As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, December 2

Goodbye alert levels, hello traffic lights - New Zealand is set to transition to the COVID-19 Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system, at 11:59pm, leaving behind lockdowns for good. 

It also marks the last day of lockdown for Auckland, more than 100 days after the highly infectious Delta variant was first detected in the region.

But the newfound freedom has coincided with a fresh warning from the World Health Organization (WHO) about the potential dangers of the new Omicron variant, with the agency on Wednesday urging countries to prepare for its arrival. The WHO has advised people over 60 years old and those with underlying conditions to postpone their travel plans as agencies gather more information on the new strain, which could pose a 'very high' global risk.

However, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins called for calm on Wednesday, describing the emergence of the new variant a "cause for concern, but not cause for panic".

What you need to know

  • There are 172 new cases of COVID-19 to report - 142 in Auckland, two in Northland, one in Bay of Plenty, 15 in Waikato, two in Lakes, one in MidCentral and nine in Nelson-Marlborough. 
  • Eighty-six people are in hospital, nine of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units.
  • A cluster is emerging at Te Akau ki Pāpāmoa School in Tauranga, with the school now closed - all staff and students are considered close contacts. Two Nelson schools have also closed on Thursday after staff members contracted COVID-19.
  • Ten cases have been detected in Nelson-Marlborough, although nine have been officially reported on Thursday - the cases are between two clusters.
  • Auckland's border will open on December 15, allowing fully vaccinated Kiwis to travel to and from the region - people can also present a negative test received within 72 hours prior to departure.
  • All of New Zealand will move to the traffic light system on December 2 at 11:59pm - the Government has announced which regions will move into Red and Orange.
  • Workers covered by the My Vaccine Pass mandate - staff working at businesses that are required to use vaccine certificates to operate - must have their first jab by Dec 3 and be fully vaccinated by Jan 17.
  • New Zealand's international borders will begin to reopen from January - from January 17 fully vaccinated Kiwis can return home from Australia without MIQ.
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest locations of interest here.

These live updates have finished.

7:50pm - It's the night before the new traffic light system comes into force, and Auckland businesses are busily preparing to welcome back patrons for the first time in over three months.

Staff at Cafe Hanoi were busy on Thursday taste-testing the summer menu - but it isn't just the food that needs preparing, the staff had a briefing as well.

"There will be people who feel they've been forced to have the vaccination and will resent having to show proof of it up at the laneway, so they might be a little upset," owner Krishna Botica tells her staff.

It's been a long three months and the room is abuzz with excitement. The staff are bracing for the worst but hoping for the best. 

"We've been talking to them and asking them to talk to each other about how to handle certain things, certain opinions that may be thrust upon them," Botica says.

Ponsonby's Chapel Bar and Bistro is also locked and loaded. They're rolling out the green carpet for their patrons, and on Friday, buying a beer there will also get you a haircut.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Kethaki Masilamani here.

7:10pm - An epidemiologist says it's possible Omicron could be a "blessing" rather than a disaster for the globe, pointing to reports it may lead to more mild symptoms than Delta.

Omicron is quickly popping up around the world despite a large number of countries enforcing travel restrictions on people coming from southern African nations where the coronavirus variant is running rampant.

While no cases have yet been detected in New Zealand's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities, it has been recorded in Australia.

Professor Tony Blakely from the University of Melbourne told Australia's Sunrise programme that Omicron may actually be a "blessing", as initial reports suggest it is less severe than Delta despite being more infectious.

Its apparent high transmissibility could lead it to displace Delta, he says. 

"This one should be more mild, but we don't know exactly how much more mild it is, so that means that the hospitalisation rate should, but we are still learning, be less severe," he explained.

"It might be our 'get out of this pandemic' card."

Read the full story here.

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

  • Blagdon Hot Bread Bakery, New Plymouth, November 25 from 9am to 11am
  • Countdown Stoke Nelson, November 27 from 12:10pm to 12:30pm
  • Mad Butcher Stoke Nelson, November 27 from 12pm to 12:15pm
  • Otorohanga Mini-mart, Otorohanga, November 27 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm
  • Thirsty Liquor, Otorohanga, November 27 fromm 5:30pm to 7pm
  • Pak'nSave Richmond, November 28 from 11:02am to 11:15am
  • BP Connect Russley Road Christchurch, November 28 from 6pm to 6:15pm
  • Taharepa Bakehouse and Cafe, Taupo, November 29 from 2:15pm to 3:10pm
  • Unichem Mainstreet Pharmacy Taupo, November 29 from 3pm to 4pm.

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 - There are three new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Plymouth.

Taranaki DHB says the three cases are one adult and two children, all part of the same household. The family have a known link to an existing case in Rotorua.

"Our Public Health Unit is already conducting interviews and getting contact tracing underway. Any locations of interest will be available on the Ministry [of Health]'s website as soon as we have more details," they say.

5:30pm - The upcoming Rhythm and Vines music festival has been postponed from New Year's Eve to Easter 2022 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was scheduled to take place from December 28-31, but is now planned to happen April 15-17 next year.

Anyone who has obtained tickets to the festival who can't make the new dates or doesn't want to wait is being offered a full refund if they ask for it before 5pm on December 16.

Read the full story here.

5pm - The New Zealand Medical Association says support for frontline health services under the traffic light system is lacking.

In a statement the NZMA said GP clinics and other health services have received no guidance from the Government to establish protocols under the new system and there is no public messaging advising people on what they must do to protect themselves, other patients and the doctors and nurses who will see them if they need to seek treatment.

"We are being left to our own devices to undertake risk assessments and determine procedures to meet our health and safety obligations and keep our patients and staff safe," says Dr Vanessa Weenink, Deputy Chair of the NZMA. 

"We will do what we need to do while continuing to provide health services but without Government direction and communication to the public, clinicians are vulnerable to angry responses from patients who feel safety measures are unwarranted” she said, adding that this is an additional burden and stress to an already swamped workforce, many of whom will not be able to have a break over the holiday period. 

"It is inexplicable that hairdressers and their customers have more clarity about how to operate under the traffic light system than general practices and their patients do."

4:47pm - New research from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), shows that one in three employees are at high burnout risk, up from one in nine at the beginning of the pandemic, when the survey began RNZ reports.

Workers who were tethered to their office via smart devices had the highest risk of burnout, followed by Māori employees and workers with high demands.

AUT Business School professor of human resources management Jarrod Haar, said working from home has pushed people into staying connected to their office outside work hours.

"It is the one thing that has kind of grown over the four surveys and I do think that just kind of reflects lockdowns, working from home a bit more. The workforce in general is probably falling into a few of these bad habits.

"Now it's becoming a regular thing where actually it's 'just a couple of times a night' and you imagine the partner going next to you like 'we're trying to watch TV with the kids and you've got this important work email'.

"Is the building on fire? Because if not I don't know how important it really is on a Friday night."

4:30pm - New Zealand police have issued a statement reminding people to not act like drunken thugs as they head out for the first weekend in the new traffic light system. 

Bars in Auckland will be allowed to open from midnight tonight, meaning punters can have a drink at a bar for the first time in months. 

Police are expecting the bars and clubs to be full and are reminding people t be respectful. 

"Hitting the town isn’t an excuse to touch or harass someone.

"Those who are drinking are in a more vulnerable position and should not be taken advantage of - it’s important for everyone to remember this type of behaviour is completely unacceptable."

Bar staff will be wearing Don’t Guess the Yes caps and t-shirts, and the campaign is also being shared through posters and on social media.

A Don’t Guess the Yes workshop was held for those in the hospitality industry discussing the prevention, intervention, and response to incidents of sexual harm.

The training and discussion empowers hospitality staff to recognise and take action when they see inappropriate or risky behaviour.

The initiative aims to change attitudes and behaviours towards alcohol consumption and sexual consent. 

"Remember, if they’re out of it, they’re not up for it," says Senior Sergeant Ben Quinn.

4:17pm - From Friday 3 December, most Hutt City Council community facilities will require visitors to show their My Vaccine Pass as the city moves into the new COVID-19 Protection Framework. This will affect users of Council’s pools, gyms, libraries, museums, and hubs.

Hutt City Council Chief Executive Jo Miller says Council’s approach is about keeping staff and the community safe, and showing leadership in limiting the spread of COVID-19.

"From Friday, only those who have been double vaccinated and have a My Vaccine Pass will be able to visit Council pools, gyms, libraries, museums, and hubs," Jo Miller says.

"If they are vaccinated but unsure of how to download their My Vaccine Pass, staff in libraries and hubs will be able to assist with that process."

"Our top priority is about keeping our staff and our community safe as we transition to the traffic light system and face the reality of living with COVID-19. We take this responsibility extremely seriously, and we want to lead by example," Jo Miller says.

Those under the age of 12 will not be required to present a My Vaccine Pass, as this age group is not currently eligible for vaccination.

3:50 pm - The Department of Conservation is introducing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for all accommodation facilities.

"This means from 15 December 2021, eligible people, aged 12 years three months and over, must be fully vaccinated to stay in a DOC hut or campsite," says DOC Heritage and Visitors Director, Steve Taylor.

"We are also consulting this week on a health and safety requirement that all DOC staff, contractors and volunteers must be vaccinated to work in or visit DOC workplaces including visitor centres. We will be finalising a vaccination policy for staff in the next fortnight.

"DOC’s accommodation is often remote, off the grid and brings people together from all locations. Vaccination provides a higher level of protection and significantly reduces the risk of infection spreading and people suffering serious illness.

"Our visitor survey data and visitor feedback shows a strong public desire for confidence that others sharing DOC accommodation are also vaccinated.

"All DOC campgrounds and huts will only be open to those who are fully vaccinated.  When booking, visitors will be required to confirm they and all others in their group are fully vaccinated. Hut wardens and camp hosts are regularly on site and will be checking for vaccination status."

3:27pm - The world's pharmaceutical companies are hitting back at the new variant with a number of them hopeful they can alter the vaccine to target  Omicron.

Moderna say they could have a new vaccine booster shot ready to test by March. 

While BioNTech's CEO said the vaccine it makes in a partnership with Pfizer was likely to offer strong protection against severe disease from Omicron.

3:07pm - Omicron is now the dominant variant in all new COVID-19 cases in South Africa. 

South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said 74 per cent of all the virus genomes it had sequenced last month had been of the new variant, which was first found in a sample taken on Nov. 8 in Gauteng, South Africa's most populous province.

The number of news cases has been rapidly rising in the country, from around 1000 per day last week to 8561 on Wednesday - double the number from the day before. 

The NCID also said early epidemiological data suggested Omicron was able to evade some immunity, but existing vaccines should still protect against severe disease and death. Reuters

2:30pm - Huge queues are forming outside a testing centre in Nelson after 10 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the city on Thursday. 

In scenes similar to the chaos prompted by the discovery of the Delta variant in Auckland, the queue of cars can be seen snaking along the street. Footage supplied to Newshub shows the line of vehicles bumper-to-bumper. 

As of Wednesday, four people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the Nelson-Marlborough area, which ballooned to 14 on Thursday after 10 others tested positive in the past 24 hours. 

Only nine have been officially recorded on Thursday, with the 10th case to be added to Friday's figures. 

Two schools shut their doors on Thursday after it was confirmed that two of the earlier cases are staff members at Enner Glynn School and Broadgreen Intermediate respectively.

Cars are queuing up for testing in Nelson in scenes similar to the chaos at the beginning of Auckland's outbreak in August.
Cars are queuing up for testing in Nelson in scenes similar to the chaos at the beginning of Auckland's outbreak in August. Photo credit: Supplied / Matthew Donald
As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, December 2
Photo credit: Supplied / Matthew Donald

2:10pm - Here are the latest locations of interest as of 2pm:

  • Kiwi Barber, Tauranga South
  • Westpac Tauranga Centre Branch, Tauranga South.

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

2pm - The World Health Organization expects to have more information on the transmissibility of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus within days, its technical lead on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said in a briefing on Wednesday.

The WHO had initially predicted the data would be available within "weeks" after designating it a "variant of concern", its highest rating, last week. 

Whether the variant is more transmissible or is resistant to the current selection of vaccines are some of the major questions that still need answering.

Vaccine developers have said it will take about two weeks to assess whether their shots are effective against Omicron.

Van Kerkhove said one possible scenario is that the new strain, which was first reported in southern Africa, could be more transmissible than the globally dominant Delta variant. She said it is not yet known if Omicron makes people more ill.

The WHO's chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, said the agency believes the existing vaccines against COVID-19 will still be effective against the new variant.

Mike Ryan, WHO's emergency director, reiterated the agency's opposition to the blanket bans imposed by Britain and other countries on flights to and from southern Africa, saying it would not prevent the variant's spread internationally.

"The idea you can just put a hermetic seal on some countries is not possible. I can't see the logic from an epidemiological or public health perspective." 

- Reuters

1:30pm - Here's a recap of the key developments on Thursday:

  • There are 172 new cases of COVID-19 - 142 in Auckland, two in Northland, 15 in Waikato, one in Bay of Plenty, two in Lakes, one in MidCentral and nine in Nelson-Marlborough - the case in MidCentral, who resides in Manawatu, was reported to the ministry on Wednesday.
  • An additional case has been detected in Nelson-Marlborough but was reported after the 9am cut-off time, so it will be included in Friday's tally.
  • There are now 14 active cases in the Nelson-Marlborough region across two clusters - one of 11 and one of three. A possible connection between the two clusters is under investigation.
  • Two schools in Nelson, Enner Glynn School and Broadgreen Intermediate, have temporarily closed after it was confirmed that two of the earlier cases are staffers. A risk assessment is being undertaken and close contacts are being identified.
  • Public health staff are continuing to interview the case in MidCentral, who is understood to live in Waikato and work in Manawatū.
  • Of the two new cases in Lakes District, one is in Rotorua and is a household contact of a previously reported case. They were already self-isolating at home when they tested positive. Investigations are underway to determine any links between the other new case and previously reported cases.
  • The case in the Bay of Plenty is a household contact of a previously reported case and was already self-isolating at home when they tested positive.
  • There are no further cases to report associated with the emerging cluster at Te Akau ki Papamoa School, but the assessment by Toi Te Ora Public Health is that further cases are likely.
  • Of the 15 new cases in Waikato, six are in Kawhia, three are in Te Kūiti, two are in Hamilton, two are in Ngāruawāhia, one is in Huntly, and one is under investigation.
  • Of the two new cases in Northland, one is in Kaitaia and one is in Kawakawa. Both are close contacts of known cases. The Kaitaia case was in isolation when tested and investigations into the Kawakawa case are underway.
  • There was an unexpected wastewater detection in a sample from Ahipara taken on November 25.
  • There are 86 people in hospital, nine of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units - 63 percent of the hospitalised cases are unvaccinated or not eligible.
  • Of the 172 new cases, 117 have yet to be epidemiologically linked.

1:10pm - The Ministry of Health has issued a reminder that travel across Auckland's boundary remains restricted in both directions until the border is lifted on December 15.

Although the new 'traffic light' system comes into effect at 11:59pm on Thursday, people can only travel across the boundary for permitted reasons until December 15. If a reason for travel is not permitted, an application can be filed for an exemption.

Port Waikato is included inside Auckland's boundary.

Between December 15, 2021 and January 17, 2022, Kiwis can travel in and out of Auckland for any reason, but the following restrictions apply:

  • travellers must be fully vaccinated and have their My Vaccine Pass, or
  • travellers must carry evidence of a negative test received no more than 72 hours before crossing the boundary.

Rapid Antigen Tests available for businesses

All businesses can now access Ministry of Health-approved Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) from New Zealand distributors as part of a new testing approach to support the COVID-19 Protection Framework.

RATS can provide a result in 15 minutes but require a high viral load, so are more effective in the early stages of an individual's infectious period. For asymptomatic surveillance testing, two or three times a week is recommended.

While RATs are less sensitive than standard PCR tests, they can be an important addition to the testing programme, such as in higher-risk healthcare settings where staff have had a recent exposure event.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, the ministry advises to get a PCR test.

There are good supplies of RATs already in New Zealand and arriving shortly. The ministry will have 3.8 million tests in stock by the end of this week. RATs will be available in pharmacies for supervised testing by mid-December.

1:09pm - More than 3 million My Vaccine Passes have now been issued, the Ministry of Health says. For anyone that is fully vaccinated and has not yet requested their My Vaccine Pass, going online is the fastest and easiest way to request it via

For people who do not have internet access, you can call the 0800 222 478 vaccination line. Staff can provide you with a copy of your Vaccine Pass. Vaccinating pharmacies are also able to print the passes. The ministry asks people to please be patient with these assisted service options.

Thousands of people who received their vaccinations overseas and applied to have their jabs registered 10 to 14 days ago will now be able to download their My Vaccine Pass. The option will appear in My COVID Record to request the pass and it should land in your email shortly after. People who received their vaccinations overseas and have yet to apply to have their jabs recognised in New Zealand should do so as soon as possible.

Further information on the process for overseas vaccinations is available here: COVID-19: Overseas vaccinations and certificates | Ministry of Health NZ.

1:08pm - Here are the regional updates for Thursday's cases:

* Today's cases  

Today, we are reporting new community cases in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes and the Nelson-Tasman region.  

A case in MidCentral announced on Wednesday has been included in the official case tally.  

There are no additional cases to report today in Hawke's Bay, Taranaki, Wairarapa, Wellington or Canterbury. 

A previously reported community case has been reclassified as not a case so the net increase of community cases is 171.

** One previously reported border case has been deemed historical.

Regional updates  

We're asking anyone in New Zealand with symptoms – no matter how mild – to please get tested, even if you're vaccinated. Please remain isolated until you return a negative test.  

If you are not vaccinated, now is the time, as vaccination is the number one defence against COVID-19. Your DHB or local health provider will have plenty of opportunities to make this happen. 

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


Today we are reporting two new cases in Northland, one in Kaitaia and one in Kawakawa. Both are close contacts of known cases.

The Kaitaia case was in isolation when tested and investigations into the Kawakawa case are underway.

There was an unexpected wastewater detection in a sample from Ahipara taken on November 25.

Although this may be connected to cases isolating in the area, people living locally are urged to get tested if they have even mild symptoms.


Today, there are 142 new cases being reported in Auckland.  

There continues to be a daily review of testing numbers and testing locations to ensure good coverage of risk areas.  

Health staff are now supporting 3,634 people to isolate at home, including 910 cases. 


There are 15 new cases in Waikato being reported today. Of those, six are in Kawhia, three are in Te Kūiti, two are in Hamilton, two are in Ngāruawāhia, one is in Huntly and one is under investigation.

Of today's cases, 11 have been linked to existing infections.

There are six pop-up and dedicated testing sites operating across the Waikato today in Hamilton, Te Kūiti, Taumarunui and Ōtorohanga.

There are two COVID-positive patients in Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit.

Waikato public health staff are now caring for 113 cases in the community.

Bay of Plenty

Today we are reporting one new case in the Bay of Plenty. The case, located in the western Bay of Plenty, is a household contact of a previously reported case and was already self-isolating at home when they tested positive.

There are no further cases to report today associated with Te Akau ki Papamoa School, but the assessment by Toi Te Ora Public Health is that further cases associated with the school are likely.


Today we are reporting two new cases in Lakes District. One of the cases is in Rotorua and is a household contact of a previously reported case. They were already self-isolating at home when they tested positive.

Investigations are underway to determine any links between the second new case and previously reported infections.


We are officially reporting one case in Manawatu today that was announced in on Wednesday's update, but was reported after the 9am cut-off.

Public health staff are continuing to interview the person who is understood to live in Waikato and work in Manawatū.

If any locations of interest are identified, they will be added to the Ministry's locations of interest page.


There are 10 new cases in Nelson-Tasman today, but one will be officially added to Friday's figures as it was reported after the 9am cut-off.

This takes the number of active cases in the region to 14. These cases are made up of two clusters, with 11 in one and three in the other. A possible connection between the two clusters is being investigated.

Two schools in Nelson, Enner Glynn School and Broadgreen Intermediate, have recorded cases. Both schools have temporarily closed while a risk assessment is undertaken and close contacts are identified. Next steps will then be agreed with the Ministry of Education.

Four new locations of interest in Nelson were added to the Ministry's website on Wednesday afternoon. People in the Nelson-Tasman region are asked to check this page as it is updated regularly.

Testing is available in Nelson-Tasman today at:

  • Saxton Field parking area, Suffolk Rd, Stoke from 9am to 8pm

  • Trafalgar Centre carpark, Paru Paru Rd, Nelson from 9am to 2pm

  • Richmond Showgrounds, 359 Lower Queen St, Richmond from 9am to 8pm

  • Motueka Recreation Centre: Old Wharf Rd, Motueka from 9am to 5pm.

1:07pm - There are 172 new cases of COVID-19 to report on Thursday - 142 in Auckland, two in Northland, 15 in Waikato, one in Bay of Plenty, two in Lakes, one in MidCentral and nine in Nelson-Marlborough.

More than 39,000 vaccinations given yesterday; 172 community cases; 86 people in hospital, 9 in ICU  Here are Thursday's figures from the Ministry of Health:

COVID-19 vaccine update  


Total vaccines administered  to date (percentage of eligible people)  

7,616,944: 3,901,961 first doses (93 pct); 3,632,748 second doses (86 pct); 14,406 third primary doses; 67,829 booster doses  

Total vaccines administered yesterday  

39,617: 7,856 first doses; 14,254 second doses; 1,137 third primary doses; 16,370 booster doses 

Māori (percentage of eligible people)  

472,484 first doses (83 pct); 394,946 second doses (69 pct)  

Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people)  

261,460 first doses (91 pct); 236,128 second doses (82 pct)

Total first and second vaccines administered to Auckland  residents yesterday  

1,280 first doses; and 2,856 second doses  

Vaccination rates by DHB (with active cases)  


Northland DHB (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (85 pct); second doses (77 pct)  

Auckland Metro DHBs  (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (94 pct); second doses (90 pct)  

Waikato DHB (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (91 pct); second doses (84 pct)  

Bay of Plenty DHB (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (90 pct); second doses (82 pct)  

Lakes DHB (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (89 pct); second doses (80 pct)  

MidCentral DHB (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (93 pct); second doses (85 pct)  

Hawke's Bay DHB (percentage of eligible people) 

First dose (91 pct); second dose (83 pct) 

Wairarapa DHB (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (93 pct); second doses (84 pct)  

Capital and Coast DHB (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (96 pct); second doses (91 pct)  

Nelson-Marlborough DHB (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (92 pct); second doses (85 pct)  

Canterbury DHB (percentage of eligible people)  

First doses (96 pct); second doses (89 pct)  



Cases in hospital  

86 (including 8 cases still being assessed): North Shore (14); Auckland (41); Middlemore (28); Waikato (2); Bay of Plenty (1)  

Vaccination status of current hospitalisations (Northern Region wards only) 

Unvaccinated or not eligible (47 cases / 63 pct); partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose (14 cases / 19 pct); fully vaccinated at least 7 days before being reported as a case (13 cases / 17 pct); unknown (1 cases / 1 pct)  

Average age of current hospitalisations  


Cases in ICU or HDU  

9 (3 in Auckland; 3 in Middlemore; 1 in North Shore; 2 in Waikato) 



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 (142), Waikato (15), Bay of Plenty (1); Lakes (2); MidCentral (1); Nelson Marlborough (9) 

Location of community cases (total)  

Northland 85 (60 of whom have recovered); Auckland 8,037 (2,317 recovered); Waikato 476 (210 recovered); Bay of Plenty 62; Hawke's Bay 1; Lakes 28 (4 recovered); Taranaki 6 (all recovered); MidCentral 6 (3 recovered); Wairarapa 3 (one recovered); Wellington 18 (17 recovered); Nelson/Marlborough 14 (1 recovered); Canterbury 9 (5 recovered) 

Number of community cases (total)*  

8,745 (in current community outbreak)  

Confirmed cases (total)  


Historical cases  

204 out of 9,721 cases since 1 January  

Cases infectious in the community  

41 cases reported yesterday have exposure events  

Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious  

98 cases reported yesterday have no exposure events  

Cases epidemiologically linked  

55 of today's new cases  

Cases to be epidemiologically linked  

117 of today's new cases  

Cases epidemiologically linked (total)  

6,475 (929 unlinked in the last 14 days)  



Number of active contacts being managed (total):  


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

67 pct  

Percentage who have returned at least one result  

70 pct  

Locations of interest  


Locations of interest (total)  

155 (as at 10am 2 December)  



Number of tests (total)  


Number of tests total (last 24 hours)  


Tests processed in Auckland (last 24 hours)  


Tests rolling average (last 7 days)  


Testing centres in Auckland  




Wastewater detections  

See Northland update  

NZ COVID Tracer  


Registered users (total)  


Poster scans (total)  


Manual diary entries (total)  


Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday  


12:45pm - Here are the latest locations of interest as of 12pm:

  • Subway 12th Avenue, Tauranga
  • Kiwi Bakery, Nelson
  • City Sports Bar, Tauranga
  • Z Hewletts Road, Mount Maunganui
  • Turkish To Go, Greerton, Tauranga
  • Super Liquor, Greerton, Tauranga
  • Z Central Parade, Mount Maunganui
  • Tauranga Library, Tauranga
  • Ground level public computers at Tauranga Library.

Countdown in Tauranga's Fraser Cove and Countdown in Whangarei were also identified as locations of interest earlier on Thursday morning, alongside the new potential exposure sites in Wellington.

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

12:35pm - Here's a recap on travel under the new COVID-19 Protection Framework:

12:20pm - From Friday, December 3, Tauranga City Council will require people to present their My Vaccine Passes upon entry to its public facilities as the city moves into the Orange setting of the new COVID-19 Protection Framework.

Only people who are fully vaccinated and have their My Vaccine Pass will be able to enter a number of the council's public facilities. Commission Chair Anne Tolley said this will help to protect the community, customers and staff by limiting opportunities for COVID-19 to spread.

"In making this decision there were many factors to consider. We want to keep facilities open to everyone, but we also have a responsibility to keep our people safe and protect the public," she said.  "Libraries and community facilities attract a significant number of people who are vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus and after consideration and a risk assessment, we believe this is the right approach to take."

This means visitors to council facilities, as well as council staff, must wear a face covering and show their My Vaccine Pass or a vaccine exemption from the Ministry of Health at the point of entry for staffed public facilities, including:

  • customer service centres and Council Chambers

  • libraries, including the mobile library

  • Bay Venues-managed facilities such as Trustpower Baypark, Baywave and other public pools as well as recreation and community centres (see more information on the Bay Venues website)

  • Baycourt Community and Arts Centre

  • Tauranga Art Gallery.

The requirement for vaccine certificates at council facilities will not apply to those aged under 12 years and 3 months.

"We understand this will create difficulties for some people and it is not a decision we have taken lightly. With the 'traffic light' changes coming into play tomorrow, we strongly encourage people to get vaccinated and to show tolerance and understanding towards others and council staff."

For more information about facilities at Orange, visit

"Please keep wearing face coverings, socially distance, maintain good hygiene, use the NZ COVID-19 tracer app and get tested if you have any symptoms or have been in a location of interest."

12pm - There is no press conference scheduled for 1pm - instead, the Ministry of Health will release a statement with the latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak.

11:45pm - Here's a recap of Wednesday's numbers:

11:35am - Additional safety checks are important before the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is rolled out to New Zealand children, says an immunologist.

In the next two to three weeks, Medsafe and technical advisors will be looking to provide advice on the safety, efficacy and rollout of the vaccine for children aged five to 11. However, even if the advice comes in with a recommendation for approval, it would not be until the end of January that tamariki will start getting vaccinated.

Some are urging officials to move faster as a number of schools close their doors due to infected students or staff, but University of Otago immunologist Dianne Sika-Paotonu told Morning Report speed should not sacrifice safety. 

"This does take time... in New Zealand, we do have layers to be worked through, and this includes Medsafe, the Government's technical advisory group, but also Cabinet, so we need to be ready and prepared," Dr Sika-Paotonu told RNZ.

"Things did change with the Delta variant ... which showed a definitive shift from those within the older age bracket to the younger individuals actually becoming more seriously unwell, ending up being hospitalised, and dying from COVID-19. The research took time because the clinical trials that were initiated began in adults.

"So proper tests and data and evidence needs to be made available to ensure the appropriate safety checks can be undertaken to give approvals after meeting really high standards."

Pfizer's dose for children is about a third of the adult one, with the evidence showing is both safe and effective, she said. Finer details, such as body weight versus age, also contributed to the longer timeframe for approvals.

Officials had no plans yet to pull the timeframe forward, but it was still under advice, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. He added there are enough vaccines to vaccinate the entire population group, but health officials will be making an effort to vaccinate Māori and Pasifika tamariki early.

"The key reason for that is they tend to live in bigger households. And we know that household size does have a real impact on kids being infected inside the house."

Dr Sika-Paotonu agreed that those who were more vulnerable should be prioritised.

"Prioritisation is important because we've already seen what can happen if we ignore the evidence and don't undertake a corresponding action."

Of the current outbreak, 20 percent of cases have been aged nine and under.

"Although children are more likely to have mild or asymptomatic disease, they can still catch the virus and become unwell, but they can also get better really quickly," Dr Sika-Paotonu said. "However, they can end up with a long COVID condition and for children and youth with underlying medical conditions, they do have a much higher risk of serious illness and hospitalisation."


11:20am - The speed of the development of COVID-19 vaccines is a true success story for biomedical science, built on many decades of research.

So how were vaccines developed so quickly?

Firstly, next generation sequencing technologies allowed rapid identification of SARS-CoV-2 as the cause of the outbreak in Wuhan, China, and rapid public sharing of sequence data allowed vaccine developers to design their vaccines within weeks of the virus emerging.

Secondly, due to previous outbreaks of coronaviruses closely related to SARS-CoV-2 (SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV), there had already been a substantial amount of research into coronavirus vaccines. Several had made it through to clinical trials where they had been shown to be safe and stimulate an appropriate immune response.

Thirdly, over several decades there had been much research into vaccine platform technologies, such as mRNA and viral vectors, that are rapidly adaptable to novel pathogens and whose manufacture can be rapidly scaled up for clinical use. These vaccine platforms were able to be quickly developed against SARS-CoV-2 by inserting the sequence of the antigen of interest (the spike protein).

Fourthly, due to the urgent global need for a vaccine, funding was not a limiting factor, so vaccine development could occur at the fastest possible pace.

Finally, clinical trials were conducted in an efficient manner by overlapping the different stages; all the essential phases of preclinical and clinical testing were completed. This allowed for much faster and more efficient assessment of the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

In this piece for Newsroom, Associate Professor James Ussher analyses how COVID-19 vaccines were created so quickly, as well as their safety and efficacy.

11:05am - The Government's latest bid to appease Auckland businesses when the city emerges from months of lockdown on Friday has failed to impress, particularly the on-its-knees hospitality industry.

On Wednesday, the Government announced it was pumping $37.5 million into vouchers for attractions and activities - slashing prices for family outings.

But owners of hotels and hospitality businesses, many of whom are on the brink of bankruptcy, are outraged they weren't included in the plan.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said it's yet another blow to the stricken sector.

"Our sector is beside themselves - I can't tell you the tears of frustrations that I received yesterday is heartbreaking," she told The AM Show on Thursday. "You've got to remember the people behind this - they've got families. These are people we're dealing with."  

White said many restaurants needed support now, or they would be bankrupt by Christmas.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday defended the decision to leave hospitality out of the Government's stimulus package. National Party Economic Development spokesperson Todd McClay told Newshub it felt like a "sick joke". 

"It leaves many businesses disappointed," McClay said. "It's a half-baked announcement. They're channeling money towards a council zoo and their swimming pools. Almost every business owner I've talked to in Auckland is struggling."

But Hipkins argued the hospitality sector will see "a big surge" in the next few weeks as fully vaccinated Aucklanders are once again able to enjoy pre-pandemic freedoms under the new COVID-19 Protection Framework.

"I expect there will be demand for restaurants. There's a lot of people in Auckland who can't wait to get out and dine out and enjoy those freedoms again."

Read more here.

10:50am - The Ministry of Health has confirmed to Newshub that the latest locations of interest in Wellington are related to the same Rotorua-based case associated with the potential exposure sites earlier this week.

The case had visited the capital last week.

A spokesperson for the ministry confirmed the new locations of interest identified on Thursday morning were visited by the same person and are not related to a new, unreported infection.

"These are related to the same previously reported case. As investigations continued, more locations of interest were identified," he said.

"At this stage we do not expect any more locations of interest as a result of this case."

See the latest locations of interest here.

10:40am - The Tairāwhiti/Gisborne region is tied with Northland as the regions with the lowest rates of double-dose vaccination in the country, with just 76 percent of eligible people fully vaccinated.

Turanga Health's brand new vaccination van, supplied by the Ministry of Health, has been working the roads of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa in a bid to boost uptake.

At a small park among homes in Mangapapa, one of the suburbs in Gisborne with the lowest rates of vaccination, nurse Janneen Kinney said there are clear benefits associated with directly targeting neighbourhoods with low uptake.

"Some people have more hesitancy, some people don't have vehicles, some people prefer that closer to home approach."

Kaimahi were encouraging people to get their vaccine with free coffee and burgers.

Rawinia, who did not give her last name, had recently changed her mind about vaccination and was there to get her first dose.

"I was following all those people that were telling me all these stories and I believed them, and there was no proof in the pudding - people aren't dropping dead," she said.

The people she followed promised freedom, but she realised that isn't the case.

'The traffic light thing told me I'm locked down - I'm in Red and I'm going to stay in Red 'cause I've got no vaccination and I'm not allowed to go anywhere. I'm allowed the supermarket and the petrol station only - what sort of life is that?

"They were trying to tell me 'oh, save your life, don't get the vaccine' - there ain't no life in that!"

Read more here.

10:30am - New Zealand children could start receiving their vaccinations against COVID-19 by the end of January, it was announced on Wednesday. 

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said during Wednesday's press conference that the Government is advancing its plans to vaccinate five-to-11-year-olds. Currently, only New Zealanders aged 12 and over are eligible to get the vaccine.

Speaking to TVNZ's Breakfast on Thursday morning, immunology professor and Mallaghan Institute director Graham Le Gros said MedSafe has the advantage of observing overseas vaccination campaigns where children are already being inoculated.

"Really, we're in a very good situation to move forward here," he said, noting that Pfizer's pediatric dose - a third of the adult dose - is "very safe".

Le Gros said many children who contract COVID-19 present milder symptoms compared with older people. However, some children can experience more severe reactions, and may even develop long COVID. 

"This virus, it doesn't matter who you are or how old or young - it will grow in your heart, it will grow in your brain, it will grow in your blood vessels," he said. "We don't want that. We never let viruses grow in our body that way - and the vaccine is the only thing to prevent that."

10:20am - To recap, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised certain high-risk groups to postpone plans for travel as global agencies gather more information on the newly identified Omicron variant. 

In an amendment to their initial advice on Wednesday, the WHO advised people in certain groups at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 - including the unvaccinated, those with underlying health conditions or comorbidities, and those aged over 60 - to postpone travel to areas with community transmission.

"Persons who are unwell, or who have not been fully vaccinated or do not have proof of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection and are at increased risk of developing severe disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older or those with comorbidities that present increased risk of severe COVID-19 (e.g. heart disease, cancer and diabetes) should be advised to postpone travel to areas with community transmission," the WHO advised. 

The agency also recommended that countries use a "multi-layered risk mitigation approach" to reducing the spread of the virus, which can include passenger screening, testing and quarantine. 

It doubled-down on its criticism of blanket bans, which a number of nations quickly imposed on travel from southern Africa in a bid to shut out the variant. 

“Blanket travel bans will not prevent international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods."

10:10am - The US has reported its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant, according to reports by local media.

The person travelled from South Africa and is now quarantining in California, CNN reports

In a White House news briefing, Dr Anthony Fauci said the case travelled to the US on November 22 and tested positive for COVID-19 on November 29.

"I think what's happening now is another example of why it's important for people to get vaccinated,” Fauci told the news conference, adding that eligible individuals should also be getting their booster shots.

10am - New locations of interest have been identified in the capital:

  • Wellington Airport, Rongotai
  • Brentwood Hotel, Kilbirnie
  • Burger King, Wellington Airport, Miramar.

After the Brentwood Hotel was first identified as a potential exposure site on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health confirmed to Newshub that the locations of interest were related to a Rotorua-based case who visited the capital.

"There is no new case in Wellington to report," a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Farmers in Kilbirnie was also added as a location of interest on Wednesday.

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

9:50am - A child at a West Auckland primary school is the latest student to test positive for COVID-19 in the region.

In an urgent notice on Wednesday night, Whenuapai School informed students' parents that a pupil had tested positive for the virus.

"At this very early stage, we do not have the information to know if this child was infectious while at school. We are able to advise that the child is in the Junior School," principal Raewyn Matthys-Morris said, as reported by the New Zealand Herald.

"We are working closely with the Ministry of Education in conjunction with the contact tracing team, who will provide us with further information and guidance this morning."

Matthys-Morris said the school will advise parents and caregivers on the next steps as soon as the advice has been provided. The school remains open and students who are not presenting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are still able to attend. 

"In the meantime, the school remains open, but we support your choice to keep your child at home until we receive more clarity of the situation from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education."

The school caters to Years 1 to 8 and has 505 students on its roll, according to the Education Review Office.

9:40am - Former MP Shane Jones has condemned plans by Northland iwi to establish roadblocks in Northland this summer in a bid to bar unvaccinated visitors. 

After four months, Aucklanders are allowed to leave the city from December 15 if they are fully vaccinated or have proof of a negative test. But iwi leaders in Te Tai Tokerau/Northland say unvaccinated travellers pose a threat to the community, which has battled to boost low rates of inoculation.

On Wednesday, former MP Hone Harawira told The AM Show that Te Tai Tokerau Border Control is planning to set up roadblocks to stop unvaccinated people from travelling throughout the region. 

"I think the reality is that Māori are worried - whānau are scared of what they see coming and they don't see anything good coming. They want to know that their people are going to be protected first and foremost," he said.

"This is not just a call from Hone Harawira and the Border Control or from communities. This has now reached the level where it is a general call from all of the iwi and from all of the regional District Health Boards. This is huge. That's the level of concern that is being felt across the district... We are asking everybody - double-vaxxed or please stay home."

Harawira's comments have been criticised by both COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and ACT leader David Seymour, with former NZ First MP Shane Jones now weighing in on the debate. 

Jones told Magic Talk on Thursday morning that Northlanders need to take responsibility for their low vaccination rates. 

"Northland opens its arms to Aucklanders and other tourists, so they will open their wallets and help sustain our local economy - it's a pretty simple equation," Jones said.

He said Aucklanders are the lifeblood of many communities in the north and reducing the number of visitors to the region would have a devastating impact on local businesses.

"Every time there is a threat of a roadblock, there's a sense of menace that deters people from coming north, and they might decide to go to Coromandel or God forbid, Hamilton." 

9:25am - In case you missed it, the Government isn't planning on hitting the panic button after two new cases of COVID-19 in Nelson were identified as staffers at local schools. 

The two staffers, one at Broadgreen Intermediate and the other at Enner Glynn School, tested positive earlier this week - resulting in the closure of both schools on Thursday as contact tracing is carried out. 

It comes as the Nelson region is set to enter the Orange' setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework as the nation transitions to the new 'traffic light' system at 11:59pm on Thursday.

Speaking to The AM Show on Thursday morning, Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said the latest cases haven't changed Cabinet's assessment of the region and there are no plans to bump Nelson-Tasman to Red, the most restrictive setting. 

"We have seen cases pop in the regions over the last few weeks and through this outbreak," Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show. "Our approach is, of course, that testing, isolation, contact tracing and in this instance, that contact tracing has identified these two people who were both tested."

Both of the cases are asymptomatic, Dr Bloomfield said.

"The schools have taken the appropriate actions to make sure that any risk there might be to other staff and students is measured.

"These are just some isolated cases that have been seeded into Nelson and that makes it possible for us… with contact tracing, testing, isolating - we can get around these cases.

"That vaccination rate of 85 percent fully vaccinated - this is the thing that makes the difference here. There is a lot of cover for the population from that high vaccination rate."

Read more here.

9:10am - A new package designed to 'reactivate' Auckland post-lockdown has been poorly received by the region's stricken hospitality sector, who say they have been excluded from the $37 million scheme despite being one of the hardest-hit industries. 

As part of the plan, 100,000 vouchers will be made available to encourage Aucklanders to visit local businesses and attractions, stimulating the city's economic bounce-back. Discounts will also be offered for Auckland Council facilities.

Yet despite shutting up shop for almost four months under the ongoing restrictions, Auckland's struggling hospitality businesses have been excluded from the scheme, with no further support offered to help their post-lockdown recovery. 

"We are absolutely crushed for our Auckland businesses that have been closed for months on end and are left with nothing in this package," the Restaurant Association said in a scathing response to the package. "For 475 days we have been calling for targeted support, yet every call has fallen on deaf ears."

Speaking to The AM Show on Thursday morning, Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said the sector is "lost for words" and "beside themselves" over the snub.

"Our sector is beside themselves. I can't tell you - the tears and frustrations I received yesterday is heartbreaking. You've got to remember people behind this have families, they've remortgaged their houses, they've borrowed money from their friends, they are willing to open up but, you know, how much longer can they go on for," she said.

8:55am - Auckland's economic development agency is warning more businesses will shut up shop if the region doesn't move to the Orange setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework within a fortnight.

The actual number of financially stressed businesses is hard to quantify, with many selling up before hitting rock bottom and insolvency statistics lagging by months.

But one indicator, missed rates payments, shows the hardship is significant, with $53 million owing to Auckland Council - an increase of 20 percent compared to previous years.

When Auckland enters the Red setting on Friday, hospitality can finally take table reservations. But Auckland Unlimited chief executive Nick Hill said not everyone will.

"The additional costs, the limits on the number of people, the challenge with finding staff, all of those things go together to make it extremely tough - and in the short run, a lot of those hospitality businesses may not even open under Red."

In the new year, 100,000 vouchers to attractions such as the zoo and discounts for council facilities will be on offer to entice people back into the city - but some are wondering if the initiative is too little, too late.

Read more here.

8:40am - Australian authorities on Wednesday flagged another probable case of the Omicron variant in Sydney as they brace for more infections, with at least two international travellers visiting several locations in the city while likely infectious.

Officials in New South Wales (NSW), home to Sydney, said initial testing "strongly indicates" a man in his 40s, who arrived from southern Africa on November 25, is infected with the Omicron variant and has spent time in the community.

"We believe it is likely it will be confirmed later this afternoon as a definite Omicron case," NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard told reporters, but he ruled out lockdowns to contain the newly identified variant.

"I feel like it's time for a change in approach. We don't know how many more variants of this virus are going to come," Hazzard said.

Sydney, Australia's largest city, emerged from nearly four months of lockdown in early October and has been gradually easing curbs due to higher rates of vaccination.

Omicron has prompted Australia to delay plans to reopen its international borders to skilled migrants and foreign students by two weeks. Mandatory two-week quarantine has been enforced for citizens returning from southern African countries.

Vaccinated Australians reaching Sydney and Melbourne must now quarantine for 72 hours. Other states have not yet opened their international borders.

"It's very confusing, it was very emotional - I did lots of praying. I just thought I'm going to land here and see what happens," Lorelle Molde, who returned to Australia from the US, told Reuters at the Sydney airport.

When confirmed, the latest probable case will bring the total number of confirmed Omicron infections in Australia to seven, with six detected in NSW.

The other person who contracted the variant is in isolation in a quarantine facility in the remote Northern Territory. Police said three people have been taken into custody after escaping from the facility early on Wednesday morning.

Authorities on Tuesday confirmed the country's first community case of the new variant, but the national Cabinet decided against more restrictions and to wait for more data on Omicron's severity and transmissibility.

Australia has recorded around 212,000 cases and 2012 deaths from COVID-19.

- Reuters

8:30am - The head of the European Commission says it's time to lead a discussion on mandating COVID-19 vaccines as the new Omicron variant continues to spread, with Northern Ireland recording its first case.

"Not each and everyone can be vaccinated, so there are very small children, for example, or people with special medical conditions, but the vast majority [could be vaccinated]," European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference.

The World Health Organization (WHO) fears COVID-19 complacency could see cases of Omicron spike globally, with the scientists struggling to understand the new variant. The UN agency said it expects to have more information on its transmissibility within days.

"Globally, we have a toxic mix of low vaccine coverage and very low testing - a recipe for breeding and amplifying variants,"  WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Whether the variant is more transmissible or vaccine-resistant are some of the major questions that still need answering.

Read more here.

8:15am - The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could be available for children aged five-to-11 from the end of January, while the arrival of the Omicron variant is "inevitable", COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday.

There were 146 new cases of COVID-19 to report - 124 in Auckland, 14 in Waikato, four in Bay of Plenty and four in the Nelson-Tasman region. Three of the Nelson-Tasman cases had been reported earlier in the week but were officially added to the tally on Wednesday.

The new case in Nelson is not linked to existing cases in the area, with the public health unit now investigating a possible source.

There are 83 cases in hospital, including nine in intensive care. Two patients are in Waikato and the rest are in Auckland - five of the Auckland cases are in the emergency department or assessment units.

Seventy percent of those in hospital are unvaccinated or not eligible, the Ministry of Health said.

Here's what you may have missed on Wednesday.

8:05am - The World Health Organization agreed on Wednesday to launch negotiations on an international pact to prevent and control future pandemics at a time when the world is preparing to battle the new Omicron variant, which has now been reported in 24 countries. 

Here's the latest on the pandemic from around the world overnight.

7:55am - The Northland District Health Board and local iwi wrote a letter to the Ministry of Health asking for a hard border to be kept in place until the region's flagging vaccination rates are boosted, Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, told The AM Show. 

Iwi are considering establishing roadblocks in the Northland region to protect vulnerable communities after Auckland's regional boundary is lifted on December 15, allowing fully vaccinated Kiwis - or those with evidence of a negative test - to travel freely in and out of the Super City after four months of lockdown.

However, not every vehicle will be vetted, with police instead performing spot-checks - meaning travellers without the necessary documentation could get lucky. 

Former MP and Te Tai Tokerau Border Control founder Hone Harawira told The AM Show on Wednesday that iwi and community leaders are prepared to welcome fully vaccinated visitors into the region, but are hesitant to accept unvaccinated travellers until their own vaccination rates have reached 90 percent. They want a hard border where visitors can have their documentation vetted, he said, adding that the proposal has the support of Northland's Distict Health Board.

Speaking to The AM Show on Thursday, Dr Bloomfield confirmed the DHB and local iwi had written a letter to the Health Ministry asking for a hard boundary to be maintained between Auckland and Northland until the region's inoculation rates have increased.

"The local DHB has written with iwi to the minister saying they would prefer a [hard] boundary," he said. He added that the letter was sent after Cabinet had made the decision to lift Auckland's boundary on December 15.

He said that placing Northland under the Red setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework will provide protection as freedoms for the unvaccinated are already highly restricted.

"That is designed to protect people up in Northland and the Red level they have been put into... also provides a huge level of protection because unvaccinated people just can't really go to the places where they might spread infection," Bloomfield said. "Our advice is very clear... double-vaccination or the requirement for a test [to travel], and having Northland in that Red category, provides more protection than there is currently."

He said iwi had "expressed a preference" and their requests informed the decision on how to reduce the risk in Northland, which was taken with the advice of other parts of Government.

7:40am - Two schools in Nelson will be closed on Thursday after staffers tested positive for COVID-19.

Four people have returned positive results for the virus in the Nelson-Tasman region, two of whom are staff members at local schools - Broadgreen Intermediate School and Enner Glynn School.

Both staffers had been on-site while infectious, with their infectious periods beginning on November 23 and November 29 respectively. 

The schools will be closed on Thursday while contact tracing is undertaken.

However, the developments will not stop the region from transitioning to the Orange setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework at 11:59pm, Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said on Thursday morning. Orange has less curbs in place than Red, the most restrictive setting, with no caps on gatherings if vaccine certificates are used. 

Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show "there is no plan" to shift Nelson-Tasman into Red "at this stage".

"These are just some isolated cases that have been seeded into Nelson. That makes it possible for us... with contact tracing, testing and isolation, we can get around these cases."

7:30am - The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its advice for international travel in relation to the newly identified Omicron variant, making a correction to its initial advice on Wednesday (NZ time). 

"Persons who are unwell, or who have not been fully vaccinated or do not have proof of previous SARS-CoV-2 infection and are at increased risk of developing severe disease and dying, including people 60 years of age or older or those with comorbidities that present increased risk of severe COVID-19 (e.g. heart disease, cancer and diabetes) should be advised to postpone travel to areas with community transmission," the agency said.

The WHO also doubled-down on earlier criticism of the blanket bans imposed by a number of nations on travel from southern Africa, saying the curbs "will not prevent international spread".

"Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread, and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. In addition, they can adversely impact global health efforts during a pandemic by disincentivizing countries to report and share epidemiological and sequencing data. All countries should ensure that the measures are regularly reviewed and updated when new evidence becomes available on the epidemiological and clinical characteristics of Omicron or any other VOC."

7:20am - Kia ora, good morning, and welcome to Newshub's live coverage on the COVID-19 outbreak for Thursday, December 2.