As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, November 4

There are 139 new COVID-19 cases in the community to report on Thursday.

Of these, 136 are in Auckland, two in Waikato, and one in Northland.

It comes as the top of Northland was thrown into lockdown on Tuesday night as officials scrambled to try and find a link between two cases in the Far North and others further south in Northland.

What you need to know:

These live updates have finished.

8:40pm - Newshub can reveal some managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) rooms may be sitting empty when the length of stays are halved because they don't have enough workers.

Last week the Government promised more MIQ spots by halving MIQ stays to seven days.

"This evolution will free up around 1500 rooms a month in MIQ," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said at the time. 

But many were left wondering why halving stays didn't mean twice the number of rooms, which would be an extra 4500 a month.

It's all because there aren't enough staff.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment said: "The health workforce are under sustained pressure in Auckland... The change to a seven day MIQ stay creates additional pressure because we will shift from four tests in 14 days to four tests in seven."

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

7:50pm - There are criticisms of the care a COVID-19-positive man who died alone in an apartment building on Wednesday was receiving.

He was living in emergency accommodation, where dozens of unvaccinated children also live.

His death was reported by the Ministry of Health on Wednesday evening after he was found dead by a family member visiting them at a Manukau address earlier in the day. He tested positive for COVID-19 on October 24 and had been isolating at home with public health oversight.

His exact cause of death is yet to be determined.

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

7pm - A primary student from Arahoe School in the west Auckland suburb of New Lynn has tested positive for COVID-19.

The school confirmed to Newshub that it will close tomorrow, November 5.

In a letter sent to parents, principal Richard Limbrick says the school block where a bubble programme has been operating - which limits the number of students gathered at one time - will undergo a thorough clean in the next 72 hours and staff and students will get tested.

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

  • Countdown Mangere Mall, October 27 from 11:30am to 1:30pm
  • Mobil Kaitaia, November 1 from 8:30am to 9:15am
  • Pak'nSave Whangarei, November 1 from 11:45am to 1:50pm
  • LiquorLand Whangarei Central, November 1 from 12pm to 1pm
  • BP Rosedale, November 3 from 3:15am to 3:45am.

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

5:25pm - Prominent Auckland waterfront bar owner Leo Molloy has called out anti-vaxxers in a strongly worded column, labelling them "village idiots".

In the column published on Stuff Molloy, who owns Auckland bar HeadQuarters, outlines how social media has given anti-vaxxers the platform to have a "very loud voice" and spread misinformation, which has put doubt in people's minds about getting immunised against COVID-19.

"Social media is that offender, the bastard spawn of US technology and Asian manufacturers, which has empowered and entitled a new world of village idiots," Molloy writes for Stuff. "It's given each of them a voice - a very loud voice - and a source of unlimited disinformation about vaccines and the perils thereof."

Read the full story here.

4:45pm - Internal borders would be lifted once 85 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated, even if some regions lag behind, if National was in charge. 

"Yes," National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop said on Thursday, when asked if National would let coronavirus cases visit regions with low vaccination rates, as long as the 85 percent of the total population is jabbed.

"No one wants an outbreak of COVID anywhere in the country, but the reality is, we have COVID in Auckland right now, and with the proper deployment of public health tools like rapid antigen testing and much greater use of surveillance testing like saliva testing, for example, we can manage and deal with COVID in our communities," Bishop said. 

"[That's] even in scenarios in which there are small pockets of the community that have low vaccination rates, although obviously, the first preference is for everyone to get vaccinated and get those rates as high as possible."

If National had its way, lockdowns would no longer be used to curb COVID-19 outbreaks when 70-75 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated. With 77 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated, we'd already be there.

National would then drop COVID-19 restrictions once 85 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated, or on December 1 - whichever comes first. It would essentially be 'freedom day' for Kiwis, the likes of which has been seen in the UK and Australia. 

Read the full story here.

4:10pm - All visitors to prisons are required to have their first COVID-19 vaccine before November 13 and be fully vaccinated from December 9.

Corrections chief custodial officer Neil Beales says this wasn't a decision they made lightly and they acknowledge the "significant impact" this will have for people in prison with unvaccinated friends and family.

"Ultimately, we take our duty of care to people in prison and the wellbeing of our staff seriously, and we must act to prevent them from the very serious harm that COVID-19 poses," he says.

"Requiring visitors to be vaccinated lessens the potential for COVID-19 to be introduced to a prison. This will also help minimise impacts on the wider health system, which could face additional pressure if a COVID-19 outbreak occurred in a prison."

Since March 2020, Corrections has managed 21 people with COVID-19 in prisons, with no transmission between prisoners or staff, Beales says. However, he says it would be irresponsible for them not to proactively plan for and take steps to prevent the potential for an outbreak.

"We have already taken extensive measures to keep COVID-19 out of prisons, with health screening and PPE requirements a standard part of our entry requirements for all visitors. We are also managing newly received prisoners separately for their first 14 days in custody, and carrying out routine testing for COVID-19 on days 0, 5 and 12," he says.

"This is yet another step we are taking to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of the people we manage and our staff, and to give extra assurance to the whānau and friends of those in prison that we are taking every step to protect them from COVID-19."

The new requirements are:

From November 13, 2021: All private visitors to prison aged 12 and over will be required to have had at least one vaccination. Ahead of the release of vaccination certificates, they will be required to present either a purple COVID-19 vaccination record card or a printed copy of their online My Covid Record.

From December 9, 2021: All private visitors to prison aged 12 and over will be required to be fully vaccinated. They will be required to present a printed version of their vaccination certificate on arrival.

4pm - There is a vaccine event for Pasifika communities in west Auckland this Saturday.

It is happening from 9am to 5pm at 40 Kirrie Avenue, Te Atatu South. You don't need to make an appointment.

3:25pm - The Government isn't ruling out allocated times for Aucklanders to leave the city over the Christmas period - a controversial idea floated by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. 

"We are committed to ensuring Aucklanders are able to leave Auckland for Christmas and the summer holidays," Hipkins said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. 

"At the same time, we need to do what we can for the rest of the country to try and ensure it is people, and not the virus, that moves beyond the Auckland boundary.

"No system will be perfect, and it will be challenging, but we are looking at how we can use tools like vaccine certificates and testing to achieve these goals.

"While no decisions have been made, we are talking with different sectors and groups who will be key to making a land boundary work safely and as smoothly as possible, and will keep the public up to speed with developments."

Hipkins told RNZ's Checkpoint on Wednesday the Government was considering giving Aucklanders an allocated time to leave the region over the summer holiday, to help reduce traffic at checkpoints, as vaccination certificates are checked. 

Read the full story here.

2:45pm - National's small business spokesperson Todd McClay says retail sector small business owners deserve answers from Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson after he said "less than a handful of cases" were transmitted in retail settings throughout the pandemic.

"Minister Robertson's comments were in reference to Auckland moving to level 3 step 2 next week which will allow certain retail businesses to open. However, it does beg the question, if retail settings are such low-risk environments, why not allow businesses to open today, or last week, or a month ago?" McClay says.

"Businesses are on their knees. Many have already collapsed. How many businesses could have scraped through if allowed to trade from last week or earlier?"

He says a lot of business owners' distress is coming from the uncertainty of when "their nightmare" will be over.

"Labour are making up policy on the fly and this means they aren't checking that it is consistent with what is already in play or what has been said. Logic cannot be found in many of the parameters the Government has used for their restrictions," McClay says.

"Grant Robertson owes businesses an explanation as to why he has watched their life's work go down the drain while knowing that throughout the pandemic few cases can be attributed to their environment. When did he realise retail was safe? Why did he not act sooner?

"A week is a long time in politics, but it is even longer when you're borrowing against your house to keep your business afloat and the Government has extended your lockdown for another week."

2:10pm - Here's an update on where all DHBs in the country are sitting for the vaccine rollout.

So far, five DHBs have given 90 percent or more of its eligible population at least once dose of the vaccine: Waitemata, Auckland, Capital and Coast, Canterbury, and Southern.

No DHB has fully vaccinated at least 90 percent of its eligible population, although Auckland is the closest, currently sitting at 86 percent.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, November 4
Photo credit: Ministry of Health

1:40pm - Tonga's first positive COVID-19 case has since returned a negative test.

The country earlier this week announced a week-long lockdown after a person who travelled there from Christchurch was confirmed to have the virus. 

Health ministry chief executive Siale 'Akau'ola says the case returned a negative result after being tested for COVID-19 again on Monday (local time).

Read the full story here.

1:25pm - The Ministry of Health has provided more information about the person who died with COVID-19 on Wednesday:

The sudden death of a 40-year-old man with COVID-19 who had been isolating at home has been referred to the Coroner who will determine whether it was COVID-19 related.

The Ministry’s condolences are with this person’s whânau at this sad time.

There has been speculation this death was vaccine related but we can confirm it was not.

The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre and the Ministry will undertake an incident review of the public health and clinical oversight of this person with independent input.

The Ministry is unable to comment on the specifics of this case while there is a coronial investigation, however we can comment generally about the home isolation process.

Following a positive test, a public health assessment is undertaken on a case to determine whether they should isolate at home or at an MIQ facility. This considers whether they live in a residence that allows them and their household to isolate safely at home, whether they would like to and feel safe to isolate at home, if they have supplies necessary to isolate at home, and if they understand the isolation period for contacts in their household.

This is then followed by a medical assessment of their clinical needs and any medical conditions they may have. If people need hospital-level care, it is arranged for them.

Over the period of required isolation, there are regular checks undertaken through a mixture of phone calls, in person visits and emails. Individuals with COVID-19 are also given a pulse oximeter to help monitor their health.

All positive cases have access to a dedicated, free 24/7 Healthline service, and are told to call 111 if they need urgent medical attention or are having issues breathing.

Website reporting of case management locations
The Ministry would like to clarify the “other” category on the case management locations section on our website.

The majority of these cases are classified under this category because their status has not yet been updated in the national infectious diseases database, EpiSurv. The vast majority of these cases have already been contacted and are under public health management. This remains the primary focus of our public health staff.

These are not people awaiting initial contact from public health officials.

Follow up to ‘Super Saturday’ this weekend
We’re encouraging everyone who received their first vaccination three weeks ago on Super Saturday (October 16) to get their second dose this weekend – or as soon as possible after that.

Everyone vaccinated for the first time during Super Saturday will be getting email and text reminders to get their second shot – so please go and get one to protect yourself, your friends and your whanau.

We’re also calling on anyone else over 12 who hasn’t yet been vaccinated to get their shot. With hundreds of clinics open all over New Zealand this weekend, including drive-thru and walk-in options, it’s never been easier.  

People in Auckland can also head to Eden Park, which will be open for vaccinations over the weekend with the #GotYaDot event – a unifying campaign to help whanau, hapû, iwi, teams, communities, and families to get a dot (vaccine) and protect their whakapapa.

Tuvalu case
A person in MIQ that arrived from Tuvalu on October 20 had transited through Fiji before landing in Auckland.

They tested positive on Day 11 of their managed isolation stay.

Initial investigations have determined there are no close contacts of this case among staff members or other returnees at the MIQ facility and further investigations are underway to ascertain the potential source.

Northland update
There is one new community case confirmed in Northland today, taking the total number of cases in the region to 15. This case is a close contact of the two previously reported Taipa cases and has been isolating at home.

Today there are 15 community testing centres and 12 vaccination clinics available across the region.

Those who live in or around Taipa, Kaingaroa, Awanui and Kaitaia and have had symptoms of COVID-19 in the last couple of weeks, are encouraged to get tested as soon as possible. Testing centre locations can be found on the Northland DHB website.

There were 1,833 tests taken across Northland yesterday and 1,552 vaccinations were given, including 443 first doses.

Auckland update
There were 12,121 tests taken across Auckland yesterday.

There are 18 community testing centres available across Auckland today For up- up-to-date information on testing locations in Auckland, visit Auckland Regional Public Health Service.

In Auckland, public health officials are now supporting 723 cases to isolate at home.

Waikato update
There were two new cases confirmed in the Waikato overnight. Both cases are from Hamilton, were known contacts of previous cases.

Anyone with symptoms, no matter how mild, is being encouraged to get a test. This advice is the same regardless of vaccination status.

There were 2,264 tests processed in Waikato yesterday and 2,540 vaccinations administered.

Pop-up testing sites are operating today in Hamilton, Ngâruawâhia, Ôtorohanga, Te Awamutu, Huntly and Thames. Please check Healthpoint’s website for times and locations.

Canterbury update
There are no new cases to report in Canterbury today. There are still the four active cases, who are in an MIQ facility, and 22 locations of interest in Canterbury – no new locations have been added in recent days.

Results from two wastewater samples taken in Christchurch on 1 November have shown no unexpected detection of COVID-19. ESR considers shedding of the virus from current cases in MIQ is the likely cause of recent detections. COVID-19 has not recently been detected at any other sites in Christchurch.

We continue to urge anyone in Canterbury with any COVID-19 symptoms – no matter how mild – to get a test.

There is good testing capacity throughout the region, including a pop-up COVID-19 community testing centre operating until 4pm today only at the New Brighton Club. The pop-up is both a drive-through and walk-up clinic.

For a full list of testing and vaccination centres in Christchurch, please see the Canterbury DHB website.

Yesterday there were around 1,650 COVID-19 tests and 4,786 vaccinations in Canterbury –1,062 first doses and 3,724 second doses.

1:20pm - There are 139 new community cases. Here's the latest figures from the Ministry of Health:

There were 26,999 first and second vaccine doses administered yesterday, made up of 6,659 first doses and 20,340 second doses. To date, 89 percent of New Zealanders have had their first dose and 77 percent are fully vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated will help to stop people from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 and will save lives.

COVID-19 vaccine update  
Total first and second vaccines administered to date (percentage of eligible people) 6,952,992: 3,731,205 first doses (89%); 3,221,787 second doses (77%)
Total first and second vaccines administered yesterday 26,999: 6,659 first doses; 20,340 second doses
Mâori (percentage of eligible people) 416,945 first doses (73%); 310,950 second doses (54%)
Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people) 245,915 first doses (86%); 201,191 second doses (70%)
Total first and second vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday 6,640: 1,465 first doses; 5,175 second doses
Vaccination rates by DHB (with active cases)  
Northland DHB (percentage of eligible people 129,027 first doses (80%); 106,740 second doses (66%)
Auckland metro DHBs (percentage of eligible people 1,313,397 first doses (92%); 1,172,099 second doses (82%)
Waikato DHB (percentage of eligible people 311,897 first doses (87%); 263,750 second doses (74%)
Canterbury DHB (percentage of eligible people 443,844 first doses (92%); 367,016 second doses (76%)
Cases in hospital 64 (total, up from 58 yesterday): Waitemata (24); Middlemore (15); Auckland (25); Waikato (1)
Average age of current hospitalisations 51
Cases in ICU or HDU Five
Number of new community cases* 139
Number of new cases identified at the border 3
Location of new community cases Auckland (136), Waikato (2), Northland (1)
Location of community cases (total) Auckland 3,688 (1,653 of whom have recovered); Waikato 146 (54 of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (all of whom have recovered); Northland 15 (5 of whom have recovered); Nelson/Marlborough 1 (recovered); Canterbury 4
Number of community cases (total) 3,871 (in current community outbreak)
Confirmed cases (total) 6,611
Historical cases 185 out of 4,798 cases since 1 January
Cases infectious in the community ** 27 of 93 cases reported yesterday have exposure events
Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious** 66 of 93 cases reported yesterday have no exposure events
Cases epidemiologically linked 67of today’s 139 cases
Cases to be epidemiologically linked 72 of today’s 139 cases
Cases epidemiologically linked (total) 3,235 (in the current cluster) (452 unlinked from the past 14 days)
Number of active contacts being managed (total): 3,569
Percentage who have received an outbound call from contact tracers (to confirm testing and isolation requirements) 76%
Percentage who have returned at least one result 75%
Locations of interest  
Locations of interest (total) 323 (as at 10am 4 November)
Number of tests (total) 4,194,715
Number of tests total (last 24 hours) 31,882
Tests processed in Auckland (last 24 hours) 12,121
Tests rolling average (last 7 days) 26,872
Testing centres in Auckland 18
Wastewater detections No unexpected detections
NZ COVID Tracer  
Registered users (total) 3,343,854
Poster scans (total) 477,427,141
Manual diary entries (total) 19,547,674
Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday 2,308,026

1:10pm - Yet another study which concluded ivermectin can be used to treat COVID-19 has been withdrawn, after eagle-eyed readers noted it appeared to contain fake data. 

Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic commonly used to treat horses and other animals infected with worms, has been picked up by anti-vaxxers, right-wing media and conspiracy theorists as an alternative to vaccines and conventional treatments. 

There is no solid evidence yet it works, and health officials worldwide have said unsupervised off-label use could be dangerous, yet it's been touted by names as big as podcaster Joe Rogan, broadcaster Alex Jones and Fox News host Tucker Carlson. 

Read more here.

12:45pm - There's no press conference today, so we're awaiting a release from the Ministry of Health with the latest figures. We'll bring that to you as soon as it is in our inbox.

12:30pm - The Police Association fears that opening Auckland's regional boundary ahead of Christmas is a disaster waiting to happen, with the Government yet to seek advice on the best way to manage the onslaught of Aucklanders desperate to escape.

The stricken region remains sealed off from the rest of the country as the epicentre of the ongoing outbreak of the Delta variant. People cannot leave or enter Auckland without an exemption certifying that their travel is for an essential purpose, with police-operated checkpoints stationed along the northern and southern border to ensure anyone coming or going has the relevant documents. 

The future of the border has been a hot topic in recent weeks, with many Aucklanders - now enduring their eleventh week of lockdown - desperate to leave the region this summer to attend events, travel, or reunite with family and friends. However, the Government has yet to decisively announce if Aucklanders will be permitted to travel outside of the region for Christmas, with the Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, revealing on Thursday that Cabinet has yet to seek advice on the matter

Chris Cahill is concerned about the pressure on officers having to police the border.

Read more here.

12:20pm - Bishop labels the idea of time slots to leave Auckland "the stupidest idea I have ever heard". He says it is "ludicrous" and is stunned the Government even considered it. There is "palpable anger" in Auckland, Bishop tells reporters.

National's view is that when there is 85 percent fully vaccinated in New Zealand you can get rid of internal borders.

12:15pm - There are three new locations of interest:

  • Quick 'N' Clean Laundromat - Wednesday, November 3 between 11:50am and 12:15pm
  • Pak'nSave Papakura - Wednesday, November 3 between 12:35pm and 1:30pm
  • Supa Choice Bakery Takanini - Wednesday, November 3 between 12pm and 12:15pm

12:05pm - Chris Bishop is now speaking to reporters about National's campaign to end MIQ, which he calls "state-sponsored human cruelty". He says it would allow Kiwis to return home for Christmas.

Bishop says if you're a fully vaccinated Kiwi in a low-risk location, like Queensland, and have tests before and after arrival, you could go into the community when back in New Zealand. If they are coming a medium-risk location, like the UK, they would have to isolate at home for a week.

Those isolating at home would be supported as they are now, but Bishop says it is still a trust model which would need the buy-in from those isolating.

MIQ would still be needed for the unvaccinated and for those testing positive in the community, he says.

Bishop says the risk is not zero, but only two fully vaccinated people have tested positive in MIQ later than day eight in a facility.

12pm - National has launched a campaign to bring an end to MIQ.

"We now have a farcical situation where fully vaccinated New Zealanders, with no COVID, who win the MIQ lottery have to spend 14 days in MIQ in Auckland, while more than 1300 people with COVID or who are close contacts of COVID cases isolate at home in Auckland," COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says. 

"This makes no sense. It is unfair, callous and illogical."

Bishop says tens of thousands of Kiwis have been shut out of their home because of the system, which he labels not "politically or morally sustainable" and "legally questionable". 

"Fully-vaccinated travellers to New Zealand present negligible risk. Since we started collecting MIQ vaccination data from August 23, just two fully vaccinated travellers in MIQ have tested positive later than day eight in MIQ.

"National is launching this petition to demand the Government put an end to MIQ. Clearly we need quarantine facilities for some community Covid cases, but we must move to a system where fully vaccinated travellers who return negative pre-departure tests can enter New Zealand without spending time in MIQ hotels.

"National’s ‘Opening Up’ plan envisaged travellers from lower risk jurisdictions – such as Queensland – not entering isolation at all, while travellers from higher risk places such as New South Wales would spend a week in isolation at home. Under both scenarios, MIQ would cease and there would be no state-imposed limits on travellers to New Zealand.

"Ending MIQ would reunite families, end the enormous anguish at the heart of the system, boost tourism, and help fill skill shortages in New Zealand.

"We can’t remain stuck behind the walls of Fortress New Zealand forever. We have to reopen to the world, and a good place to start would be getting rid of the lottery of human misery that is MIQ."

The Government's plan is for fully vaccinated people to begin skipping MIQ sometime in the first quarter of next year.

11:55am - The mother of a vulnerable child in Auckland is concerned about the management of home isolation, with a COVID-positive neighbour allegedly leaving their home and putting the community at risk.

Roughly 700 people with COVID-19 are currently isolating at home. The new model is considered a more sustainable approach to managing COVID-positive patients as it avoids overfilling managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities. With MIQ still required for new arrivals, a shortage of rooms has created a major backlog of overseas Kiwis who are desperate to return home, but are unable to guarantee a space. 

Auckland mother Tiff McLeod has a newborn baby and a daughter with a chronic health condition, who is currently recovering from a major surgery that resulted in a collapsed lung. She has serious concerns about how home isolation is managed, claiming her COVID-positive neighbour has breached the rules on multiple occasions. She is worried the neighbours are putting her family at risk.

Read more here.

11:45am - Dr Bloomfield told Breakfast on Thursday that Ministry of Health officials advised the Government to keep Auckland at the first step of alert level 3 for "a little while longer". Instead, the region moves to the second step next Tuesday night. 

"We also provided additional advice on what additional risk moving to Step 2 would create," he said.

He said officials didn't have a preference for how long to keep Auckland at the current step. He doesn't believe moving to step two will add too much risk to the public. 

"As we’ve seen through this outbreak in Auckland, there have been almost no cases from those sort of settings that are opened up in Step 2, especially with the use of physical distancing and masks," Dr Bloomfield said.

"Our advice was that there was very little increased risk and that we were comfortable with a potential move."

11:25am - Judith Collins says the Government must rule out "summer holiday 'timeshares". It comes after Chris Hipkins floated the idea on Wednesday that Aucklanders may be allocated a time to leave the region for summer. That's since been shot down by his colleage Grant Robertson as impractical.

Collins says the idea is "unworkable and ridiculous". 

"People in Auckland who have put up with three months of lockdown need certainty and a plan," she says.

"What they don’t need is Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins going on the radio threatening them with another Government-run lottery to be allowed to travel over summer.

"The Government seems to be trying to make up for its negligent lack of planning over the last 18 months by publically workshopping new ideas on the fly. It has to stop."

The National leader is calling on Ardern to rule out the idea and then provide a clear timetable for when Aucklanders will be able to travel.

National's police spokesperson, Simeon Brown, says more than 300 officers are working the Auckland border checkpoints, "meaning more than over 300 frontline police are not on the streets fighting and preventing crime".

"There are 160 police officers from Auckland police districts dedicated to working the border, with an additional 343 brought in from other police districts to help with the tedious task of enforcing it.

"Bringing in officers from other police districts brings with it significant cost.

"The suggestion that Police may have to stop every car seeking to leave Auckland or visit Auckland over summer to check vaccination certificates and COVID tests will be an absolute nightmare, and will mean significant Police resource  continue to be placed at the border instead of focusing on important policing priorities over the busy summer period."

11:10am - Here's a breakdown of where our cases have been located over the course of the pandemic: 

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, November 4

11am - Tonga's first lockdown due to a case of COVID-19 has begun, and the streets of Nuku'alofa are quiet.

The main island Tongatapu began a seven day lockdown after Tonga recorded the arrival of its first case of COVID-19 on a flight from Christchurch last week. The lockdown began just after midnight, with only essential services allowed to open, which include banks and the market.

Gatherings are not allowed, except small numbers at funerals, and alcohol cannot be sold.

Read more here.

10:40am - First man Clarke Gayford says he regularly texts his fiancée Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to check she's okay amid the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in anti-vaccination protests.

Gayford joined The Project on Wednesday and revealed he often tracks his partner's day through news headlines. He said he texts the Prime Minister "several times a day".

Read more here.

10:30am - There is one new location of interest:

  • Pak'nSave Te Awamutu - Tuesday, November 2 between 7am and 8:15am

10:20am - The ACT Party is unhappy with the number of times Dr Ashley Bloomfield has attended Cabinet, saying it goes against the Cabinet rules. 

"ACT can reveal Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has attended Cabinet 17 times this year, a breach of Cabinet’s own rules," sai ACT Leader David Seymour.

"Ashley Bloomfield probably speaks more in Cabinet than most Cabinet Ministers. He almost certainly attends Cabinet more than Ministers out of Cabinet, such as James Shaw.

"Bloomfield has more power than any unelected person since Queen Victoria appointed Governor Hobson. He told media this morning he couldn’t remember any other advisors being there this year."

Seymour said the Government has been captured by the Ministry of Health and Dr Bloomfield has essentially become an unelected "Minister for COVID". 

"The Cabinet Manual states ‘The Secretary of the Cabinet and the Deputy Secretary of the Cabinet, who provide secretariat services to Cabinet, are the only officials to attend Cabinet meetings regularly. Occasionally, senior public service officials may be invited to give a special presentation to Ministers in the Cabinet room.’

"Seventeen times is not occasional. The Ministry of Health has proven time and again its incompetence, whether it’s saliva testing contracts, rapid antigen testing or involving GPs and Pharmacists in the response.

"The Government was elected to lead us through this. It is completely captured by one man. It has ignored all other views, whether from the business community or anyone with health concerns other than COVID-19.

"It’s time for Jacinda Ardern to broaden her horizons, take advice from multiple sources on an equal basis, and have a democratically elected Cabinet without unelected cling-ons."

10:10am - Former deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says the idea of needing a time slot to leave Auckland is "simply nuts". 

"Aucklanders needing a scheduled time slot to leave the city for xmas is simply nuts.  It makes you wonder which clown is running this circus."

10:05am - Two in five Aucklanders are apparently pessimistic about the Government's response to the Delta outbreak, according to a non-scientific poll of nearly 10,000 people by Stuff

More than 43 percent said they believed authorities had done a terrible or bad job with managing the outbreak, a third said the response had been excellent or good and 23 percent found it okay. Just over half thought the region would hit the 90 percent double dose target.

9:45am - Many churches in Auckland are already preparing to deliver Christmas services online as church leaders weigh up if they will re-open only to vaccinated people when the traffic light system kicks in.

Churches with more than 100 people can only meet under the orange setting without restrictions if COVID-19 vaccine certificates are used. Without a vaccine mandate only 50 people can gather one meter apart - which isn't workable for larger churches.

Green allows the same numbers as orange for vaccine certificate gatherings, and up to 100 people one metre apart for gatherings without the mandate.

Under the red setting, churches using vaccine certificates can have 100 people gathered one metre apart, or alternatively without vaccine certificates only 10 people can gather with social distancing.

Read more here.

9:30am - The Ministry of Health has told The Spinoff that it is not aware of any cases of COVID-19 linked to the 'influencer party' in the Auckland suburb of Redvale last month.

The event became the topic of conversation when images and videos of youth partying went viral online. It drew condemnation as it took place at alert level 3, step one, when gatherings are limited to 10 people and must take place outdoors. 

9:10am - Aucklanders will probably have a better option than allocated time to leave the region over the holidays, the deputy prime minister says.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Checkpoint yesterday time slots were an option the government was considering.

Robertson does not think allocated time out of the region for those travelling by road is practical.

"I don't think it's particularly likely that there would be the kind of scheme where you were allocated a day.

Read more here

8:55am - Here is the case summary with the data from Wednesday's update:

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, November 4

8:40am - As the devastating Delta variant surge eases in many regions of the world, scientists are charting when, and where, COVID-19 will transition to an endemic disease in 2022 and beyond, according to Reuters interviews with over a dozen leading disease experts.

They expect that the first countries to emerge from the pandemic will have had some combination of high rates of vaccination and natural immunity among people who were infected with the coronavirus, such as the United States, the UK, Portugal and India. But they warn that SARS-CoV-2 remains an unpredictable virus that is mutating as it spreads through unvaccinated populations.

None would completely rule out what some called a "doomsday scenario," in which the virus mutates to the point that it evades hard-won immunity. Yet they expressed increasing confidence that many countries will have put the worst of the pandemic behind them in the coming year.

Read more here.

8:30am - Here is the latest DHB by DHB breakdown of vaccination rates with doses up to Tuesday night included. As you can see, Counties Manukau is just about 3000 first doses off hitting 90 percent first dose. Northland has hit 80 percent first dose.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, November 4

8:15am - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson was asked on RNZ on Thursday morning whether unvaccinated Aucklanders may be able to travel to Northland for summer even if the region hasn't hit 90 percent double dose.

Robertson says the Government is working on the "hope that we get ourselves to a fully operational traffic light system, at which point there aren't regional boundaries". That's highly unlikely to happen, with some DHBs not expected to hit 90 percent double dose until the middle of January. 

If that doesn't happen, Robertson says the check-in on November 29 will help "determine our next steps". Vaccine certificates and testing may therefore be necessary, which would create a "big logistical exercise". 

He says the idea of time slots for people to leave Auckland would "be a challenging situation and one that would have its own logistical difficulties".

7:55am - Speaking to RNZ earlier, Dr Bloomfield said all household and workplace contacts of the two Far North cases have returned negative test results. But they could still test positive in coming days. Genome sequencing for those cases is still also not back.

7:45am - The United States on Wednesday began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, the latest group to become eligible for the shots that provide protection against the illness to recipients and those around them.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech SE shot for broad use in that age group.

Only a limited number of the 15 million shots being distributed now will be available on Wednesday. They are expected to be more widely accessible at pediatrician's offices, children's hospitals and pharmacies next week.

Read more here.

7:30am - Dr Ashley Bloomfield tells The AM Show he has no more information on the COVID patient who has died at home. It's unclear if the death is COVID-19 related, but an investigation is now underway. He doesn't know if the person had other health issues or was vaccinated.

On Tiff McLeod's issue, Dr Bloomfield says there is a "very thorough" assessment of the circumstances of people isolating at home and what support they need. While most people isolate safely, sometimes there "are challenges around compliance". If necessary, some people are then asked to move to a quarantine facility.

He rejects COVID is "spreading like wildfire" across Auckland, saying case growth is where it was projected to be and is a smaller outbreak than what other cities, like Sydney, has seen.

On the Auckland border, Dr Bloomfield says the way to see the boundary lift is for vaccination rates to lift across the country. If it is still there at Christmas, the question is how to allow travel safely. No advice has yet been provided on that, Dr Bloomfield says.

He says Christmas is still more than six weeks away and the aim is for there not to be a boundary. But the Government has not asked for advice on the earliest date for Aucklanders to move across the border, the Director-General says.

He notes the Government has a vaccination rate check-in date on November 29. 

7:20am - Chris Cahill from the Police Association says police shouldn't be solely responsible for supporting COVID cases isolating at home. He believes the Ministry of Health needs to step up.

Officers have very limited information about patients or often don't know whether they are going to be interacting with a COVID case, Cahill says.

"They feel the pressure and the frustration," Cahill tells The AM Show.

He says with so many cases self-isolating, police are relying on the public's cooperation.

Cahill says he was "very concerned" to hear the Auckland border is going to be up over Christmas. He says it may be a "shambles". Officers are "running out of steam" already and having to check thousands of Kiwis' vaccination status may be too much, Cahill tells The AM Show.

"It is a theory waiting to turn into a disaster."

7:15am - The AM Show is talking to Tiff McLeod, who has a COVID-positive neighbour. Despite that, McLeod says her neighbours are potentially breaching isolation rules by being "out and about roaming the streets".

It's concerning as she has a sick daughter who has just undergone major surgery and there are a number of elderly people in the neighbourhood.

McLeod says the neighbours have been interacting with others on the street.

She raised the issue with police and an officer was sent out. However, McLeod says the neighbours responded aggressively and police are overwhelmed by the number of people self-isolating.

7am - About 1000 people with COVID-19 are still waiting to find out if they will self isolate or be moved to quarantine.

Those on the frontline said the health system was showing the strain, and contact tracing was struggling to keep up, as the number of active community cases topped 2000.

They worried some were waiting in homes that were not suitable for self isolation.

Read more here.

6:50am - Novavax has submitted an application to have its vaccine receive provisional approval in New Zealand. 

"We remain laser-focused on delivering our vaccine, which is built on a proven, well-understood vaccine platform, and thank the Government of New Zealand for their ongoing partnership and confidence in our COVID-19 vaccine program," said the company's president and chief executive Stanley C. Erck.

"Novavax has now completed the submission to Medsafe of all modules required for the regulatory evaluation of NVX-CoV2373, a recombinant nanoparticle protein-based COVID-19 vaccine with Matrix-M™ adjuvant.

"The chemistry, manufacturing and controls (CMC) module submitted to Medsafe, as well as other regulatory agencies worldwide, leverage Novavax' manufacturing partnership with the Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. (SII), the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by volume. It will later be supplemented with data from additional manufacturing sites in Novavax' global supply chain."

The only country so far to give approval to the Novavax vaccine is Indonesia.

6:35am - An idea floated by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on radio on Wednesday night that Aucklanders may be allocated times to leave the region ahead of Christmas and summer has not gone down well, at least on social media and amongst the Opposition.

Hipkins told RNZ that one option the Government is considering to manage traffic flow out of Auckland is to allocate people time slots. There is concern that with police having to potentially check the vaccination status of people leaving, that traffic may back up significantly. He said no decisions have yet been made on how any system may work.

But the idea has already been widely criticised.

"The Government is now either making it up as they go or completely detached from reality with its suggestion that people will need to book a slot to get through checkpoints heading out of Auckland,” said ACT Leader David Seymour.

"Chris Hipkins’ suggestion is the Government’s most unworkable idea yet, a mix between Muldoon’s carless days in reverse and the internal borders of a police state."

National's Judith Collins also tweeted that the Government had "lost the plot" and Jacinda Ardern's suggestion that only vaccinated people may be able to leave Auckland for Christmas showed she was "The Grinch". 

"New Zealanders need certainty. People are planning their summers now. Families want to know if they will see each other at Christmas. If they don’t know what the situation at the Auckland border will be many people simply will not plan a family Christmas or summer holiday," Collins said.

"Not only will that keep loved ones separated, a closed border will be dire for the tourism industries of places such as Coromandel and Northland that rely on visitors from Auckland.

"Most Kiwis have done the right thing and got vaccinated. We can’t lock up Auckland forever because the Government has set a vaccination target that is more ambitious than anywhere else in the world."

On Twitter, the idea has been labelled everything from a potential "clusterf*ck" to "utterly ridiculous and entirely unworkable" to an "omnishambles". Some compared the potential system to the MIQ lottery, which has also been widely condemned. 

6:20am - This morning The AM Show will speak with Tiff McLeod, who has a COVID-19 positive neighbour with household members breaching isolation rules. Also on the show will be Police Association President Chris Cahill and Dr Ashley Bloomfield for their reaction.

6:10am - In case you missed it late on Wednesday night, here's what the Ministry of Health had to say about the death of a person with COVID-19: 

"The Ministry is today sadly reporting a death of a person with COVID-19.

"However the cause of death is unknown and may have been COVID-19 or some other cause. This will be determined by the Coroner.

"The Ministry is working with other agencies, routinely involved in any sudden death, including Police and other health organisations.

"The person had been isolating at a Manukau address.

"The person was found deceased by a family member visiting them today.  The person tested positive for COVID-19 on 24 October and has been isolating at home with public health oversight.

"The Ministry extends its sympathies to this person’s family and acknowledges the stress this may cause them."

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

Genomic sequencing may shine some light on how the two mystery cases in the Far North are linked to the wider outbreak. So far, no link has been found between those infections and others in Northland. Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday that sequencing for both was expected back on Thursday morning.

It comes as the Ministry of Health on Wednesday night confirmed a COVID-19 positive person isolating in Manukau, Auckland had died. The cause of death is being investigated.