As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, November 3

The northern part of Te Tai Tokerau has been plunged into lockdown overnight just as restrictions ease for those under alert level 3 in Waikato.

Officials have been unable to link two cases of COVID-19 in the Far North to other community infections in the region, prompting COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Tuesday night to call an impromptu press conference where he announced the alert level shift.

It comes as parts of Waikato under alert level 3 see restrictions ease, allowing retail stores to open their doors again and gatherings to expand to 25 people.

What you need to know:

These live updates have finished.

9pm - Health officials in the eastern Bay of Plenty say in the rush to vaccinate they're hitting a wall of misinformation.

The region is one of the poorest in the country and has the lowest rate among Māori for first doses.

Newshub went to find out why people are saying 'no'.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Mitch McCann here.

8:30pm - Whanganui kaumātua say they felt sad when they saw their families at an anti-vax protest in the city.

"I feel sad when I hear our families - they're our families out there, our nieces, our mokopuna," Whanganui kaumātua John Niko Maihi told Newshub. 

"I'm surprised at how many people don't want to be vaccinated."

It comes after Ardern was forced to cancel two visits to COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Whanganui and Hunterville because of protests. 

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

8:05pm - A person in isolation who has COVID-19 has died, the Ministry of Health says.

The person was isolating at a Manukau address and was found dead by a family member visiting them on Wednesday.

They tested positive for COVID-19 on October 24 and had been isolating at home with public health oversight.

The exact cause of death is currently unknown, the Ministry of Health says, 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 Ministry of Health says.

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

8pm - The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says it wants a programme of COVID-19 booster shots for frontline workers and vulnerable populations put in place as soon as possible.

NZNO industrial services manager Glenda Alexander says the first vaccinations started more than six months ago and people receiving those early shots may now have waning immunisation.

"They’re still much better protected than the unvaccinated, but recent infections among presumably vaccinated health workers confirms that this is a significant health and safety issue - and one for which we could reduce risk."

Alexander says NZNO is fully behind the Government's approach to vaccination and wants to see all its members vaccinated.

"But while we're pursuing a 90 percent or higher rate amongst the general population, which we support, we should also remember our current frontline workers who face COVID-19 in their workplaces every day and whose ongoing immunisation needs also to be protected," she says

"Frontline workers should be prioritised for the boosters. We also want to see vulnerable populations prioritised and then the general population."

Alexander says she agrees with Dr Bloomfield, who said earlier today that boosters show a good response in helping lift people's immunity and in reducing hospitalisations and serious illness.

"Waning immunisation after six months is a health and safety issue we can and should address with our frontline workers and vulnerable communities as soon as we possibly can," Alexander says.

7:35pm - Chris Hipkins told RNZ's Checkpoint on Wednesday that the Government is considering allocating time slots to Aucklanders to leave the region over the summer holidays.

The plan would reduce the chance of traffic queues at border checkpoints as vaccine certificates are checked.

ACT leader David Seymour says this plan shows the Government is "either making it up as they go or completely detached from reality".

"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," he says.

"It is impractical to check every car leaving Auckland for vaccine status, even if it was desirable to have internal borders all summer. The queues and pressure on Police time are unworkable, and the suggestion the Government might allocate times for people to move simply brings the absurdity into sharp relief.

"The suggestion only underlines how incompatible internal borders are with life returning to normal. It completely undermines the promise of summer festivals for youth who get vaccinated. It undermines the promise that interregional travel will be possible once the traffic light system is in place."

7:10pm - Newshub can reveal more than 600 people who tested positive for COVID-19 waited longer than 24 hours before learning they had the virus, and in some cases it took more than 72 hours.

As at October 17, 605 positive community cases took longer than 24 hours to be notified. One-hundred of these took longer than two days, and 16 positives took longer than three days before the result was known. 

At that point, the delayed positive results accounted for 34 percent of all positive results that were notified.

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

6:25pm - The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners says it welcomes the announcement of a centralised application process for vaccine exemption certificates.

College president Dr Samantha Murton says the process, along with the upcoming guidance from the Ministry of Health about vaccine exemption eligibility, will hopefully stop the undue pressures being put on GPs.

"We know that the uncertainty of COVID-19 brings stress, but it is unacceptable for patients to physically or verbally abuse, harass, or put pressure on their GP or any health practitioner in order to get a vaccine exemption certificate," she says.

The College's medical director Dr Bryan Betty says RNZCGP has been clear in advising members to not issue vaccine exemption certificates until the Ministry of Health clarifies the process and conditions that warrant an exemption.

"We expect the number of exemptions will be restricted to a very small group of people, but we will await the official guidance from the Ministry in the coming weeks," he says.

"Trust your GP. We are vocationally trained specialists who are experts in their knowledge of vaccines and the benefits and risks that they provide for our communities."

6:10pm - There are several new locations of interest. They are:

  • Hautapu Country Store Lotto & Postal Services Tamahere, October 27 from 1:45pm to 2:15pm
  • Chatsfield Superette Te Awamutu, October 28 from 10am to 11am
  • Pak'nSave Te Awamutu, October 29 from 5:15pm to 6:15pm
  • Countdown Dinsdale Hamilton, October 30 from 8pm to 9pm
  • College Superette Te Awamutu, October 31 from 8:20am to 9:20am
  • Countdown Te Awamutu, October 31 from 11:20am to 12:20pm
  • Countdown Dinsdale Hamilton, November 1 from 8:08am to 9:08 am.

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 - Victoria University of Wellington has cancelled its November and December graduation ceremonies and parades due to alert level settings and the uncertainty around COVID-19-related restrictions likely to be in place in the coming weeks for large events.

"We understand that this will be deeply disappointing for students, whānau, and friends who have been looking forward to graduation week," says Chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith.

"Unfortunately though, under both the current alert level restrictions, or under the requirements of the new COVID-19 Protection Framework, including the need for vaccine certificates, it is clear that it is not feasible to proceed with the events as planned in November and December.

"Graduates have been invited to join our ceremonies in May 2022 and alternative celebrations are being planned to recognise the hard work and achievements of students who cannot attend in May including opportunities for graduates to have photos taken in the Council Chamber on Tuesday 30 November."

5:25pm - Some well-known names in Pasifika sport have joined forces to support a vaccination drive for young Pasifika to encourage them to 'Stay in the Game - Get the shot' so they can get back on the playing fields this summer.

The Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) says the group, now known as the Pasifika Sports Collective, officially launched today in Māngere, throwing their support behind a weekend vaccination event at the Māngere Hawks Rugby League Club.

The vaccination event, targeting young Pasifika aged 12-34, will run over two days from Friday November 5 to Saturday November 6 with music, food, and spot prizes.

Saturday will also be 21 days since Super Saturday, so the team is encouraging those who got their first doses at that event to come back down on November 6 and get fully immunised for the summer.

Legends like former All Black Namulau'ulu Alama Ieremia, former Manu Samoa captain Lemalu Semo Sititi, Auckland Blues and former Kiwi and Warriors star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, former Silver Fern and coach of Samoa Vagana Linda Vagana, boxing legend Faumuina To'aletai David Tua, and former Kiwi Ferns captain and now head of Women's New Zealand Rugby League Luisa Avaiki Tavesivesi (MNZM) have all thrown their support behind the event.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio was at the launch to help get more young people vaccinated.

"Our communities have done a wonderful job in mobilising people to get vaccinated during this latest outbreak but we still have work to do to ensure our young people are protected," he says.

"It's wonderful that these sporting legends are stepping out to get these young people vaccinated."

5:10pm - An online COVID-19 vaccination map showing how New Zealand is progressing toward 90 percent immunisation has been updated with the latest data.

The map was created last month by NationalMap Ltd to help accelerate New Zealand's vaccination rates. 

As of Wednesday, 76 percent of New Zealanders were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 88 percent had one dose. That compares to 67 and 85 percent a fortnight ago.

The vaccination map uses data released weekly by the Ministry of Health and allows people to click on a statistical area (SA2), showing what percentage of that area has received one dose and the percentage fully vaccinated.

Each SA2 is coloured by the number of people remaining to get fully vaccinated and once the target of 0 is reached, that area's shading is removed.

In a statement on Wednesday Steve Critchlow, the group managing director of NationalMap Ltd creators Critchlow Geospatial, said there were now 73 SA2 areas that have passed the 90 percent target - an increase of 35 from last week.

Read the full story and check out the full interactive map here.

4:55pm - The following is a Q&A from Fiona Doolan-Noble, a senior research fellow in rural health at the University of Otago, supplied by the Science Media Centre.

How is rural Northland more vulnerable to COVID-19?

There's a high Māori population in Northland, and we know our Māori demographic is younger. Māori are more likely to be in low-paid jobs where it can be difficult to get away from work to get vaccinated. The age criteria of the rollout also meant that Māori, having a younger age structure, didn't meet the criteria until later. 

I think it's a very difficult situation in Northland and as a health service we look to ourselves around that. I think we need to look at the positives of what Māori communities have done for themselves.

Just yesterday we saw John Tamihere's win around getting access to data on unvaccinated Māori. The fact that this had to go to court highlights the barriers within the system which are stopping Māori healthcare providers from providing care for Māori. We do need to look at the system that's set up for the majority and not necessarily the most vulnerable.

Roading in rural areas can also be poor quality or gravel, which means it can take longer for people to get to vaccination clinics. It also costs more in fuel as the distances to travel are longer, further disadvantaging the population. This emphasises how important it is to take vaccine services to whanau.

How does access to health services differ from urban areas?

Specialist services are much harder to access. In May last year the Ministry of Health assessed the capacity of ventilators and ICU beds, which shows the lack of access to specialist care in rural regions. Rural areas have both lower access to timely specialist care, and fewer intensive care beds per capita.

The rural GP shortage is serious, but it isn't just the shortage - it is the increase in workload and complexity linked to the older rural population, and their associated multi-morbidity. Nurses are very much at the frontline and therefore at high risk.

4:35pm - National's immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford and COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop say it is "unforgivable" that Health Minister Andrew Little took five months to act before arranging priority MIQ spots for critical health workers.

"The Health Minister admitted via written questions to Chris Bishop and myself that he knew in June this year about the problems with MIQ settings not supporting the entry of critical health workers into New Zealand," Stanford says.

"The Minister knew Delta was on our doorstep, he knew our health system was critically short-staffed, and he knew that offshore healthcare workers were unable to get MIQ spaces.

"Somehow, he still dithered for five full months before announcing MIQ spots would be allocated to critical health workers."

Stanford says National has been calling for priority MIQ spots for critical healthcare workers for months and it's "utter madness" that Little knew about it for months but didn't act.

"Any competent minister would have moved with urgency to demand that MIQ spaces be set aside for healthcare workers earlier this year, when it was clear Delta was coming. Yet the Health Minister seemed to think a five-month delay was acceptable, as we saw him release a self-congratulatory press release on October 20 telling everyone he had fixed the problem," Stanford says.

Bishop says Little should be held accountable for this wait.

"He failed to ensure we increased our ICU capacity. And now he's failed to act with any sort of urgency to ensure desperately needed health workers could get into New Zealand," he says.

"Had he acted five months ago, when he knew about the problem, we would have at least 1200 critical health workers already here today to support our COVID response.

"Because the Minister is asleep at the wheel, these workers won't even be able to start arriving until the end of November, only to then spend two weeks in quarantine. For those nurses that also need to complete their pre-registration course, it won't be until March 2022 until they can even begin work."

4:10pm - There is one new location of interest. It is:

  • Urlich Ave Dairy Hamilton, November 1 from 10:20am to 11:15am.

3:45pm - A student at Liston College in the Auckland suburb of Henderson has been confirmed as having COVID-19.

The school sent an email to parents on Wednesday confirming the infection.

"A Liston College student has been confirmed as having COVID-19. The student was infectious when at our site on Monday 1 November," the email says.

"In light of this the Board of Trustees have closed the College until Monday 8 November."

The school encourages students and parents to watch for symptoms and get tested if any arise.

3:35pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has for the second time in one day been forced to cancel a visit to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic due to anti-vaxx protesters. 

Ardern was scheduled to visit a clinic in Whanganui on Wednesday morning but it was cancelled after at least 100 protesters gathered outside, holding signs that read "segregation is not okay ever" and "toot for freedom". 

The Prime Minister had a second clinic visit planned at Hunterville, about 13km from Wanganui, but her office confirmed that, due to protest activity at the clinic, Ardern would instead meet with locals involved in the vaccine campaign. 

Ardern told reporters in Whanganui that she wasn't surprised by the protesters, and that vaccine mandates - which cover about 40 percent of the workforce - were decisions "not taken lightly". 

"We are at a stage in the vaccine rollout where we are trying to reach into communities that may hold firm views. But we need to have those conversations, and just talking to some of our health practitioners, their goal is to talk to everyone, wherever they can, to try and have those conversations around why it is so important that people are vaccinated," she said. 

"Keep in mind, with first doses, we've now reached 88 percent of eligible New Zealanders. We are now reaching into groups who either have concerns that we need to respond to or actually just hold firmly held views."

Read the full story here.

3:05pm - The following is a COVID-19 compliance update from police:

Since alert level 3 came into place, 54 people have been charged with a total of 60 offences in Tāmaki Makaurau, Northland, and parts of the Waikato, as at 5pm on Tuesday 2 November 2021.

Of these, 44 were for Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19), 11 were for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, two were for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer, two were for Failing to Stop (COVID-19 related) and one was a Health Act breach.

In the same time period, 35 people were formally warned.

Police have received a total of 6818 105-online breach notifications relating to businesses, mass gatherings or people in Tāmaki Makaurau, Northland, and parts of the Waikato.

Checkpoint figures:

As of 11:59pm yesterday, a total of 1,070,647 vehicles have now been stopped at the checkpoints on Auckland's northern and southern boundaries, with a total of 12,192 vehicles having been turned around.

26,170 vehicles were processed at the checkpoints yesterday with 135 of those vehicles being turned around.

A total of 31 out of 5466 vehicles were turned away at the Northern checkpoints yesterday, while 104 vehicles out of 20,704 were turned around at the Southern checkpoints.

As at 11:59pm last night, 68,439 heavy vehicles have been stopped and 1537 of them have been turned around attempting to leave Tāmaki Makaurau, with 34 of those turned around yesterday.

It's important to remember that travel across an alert level boundary remains restricted and you will be turned-away if you don't have the required evidence for permitted travel, as outlined on the COVID-19 website.

2:45pm - Due to increasing protest activity at the Hunterville vaccination clinic in Whanganui, Ardern has reorganised her afternoon to meet with locals involved in the vaccine campaign instead.

A spokesperson from her office says the Prime Minister doesn't want to do anything that gets in the way of those choosing to get vaccinated from doing so.

2:35pm - Northland Police have set up three checkpoints given the upper part of Northland has moved to alert level 3.

Superintendent Tony Hill, Northland District Commander, says the three checkpoints are currently set up at the following locations:

  • SH1 at Mangamuka
  • SH10 north of Kaeo
  • The Rawene/Kohukohu Ferry on the Kohukohu side of the Hokianga Harbour.

"Police are working alongside our Iwi partners and Te Tai Tokerau Border Control who are assisting Police on our checkpoints," Supt Hill says.

"The checkpoints were set up at sites that were the most practical locations at short notice.

"We are continuing to work closely with our partner agencies on the locations of the checkpoints in accordance with the latest Health Order."

Motorists travelling through the checkpoints won't be allowed through unless they have evidence of permitted travel.

Further information about travel through an alert level boundary is available here.

2:15pm - There's one new location of interest. It is:

  • Pak'nSave Mill Street Hamilton, October 28 from 4pm to 5:30pm.

2pm - National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop says it's good news that the Government has ordered an extra 4.7 million additional doses of the vaccine.

"Good news re additional vaccines but very concerning we are on the go slow on boosters. First border workers were vaccinated early February. Now well over 6 months since their second dose," he tweeted.

The vaccines are set for delivery in 2022.

1:40pm - A select few people will receive their vaccine certificates over the coming days to stress-test the system.

Hipkins says he's confident the certificate system will be good to go by the time Auckland hits 90 percent of fully vaccinated people.

People can get prepared to download their certificate when it becomes available by creating a My Covid Record account and getting set-up online.

1:30pm - Here's the announcement from Chris Hipkins about the additional vaccine doses: 

The government has signed a purchase agreement with Pfizer for 4.7 million additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for delivery in 2022, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

"This purchase agreement will ensure that we have a continual supply of Pfizer vaccines throughout next year," Chris Hipkins said.

"These vaccines will be provided to those who didn't access a vaccine in 2021, for example those turning 12 next year, be used if the eligibility is extended to younger age groups, and for a potential booster programme if the evidence determines this is required and if Medsafe grants approval.

"New Zealand is also committed to supporting our Pacific neighbours with their COVID-19 response, including vaccine supply."  

New Zealand has access to a total of 10.88 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in 2021. The additional agreement for 4.7 million doses will be delivered throughout 2022.

"These doses will complement the other COVID-19 vaccines in our portfolio, which are scheduled for delivery in 2022. Further announcements on use of these vaccines will be made in due course," Chris Hipkins said.

"The Pfizer vaccine is being rolled out right across New Zealand, including to our hard to reach and rural areas. We are continuing to focus on reaching at least 90% vaccination rates across all DHBs.

"We have the ability to deliver vaccines right across Aotearoa New Zealand, quickly and efficiently, and there is enough vaccines right now for every eligible person to be fully vaccinated."

1:20pm - Hipkins says it is very hard to predict when DHBs will hit double-dose 90 percent as many first doses are now walk-ins who aren't booking their jabs. That makes it difficult to model, he says. He notes the Government will be considering overall vaccination rates at the end of November.

Dr Bloomfield says around 1m of the vaccines being brought in next year are specifically for the 5-11 year old age group.

Hipkins says Jacinda Ardern's standup in Whanganui has been relocated as her presence and the presence of anti-vax protesters was potentially going to prevent people getting vaccinated at a clinic the Prime Minister was meant to visit.

The genonic sequencing for the Far North cases should come in on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. 

1:15pm - Medsafe is expecting an application from Pfizer for vaccine use among 5-11 year olds within the next few weeks, Dr Ashley Bloomfield says. Only the US FDA has authorised its use for children under emergency approval. No other countries have yet authorised it.

Hipkins says people needing a vaccine exemption need to follow the official process and not fall for people trying to sell exemptions. He says they are trying to rip you off. 

1:10pm - Here's the statement from the Ministry of Health: 

Northland update
There are no new cases in Northland today. Widespread community testing and vaccinations remain crucial following two unlinked community cases reported in the Far North.

Today there are 10 community testing centres available across the region and 11 vaccination clinics.

Additional testing and vaccination capacity are being stood up where and when needed.

Those who live in or around Taipa, Kaingaroa, Awanui and Kaitaia and have had symptoms of COVID-19 in the last couple of weeks, especially around Labour weekend, are encouraged to get tested as soon as possible.

Northlanders, especially those in the Far North, are also urged to check the Ministry of Health website for updates on locations of interest, monitor for symptoms and stay home in their bubble and get tested if they are feeling unwell, wear a face covering when leaving the house, and use the NZ COVID Tracer App to record any movements.

Community testing centres are open today at:
Pukenui by the Houhora Fishing club (8.30am-3.30pm)
Eastern Rugby, Taipa (10am-2pm)
Kaitaia Hospital, Use the hospital driveway next to the car compound (9am-4pm)
Kaitaia Awanui Rugby Club (9am-2pm)
Rawene Hospital, Honey Street (9am-2pm)
Kerikeri, 1 Sammaree Place (9am-4pm)
Ôhaeawai Rugby Clubrooms (9am-5pm)
Dargaville Hospital (9am-3pm)
Whangârei – 20 Winger Crescent (9am-4pm)
Kaiwaka – Three Furlongs (10am-2pm).  

Community vaccination centres are open today at:
Kaitaia, The Old Warehouse Building (10am-5pm)
Waitomo Papakainga, Kaitaia, Corner Puckey Ave & Bank St (2pm-5pm)
Panguru Clinic (10am – 2pm)
Maitihetihe School (1pm -3pm)
Ohaeawai Rugby Clubrooms (9am-7pm)
Moerewa, Simson Park (9am-5pm)
Kerikeri, Sammaree Place (10am-5pm)
 Kaikohe Countdown (10am-4pm)
Whangarei, Northland Events Centre (10am-5pm)
Whangarei, 5 Walton Street (9am-4pm)
Dargaville, 22a Normanby St (10am-3pm).

There were 1,215 tests processed throughout Northland yesterday and 1,464 vaccinations given, including 449 first doses.

Auckland update
Testing numbers across Auckland remain strong with more than 12,037 tests completed yesterday.

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

In Auckland, public health officials are now supporting 692 cases to safely isolate at home.

The safety and security of individuals with COVID-19 and their families remains paramount when people are isolating at home with public health oversight. If people can’t safely isolate at home they may be moved to a managed isolation or quarantine facility.

Auckland care home
Fifteen residents and four staff members of Edmonton Meadows Care Home in Henderson have now returned positive tests.

Three of the COVID-19 -positive residents are receiving appropriate ward-level care at North Shore Hospital.

Waikato update
Today we are reporting three new cases in Waikato, bringing the region’s total number of cases to 144.

Two cases are from Hamilton and one is from Ôtorohanga. Two are known contacts and were already in isolation and with daily public health contact and support.

Public health staff will be interviewing the third case to determine any links to known cases. All of yesterday’s 18 cases have now been linked following further investigations.

Several locations of interest were added yesterday for Ôtorohanga and Hamilton and we encourage people to continue checking the Ministry of Health page for details.

Anyone with symptoms, no matter how mild, is being encouraged to get a test. The two Huntly pop up testing sites remain option today, as do sites in Hamilton, Ngâruawâhia, Ôtorohanga, Te Awamutu, and Thames. Please check Healthpoint’s website for times and locations.

There were 3025 tests processed in Waikato yesterday, and 2,781 vaccinations given.

Christchurch update
There are no new cases to report in Christchurch again today. There are still the 4 active cases who are in quarantine and 22 Locations of Interest in Canterbury – no new locations have been added in recent days.

Test results from additional wastewater samples collected in Christchurch are expected later today.

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

There is good testing capacity throughout the region. A pop-up COVID-19 community testing centre is operating today and tomorrow at the New Brighton Club.  The pop-up is both a drive through and walk up clinic and will be open both days from 10am to 4pm.

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

Yesterday more than 2,900 COVID-19 swabs were carried out at our testing sites and via general practice teams across the Canterbury community and 4994 COVID-19 vaccinations provided in Canterbury.

Follow up to ‘Super Saturday’
It is now three weeks since Super Saturday so people who received their first vaccination that weekend are encouraged to get their second dose this Saturday – or as soon as possible after that.

Those who had their first dose on Super Saturday will be getting email and text reminders to go and get their second shot.

This will be supported by radio and social media promotion, as well as advertising around NPC rugby matches this weekend to encourage second vaccinations.

This is being supported in Auckland at Eden Park this 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.

Nicks Head ship
A person from Myanmar is today in Police custody in Gisborne after jumping off a ship at sea near Young Nicks Head last night.

They were picked up at sea and was admitted to hospital suffering from hypothermia. They have been tested for COVID-19 and already returned a negative result and has now been discharged from hospital.

The ship remains anchored 3km offshore.

1:05pm - Chris Hipkins says the Government has signed a purchase agreement for an additonal 4.7 million Pfizer vaccines. They are scheduled for delivery over the next year.

If people get their first dose now, they can still be fully immunised before Christmas, he says. There is enough capacity to deliver the remaining vaccines.

There 100 new community cases, with 97 in Auckland and three in Waikato.

COVID-19 vaccine update  
Total vaccines administered to date (percentage of eligible people) 6,925,585: 3,724,359 first doses (88%); 3,201,226 second doses (76%)
Vaccines administered yesterday 28,921: 7,574 first doses; 21,347 second doses
Mâori (percentage of eligible people) 414,971 first doses (73%); 307,415 second doses (54%)
Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people) 245,346 first doses (86%); 199,969 second doses (70%)
Vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday 7,616: 1,803 first doses; 5,813 second doses
Vaccination rates by DHB (with active cases)  
Northland DHB (percentage of eligible people 128,556 first doses (80%); 105,631 second doses (65%)
Auckland metro DHBs (percentage of eligible people 1,311,994 first doses (92%); 1,166,969 second doses (81%)
Waikato DHB (percentage of eligible people 311,222 first doses (87%); 261,840 second doses (73%)
Canterbury DHB (percentage of eligible people 442,739 first doses (92%); 363,253 second doses (75%)
Cases in hospital 58 (total, up from 49 yesterday): Waitemata (16); Middlemore (15); Auckland (26); Waikato (1)
Average age of current hospitalisations 49
Cases in ICU or HDU Three
Number of new community cases* 100
Number of new cases identified at the border 10
Location of new community cases Auckland (97), Waikato (3)
Location of community cases (total) Auckland 3,553 (1,649 of whom have recovered); Waikato 144 (45 of whom have recovered); Wellington 17 (all of whom have recovered); Northland 14 (3 of whom have recovered); Nelson/Marlborough 1; Canterbury 4
Number of community cases (total) 3,733 (in current community outbreak)
Confirmed cases (total) 6,471
Historical cases* 185 out of 4,658 cases since 1 January
Cases infectious in the community ** 42 of 119 cases reported yesterday have exposure events
Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious** 77 of 119 cases reported yesterday have no exposure events
Cases epidemiologically linked 52 of today’s 100 cases
Cases to be epidemiologically linked 48 of today’s 100 cases
Cases epidemiologically linked (total) 3,131 (in the current cluster) (441 unlinked from the past 14 days)
Number of active contacts being managed (total): 3,502
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 73%
Locations of interest  
Locations of interest (total) 335 (as at 10am 3 November)
Number of tests (total) 4,162,831
Number of tests total (last 24 hours) 29,521
Tests processed in Auckland (last 24 hours) 12,037
Tests rolling average (last 7 days) 26,016
Testing centres in Auckland 18
Wastewater detections No unexpected detections
NZ COVID Tracer  
Registered users (total) 3,341,769
Poster scans (total) 475,049,775
Manual diary entries (total) 19,492,905

Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday





12:55pm - The Prime Minister has cancelled her trip to a Whanganui vaccination clinic due to protests. She was also meant to hold a press conference earlier, but that's been postponed.

12:35pm - There will be a press conference with Chris Hipkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield at 1pm. We will bring you that live above and on Three.

12:20pm - A group of roughly 100 protesters have gathered in Whanganui, where the Prime Minister is meant to be as part of a vaccination drive she is doing this week in several regions. 

"Police are monitoring the protest but at the moment there have not been any issues," a police spokesperson said.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, November 3
Photo credit: Newshub.
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, November 3
Photo credit: Newshub.

12:10pm - There haven't been any new locations of interest released since 6pm on Tuesday night, unusual considering the high number of cases we've seen in recent days. 

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said of 161 cases reported on Monday, 47 had exposure events. These could be workplaces or other locations where people who visited are already known, so may not become locations of interest.

11:40am - From the UK recording its highest daily death toll in months to China not willing to give up its zero-tolerance policy towards community cases, a lot has happened overnight.

Find Newshub's wrap of global COVID-19 developments here

11:20am - RNZ reports that Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate has written to the Prime Minister asking if Hamilton could join the traffic-light system once it hits 90 percent double dose. It's expected to get there by the start of December ahead of other parts of Waikato.

She doesn't want the local economy to continue to suffer while the city waits for other areas and believes the border should reopen with Auckland at that point. 

11:15am - COVID-19 has locked down parts of Northland, but if the virus rips through how will Whangārei Hospital cope when the battered building can't even stand up to heavy rain?

On paper, the lifts in Whangārei Hospital's surgical wing have "expired". In reality, they are still in use. On the way between floors, they break down, sometimes with deteriorating, bed-ridden patients inside.

Intensive care anaesthetist Dr Erna Meyer remembers the time, in the mid-2010s, when an elevator jammed shut with a patient running low on tanked oxygen inside.

"At the last moment, somebody managed to get the door open and push a cylinder in."

When the faulty lift to the helipad on the roof gives out, choppers have to land at Kensington Park instead and then ambulances race the critically unwell down State Highway 1.

Meyer says nowadays staff consider these "nightmare" situations "normal". That's because their workplace, Whangārei Hospital, doesn't meet building standards or requirements for clinical best practice.

Read more here.

10:55am - What was the Government's justification for putting part of Northland into lockdown?

At his Tuesday media conference, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said extensive contact tracing had not found any epidemiological or person-to-person link between two Far North cases and any other cases in Northland.

"These two cases are based in Taipā, in the Far North, so are geographically quite separate from the other Northland cases, which are centred around Kaipara, Kaikohe, and have locations of interest in Whangārei, Kaiwaka and Wellsford.

"The two new cases have not been near any of those locations nor come into contact with any of the other cases in the Northland outbreak, so it’s unclear at this point how they could have possibly picked up the virus.

"This means that there is a strong possibility that there is one or more missing links in the chain of transmission, and that means that there could be undetected community transmission occurring right now in Northland."

He also noted that Northland's vaccination rate remains below most other places around the country. 

"At just 79 percent for first doses, the region has the most vaccines of any DHB in the country still to deliver before it reaches 90 percent on first doses. These lower rates of vaccination make the risk of an outbreak that much greater, especially amongst the 11,000 Māori in the region who are still unvaccinated."

10:35am - Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) on Tuesday unanimously supported broad use of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, with shots potentially going into young arms as soon as Wednesday.

They said the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks of the vaccine. Much of their discussion stemmed from rare cases of heart inflammation that have been linked to the vaccine, particularly young men.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must sign off on recommendations before the United States can begin administering the vaccine to children in the age group. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization of the vaccine in 5-11 year olds on Friday.

Read more here

10:20am - Whānau Ora is highlighting its 'Fight for your Whakapapa' vaccination campaign which promotes a ‘by Māori for Māori’ approach.

"Launched in September, Fight For Your Whakapapa served as a call to arms across Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland; an expansive initiative urging Māori to get vaccinated in the face of a growing outbreak.

"The initial goal of 65,000 vaccinations through Te Whānau o Waipareira was smashed only weeks into the campaign, with over 112,000 shots already given across the wider Tāmaki Makaurau region."

It's now being expanded across the North Island, with a new video campaign which can be found here.

10:05am - Leaders from New Zealand's most notorious gangs have banded together to urge Kiwis to get vaccinated in a new social media video. 

The video was planned by Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson in an effort to ramp up COVID vaccine rates in hard to reach communities. 

The video includes Head Hunters member Stephen Daley, Paula Orsmby of Mongrel Mob Waikato Kingdom Wahine Toa, Dennis Makalio and Harry Tam of the Mongrel Mob, Ta'alili To'omalatai of the King Cobras and Black Power members Michael Te Pou and Denis O'Reilly.

Read more here.

9:50am - Waikato has moved into the second step of the alert level 3 roadmap. That comes with an easing of restrictions that Auckland will also get to enjoy from next Wednesday.

You can find a reminder of what it all means here.

9:40am - Stricken hospitality businesses in Auckland are staring down the barrel of permanent closure with no certainty as to when they can reopen their doors - despite retailers being allowed to return to the shop floor next Wednesday.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is now urging business owners to hang on for just a little bit longer, saying the Government's new framework is not far off and the end is in sight. 

"We'll keep looking at our options to have more freedom in Auckland. That gets closer to step three - frankly we're getting very close to the traffic light system now, we could hit that target within the next few weeks," he said.

Read more here.

9:30am - Hospitality company Accor says it supports a call for vaccinations across the accomodation industry "and in particular hotels". 

"We were surprised to learn that the Government mandate for hospitality did not cover those operators' providing accommodation; just those providing food and beverage. The accommodation Industry needs clarity at this time to make the next phase of reopening safe," says Accor NZ senior Vice President of Operations, Gillian Millar.

"The health, safety and well-being of our teams and guests remains our top priority, and the sooner people are vaccinated, the sooner we can open up again."

Accor NZ says it is encouraging staff to be vaccinated and supports measures such as vaccine certificates for staying at hotels and other accomodation.

"Currently our hotels that have restaurants and bars in them require teams and guests to be vaccinated, showing the COVID 19 certificate brings peace of mind, now we would like to see guidelines from Government for the accommodation sector," says Millar.

"Our Industry has been affected severely, first the closure of International Borders, the move to accommodating just domestic tourism and, for many hotels in lockdown, there has been little to no business at all. Further clarity to ensure our Industry is ready, when we can all enjoy a level of freedom, is required.

"The vaccination is proving to be working across the globe and I implore the Government to assist in keeping every New Zealander and visitor safe. We all want our teams back at work doing what they all love doing safely, and enhancing New Zealand’s reputation locally and abroad."

9:20am - Here is the case summary from Tuesday, when New Zealand recorded 126 new cases in the community:

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, November 3

9:10am - Principals estimate several thousand school staff are resisting the government's directive to get at least their first COVID-19 vaccination before 15 November.

They say some are presenting apparently bogus exemption certificates which are causing confusion and they are waiting on official guidance so they can bin them.

School and early childhood staff who have contact with children must get their first vaccination by the middle of November and be fully vaccinated by the start of January.

Read more here.

9am - A survey of 10,000 Stuff readers in Auckland has found almost half say they are losing motivation to stick to the COVID-19 alert level rules. 

A third have owned up to breaking the rules, with just 35 percent saying they are following them "religiously", while 7 percent say they are "pretty loose" with the rules and 2 percent have "actively defied" them. Six percent say they have given up following the rules.

8:50am - Judith Collins has labelled the overnight restrictions slapped on the tip of the North Island "peculiar", considering the Government's previous reluctance to enact localised lockdowns. 

The northern part of Te Tai Tokerau went into level 3 at midnight after the detection of an "unlinked case" of COVID-19. The case was picked up in Taipa, about 20km northeast of Kaitaia in Northland, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday evening. 

Collins told The AM Show it was an "unusual" move, but backed it - suggesting parts of Auckland unaffected by the outbreak shouldn't be included in the city's level 3 area. 

"It is peculiar, but it is something that very early on with COVID I remember well speaking about the fact we could do localised lockdowns if we had contact tracing and we used borders properly, but that was completely dismissed by the Government as 'ridiculous'."

Read more here

8:40am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been on MoreFM on Wednesday morning and was asked about whether Aucklanders would be able to leave the region for summer.

Ardern said restrictions within Auckland "will be eased soon". The region is about 4000 doses off having all three DHBs being at 90 percent first dose. Three weeks after this point is when 90 percent should be double dosed.

"At that point they flip into the new framework, which means everything reopens using vaccine certificates," Ardern told the radio station.

She noted that retail opens from next week when Auckland moves to the second step of the roadmap.

When it comes to the border, Ardern said it is currently "helping give time to the rest of the country to continue to be vaccinated but I do want Aucklanders to be able to move over summer so we are working on ways we can enable that safely".

Hard borders won't be used in the long-term, she said. 

8:30am - One of the cases in Far North has spoken to Stuff and confirmed she and her partner are both fully vaccinated, have been using the QR scanning app and got tested when they had symptoms, which haven't been too bad so far. 

“I am grateful to not be really sick or hospitalised like other cases,” said the woman. “The awhi (support) we have received is unbelievable and everyone’s thoughtful messages continue to drown our inboxes.”

She said people don't realise how rumours about cases affects them and their families. She took issue with some reporting saying they were located in Taipā, when really they are in Kaingaroa. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Tuesday night said the cases "are based in Taipā".

8:15am - The Government has released new boundary maps showing the areas of the country in lockdown after the northern part of Te Tai Tokerau was plunged into alert level 3 overnight. 

Officials were unable to link two cases of COVID-19 in the Far North to other community infections in Northland, prompting COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Tuesday night to call an impromptu press conference where he announced the shift. 

It comes as parts of Waikato under alert level 3 see restrictions ease, allowing retail stores to open their doors again and gatherings to expand to 25 people.

Find the maps here.

8am - Here's the latest DHB by DHB vaccination rate breakdown including doses up to Monday night. It shows Counties Manukau is just 3951 first doses off the 90 percent mark, which the other Auckland DHBs have already hit.

In Northland, 79 percent of the eligible population have had their first dose, with 17,120 to hit 90 percent. That's the lowest first dose percent in the country tied with Tairawhiti.

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, November 3

7:45am - Ngāpuhi COVID-19 response lead Tia Ashby says a snap lockdown was the right move.

"With the amount of cases that were popping up [in the wider Northland region], we were hoping they'd go into alert level 3 earlier, only because we know that less mobility through the region will enable the public health team to identify and isolate cases faster," she said.

Vaccination rates were cause for concern, Ashby said, but she hoped this time in lockdown could be used wisely.

Read more here.

7:30am - Te Tai Tokerau Border Control spokesperson Hone Harawira tells The AM Show it's "a bit scary" that Aucklanders may be coming north for Christmas. He says even if Northland gets to 90 percent, the remaining 10 percent will be the most vulnerable people. Harawira says authorities up north are doing their best to get everyone vaccinated. 

Harawira says COVID-19 would have come from Auckland and the exemption system at the northern boundary is "flawed" with too many people coming north for unnecessary reasons. He wants to see someone "clamp down properly".

Will there be road blocks over summer? Harawira says the Government needs to take lead. If Northland still has low vaccination rates, people can go have Christmas "south of Auckland", he says. He wants Government ministers to be honest with Aucklanders about their expectations over summer.

He's not comfortable with Northland being cut off over summer, noting that many people in Auckland are from Te Tai Tokerau, but he doesn't want people going north if the locals up there aren't yet vaccinated. 

Harawira's message is to get vaccinated. The more people who are vaccinated, "the less strife we are going to have" and the sooner people from Auckland can head up north.

7:20am - Hipkins says it's a question of when, rather than if, COVID-19 reaches other parts of the country. He says that should be an incentive for people to get a vaccination. The virus will find the unvaccinated, he tells The AM Show. 

People can do the maths, Hipkins says. If someone got their first dose now, add three weeks for the second dose and two weeks to become fully immunised, and it's getting pretty close to Christmas, he says.

The minister acknowledges Aucklanders have done the "hard yards" and deserve to be able to open up when the three DHBs hit 90 percent double dose.

The hospitality sector wants outdoor dining to be allowed. Hipkins says that is closer to the third step of alert level 3. He doesn't want to see Auckland yo-yo around alert levels and instead march forward. When we get to the traffic light system in Auckland, "we won't be going back".

7:15am - Chris Hipkins is on The AM Show. He tells Ryan Bridge that Northland's lockdown is currently scheduled through to Monday night, with that being reviewed on Monday by Cabinet.

He wants to see a "good number of tests" in the northern area to ensure there is no unknown community transmission. It's also critical vaccination rates rise there.

Hipkins says the Government has "thrown everything" at eliminating COVID-19 in Auckland, but has been unable to get cases back to zero.

The Prime Minister wasn't in the area of concern in Northland on Tuesday, Hipkins says. Her visit to the region was "very low risk" and there were a number of protective measures in place. Jacinda Ardern "absolutely" adhered to alert level 2 requirements, which he says includes social distancing. 

Bridge puts it to the minister that photos show Ardern close to individuals. But Hipkins says she would have done everything she could have to minimise risk. Ardern is also "mindful" of the need to rise vaccination rates, which is why she is out on the road, he says. 

The area "most at risk" has been put into alert level 3, he says, and others in Northland not in that area don't need to act as if they are in lockdown.

7am - Austria's army has successfully trained two dogs to sniff out COVID-19, it said on Tuesday, adding to a mass of evidence that dogs can be deployed to identify carriers of the virus.

Trials across the world from Thailand to Britain have found dogs can use their powerful sense of smell to detect the coronavirus with a high degree of accuracy, suggesting they could be regularly deployed as an additional line of safety at large events and border entry points.

Airports in Finland and Chile began deploying dogs to screen arrivals for COVID-19 last year.

Read more here.

6:45am - Microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles says the shift to alert level 3 in the Far North reflects the elimination strategy still in play there.

"The strategy is still to try to eliminate COVID-19 outside of Auckland. This is why the northern part of Northland has been moved into Level 3 in response to cases in the area with no immediate link to current cases in Northland," she says.

"This will give officials time to try to understand where these people may have been exposed to the virus and whether there are undiagnosed cases in the region. 

"It is very important that people in the region get tested if they have any symptoms that could be COVID-19. It also important that they get vaccinated if they are not already. The vaccine is very safe and very effective at protecting people from COVID-19."

6:40am - How have health experts reacted to the alert level 3 change up north?

Immunologist Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu says it should come as no surprise.

"Daily COVID-19 case numbers in the community have now shifted into three digits and appear to be the ‘new normal’ for Aotearoa New Zealand," she says.

"These high daily case numbers, rising unlinked mystery cases of unknown origin that continue to appear and remain unresolved, along with increasing numbers of hospitalisations, are occurring at a time when restrictions are being eased. Any sudden shifts reverting areas back into Alert Level 3 should be no surprise."

She says it's important to get the Māori and Pacific vaccination rates up as these communities " have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreaks in Aotearoa New Zealand.

"DHBs will need to ensure at least 90 – 95 percent full vaccinations for Māori and Pacific peoples to ensure no-one is left behind in Aotearoa New Zealand. This will help keep our most vulnerable communities safe from COVID-19 – and also includes protecting our children and young people.

"Care and caution are still needed moving forward. Please get vaccinated, get tested, follow the Alert level rules and help others do the same."

6:25am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is making plans to travel to Auckland early next week.

Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard on Tuesday evening dropped strict rules, requiring MPs in alert level 3 areas to isolate for five days before returning to Parliament.

The decision was made in response to feedback from political parties.

Read more here.

6:20am - Speaking to The AM Show, National leader Judith Collins says it's important to get the vaccination rates up in Northland, where they are lagging behind. She praises National deputy Dr Shane Reti for getting out and helping with the vaccination rollout himself.

Collins says National had previously advocated for local lockdowns, like we are now seeing in northern Northland. She says she was previously "ridiculed" for the idea of localised lockdowns.

She says some people aren't complying with border rules and we should expect more cases due to that.

Collins is pleased Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard has eased rules for MPs returning to Wellington from alert level 3 areas so they no longer have to isolate, only test negative within 72 hours prior. She questions what the public health reason for the self-isolation rule was since it's now been changed.

6:15am - We will have reaction to the alert level shift overnight on The AM Show. At roughly 6:15am, the show will be joined by National's Judith Collins, followed by Chris Hipkins at 7:10am and Hone Harawira at 7:20am. You can watch it here.

6:10am - The alert level 3 shift doesn't impact all of Northland. Instead, officials have created a boundary line that Chris Hipkins describes as running "through the centre of Hokianga Harbour to the Mangamuka junction on State Highway 1 to the Kaeō river bridge on State Highway 10 and East Bay".

Here's where the boundary line is on a map:

As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, November 3

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

There's been two changes in restrictions overnight.

Firstly, the northern part of Northland has been plunged into alert level 3 lockdown after officials were unable to link two cases in Taipā, in the Far North, to other Northland cases located further south around Kaipara and Kaikohe. 

"This means that there is a strong possibility that there is one or more missing links in the chain of transmission, and that means that there could be undetected community transmission occurring right now in Northland," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday night. 

Northland also has low vaccination rates which the minister wants to see rise.

"At just 79 percent for first doses, the region has the most vaccines of any DHB in the country still to deliver before it reaches 90 percent on first doses. These lower rates of vaccination make the risk of an outbreak that much greater, especially amongst the 11,000 Māori in the region who are still unvaccinated."

The boundary has been put in place through the centre of Hokianga Harbour to the Mangamuka junction on State Highway 1 to the Kaeō river bridge on State Highway 10 and East Bay. Everywhere north of this is now in lockdown.

Meanwhile, parts of Waikato under alert level 3 have moved to the second step of the roadmap. This means outdoor gatherings can be expanded to 25 people, retail businesses can reopen their doors and public facilities can also begin operating again.

That's despite the region recording 18 new cases of the virus on Tuesday. At her media conference on Monday, the Prime Minister said the region could shift restrictions due to high vaccination rates.