As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 6

A COVID-19 modeller says it's only "a matter of time" before the virus spreads throughout New Zealand now Auckland's restrictions have been eased, with small freedoms introduced under the Government's controversial three-step 'roadmap' to guide the region out of alert level 3.

Phase one of the Government's three-stage roadmap came into effect at 11:59pm last night, allowing Aucklanders to burst their bubbles and reconnect with loved ones in outdoor settings. The rules restrict gatherings to no more than 10 people from a maximum of two households, and masks and physical distancing are required.

However, a number of experts have blasted the plan as too much freedom, too soon, with Auckland still recording a number of new cases each day. Thirty-nine new infections were reported on Wednesday, 30 of which are in the Super City. Nine further cases have also been detected in the Waikato region.

University of Canterbury Professor Michael Plank said on Wednesday that the Government's change in tack - with health officials appearing to shift from a steadfast commitment to the elimination strategy to a suppression approach - spells trouble for the rest of the country.

"It’s becoming clear that case numbers are growing under alert level 3 conditions in Auckland. While the easing of restrictions announced yesterday may or may not accelerate this growth, it certainly won't do anything to slow it. The virus has already managed to find a way across the Auckland boundary on at least four occasions, during a period when the outbreak has been relatively small. If case numbers become much higher, it will become more and more difficult to prevent this happening again," he said.

"The change in tack signalled by the government means it is really a matter of time before COVID finds its way to all corners of New Zealand."

Wellington-based epidemiologist Dr Amanda Kvalsvig has also slammed the Government's messaging on Monday as "muddled", echoing the sentiment of many New Zealanders who found the roadmap confusing and unclear. 

"After the muddled and confusing messages on Monday, it's time for clear and transparent communication from the Government... We need information," she said on Wednesday.

A case in Kāwhia and a case in Karāpiro are among the nine new infections in the Waikato region. Ōtorohanga District Mayor Max Baxter confirmed to Newshub he was informed of the positive case in Kāwhia earlier this morning. Kāwhia is a small coastal community north-west of Ōtorohanga, while Karāpiro is east of Cambridge.

Health officials are confident the cases in the Waikato are linked. A case in Hamilton East and a case in Raglan were detected over the weekend, prompting a snap five-day lockdown for Hamilton City, Raglan, Huntly, Te Kauwhata and Ngāruawāhia.

Baxter told Newshub he understands increased testing will be made available in the area, however he is not yet sure if Kāwhia will join the other Waikato communities at alert level 3. At Wednesday's press conference, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said they would not be extending the boundary at this point.

What you need to know:

  • Auckland moved into phase one of the Government's 'roadmap to recovery' at 11:59pm on Tuesday. It is still under alert level 3, with the rest of the country - aside from some parts of Waikato - under level 2
  • Aucklanders can now connect with one other household outdoors with no more than 10 people. Early childhood education has also returned and people can move around the city for recreation
  • A person has tested positive in Kawhia, Ōtorohanga Mayor Max Baxter confirmed to Newshub - a person has also tested positive in Karāpiro
  • A COVID-positive patient has died at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital
  • A person has returned a weak positive result after getting tested in Whangārei and a second test has been organised
  • Thirty-nine new community cases were reported on Wednesday - 30 in Auckland and nine in Waikato, including the cases in Kawhia and Karāpiro
  • One case has yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak, as well as four of yesterday's cases
  • Parts of Waikato, including Raglan and Hamilton City, remain under a snap alert level 3 lockdown
  • More than 25 of New Zealand's major businesses are calling on the Govt to approve the importation of 370,000 rapid antigen tests
  • Click here for all locations of interest.

These live updates have finished.

8pm - A Newshub investigation into a COVID-riddled foreign ship that docked in New Zealand has revealed a series of major missteps by the Ministry of Health, which experts say could have led to an earlier Delta outbreak.

Australia warned New Zealand authorities that a pilot who'd previously been on the vessel had the Delta strain - but the Ministry decided there "was nothing to worry about". 

The container vessel Rio De La Plata was a known COVID-19 threat that sailed into Tauranga from Australia in early August - a month before the Auckland Delta outbreak. 

On August 3, officials in Canberra warned of a problem by emailing Maritime New Zealand to say a pilot who'd been on the vessel had tested positive for the Delta variant. But within three hours of receiving that alert, the Ministry of Health decided there was "no risk to New Zealand". 

Wayne Butson, the general secretary of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, says "the Government have always said they've been taking a cautious approach to COVID and to find the Ministry reacting in this way during this particular ship visit kind of beggars belief really".

What happened is laid out in Official Information Act documents from Toi Te Ora Public Health and Maritime New Zealand obtained by Newshub. 

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

7:25pm - New Zealand teachers are likely to face a COVID-19 vaccination mandate as the drive to get as many people vaccinated as possible heats up.

Hipkins gave them a warning during Wednesday's COVID-19 update after he was asked whether they should prepare for a mandate.

"If I was a teacher, I would be making sure I'd be getting a first dose at this point," he said.

The New Zealand Principals' Federation says they want to send a message to their workforce that being vaccinated is "absolutely critical".

"We agree in this country we follow science," executive Perry Rush says.

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

6:50pm - The National Party says deputy leader Shane Reti will use next week while Parliament is in recess to focus on lifting vaccination rates of communities in Northland.

"He will be vaccinating with the Māori Health Provider Ki A Ora Ngātiwai & we will share details tomorrow so Northland whānau can come along," the party tweeted.

Northland is one of New Zealand's lowest-vaccinated regions.

6:20pm - More locations of interest have been added. They are:

  • Spencer on Byron Takapuna, September 30 from 12am to 11:45pm
  • Pizza Club Papatoetoe, October 1 6:49pm to 6:52pm
  • Hartys Fishing & Hardware Raglan, October 2 from 10:30am to 11am
  • Z - Sylvia Park Service Station, October 2 from 11:45am to 12:47pm
  • Countdown Manukau, October 3 from 10:15am to 12pm
  • Z Service Station Kahikatea Drive Hamilton, October 5 from 3:30pm to 3:45pm.

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

5:30pm - The COVID-19 Response Minister is defending two gang members being given exemptions to travel into Auckland to help with the COVID-19 response. 

It comes after it was revealed the head of the Waikato Mongrel Mob chapter was given an essential worker exemption to enter Auckland last weekend. Sonny Fatupaito was granted the exemption to minimise the spread of COVID-19 in hard to reach communities such as gangs. 

Chris Hipkins says he has no sympathy for the gangs but ultimately it's about doing what is needed to stop the spread of COVID-19.

"One of the biggest things we have to do is ensure we get as much cooperation as possible. And we do whatever we have to to get that level of cooperation within reason. 

"But of course it poses a bigger challenge. Some of the people involved have been more active than what would be consistent with the alert levels in the areas they have been. So that does pose additional challenges for us but our focus here is a public health one, it's about contact tracing, it's about getting testing and vaccination happening."

Read the full story here.

5pm - Auckland’s Tāmaki Vaccination Centre is pulling its first all-nighter as the city pushes toward a 90 percent vaccination rate.

The centre in Morrin Road St Johns, which is run in partnership with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, will open at 8am on Friday and will continue vaccinating until 6:30 on Saturday morning, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) says.

Site lead Teara Gillman says her team is excited about the opportunities an overnight vaccination might offer the surrounding area.

"The aim is to reach all of those people who work at night or late in the evening because many of these people are often sleeping during the day when our site is open," she says.

"We want to give everything a go to see if we can get to those last few people who just haven't had access so far."

There will be entertainment at the late-night event, including a socially-distanced social sizzle and local musicians.

"We're reaching out to all local whānau, shift workers, our local high school students and any other night owls to come on down on Friday to get a sausage for a shot if you haven't yet been vaccinated," Gillman says.

Other vaccinations centres are now offering evening opening hours to help vaccinate busy workers who are now back at work under level 3. This includes the Airport Park and Ride (open until 6pm every day), Mt Wellington (open until 7pm Monday to Friday), Birkenhead (open until 8pm Tuesday and Thursday), and Highbrook (open until 7pm from Wednesday to Friday).

4:35pm - The Waikato DHB says a pop-up testing centre has been established in Karāpiro, just outside of Cambridge, following the positive test result in the town.

GP practices in Cambridge are also providing tests with bookings required in advance.

In Kāwhia where another person tested positive, the town's general practice is also providing tests to enrolled and casual patients. A pop-up testing and vaccination site will be set up at Maketu Marae in Kāwhia on Thursday.

"Demand for community testing remains high in Hamilton and around the region. The flow through community testing centres is steady today with minimal waits," Waikato DHB says.

"People can also get tested on appointment at GP practices across the region, including designated GP practices that take enrolled and non-enrolled patients."

Anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms, is following guidance relating to a location of interest, or has been directed by Healthline or a GP should seek a test immediately.

4:15pm - There are several new locations of interest, including the first ones in Hamilton. They are:

  • Royal Bakehouse Onehunga, September 28 from 10:30am to 10:45am
  • Archers Road Sushi & Donburi Glenfield, September 30 from 10:35am to 10:50am
  • BP garage Takapuna, October 1 from 6am to 6:15am
  • Countdown Dinsdale, October 1 from 10:15am to 12:30pm
  • ED Reception Waikato Hospital, October 1 from 10:30pm to 11:10pm
  • Four Square Lancaster, October 2 from 8am to 9:15am
  • Royal Laundromat Henderson, October 3 from 1pm to 1:10pm and 1:30pm to 1:45pm
  • Kingston Foodcentre, October 3 from 5:30pm to 6:35pm
  • Kingston Foodcentre, October 4 from 10am to 11:05am.

4:10pm - The Ministry of Health has given more details about today's death linked to COVID-19.

The man was in his 50s and had underlying health conditions. He was also a confirmed case of COVID-19.

He was admitted to Middlemore Hospital on August 27 and spent a total of 40 days in ICU.

The ministry says his family is being supported by their church and community.

3:55pm - Dr Nitasha Rimar, an endocrinologist and physician in Northland, says while COVID-19 will continue to "spread aggressively", it can be limited by proactively tightening boundaries.

She says this will help for regions such as Northland where vaccination rates are low and there are limited ICU beds.

"Though the Pfizer vaccine is very good at preventing hospitalisation and death, individuals only gain immunity approximately two weeks after the second dose, and it has only 30 percent efficacy after the first dose," Dr Rimar says.

"That leaves more than half the country unprotected as only 42 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated at this time. Furthermore, vaccinated individuals can still become infected and transmit the virus, and the majority of those who transmit the virus do not elicit symptoms. This underscores the need for universal masking."

Dr Rimar adds that public education will be vital in combating misinformation and preventing deaths.

3:35pm - Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu, an immunologist, associate dean (Pacific), head of University of Otago Wellington Pacific Office, and a senior lecturer in Pathology & Molecular Medicine at the University of Otago Wellington, says the new cases outside of the Waikato lockdown boundary are "concerning but not surprising".

"Delta has continued its transmission through communities and across borders at a time where vaccination rates (although improving) are still low, and with restrictions already being eased," she says.

"A further extension of the alert level 3 border will be likely needed to keep the new Waikato cases contained and limit further spread."

Dr Sika-Paotonu says New Zealand can't give up fighting COVID-19.

"Please get vaccinated, please get tested, please follow the alert level rules, and above all, please reach out to others and help them do the same."

3:15pm - New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says a letter from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer regarding early vaccine delivery was never brought to Cabinet in time.

"The communication from Pfizer on June 30, 2020 wanting to negotiate early vaccine delivery was never brought to Cabinet in time," Peters said in a statement on Wednesday.

"If New Zealand First had known then that Pfizer was willing and able to begin negotiations we would immediately have urged funds be made available - just as we had done months before when MFAT [the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade] set $50 million aside for the COVID-19 response in the Pacific.

"It is clear we had the capacity to be at the front of the queue for vaccinations and delivery, but this critical information was never shared with us at that time, and discussions about funding contracts did not occur until months later.

"The Prime Minister and the then MBIE Lead Minister need to explain why this vital information wasn't treated with the urgency it deserved.

"It is inexcusable that this delay not only occurred but was first kept and delayed from Cabinet. It has clearly caused the devastating flow-on effects we are seeing today in Auckland and around New Zealand.

"New Zealand could have secured millions of vaccines before Christmas 2020 and could have had Kiwis vaccinated a long time before Delta even arrived in our country."

Winston Peters says communication from Pfizer on June 30, 2020 - wanting to negotiate early vaccine delivery - was never brought to Cabinet in time.
Winston Peters says communication from Pfizer on June 30, 2020 - wanting to negotiate early vaccine delivery - was never brought to Cabinet in time. Photo credit: RNZ

3:05pm - 'National Day of Vaccination' backed by business

It's encouraging to see Wellington topping the first dose vaccination charts, says the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Business Central.

"The projections show that Wellington is on track to hit our 90 percent vaccination target of the eligible, over 12 years old, population by November and reflect an excellent effort from Wellingtonians," says chief executive Simon Arcus.

"But we can do more - and we must. Today's announcement of a National Day of Vaccination on Saturday, October 16, or 'Super Saturday', is one way to encourage our communities to get out and get the jab. Of our wider Central New Zealand membership region, Gisborne across to Taranaki and down to Nelson, we have a mixed set of results. We will be encouraging all our members and their employees to 'get out to get vaccinated'.

"While we back the national day of vaccination, we also need the Government to make it easier for businesses to get their workforces vaccinated. The feedback through our COVID-19 Business helpline shows that vaccination status continues to be a minefield for employers, so we're joining the calls from the EMA and BusinessNZ to make the carrying of digital vaccine passports to enter the workplace mandatory.

"Our members are doing all they can to keep their workforce and customers safe - we know of businesses like Premier Beehive that have offered all staff and contractors grocery vouchers, have not only given time off to get vaccinated but also organised appointments, and have arranged for an on-site vaccination clinic for staff and families just in the past week. Another member, Steel and Tube, have offered cash, KiwiSaver contributions or company shares if they get both doses of the vaccine by mid-November.

"Government needs to support businesses to keep our communities safe. Under health and safety legislation employers have to provide a safe and healthy workplace - carrying vaccine passports is another way, another tool, to support this. While the Government has made it very clear that they won't mandate vaccinations, there is a policy gap between this decision and how it works in practice. We need clearer guidance and protection for businesses trying to manage and create vaccination policies in the workplace.

"This is especially needed to protect our vulnerable communities, those older, those who are immunocompromised, and for children who are not yet eligible and able to receive the vaccine."

2:55pm - Dedicated team to support disabled people to access COVID-19 vaccine

A new team has been mobilised to support disabled people to access transport and get vaccinated in a way that suits their needs, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Disability Issues Minister Carmel Sepuloni said on Wednesday.

"As part of our plan to give every eligible person the opportunity to get vaccinated by the end of the year, we are ensuring it is both easy and accessible for everyone, including disabled people," Hipkins said.

"A 30-strong team has been tasked with answering calls and questions, assisting disabled people and their carers to get the information and support they need. It will not only help increase vaccination rates among this group, but keep them and their whānau safer."

To speak with a support specialist, people can call the COVID-19 Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 for free from 8am until 8pm Monday to Friday - 'push 2' to speak to one of the team.

"We know that being vaccinated will be one of our greatest protections against COVID-19, which is why we need to continue making every effort to prioritise disabled people in the vaccination programme," Sepuloni said.

"I'm encouraged to see the team is already having a positive impact, supporting over 440 disabled people in the first two weeks since the team began taking calls.

"Support has included ensuring sites have mobility assistance in place, arranging sign language interpreters, providing transport options, ensuring 1737 phone counsellors are available to support people with needle anxiety, and other bespoke solutions developed for individuals alongside District Health Boards.

"This is another step in the right direction as we continue to remove barriers to vaccinations for disabled people, and make the vaccination programme accessible, inclusive and mana-enhancing."

The call centre is a collaboration between Capital and Coast DHB and Whakarongorau Aotearoa - National Telehealth Service. $1.5 million has been allocated for outreach to disabled people, which is being accessed by approximately 40 groups across New Zealand.

A toolkit is available for people supporting disabled peoples with key messages, digital assets for social media channels, newsletters and website, frequently asked questions, and links to further information and resources. Click here.

2:50pm - Meanwhile across the Tasman, New South Wales has recorded 594 new locally acquired cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night (local time).

No new cases were acquired overseas and 14 previously reported cases have been excluded following further investigation, bringing the total number of cases in the state since the beginning of the pandemic to 66,267.

NSW Health has also reported the deaths of 10 people - seven men and three women.

2:45pm - Here is the Ministry of Health's full press release for Wednesday:

39 community cases of COVID-19; two border cases; more than 63,000 vaccines doses administered yesterday


Number of new community cases*


Number of new cases identified at the border


Location of new community cases

Auckland (30); Waikato (9)

Location of community cases (total)

Auckland (including five cases in Upper Hauraki) 1,385 (1,068 recovered); Waikato 18 (all active); Wellington 17 (all recovered)

Number of community cases (total)

1,420 (in the current community outbreak)

Cases infectious in the community

19 of yesterday's 24 cases have exposure events

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious

5 of yesterday's 24 cases

Cases epidemiologically linked

38 of today's 39 cases are linked  

Cases to be epidemiologically linked

One of today's 39 cases. Investigations are continuing to determine a link.

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)

1383 (in the current cluster) (15 unlinked from the past fortnight).

Number of sub-clusters

15 epidemiologically linked subclusters. Of these, seven are active, one is contained and seven are dormant. There are 14 epidemiologically unlinked subclusters. Of these, five are active, one is contained and eight are dormant.

Cases in hospital

32 (total): North Shore (2) Middlemore (15); Auckland (14); Waikato (1)

Cases in ICU or HDU


Confirmed cases (total)

4092 since pandemic began.

Historical cases, since 1 Jan 2021 (total)**

166 out of 2276 since 1 Jan 2021



Number of open contacts being managed (total):


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


Percentage with at least one test result


Locations of interest


Locations of interest (total)

160 (as at 10am 5 October)



Number of tests (total)


Number of tests processed (total last 24 hours)


Number of tests taken in Auckland (last 24 hours)


Tests rolling average (last 7 days)


Testing centres in Auckland




Wastewater detections***

No unexpected detections in the past 24 hours

COVID-19 vaccine update


Vaccines administered to date (total)

5,467,111; 1st doses: 3,361,425 2nd doses: 2,105,686  

Vaccines administered yesterday (total)

63,624; 1st doses: 17,592; 2nd doses: 46,032


1st doses: 329,208 2nd doses: 186,632

Pacific Peoples

1st doses: 212,208; 2nd doses: 131,120

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents to date (total)

1,993,927 1st doses: 1,216,661 (85pct); 2nd doses: 777,266 (54pct)

Vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday (total)

22,180; 1st doses: 5,562 2nd doses: 16,618

NZ COVID-19 tracer


Registered users (total)


Poster scans (total)


Manual diary entries (total)


Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday


Death at Middlemore Hospital

The Ministry of Health is sadly reporting the death of a patient at Middlemore Hospital. Further details will be available later today after discussions with their family. The Ministry would like to recognise the family's loss and offer our deepest sympathies.

Waikato ED exposure

A patient who visited the Emergency Department at Waikato Hospital last Friday night has now tested positive for COVID-19.

The asymptomatic patient was screened when they entered ED by staff who were following alert level 2 Infection, Prevention and Control protocols.

In a cautious approach the DHB has temporarily stood down a number of ED staff who are self-isolating.

Results from rapid PCR tests are expected today.

Waikato testing

There are five pop up testing sites operating in Hamilton, Raglan, Huntly and Tokoroa, with all five being open for extended hours to cater to any lift in demand.

An existing site at Founders Theatre car park in Hamilton remains open.

The DHB is working to establish a sixth pop up testing site, at Karapiro, following the positive case there. An existing testing provider in Kawhia has been expanded. More details on exact locations and hours are available on the Healthpoint and Waikato DHB sites.

Demand for testing has been steady and there are good supplies of testing kits and staffing capacity.

Vaccine: Gap between doses

In response to the ongoing Delta outbreak the Ministry of Health is advising New Zealanders to consider a shorter gap between doses of the Pfizer vaccine than the current standard of six weeks.

Reducing the gap between doses to at least three weeks means more people can be fully vaccinated sooner, increasing our community immunity. The two doses of the Pfizer vaccine must be given at least three weeks apart.

In August the standard gap between first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine was extended from three weeks to six weeks to allow us to give one dose (partial protection) to a larger number of people faster.

Since that time the Delta outbreak has increased the risk of contracting COVID-19 for everyone in New Zealand and increased the urgency for people to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Auckland suburbs of interest

People without symptoms are asked to get tested if they live in any of the eight suburbs of interest.

The current suburbs of interest are:  

  • Clover Park
  • Māngere  
  • Favona  
  • Manurewa
  • Mount Wellington/Sylvia Park
  • Henderson
  • Papakura
  • Red Beach.

*Today's cases

Includes one previously reported Waikato case that has been reclassified from recovered to active. The recently reported Upper Hauraki case is now included in the Auckland figures. There is one further case in a border worker that is yet to be classified as community or border related.

**Historical cases

One previously reported case has been reclassified as historical

***Wastewater testing

Samples taken from Taupo and Putaruru on Monday 6 October in the Waikato region did not detect COVID-19.

Several other samples have been taken from throughout New Zealand. These include those collected from Te Kauwhata, Raglan, Ngaruawahia, Huntly, Feilding, Hunterville, Hamilton and Palmerston North. Results are expected tomorrow.

2:35pm - Northland DHB has confirmed it has been notified of a weak positive result for COVID-19 in Whangārei.

The person returned the weak positive result after getting tested for COVID-19 at a community testing centre in Whangārei on October 4. The result may turn out to be a false positive, the DHB said.

The situation is under investigation and a repeat test has been organised. The person is an essential worker who was asymptomatic when the nasopharyngeal surveillance test was performed.

"It is only a matter of time before Northland has a positive COVID-19 case and it is imperative that everyone who can is vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible," chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain said in a statement.

"Even if it doesn't turn out to be positive, this would be the second near-miss in the last week after a case last week in the Far North that turned out not to be infectious while up here."

Of the 164,526 eligible people (aged 12 and older) in Northland, 60,000 are yet to be vaccinated - 66,639 people have had two doses and 37,780 have received one dose.

If 70 percent of Northland's population were vaccinated, 60,000 to 80,000 Northlanders would become infected with COVID-19 over two years, the DHB said. In addition, there would be more than 100 deaths - likely the most at-risk Northlanders who are elderly or have underlying health conditions. 

Hospitalisations would peak at 200, putting considerable strain on the health system. The wait for Northlanders to access healthcare such as hip replacements, cataract surgeries and some cancer treatments would be prolonged, it added.

At 90 percent, there would still be an impact requiring careful management, although the number of people affected would be significantly reduced.

Around 4000 Northlanders would be infected with COVID-19, two people at any one time would be hospitalised, and approximately 10 people would lose their lives to the virus.

"Vaccination is our best protection against COVID-19. You can't keep relying on lockdowns and staying in our communities hoping it won't affect you, because it will find you!" Dr Chamberlain said.

"Remember, the COVID-19 Delta [variant] is seeking out unvaccinated people who have no resistance to it. The higher our vaccination rates, the fewer restrictions we'll need to keep the virus under control."

Vaccination clinics are available throughout Northland at general practices, pharmacies, Māori health providers and DHB clinics.

"I can't stress enough how important it is for our whole community that as many of us are vaccinated as possible," Dr Chamberlain said. 

To find out where vaccination clinics are in Northland, visit the HealthPoint website.

2:30pm - There is still confusion over whether or not a person can use the bathroom while socialising with another household under phase one of the Government's new three-step plan for Auckland.

Under the step, which came into effect at 11:59pm last night, Aucklanders can burst their bubbles and reconnect with loved ones - but only outdoors. No more than 10 people, or two households, can gather at the same time. Masks and physical distancing are also required.

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told The AM Show people who are visiting friends can enter their homes to use the bathroom - but they need to do it one at a time. 

"Obviously we want people to stay outside... COVID outside is a totally different thing than COVID indoors where you don't have ventilation," he said. 

"Of course, we want it to be a practical situation, I think as Dr Bloomfield said yesterday we are not expecting there to be gatherings of people in the toilet, but if people need to go, no doubt they will manage that situation."

But advice on the Government's Unite Against COVID-19 website contradicts that, stating: "You can, for example, invite people from another household over for dinner in your backyard, but they cannot enter your house."

statement sent to RNZ by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) also contradicts the Deputy Prime Minister, saying people must stay outdoors at all times under the new rules. 

"Visitors cannot go into your house at all. If you have visitors they can meet in your garden or in a public outdoor space. The important thing is that your gathering of 10 people is outdoors to reduce the ability of the virus to transmit. This includes walking through a house to access the backyard or use the bathroom facilities." 

During Wednesday's press conference, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins also categorically denied that people are able to use an indoor bathroom - unless it was an outdoor toilet.

Read more here.

2:25pm - In case you missed it, the Government has declared October 16 the 'National Day of Action' in a bid to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates across the country.

With half of the eligible population of New Zealand fully vaccinated - and more than 80 percent vaccinated with at least one dose - the Government desperately wants to reach the remaining 20 percent who have not had a jab. 

"We've got a plan and to make it work we're asking everyone to contribute to a big, nationwide push for vaccination. This will culminate in a National Day of Action for vaccination on Saturday, October 16," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday. 

"On that day, we will have vaccine clinics open throughout Aotearoa all day and into the evening. A bit like Election Day, we will be asking all our political and civic leaders to contribute to a big collective effort to turn people out."

The National Party tweeted a response confirming its support for the 'National Day of Action'.

"National have responded to a letter from the Govt asking us to support this National Day of Action with confirmation that we are completely on-board."

Read more here.

2:20pm - A second organiser of the anti-lockdown protest at Auckland Domain on Saturday has been summonsed to court.

Police Superintendent Shanan Gray, the relieving Auckland City district commander, says a 57-year-old man has been summonsed to appear in Auckland District Court next week in relation to organising a mass gathering at the domain. 

"He is due to appear in court next Tuesday, along with a 63-year-old man who was summonsed yesterday," Gray says.

"He will be appearing on charges which relate to Breaching the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 and Alert Level 3 Order. 

"The Police investigation is continuing and Police cannot rule out further charges or enforcement action against others involved in the event."

The 63-year-old man he will be appearing alongside is Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki. Tamaki confirmed in a statement on Tuesday that two police officers had visited him at his home, informing him he was to be charged with two offences under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order.

2:15pm - Four new potential exposure events have been added as of 2pm.

One of the new locations of interest is Auckland City Hospital in Grafton.

Anyone who was at the hospital on Thursday, September 30, Friday, October 1 or Saturday, October 2 between 7am and 11:59pm, 2:30pm and 10pm and 4pm and 11:59pm respectively is asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after the date of exposure. 

If symptoms develop, get a test, and stay at home until a negative result is returned - and for 24 hours after symptoms resolve.

The shift hours could indicate an infectious staff member or a patient who has been staying at the hospital.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 6

1:55pm - Hipkins said a possible case in Whangārei is currently "under investigation" after the person returned an unclear test result.

It's understood the person returned a weak positive, but the result was sitting outside the CT value range needed to conclusively determine if they are a case.

He says the person is based in Auckland but had been in Whangārei at the time of their test. They have since returned to Auckland, he said. 

"It is not yet a confirmed case," he reiterated.

The person will likely be re-tested.

1:46pm - Waikato Hospital ED visitor returned positive COVID-19 test

Here's a statement from Waikato DHB regarding the positive case:

Waikato DHB's Public Health team has confirmed an individual who visited Waikato Hospital Emergency Department last week has now tested positive for COVID-19.

They were screened on entry, but as they were not symptomatic and the visit was prior to any cases or locations of interest being identified in the Waikato region, this person was streamed to the children's ED area. They were at the ED area for around three hours from late Friday night (1 October) to early Saturday morning (2 October).

Public Health investigations have confirmed that this individual, who returned a positive test yesterday, was likely in their infectious period at the time of visit.

Waikato DHB Executive Director Hospital and Community Services, Chris Lowry, said initial investigations showed safety protocols had been followed in line with the existing alert level.

"We are reassured all staff in this area followed our infection prevention and control protocols appropriate to alert level 2, but we are not willing to take any chances with this Delta variant of COVID-19 so are taking all actions we can to reduce any further risk."

All 50 ED staff who were on duty at the time the individual was on-site have been contacted and stood down pending rapid tests which were being done this morning.

Public Health staff also confirmed one member of public present at the ED who was a potential contact and will be notified directly.

Ms Lowry said many of the staff who had been stood down would have been working in areas some distance from the children's ED but a cautious approach was being taken as Public Health staff worked to establish the level of potential contact each person may have had.

"We are hopeful that we can confirm the majority of staff would not be considered close contacts and can be back at work following a negative test today."

The DHB does not have further comment to provide at this time, but will provide updates as information is available. 

1:44pm - Hipkins says the Government is gradually transitioning to a "different way of managing the risks", with alert level 1 set to look a little different in the context of a highly vaccinated population.

The Government is looking at other "slow and steady" transitions implemented overseas, Hipkins says. Significant freedoms introduced too quickly tend to see countries "lurch back and forth".

1:40pm - Regarding the positive case who visited Waikato Hospital, Dr McElnay says the patient was not showing symptoms on arrival and has tested positive since presenting at the facility on Friday.

She says the emergency department at the hospital was visited by the patient while they were infectious, "similar to a location of interest".

1:35pm - Dr McElnay says at this stage it's believed the person who tested positive in Hamilton East over the weekend is the index case for the other Waikato infections.

She says it's understood there is a "strong connection" between the Hamilton case and another case in Auckland.

1:33pm - Hipkins says he expects more rapid-antigen tests will be available soon.

Regarding the 25 businesses calling for urgent approval to import 370,000 rapid-antigen tests, Hipkins says he understands their motivation, but he thinks it's unrealistic in the next week.

"Rapid testing will become a bigger part of our response fairly soon," he says.

1:29pm - Hipkins says he doesn't want to generalise, but acknowledges a number of affected communities in the outbreak "don't trust the Government generally", with the distrust built up "over generations".

He says health officials are practicing different methods to reach those communities.

In Kawhia, he says 69 percent of the eligible population have received their first dose, with about 41 percent fully vaccinated.

1:26pm - Hipkins says the additional cases in Waikato are "reasonably well-contained".

He says a decision whether or not to extend the Waikato boundary is not required "immediately", but it's under review. He says it can be implemented quickly if there are developments in the next 24-48 hours.

1:22pm - Dr McElnay says she does not have any details about the deceased COVID-19 patient at Middlemore Hospital.

She says health officials are confident the nine new cases in Waikato are connected, with "clear and strong linkage" between them.

No decision has been made to expand the alert level 3 boundary in Waikato, Hipkins says. It is possible, but there are questions about what the new, extended boundary might look like. Currently Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Ngaruawahia, Hamilton City and Huntly are under alert level 3 restrictions for a preliminary five-day period.

1:20pm - Hipkins says playgrounds can open under step one of the Government's roadmap for Auckland, but says no, you can't go to the toilet at a friend's home when socialising outdoors.

Any outdoor exercise classes must be socially distanced, he says.

He says the Government is consulting with the health workforce about mandating vaccination for teachers, as well as the education workforce and its representatives. 

Cabinet will need to make final decisions about a mandate requirement, Hipkins says, which he "fully intends" to take to Cabinet.

"If I was a teacher, I would be making sure I got vaccinated."

1:18pm - The National Party has confirmed its on-board with the National Day of Action.

1:15pm - Hipkins has confirmed "quite a number" of the cases in the outbreak are gang members.

"We need to do as much as we can to get their cooperation."

He confirmed only two gang members have been given an exemption to cross Auckland's regional boundary.

1:11pm - Hipkins has reiterated that a return to zero cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand is "unlikely".

"We need to prepare for a gradual transition to the next phase of the COVID-19 response," he said.

He is urging every eligible New Zealander to not only get their first or second dose, but to encourage others to do the same.

"We need to channel our energy into a big push to get Kiwis vaccinated," he said.

"We can be one of the most vaccinated countries in the world."

1:09pm - Chris Hipkins says the cases outside of Auckland serve as a "stark reminder" of how tricky COVID-19 can be.

In Auckland, 85 percent of the eligible population has now received at least one dose.

More than 63,000 people were vaccinated on Tuesday.

Currently, 80 percent of the eligible populations of both the North and South Island have received their first dose.

1:07pm - The Ministry of Health is advising New Zealanders to consider a shorter gap between their first and second doses of the vaccine. The standard break between doses is six weeks.

1:04pm - Of the 39 cases, 30 are in Auckland and nine are in Waikato - bringing the number of cases in the region to 18.

One of today's cases has yet to be linked and four of yesterday's remain unlinked.

An additional 36 cases are expected in the coming days among known household contacts.

There are 32 people in hospital, seven of whom are in the ICU.

Swab numbers remain high.

Of the now 18 cases in the Waikato, all are linked to known cases. Two reside outside the current alert level 3 boundary in the region, in Kawhia and Karapiro.

Dr McElnay also confirmed a patient at Waikato Hospital has tested positive. A number of staff have been stood down as a precautionary measure.

1:01pm - There are 39 new community cases of COVID-19 to report today.

A COVID-positive patient has died at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

12:55pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has announced a 'National Day of Action' for vaccinations on October 16. Here's the statement just in: 

With over half the eligible population now fully vaccinated and more than 80 percent with at least one dose, we've all got to do our bit reach the remaining 20 percent, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

"We've got a plan and to make it work we're asking everyone to contribute to a big, nationwide push for vaccination. This will culminate in a National Day of Action for vaccination on Saturday 16 October," Chris Hipkins said.

"On that day, we will have vaccine clinics open throughout Aotearoa all day and into the evening. A bit like Election Day, we will be asking all our political and civic leaders to contribute to a big collective effort to turn people out."

As of today half of the eligible population in New Zealand has been fully vaccinated. We've seen 85 percent of Aucklanders and over 80 percent of New Zealanders have at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

"We all have a role to play in getting our vaccination rates up," Hipkins said.

"Our message to the 80 percent of the eligible population who have had their first dose is this: your job is not done. Please get your second dose, and help us reach those who have not yet come forward to be vaccinated.

"We need you to be talking to them about the reasons you've been vaccinated, we need you to make sure they are getting reliable, honest information about the vaccine. And we need you to help us to get the unvaccinated vaccinated.

"We are asking our business community, our media, and our community groups to play a role too. Those that want to offer incentives to the unvaccinated to get them in the door are encouraged to do so.

"We want parents and grandparents to encourage young New Zealanders to take up the opportunity to be vaccinated. We also want young people to check in with any older family members who aren't yet vaccinated, show them where they can find reliable and accurate information online, and help the whole whānau to be protected.

"We must leave no stone unturned. No one should be left behind because they haven't had the support they need to make an informed choice to be vaccinated."

There are currently 350,000 appointments available next week on That doesn't include general practice, where more than 20 percent of people are getting their vaccines. Work is being done with District Health Boards now to increase capacity even further.

"Our response as a collective nation to the challenges posed by COVID-19 has been world-leading. Now we need a world-leading uptake of vaccination," Hipkins said.

"The next week and a half is critical. We need to pull out all the stops to increase our vaccination rates. It has never been more urgent."

12:45pm - Stuff is reporting a case of COVID-19 has been detected in the Waikato town of Cambridge, which is south of the Hamilton boundary. 

There is sure to be more information provided about this at the 1pm briefing.

12:40pm - A reminder that COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay will be speaking at 1pm. You'll be able to watch that above and on Three. 

12:25pm - There are two new locations of interest:

  • Keymens Corner Lunch Bar in Mount Wellington - Friday, October 1 between 7:30am and 7:45am 
  • BP Connect Khyber Pass - Monday, October 4 between 11pm and 12:30am.

12:05pm - The Mongrel Mob is holding a session with invited medical experts to discuss vaccination.

12pm - A number of staff at Waikato Hospital have been stood down and told to get tested after a patient reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

A person who visited the Waiora Waikato Hospital Emergency Department on Friday night has now tested positive for the virus, Stuff understands.

The person was reportedly sent to the children's emergency department as they were not presenting symptoms on arrival. 

No locations of interest had been identified in the Waikato region on Friday, as it was before the two cases were detected in Hamilton East and Raglan over the weekend.

It's understood the person was infectious.

Stuff understands affected staff are now self-isolating, with testing results expected on Wednesday afternoon.

11:45am - Some of the country's largest companies are calling on the Government to allow the importation of rapid COVID-19 tests to protect critical New Zealand worksites.

More than 25 businesses across a range of sectors including manufacturing, energy, food production, telecommunications, freight, aviation and aged-care have formed a coalition to jointly import 370,000 rapid antigen tests, to be introduced on worksites around the country.

"What we are seeking is urgent approval from the Government to allow for the importation of rapid surveillance tests as a critical part of health and safety management in the workplace," said Don Braid, Mainfreight's managing director.

"This is business wanting to take care of their people from a health and safety perspective and to keep their sites operational. Vaccinations and testing are key to this and it is bewildering that the rapid testing we are using in 26 locations around the world is unavailable to us at our home base in New Zealand.

"We believe the Government shares our concern that the addition of antigen testing cannot suffer the long delays that occurred in introducing saliva testing. With the current Delta outbreak we are confident they will act decisively and work with us to make it happen."

Rapid antigen tests are used widely overseas as an additional tool to curb the spread of COVID-19, providing on-the spot results in minutes.

The 25 companies, which are looking to procure 370,000 tests via medical supplies wholesaler and distributor EBOS Healthcare, have written to the Government seeking emergency clearance to import the tests within the next seven days. The tests, which would not take the place of existing PCR tests for border workers or those who are experiencing symptoms, provide results in about 15 minutes, unlike PCR tests which can take days to return results.

Five of the six rapid tests under consideration are approved and in use in Australia with the final option currently pending approval.

Foodstuffs North Island CEO Chris Quin said the company was focused on keeping its team and customers safe and rapid antigen testing would provide a quick and easy way for key staff to test themselves frequently at home or at work.

"COVID-19 isn't disappearing any time soon. We want access to fast testing to provide an additional layer of screening for our essential workforce, who have been hugely co-operative in doing the right thing for each other and New Zealand from a health and safety perspective.

"The tests are proven to be very effective when used frequently. They can only strengthen and improve our current plan for managing the virus as an additional layer of protection as we move towards living with COVID-19. It's a lot like a high-viz jacket - they don't protect from every accident but they're another important tool in helping to keep people safe."

Genesis CEO Marc England said rapid antigen tests would add another layer of protection for staff at critical power plants, such as Huntly.

"We initiated saliva testing among our essential workers at Huntly during alert level 4 and this provided assurance our staff and the plant could operate safely. The half-day turnaround for saliva results is good, but the immediacy of rapid antigen testing means our staff will have reasonable confidence before they step foot on site that they are safe to do so.

"Huntly is a critical part of New Zealand's energy network – it simply has to keep running, and the only people who can operate Huntly are those who work there."

The 25 companies requesting urgent approval to introduce the tests at critical worksites include Mainfreight, Foodstuffs North Island, Genesis, Hynds Pipe Systems, Mercury, Summerset Group, Wellington Airport, Christchurch Airport, Sky NZ, Queenstown Airport, Spark, Vodafone, The Warehouse Group, ANZ Bank, Contact Energy, Fulton Hogan, Woolworths NZ, Fletcher Building, Chorus, Carter Holt Harvey, Meridian Energy, DHL Express NZ, Air NZ and Auckland Airport.

11:35am - An initiative is being run at Auckland's Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau to encourage vaccine uptake. 

People who receive a jab at the centre are being given food hampers and a fuel voucher, according to posts on social media.

A spokesperson for the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) confirmed the initiative was run by one of their providers.

It's not yet clear how long the incentive will be offered.

11:25am - Mandatory vaccination passports are the key to Auckland CBD's recovery, says Heart of the City.

The non-profit organisation is calling for digital passports to be mandated, providing certainty for businesses ravaged by the ongoing outbreak.

Auckland's consumer-facing businesses are currently losing around $25 million a week due to the current restrictions, says Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck - compounded by the loss of tourists, students, events and more than 130,000 people who are now working at home.

"We need to encourage visitation and spending in our city centre, and we need to welcome back workers, their suppliers and customers, and importantly make sure they feel safe.  Vaccination is the best option right now and we need to ensure there is a clear framework that everyone understands," Beck said on Wednesday.

"This is the reality we are all facing, and our businesses need as much certainty as possible. Many sectors are haemorrhaging; they shouldn't be put into a position where they have more stress about how they meet their Health & Safety responsibilities and who can or can't come on to their premises.

"Government needs to take a lead on this by making vaccine passports mandatory and determine how to deal with exemptions. They must respond to calls from sectors that are hurting by putting in place a system that allows them to get back to business. It's too much for businesses to have to navigate through possible legal ramifications, and work out what exemptions would look like."

11:15am - Ōtorohanga Mayor Max Baxter has confirmed to Newshub that a person has tested positive for COVID-19 in Kāwhia. 

He says he is not yet sure if the community will also be plunged up to alert level 3, as seen in Hamilton City and Raglan following the positive cases over the weekend. 

He says he understands there will be increased opportunities for testing in the area.

He told Newshub he hopes the positive case will serve as a "wake-up call" for the community about the importance of getting vaccinated.

Kāwhia Board chair Dave Walsh also confirmed the case had been detected. 

10:55am - Financial support for Auckland sport and recreation organisations

The Government is providing $5.3 million to assist sport and recreation organisations in the Auckland region financially affected by the latest lockdown.   

"The investment is being provided through Sport NZ from the $265 million Sport Recovery Package announced in Budget 2020," Grant Robertson said in a statement on Wednesday.

The new recovery investment is being made via existing Sport NZ partners and comprises:

  • Up to $3 million for Aktive Auckland Sport and Recreation to support local and regional sport and recreation organisations across the Auckland region

  • Up to $1.5 million for Recreation Aotearoa to support outdoor education providers experiencing reductions in revenue due to the cancellation of school-group activities at alert levels 3 and 4

  • An additional $800,000 for Variety NZ to support tamariki and rangatahi in financial need through the existing Active Me - Kia Tū initiative.

"The cancellation of competitions and other fundraising events impact a significant source of income for clubs and regional bodies in the Auckland region.

"Much of this $5.3 million investment will help with fixed administration and operating costs to help organisations and providers remain viable.

"It will provide some much-needed financial assistance to clubs, regional bodies and whānau across the Auckland region so Aucklanders can continue to maintain their wellbeing through physical activity," Robertson said.          

10:45am - Five new potential exposure events have been identified by the Ministry of Health so far this morning.

New locations of interest include Raglan Laundromat, Four Square in Hobsonville and New World in New Lynn.

New potential exposure events have been added for Aroha Sushi in Raglan, 

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, October 6

10:36am - The Ministry of Health has refused to confirm whether a new case has been detected in Kawhia, telling Newshub: "The Ministry announces case numbers and other details at the 1pm stand up and statement."

10:25am - It's understood that a person has tested positive for COVID-19 in Kawhia, a coastal community in the Waikato.

Ōtorohanga District Mayor Max Baxter confirmed to the NZ Herald he had been informed of the positive case this morning.

The Herald understands the Kawhia case is a close contact of the Hamilton East case.

Kawhia is currently not included in the snap five-day alert level 3 lockdown in Waikato, which spans Hamilton City, Raglan, Te Kauwhata and Ngāruawāhia.

Baxter told the outlet he was unsure if the town would also enter a higher alert level.

Newshub has contacted Baxter and the Ministry of Health for comment.

10:10am - More than 90 percent of Wellington Central has now received at least one dose of the vaccine against COVID-19.

Assuming all bookings for a second dose go ahead in the next six weeks, the city will hit the golden target of 90 percent vaccination by November 17, the New Zealand Herald reports.

Capital and Coast District Health Board confirmed the district was sitting at a first dose vaccination rate of 91 percent on Sunday.

The 90 percent threshold is now widely cited as the benchmark for vaccination coverage, with the Government confirming it would look to scrap stay-at-home orders once the target has been reached.

A total of 161,741 people in Wellington have received at least their first dose, with 46 percent fully vaccinated.

A CCDHB spokesperson told the Herald that Kāpiti Coast became the first area in the Wellington region to have more than half of its eligible population fully vaccinated, with 56 percent now double-jabbed.

9:55am - An epidemiologist is calling on the Government to clarify once and for all if it has scrapped the elimination strategy in favour of a suppression approach. 

Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, an epidemiologist and senior research fellow at Wellington's University of Otago, says the Prime Minister's outline of Auckland's three-step roadmap on Monday was "muddled and confusing".

She says the Government needs to provide clear and transparent communication to ensure New Zealanders know what the plan is, what is expected of them, and how they will be kept safe while vaccination coverage remains low.

"After the muddled and confusing messages on Monday, it's time for clear and transparent communication from the Government. It's not an exaggeration to say that decisions being made now could determine New Zealand's future health and wellbeing for years to come. We need information," Kvalsvig said on Wednesday.

"First, we need to know what the strategy is now: is it elimination or suppression? The two strategies are very different in their aims and objectives. Because this strategy decision is so critical, the Government will need to 'show its working' by making available the evidence and criteria underpinning the choice of strategy.

"Second, we need to know how the strategy will be delivered: what is the plan to keep New Zealanders safe until full vaccination and beyond? What resources will be available to protect people that are most at risk, including Māori, Pasifika, people with underlying conditions, people experiencing marginalisation, and all of the children?

"Finally, if the strategy is now suppression, we need to know who was consulted on the change and what they asked for. Landmark policy decisions with a profound impact on health need a participatory decision process, ensuring that those who are most at risk have a voice and a place at the table when key decisions are being made about their lives and health."

9:40am - University of Canterbury Professor Michael Plank says although the relaxed restrictions in Auckland may or may not accelerate the number of cases in the region, "it certaintly won't do anything to slow it".

Under stage one of the Government's roadmap, Aucklanders are now able to socialise in groups of 10 or under between a maximum of two households - with masks and physical distancing. 

Plank has expressed concern that the Government's three-step plan is introducing too much freedom, too soon. He says it's now inevitable that COVID-19 will spread outside of Auckland.

"It’s becoming clear that case numbers are growing under alert level 3 conditions in Auckland. While the easing of restrictions announced yesterday may or may not accelerate this growth, it certainly won't do anything to slow it. The virus has already managed to find a way across the Auckland boundary on at least four occasions, during a period when the outbreak has been relatively small. If case numbers become much higher, it will become more and more difficult to prevent this happening again," Plank said on Wednesday.

"The change in tack signalled by the Government means it is really a matter of time before COVID finds its way to all corners of New Zealand."

As the Government shifts away from the elimination strategy, officials will need to tread a "very narrow path" to avoid overwhelming New Zealand's healthcare system, he said.

"We are relying on a combination of restrictions and immunity through vaccination to prevent cases from growing too rapidly. As vaccination rates increase, restrictions can be progressively eased. But if we relax too much, there is a risk the number of hospitalisations could start to spiral out of control.

"Getting vaccination rates up is crucial but will take time, so the Government may yet be forced to tighten restrictions to protect our hospitals and our at-risk populations."

9:25am - Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles has doubled-down on her criticism of the Government's controversial three-step roadmap for Auckland.

Following the announcement of the three-stage plan on Monday, Wiles, a microbiologist at the University of Auckland, said she was "gutted" that restrictions were being incrementally eased, arguing the move is too risky given our current low rate of vaccination.

On Wednesday, Wiles reiterated that the phased transition out of alert level 3 has come too early for Auckland, which is still recording new cases each day.

"I had personally hoped we would be making this transition sometime next year, when vaccines were likely to become available to our under-12s, and without COVID-19 in our community," she said.

Wiles said the ongoing outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in Auckland means it is too risky to lower the rest of New Zealand to alert level 1, the setting closest to pre-pandemic normality.

"That it is happening with an active Delta outbreak means it would be dangerous to grant the rest of New Zealand the freedoms of alert level 1 that we have all enjoyed since COVID-19 first emerged last year. We have ample evidence that the border around Auckland is not impenetrable, so those freedoms mean the chance of a super-spreader event is too high," she said. 

However, Wiles noted that shifting from an elimination strategy to one of suppression is "pragmatic" alongside a suite of measures, including vaccination, vaccine passports, masks, improved ventilation, rapid-testing and other tools to minimise transmission - as well as testing, contact tracing and isolation to control transmission chains and clusters as they emerge.

"It is clear we have to keep cases as low as possible or we risk overwhelming our healthcare system, especially at the moment while over half of New Zealanders are not fully vaccinated," she said.

"We all need to mentally and physically prepare ourselves for what life with COVID-19 in our communities is going to be like. One preparation we can all be making is to encourage and help those around us to get vaccinated."

9:10am - Rhythm and Vines' co-founder Hamish Pinkham told The AM Show this morning that without Auckland, this year's festival will likely be canned. 

Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, has signalled that Auckland may endure another eight weeks of restrictions under alert level 3 - cutting it very close to summer's festival circuit.

If Auckland still has its strict regional boundary in place ahead of New Years - preventing residents from carrying out non-essential travel - it's unlikely the festival will go ahead, Pinkham said.

He says the team will not be in a position to hold the event if Aucklanders are unable to travel to Gisborne's Waiohika Estate vineyard, where the festival is held annually.

"Fifty percent [of our attendees] are from Auckland, so no, we need the country open," he told The AM Show.

"We won't be in a position to hold it if the country's fragmented."

9am - There's still confusion as Auckland enters revised COVID-19 alert level 3 restrictions.

The latest advice on the Ministry of Health's website says people can invited another household over for dinner but guests can't, under any circumstances, enter the home. That directly contradicts Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, who on Tuesday said entering an indoor toilet one at a time was allowed.

8:45am - The Prime Minister is defending the head of the Waikato Mongrel Mob chapter being given an essential workers exemption to enter Auckland last weekend.

Speaking to Radio Hauraki on Wednesday, Jacinda Ardern said Waikato Mongrel Mob president Sonny Fatupaito was helping with ongoing COVID-19 work. 

"We've got cases in gangs and that makes this job really hard," she said.

8:35am - Judith Collins has claimed if the Government allows workplaces to say "no jab, no job", it'll drive up unemployment. 

"I think the Government needs to give guidance to business," Collins, leader of the National Party, told The AM Show on Wednesday. "It's pretty clear that the Government isn't quite sure what to do itself."

8:20am - Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is blaming a "programme that wasn't designed for our population profiles" for slow COVID-19 vaccination rates among Māori.

"We had a vaccine programme that started with 65-plus - nearly 25 percent are under 20 years old for Māori so we're a completely different profile compared to non-Māori," the Māori Party co-leader told RNZ's Morning Report.

8:10am - National Party leader Judith Collins is telling the Government to take responsibility for New Zealand's COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Collins told The AM Show the road to get to 90 percent coverage, the Government's target, is far too long.

"I think it's very clear... the Government's so-called pathway they released this week is a total mess. It has no criteria on it. 

"[It was] the Government's failure to roll out the vaccine, to even order the vaccine - it took them two months to even answer an email from Pfizer last year to get the vaccine. These guys have been slow as a cold, long winter."

Watch Collins' full intervew here.

7:58am - The Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) is urging the Goverment to make COVID-19 vaccine certificates mandatory to enter the workplace.

"Under health and safety legislation employers have to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their workers and carrying vaccine passports is one way to do this," EMA chief executive Brett O'Riley says.

"The majority of New Zealanders are getting vaccinated and we know some employers were already using a 'no jab, no entry' policy to protect their workplaces prior to this latest outbreak."

O'Riley says extra precautions should apply to workers not vaccinated against COVID-19.

"Those that can't be vaccinated for medical, religious or other reasons will have to apply for and carry a digital exemption and may have to wear masks and/or register for track and tracing - current policy at level 3 - to be allowed in. The unvaccinated may have to take some responsibility for the circumstances or decisions they face while the extra precautions would help employers manage a potential mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated staff."

7:49am - President of the Waikato Mongrel Mob Kingdom Chapter Sonny Fatupaito travelled to and from Auckland last weekend after being granted an essential worker exception, the NZ Herald and Newstalk ZB are reporting.

He was reportedly working with people in hard-to-reach communities to get them vaccinated against COVID-19.

"While we're there cuddling up to the gangs, how about we get them jabbed and at the same time we take the meth off them? I know it's a whole new concept for the Government," National Party leader Judith Collins told The AM Show.

7:40am - Speaking to RNZ's Morning Report, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins declined to say whether people attending churches will need vaccine certificates.

Hipkins, also the Education Minister, also wouldn't say whether jabs for teachers will be mandated.

7:30am - The Government's COVID-19 vaccine certificate announcement has been met with relief from the events sector. Rhythm and Vines co-founder Hamish Pinkham says it gives the sector certainty.

"It's some clarity we were looking for, isn't it? As a wider industry, we need some sort of line in the sand that we can now tell people, 'Get vaxxed, or you're not going to be able to attend events like Rhythm and Vines this summer'."

7:20am - The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 90 percent effective at preventing hospitalisations up to six months after the second dose, a new study has found.

Published in the Lancet medical journal, the US study also found the jab provides powerful protection against the Delta variant.

But its effectiveness does wane over time - dropping by nearly half after five months.

Read more here.

7:10am - National Party leader Judith Collins is outraged the COVID-19 vaccination passport hasn't already hit the ground running.

Collins told The AM Show it's unjustifiable that it's not already here.

"The UK's had one of these since May, the EU has had one since June and now the Government is rolling out the IT guys from the Ministry of Health... I think people are just saying, 'Get on and do your job, Government, and give us some guidance.'"

7:02am - The fitness industry wants the Government to ease COVID-19 restrictions for gyms.

Exercise New Zealand chief executive Richard Beddie told The AM Show gyms are an important part of people's lives.

"What we're asking for, though, is to look from a public safety perspective because the second-best thing a person can do to recuce their risk of being hospitalised from COVID is to exercise - first, vaccination."

6:59am - National Party leader Judith Collins says the Government needs to give more guidance to businesses.

"It's pretty clear that the Government isn't quite sure what to do itself," she told The AM Show. "We certainly haven't seen them mandating vaccines until very, very recently for the frontline border staff, and they simply don't seem to have the wherewithal or the ability to put in place the vaccine certificates that yesterday they were talking about - when you consider that the UK's had one of these since May, the EU has had one since June and now the Government is rolling out the IT guys from the Ministry of Health to say, 'We're going to have gone too for probably next year.'  

"I think people are just saying, 'Get on and do your job, Government, and give us some guidance.'"

6:54am - Singapore's health ministry reported 3486 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, while it recorded nine new deaths from the disease. Here's the latest on the pandemic from around the world.

6:45am - There were 25,000 New Zealanders around the world stuck in front of their screens on Tuesday, desperately trying to get a space in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) in a bid to return home.

It was the third release of the MIQ virtual lobby system, with about 3700 rooms released.

But for many, it was yet another blow.

Samantha Gee of RNZ reports.

6:40am - Legal and digital experts are raising questions over the Government's announcement that COVID-19 vaccine certificates will be available for New Zealanders in November. Read more here.

6:32am - A leading Professor of Law is calling for new legislation to deal with COVID-19 vaccine certificate breaches.

The certificates are being introduced by the Government to help fight the virus, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday.

But Law Professor Al Gillespie, from the University of Waikato, says a standalone piece of legislation would help the certificates be policed.

"You want the Government to take charge and say, 'these are the rules and this is how they apply to everyone' so there's no uncertainty or mistakes in their implementation," he told Newshub.

6:30am - Brian Tamaki has confirmed he faces a day in court for organising an anti-lockdown protest at the Auckland Domain at the weekend.

In a statement, the Destiny Church leader said he's facing two charges under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Order. 

He says he's "surprised" by the charges after working with the police before the event.

Tamaki says he'll defend the charges in court.