As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, November 1

Alert level restrictions will ease slightly in Auckland and Waikato.

Waikato will move to level 3 step 2 on Wednesday, whereas Auckland has to wait until next Tuesday at 11:59pm to move to step 2.

This comes after 162 new COVID-19 cases were announced earlier on Monday.

What you need to know:

  • There are 162 new cases today; 156 are in Auckland, five in Waikato and one in Northland
  • There are no new cases in Christchurch
  • A west Auckland rest home has recorded no more cases after eight residents and a staffer tested positive
  • New Zealand full vaccination rates have reached 75 percent, while Auckland is at 80 percent
  • Waikato is moving to step 2 from Wednesday and Auckland next week.
  • Two people at the Jet Park quarantine facility and one person meant to be isolating at home have escaped. One of the Jet Park escapees has been found and returned to a MIQ facility
  • Tonga on Friday recorded its first case of COVID-19, a person who arrived from Christchurch earlier this week
  • Thousands gathered at Auckland Domain on Saturday for a third anti-lockdown protest in six weeks, with demonstrators also marching through neighbouring streets
  • Click here for all the locations of interest.

These live updates have finished.

8:05pm - Entrepreneur Sir Ian Taylor is using a trip to the US to help the Government find ways to improve COVID-19 systems around travel bubbles, MIQ and home isolation.

"This [saliva] test is going to trial a whole lot of things that we hope the Government will take notice of and show a way around MIQ, because it really is now unfit for purpose," Sir Ian says.

But it turns out he didn't even need to leave New Zealand to make his point, as the Spitfire rapid saliva test, developed in Dunedin, has proven its worth straight away.

The test works by spitting into a specially designed cup, giving it a swirl, and placing the cup into a diagnostic machine. The best part is, your result comes back in under 30 minutes.

But this is where this story goes a little off the expected script. 

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Shannon Redstall here

7:45pm - There are 53 COVID-19 cases in hospital, with an average age of 47 and three people in intensive care - but new modelling predicts that near the end of November, we'll be hitting 200 cases a day and 150 people could be in hospital. 

Gazing into the mathematically modelled crystal ball, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealed that the prediction is we'll reach 1000 cases a week starting now, growing to 1400 a week by the end of the month - so 200 a day. 

That would see new hospitalisations hit 150, with 20 ICU beds occupied.

"That doesn't project deaths but what I can say is now nearly three months into the outbreak, we've had, tragically, two additional deaths," Dr Bloomfield said. 

The Director-General puts our low death rate down to vaccination, the young age of cases and improvements in how we treat COVID-19 patients. 

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's political editor Tova O'Brien here.

7pm - National leader Judith Collins says the Government's "mess just got even messier".

She says Aucklanders entering their 12th week in lockdown will be "even more confused" by the "messy and illogical" announcement of yet further announcements to come.

"A month ago it was picnics. Now Aucklanders can meet for yoga outside. This isn't a plan, it's a mess," Collins says.

"Today's announcement of an announcement of lessened restrictions next week begs more questions than answers. If businesses aren't a risk now, why couldn't they open last week? Why do they have to wait another week? Why do Aucklanders have to wait for step 2 of alert level 3 to take effect?

"To make matters even more confusing, next Wednesday retail will apparently open to everyone in Auckland and then, at the end of November, the traffic light system will kick in and the unvaccinated will face restrictions. How is this going to work? It makes zero sense."

Collins believes the Government is "making stuff up as it goes along and spins it as a 'plan'".

"It never had a plan for Delta. It assumed the tools of 2020 would work in 2021. The Government has dropped the ball and Aucklanders continue to pay a terrible price," she says.

6:55pm - Police say the man who absconded from the Jet Park MIQ facility on Saturday was located today during a vehicle stop in west Auckland.

He was transported by police, wearing PPE, to a MIQ facility.

"The whereabouts of the woman who also absconded is known to police, however health officials have advised that she is not required to be returned to MIQ," a police spokesperson says.

"Police continue to investigate this matter and a decision around any charges will be made in due course."

6:30pm - Tonga has announced a week-long lockdown after a person who travelled there from Christchurch was confirmed to have the virus.

The Health Ministry says contacts of the case have returned initial negative results - but Tonga has decided to take all precautions.

Read the full story from Newshub's Michael Morrah here.

6:15pm - There are two new locations of interest. They are:

  • Countdown LynnMall New Lynn, October 16 from 8:04pm to 8:24pm
  • Flying Horse Chinese Takeaway and Noodles, Ōtorohanga, October 27 from 7pm to 7:15pm.

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

5:50pm - The Restaurant Association says there's "disappointment again" for the hospitality industry since it can't open under step 2.

"What we have is yet another short-term plan with no certainty around when our businesses can plan to reopen," says CEO Marisa Bidois.

"All we are asking for is a specific date around which our business can start planning, but once again we are left wanting.

"Our industry has been left behind in the three-step process and while retail is opening and outdoor gatherings can increase in size, hospitality remains closed."

Bidois says they have requested an opening of hospitality for outdoor dining at step 2 but are yet to receive a response.

"It doesn't make much sense to business owners to see people picnicking in groups of 25 whilst smaller groups are unable to make use of outdoor dining areas in our venues.

"We implore the Government at this stage to give us a set date to work to. This will allow our businesses to plan with some certainty."

5:30pm - ACT leader David Seymour says there is "no good reason" why Auckland restrictions can't be relaxed when the ones in Waikato are.

"The Prime Minister said Auckland is waiting for more vaccination. Auckland is 81 percent fully vaccinated. Waikato, 72 percent fully vaccinated, is moving to step 2 tomorrow," he says.

"The reason the Prime Minister gave is that Auckland can't go to step 2 because kids are going back to school, that is illogical. Waikato also has schools, and what does it actually mean for schools to 'bed in?'"

Seymour says Aucklanders also have the greatest need, since businesses are "going under", the mood is "depressed", and people are "increasingly desperate" after three months of lockdown.

"The Government should be moving to alert level 3 step 2 tomorrow and setting out a time frame for going to step 3. What people most need is certainty," Seymour says.

"The Prime Minister is running into a problem of logic. It is likely Auckland first dose vaccination rates will catch up with second dose rates in the next three weeks. If we can't be sure about moving to step 2 then 3 in that time, how can it make sense for Auckland to move off the alert level system to the traffic light system in the same timeframe?

"What Aucklanders needed was prompt certainty, the Prime Minister has delivered neither."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub.

5:15pm - Retail NZ says it's good news that the Government will allow retail stores in Waikato to open from midnight tomorrow, and Auckland from next Tuesday, but is warning that there's a hard road ahead for many retail businesses.

"The decision to allow retail to open comes after weeks of lockdown, but is in line with previous Government announcements. Retail NZ would like to see Auckland open earlier, but is pleased that the Government has now committed to dates for opening," says Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford.

"Retailers want to do their bit to help keep people safe, while trading, and measures such as mask use, distancing, good hygiene, and encouraging vaccination uptake will help keep everyone safe."

Harford says the reopening of retail will provide a lifeline for many businesses that have been struggling to stay afloat, but the road to recovery will "still be long and hard".

"It's important that businesses can get their doors open ahead of the busy Christmas season, but it won't be business as usual in-store. I'm asking all customers to wear masks, be patient and understand that everyone in retail is trying their best to deliver great products and services during difficult times," he says.

"Retail NZ thanks the Government for listening to advice that our sector can open while mitigating health risks. Our sector is keen to work with Government on these issues and we look forward to further conversations in the coming days."

5:05pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says he welcomes the announcement that the city will move to step 2.

"The Government has the difficult task of balancing the need to contain the spread of COVID-19 to avoid it overwhelming our hospital system with the need to retain continuing public compliance with restrictions. It is also mindful of the impact of the ongoing lockdown on jobs, businesses and overall well-being," Goff says.

"By next Tuesday, over 90 percent of eligible people in all three of Auckland's district health boards will likely have had their first vaccination, and fully vaccinated people have already reached 80 percent in Auckland.

"In that light a progressive easing of restrictions would make sense - having regard, however, to the advice from the Director-General of Health."

Goff adds it remains "critically important" for people to follow protocols and rules that are designed to keep them safe and contain the spread of the virus.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. Photo credit: Getty Images

4:58pm - The press conference has finished. To recap:

  • Waikato is moving to step 2 on Wednesday
  • Auckland has to wait until next Tuesday at 11:59pm to move to step 2.

4:57pm - Ardern says New Zealand has already taken over countries that started their vaccination campaigns before we did, but we need to "safely move forward" and use vaccine certificates to keep cases low.

She says that no decision has been made yet on whether she will hold up the rest of the country if some DHBs haven't reached their target before Christmas.

Ardern adds that New Zealand is on track for a Kiwi Christmas summer, but what will give them greater certainty is following Auckland's vaccination lead.

4:53pm - On the Christchurch positive wastewater test, Dr Bloomfield says it is probably catches from a case and MIQ.

On vaccination programmes in schools, Ardern says that hasn't been considered yet due to consent and logistical issues. But schools that wish to have it on site have been supported.

4:52pm - On contact tracing, Dr Bloomfield says they've put in place a new approach to how cases are followed up, which is in place this week.

He says they're confident they're able to manage rising case numbers. But the key difference is the initial assessment of case, whether they're vaccinated, and how much interaction they've had.

4:45pm - Ardern says New Zealand is a "mobile population", which is why it's important to have high rates across the country.

She says the simple message is if you want to be able to do things, then you need to get vaccinated soon, especially if you want to over summer.

4:43pm - On vaccine certificates, Ardern says digital options have been produced and are ready to use by the end of November - but if needed earlier, other forms will be used.

Ardern says the view of experts is to wait for high vaccination rates before we move into the traffic light system, but people can see they need to be vaccinated before they can get the perks of it.

4:41pm - Despite long periods of lockdown, an increase in cases is "not unusual" because Delta is "hard work", Ardern says.

A lockdown "causes fatigue", and she says she's mindful of schools in this outbreak so is stepping through the system "very carefully".

4:40pm - Ardern believes just two COVID-19 cases have come from outdoor gatherings.

4:38pm - On whether any modelling shows how the shift could affect Maori, Ardern says the indication is that retail is not an area that continues markedly to case increases - the greatest risk is household gatherings.

Ardern "completely disagrees" that a shift would throw Maori under the bus.

4:37pm - Ardern says public health risk assessments are given in written form, then they have discussions with people on the ground, and then Cabinet made decision on alert levels.

Dr Bloomfield says colleagues on the ground took their views into account about whether they thought step 2 activities would add too much risk - advice was not to move in Auckland now.

"We don't think it's going to add a lot of additional risk," Dr Bloomfield says of step 2.

4:34pm - On whether the size of DHBs, which could skew time to get people vaccinated, will be taken into account, Ardern says these are things they think about, but the goal was set because high rates regionally are just as important.

Dr Bloomfield says it's important not to have pockets of low vaccination rates over Christmas. He adds he's asked DHBs to have plans for how they will support each other.

4:33pm - Ardern says it will "take time" to work out the transition to traffic light system, but she wanted it to seem "familiar" to people.

She says right now is the most difficult period for judgement calls.

On whether she's worried about social cohesion of vaccinated versus unvaccinated, Ardern says it's hard to find anywhere in the world that hasn't come "against that friction". She says she's tried to create an environment where people can ask questions about vaccine and says people can question it, but they still need to create framework where we're reducing risk.

4:29pm - With New South Wales and Victoria opening up, why can't we? Ardern says "we've always carved our own path" and our metric is protecting lives.

She says they want to ensure they "have customers return", and the more people jabbed, the more it curbs the scale of the outbreak.

4:28pm - Ardern says it was a "finely-balanced decision" and acknowledged they need to progress forward as more people get the vaccine.

4:26pm - Even at highest scenario, hospitals will be able to manage, according to experts, Dr Bloomfield says.

Ardern says she didn't move Auckland out of level 4 too early. She says it was the longest level 4 period and it couldn't remain because people wouldn't follow the rules.

4:24pm - Auckland isn't moving to step 2 this week because the extra week gives school changes the chance to settle in and time for businesses to prepare.

Ardern says while cases are growing, vaccinations provide the safety to move and hospitalisations are "manageable".

On projected deaths, Dr Bloomfield says the modelling doesn't show deaths, and says low death rate reflects vaccination and the young age of cases - only 22 of last weeks cases were over 65.

4:22pm - Because of high vaccination in Auckland, Ardern says they can be confident it's the right move to ease some of the "pressure and fatigue we know exists in Auckland".

Ardern says they've tried to contain the virus in Auckland and Waikato, and the Government is considering looking into further protections to keep COVID out of other places.

"But we can't contain it forever", she says, and even with further tightening, we "will likely" see cases spread in the future.

"We don't need to be afraid," Ardern says, given there are new tools like vaccines. She says we "are going to OK, we just need to keep moving".

4:19pm - Auckland will move to step 2 of level 3 from next Tuesday, November 9, at 11:59pm.

4:18pm - In Auckland, the city is fewer than 5000 doses away from 90 percent first doses, Ardern says.

4:16pm - Waikato will move down to step 2 of alert level 3 from tomorrow at midnight.

4:15pm - Ardern says cases will go up. While this will happen, she says restrictions have played a role and it could have been worse without them.

Despite cases growing, vaccinations will keep them low overall.

4:14pm - On a separate note, there are 300 places available from today for health workers in MIQ facilities.

4:13pm - The R value is still between 1.2 and 1.3, Dr Bloomfield says.

Vaccination rates should start having an impact, he says.

The number of cases last week was a bit less than expected and also the number in ICU. This could be because of the age of cases and the impact of vaccination.

Most case are among the unvaccinated, as well as hospitalisation. Dr Bloomfield says the protection vaccines offer does "remain really high", even though those who are vaccinated can still get COVID.

4:10pm - Dr Bloomfield is going through some COVID-19 data.

His slides show there has been a steady increase over the past few weeks of the epidemic curve. 

While case numbers are increasing, hospitalisations are not increasing at the same rate, and importantly number of people needing ICU has remained low, he says.

Of concern is an increasing number of Maori cases, Dr Bloomfield says. Likewise, a high number of Pasifika at the beginning of outbreak has gone down - 12 percent of Maori in Auckland were tested in the last few days.

Positivity rate remains one of the lowest in the OECD, Dr Bloomfield says, and cases are mostly among young people.

4:08pm - The household contacts of the Tonga case have returned negative tests, and Dr Bloomfield says it could be a historic case.

4:05pm - Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield have arrived.

Dr Bloomfield spoke about today's COVID-19 numbers and the numbers of people who are vaccinated.

3:45pm - We are about 15 minutes away from the Government's announcement on Auckland and Waikato's alert levels. 

You'll be able to watch that live in the video player above, or you can follow along with updates on this page.

3:35pm - With 162 new cases in the community, Monday marks New Zealand's highest daily count of COVID-19 infections so far in the pandemic.

But beyond the figure, there is a lot more to unpack from the Ministry of Health's latest COVID-19 update.

Here's what you may have missed in today's COVID-19 update.

3:05pm - Kiwi band Shapeshifter is standing by its call for fans to get vaccinated, despite receiving backlash.

Band member Sam Trevethick says while they don't like to "ruffle feathers", he says it was their responsibility to speak up.

"We just want people to take music for what music is and appreciate it for what it can bring to people's lives," he told RNZ's Music 101.

"And here we are, dealing with a subject that is far more than that and that's when things switch over to what our responsibility is.

"People that have a voice, people that are public figures, they carry responsibility whether they like it or not and so you do kind of have to choose what you say."

Read the full story here.

2:45pm - A 36-year-old man has been arrested following a gathering at the Auckland Domain and subsequent march through Newmarket on Saturday.

He has been charged with Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19) in relation to attending a gathering.

Superintendent Shanan Gray, relieving Auckland City District Commander, says the man is scheduled to appear in the Auckland District Court on November 2 where he will face a total of three counts of Failing to Comply with Order (COVID-19) relating to previous events.

"Our enforcement phase remains ongoing and we cannot rule out further charges," Supt Gray says.

"Police reiterate our disappointment in the actions of the organisers of this event, who went ahead despite Police warning them that the gathering was a breach of the current restrictions."

2:23pm - Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to Australia has resumed as the country begins the process of reopening its country's borders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australia's Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said the resumption of quarantine-free arrivals would be a major boost for tourism and confidence.

"In 2019, Australia hosted 1.434 million visitors from New Zealand - making it our second largest source market - and they spent AU$1.6 billion in the Australian economy supporting local jobs and businesses," Tehan said.

"Australia delivers what Kiwis want in a holiday, including safety and security, value for money and world class natural beauty and wildlife.

"Tourism Australia will look to scale up its marketing activities in New Zealand, with an immediate focus on building confidence and broadening knowledge of the depth of Australia's tourism offering. 

Read the full story here

2:15pm - There is a new location of interest. Ngaruawahia Pharmacy has been added to the list. It relates to Friday, October 29 between 3:10pm and 4:30pm. 

2:07pm - There were 20,176 vaccines administered yesterday, 4867 first doses and 15,303-second doses.  In total 88 percent of eligible people have had their first dose and 75 percent their second. Seventy-two percent of eligible Māori people or 410,683 have had their first dose and 53 percent their second or 300,709. 

For eligible Pacific peoples 85 percent or 244,009 have had their first dose and 69 percent or 197,188 their second.  

1:55pm - The four household contacts of the person who was reported as testing positive for COVID-19 in Tonga remain in isolation and have all returned an initial negative result. Two close contacts are in isolation with public health oversight in Christchurch and two are in isolation with public health oversight in Porirua.

1:54pm - There are no new cases to report in Christchurch. 

COVID-19 has been detected in two new wastewater samples collected in Christchurch on Friday, in the southern and eastern part of the city.

One of these samples is likely the result of a known case living in the catchment area. Investigations are underway to establish any link to known cases for the second sample, including any recovered cases that have recently left MIQ.

Further samples are being taken, with results expected later this week.

Because of the recently reported cases in Canterbury, it is important that anyone, especially those in Christchurch with any symptoms, no matter how mild, gets tested.

Testing and vaccination sites are available across Canterbury today. Please see the Canterbury DHB website for site locations and hours.

1:53pm - Waikato update

There are five new cases in Waikato today. Of those, one is in Ngāruawāhia, two are in Ōtorohanga and one is in Hamilton.

The fifth is a case in Ōtorohanga announced yesterday that came in after the daily reporting time cut-off. This case is still under investigation to determine any links to existing cases.

Three of the other five cases today are known contacts already in isolation and the remaining case has now also been linked to existing cases.

Following an unexpected COVID-19 wastewater detection Huntly reported yesterday, there are pop-up testing centres at both Huntly East and Huntly West from 10am today. 

A third new pop-up testing site is being set up today at Ngāruawāhia. This takes the number of testing sites operating in Waikato today to seven. Locations can be found on the Waikato DHB website.

Public Health staff are asking anyone with symptoms to get tested – no matter how mild their symptoms might be. The advice is the same even if people are vaccinated.

There were 1870 tests processed throughout Waikato yesterday and 1257 vaccinations given.

1:51pm - Auckland care home

One more staff member of Edmonton Meadows Care Home in Henderson has tested positive, meaning the total number of staff cases is now two.

The total number of cases related to Edmonton Meadows care home is now 10.

As reported yesterday, two of the COVID-19 -positive residents are currently receiving appropriate ward-level care at North Shore Hospital.

The care home continues to operate under alert level 3 guidelines for visitors, meaning people have only been able to visit the facility on compassionate grounds.    

As the source of transmission remains unknown, Whole Genome Sequencing is underway.

1:50pm - Auckland update

Residents in the suburbs of Redvale, Rosedale, New Lynn, Wiri, Drury, Henderson and Manurewa with symptoms, even if they are mild symptoms, are being asked to get tested. 

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

In Auckland, public health officials are now supporting 1115 individuals safely isolate at home - this includes 564 cases across 372 households.   

1:45pm - Northland update

There is one new case in Northland today, bringing the total number of cases for the region to 13. All of the cases are isolating at home with public health oversight.

Public Health interviews continue to identify new locations of interest and the Ministry of Health is asking people in Northland to check the Ministry’s locations of interest webpage regularly, which is updated throughout the day. Each location of interest has corresponding advice.

Testing and vaccination rates remained relatively steady over the weekend. The Minostry is urging anyone in Northland who has any symptoms that could be COVID-19 to get a test. Testing today is available at the following locations:

-Rawene Hospital, Honey Street – open until 2pm

-Kerikeri, 1 Sammaree Place – open until 4pm

-Ōhaeawai Rugby Clubrooms – open until 5pm

-Whangārei – 20 Winger Crescent – open until 4pm

- Kaiwaka - Three Furlongs – open until 2pm

1:44pm - Auckland metro DHB now has a first dose vaccination rate of 91 percent and second dose of 81 percent. Meanwhile Northland DHB has a first dose rate of 79 percent and a second dose rate of 64 percent. Waikato DHB has a first dose rate of 87 percent and a second dose rate of 72 percent while Canterbury DHB has a first dose rate of 91 percent and a second dose rate of 74 percent.

1:41pm - There are 53 people in the hospital. Fifteen are in North Shore Hospital, 19 are in Middlemore and 19 are in Auckland hospital. There are three people in ICU or HDU. 

The average age of current hospitalisations is 47.

1:38pm - More than 20,000 vaccines were administered yesterday bringing NZ's vaccination rate to 88 percent for first doses and 75 percent for second doses. More than 3.1 million New Zealanders are now fully vaccinated. 

1:33pm - There are 162 new cases of COVID in New Zealand today. Of the new cases 156 are in Auckland, five are in Waikato and one is in Northland. 

1:23pm - Case numbers were expected at 1pm. 

12:53pm - An Auckland councillor says the sight of a security standing guard outside her home "broke" her after receiving abuse from anti-vaxxers for calling out the vandalism of a vaccination centre.

Josephine Bartley, ward councillor for the Maungakiekie-Tāmaki local board, says she was targeted on Sunday after she described the smashing of Pasefika Family Health Group's front window in Panmure as "unacceptable" in a social media post.

The vandalism had occurred less than 24 hours after a community COVID-19 immunisation event had been held there.

Bartley says after she made the post, she was sitting in her screen-written car when three men approached her, calling her "scum" and threatening to vandalise her car.

She says she'd already taken down some tweets about the vandalism before this incident occurred because she'd been getting abused online. 

Read the full story here

12:47pm - Unvaccinated staff at Lyttelton Port in the South Island have been temporarily stood down on full pay. 

A spokesperson for the port told RNZ it comes after the deadline for border staff to be vaccinated passed on the weekend. 

The vast majority of border facing workers are vaccinated. 

12:25pm - The Ministry of Health will release a written case numbers update at 1pm. 

12:20pm - ACT leader David Seymour says the Government should move Auckland to step 3 of alert level 3 this afternoon. 

"The Prime Minister's decision around alert levels today will be critical for Auckland retailers and the mental health of all Aucklanders.

 "Ardern should reactivate the forgotten 'roadmap' and move Auckland to step 3 of alert level 3. If Ardern says this is too dangerous, is she serious about ever opening up?

"Step 3 would mean hairdressers could open with strict protocols, hospitality venues, like cafes, bars, and restaurants, can reopen with a limit of 50 people. The Government can decide whether many businesses collapse or stay afloat with this decision," Seymour said. 

11:52am -  Waitomo mayor John Robertson wants his district taken out of alert level 3 today. 

Robertson told RNZ Waitomo hasn't had a case since April last year and he can't understand why it's lockdown down but Northland and Christchurch aren't. 

11:35am -  Ōtorohanga's mayor Max Baxter says there are two more community cases. 

Baxter says the cases were confirmed by Waikato District Health Board chief executive Kevin Snee. 

"They are all linked and they are all in isolation as well," he told Newshub. 

He says more cases are likely over the coming days due to how quickly the Delta variant spreads.

"It's a concern wherever it is in the country. Look, the reality is it's here now, obviously the elimination strategy hasn't worked and the only way forward now is to get vaccinated."

The Ministry of Health said all case updates are provided at 1pm. 

11:08am - Retail could soon return to Auckland in a potential shift to alert level 3, step 2, which would ease some of the financial pressure on the city entering its twelfth week of lockdown.

That may come as a surprise to some Kiwis - that restrictions could soon ease despite more than 300 COVID-19 cases reported over the weekend - because we're so used to growth in case numbers leading to higher restrictions. 

But now that 80 percent of Aucklanders are fully vaccinated, the Government's response is adapting. 

Read the full story here

11:03am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has "looked at the windows" of opportunity to visit Auckland as it enters its 12th week of COVID-19 lockdowns - but travelling to the Super City would mean she's out of action for five days.

The AM Show host Ryan Bridge asked Ardern on Monday if she would travel to Auckland after pressure from the Opposition to do so. 

Ardern confirmed in Parliament last week it was something she was considering but had reservations - and reiterated those reservations on Monday.

"I have looked at the windows for me to get there… One of the limitations is that if I go to Auckland, I then am not allowed to come back here [to Parliament] for five days," Ardern told The AM Show. "I have many jobs and one of them is making sure I'm able to continue to lead our response. That means chairing our Cabinets, coming down and being available here to the media regularly, and if I go to Auckland then I'm out of action for five days. 

Read the full story here.

10:31am - A COVID-19 positive person went out and socialised after being told they had the virus, Waikato DHB told NZ Herald. 

The DHB said it become aware the case left their home and tracked the person down at another household hours later.

10:15am - Several new locations of interest have been added. 

They include:

  •  Kawhia General Store on Saturday 23 October  between 7:00am - 6:00pm
  •  Kawhia Hotel on Monday 25 October between 4:00pm - 7:00pm
  • SuperValue Ngaruawahia on Saturday 30 October between 5:30pm - 7:40pm
  • Pak'nSave Clendon Clendon Park, Auckland on Wednesday 27 October between 10:00am - 12:00pm
  • Countdown Nawton, Hamilton on Saturday 23 October between 4:37pm - 5:53pm and on Thursday 28 October between 4:49pm - 5:49pm
  • Melville Price Cutter, Hamilton on Thursday 28 October between 11:50am - 12:29pm
  • Kiwi Fresh Hamilton on Thursday 28 October between 11:16am - 11:55am
  • Oparau Roadhouse in Te Awamutu on Sunday 24 October between 7:00am - 11:45pm
  • Kawhia Motors on Friday 22 October between 7:00am - 11:45pm. 

10:02am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will provide a COVID update and reveal Auckland and Waikato's fates today at 4pm. You can watch the livestream at

9:44am - Police are still hunting for the two COVID-positive people who escaped the Jet Park quarantine hotel on the weekend. 

On Monday police said there is no update and the pair are still on the run.

"There is no update, they remain outstanding and our enquiries are ongoing to locate them."

9:18am - In total 88 percent of the eligible population has received one dose of the COVID vaccine and 75 percent are fully vaccinated. New Zealand has a goal of 90 percent fully vaccinated for every DHB in the country.  

8:57am - Australia eased its international borders restrictions on Monday, allowing some of its vaccinated public to travel freely and many families to reunite for the first time since March last year.

After 18 months of some of the world's strictest coronavirus border policies that banned citizens from coming back into the country, and leaving it, unless granted an exemption, some 14 million Australians in Victoria, New South Wales and Canberra are now free to travel.

More than 80 percent of people 16 and older in those two states and the capital territory are fully vaccinated - a condition for the resumption of international travel.

Australians and permanent residents living abroad may also return, with foreign ministry data showing about 47,000 people are hoping to do so.

Most tourists - even vaccinated ones - have to wait, although vaccinated tourists from New Zealand will be allowed in from Monday. 

- Reuters 

8:35am - Watch the Prime Minister's full interview on The AM Show here

8:17am - The Prime Minister has explained what health officials are looking for to loosen restrictions in Auckland and the Waikato. 

"We do expect cases to continue to rise… but we are expecting, soon, that we may reach a peak of daily cases but, of course, there is a bit of an unknown period until that point," Ardern told The AM Show. 

"That [peak] should be around, at this stage, we're talking potentially 200 cases a day mark."

Ardern said that's the point at which modellers expect vaccinations will start having a major impact.

"We will talk about that this afternoon, in part, because I think it is important to share what we expect to happen; that cases will continue to rise but also that vaccinations can and will have an impact, and continue to be important to us.

"Across the course of November is the point that our modellers believe that we'll hit that peak but there is a sense of caution around just waiting to see whether or not that is the case; whether or not we do see those vaccinations really having that effect of pushing down, or at least holding down… what would otherwise be an ongoing rise.

"This is simply really pointing to the fact that modellers - our modelling - does its best but there is a bit of a wait and see in the real world." 

8:02am - Māori vaccination rates are still lagging behind the rest of the population.

The District Health Board with the highest rates for Māori is Auckland at just 63 percent compared to the overall rate of 82 percent.

Meanwhile Taranakia and Bay of Plenty have just a 43 percent vaccination rate for Māori (compared to 63 and 65 percent respectively). 

Read the full story here.

7:41am - Here's the latest vaccine data per DHB. 

 As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, November 1

7:21am - Ardern says she is considering coming to Auckland but it's complicated due to Parliament's five day stand down period. 

"If I go to Auckland then I am out of action for five days."

7:17am - She said things are tracking really well in Auckland to hit 90 percent double vaccinated. 

7:14am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says cases will likely peak at 200 a day in November. 

Ardern says after cases hit their peak Auckland's restrictions could loosen soon after. 

"At the moment we tend to be tracking fairly predictable."

She says as long as cases are predictable they are able to plan for opening.

7:05am -  It's alert level D-day for Auckland and Waikato as residents learn whether restrictions will ease. 

There were more than 300 cases on the weekend and businesses are desperate for a domestic opening date to provide more certainty.

Heart of the City CEO Viv Beck says the CBD is in for a $1 billion loss in consumer spending. 

6:57am - China's Disneyland has closed amid COVID-19 fears while Russia has its highest single-day case tally since the start of the pandemic. 

Read the latest from around the world here

6:50am - The first case of Delta Plus has been detected in New South Wales. 

Australia correspondent Jason Morrison says Aussies think COVID is all behind them but the new variant could cause issues."

"Life feels very normal...and you talk about this new variant that's how worried should we all be? I imagine we should be concerned."

He said people are more excited by their new freedoms, than they are worried about COVID.

6:35am - There's hope that Tonga's first ever case of COVID-19 is a false alarm.

The fully vaccinated traveller returned a negative test before boarding a flight from Christchurch last week.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio says Tongan officials are re-testing the person this morning. 

6:17am - Cabinet is reviewing Auckland and the Waikato's COVID restrictions this afternoon. It comes after 143 new cases were recorded on Sunday; 135 in Auckland, six in Waikato and two in Northland

6:14am - Auckland University emeritus professor of medicine Des Gorman says it's time for lockdown restrictions in Auckland to ease.

Cabinet will meet on Monday afternoon to review the COVID-19 alert levels in Waikato and Tāmaki Makaurau.

Gorman said easing restrictions is the only way to maintain public compliance.

"If you leave Auckland where it is, I think you're going to have an outbreak of civil disobedience.

"Aucklanders are barely able to hang in there at the moment, they're trying their best. They're not going out, they're not mixing and mingling. They're looking at sections of society who clearly are - the numbers are going up, and they're asking 'why am I sacrificing my lifestyle, my time with my family, what's being achieved here?'"

Read the full story here