As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Monday, December 13

Auckland will move to the 'Orange' traffic light setting in time for the New Year as case numbers continue to fall and vaccination rates rise. 

A fortnight ago, when the Government decided the regional settings under the framework, Auckland had recorded 182 cases with 93 people in hospital. Now, the rolling seven-day average is half that at 92 cases a day, and as of Sunday, 61 people are in hospital. 

Auckland's vaccination rate has also lifted in the past two weeks. Now, 92 percent of eligible residents - those aged 12 and over - are fully vaccinated. A fortnight ago, that figure was sitting at 89 percent. However, Māori and Pacific people in Auckland have lower rates of inoculation, sitting at roughly 80 and 85 percent respectively.

What you need to know:

  • There are 101 new cases of COVID-19 to report on Monday - 97 in Auckland, one in Bay of Plenty, one in Taranaki, one in Nelson-Marlborough and one in Canterbury.
  • Sixty-one people are in hospital, four of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units.     
  • All regions currently in 'Red', aside from Northland, will move to 'Orange' at 11:59pm on December 30.
  • Auckland's border will open on Dec 15, allowing fully vaccinated Kiwis to travel to and from the region. People can also present a negative test received within 72 hours prior to departure.
  • Workers covered by the My Vaccine Pass mandate - staff working at businesses that are required to use jab certificates to fully operate - must be fully vaccinated by Jan 17.
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest locations of interest here.

These live updates have finished.

8:25pm - Orange is the new Green, and we don't need the green light for a classic Kiwi summer, writes political reporter Jenna Lynch.

Green signifies a freedom we've all been yearning for - it's difficult to drown out the calls. But who would Green set free?

For 89 percent of us Green will not make a dot of difference to what we are allowed to do.

For the double-vaccinated there is absolutely no change to our lives if Orange flips to Green - other than the fact we'll be mingling with the unvaxxed in potentially high-risk settings.

At Green hospitality venues could - if they so chose - open to 100 anti-vaxxers for New Year's Eve. A single case in that environment could turn into a cluster of epic proportions - we saw that happen with the Alpha variant from a St Paddy's Day party at the pub. Granted there are spacing, seated requirements at Green but it's still a risk.

Read political reporter Jenna Lynch's full opinion piece here.

7:25pm - Spending is surging this silly season, with the amount of cash being splashed at the shops already above last year. 

New payment data out on Monday from Worldline shows almost $1 billion has been spent shopping and dining out in the past week but more is still needed to help businesses recover.

After months locked at home, Kiwis are living it up. Shops, restaurants and bars are back open, and so too are people's wallets. 

"We've been pretty surprised really at how strong it's been," Commercial Bay retail manager Andrew Trouson tells Newshub. 

The country has been feeling the freedoms of the traffic light system for ten days and in just the past week, Kiwis have spent at least $800 million at the shops.

This is more than last year, and more than the year before that. 

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Madison Reidy here.

6:40pm - The majority of New Zealanders are against the idea of restricting travel until 90 percent of Māori aged 12 or older have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

A nationwide Horizon Research survey found 59 percent of adults don't agree with restricting movement, while 32 percent agree and 9 percent are unsure.

The figures are similar for Māori, with 33 percent agreeing with restricting movement, 54 percent disagree and 13 percent don't know.

The survey was conducted after health experts expressed concern that Māori are more vulnerable to infection, serious illness and death if infected with COVID-19.

Read the full story here.

6:20pm - Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki was urged by police to tell his supporters to socially distance themselves at an anti-lockdown protest or he could face charges. 

Text messages between Tamaki and Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha have been revealed under the Official Information Act, showing how efforts were made by police to keep a protest in Auckland on October 2 safe. 

Up to 2000 protesters gathered at the Auckland War Memorial Museum that day to protest the Government's COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates. Signs held aloft talked about pro-choice and freedom from lockdown. 

The Auckland region was under alert level 3 restrictions at the time, meaning the only gatherings allowed were weddings, funerals and tangihanga with no more than 10 people. 

However, police at the time said they "recognise and respect people's lawful right to protest", and the text messages show how Haumaha organised a virtual meeting between himself, Tamaki and Police Commissioner Andrew Coster to try and keep the protest safe. 

"I respect our relationship and your leadership and do appreciate the opportunity to talk through issues together," Haumaha wrote to Tamaki on September 23, in the lead-up to their virtual meeting. 

After the meeting Haumaha wrote to Tamaki: "Kia Ora Bishop thank you that was a great korero and an opportunity for Andy to get to know you and the context behind what you are doing... Awesome anything you need just let me know."

Tamaki responded: "Yes i will thank you too Wally... i will keep in touch... thank you both..."

Read the full story here.

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

5:40pm - National Party leader Christopher Luxon says the Government should move Auckland to 'Orange' immediately rather than waiting until December 30.

"The Government is simply not following its own criteria. By the Government's own admission, the 'Red' stage should be used when our healthcare system is overwhelmed and we're facing unsustainable levels of hospitalisations – neither of which are happening," he says.

"The Prime Minister spent a long time in her press conference outlining how the outbreak is under control. There are just 61 cases in hospital, with only four in ICU. The case numbers are fewer than the modelling suggests. The 'R rate' is now below 1. New Zealand is just 48,000 doses shy of 90 percent of the eligible population being vaccinated. Auckland is one of the most vaccinated places in the world."

Luxon says all these signs show that Auckland should be in 'Orange', rather than 'Red', "right now".

"The traffic light setting makes a huge difference to the economic viability of small businesses, including hospitality. Many of those businesses will be beyond frustrated at being given a glimpse of further freedoms but having to wait another 17 days, despite being at their peak summer trading period," he says.

"Today was yet another announcement of a future announcement. The Government should also drop the idea of continuing to enforce the Auckland border over summer. It simply doesn't make sense to delay Aucklanders for hours in their cars to check whether they’re vaccinated or have had a recent rapid antigen test. The costs of doing this simply outweigh the marginal benefits of doing so."

Luxon says about 600 police officers will be involved in manning the Auckland border over summer or working in MIQ. He says every police officer on the Auckland border is a police officer pulled away from "tackling real crime" around the country.

"The traffic light framework will only enjoy public confidence and support if the decisions made under it make sense. The Government simply aren't following their own criteria, which will leave many New Zealanders wondering what the purpose of the criteria even is."

Christopher Luxon.
Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: Newshub.

5:20pm - There are three new locations of interest. They are: 

  • Mangere Bridge TAB, December 10 from 9:13pm to 10:15pm
  • Dinsdale Food To Go Lunch Bar, December 9 from 11:10am to 11:50am
  • Mangere Bridge Tavern, December 8 from 8:49pm to 10pm.

5pm - ACT leader David Seymour says Ardern has "sunk further into running the country on a whim" instead of putting rules in place "we can all understand".

"Jacinda couldn't explain why Auckland will be any more ready in a few weeks to move to Orange than it is today, because there is no logical reason for it. None of it is logical," he says.

"The conditions are right now. The Government's Traffic Light System says a region will be in Red when the health system faces an 'unsustainable number of hospitalisations'. 

"It's clear the health system isn't being overwhelmed right now and, to look at it from the other angle, if this is Red, what would the Government do if there really was a growing outbreak?"

Seymour says the Government is unable to balance COVID-19 with other needs.

"The next two weeks will cost people all over Auckland and other regions at Red, that cost is put onto them simply because the Prime Minister doesn't want the tiny risk she'll have to reverse her decision," he says.

"She's chosen to knock off and put the COVID response on autopilot for a month instead of balancing the different needs of New Zealanders in real time."

He says moving to 'Orange' would remove venue size limits that are "killing" a lot of activity in Auckland and other regions in 'Red'.

"Jacinda says we need time for the traffic light system to 'bed in' and 'go through a full transmission cycle'. She just makes it up as she goes along," Seymour says.

"If we have rules and even the Government won't follow them, what chance does it have of taking the public with them?

"Aucklanders have been through enough. It's one of the most vaccinated cities in the world. We should let Aucklanders enjoy the freedom of Orange for Christmas."

David Seymour.
David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub.

4:45pm - The press conference has now finished. To briefly re-cap:

  • Auckland and other currently 'Red' areas - other than Northland - will move to 'Orange' at 11:59pm on December 30
  • The Ministry of Health is going to give advice to the Government in early January about the threat of Omicron and allowing Kiwis in Australia to arrive back in New Zealand and enter into home-based self-isolation.

4:32pm - Ardern says the reason there's no date to remove vaccine certificates is that they could be useful for booster vaccines.

She adds that some countries have had to reinstate them.

4:29pm - Ardern says the South Island is in an "exceptional position" and she does expect the traffic light setting to change there.

She says right now she thinks people in South Island will feel comfortable knowing they're around vaccinated people and she denies not moving to 'Green' to incentivise the unvaccinated to get the jab.

Those who are unvaccinated can meet at events with the vaccinated at 'Green'.

4:27pm - On the MIQ review, Ardern says she does want to give comfort to people that if opening up had a negative impact on New Zealand, the Government will respond.

4:25pm - The reason for the December 30 date is because New Zealand went into the traffic light system on December 3.

Ardern says if you count the days, it's a transmission cycle to December 30, which is why that date was chosen.

4:23pm - On moving forward with boosters, Ardern says the vast bulk of Kiwis are quite some way off the six-month mark.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield says they've been watching Omicron carefully and notes how Pfizer says the vaccine is effective against it.

"Winter is the problem," Dr Bloomfield says of COVID, so they want people to get their booster if eligible in the lead up to it.

4:18pm - On Auckland's southern boundary, Ardern says it is "not an onerous risk" to provide proof of vaccination or a test, and police are the only ones who can operate these checks.

She says they've promised to keep traffic flowing.

In terms of moving to 'Green' for other areas, Ardern says it's "only for now" that there won't be that move.

4:14pm - On Wednesday's Auckland border lift, Ardern emphasises how the unvaccinated must have a negative test.

It can be a rapid antigen test, which will be available at pharmacies from Wednesday and these give results after 15 minutes.

4:13pm - On Omicron, Ardern says the Ministry of Health will give advice on the variant in early January to confirm they're still comfortable for Kiwis in Australia to come back and self-isolate, rather than head into MIQ.

This self-isolation move is set to begin on January 17.

4:10pm - Auckland will move to 'Orange' at 11:59pm on Thursday December 30.

All other areas currently in 'Red', excluding Northland, will also move with Auckland to 'Orange' at the same time.

Ardern says it makes sense to be "most cautious" in the area with the lowest vaccination rates.

Those still in 'Red' will have time to get their vaccination rates up to the mid to high 80s.

4:07pm - Ardern has arrived.

She says Cabinet considered several factors in their review, including vaccination rates, health system capacity, and the status of the current outbreak.

Cases have declined in Auckland which is "giving cause for cautious optimism". The lower number of cases is "good news for all of us", she says.

3:45pm - We're about 15 minutes away from the Government's announcement on whether any regions can shift from their current traffic light settings.

You'll be able to watch a livestream of Jacinda Ardern's post-Cabinet press conference in the video player above. You can also follow along with updates on this page.

3:30pm - A COVID-19 vaccinator has posted an emotional video onto social media revealing she was threatened by a parent who said "they're going to take me for a good ride" if anything happened to their child. 

Hanibrez Sipu, who is a registered nurse and COVID-19 vaccinator in Paihia, posted an emotional video onto TikTok on Thursday that has been viewed more than 63,000 times. 

Sipu revealed that she finished work early after a parent of a child being vaccinated threatened her. 

"The parent of this person who I vaccinated threatened me," she said.

"Now this person told me that if anything happened to their child, they're going to take me for a good ride. 

"That doesn't sit right with me, not at all, that's not ok. It's not ok to threaten vaccinators in general."

Read the full story here.

3pm - To recap, Jacinda Ardern will be fronting a post-Cabinet press conference at 4pm. Cabinet is convening to review the current 'traffic light' settings and decide whether any regions can shift to a new level of the framework for the holiday period. The settings will not be reviewed again until January 17.

The press conference will be available to watch live via Newshub's livestream.

2:40pm - Here's a recap of today's key developments so far:

  • From this Wednesday, supervised rapid antigen testing will be available for free at participating pharmacies for asymptomatic, unvaccinated people aged 12 years and three months and over who are intending to travel during the holiday period.
  • There are 61 people with COVID-19 in hospital, four of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units. 
  • Of the hospitalised patients, 36 are unvaccinated or not eligible; eight are partially immunised with one dose or less than seven days from receiving their second; 11 are fully vaccinated and received their second dose at least seven days before being reported as a case; and the vaccination status of two cases is unknown.
  • There are 101 new cases - 97 in Auckland, one in Bay of Plenty, one in Taranaki, one in Nelson-Marlborough and one in Canterbury. The case in Taranaki and the case in Nelson-Tasman were first announced over the weekend but are officially included in today's tally. 
  • The new case in the Bay of Plenty has been detected in Tauranga - the person has not yet been linked to previously reported infections but investigations are underway.
  • The new case in Canterbury is a household member of previously reported cases and was already in a managed isolation facility when they tested positive.
  • Meanwhile, a student at Taukau College in northern Waikato - near the Auckland-Waikato border - has tested positive after attending a biology exam last week.
  • New locations of interest have been identified in Christchurch, including buses and a shopping mall. The Westpac in Kerikeri has been visited by a confirmed case, as well as Z Service Station on Rutherford St in Nelson.

2:20pm - Here's an update on the COVID-19 outbreak in Waikato - no new cases have been reported in the region today.  

There are currently 116 active cases of COVID-19 in Waikato, 18 of which have yet to be epidemiologically linked to other infections. To date, 451 people have recovered from the virus.

No new locations of interest were identified in the region on Sunday.

Eight pop-up and dedicated testing sites are operating throughout Waikato today with sites in Hamilton, Te Kūiti, Ngāruawāhia, Tokoroa, Putāruru and Ōtorohanga.

There is one COVID-positive individual receiving care at Waikato Hospital.

In the Waikato, public health, primary care and manaaki providers are supporting 74 cases to isolate at home.

  • Te Kūiti - 50 active cases
  • Huntly - 13 active cases
  • Hamilton - eight active cases
  • Piopio - eight active cases
  • Ōtorohanga - seven active cases
  • Tokoroa - seven active cases
  • Ngāruawāhia - five active cases
  • Taumarunui - three active cases
  • Te Awamutu - two active cases
  • Waharoa - two active cases
  • Kāwhia - one active case
  • To be confirmed - seven.

2pm - In case you missed it, a COVID-19 data modeller has suggested that the Government may need to delay reopening New Zealand's international border in the face of the "incredibly fast" spread of the Omicron variant, giving Kiwis more time to get their booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Canterbury University modeller Michael Plank told RNZ that the severity of Omicron compared to the highly infectious Delta variant is still unclear. 

"But the fact that it can spread more quickly and infect people who've been vaccinated more easily means it certainly is likely to cause problems," he said.

In England, the number of infected people is currently doubling every 2.4 days, according to disease modellers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). However, high uptake of the booster is expected to mitigate the impact of the Omicron wave, the researchers said.

"This latest data from the UK show that cases of Omicron there are doubling every two to three days at the moment which is incredibly fast," Plank said.

"If it spreads that quickly, you get such a large number of cases that even if the majority of those cases are relatively mild, it could still put significant numbers of people in hospital."

Read more here.

1:40pm - National's COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop is calling on the Government to "seriously consider" bringing forward booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, following the lead of countries such as the UK and Australia as the Omicron variant continues to spread across the globe. 

"In recent days the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) has recommended COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for adults who completed their first two doses five or more months ago. Last month the UK halved the gap for booster shots from six months to three months," Bishop said in a statement on Monday.

"Both the UK and Australia are doing this to guard against the Omicron variant. New Zealand should be looking to quickly follow the lead of Australia and the UK and do the same."

Emerging evidence suggests there is a reduction in antibodies that fight the Omicron variant in people who have received just two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, whereas a third shot provides better protection against the new strain.

"On top of that, is it now very clear that a booster dose on top of the initial two doses substantially boosts protection against Delta, which is still the dominant strain in New Zealand," Bishop continued.

"After a slow start, New Zealand's vaccination campaign has ramped up, and it is great to see our vaccination rate nearly at 90 percent double-dose, countrywide. Now we need leadership from the Government and its scientific advisers to explain the benefits of vaccine boosters and to encourage people to book them in as soon as they can."

1:25pm - Police are making enquiries after a Dunedin woman posted a threatening video regarding the COVID-19 vaccine on social media. 

In the two-and-a-half-minute video viewed by Newshub, the woman, who goes by the name of Lauren Hill, is wearing camouflage gear. 

She talks about going "full war on these assholes" and urges viewers to "get into groups" and "start planning".

She makes several threatening comments directed at vaccinators, including threatening to slash tyres and steal vaccines. She also voices her opposition to children being vaccinated. 

A spokesperson said police are aware of the video and are "making enquiries". 

Read more here.

1:10pm - Here are today's regional updates from the Ministry of Health:

* Today's cases

Today, we are reporting new community cases in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Nelson-Marborough and Canterbury.

Both the cases in Taranaki and Nelson-Tasman were first announced over the weekend but are being officially included in today's tally.

One of today's border cases had previously been classified as 'under investigation'. They have now been confirmed as a case.

Regional updates

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

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


Today, there are 97 new cases being reported in Auckland. 

Health and welfare providers are now supporting 2746 people to isolate at home, including 709 cases. 

Bay of Plenty

Today we are reporting one new case in Tauranga. This case is being investigated for any links to previously reported cases.

Contacts are being identified and will be contacted for testing and isolation advice.

Please continue to check the ministry's website for any further locations of interest which may be added as investigations continue.

Canterbury update

There is one linked case to report in Christchurch today.

The case is a household member of previously reported cases and was already in a managed isolation facility when they tested positive.

Christchurch testing locations and opening hours are available via Healthpoint and information about vaccination clinics is available on the DHB's website.

1:09pm - There are 101 new cases of COVID-19 to report today. 

Here's the full statement from the Ministry of Health:

101 community cases; 61 people in hospital, 4 in ICU 

Rapid antigen testing for unvaccinated travellers

From this Wednesday, rapid antigen testing will be available for free at participating pharmacies for asymptomatic, unvaccinated people aged 12 years and three months and over who are travelling during the holiday period.

Evidence of a supervised negative rapid antigen test will be required for these unvaccinated travellers leaving the Auckland region and for domestic travel with some transport companies.

As of this morning, 483 pharmacies across the motu have opted in to provide these supervised tests. Of these 138 are in the Auckland region with a total of 345 in the North Island and 138 in the South Island. Participating pharmacies can be found via the Healthpoint website - - in 'supervised rapid antigen testing for travel' under 'COVID-19 Testing'.

While some pharmacies will accept walk-ins, bookings are recommended. Please note that rapid antigen testing is for people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms.

While rapid antigen tests will at times give false positive results, any unvaccinated people who receive a positive result will be strongly advised to seek a confirmatory PCR test. Furthermore, they won't be able to travel without a negative PCR test result, so please plan ahead to allow sufficient time to get tested and receive your result.

This testing is vital to ensuring we continue to pick up cases and prevent onward transmission. We know people, especially Aucklanders, are looking forward to reuniting with family and friends but if you are unwell, please stay home and get a PCR test.

To meet domestic travel requirements from December 15, rapid antigen testing will be free until the end of January 2022.

Note on vaccine figures

Due to a delay in reporting this morning, the latest COVID-19 vaccine data is not available at this stage. This information will be updated on the website as soon as possible.



Cases in hospital

61; North Shore: 13; Auckland: 19; Middlemore: 25; Waikato: 2; Tauranga: 2

Vaccination status of current hospitalisations                              (Northern Region wards only)

Unvaccinated or not eligible (36 cases / 64 pct); partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose (8 cases / 14 pct); fully vaccinated at least 7 days before being reported as a case (11 cases/ 19 pct); unknown (2 cases / 4 pct)

Average age of current hospitalisations


Cases in ICU or HDU

4 (2 in Auckland; 1 in Middlemore, 1 in North Shore)



Seven day rolling average of community cases


Number of new community cases


Number of new cases identified at the border


Location of new community cases *

Auckland (97), Bay of Plenty (1), Taranaki (1), Nelson-Marlborough (1), Canterbury (1)

Number of community cases (total)

9,814 (in current community outbreak)

Number of active cases (total)


Confirmed cases (total)


Cases epidemiologically linked (total)




Number of active contacts being managed (total):


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

83 pct

Percentage who have returned at least one result

76 pct



Number of tests total (last 24 hours)


Tests rolling average (last 7 days)


Auckland tests total (last 24 hours)




Wastewater detections

No unexpected results to report



Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday


Manual diary entries in 24 hours to midday


My Vaccine Pass


My vaccine pass downloads total


My vaccine pass downloads (last 24 hours)


12:50pm - There is no press conference at 1pm today as Jacinda Ardern will be fronting a post-Cabinet briefing at 4pm. The Ministry of Health will instead provide the latest updates in a statement.

12:40pm - New Zealand may need to delay the reopening of its international border in the face of the "incredibly fast" spread of the Omicron variant, allowing people more time to get their booster shot, a data modeller has suggested.

The new variant is spreading rapidly in the UK, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson declaring an "Omicron emergency" on Sunday (local time). The variant now accounts for a third of cases in London, a government minister said over the weekend, with officials ramping up its rollout of booster shots.

The country has already brought in 'Plan B' measures to limit the spread of the variant, with people urged to work from home again if possible. Face masks are once again compulsory in most public places, and vaccination passes are required to enter nightclubs and events.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it's inevitable the new variant will arrive in New Zealand, with more information to become available on the strain over the coming weeks.

Canterbury University modeller Michael Plank told RNZ that Omicron's severity compared to the Delta variant is still unclear.

"But the fact that it can spread more quickly and infect people who've been vaccinated more easily means it certainly is likely to cause problems," he said.

In England, the number of infected people is currently doubling every 2.4 days, according to disease modellers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). High uptake of the booster dose is expected to mitigate the impact of Omicron, the researchers said.

"This latest data from the UK show that cases of Omicron there are doubling every two to three days at the moment which is incredibly fast. If it spreads that quickly, you get such a large number of cases that even if the majority of those cases are relatively mild, it could still put significant numbers of people in hospital," Plank explained.

Early real-world studies by the UK Health Security Agency estimates that two doses of a vaccine provides limited protection against developing symptoms of the variant, but a booster raises protection up to 75 percent, the BBC reported.

Plank said the emergence of the variant will likely see the planned reopening of New Zealand's international border delayed - however, that decision does not need to be made immediately.

"If we can keep it out for just a couple of months longer, that will enable us to get those booster doses out to people and that will give us a much better level of protection," Plank told RNZ.

"The data from the UK is showing there's a significant drop in the vaccine effectiveness if you've had two doses but you have a much better level of protection after that booster dose. If we've only got half of our adult population with boosters that will still leave us quite vulnerable.

"If we're trying to keep this Omicron variant out until we've got more people boosted, even one case would likely be the end of that."

12:15pm - Professor Michael Plank says Auckland can expect to spend at least another week under the 'Red' setting of the new framework - while other regions are likely to stay under heightened restrictions until vaccination rates rise.

Despite a dip on Saturday to 63 cases, it is still too early to know whether infections have substantially increased due to more freedoms and socialising under the new system, Plank added. It has only been 10 days since New Zealand entered the framework - a full transmission cycle is about two weeks. 

“It’s really too soon to say what the impact of moving to the traffic light system has been because of the delay [in cases being detected],” Plank, a COVID-19 data modeller from Te Pūnaha Matatini and University of Canterbury, told Stuff.

He echoed epidemiologist Michael Baker's sentiment - if the number of new cases continues to decline in Auckland, the region could be in a position to transition to the less restrictive 'Orange' setting next week.

New Zealand moved to the 'traffic light' framework on December 3. Auckland and Northland are in Red along with Taupō, Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitīkei, Whanganui and Ruapehu districts. The rest of the country is in Orange.

Overall, more than 90 percent of the eligible population in Auckland has been fully vaccinated.

Central North Island districts still in Red will not move through the framework until their vaccination rates are higher, Plank said. In the Lakes area, 84 percent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated - 85 percent are fully vaccinated in the Bay of Plenty, 81 percent in Tairāwhiti, 87 percent in Hawke's Bay and 83 percent in Whanganui.

12pm - Jacinda Ardern says it's only a matter of time until the 'variant of concern', Omicron, arrives on New Zealand's shores as the recently identified strain continues to spread throughout the world. 

To combat Omicron, the Australian government has announced that booster shots will be available one month earlier than previously stated, meaning eligible residents can now receive their booster five months after their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

When considering the recommended gap between the second shot and a booster jab in New Zealand, Ardern said the Government is relying on advice from the Expert Advisory Group.

"The Expert Advisory Group can of course, at any time, recommend to us to change the gap between the final dose and booster, so that is absolutely their prerogative - they can do that at any time. They've not done it to date," she told RNZ's Morning Report on Monday.

Roughly 400,000 people in New Zealand will already be eligible to receive the booster before the end of the year.

Ardern said that the Government is closely watching Omicron's spread overseas and is keeping an eye out for emerging evidence. More should be known about the new variant in a couple of weeks, she added.

11:45am - To recap, Cabinet is today considering whether or not to shift the regional 'traffic light' settings under the new framework - changes that will remain in place until the next review on January 17.

Speaking to RNZ's Morning Report on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand is still transitioning into the new COVID-19 Protection Framework and there has not yet been a full transmission cycle of 14 days since the new system was implemented on Friday, December 3.

"We only eased on the 3rd so we haven't seen a full transmission cycle yet. That's something you'll remember we've always used as a bit of a guide to show us what the likely impact of a step change is," she said. 

It comes as calls intensify for Auckland to shift to the framework's 'Orange' setting, with proponents of the transition - including ACT leader David Seymour - citing the city's high rates of vaccination.

"If we'd had a bit of time in the framework, yes, but we're transitioning into it - this is a big shift into this framework, we want to take it carefully," Ardern said. 

"The one thing we're very mindful of is if you do move too soon, you run the risk of escalating cases and then you end up back in higher restrictions."

She said Cabinet will consider all the competing interests, but the Government wants to provide some certainty to Aucklanders.

11:30am - A Hamilton woman who shared her fight with COVID-19 has returned home to find her inbox flooded with kind messages from strangers. 

Karina Haira was a COVID-19 denier until she became seriously ill with the virus and was hospitalised for more than a week, the majority of which was spent fighting for her life in the intensive care unit. The virus collapsed her lung and she could only breathe with an oxygen mask or tube. 

Haira used her time in hospital to warn others about the virus by sharing her journey on social media. 

She told the New Zealand Herald that when she returned home, she was met with kind messages from strangers around the globe.

"A lot of them were mums saying, 'I just wanted to thank you, I've been trying to get my daughter vaccinated... I just wanted to message you to let you know my son was very anti-COVID and now he's getting his vaccinations'," she told the outlet. 

"Messages like that. Phone calls from people I don't even know."

And while she's recovered from the virus, she told the Herald she's not quite back to normal. 

"I can't taste anything so I have to get my kids in here to taste for me and tell me if it tastes nice." 

Read more here.

11:15am - A student at Tuakau College in northern Waikato has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an announcement shared to the school's social media.

The student attended a Level 2 Biology exam on Thursday, December 9. It's understood the student has been infectious since December 8.

All students and staff who may have had contact with the student have been contacted, the school said.

11:05am - Signs point to Auckland shifting to the less restrictive 'Orange' setting of the 'traffic light' system, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continues to reiterate that Cabinet will take a "cautious" approach. 

Aucklanders got their first taste of freedom on December 3 after New Zealand moved into the new COVID-19 Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system, where freedoms are determined by vaccination status.

At the most restrictive 'Red' level, gatherings for the vaccinated are restricted to 100. It means that large events in Auckland and more than 10 other districts are currently prohibited. 

But with 92 percent of eligible Aucklanders now fully vaccinated, cases of COVID-19 leveling off and a 'sustainable' number of hospitalisations, the Government is being urged to let Aucklanders enjoy a less restrictive summer after months of lockdown. 

"The Government's traffic light system says a region will be in Red when the health system faces an 'unsustainable number of hospitalisations'. It's clear the health system isn't being overwhelmed right now," says ACT leader David Seymour. 

"Moving to Orange would remove the venue size limits that are killing so much activity in Auckland and other regions in red. Hospitality, events, even weddings and funerals are being severely limited by Orange."

Ardern, speaking to Morning Report on Monday ahead of her 4pm post-Cabinet announcement, said New Zealand is still transitioning into the new system.    

"The Opposition has continually put pressure on us to go faster; to lift restrictions sooner, to open borders earlier, and I think if we'd listened to them we may be in a different position as a country."

And speaking to Breakfast, Ardern used a word she's cited several times before when asked about Auckland's settings - "cautious". 

"We can see the impact of vaccines. But it's just about making sure we're cautious so we don't see a runaway of cases which will see us back in Red."

Ardern used the same word a week ago when asked if she was ruling out a shift to Orange for Auckland. 

"I do place a lot of weight on the public health advice, and, of course, we will be cautious, as we have been to date. I will wait, though, with an open mind on the advice that we receive."

Ardern even used the word the day she announced the regional 'traffic light' settings for the nation.

"We've prepared well for this moment by maintaining a cautious approach focused on protecting people and their jobs. Our next phase is focused on minimising the impact of COVID-19 and protecting people."

Read more here.

10:50am - South Africa's 69-year-old President Cyril Ramaphosa has tested positive for COVID-19, but is only  presenting mild symptoms.

"The President started feeling unwell after leaving the State Memorial Service in honour of former Deputy President Frederik Willem de Klerk in Cape Town earlier today," said a statement issued on Sunday (local time).

At the memorial service, a mask-wearing Ramaphosa gave a eulogy to de Klerk, the last leader of South Africa's white minority government, who served as State President of South Africa from 1989 to 1994 and as Deputy President from 1994 to 1996.

"The President, who is fully vaccinated, is in self-isolation in Cape Town and has delegated all responsibilities to Deputy President David Mabuza for the next week," the statement added.

In the past few days, a nationwide outbreak believed to be linked to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been infecting around 20,000 people a day. South African scientists see no sign that the variant causes more severe illness.

- Reuters

10:40am - The UK faces a "tidal wave" of the Omicron variant and two doses of a vaccine will not be enough to contain it, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday (local time) as he accelerated the booster rollout.

Speaking hours after government lifted the COVID-19 alert level to 4 on a 5-point scale, Johnson said the booster programme must progress faster while scientists remain in the dark regarding the severity of the Omicron variant.

"A tidal wave of Omicron is coming," Johnson said in a televised statement on Sunday evening. "And I'm afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need."

He added that scientists understand the Omicron variant is highly transmissible and a wave of the variant through a population that has not received booster jabs will result in so many hospitalisations, the National Health Service will struggle to cope.

"Everyone eligible aged 18 and over in England will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year," he said.

The chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland recommended an increase to alert level 4 from level 3 on its 5-point scale, judging transmission of the virus to be high.

"Early evidence shows that Omicron is spreading much faster than Delta and that vaccine protection against symptomatic disease from Omicron is reduced," the medical officers said in a joint statement.

"Data on [the] severity will become clearer over the coming weeks but hospitalisations from Omicron are already occurring and these are likely to increase rapidly."

Level 5 - the maximum alert level - indicates the health service is at risk of being overwhelmed.

"Both booster vaccines - Pfizer and Moderna - increase the immune response substantially and show good effectiveness although with some reduction compared to Delta," the medical officers said.

- Reuters 

10:25am - Auckland District Health Board (DHB) held an emergency meeting last month, but the details of the discussion have been kept secret from the public. 

The board has also been holding "informal" weekly meetings during the latest outbreak - unadvertised and also secret.

The emergency meeting was held on November 24, with every item on the agenda classified as confidential - aside from a karakia and a procedural item.

No members of the public or media were allowed to attend. The details of what was discussed have continued to be kept clandestine, but according to RNZ, general topics of discussion included COVID-19 testing, COVID-19 building work, staffing and an item simply labelled 'COVID-19 report'.

The existence of the emergency meeting emerged in the agenda for this week's full board meeting, where the "informal" meetings were also discussed.

Read more here.

10:15am - While the Government face a growing chorus of calls to shift Auckland to the 'Orange' setting of the new 'traffic light' system, leading epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker agrees there is merit to moving the Super City to a less restrictive level - but perhaps next week.

ACT leader David Seymour, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Auckland Central's business association, Heart of the City, are among those calling for less restrictions in the region, which declining case numbers and high rates of vaccination.

However, it is still very early days for the traffic light system, officially known as the COVID-19 Protection Framework, Professor Baker said on Monday morning. It has only been 10 days since the country transitioned to the 'new normal', and the impacts of greater freedom will not be immediately evident. 

"It's going to take at least another week to see how these levels settle down, particularly in Auckland," Baker told First Up.

"I think it would be very hard to change the levels this week, but potentially next week."

He expects the Government will flag a shift to Orange for Auckland during the 4pm post-Cabinet press conference, and may even signal a change for the end of the week.

However, Baker dismissed calls to shift the South Island to Green, the setting closest to pre-pandemic normality, saying it is too soon to consider that option.  

Read more here.

10:05am - A number of new locations of interest have been identified by the Ministry of Health:

  • Westpac, Kerikeri Branch
  • Team Hutchinson Ford, Tuam Street, Christchurch Central
  • Christchurch Bus Interchange, Lichfield Street, Christchurch Central
  • Orbiter Bus, Riccarton Mall to Whiteleigh Avenue Tower Junction, Christchurch
  • Orbiter Bus, Tower Junction Whiteleigh Avenue to Barrington Street, Christchurch
  • Countdown, Fraser Cove, Tauranga 
  • Barrington Mall, Spreydon, Christchurch
  • Super Liquor, Barrington Mall, Spreydon, Christchurch.

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

9:50am - 'Red' regions under the COVID-19 Protection Framework should remain in the most restrictive setting for the timebeing, says epidemiologist Rod Jackson, despite a growing chorus of calls for the highly vaccinated Auckland area to shift to 'Orange' ahead of Christmas. 

Cabinet will on Monday review the current regional settings under the 'traffic light' system, determining whether any of the 'Red' regions - such as Auckland - can move to 'Orange', a less restrictive level. Vaccination rates will play a key factor in Cabinet's decisions, it's understood. 

The settings decided on Monday will remain in place over the holiday period and will not be reviewed again until January 17.

As of Sunday, 92 percent of eligible Aucklanders are fully vaccinated - one of the highest rates in the country. But Professor Jackson said it is still too early to shift to Orange, a setting which allows larger gatherings for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

The region is already enjoying relaxed restrictions under Red, he told RNZ, noting that there is not enough difference between the two settings to risk unravelling Auckland's progress with too much freedom, too soon.

"I don't think it matters for Auckland to wait because there is not a lot of difference between Red and Orange if you're vaccinated," he said. "We have to be cautious, there's no other choice."

He said the Government should stick to its cautious approach while an active outbreak is still underway, particularly as the impact of shifting to the new framework 10 days ago may not yet be fully evident.

"I think the simple answer is that if we loosen restrictions more, we're going to end up [with cases] going up again by the end of the year," he said. "As soon as it starts going up, you have to start putting in controls.

"I just looked at 20 countries' trends before this interview and 18 out 20 are going up... so most countries around the world are re-introducing restrictions. So we're in a position where our cases are low, if we can keep them by going cautiously, we may not need to introduce any more restrictions."

Read more here.

9:35am - Australia said on Sunday it will shorten the wait time for its residents to receive a COVID-19 booster shot following a rise in cases of Omicron, a recently identified strain of coronavirus categorised as a 'variant of concern' by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The country had previously said it would offer the booster to everyone over the age of 18 who had received their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least six months prior.

But with an increasing number of Omicron infections recorded in the country, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the time interval will be shortened to five months following the second shot.

"A booster dose five or more months after the second dose will make sure that the protection from the primary course is even stronger and longer-lasting and should help prevent [the] spread of the virus," Hunt said in an emailed statement.

"Data from Israel shows boosters supporting reductions in the rate of infection in eligible age groups, severe disease in those aged over 40 years and deaths in those over 60 years."

Australia will use vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in its booster rollout.

The country is one of the most vaccinated worldwide, with about 90 percent of Australians over 16 now fully immunised.

Australia on Sunday reported 1556 cases in the previous 24 hours, lingering near the six-week high recorded a day earlier.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, Australia has recorded about 229,000 cases of the virus, well below the toll of other nations, and 2100 deaths.

- Reuters

9:25am - A new report has warned New Zealand isn't immune to division, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and Christchurch terror attack as events that have put the country's social cohesion under pressure. 

The report, Sustaining Aotearoa New Zealand as a Cohesive Society, was produced by Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures at the University of Auckland.

The authors - Sir Peter Gluckman, Dr Anne Bardsley, Professor Paul Spoonley, Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal, Naomi Simon-Kumar and Dr Andrew Chen - warn New Zealand is weathering a "perfect storm" of significant economic, social, environmental, and technological transformations. 

Crises over the past few years including natural disasters, the Christchurch terror attack and the ongoing pandemic have tested New Zealand's social cohesion and exacerbated existing challenges regarding unity, the report says.

It warns these events present serious challenges to the behavioural, social and civic institutions that underpin social solidarity and togetherness. 

"New Zealand is generally seen as a relatively cohesive society, but it is not immune to division, and there are warning signs," the authors say.

"While there is relatively high trust in the institutions of Government, the response to the vaccination effort has illustrated that trust is not universal and can be eroded.

"Aotearoa New Zealand, especially Auckland, is already amongst the most ethnically diverse societies in the world. The nature of our populations has changed rapidly. The issues we confront have become clearer but also more challenging. The resolution of what it means to be a 'Kiwi' is still evolving." 

Read more here.

9:15am - Several Auckland suburbs still have yet to hit 80 percent vaccination ahead of the regional boundary reopening this week. 

Auckland's border will open on December 15, allowing two-way travel in and out of the region to resume for the first time in more than three months. Kiwis must either be fully vaccinated or have evidence of a negative test received within the 72 hours prior to departure in order to legally travel.

And while Auckland as a whole has achieved a very high vaccination rate with 92 percent of eligible residents now fully immunised, some suburbs are lagging behind. 

Ministry of Health data shows there are several suburbs across the city with a vaccination rate below 80 percent. 

Ōtara West has the lowest rate of vaccination in the city, with just 74.5 percent of residents fully vaccinated - 84.3 percent have had their first jab. 

Wiri West is close behind with just 75 percent of residents fully vaccinated - 84.9 percent have had a single dose. Ōtara South is slightly better, with 76.5 percent fully vaccinated and 85.4 percent inoculated with their first dose. 

In Rongomai West, 76.8 percent of people have received both jabs and 85.3 percent have had their first. The Barrier Islands are just ahead at 76.9 percent fully vaccinated, with 80.8 percent of residents vaccinated with their first jab. 

Ferguson is also lagging with 77.1 percent of residents fully vaccinated and 85.9 percent inoculated with a first dose. 

Ōtara Central and Wattle Downs North both have hit 77.8 percent for double doses, with 86.5 percent and 87.2 percent of residents vaccinated with one jab respectively. 

Wiri East is sitting at 77.9 percent and 86.8 percent for second and first doses respectively. Māngere West has hit 78.4 percent and 86.3 percent.

Despite pockets of patchy coverage, several inner-city suburbs have very high vaccination rates, with Eden Terrace, Grey Lynn East and Queen Street all hitting 95 percent for double doses. Areas in the North Shore are also sitting at 95 percent, including Northcote Point, Birkenhead and Glenfield. 

Read more here.

9:05am - "The evidence" will determine what decisions Cabinet makes regarding regional 'traffic light' settings on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

The Government will review the current settings during a Cabinet meeting on Monday. The settings will then remain in place for the duration of the Christmas break and won't be reviewed again until January 17.

Auckland, the epicentre of the latest outbreak, is currently at the most restrictive 'Red' level, meaning hospitality venues are limited to 100 fully vaccinated people - while businesses that choose not to check customers' My Vaccine Passes must continue with contactless trading.

But shifting to the less restrictive Orange setting has been touted as a possibility due to Auckland's high rates of vaccination and falling case numbers.

"The things that determine our decisions are not breaks, they are the evidence around what's happening - making sure that we are applying the advice we receive to the best of our ability, factoring everything in," Ardern told RNZ's Morning Report on Monday.

She said the Government is mindful that easing restrictions in the Super City too quickly could potentially unravel the hard mahi Aucklanders have put in over the past few months. 

"If you do move too soon, you run the risk of escalating case numbers and you end back up in higher restrictions," Ardern said. "We want to go the distance… at this point, we do want to just do our best to just give a bit of certainty to Auckland."

Ardern told Morning Report New Zealand is still transitioning into the 'traffic light' system and the new framework needs time to bed in.

"This is a big shift into this framework. We want to take it carefully and we did say, for the first time when we're moving into it, some of the things we factor in will be a little bit different than what we do going forward into the future.      

"The Opposition has continually put pressure on us to go faster; to lift restrictions sooner, to open borders earlier and I think if we'd listened to them we may be in a different position as a country."

From December 15, two-way travel in and out of Auckland will resume for the first time since August - as long as travellers are either fully vaccinated or can provide evidence of a negative test within the 72 hours prior to departure.

8:55am - There is one new location of interest - Z Service Station on Rutherford St in Nelson. 

Anyone who was at the service station on Wednesday, December 8 between 3pm and 4pm is asked to self-monitor for symptoms for 10 days after the date of exposure. If symptoms develop, get a test and stay at home until you a negative result is returned.

8:40am - Epidemiologist Rod Jackson is opposing calls for Cabinet to move Auckland to the 'Orange' setting of 'traffic light' system, arguing that 10 days under the new framework is "too soon" to relax restrictions.

Moving to a less restrictive setting could unravel the hard work Aucklanders have been putting in, Jackson suggested, with too much freedom, too soon, possibly leading to a surge in infections. 

"Ten days is just too soon," Jackson told RNZ on Monday morning. 

"If we loosen restrictions more, we are going to end up [with cases] going up again by the end of the year."

Australia is a good indication of what can happen when restrictions are loosened too quickly, he added. 

"As soon as [the number of cases] starts going up, you have to start putting in controls."

Most countries around the world have re-introduced restrictions, he said, with 18 out of 20 nations he had looked at on Monday morning recording a rise in cases.

Jackson said a cautious approach might be the only way of avoiding a significant surge in infections.

8:25am - Six-hundred much-needed specialist technology workers have been granted exemptions to enter new Zealand to support the rapidly growing sector, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, Dr David Clark, announced on Monday morning.

"The sector is now one of our top three exporters and jobs in tech have been growing at twice the rate of the general economy. It has continued to expand during the COVID-19 pandemic, placing pressure on the demand for talent," Clark said.

"The class exception announced today will relieve some of the pressure on New Zealand tech firms and support their continued growth and export earnings. We're carefully targeting areas of the sector where industry has highlighted a clear need for overseas talent including, software development, product managers, cyber security and interactive media."

For the last two years, the Government has been working closely with the sector on addressing the key challenges facing the industry. At the top of the list is a mismatch between the skills available domestically and what the sector requires, Clark said.

"Providing this border exception is part of the next step in Government's carefully phased approach to reconnecting with the world. We've seen other countries open up too early and have to reverse decisions. So it's a balancing act of supporting our economy and minimising the risks to our communities and health system.

"Resolving the skills mismatch is crucial for the tech sector to grow. However, Government also realises the development of tech skills within New Zealand is fundamental for the industry to realise its potential. As part of an Industry Transformation Plan partnership between Government and the tech industry; the sector has made a commitment to invest in developing domestic talent, rather than relying on overseas talent to fill the gaps."

The class exception includes four categories of workers: software and application programmers, ICT managers, ICT security specialist and multimedia specialists.

The industry and Government are working through the details for a scheme for allocating the class exception, with the view to having it operational in early 2022.  More details will be released in coming weeks.

8:10am - An Auckland business association is also echoing calls for the Government to shift Auckland to the 'Orange' setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework, saying the less restrictive setting will support businesses' bounce-backs and financial recovery after months of lockdown. 

Despite the relative freedom under 'Red' - the most restrictive setting of the framework - ongoing restrictions for some sectors, such as hospitality, as well as the number of people continuing to work from home and the lack of certainty around major events, pose an extremely challenging set of circumstances for impacted businesses. 

"We've seen an uplift in spend and foot traffic since the new system was introduced, but it's not enough for businesses that have faced major restrictions for so long," Viv Beck, chief executive of Heart of the City, said in a statement on Sunday.

Compared with the same time last year, spending in Auckland's central business district is more than 40 percent down on average. The decrease is even more significant when compared to 2019. 

"We're not seeing a significant bounce-back across the board and despite initiatives to increase spend and visitation, forward bookings for tourism, hospitality and accommodation providers are soft for January. It's very concerning for businesses staring down the barrel of a quieter period until workers and visitors return," Beck continued. 

"Monday's decision is critical - we must see a shift to at least Orange.  This would give event organisers certainty, get the hospitality sector operating at full capacity and give more confidence to attract visitors. There must also be financial support for impacted businesses right through to Green and low cost, easy to repay money. Auckland has been somewhat of a sacrificial lamb through COVID and our businesses must be supported."

Heart of the City has asked for the wage subsidy and Resurgence Support Payment to remain in place until Auckland is placed under Green, the setting closest to pre-pandemic normality. It also asked the Treasury in September to consider offering loans, an idea first put up by economist Dr Richard Meade in April 2020. While the Minister of Finance has confirmed the proposal is being considered, nothing has been announced as yet.

"Moving to the traffic light system only gives [Auckland businesses] a small trading window to claw back losses before the summer holiday slowdown. As existing support measures are wound down, this leaves a significant hole, especially with the uncertainty around Omicron," Beck said.

"COVID loans enable businesses to borrow at low cost up to pre-COVID revenue levels, and they only need to be repaid when businesses have the money to do so. Offering financing like this would be sustainable and cost-effective, and offer businesses an effective lifeline to see them through the months ahead."

8am - ACT Party leader David Seymour has joined the growing chorus of calls for Auckland to shift to the 'Orange' setting of the traffic light system as daily infections plummet and vaccination rates continue to rise. 

In a statement on Monday morning, the Epsom MP also backed the South Island transitioning to 'Green', the setting closest to pre-pandemic normality. Currently no regions are in Green, however the South Island as a whole entered the framework in Orange. 

He also noted that based on the Government's criteria, a region should only be in Red if its healthcare system is struggling with an "unsustainable number of hospitalisations". Despite being the epicentre of the latest outbreak, hospitalisations have not reached unprecedented levels in Auckland. 

"When Jacinda Ardern announces the traffic light changes today she should follow her own criteria and move Auckland to Orange and the South Island to Green," Seymour said. 

"The Government's traffic light system says a region will be in Red when the health system faces an 'unsustainable number of hospitalisations'. It's clear the health system isn't being overwhelmed right now. The Government needs to... follow its own rules."

Seymour added that a shift to Orange would remove caps on customers that are stifling businesses' bounce-backs after almost four months of restrictions.

"Moving to Orange would remove the venue size limits that are killing so much activity in Auckland and other regions in Red. Hospitality, events, even weddings and funerals are being severely limited by Orange," he said.

"When Cabinet meets today it needs to show some common sense and follow its own rules."

7:45am - Speaking to TVNZ on Monday morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Cabinet will be continuing with its "cautious" approach regarding any potential shifts in the COVID-19 Protection Framework.

Ministers will convene on Monday to decide if any regions currently under the 'Red' setting, such as Auckland, are able to transition to the less restrictive 'Orange' ahead of Christmas.

 "We do want to be cautious," Ardern said.

When asked if she is "buggered" after an incredibly difficult year, the Prime Minister admitted she was "weary" - but no more so than the average Kiwi.

 "I feel a weariness, but no more than the rest of the country."

A spokesperson for Ardern told the New Zealand Herald the Government is cautiously optimistic about the decreasing number of cases in Auckland. 

"But with the border opening up on Wednesday, there are a range of risks Cabinet will be weighing up in determining any changes to existing settings," the spokesperson said.

"The primary objective is to ensure cases stay at a manageable level over summer so New Zealanders can enjoy the holiday they deserve."

7:30am - Kia ora, good morning, and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak for Monday, December 13.