As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, November 18

There are 167 new COVID-19 cases to report in the community, as well as two new deaths.

This comes after the Government's announcement on Wednesday that Aucklanders will get more freedoms soon when the border opens on December 15, allowing residents to reunite with friends and whānau for Christmas.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed the two-way border will be open to fully vaccinated Kiwis or those who have evidence of a negative test within 72 hours prior to departure. Those who are unvaccinated or untested face a $1000 fine, with police to perform spot-checks at the boundary. 

What you need to know

  • There are 167 new cases to report on Thursday - 142 in Auckland, 17 in Waikato, five in Northland, and one each in Bay of Plenty, Lakes, and Canterbury.
  • Two people have died - a woman in her 80s and a man in his 90s. The man had been living at Edmonton Meadows Care Home.
  • 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 result received within 72 hours prior to departure. 
  • Police will be performing spot checks at the border and rulebreakers will face a $1000 fine.
  • The rest of New Zealand will move to the COVID-19 Protection Framework, the traffic light system, at the same time as Auckland - the date will be decided on November 29.
  • Eighty-five people are in hospital, six of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units.
  • More than 1300 DHB staff have been stood down as a result of the vaccine mandate.
  • Vaccine certificates are now available to download via My COVID Record.
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest locations of interest here.

These live updates have finished.

8pm - The AM Show sportscaster Mark Richardson is imploring Kiwis to play their part in the fight against COVID-19 and get vaccinated, arguing that a "pro-choice" standpoint is not an excuse. 

The former Blackcap gave an impassioned speech during Thursday's episode following an interview with Dr Brian Betty, the medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs, who discussed the nation's current vaccination rates.

"This pro-choice thing - yeah, I accept human beings have a choice, but I look at this two ways. One, 'alright, I'm pro-choice' - well make the right choice then, if you're going to have a choice. The right choice for this country is to get vaccinated. The other thing is, I hope you're not going 'oh, I'm pro-choice' just to grandstand," Richardson said. 

"The other thing is, choice only goes so far - we all have choices - but when your bosses tell you to do something for the good of the company, you do it… it's for the good of the country. So yeah, you might be pro-choice, but make the right one - and just go and do it."

Read the full story here.

7:15pm - New research conducted by public health experts from Australia, the UK and China has found mask-wearing can significantly reduce the rate of COVID-19 transmission.

The study found the rate of COVID-19 transmission decreases by 53 percent when masks are worn.

Almost 255 million people worldwide have contracted the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 respiratory disease, and more than 5 million people have died from the virus since the pandemic unfolded last year. 

"This systematic review and meta-analysis suggest that several personal protective and social measures, including handwashing, mask-wearing, and physical distancing are associated with reductions in the incidence COVID-19," the researchers said in the study, published in the British Medical Journal.

Read the full story here.

6:10pm - There is one new location of interest. It is:

  • Countdown Cambridge, November 16 from 11:45am to 1:15pm.

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

5:45pm - National leader Judith Collins says the Government is continuing to duck "simple" questions about how its travel restrictions are supposed to work in practice, including how long Aucklanders will have to queue at the border to go on holiday.

"Answering questions on behalf of the Prime Minister, COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins today claimed the purpose of the stop-and-check system was to slow the spread of COVID around the country," she says.

"But he refused to say how many cars need to be stopped or even where checkpoints would need to be located to achieve that goal."

Collins says State Highway 1 south of Auckland averages 60,000 cars a day in December, and the Government needs to tell those in the city how many of those 60,000 should expect to be pulled over.

"For the Prime Minister and her senior ministers to simply shrug their shoulders and say it's all up to the police as 'an operational matter' is pathetic," she says.

"It is her Government's policies the police will have to apply and she needs to tell people clearly and definitively what it all means for their summer.

"We all deserve answers about what our rights and responsibilities are, and how this increasingly convoluted 'plan' will play out in reality, or whether we are facing a summer of chaos."

Judith Collins.
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub.

5:10pm - Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson fears COVID-19 vaccination certificate spot checks will unfairly target Māori. 

After the Auckland border opens on December 15, travellers will need to show their vaccination certificate or proof of a negative test result in order to travel regionally or else face a $1000 fine during spot checks. 

Davidson is worried those spot checks will disproportionately affect Māori. The latest Ministry of Health data shows just 62 percent of Māori are fully vaccinated, compared to 82 percent of the entire eligible population. 

"History has already shown that profiling continues to be an issue across many of our systems. Also the systematic racism we have seen in the very health system has already shown us that we need to be asking real questions about ensuring this does not happen in this case as well," Davidson told reporters. 

"We welcome vaccination certificates because that is about protecting our children and our at-risk and immunocompromised people. But we absolutely need to make sure everyone who needs to access a vaccination certificate can get one."

Read the full story here.

4:50pm - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says more businesses in Auckland will be able to open in the city after Cabinet convenes for a meeting on the COVID Protection Framework on November 29.

He spent Thursday meeting with businesses, hospitality, and health providers in Auckland.

As with previous announcements, he says the pattern is that a new plan is launched and the Government sets it going "as soon as we can".

"The businesses I've been talking to have been preparing for that week [beginning November 29] and that's the right thing to do," he says.

4:25pm - There are three new locations of interest. They are:

  • Countdown Huntly, November 12 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm
  • Bus 5 Fleet 5471 Bus Interchange (Platform A) to Eastgate Mall (Buckleys Rd), November 13 from 3pm to 3:30pm
  • Four Square Woodville, November 16 from 4:10pm to 4:25pm.

4pm - Rural New Zealand is facing a "COVID crisis" over the Government's "failure" to secure their digital future, says National's digital economy and communications spokesperson Melissa Lee and rural communities spokesperson Joseph Mooney.

"Alongside the Government's failure to provide New Zealanders with a plan to get our country back in business and end the MIQ lottery of misery the Government continues to leave rural connectivity behind causing real fears that families across our regions will be unable to access critical health services and information when COVID strikes their towns," the pair say.

"Rural New Zealanders have already had to do the hard yards during lockdowns of the past 18 months facing network congestion, poor connectivity options and data limits that have seen many of them having to choose between their child's education or keeping their businesses afloat. This is morally bankrupt for those working in the primary sectors keeping our economy intact."

Lee and Mooney say the Government needs to act immediately to reassure rural families they will be able to access digital health and COVID-19 support services when Delta reaches their communities.

"The Government has to urgently strengthen rural New Zealand digital connectivity before it's too late," they say.

"The Government must act now before COVID reaches rural New Zealand and regional New Zealand faces a health crisis."

3:40pm - A shipment of 100,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in New Zealand from Australia.

From November 26, anyone aged 18 or older who can't have the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for medical reasons and those who would like an option other than the Pfizer vaccine will be able to book to receive their AstraZeneca vaccine.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says DHBs are preparing to offer the AstraZeneca vaccine, including arranging for specific clinics to administer the vaccine, and making sure the workforce is trained to deliver it. 

"AstraZeneca will be available at a limited number of sites across the country as Pfizer is the main COVID-19 vaccine we are using in New Zealand," he says.

"Officials have also been working closely with colleagues in Australia and with AstraZeneca to secure delivery of these doses from the manufacturer in Melbourne.

"We want to thank the Australian Government for their cooperation in providing timely access to these doses and AstraZeneca for their support of this arrangement."

New Zealand has an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca for 7.6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The 100,000 doses which have arrived from Australia are part of this original purchase agreement. 

"Pfizer remains the preferred COVID-19 vaccine for use in New Zealand and we have enough vaccine supply for everyone to be vaccinated," Hipkins says.

"Looking at today's case numbers, and the current geographical spread, I can't stress enough how important it is that we have as many people as possible vaccinated.

"Vaccination is the best way to protect ourselves, our whānau and our communities against COVID-19."

3:25pm - There is a postive COVID-19 case in Thames, the Hamilton Mayor's office says.

The Thames case is part of one of the 17 in Waikato reported today.

A new testing site has opened at Rhodes Park in Thames that locals can visit. This will be open until 7pm tonight and from 9am to 5pm from Friday to Sunday.

3:10pm - Toi Te Ora Public Health is urging people in the Bay of Plenty and Lakes District to get tested, vaccinated, and check locations of interest after two new COVID-19 cases today.

One positive case is in Tauranga and the other in Mount Maunganui.

Medical officer of health at Toi Te Ora Dr Bruce Duncan says it is imperative that people get tested if they have symptoms, even if these are mild, so that they can help contain further spread of the virus in the community.

"We are asking people in the wider Tauranga area, or anyone who has visited the region in the last two weeks to get a test if they are symptomatic. Symptoms can be mild so it is important to get tested even if you are not feeling particularly unwell," he says.

"After you are tested, you need to remain isolated until you return a negative test result."

Dr Duncan is also asking people to keep checking the Ministry of Health's website for locations of interest as these continue to be investigated.

He adds that the rapid increase in cases in the region is a timely reminder for people to get their COVID-19 vaccination. 

"Vaccination is the best way to keep yourself, your loved ones and the community safe from the virus. If you haven't already had your vaccination, now is the time to get it."

Additional testing is available at a number of sites in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui this week, including:

  • Tauranga Race Course, 1383 Cameron Road: Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 10am – 4pm
  • 100 First Ave, Tauranga central: Monday to Friday 8am – 4pm
  • Accident & Healthcare, 19 Second Avenue: Monday to Sunday 8am – 6pm
  • 35 Hartford Ave, Tauranga
  • Mount Sports Centre, corner of Maunganui and Hull Roads: Thursday & Friday 10am – 6pm,  Saturday 10am – 4pm.

Testing is also available at other sites around the Bay of Plenty:

  • Whakatāne Med Central Portacom, 52B King Street: Monday to Saturday 10am – 4pm
  • Murupara, Koromiko Street: Monday to Friday 10 – 4pm.

2:50pm - Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki has set up drive through testing and vaccinating services at Rhodes Park following more positive COVID cases in the Waikato, the locations of which are yet to be determined since many cases were only confirmed this morning.

This testing and vaccination service is available today until 7pm.

Vaccinations are also available in Thames at the Goldfields Mall vaccination centre.

Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki says they will give an update later for opening hours on Friday and during the weekend.

2:25pm - Simon Bridges, who is the Tauranga MP, says while the confirmed COVID-19 case was inevitable at some point, it will still be concerning to locals.

"Those with symptoms should get tested, and those who aren't yet should get vaccinated. I'm always available to help constituents affected."

2:10pm - Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty is urging people in his electorate to get tested if they have symptoms and get vaccinated, even though there aren't any new cases in the area today.

"There is again no new cases in Wairarapa or the Tararua District. There are also no new locations of interest at this time," he says.

"This is encouraging but we must still remain vigilant for a while yet. Get tested if you have symptoms & please get vaccinated if you're still yet to."

2pm - Regional COVID-19 updates from the Ministry of Health 


There are five new cases in Northland; two in Dargaville, one in Whangârei, one in the Far North and one in Kaikohe. All of the cases are linked.

Cases of COVID-19 are widespread in Northland and we ask everyone in the region to remain vigilant.

Anyone with any COVID-19 symptoms is urged to get tested. Testing locations in Northland can be found on the Northland DHB website.

Vaccination is your best defence against COVID-19 and centres open in Northland today can be found on the Northland DHB website.

There were 776 swabs taken and 888 people vaccinated in Northland yesterday.


Today, there are 140 new cases to report in Auckland.

There are 18 community centres available for testing across Auckland today. The testing centres at Northcote, Balmoral, Wiri and Otara continue to operate extended hours to increase access to testing.

People in Auckland with symptoms, no matter how mild, are urged to get tested – even if they are vaccinated – and remain isolated until they return a negative result.

Public health staff are now supporting 5,010 people to isolate at home around Auckland - this includes 2,238 cases.

Rosaria Rest Home, Avondale   

Auckland Regional Public Health Service and Auckland DHB continue to provide support to the residents and staff at the Rosaria Rest Home, Avondale. Five residents have now tested positive for COVID-19.

Waikato update

Today there are 17 new cases of COVID-19 to report in Waikato.

A number of these cases were only confirmed this morning, therefore data on location and contact tracing information is still being gathered by public health staff.

There are also three cases receiving care at Waikato Hospital.

Yesterday there were 17 new locations of interest confirmed across Ôtorohanga, Te Awamutu, Te Kuiti, and Hamilton. The Ministry continues to urge people in Waikato to check the Ministry’s locations of interest page, for details about locations if, and when, they are identified.

Across the Waikato there are eight pop-up and dedicated testing centres operating today at Hamilton, Otorohanga, Huntly, Ngaruawahia, and Te Kuiti and a new pop-up in Thames.

There were 3055 tests processed in Waikato yesterday and 1,992 vaccinations given.

In the Waikato region, public health staff are supporting 290 people to isolate at home, including 81 cases and 209 contacts.

Bay of Plenty

Today we are announcing two new cases in the Bay of Plenty. One of these cases is in in Mount Maunganui and the other is in Tauranga. This Tauranga case came in after the official 9am cut-off time for reporting and will be formally included in tomorrow’s figures.

This follows further positive detections of COVID-19 reported yesterday in wastewater samples in both Tauranga and Mount Maunganui.  

Interviews are continuing to determine case movements.  Any locations of interest will be added to the Ministry’s website as these are identified.

Everyone who lives in or has travelled to the region is asked to monitor locations of interest regularly and follow any advice given.  Anyone with COVID-19 related symptoms is asked to get tested as soon as possible – even if the symptoms are mild.

Testing locations can be found on the Healthpoint website.

COVID-19 testing centres in the Bay of Plenty are:

  • Mount Maunganui Sports Centre - Cnr Maunganui & Hull Roads (10am – 6pm)
  • Tauranga central-100 First Ave. Drive-through accessed via carpark next to Noel Leeming on Second Ave (8am–4 pm, Monday – Friday)
  • Tauranga Race Course (10am – 6pm Friday 19/11 and 10am – 4pm Saturday 20/11)
  • Accident & Healthcare -19 Second Ave (8am–6pm, seven days)
  • Whakatane - Med Central Portacom, 52B King Street (10am–4pm, Monday – Saturday)
  • Murupara, Koromiko Street (10am–4pm, Monday – Friday).


There are two new COVID-19 cases to announce in the MidCentral region today, taking the total in the region to four. These cases will be formally included in the region’s total tomorrow as notification of the cases was received after the morning cut-off.

This includes one case in the town of Ashhurst and one in Levin. Both people are likely to be linked to known cases.

The Ministry is encouraging testing for anyone with mild symptoms of COVID-19 across Horowhenua, Manawatu, and Tararua. People are asked to check the locations on interest on the Ministry of Health’s website.

For more information on testing locations across the region, please go to Healthpoint and check out Midcentral DHB Facebook page.

Yesterday there were 587 tests and 1,007 vaccinations across the MidCentral region.

For a full list of vaccination centres in the MidCentral region, please visit Healthpoint.

1:50pm - Here's the vaccine update from the Ministry of Health.

COVID-19 vaccine update  
Total first and second vaccines administered to date (percentage of eligible people) 7,276,046: 3,819,221 first doses (91%); 3,456,825 second doses (82%)
Total first and second vaccines administered yesterday 20,408: 6,197 first doses; 14,211 second doses
Mâori (percentage of eligible people) 801,382: 445,283 first doses (78%); 356,099 second doses (62%)
Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people) 475,435: 254,312 first doses (89%); 221,123 second doses (77%)
Total first and second vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday 4,482: 1,230 first doses; 3,252 second doses
Vaccination rates by DHB (with active cases)
Full vaccination data can be found here
Northland DHB (percentage of eligible people) First dose (83%); second dose (73%)
Auckland metro DHBs (percentage of eligible people) First dose (93%); second dose (86%)
Waikato DHB (percentage of eligible people) First dose (89%); second dose (80%)
Bay of Plenty DHB (percentage of eligible people) First dose (87%); second dose (76%)
Lakes DHB (percentage of eligible people) First dose (85%); second dose (75%)
Taranaki DHB (percentage of eligible people) First dose (88%); second dose (77%)
MidCentral DHB (percentage of eligible people) First dose (90%); second dose (80%)
Wairarapa DHB (percentage of eligible people) First dose (90%); second dose (80%)
Canterbury DHB (percentage of eligible people) First dose (94%); second dose (83%)
Cases in hospital 85 (down from 88 yesterday – includes 2 case being assessed); North Shore (19); Middlemore (26); Auckland (35); Waitakere (1); Whangarei (1); Waikato (3)
Vaccination status of current hospitalisations (Northern Region wards only; excludes people still being assessed and the Waikato cases)*  
Average age of current hospitalisations 51
Cases in ICU or HDU Six

1:45pm - More than 200,000 My Vaccine Passes have been issued up to midnight last night.

"My Vaccine Pass was switched on at 9am yesterday and came under early pressure when a large number of people across the country attempted to get their pass straight away," the Ministry of Health says.

"The number of people attempting to get a pass caused some of the automated controls for restricting access to kick in.

"These controls are designed to prevent the site being taken down in the event of a denial-of-service attack.

"The site is now working well."

1:40pm - Of the 167 new cases, 142 are in Auckland, 17 in Waikato, five in Northland, and one each in Bay of Plenty, Lakes, and Canterbury.

There are also 85 people in hospital, down from 88 yesterday. There are 35 in Auckland City, 26 in Middlemore, 19 in North Shore, three in Waikato, and one each in Waitākere and Whangārei.

1:35pm - There are 167 new community cases and two deaths to report today.

The two deaths are a woman in her 80s who died at Middlemore Hospital and a man in his 90s at North Shore Hospital. The man had been living at the Edmonton Meadows Care Home.

The Ministry of Health says he had a number of underlying health conditions and was receiving appropriate ward-level care after being admitted earlier this month with COVID-19.

1:30pm - We are still waiting on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 update, which was due at about 1pm.

We will update this page with new information as soon as their update comes into our inbox.

12:44pm - The Manawatū Cricket Association has revealed more details about the player who tested positive. 

Association chairperson Carla na Nagara told RNZ the man started feeling unwell on Wednesday and later tested positive. 

"What I understand is the person attended a club cricket practice in Palmerston North on Tuesday night," na Nagara said. 

"He felt unwell the following morning and had a COVID test, and we were advised last night it had come back positive."

She says he is a casual contact of the Woodville case which was reported on the weekend. 

The association's Palmerston North training facility is undergoing a deep clean and staff, all of whom are fully vaccinated, will not visit schools for a few days, according to RNZ. 

12:32pm - The Ministry of Health will release the latest COVID numbers at 1pm. 

12:24pm: There are two cases of COVID-19 in Tauranga, according to The Bay of Plenty Times

According to the outlet, one of the cases is in Pyes Pa and the other is in Mount Maunganui.

12:14pm - There is a new location of interest in Taupō.  FourSquare Tauhara on Sunday, November 14 between 10:00am and 11:30am has been added to the growing list. 

11:49am - Some recent studies have shown similar peak viral loads in vaccinated people compared to unvaccinated people who contract COVID. This has raised concerns for the efficacy of vaccines for preventing transmission.

How concerned should we be? Are vaccinated people just as contagious as unvaccinated? What does this mean for future plans for reopening?

These studies only show a similar peak viral load, which is the highest amount of virus in the system over the course of the study.

But vaccinated people clear the virus faster, with lower levels of virus overall, and have less time with very high levels of virus present.

Therefore, vaccinated people are, on average, likely to be less contagious.

Read The Conversation's explainer here.

- The Conversation 

11:19am - The Prime Minister said spot checks along with requirements for Aucklanders travelling to other parts of the country to be vaccinated or tested is enough to keep low vaccine regions safe. 

She said the COVID Framework Protection is another layer of protection.  

11:15am - Ardern also defended the Government's elimination strategy, saying before a vaccine it was the right call to keep New Zealanders safe.

She says we now have other tools to help keep people safe.

"Things are changing now, we are moving. The boundary decision was significant."

11:10am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says letting Aucklanders out safely over Christmas is the right thing to do. She pointed to the region's four-month lockdown as an example of why. 

But she warned if Gisbourne is still at its current vaccination rate, it will likely move into the red traffic light setting after November 29.

11:07am - Anti-lockdown group the The Freedoms & Rights Coalition says it's holding another protest. 

A post on its Facebook page says the gathering is in support of people who've lost their jobs due to vaccine mandates. 

11:03am - A Ngātiwai iwi leader is calling for the Northland-Auckland border to remain closed over the Christmas period. 

"Te Iwi o Ngātiwai recognise the constraints and pressures that lockdown has had on our  Tāmaki Makaurau whānau, our kāinga of Pākiri and Aotea Great Barrier. 

"We acknowledge the hardships of lockdown life for our whānau in Tāmaki and want to see our whānau, but we must remain vigilant to suppress the spread of the virus," says Te  Poari o Ngātiwai Chairman Aperahama Kerepeti-Edwards. 

Aperahama is calling on the Government to pause plans to open the Northern border to Aucklanders.

"Our Ngātiwai kāinga are a holiday hotspots, we believe it is premature to open Northlands borders when we have such low Māori vaccination rates across Northland and Auckland." 

The Ngātiwai Trust Board supports the position of Te Kahu o Taonui opposing the opening of the northern border until Māori vaccination rates in Auckland and Northland reach the goal of 90 percent vaccination rate. 

"We are a part of a Northland drive to accelerate Māori vaccination rates alongside our health colleagues and the wider public sector," says Raukura CEO, Huhana Lyndon.  

"There is massive mobilisation taking place across the region, we need time to raise our  vaccination rates for Māori to protect our whakapapa when Aucklanders come North."

Edwards says, "We are willing to consider opening the border when the Government  comes to the table to engage meaningfully with iwi of the North to plan a shared  strategy."

10:57am - Auckland Museum says it will close on Saturday, November 20 as a result of a "mass demonstration" in Auckland Domain. 

"In the current Government alert setting, large gatherings are a breach of the Government guidelines," says Dr David Gaimster, Chief Executive. "The Museum has a responsibility for the health and safety of our people and our visitors, and we have a responsibility to keep this building and our collections safe.

“Our priority throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been to protect our people and the community we serve in line with Government and Ministry of Health advice.

"We apologise to those Aucklanders who may have planned a visit to Auckland Museum on Saturday. Like you, we are disappointed we will not be able to welcome you onsite that day."

Dr Gaimster says the Museum plans to open on Sunday, November 21. 

"At present, it is our intention to reopen to our public on Sunday 21 November, although we remain vigilant to the changing environment and are in communication with the Police should a further protest be planned for Sunday."

10:49am - There's confusion about whether teenagers in Auckland need to turn up to their exams next week. Read everything you need to know here

10:37am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is speaking to the media in Gisborne during a visit to COVID-19 vaccination centres.

Tairawhiti has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in New Zealand, with 71 percent fully vaccinated compared to 90 percent in Auckland.

Watch the livestream above from 10:50am. 

10:06am - Michael Wood is confident most bars and cafes will require proof of vaccination before entry once the country moves to the 'traffic light' system.

But he said police would not be showing up to do spot checks like they do for underage drinkers in pubs. 

"WorkSafe are the main organisation who are responsible for enforcing health and safety laws in workplaces. We've given them additional resourcing so they've got the ability to work with business owners, to give good advice and support, to answer questions, to support them to set up systems - but then also, where it is required, to be able to provide some enforcement. 

"Our experience with these kinds of things is people do want to comply, people do want to keep their staff and their customers safe."

Read the full story here

9:08am - Woods says the majority of businesses are committed to keeping people safe. 

"I actually think there's a high level of commitment to making this work from business owners, from workers and just from Aucklanders more generally. In my area, the Auckland DHB area, we've a 95 percent first dose vaccination now. People are on the vaccination train, people know how important it is and I'm actually seeing businesses… who are gearing up to make this work." 

8:39am - Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood told The AM Show Aucklanders have been couped up for months and opening the border will finally give them freedom. 

"We think by that stage Aucklanders would have been within their city for a period of four months. We've always said that we want people to have that ability to travel over summer."

Wood says vaccine certificates allow businesses to reopen again but ultimately it's their choice.

"There's a really strong incentive for them to set up their systems to be able to do that. Ultimately they'll have a choice - if they don't want to require vaccination certificates, there will in general then be limits on the number of people that can come into a business. 

"We're giving that choice. But we think most of those operators will want to operate with few restrictions, and will therefore support the COVID vaccine certificates." 

8:25am - Queenstown is ready to fling open its doors to Aucklanders despite the potential that COVID could come too.

Mayor Jim Boult says the city is prepared and ready to welcome visitors over the Christmas period. 

8:18am - There is concern over how vaccine certificates will be policed when hospitality businesses open under the traffic light system. 

Restaurant Association National President Mike Egan says there is concern restaurants will be responsible for ensuring people don't game the system.

"The police won't have time, there will be some belligerent people but we have to look at the good nature of people. In Wellington 90 percent are vaccinated."

Hutt Hospitality owner Matt Mclaughlin says they are ready to open but there's concern over policing the certificates. When asked how he will manage them he said, "I'm not sure yet".

"We are going to roll out the trial this morning… but logically how we are going to make this work, I'm not sure yet. 

"Our staff and our patrons are key to our business and we don't want to put them in a position where they feel uncomfortable so we will have to work with them… we've got a bit of work to do there."

Egan said a $500 fine for people trying to enter hospitality premises when they aren't vaccinated would help.

8:07am - One of the country's top doctors is hoping the AstraZeneca vaccine can lure back medical professionals who refuse to get the Pfizer jab. 

"It's a very difficult number," Bryan Betty, medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, told The AM Show on Thursday.

"I mean, 1300 staff of 80,000 staff across the DHBs is a significant number - up to 4 percent in some DHBs. So there is a lot of work that needs to be done here to fill these gaps of actually really critical essential workers in the hospital system."

Worst-hit is Northland, which has the second-worst vaccination rates in the country, ahead of only Tairawhiti. Up north, just 83 percent of those eligible have had their first dose and 72 their second. While that's still better than many European countries - including France and Germany - the figures lag other New Zealand DHB regions such as Auckland (95 percent first dose, 90 percent second) Capital and Coast (94/87) and Waitemata (93/86). 

Read the full story here

8:00am - There's concern elderly people will struggle to download their vaccination certificates.

Age Concern is encouraging older people to make sure they download their certificate before they travel

Chief Executive Stephanie Clare says there's support on hand for anyone who struggles with the process. 

7:39am - The tourism industry is thrilled by the Government's decision to open Auckland's borders on December 15. 

Flight Centre Managing Director David Coombes says the border opening comes at a crucial time.

He says travel has been severely impacted by the pandemic and many businesses needed the positive news. 

7:29am - Harawira says Te Tai Tokerau Border Control wants the Government's permission to maintain their hard border. 

"The Government needs to understand that for Northland to participate positively in the exercise of opening up to the nation, we need to take extra precautions in terms of maintaining our hard border."

7:26am - Northland is not expected to hit the 90 percent double vaccinated threshold until January 19, causing concern about an influx of Aucklanders over the Christmas period. 

"I don't even really want to contemplate what could happen if we don't do this right," Harawira told The AM Show. 

7:24am - Harawira says the vaccination rate in Northland is too low for the border to open.

"Allow us, if necessary, to put up a hard border to ensure the only people who come in are those who are allowed to come in and if they're not allowed turn them around and send them back to Auckland."

"We know it's been hard in Auckland but right now our highest priority is those who are most vulnerable in our community." 

7:17am - Harawira says he's very concerned about the border opening, because it puts the community at risk.

"If we can give it extra time to get past the 90 and lift our vaccination rates then we can have Christmas then. We can have January 25th Christmas."

7:15am - Hone Harawira says removing the Auckland-Northlandis a "recipe for disaster".

Harawira told The AM Show a hard border needs to stay in place with only the vaccinated allowed into Te Tai Tokerau.

6:58am - There's concern over the low vaccination rates in Gisborne ahead of the Auckland border being opened.

Only 83 percent of people in the region have had their first COVID jab and 70 percent their second dose.

Gisborne Mayor Re-ette Stoltz says there's concern over the number of unvaccinated people.

6:50am - Infections are soaring among unvaccinated people across Europe while South Korea has cut the wait times for booster shots. 

Read all the latest from around the world here.

6:39am - Dr Matire Harwood from the Papakura Marae Health Clinic fears opening up will severely impact Māori. 

She says she understands movement around the country may motivate people to get vaccinated, but says the health response in vulnerable communities is complex.

6:29am - Manawatū Cricket Association says a person from United Cricket Club has tested positive for COVID. 

They said the player attended United Club practice at the MCA Indoor Centre on Tuesday night. 

"He scanned in so we know the time frame was 5.30-7.10pm.  If you were in the centre around those times please seek advice from the Ministry of Health about the process to follow," Manawatū Cricket Association said in a Facebook post. 

6:24am - Police Commissioner Andrew Coster is warning  Kiwis to follow the rules when the borders open. Coster says police will be doing spot checks at the boundary and those found to be untested or unvaccinated face a $1000 fine. 

Coster warns the rules will be strictly enforced.