
  • In the same period, 33 people were formally warned
  • Police have received a total of 6,036 105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau, Northland, and parts of the Waikato.
  • 911,869 vehicles have now been stopped at the checkpoints on Auckland’s northern and southern boundaries, with a total of 10,998 vehicles having been turned around.
  • 25,438 vehicles were processed at the checkpoints on Tuesday with 172 of those vehicles being turned around.
  • A total of 63 out of 5427 vehicles were turned away at the Northern checkpoints on Tuesday, while 109 vehicles out of 20,011 were turned around at the Southern checkpoints.
  • As at 11.59pm on Tuesday night, 56,671 heavy vehicles have been stopped and 1368 of them have been turned around attempting to leave Tāmaki Makaurau, with 20 of those turned around on Tuesday.

1:50pm - Here's the latest DHB by DHB vaccination rate breakdown, including Tuesday's figures. As noted earlier, Counties Manukau needs just under 10,000 more doses to hit 90 percent first dose. 

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 27

1:35pm - Dr Bloomfield says it is encouraging there has been no further cases in Northland and cases there remain confined to contacts. The seven cases are across three households. 

Hipkins says the Government is ready to go whenever it gets advice to start booster shots. Dr Bloomfield says Medsafe is considering data currently, but they could be rolled out this side of Christmas to those first vaccinated.

1:25pm - Dr Bloomfield says Auckland's current hospital levels are very manageable and alert level 3 settings are making a big difference in keeping case numbers low while vaccination rates rise.

The cases isolating at home reflects the demographic breakdown of the wider outbreak, Dr Bloomfield says.

The Ministry of Education will work at schools to understand how best to bring children back, Hipkins says. That could see students be taught outside, where COVID-19 is less likely to spread.  He would like to see Year 9 and 10s return this year.

1:20pm - Hipkins says cases are still emerging in Waikato and it "is not fully contained yet" with infections in central Hamilton. The region deserves a chance at stamping out the outbreak, he says. There could be a long tail to the Waikato outbreak, but the minister still thinks its possible to stamp it out.

Ministers are meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss changes to MIQ and those will be announced on Thursday. That announcement was expected on Wednesday. 

He says cases in Waikato are more "difficult to contact trace". However, Hipkins would not share any details or explain what he meant by that.

1:15pm - A milestone: 3 million New Zealanders are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Hipkins says. 

The minister says we are likely to see more cases emerge outside of Auckland.

"It is a question of when," Hipkins says.

The best defence against this is to get vaccinated, he says. 

Of the 2759 cases in the outbreak, only seven fully vaccinated people have gone to hospital, Hipkins says.

Hipkins says Government is preparing to be in a position to administer vaccine doses to children as soon as there is regulatory approval. Medsafe is ready to move quickly on an application, he says. It comes after advisers to the US FDA recommended its use among children. Information from Pfizer is expected in early November, Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.

1:10pm - Hipkins says from 11:59pm on Wednesday night, Waikato will move to the first step of alert level 3 roadmap, similar to Auckland. The boundary between Auckland and Waikato remains in place.

The minister says the cases there are confined to a "network" of people who have not been generally interacting with others, like at workplaces.

The Government's intention is to stamp out the outbreak in Waikato and will review the restrictions on Monday.

On education, Hipkins says decisions about schools reopening are some of the most difficult he has had to make as minister. He doesn't want to see high concentration numbers at secondary schools yet, and has deferred a decision on year 9 and 10 students returning.

Hipkins has asked the Ministry of Education to work with schools on how a staged return could work. An indicative start date of November 16 has been put down and could change. One option could be different groups of students returning on different days and outside learning.

1:05pm - According to the Ministry of Health, there are 74 new cases of COVID-19 in the community, with 68 in Auckland and six in Waikato. All of the Waikato cases are in Hamilton and all are known contacts of existing cases.

It takes the toal in the outbreak to 2832. Of the 74 cases, 31 are not yet linked. 

There are 41 people in hospital, with five people in ICU.

There are 562 cases and close contacts across 216 households isolating at home with support from health and social services providers.

On Tuesday, there were 12,639 doses administered in Auckland. Of these, 2855 were first doses and 9784 second doses. Counties Manukau is down to 9904 first doses remaining until it hits 90 percent. 

Despite there being no new cases in Northland, the ministry wants people living there to remain vigilant. 

"Auckland public health officials have reviewed the suburbs of concern and are urging residents in Redvale, Rosedale, New Lynn, Wiri, Drury, Manurewa and Henderson to get tested as soon as possible if they have even very mild symptoms that might be COVID-19, even if they are fully vaccinated."

12:45pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins will provide the COVID-19 update at 1pm, along with news about Waikato's alert levels and an update on schools.

You will be able to watch that live above.

12:35pm - A couple more locations of interest have just dropped:

  • Health Plus Pharmacy Manukau - Wednesday, October 20 between 10:30am and 11am
  • Health New Lynn - Friday, October 22 between 12:15pm and 1:30pm

12:10pm - We have another location of interest:

  • Countdown Kelston -  Sunday, October 24 between 9am and 4:30pm

12:05pm - Te Tai Tokerau Border Control Spokesperson Hone Harawira wants nothing to do with the protesters at Auckland's boundary wanting to head north to Waitangi as part of a hīkoi.

He referred to them as a "strong anti-vax brigade" and said it was "insulting" that they were referring to their protest as a hīkoi.

"The reality is this: The Waitangi marae has not united these people, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds haven't invited these people," he told RNZ.

"If you want to march against vaccination, turn around and go to Wellington, that is where the vaccination rules come from, not from Waitangi."

11:55am - There is one new location of interest:

  • Huapai Laundromat Kumeu - Thursday, October 21 between 8pm and 10pm

11:45am - Auckland's Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT) has had to cancel its popular annual Christmas lights event.

Last year the event saw more than 60,000 visitors over 12 nights and was set to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. But concerns about COVID-19 and uncertainty about what restrictions will be in place has forced organisers to cancel the event.

"While I know this may be disappointing news for many families who were looking forward to this event, keeping our visitors safe is our top priority, says general manager of museum experience Sally Manuireva

"We've decided to make this call now to give our suppliers transparency and allow our team to focus on our summer programming. We have an exciting new exhibition 'Tūhuratia Exploded' featuring photo artwork by Richard Parry opening soon, and popular family events to deliver once it is safe to do so.

"We hope Auckland comes out to support us by attending these events once we are able to re-open."

MOTAT will still be lighting up its heritage Pumphouse building and erecting their 20ft Christmas tree which will be visible from Great North Rd for whānau to walk past and enjoy.

11:30am - Waikato Mayor Allan Sanson has unleashed on protesters gathered at Auckland's southern boundary as part of a hīkoi.

"You need to go home to where you came from," he told Newshub. "You have entered an alert level 3 area from level 2, so you have illegally crossed the border. You are not welcome in the Waikato, go home. Leave us alone."

He said it was incredibly frustrating.

"I see hurt every day from a number of people within Waikato… to have these arrogant people come into our community and think that they have a right to cross into Auckland is just absolute arrogance at its best. Go home, you are not wanted here and there is no need for you to be here."

11:15am - The Opposition is calling on the Government to phase out vaccine certificates when 90 percent of the eligible population has been inoculated against COVID-19 - but Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Wood, says it would be "absolute nonsense" to do so.

The leader of the National Party, Judith Collins, believes the passports should become obsolete once 90 percent of New Zealand's eligible population is vaccinated. 

Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Michael Wood, says a tight deadline would "defeat the purpose" of the certificates.

Read more here.

11am - Air New Zealand has confirmed the cancellation of some of its domestic flights scheduled for December due to the continued disruption of COVID-19 Delta in the community.

Those affected by the cancellations are posting their frustration on Reddit, with one user saying the changes mean the end of a family reunion. 

"Booked for start of December, other family members also had theirs cancelled. Was meant to be an early family Xmas, cancelled due to ongoing uncertainty with COVID. Interesting though that it's not even November and they're cancelling," Reddit user Borednz posted.

Read more here.

10:45am - There is one new location of interest:

  • Countdown Kelston - Wednesday, October 20 between 9:30am and 4:30pm

10:30am - Te Aho o Te Kahu, the Cancer Control Agency, says while cancer treatment continued "largely uninterrupted" through the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown in August, "there was a decline in cancer diagnoses". 

It says there were 193 fewer people diagnosed with cancer in August 2021 compared to August 2018 and 2019 - a 9 percent decrease. The decrease was notable for prostate, colorectal and skin cancers.

"Overall, any disruption to services in August 2021 appears less for Māori than non-Māori. This aligns with findings from the 2020 reporting which found the COVID-19 response did not appear to have increased inequities in the cancer system."

The agency's chief executive, Professor Diana Sarfati, says hospitals "temporarily changed the way they deliver services when COVID-19 re-emerged in the community". 

"This meant some diagnostic procedures were delayed or postponed, which is reflected in the data."

The agency says last year monitoring reports "showed initially there was a large disruption to diagnostic services, contributing to a significant reduction in new cancer diagnoses in April 2020 compared to April 2019.  

"The number of cancers diagnosed increased over the following months and by the end of September 2020 were in line with the previous year."

"We expect any dip in diagnosis will be caught up, as was the case last year," Professor Sarfati says.  "It is vital anyone who is experiencing concerning symptoms talk to their doctor."  

Anyone living with cancer should seek out COVID-19 vaccine immediately, if they have not already.  

"Any cancer patient or whānau member who has not received a COVID-19 vaccination should get one as soon as possible," Professor Sarfati says.    

"The vaccine is safe for cancer patients and is an important part of staying healthy for people with cancer. If you have not yet been vaccinated, please book online or call your doctor to arrange an appointment."  

Te Aho o Te Kahu will continue to monitor the impact on diagnosis and treatment. The next report will focus on data from September and will be released next month.          

10:15am - Police say they are continuing to monitor the hīkoi that approached the southern Auckland boundary on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. 

"At around 11:45pm yesterday, a convoy of around 50 vehicles and approximately 100 people arrived at the Southern checkpoint border in Mercer.

"The group was directed by Police to a gravel area on Orams Road, to move away from blocking the road and disrupting traffic travelling through the checkpoint."

While most complied, police say two protest vehicles, including a bus, were parked on State Highway 1's northern lanes and drivers refused to move them.

"Traffic has been diverted around these vehicles overnight and Police are currently engaging with the owners of these vehicles, which are currently occupied, to remove these off the road.

"At around 2:30am, some of the protestors have surged forward on foot from Orams Road, blocking the southern lane of SH1.

"Police negotiators and our Iwi Liaison Officers were engaged to encourage them to move back off the road however they refused requests to move. Around 30 minutes later a Police line was used to move the protestors off the highway."

The protesters remain parked on the side of the road near the boundary, police say. 

"Traffic is still able to travel through the southern checkpoints, however some delays have been reported so motorists are advised to expect some delays.

"A number of protestors also turned up at the Northern checkpoints this morning, with more than 50 protestors arriving on the Northern side of the Te Hana checkpoint and around a dozen people on the southern side of that boundary.

"Police engaged with this group, supported by our Iwi Liaison officers and our partners from Ngāti Whātua at the checkpoint. The majority of this group have subsequently left the checkpoint area without issue."

Police say they are "incredibly disappointed" in the actions of the protesters.

"By carrying out non-essential travel they are putting themselves, our staff and the wider community at risk, while additional Police resources have had to be redeployed in order to monitor the movements of this group at the checkpoints."

10:05am - An expert panel on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to recommend the US Food and Drug Administration authorize the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, saying the benefits of inoculation outweigh the risks.

An authorization for that age group would be would be an important regulatory step toward reaching about 28 million children for inoculation, most of them back in school for in-person learning.

The vaccine could be available to the younger age group as soon as next week. The FDA is not obligated to follow the advice of its outside experts, but usually does.

Read more here.

9:55am - Te Pāti Māori's co-leaders won't be attending Parliament this week, instead calling for parties to establish a 'Digital Parliament' "as the Delta variant spreads to the regions and risks the health of rural Māori communities". Due to physical distancing requirements, only one of the co-leaders is allowed in the House at a time. 

Rawiri Waititi says the House "is focussed on silencing, stereotyping and vilifying Māori, propping up a Government narrative that has clearly failed Māori".

"It is a complete waste of our time right now. Debbie and I both come from the most isolated parts of the country. We also come from the lowest vaccinated electorates in the country. We aren’t going to leave our people and travel outside of our regions just to be subjected to this level of stupidity".

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer says as "a newly trained vaccinator in the lowest vaccinated region", she will remain there trying to protect the community. 

"We have made a conscious decision this week to put people before politics and remain in our electorates. We will continue to evaluate this position as the COVID story unfolds.

"We have been advised that Parliament is prepared and ready to roll out digitally. There is no reason, under the current circumstances for us to be wasting resource and putting people at risk. We are calling on parties to agree to establish a Digital Parliament while we try and save our people from this Delta outbreak.

"Parliament must work for all political parties, big and small, and it is not working for Te Pāti Māori. To keep our people safe we must be in the regions but we also must be able to participate in parliamentary business.

"Over the next two weeks, Rawiri will be visiting the lowest vaccinated areas in the Waiariki, talking with communities and hearing their stories. I will be on the ground in my community, going door to door, talking to and vaccinating our people.

"For those who don’t want to be vaccinated, we will be talking with them about how to keep themselves and their whānau safe. We are taking our shoes to the streets where it matters most."

9:35am - Here's the latest DHB by DHB breakdown of vaccination rates. It includes doses administered up to Monday night and shows Counties Manukau as the only Auckland DHB yet to hit 90 percent first dose. That DHB had roughly 700 people vaccinated with their first shot on Monday, but still has another 11,020 to go.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 27
Photo credit: Ministry of Health.

9:20am - No jab, no job policies are ramping up in their reach across the country.

Under incoming laws, any business that will require a vaccine certificate for customers must also have fully vaccinated workers. This includes cafes, restaurants, gatherings including churches, events, gyms and hairdressers, and other close contact businesses.

So how is that going down with business owners? Read more here.

9:10am - Tuesday marked the first day senior students could return to onsite learning at schools under alert level 3. 

"I just didn't realise how much fun it would be to chat with people, even though I've chatted with my family, just to have that normal communication with them," Year 12 Whangaparaoa College student Rosie Risbrook told RNZ. 

She said people kept to the two-metre distancing rule initially, but it started slipping at luntime. People kept their masks on, however, she said. 

Krish Patel, the head boy at Howick College, told RNZ it was a surreal experience.

"When you normally see a teacher or have a discussion with our principal you normally go in for a handshake but 'oh wait nope not meant to do that'. So it was a little bit of a jarring thing to get used to."

8:55am - National leader Judith Collins has called out members of the anti-lockdown hīkoi that reached the Auckland border overnight. 

The group was barred from crossing the Auckland border by police after travelling from Rotorua aiming to get to Waitangi, wanting to gather in the name of "freedom".

"My message to those people on the hīkoi is: go home, get vaccinated and just remember that it's not all about you," Collins told The AM Show.

Read more here.

8:45am - The AM Show's Aziz Al-Sa'afin says police have managed to disperse most of the protesters who gathered at the northern Auckland boundary. There are a few stragglers remaining. 

8:35am - Regarding the new worker vaccine mandate announced on Tuesday, Bernard Walker, an associate professor at the College of Business and Law at University of Canterbury, says it takes risk off employers. 

"This is a complex area that requires combined input from a range of disciplines, including health, employment and law," Walker says. "If the decisions had been left with employers, it would have resulted in the courts having to determine the nation’s pandemic response."

He expects it will "polarise workers" and pressure will be on welfare agencies and unions to find ways to support those who lose their jobs. 

"Employers in other industries should now be looking to proactively educate and support their staff so that workers can make an informed choice now, of their own volition. The first measure should always be encouragement rather than mandates. Compulsion takes away a worker’s sense of control to make their own choices, which makes some threatened and more opposed."

8:25am - Paul Tuffrey is among a group of roughly 50 protesters hoping to cross the northern Auckland boundary into Northland as part of a hīkoi.

He told Newshub in Te Hana that he was hoping to head to Waitangi for a meeting of "like-minded people". 

"The hīkoi is a group of people standing up against what they perceive as Government corruption... It is making a stand for freedom," he said.

"I am 63 years old, I have been living in New Zealand my whole life. This is the first time in my life we have had some form of a border system."

He referred to the traffic light system announced by the Prime Minister last week as a "segregation system". 

"There were hundreds and hundreds of comments on her Facebook post about that and all were against her, everyone, whether they vaccinated or unvaccinated. They don't want a system brought into this country that segregates people."

He also made a number of unfounded claims about the vaccine.

Protest at the northern Auckland boundary.
Protest at the northern Auckland boundary. Photo credit: Newshub.

8:10am - There is one new location of interest:

  • East Tamaki Pharmacy Otara - Sunday, October 24 between 8:15pm and 8:30pm

7:55am - The United Kingdom is seeing a surge in COVID-19 deaths, reporting the highest daily total on Tuesday since March.

Other parts of the world are also struggling with combatting the virus' spread.

Read more about what's happening around the globe here.

7:40am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she has nothing to confirm about overseas travel as a free-trade agreement with the EU reaches "a critical juncture".

ACT leader David Seymour asked Jacinda Ardern if she had any communications about travelling to Europe during Question Time in the House on Tuesday.

Seymour accused the prime minister of planning changes to the MIQ system to coincide with an international trip.

Ardern denied the accusation, later saying she had no travel plans to confirm.

Read more here.

7:30am - In case you needed a reminder, there were 79 new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Tuesday.

The latest vaccination data shows that as of Monday, 87 percent of eligible Kiwis had received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine, while 71 percent had had two doses. In Auckland, it's 90 percent first dose and 77 percent second dose, but Counties Manukau DHB remains behind, not yet hitting the 90 percent first dose mark.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 27
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 27

7:15am - Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood tells The AM Show that public health advice suggests there can be an "elevated risk" of COVID-19 spreading at the high-risk, customer-facing businesses where vaccine certificates will apply. That's why mandates for staff are also necessary.

Wood doesn't have "absolute clarity" about the number of people in these businesses who are unvaccinated, but says the certificates will cover about 25 percent of the workforce.

Getting vaccination rates above 90 percent will save lives, he says. It will also reassure people going out into stores that they will be safe. The purpose of the mandates is to incentivise vaccination, but also give confidence to people in the high-risk businesses.

Certificates aren't just necessary to getting to 90 percent but also while the new traffic light system is in place, he says. The minister says COVID won't just disappear when we move to that framework. That comes in response to questions by National about how long the mandates will be in place.

Based on previous experience bringing mandates into other parts of the workforce - such as with maritime workers - Wood expects workers will go out and get vaccinated. He says the number of "hardcore anti-vaxxers" is very small. Having a clear deadline for when employees need to be vaccinated focuses people and motivates them to get jabbed, he says.

7:05am - A small group of protesters have been turned around at Te Hana trying to head north out of Auckland.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 27
Photo credit: Newshub.
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 27
Photo credit: Newshub.

7am - It's not just academics who are in support of the vaccine mandate at many high-risk businesses.

Speaking to RNZ, Krishna Botica, who has about 100 staff across four Auckland restaurants, said the annoucement provided clarity. Botica had already put five workers on paid leave for being unvaccinated due to concern about their risk to others.

"There was so much relief. I am just so grateful. This is one less thing for us to worry about, and that is huge given the fact that so many of us are fighting to save our businesses," Botica said.

"This is a better pathway forward for our industry, having full government support, in allowing us to not only encourage the hesitant but to actually make sure our own businesses are safe places."

The Restaurant Association's Marisa Bidois said the announcement is positive, but it will hard losing more staff. 

"[Staff shortages are] something that has been raised, and we've been discussing the issues this might present, when we are already facing severe skill shortages," Bidois told RNZ.

6:50am - Members of an anti-lockdown hīkoi have reached the Auckland boundary but have been barred from crossing the border by the police.

The group travelled from Rotorua en route to Waitangi, where they wanted to gather in the name of "freedom".

Read more about it here.

The hīkoi has also been condemned by iwi and Dame Naida Glavish.

6:40am - Speaking to The AM Show, National's Judith Collins says she has a message for members of the hīkoi group:

"Go home, get vaccinated and just remember it is not all about you. There are a lot of people who are in lockdown, who are losing their businesses, who are worried about what is happening to them and their families and they don't want you being idiots, so just go home and behave."

On the worker vaccine mandate announced on Tuesday, Collins says she wants to see the detail. She wants to see the actual legislation and public health advice and also asks how long these mandates will be in place for.

"There needs to always be, when you balancing up the rights and responsibilities, you need to be able to say 'what is the end point?'. Is there no end point? Are we always going to have this?"

6:30am - Antony Thompson, Ngāti Whātua's chief operating officer, has told Newshub the iwi is "extremely disappointed" that members of an anti-lockdown hīkoi have attempted to cross the Auckland boundary.

The group were blocked by police after travelling north from Rotorua, hoping to get to Waitangi. 

"We are not against any hīkoi at all, we are just really concerned about the timing. It was bad timing," Thompson says.

"My message to everyone that is wanting to travel north, 'do the right thing and turn around and go home. If you don't have an exemption, please go home'."

He said the iwi doesn't want to see further spread of COVID-19, especially with Northland having low vaccination rates. 

"Give us time to look after our whakapapa. That is what we need right now."

The hikoi at the Auckland boundary.
The hikoi at the Auckland boundary. Photo credit: Newshub.

6:15am - Kia ora, good morning and welcome to Newshub's live updates for Wednesday.

The Government's announcement on Tuesday that staff at businesses using vaccination certificates - such as hospitality, gyms, barbers - will be required to be vaccinated has been welcomed by health and business experts.

Dr Bodo Lang, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland's department of marketing says it is "long overdue". He says the way to change behaviour is typically through raising awareness and offering something of value, but that's not always enough. 

"Other individuals require incentives for adopting the behaviour or disincentives for not adopting the desired behaviour," he says.

"Mandatory vaccinations are long overdue because those who remain un-vaccinated or under-vaccinated impact everybody else in New Zealand. The more people are negatively affected by a behaviour, the more important it is to make the behaviour mandatory and to have clear rules in place for those who may flout those rules. It seems uncomfortable and risky. But it isn’t."

He wants to see the Government stress both the rewards and the negative consequences of being vaccinated. 

"Mandatory vaccinations have to be supported by clear incentives and disincentives. This will maximise how many New Zealanders will be doubly vaccinated and how quickly they will do so.

"The only remaining question is why the desired behaviour is not mandated across all businesses. Collectively we stand to lose too much to make vaccinations optional."

Professor Michael Plank, a modeller with Te Pūnaha Matatini, says they will be a helpful tool in the toolbox in fighting COVID's spread.

"There is no magic bullet to get rid of Covid so we have to do what we can to minimise its impact. We can either use blanket measures like lockdowns which place restrictions on everyone. Or we can use vaccine certificates which restrict the freedoms of the small minority of people who choose not to be vaccinated."