As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, November 29

Cabinet has announced which regions will move into 'red' and 'orange' settings as New Zealand prepares to transition to the new COVID-19 Protection Framework.

Northland, Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua Lakes Districts, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki Districts, Gisborne District, Wairoa District, Rangitikei, Whanganui, and Ruapehu Districts will move in at red. The rest of the North Island will move in at orange, as will all of the South Island.

The country will shift to the new system at 11:59pm on Thursday. The framework, designed for a highly vaccinated population, rewards the double-jabbed with a return to relative normality - they can dine out, go to the gym, visit a bar and attend events. To operate without significant restrictions in place, businesses are required to adopt a 'no jab, no entry' policy, meaning all customers must present their My Vaccine Pass.

Meanwhile, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has arrived on Sydney's shores, but both the Ministry of Health and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern say the new strain is not of concern to New Zealand at this stage.

What you need to know

  • There are 182 new cases of COVID-19 to report on Monday - 167 in Auckland, 10 in Waikato, and five in Northland. A person has also tested positive in Nelson-Marlborough, but that case will be included in Tuesday's tally.
  • Ninety-three people are in hospital, 10 of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units.
  • Auckland's border will open on December 15, allowing fully vaccinated Kiwis to travel to and from the region - people can also present a negative test received within 72 hours prior to departure.
  • All of New Zealand will move to the traffic light system on December 2 at 11:59pm, and the Government has announced which regions will move into red and orange.
  • Workers covered by the My Vaccine Pass mandate - staff working at businesses that are required to use vaccine certificates to operate - must have their first jab by Dec 3 and be fully vaccinated by Jan 17.
  • New Zealand's international borders will begin to reopen from January - from January 17 fully vaccinated Kiwis can return home from Australia without MIQ.
  • The new variant 'Omicron' has been found in countries such as Belgium, Hong Kong and Australia. The Ministry of Health says it's "closely watching" the situation.
  • Booster shots are available to book from today for people who had their second dose more than six months ago.
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest locations of interest here.

These live updates have finished.

8:20pm - As New Zealand prepares to move into the new traffic light system, some Kiwis who have a vaccine exemption are still having issues getting their vaccine pass.

One woman with a vaccine exemption certificate says she's spent days battling Ministry of Health red tape trying to get her pass.

Janine Tyler has had two jabs and she's one of many Kiwis on an international COVID vaccine drug trial.

"It's one that's being produced for poorer countries like the Philippines that don't have the ability to keep the drug under very cold temperatures like Pfizer must be kept," Tyler says. 

She's had two doses and isn't allowed Pfizer until the trial is over next August, therefore has a legitimate vaccine exemption certificate.

But despite days of trying, she can't get her My Vaccine Pass.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Juliet Speedy here.

7:50pm - Two more overseas travellers who've recently arrived in New South Wales have been infected with the Omicron variant.

The total number of confirmed cases of Omicron is now four in NSW.

Both passengers arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Singapore Airlines flight SQ211 on Sunday November 28. They are fully vaccinated.

"Everyone on the flight is considered a close contact and will need to get tested immediately for COVID-19 and isolate for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status. NSW Health is contacting all passengers and flight crew to advise them of isolation requirements," NSW Health says in a statement.

"In line with Commonwealth measures, all travellers arriving in NSW who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW must enter hotel quarantine for 14 days, irrespective of their vaccination status.

"All fully vaccinated travellers who have been in any other overseas country during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW must travel directly to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 72 hours, pending further health advice."

NSW Health says anyone who has already arrived in the state who has been in any of the nine African countries within the previous 14 days must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days.

7:20pm - Professor Michael Plank, a modeller at Te Pūnaha Matatini and the University of Canterbury, has explained what the new traffic light restrictions mean district by district.

"Parts of the North Island that are battling active outbreaks or have low vaccination rates will start at red. This will mean things will continue to feel similar to level 2 for people who are fully vaccinated, but life will be more restricted for unvaccinated people," he says.

"For Auckland, the move to red will mean a significant loosening of restrictions. This is a reasonable move given the length of time Aucklanders have been at level 3, good vaccination rates across the city, and the fact that cases have levelled off and hospitalisations remain at manageable levels. 

"The lower North Island and all of the South Island will start at orange. This will effectively remove gathering size limits provided vaccine passes are used, although masks will still be required. Areas moving to orange generally have reasonable vaccination rates and don't have established community outbreaks.

"The big exception to this is that most of Waikato is set to move to orange despite a stubborn outbreak including ongoing unlinked cases and low vaccination rates in some areas. The decision to allow looser restrictions in these areas increases the risk of superspreading events fuelling this outbreak."

Plank adds that the Government has moved to the new traffic light system nationally earlier than it originally promised, which was when all DHBs had fully vaccinated 90 percent of their eligible populations.

"This has been justified in part by the additional protections offered by the use of vaccine passes. However, in moving to the new system we must not lose sight of the fact that we still have big gaps in our vaccine coverage. The virus will find and exploit these gaps so we must redouble our efforts to fill them."

6:40pm - The traffic lights are being turned on, but there's no green bulb yet and there won't be until after the New Year - it's a red and orange combo for New Zealand from Friday.

The red light is on in Northland, Auckland, Taupo and Rotorua, Kawerau, Whakatane, Opotiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu. 

The rest of the North Island and all of the South Island are orange. 

The difference is vaccination rates. The red areas have lower rates, and as those rates climb, those areas can move down the lights. No one is at green yet, so pack your facemask for the summer holiday. 

Gisborne is not vaccinated enough, so it's been put in the red light, meaning Rhythm and Vines is looking red-lined for now. Organisers haven't officially pulled the plug yet but try and imagine 20,000 revellers capped at 100 - no chance. 

"Ultimately, those decisions will be for those festivals," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday. 

Cabinet took a cautious approach but there is still a glimmer of hope. 

"We are reviewing in two weeks' time and we will do that in an open-minded way," Ardern added. 

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

6:10pm - There are several new locations of interest, including the first in Nelson. They are:

  • Richmond Liquid Laundromat, Nelson, November 19 from 4:45pm to 6:30pm
  • Lone Star Nelson, Nelson, November 19 from 8:15pm to 8:45pm
  • Z Rutherford Service Station, Nelson, November 19 from 8:30pm to 9pm
  • McDonald's Nelson, November 20 from 5am to 5:30am
  • Z Rutherford Service Station, Nelson, November 20 from 5am to 5:30pm
  • Four Square Mapua, November 20 from 4pm to 5pm
  • Richmond Liquid Laundromat, Nelson, November 25 from 6:15pm to 8pm
  • Z Richmond Service Station, Richmond, November 27 from 2:35pm to 2:45pm
  • Richmond Mall, Nelson, November 27 from 1:30pm to 2:40pm
  • Pak'nSave Richmond Mall Richmond, November 27 from 1:40pm to 2:15pm
  • Hey Sushi Richmond Mall Food Court, Richmond, November 27 from 2:15pm to 2:30pm
  • Z Richmond Service Station, Richmond, November 27 from 10:45am to 11:10am
  • Ewing Poultry Hope, November 27 from 10:30am to 11am

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 - The new COVID-19 'traffic light' system is just days away, but Newshub can reveal official websites have published what appears to be conflicting rules.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) published sector-specific advice for businesses last week on what rules will be in place at each level of the new COVID Protection Framework, which comes into effect on Friday. 

The official MBIE advice says at 'red', the most restrictive level, events that don't check vaccine certificates will be restricted to no more than 25 people. 

"If My Vaccine Pass verification is not used: Only gatherings of up to 25 people per defined space can occur."

But the official Unite Against COVID-19 website, run by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, says events that don't use vaccine certificates cannot go ahead whatsoever. 

"These places will not be able to operate without a vaccine certificate requirement: events (indoor and outdoor)."

It took more than four hours for officials to provide clarification. 

Read the full story here.

5:25pm - Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, and epidemiologist and the University of Otago, Wellington's Department of Public Health, says the traffic light system is "significantly underpowered for meaningful protections" of outbreaks and is designed around incentivising New Zealanders to get vaccinated.

She says this is a "major and concerning gap" in the country's pandemic response and we await further information on the Omicron variant.

"What is needed now is a system that's centred on protecting health and wellbeing and is informed at every level by the science of preventing airborne transmission. We can control COVID-19 if we choose to. Our COVID response system should protect both vaccinated and unvaccinated, including children, and it should be explicitly designed to be equitable and to uphold Te Tiriti. Only a system built in that way from first principles will be able to adapt to whatever the pandemic throws up next," Kvalsvig says.

"We'd be in a far better place today with something like the alert levels upgrade that my colleagues and I proposed earlier this year. It's designed to be future-proof so that it can protect against new COVID-19 variants, fading vaccine protection, the unpredictable return of familiar infections, and the next pandemic that may be just around the corner."

She adds that the country needs a well-designed legacy infrastructure that can navigate New Zealand safely through the pandemic and give enduring protection against future threats.

"It's exhausting and inefficient for the Government to have to wrestle with a succession of quick-fix policies that need to be revised the moment there’s a new development in the pandemic."

5:05pm - SkyCity Auckland, Auckland Unlimited, Auckland Council and New Zealand Police had been working over the past several months to see how the event could be delivered, with Kiwis' health and safety at the front of their minds.

"It is the group's understanding that while Auckland is in the Red setting of the new framework the event cannot go ahead. In Orange and Green the SkyCity fireworks would require a CVC checking system to proceed. However, due to the location of the event, and the thousands of spectators it attracts each year, this is not viable," SkyCity says.

"We appreciate this will come as a disappointment to some, but the priority is keeping everybody safe."

The Sky Tower and Auckland Harbour Bridge will still take part in a New Year's Eve light show.

4:52pm - The press conference has finished. To briefly recap:

4:48pm - Robertson says he doesn't think businesses that choose not to enter the traffic light system should get support.

4:47pm - Ardern says it was "never established" how Delta got out of MIQ.

She says the MIQ system is successful and is confident it will keep Omicron at bay if it arrives.

4:44pm - On home isolation problems, Dr Bloomfield says work continues and his intention is to prevent avoidable deaths in the community.

He adds that he's confident the system is stronger.

4:42pm - Ardern says there's a "plateauing" of cases in Auckland, which is encouraging.

Dr Bloomfield says it's happening with hospitalisations too.

4:38pm - Ardern says that the threat of Omicron didn't influence traffic light settings.

Dr Bloomfield says it's very important that countries support vaccine availability in poorer countries and the best way to stop variants is to reduce the amount of infection globally. Ardern adds that equitable vaccine distribution is challenge for the world, as well as hesitancy.

4:33pm - On Omicron, Dr Bloomfield says Delta is still dominating and the vaccine is highly effective against it. 

The Ministry of Health will consider if Omicron gets into the country.

The World Health Organization has said not to cancel flights over Omicron, and Ardern says New Zealand has been "totally consistent". She says that the country has always used the border as a means of protection and quarantine is "proving vital for COVID management".

4:30pm - "They're doing everything right," Ardern says of the South Island and adds it's about being in a transition and keeping a close watch on Auckland.

Ardern says it isn't likely in the next two weeks that a region will go from orange to red because vaccination rates won't go backwards, but an outbreak could put pressure on a region and potentially change it.

4:28pm - Dr Bloomfield defends the home isolation review, saying it also found many people have found it good, but there "were slip ups in the system".

On if there are any updates on if regions can move to green, Ardern says the expectation is no parts will move into this setting in the near future because they want to be "cautious".

4:24pm - If you get COVID while away from home, Dr Bloomfield recommends talking to a health official if you need extra support and they will work you through it.

He says there are already protections in place with air travel, and he says they are working on ways to improve the self-isolation system.

4:22pm - Ardern says there will be no hard borders, except for the Auckland boundary with testing and a vaccination requirement, so people will be moving.

She says policing will be around supporting compliance at venues.

New Zealand's vaccine uptake is good and is widespread, Ardern says, but even one region with a lower vaccination rate risks an outbreak.

4:19pm - Ardern says settings will be reviewed every two weeks and they will look to see if vaccination rates have increased.

Asked if she's destroyed Rhythm and Vines and other summer festivals, Ardern says it's up to events to decide and that's why the insurance support scheme was set up. She adds that she's not responsible.

On why some regions are in red that have no COVID, Ardern says she doesn't think there will be a surprise, as vaccination rates were a top consideration.

4:15pm - There has been more than $6 billion of support for businesses since August, Robertson says.

He says he's aware of how hard it's been on them.

Most businesses will be able to operate under the traffic light system, he says, therefore the traditional COVID support payments are being left behind. Only under the 'red' setting will economic support be provided, but not at 'orange' and 'green'.

4:11pm - "There will be challenges ahead," Ardern says, especially as cases pop up across the country where they haven't been before.

4:09pm - Ardern says that 'red' will feel like level 2 for the vaccinated.

Her message to the unvaccinated is: Your freedoms "will be restricted" to help keep vaccinated safe.

4:07pm - The higher the vaccination level, the greater the protection, Ardern says.

She hopes levels will rise as New Zealand moves into the new system.

4:06pm - Northland, Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua Lakes Districts, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki Districts, Gisborne District, Wairoa District, Rangitikei, Whanganui, and Ruapehu Districts will move in at red.

The rest of the North Island will move in at orange.

The whole of the South Island will move in at orange.

Read the full story here.

4:05pm - Ardern says New Zealand is in "better shape" than other OECD countries, and Aotearoa's life expectancy has increased while others have decresed.

She says it's not time to lift all restrictions and she wants a system that will last and the traffic light system will do that.

4:02pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have arrived.

Ardern starts by talking about Omicron, saying there are no cases of it in New Zealand but it shows why it was important to be vigilant with the border.

She also acknowledges there are still unknowns about Omicron and says it has not changed the advice on boosters.

3:50pm - We are about 10 minutes away from the Government's announcement on which traffic light settings regions in New Zealand will enter.

You can watch this here or follow along with updates on this page.

3:35pm - The new coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa has been assigned the name 'Omicron', another letter in the Greek alphabet.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) started assigning variants with the letters of the Greek alphabet to simplify discussion while avoiding stigma. First came Alpha, first identified in the UK, then Delta - the strain currently circulating in New Zealand, then Lambda, Mu, and now Omicron. 

But there are two letters (Nu and Xi) in between Mu and Omicron, so why were they skipped?

In a statement to AP, the WHO confirmed it missed the letters Nu and Xi to avoid confusion and offending people.

"'Nu' is too easily confounded with 'new' and 'Xi' was not used because it is a common last name."

Read the full story here.

3:10pm - Here's an update on vaccination rates in Waikato:

Territorial local  authority

1st doses

2nd doses

1st doses as a  pct of eligible population

Fully vaccinated as a  pct of eligible population

Hamilton City



93.6 pct

86.3 pct

Hauraki District



84.4 pct

75.9 pct

Matamata-Piako  District



89.1 pct

81.7 pct

Ōtorohanga District



82.0 pct

72.8 pct

Ruapehu District



84.0 pct

73.4 pct

South Waikato District



86.5 pct

75.2 pct

Thames-Coromandel District



87.8 pct

80.8 pct

Waikato District



89.4 pct

81.4 pct

Waipa District



93.6 pct

87.7 pct

Waitomo District



91.7 pct

81.0 pct

Waikato region



90.8 pct

83.2 pct

Reporting on vaccination rates at TLA level is provided by the Ministry of Health. This data is accurate as of 11:59pm, November 28 and is the latest available at TLA level.

Data at SA2 level (approximately equivalent to suburb) is available on the Ministry of Health website.

2:45pm - A traveller who returned to Australia on a repatriation flight to Darwin has tested positive for the Omicron variant, according to local news outlets.

The man has been in quarantine at the Howard Springs quarantine facility since he arrived from South Africa on November 25.

"I can confirm today that the genomic sequencing has shown that the man does have the Omicron variant of COVID-19," Northern Territory health minister Natasha Fyles said on Monday.

"So [it is] the first case for the Northern Territory."

Fyles told reporters the man had flown in on a repatriation flight from Johannesburg to Darwin and was transported straight to the Howard Springs quarantine facility.

She said locals should be reassured that the facility is separated by different zones.

"So our international repatriations do not interact with any of our local community members, Territorians, who may be in the facility as a close contact."

Acting chief health officer Charles Pain said he is "not overly concerned" about the arrival of the Omicron variant.

"We've dealt with variants all the way through this and we've managed those in exactly the way we are doing now. So in many senses, it's business as usual.

"We have a highly functioning quarantine facility there, we've had no breaches, [and] this individual - and the whole cohort of people because they were on a repatriation flight - is in quarantine."

2:15pm - Three locations of interest have been identified so far on Monday. These are:

  • Whakatāne Hospital Emergency Department
  • Flex Fitness 24 Hour Gym, Hastings.

There are two potential exposure events so far at the Hastings gym.

For the relevant dates, times and public health advice, click here.

2:05pm - Here's a recap of the key developments on Monday:

  • There are 182 new cases to report - 167 in Auckland, 10 in Waikato and five in Northland.
  • Of the new cases, 123 have yet to be epidemiologically linked to existing infections.
  • Ninety-three people are in hospital - up by 11 from Sunday's figures - with 10 in intensive care or high dependency units.
  • Of those in hospital, 66 percent are unvaccinated; 13 percent have received their first dose or are less than a week away from having their second; 19 percent had their second dose at least seven days before testing positive; and the status of 2 percent is unknown.
  • A person has tested positive in the Nelson-Marlborough region, but the result was reported to the ministry after its 9am cut-off. It will be included in Tuesday's tally. The case and their close contacts are in isolation, with testing underway. Investigations into the possible source of infection are ongoing.
  • Of the five new cases in Northland, two were reported on Sunday after the cut-off time. The other three comprise of two people in Kawakawa and one in the Far North. All are linked to existing cases.
  • An "unexpected detection" of COVID-19 has been picked up in a wastewater sample collected from Opononi last week. Anyone living in or near Opononi who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 is asked to get tested and remain isolated until a negative result is returned.
  • Of the 10 new cases in Waikato, four are in Huntly, two are in Te Kūiti, one is in Hamilton, and the locations of the remaining three have yet to be confirmed. Nine have been linked to previous cases.
  • The new case reported in Hawke's Bay on Sunday is now isolating in a community facility. Close contacts identified to date have been contacted and are now isolating at home. Two close household contacts have returned negative tests. Patients who were in Hawke's Bay Hospital Emergency Department at the same time as this case have been contacted and asked to self-monitor for symptoms.
  • The case in Hawke's Bay has been linked to an infection in Auckland.
  • There are no new cases to report in Canterbury today. Following the local border case reported on Sunday, five close contacts are now self-isolating with testing underway.
  • The case travelled from Auckland to Christchurch on Thursday, November 25 on Air NZ Flight NZ8475, arriving in Christchurch at 10:50am. Anyone who is considered a potential contact of this case will be contacted directly. Unless you are contacted, you are asked to monitor for symptoms, and get tested straight away if you develop any consistent with COVID-19.

1:50pm - Here are today's regional updates from the Ministry of Health:

** Today's cases

Today, we are reporting new community cases in Northland, Auckland and Waikato.

We are also advising of a new case in the Nelson-Marlborough region. As this case came in after the usual cut-off period, it will be officially included in Tuesday's figures.

Meanwhile, there are no additional cases to report today in the Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, MidCentral, Wairarapa or Wellington.

Information on today's cases is included in the regional updates below.

Regional updates

We're asking anyone in New Zealand with symptoms – no matter how mild – to please get tested, even if you're vaccinated. Please remain isolated until you return a negative test result.

If you are not vaccinated, now is the time, as vaccination is number one defence against COVID-19. Your DHB or local health provider will have plenty of opportunities to make this happen.

Testing and vaccination centre locations nationwide can be found on the Healthpoint website.


Today, we are reporting five new cases in Northland. Two of the cases were announced on Sunday and have been officially added to today's case tally.

The remainder are made up of two cases in Kawakawa and one case in the Far North. The three are linked to existing cases.

Meanwhile, an unexpected detection of the virus has been picked up in a wastewater sample taken in Opononi last week.

We urge anyone living in or near Opononi with any symptoms that could be COVID-19 to get a test and remain isolated until they return a negative result.

Testing is available from Rawene Hospital this week from 9am to 2pm. Further testing and vaccination sites open across the region can be found on the Northland DHB website.


Today, there are 167 new cases to report in Auckland. 

There continues to be daily reviews of testing numbers and testing locations to ensure good coverage of risk areas.

Health staff are now supporting 4,207 people to isolate at home, including 1,158 cases.


There are 10 new cases to report in Waikato today; four in Huntly, two in Te Kūiti, one in Hamilton, and the locations of the remaining three are yet to be confirmed. Nine of the cases have been linked to existing infections.

There are five pop-up and dedicated testing sites operating across Waikato today in Hamilton, Ōtorohanga, Thames and Te Kūiti.

There are four COVID-positive patients in hospital, including one in ICU.

Health staff in Waikato are now supporting 124 cases to isolate at home.

Hawke's Bay

The new case reported in Hawke's Bay on Sunday is now isolating in a community facility.

Close contacts identified to date have been contacted and are now isolating at home. Two close contacts in the case's household have returned negative tests.

Patients who were in Hawke's Bay Hospital Emergency Department at the same time as this case have now been contacted and asked to self-monitor for symptoms.

Investigations have linked the source of this person's infection to a case in Auckland.

Public health officials continue to work to identify any further locations of interest this case went to while infectious. Those identified so far are on the Ministry's webpage. They include PAK'nSAVE Napier, a Hasting pharmacy, and an ice cream shop in Napier.

If you were at these locations at the relevant time, please follow the advice on the Locations of Interest webpage.

Testing locations in Hawke's Bay today can be found on the DHB's website.


A new case has been confirmed in the Nelson-Tasman region after a positive test result was returned last night.

The case and their close contacts are in isolation, with testing of those contacts underway. Investigations into the possible source of infection are ongoing.

Several exposure events are being assessed and any locations of interest confirmed will be published on the Ministry's website.

This case will be formally added to the Ministry's case tally on Tuesday.


There are no new cases to report in Canterbury today.

Following the local border case reported on Sunday, five close contacts are now self-isolating with testing underway.

The case travelled from Auckland to Christchurch on Thursday, November 25 on Air New Zealand Flight NZ8475 arriving in Christchurch at 10:50am. Anyone who is considered a potential contact of this case will be contacted directly. Unless you are contacted, you are asked to monitor for symptoms, and get tested straight away if you develop any consistent with COVID-19.

People living in Canterbury are also asked to monitor the Ministry's locations of interest page, which is updated regularly.

Every new case is an urgent reminder to get tested if you're feeling unwell. Testing at high numbers will help to minimise and contain the spread of COVID-19 in Canterbury.

Testing locations throughout Canterbury can be found on the Canterbury DHB website.  

1:48pm - There are 182 new cases to report on Monday. Here are the latest updates from the Ministry of Health:

90 pct of Capital & Coast residents double-dosed; 182 cases; 93 people in hospital, 10 in ICU

There were 14,009 total doses* administered on Sunday, made up 3,679 first doses and 8,040 second doses. To date, 92 percent of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 85 percent are fully vaccinated.

Capital and Coast DHB has today achieved 90 percent full vaccination among its eligible population, becoming the second DHB in the country to achieve this significant milestone after Auckland DHB.

The Ministry of Health has now issued more than 2.4 million My Vaccine Passes. You can request a My Vaccine Pass from the website, or call 0800 222 478, or head into one of these pharmacies for help getting your My Vaccine Pass.

* This total includes a limited number of third primary and booster vaccines.

Review findings released following two deaths in home isolation

An independent review into the deaths of two people who had tested positive for COVID-19 and were self-isolating at home has been released today.  

This is a very sad time for the whānau and friends of the deceased and our hearts and thoughts are with them as they come to terms with their loss.

The two separate cases were living alone at the time of their passing in early November. The panel considered both deaths were potentially preventable and there were missed opportunities that contributed to the outcome.  

The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre – which coordinates the COVID-19 response for the three Auckland DHBs – accepts the findings of the review that has been necessarily thorough and swift. The findings provide insights that are supporting improvements to the Interim model for community home isolation system that is currently in place while the national policy and implementation of primary care-based support is being developed.

In line with the recommendations from the report, NRHCC have made changes in the last three weeks to scale and improve the system including:

  • immediate clinical assessment using information already available to quickly identify those who are high risk and needing special clinical, social or mental health support
  • door knocking for those not able to be contacted by phone, particularly those isolating alone
  • significant IT system improvements to better support the service
  • the piloting of new models with Mâori and Pacific providers who are able to provide holistic clinical, social, welfare and mental wellbeing support
  • the establishment of a Clinical Governance Group with the purpose of identifying emerging risks and trends, so that issues can be addressed. The Group has already met.

COVID-19 vaccine update


Total first and second vaccines administered to date (percentage of eligible people)

7,495,686; 3,882,575 first doses (92 pct); 3,592,142 second doses (85 pct)

Total first and second vaccines administered yesterday

11,719: 3,679 first doses; 8,040 second doses

Māori (percentage of eligible people)

853,086: 465,930 first doses (82 pct); 385,719 second doses (68 pct)

Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people)

494,580: 260,299 first doses (91 pct); 233,505 second doses (82 pct)

Total first and second vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday

4,723: 927 first doses; and 3,796 second doses

Vaccination rates by DHB (with active cases)


Northland DHB (percentage of eligible people)

First doses (85 pct); second doses (76 pct)

Auckland Metro DHBs (percentage of eligible people)

First doses (94 pct); second doses (89 pct)

Waikato DHB (percentage of eligible people)

First doses (91 pct); second doses (83 pct)

Lakes DHB (percentage of eligible people)

First doses (88 pct); second doses (78 pct)

MidCentral DHB (percentage  of eligible people)

First doses (92 pct); second doses (84 pct)

Bay of Plenty DHB  (percentage of eligible people)

First doses (90 pct); second doses (80 pct)

Wairarapa DHB (percentage of eligible people)

First doses (92 pct); second doses (83 pct)

Capital and Coast DHB (percentage of eligible people)

First doses (95 pct); second doses (90 pct)

Nelson-Marlborough DHB (percentage of eligible people)

First doses (91 pct); second doses (84 pct)

Canterbury DHB (percentage of eligible people)

First doses (95 pct); second doses (88 pct)



Cases in hospital

93 (an increase of 11 on yesterday). North Shore (17); Middlemore (33); Auckland (37); Waikato (4); Rotorua (1); Hawke's Bay (1)

Vaccination status of current hospitalisations (Northern Region wards only as of 29 November)

Unvaccinated or not eligible (55 cases / 66 pct); partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose (11 cases / 13 pct); fully vaccinated at least 7 days before being reported as a case (16 cases / 19 pct); unknown (2 cases / 2 pct)

Average age of current hospitalisations


Cases in ICU or HDU

10 (8 in Auckland; 1 in Waikato; 1 in Lakes)



Seven day rolling average of community cases


Number of new community cases


Number of new cases identified at the border


**Location of new community cases

Auckland (167), Northland (5), Waikato (10).

Location of community cases (total)

Northland 82 (54 of whom have recovered); Auckland 7,660 (2,323 of whom have recovered); Waikato 439 (179 of whom have recovered); Bay of Plenty 48; Lakes 26 (3 of whom have recovered); Taranaki 6 (all of whom have recovered); MidCentral 5 (1 has recovered); Wairarapa 3; Wellington 18 (17 of whom have recovered); Nelson/Marlborough 1 (recovered); Canterbury 9 (4 of whom have recovered); Hawke's Bay 1

Number of community cases (total)***

8,298 (in current community outbreak)

Confirmed cases (total)


Historical cases

201 out of 9,270 cases since 1 January

Cases infectious in the community

56 cases reported yesterday have exposure events

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious

88 cases reported yesterday have no exposure events

Cases epidemiologically linked

59 of today's new cases

Cases to be epidemiologically linked

123 of today's new cases

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)

6,180 (934 unlinked in the last 14 days)



Number of active contacts being managed (total):


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

67 pct

Percentage who have returned at least one result

69 pct

Locations of interest


Locations of interest (total)

163 (as at 10am 29 November)



Number of tests (total)


Number of tests total (last 24 hours)


Tests processed in Auckland (last 24 hours)


Tests rolling average (last 7 days)


Testing centres in Auckland




Wastewater detections

The virus was detected in a wastewater sample taken from Opononi, Northland. See the 'Northland' update for details.



Registered users (total)


Poster scans (total)


Manual diary entries (total)


Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday


*** One previously reported case in Auckland had a duplicate record, and therefore has been removed from the total count. A separate previously reported case in Waikato has been deemed historical and removed from the outbreak figures.

These changes, combined with the latest cases, result in a net increase today of 180 cases in the community outbreak.

1:20pm - The potential spread of COVID-19 in apartments, particularly ones without opening windows, is raising alarm.

The Ministry of Health released specific guidance for sick people self-isolating in apartments last week, but those who pushed for the advice to be published already want to see it changed.

A key focus of the guidance is air ventilation and circulation - something that is relatively simple if the person can open their windows, but less so if they can't.

Many apartment buildings operate a centralised air conditioning and ventilation system, which often recycles air.

University of Auckland aerosol chemist Dr Joel Rindelaub says there is a risk the virus could spread to neighbouring apartments at times where there is not "100 percent fresh air".

"What a body corporate want to do is to try to reduce the amount of recycled air, maybe set up some filtration, to make sure that there can be clean air to breathe," he says.

The guidance states "it is important to ensure that recycled air is not shared between apartments".

But Rindelaub says that is difficult - he believes all ventilation systems in New Zealand need to be improved.

"Apartment buildings aren't set up to be quarantine facilities so there's always going to be a little added risk involved."

Read more here.

1:05pm - We are standing by for the Ministry of Health's press release.

Meanwhile, testing in New South Wales (NSW) has confirmed three passengers who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Sunday evening are positive for COVID-19. They are currently isolating in special  accommodation, along with all other arrivals who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW, the state's health department said in a statement on Monday.

One of the three cases is considered to be a historic infection. Urgent genomic sequencing is underway to determine if the other two people are carrying the new Omicron B.1.1.529 variant. Results are expected this evening.

Results of genomic sequencing for a person who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on November 23 and tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday are also expected today. Initial testing indicates this person is unlikely to have been infected with the Omicron variant. This person, who is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, is isolating at home in Sydney.

NSW Health confirmed on SUnday that two overseas travellers who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday evening have been infected with the new Omicron B.1.1.529 COVID-19 variant. The two cases, who were asymptomatic, are in isolation in the Special Health Accommodation. Both are fully vaccinated.

In line with Commonwealth measures, all travellers arriving in NSW who have been in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini, Malawi, and the Seychelles during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW must enter hotel quarantine for 14 days, irrespective of their vaccination status.

All travellers who have been in any other overseas country during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW must travel directly to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 72 hours, pending further health advice.

All flight crew who have been overseas during the 14-day period before their arrival in NSW must travel directly to their place of residence or accommodation and isolate for 14 days or until their departure on another flight that leaves Australia, consistent with the current rules for unvaccinated flight crew.

"It is critical that anyone who has already arrived in NSW who has been in any of the nine African countries within the previous 14 days must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days."

12:35pm - The new Omicron variant "should not be a cause for panic", says ACT leader David Seymour, but New Zealand's vaccination strategy needs to be prepared for the arrival of new and possibly vaccine-resistant strains.

"As New Zealand re-joins the world, the vaccine strategy needs to be ready for variants," Seymour said in a statement on Monday.

"Omicron should not be a cause for panic. The great danger it poses is the potential for immune escape, which should be known in a few weeks. The response may need to accommodate newly configured mRNA vaccines."

He is now calling on the Government to provide clarity as to whether the system is equipped to cope with the arrival of new variants, and whether New Zealand will be able to quickly procure new vaccines if needed.

"Jacinda [Ardern] should explain whether the Government's vaccine programme is ready to deal with variants, from procurement to validation," Seymour said.

"Is the Government talking to manufacturers? Do they have any agreements to be 'first in the queue' for new variant vaccines with Pfizer or any other provider? Is the Government talking to Medsafe about fast-track approval, such as approving what is approved by the FDA automatically?"

ACT has repeatedly called on the Government to bypass the Medsafe process and rubber-stamp treatments that have already been approved by the European Union, UK, US or Australia.

"Is the rollout ready to go, with GPs, pharmacies, and community groups playing an integrated roll this time?... Will the Government have a way of validating new updates to the vaccine within the My Vaccine Pass programme?" he continued.

"If not Omicron, there will be a future variant that requires vaccine upgrades. The Government should be thinking hard about whether its vaccine programme is ready for that."

12:20pm - Booster shots are now available for Kiwis who had their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine more than six months ago. 

From Monday, people who have been fully vaccinated for at least half a year can receive their third dose, or booster shot, to top up their immunity against COVID-19. 

The vaccine rollout began in February this year, beginning with healthcare staff and the border workforce, as well as the elderly - meaning a number of New Zealanders could now be eligible for a third shot.

The Ministry of Health expects more than 455,000 people will be eligible for a booster by the end of the year.

Leading epidemiologist Michael Baker told RNZ it is "very important" for Kiwis to get their boosters as large studies overseas have demonstrated the vaccine's efficacy diminishes over time.

"We do know that [the vaccine]s] protection against infection does wane over time, and so after six months you really need a booster."

It is perfectly fine for New Zealanders to mix their vaccines, he said - many recent returnees will have likely received two doses of a different vaccine overseas. 

"There's actually some evidence that you may get an even better immune response if you mix them," he said.

"Remember… they're all really targeting the spike protein but they're subtly different in the immunity they generate… there's no problem mixing and mingling them."

12:10pm - A leading scientist is warning New Zealand needs to keep a close eye on its international border as the new and potentially deadly Omicron variant creeps across the world.

Institute of Environmental Science and Research principal scientist of genomics professor, Mike Bunce, told RNZ's Morning Report the country is well-placed to deal with the new threat, but it's  important to maintain restrictions at the border to "buy us time".

"We've got a genomic surveillance net, so ESR has prioritised all of the cases at the border; we're sequencing every single one of them to see if this variant of concern pops up," Bunce told Morning Report.

"Maintaining a strong border protection, putting the border on high alert - which is what New Zealand has already done - is buying us time. If we can buy time, we can make better decisions."

First detected in Botswana and reported to the World Health Organization by South African authorities late last week, the Omicron variant appears to be more infectious than the widespread Delta variant, although health authorites need to ascertain more data before the level of threat can be determined, Bunce said.

"The fact that [Omicron] contains about 30 mutations in the spike protein has, I guess, caused concern."

Immunologists expect it will take one to two weeks to understand the new variant and to start collecting data on how many breakthrough infections it is causing in vaccinated people, he said.

"It may be more infectious and less pathogenic, but it's an option that maybe it's more pathogenic. We don't know, this is the period of uncertainty. Really the acid test comes when we see... how [Omicron] gets on in a country with high vaccination percentages because we'll see how many breakthrough infections [it causes]."

Bunce said despite the high number of spike protein mutations detected in the new variant, vaccines were "still our best bet" at protection.



11:55am - The regional 'traffic light' settings for New Zealand will be announced during a post-Cabinet press conference at 4pm. You will be able to watch the briefing live on

Due to this, there will be no press conference at 1pm - instead, the Ministry of Health will release the latest updates on the outbreak in a statement.

11:35am - Ghana will ramp up its inoculation campaign next month, with health service director-general Patrick Kuma-Aboagye announcing on Sunday that vaccination will be made mandatory for targeted groups, including all public sector and health workers, from January 22.

Ghana, like most African nations, has seen a sluggish uptake of vaccination against COVID-10 despite an increase in supplies. Only 1.4 million people are fully vaccinated out of Ghana's population of 30 million.

The government will hold a vaccination drive in December. After that, the vaccine will become mandatory for health workers, security personnel, commercial drivers, staff and students of secondary and tertiary education, and for employees in all arms of government, Kuma-Aboagye told a news conference.

"Pockets of vaccine hesitancy pose a risk to gains made so far. Current low numbers recorded in country may not be maintained if vaccine uptake not increased significantly," he said.

Read more here.

11:20am - It's understood a third traveller to Sydney has possibly tested positive for the new Omicron variant, New South Wales (NSW) Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters on Monday morning.

Over the last 24 hours, 141 travellers have returned to Sydney from the nine African countries of concern - South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique.

"We don't need to have a knee-jerk reaction. We need to have a proportionate and balanced response to the situation that's in front of us as our health officials obtain more information, both at a state and Commonwealth level," Perrottet said, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

On Sunday, NSW reported two new cases of Omicron among travellers returning from African countries. On Monday morning, Perrottet said there are now possibly three cases.

"When there are new variants the response should not be, 'Let’s shut down'," he said.

11:15am - New South Wales - the state that recorded two cases of the new, potentially deadly Omicron variant on Sunday - has reported 150 new cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths. 

There are 170 patients receiving treatment for COVID-19 in hospitals across the state, of whom 25 are in intensive care.

As of Monday, 92.4 percent of NSW residents aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated against the virus.

11:10am - Across the ditch, Victoria has recorded 1007 new cases of COVID-19 and three deaths. There are currently 11,501 active infections across the state.

There are 300 patients in Victorian hospitals, of whom 45 are in intensive care. Seventeen are on a ventilator.

Ninety percent of residents aged 12 and over are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

11am - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urging states to stick to their reopening plans while medical experts examine the latest data on the new Omicron variant, which has already been detected in Sydney.

The Prime Minister has called a rapid national Cabinet meeting, scheduled for within the next 48 hours, so state, territory and federal leaders can discuss the new variant, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Case numbers of themselves are not the issue. It's about whether people are getting a worse illness or it's going to put stress on your hospital system," Morrison told Nine's Today on Monday morning.

"We have to live with this virus. The fact we've had a new variant is not a surprise. We've been saying all through the pandemic that new variants also come, and we'll deal with them as they turn up."

10:45am - To recap, Cabinet will decide today which regions will enter the COVID-19 Protection Framework at the most restrictive 'Red' setting and which will start at Orange.

Cabinet will consider vaccination rates and case numbers when determining the settings. The setting closest to pre-pandemic normality, Green, has already been ruled out for now, and Auckland, the epicentre of the current outreak, is already set to begin at Red.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley is predicting the Bay of Plenty will enter at Red, given the number of cases detected in the region in recent weeks.

"Given the number of cases already in the bay and our double-jab rate is pretty low, I am hopeful for Orange but I am predicting Red," he told RNZ.

On the other side of the North Island, New Plymouth Mayor Neil Holdom said with the region still up to three weeks away from reaching the 90 percent double-dose target, he was also expecting to start at Red.

Marlborough Chamber of Commerce head Pete Coldwell has picked Orange for the entire South Island, but said many of his members were understandably nervous about the new approach.

"It's going to take a little bit of time for that to bed in I think."

10:30am - Health workers who have been at the frontline of the COVID-19 response are being treated to free hotel mini-breaks, thanks to Hotel Council Aotearoa (HCA).

HCA, which represents about 140 hotels around New Zealand, has launched a 'Gift A Room' campaign to acknowledge and reward industries and organisations who are working hard to keep Kiwis safe and to help New Zealand's recovery.

For the campaign's inaugural year, HCA has partnered with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and is gifting more than 300 mini-breaks to its members, consisting of nurses, healthcare assistants, kaimahi hauora and midwives.

They will be able to choose between a weekend in Auckland or Wellington, a break in the Bay of Islands, a night in Napier or a getaway to other popular tourism hot spots like Queenstown and Rotorua.

"Health workers have been in the frontline and have done the hard yards during the COVID-19 pandemic and numerous lockdowns. Our 'Gift A Room' campaign is a way for HCA to support those in other sectors who have been working tirelessly and deserve a much-needed break," HCA's strategic director, James Doolan, said on Monday.

"Our hotel workers take pride in providing guests with hospitality and a comfortable place to relax and recharge. Hoteliers' love hosting international travellers on a trip-of-a-lifetime, but we haven't been able to do that since our borders closed in March 2020.

"Through the 'Gift A Room' initiative, the hotel sector can do its best to create some positive and happy memories for hard-working health workers who have been on the frontline of our country's health response."

NZNO acting chief executive, Mairi Lucas, says the past two years have taken a significant toll on its members.

"It is heartwarming to be able to give some of them a well-deserved break."

The mini-breaks will be awarded through a competition-based draw. Winning members will be able to choose which destination and hotel they would like for their night away, which must fall between January 1 and June 30 next year, excluding public holidays.

10:15am - Cabinet needs to provide "good reasons" as to why a region will enter the COVID-19 Protection Framework at Red or Orange, says ACT leader David Seymour, with the decisions to be announced later on Monday.

"Jacinda Ardern needs to give New Zealanders good reasons why each area will move to Red, Orange and Green today," Seymour said on Monday morning.

The Epsom MP argues there is "no clear explanation" as to why Auckland should enter the new framework at Red - the setting with the toughest restrictions - given the region's high rates of vaccination. Cabinet has already signalled that the Super City will begin at the Red setting as it remains the epicentre of the current outbreak, with the highest number of cases each day.

"The traffic light system criteria says, 'At Red, action is needed to protect at-risk people and protect our health system from an unsustainable number of hospitalisations'. Auckland is one of the most highly vaccinated places in the world. There are only 23,000 second doses to go before every DHB is at 90 percent fully vaccinated. That compares with Singapore at 91 percent of eligible people fully vaccinated," Seymour said.

"Hospitals are far from capacity. There is no clear explanation about why our most vaccinated city will face the toughest restrictions, let alone when those restrictions might be relaxed. Under what scenario will Auckland move to a lower level, if not when vaccination is over 90 percent?"

Based on the criteria, Auckland should begin at the Orange setting, Seymour said, which allows more freedoms than the Red restrictions.

"If the Government starts making ad hoc decisions that don't meet the criteria, then the public will struggle to buy into the system," he said. "We need clear rules of the game and that needs to start from day one. 

"Today's announcement needs clarity, certainty and common sense."

10am - New projections regarding the recovery of New Zealand's stricken tourism sector suggest it could be 2024 before the industry gets close to its 'new normal'.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) has released a Tourism Industry Roadmap to an online audience of more than 400 at the opening of Monday's Tourism Summit Aotearoa. The roadmap sets out an up-to-the-minute analysis of how the industry's recovery might progress over the next few years.

Drawing on the opinions and expertise of two dozen tourism leaders, the roadmap aims to provide guidance by industry, for industry, so that tourism businesses can plan for a range of potential pathways, TIA chief executive Chris Roberts said on Monday.

"Even if operators disagree or will make up their own minds, this roadmap work will form a basis for their own business planning. Not many Government or private sector analysts are covering tourism so this information may also be used to ensure better consideration of tourism across a wide range of processes," Roberts said.

Quarantine-free travel is key to attracting international manuhiri back to New Zealand, he added.

"We know it will be a step-by-step process but the best way to get moving on the road ahead is to complete the first few small steps safely and swiftly."

The roadmap analysis shows there is potentially a $16 billion additional loss in foreign exchange earnings if there are delays to the removal of international border restrictions.

Since the border restrictions began in February 2020, $26 billion in earnings from international visitors has been lost. The analysis suggests a further $23 billion loss in the next three years, but this could balloon to $39 billion if New Zealand's reconnection to the world is delayed, Roberts said.

The roadmap shows there is still strong demand for travel to New Zealand but the Government needs to be able to signal the way forward to international markets. Long lead times are needed to rebuild high quality air connectivity which could take years to rebuild. According to the expert group, while the 'new normal' for travel is shaping up around the world, New Zealand remains on the edge in terms of logistics, connections and potentially decision-making.

By 2023, the main challenges are expected to be availability and cost of air travel, as well as international competition from other visitor destinations. But a partial recovery is expected, with a return to the new normal in 2024.

"We are certainly not taking these projections as set in concrete. TIA will continue to advocate strongly to the Government to achieve the best possible outcomes for our industry, which was the first to be hit by the pandemic and will be the last to recover," Roberts said.

9:45am - A South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect a different strain among COVID-19 patients said on Sunday (local time) that symptoms of the Omicron variant appear to be mild and treatable at home.

Dr Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of South African Medical Association, told Reuters that on November 18 she noticed seven patients at her clinic who were presenting different symptoms from the dominant Delta variant, albeit "very mild".

Now designated Omicron by the World Health Organization, the variant was detected and announced by South Africa's National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on November 25 from samples taken between November 14 and November 16.

Coetzee said a patient at her clinic on November 18 reported being "extremely fatigued" for two days with body aches and headache.

"Symptoms at that stage were very much related to normal viral infection. And because we haven't seen COVID-19 for the past eight to 10 weeks, we decided to test," she said, adding that the patient and his family turned out to be positive.

On the same day, more patients came in with similar symptoms, which was when she realised there was "something else going on." Since then, she's seen two to three patients a day.

"We have seen a lot of Delta patients during the third wave. And this doesn't fit in the clinical picture," she said, adding she alerted NICD on the same day with the clinical results.

"Most of them are seeing very, very mild symptoms and none of them so far have admitted patients to surgeries. We have been able to treat these patients conservatively at home."

Read more here.

9:30am - "There is no reason" for Cabinet to "cancel Christmas" following the emergence of the new Omicron variant of COVID-19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Monday morning.

When asked if Cabinet would consider postponing the planned easing of restrictions ahead of the festive period, Ardern swiftly said "no".

"Nor do we have any reason to," she told The AM Show.

The new Omicron strain, first identified in South Africa, has a spike protein that is dramatically different from the original SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that COVID-19 vaccines are based on. It was detected in the UK and multiple European countries over the weekend, as well as in Australia's New South Wales on Sunday.

Omicron, or B.1.1.529, features more mutations than the highly transmissible Delta variant - the strain that's been circulating in New Zealand since August and prompted months of lockdown. The emergence of Omicron has seen countries around the world attempt to seal off their populations by slapping travel restrictions on southern African nations, in a bid to shut out the strain.

The Government on Saturday announced that South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland), the Seychelles, Malawi and Mozambique would be classified as 'very high risk' as a precaution, meaning only New Zealand citizens are permitted to travel from those countries - and must spend a full two weeks in managed isolation on arrival.

Read more here.

9:20am - An independent review into the deaths of two COVID-19 patients completing home isolation in Auckland has found both were "potentially preventable", with "missed opportunities" contributing to the outcome.

The independent review panel released its findings on Monday regarding two separate cases. The first was living in Manukau, and the second was living in Mount Eden. Both were living alone at the time of their passing.

The review findings have been released following consultation with the whānau of the deceased, who have provided feedback that has been included in the report. This considers each case as well as the Community Supported Isolation and Quarantine (CIQ) system.

The Chair of the Review Panel, Dr Jonathan Christiansen, Waitematā DHB's Chief Medical Officer, has summarised key findings of the report and its recommendations, including:

  • the need for earlier assessment of clinical safety, welfare needs and mental wellbeing of COVID-19 patients in Community Supported Isolation and Quarantine (CIQ)
  • better connectivity between all parts of the system to ensure clinical oversight
  • heightened focus on equity and cultural safety, specifically Māori and Pasifika
  • the need for stronger clinical governance for adequate reporting systems and rapid informed review of adverse events
  • significant opportunities to rapidly strengthen the capability, safety, equity and patient focus of the CIQ system.

The panel also considered both deaths were potentially preventable and there were missed opportunities contributing to the outcome. The report was initiated by the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) in consultation with the Ministry of Health following the first death on November 3. The second death followed two days after on November 5.

NRHCC lead (and Counties Manukau Health CEO) Fepulea'l Margie Apa responded to the report, saying: "It is a very sad time for both the whānau and friends of these two people and our hearts and thoughts are with them as they come to terms with their loss. We are fully committed to providing any support we can.

"People in healthcare work tirelessly to provide the best care possible, however, it is clear that more could have been done and needs to be done. The main lesson is the need for improvement, which is what we are all committed to achieve.

"We unreservedly accept the findings of the review and apologise to the whānau for the shortfalls in the response provided. We are grateful to whānau for providing input at such a difficult time. I want to acknowledge the steps that have already been taken to strengthen the approach and address the recommendations made.

"These two deaths resulted from a combination of situations and events, and we needed to analyse them quickly so we can improve our care in the future. The model for CIQ we have in place now is not the end point, it is an interim back up while we support primary and community based teams to build their capability to look after their enrolled patients."

The review report points out the CIQ system was established to meet the needs of a rapidly growing number of patients with COVID-19 and their whānau in a short space of time. It says that, given the speed of change and the complexity of the system, it is remarkable that much has gone well. It also says there are significant opportunities now to rapidly strengthen the capability, safety, equity and patient focus on the CIQ system and the care pathway overall.

Changes have been made to CIQ in the last three weeks with clinicians, administrators, public health teams and community organisations working to stabilise and improve the system. Improvements made to date include:

  • the piloting of new models with Māori and Pacific providers who are able to provide holistic clinical, social, welfare and mental wellbeing support
  • immediate clinical assessment using information already available to quickly identify those who are high risk and needing special clinical, social or mental health support
  • reduction of the time taken between a positive test and the first clinical assessment
  • the launch of a Hospital in the Home initiative across all three DHBs for cases needing a lot of health support
  • door knocking for those not able to be contacted, particularly those isolating alone
  • the establishment of a CIQ Clinical Governance Group with the purpose of identifying emerging risks and trends, so that issues can be addressed. The Group has already met.

"We are managing an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases in the community. What is clear is the serious nature of Delta and how it can affect people very quickly, especially those who are unvaccinated with pre-existing conditions. When it strikes, it can be swiftly devastating," Margie Apa said.

"This report provides valuable lessons for all New Zealanders who need to take this illness very seriously. Everyone should get vaccinated to give them maximum protection when they are exposed to the virus, and no one should dismiss symptoms or wait and see how it develops.

"Act immediately, get tested and stay at home until you get your result. If you become unwell call healthcare services or your GP, and if you have difficulty breathing or are very unwell call 111. All these services are free when COVID-19 is involved. Treat COVID-19 seriously and get help. Listen to the advice you are given. Be aware of your whānau and friends, and help them if needed. Most importantly, get vaccinated to reduce the risk of serious consequences from COVID-19."

9:10am - Teams of Whānau Ora staff are heading south on Monday to support efforts to increase vaccination uptake among Māori.

The "battalion" - led by CEO John Tamihere - consists of 120 Te Whānau O Waipareira kaimahi (staffers) and volunteers, who left the Waipareira Vaccination Centre at 7:30am for a karakia at Manurewa Marae.

The four mobile teams will be in Manurewa on Monday, in Papakura on Tuesday and in Tuakau-Pukekohe on Wednesday.

Vaccination sites will be set up at 154 Shifnal Drive, Randwick Park (10am to 3pm); John Walker Drive Park and Oratu Park (10am to 3pm); 28 Mcannalley Street (10am to 3pm); and Pallant Street (10am to 3pm).

Tamihere said he hopes the vibrancy of the teams will encourage whānau to get vaccinated.

"We know there are large cohorts of Māori in Manurewa, Papakura and further south, who are not vaccinated," Tamihere said on Monday.

"We are not going to south Auckland to force anyone to get vaccinated but to give our people an opportunity. We can only do our best, and it is regretful that with just 12 working days to go before the Auckland bubble bursts and thousands of Aucklanders head to all parts of Aotearoa, we are in this position. But we will soldier on."

9am - To recap, the Ministry of Health says New Zealand is in a "good position" to minimise the possible impacts of the Omicron variant through the isolation and testing of all new arrivals.

Health officials are "closely watching" for new evidence and are monitoring other nations' responses to the variant. 

"Vaccine-producing companies will now start assessing any impact the strain will have on vaccine efficacy."

Here's the Ministry of Health's advice regarding the Omicron variant:

8:50am - A leading epidemiologist says the emergence of the new Omicron variant could be "very grim" for poorer countries, but is likely manageable for New Zealand.

The potentially deadly new variant has so far been detected in South Africa, the UK, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. It's currently unknown how infectious the variant is, or how effective the current selection of vaccines are against it. 

Epidemiologist Michael Baker told The AM Show on Monday morning it's unlikely the variant is completely resistant to vaccination, despite initial reports suggesting the new strain renders the current COVID-19 vaccines as less effective. 

"It's got a lot of mutations and many of these mutations affect the spike protein, and that's the key part of the virus - it attaches to cells and gives it entry into the cells. The other concern is that the target of vaccines, and also natural immunity if you've been previously exposed to it, might mean this variant is better able to evade that immunity," Baker said. 

"But actually it's unlikely that our vaccines won't still work effectively against it, that's something we need to find out."

Baker said it's understood the variant is highly transmissable, which does make it harder to combat. 

"We need to know more about it... it's early days," he said. "We shouldn't catastrophise a situation."

Baker said while Omicron is likely manageable in countries with high rates of vaccination, like New Zealand, more vulnerable countries may struggle to combat its spread.

"Particularly in New Zealand, it's a manageable problem. But unfortunately, it could be quite grim in some parts of the world where they're already suffering from very few resources and low vaccination." 

Read more here.

8:40am - Here's a recap of Sunday's figures:

8:25am - Israel is set to ban the entry of all foreigners into the country, making it the first country to shut its borders completely in response to the new and potentially more contagious Omicron variant.

Over the weekend, Israeli officials said the nation will use counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology in order to contain the spread of the new strain, which is thought to be more infectious than previous variants.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that within that period, there will be more information on how effective COVID-19 vaccines are against Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa and has been dubbed a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization.

"Our working hypotheses are that the variant is already in nearly every country," Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked told N12's 'Meet the Press'. "And that the vaccine is effective, although we don't yet know to what degree."

Israelis entering the country, including those who are vaccinated, will be required to quarantine, Bennett said. The ban will come into effect at midnight between Sunday and Monday. A ban on foreigners travelling from most African states was imposed on Friday.

Read more here.

8:10am - The Prime Minister says of the new arrivals to recently test positive for COVID-19, all were carrying the Delta variant, as confirmed by genome sequencing.

About 20 returnees are expected to arrive from the affected region over the next few weeks, Ardern says, however not all may be eligible following the classification of nine south African nations as 'very high risk' over the weekend. 

She reiterated that a 'very high risk' classification means only citizens are permitted to return to New Zealand, with 14 days of managed isolation and "rigorous testing" on arrival.

"There will likely be those who don't fit the criteria to be able to come anymore," she says. 

8:05am - Jacinda Ardern says so far, the evidence is conflicting as to whether Omicron is more or less severe than previous strains, with one expert saying the symptoms of the new variant are milder than those previously observed. 

"We need to be prepared for it, either to be possibly more severe, possibly more mild. We just don't know yet," the Prime Minister told The AM Show on Monday morning.

"I'm confident we'll get that information well in advance of any wider adjustments at our border. As alway, we will be cautious, because that has served us well."

She says "we have no reason" to cancel Christmas based on the emergence of the variant. 

8am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it's "too early to say" whether the spread of the potentially deadly new Omicron variant will result in more changes at New Zealand's border, with nine south African nations classified as 'very high risk' over the weekend.

Speaking to The AM Show on Monday morning, Ardern reiterated it's "very early days", with the World Health Organization (WHO) now undertaking research to establish the variant's level of infectiousness and its possible impact on vaccination. 

She says it's fortunate New Zealand already has a border management system in place that allows officials to elevate the classifications of countries "very quickly", noting that international travellers are currently still required to enter a managed isolation and quarantine facility on arrival.

7:50am - The Omicron variant continues to creep across the world, with 13 cases confirmed in the Netherlands and two each in Denmark and Australia, as more and more countries move quickly to impose restrictions on travel in a bid to shut out the concerning new strain.

In the US, President Joe Biden on Sunday will meet with members of his COVID-19 Response Team, including chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci, regarding the new variant, a White House official said. Health officials said they were preparing for the variant to arrive in America, with restrictions set to begin on Monday against travel from eight southern African countries.

Meanwhile, France's health minister said on Sunday the Omicron variant is likely already circulating in the nation, with the government set to tighten restrictions to contain its spread.

In the UK, health minister Sajid Javid said on Sunday he expected to receive advice imminently on whether the government can broaden a booster shot programme to weaken the impact of the newly identified variant. The UK reported 37,681 more cases on Sunday and a further 51 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official data.

Here's the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic from around the world, including the most recent developments on the spread of the new Omicron variant.

7:45am - About 120 Whānau Ora staff and volunteers will head to south Auckland on Monday in a bid to boost vaccination uptake among vulnerable communities. 

Led by Te Whānau O Waipareira CEO John Tamihere, the group - consisting of four mobile vaccination teams - will travel from the Waipareira Vaccination Centre in Henderson to Manurewa Marae for a karakia at 8:30am.

7:40am - Teams of vaccinators will be out on Manurewa's roads on Monday in a bid to drive up vaccination rates.

Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor Daniel Newman said campervans will be travelling throughout the suburb to target communities where uptake remains stubbornly low.

The initiative is a collaboration between the Manurewa Marae and Te Whanau O Waipareira.

"I'll be out in Randwick Park today to support our clinicians and kaimahi to reach people who have not been vaccinated and who will otherwise find themselves increasingly locked out of society later this week," Newman said on Monday morning.

"Our hospitals are already under pressure and it is only the sheer weight of vaccinations these past four months that has prevented a far worse rate of patient hospitalisation occurring. But we cannot rest on our laurels because COVID-19 has now seeded in Manurewa and we have to reach out to everyone in their homes and streets to complete vaccinations."

This past weekend, Counties Manukau pushed over 92 percent for first doses and is now less than 20,000 away from passing the 90 percent double-dose target. Despite the sweeping numbers, gaps continue to persist, Newman said.

"Until we get an equitable vaccination coverage in Counties Manukau, which includes Māori, COVID-19 will continue to place undue pressure on our public health system. The vaccination campervans will be on the road and I look forward to meeting with residents in their driveways to discuss the opportunity to get vaccinated."

7:35am - Auckland's outbreak looks to have passed its peak as daily case numbers inch downwards, but a leading data modeller is warning the situation could change as the 'traffic light' system is introduced.

Te Pūnaha Matatini professor Michael Plank said the number of new cases appear to have peaked a few days ago.

"Case numbers have started to inch downwards. We've seen that as the vaccine coverage has increases the rate of spread has gradually come down," he told RNZ.

The country is set to shift to the new COVID-19 Protection Framework on Friday. Vaccine certificates, masks, gathering caps and scanning in will be used to control the spread of the virus - however, a return to localised lockdowns has not been ruled out entirely.

Plank said it's unclear how the changes will impact the outbreak.

"Things are very finely balanced at the moment and so it wouldn't take much of an increase in contact rate to push the R number above 1 and start to see cases increase again," he said.

A particular concern is how the virus will spread among Māori communities with lower rates of vaccination, he said, noting that more effort must be made to increase uptake among vulnerable groups.

Read more here.

7:30am - An infectious disease expert believes New Zealand is well-placed to detect and respond to any cases of the Omicron variant.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the new variant to be "of concern", with officials banning travel from nine southern African countries as a precaution.

Omicron was first reported to the WHO from South Africa on November 24 and has since been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong, Israel, Germany, the UK, Italy and the Czech Republic.

The WHO said the variant had a large number of mutations, with early evidence suggesting a possibly increased risk of reinfection.

Massey University professor Nigel French told RNZ not much is known about Omicron just yet, but he is optimistic the current selection of vaccines will still offer protection against the new variant.

"There's no evidence to date to suggest that vaccination, particularly if you've had two doses, would not protect against this new variant or any other new variant, but we just don't know," he said.

"And it will become more and more apparent, particularly if it does spread to other countries with higher vaccination rates."

French said sequencing technology will pick up any cases of Omicron at the border and the country is well-placed to respond to its arrival.

Read more here.

7:25am - As the potentially deadly Omicron variant arrives in Australia, New Zealand remains in a "good position" to minimise the impact of any new strains, according to the Ministry of Health.

The new variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) from South Africa on November 24. Officials say Omicron features a "large number" of mutations, some of which are "concerning".

Preliminary evidence suggests the variant poses an increased risk of infection, WHO says, and is potentially more transmissable.

The Ministry of Health says it is continuing to assess information on the new variant.

"Knowledge about this emerging variant is in its infancy and we are closely watching and monitoring evidence and countries' responses," it says.

"Vaccine producing companies will now start assessing any impact the strain will have on vaccine efficacy. However, our advice to the public remains that vaccines are the number one protection against COVID-19 - including against the Delta variant responsible for our current outbreak."

As a precaution, New Zealand has moved a number of southern African countries onto the 'very high risk' list in a bid to contain Omicron's spread. These countries are: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Seychelles, Malawi, and Mozambique. Only New Zealand citizens from these countries will be able to enter Aotearoa.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says this "precautionary approach" will "reduce the chance of Omicron entering New Zealand". Returnees will be required to stay in managed isolation for a full 14-day period and undergo testing. The requirement will also apply to those already in transit from these countries.

Read more here.

7:20am - Kia ora, good morning, and welcome to Newshub's live coverage on the COVID-19 outbreak for Monday, November 29.