Four people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Nelson, mere days before the South Island enters the Orange setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health confirmed a fourth person, who has yet to be linked to an existing case, has tested positive for the virus. This latest infection is not connected to the three other cases, which were reported on Monday and Tuesday respectively. The second and third cases are close contacts of the first case. All three are isolating and a small number of close contacts have been identified.
A number of locations of interest have been added for Nelson this week in relation to the cases, including restaurants, supermarkets, a bar, a liquor store, a service station and a gentlemen's club.
What you need to know
- There are 146 new cases of COVID-19 to report - 124 in Auckland, four in Bay of Plenty, 14 in Waikato, and four in Nelson-Marlborough - three of the four cases in Nelson were reported earlier this week, but have been officially added to the tally on Wednesday.
- Eighty-three 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 will close on Thursday after staff members caught COVID-19.
- 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.
- Northland iwi and community leaders are powering ahead with plans to set up roadblocks in Northland to protect the people from unvaccinated visitors, but the proposal has been opposed by Chris Hipkins.
- Keep up-to-date with the latest locations of interest here.
These live updates have finished.
9:10pm - Immunologist Professor Graham Le Gros says it is "great news" the Government is looking to roll out the paediatric vaccine by the end of January, pending Medsafe approval.
"We really need this vaccine in our community, where there are a lot of vulnerable young children. This vaccine is safe in children, it's been proven already overseas, so we just need to get on with it to make everyone safe against COVID-19," he says.
"One of the critical things we have to remember is that we just don't know the long-term consequences for our children of being infected by the COVID-19 virus or having long COVID. The only way to protect against that is through the paediatric vaccine, so I'm really pleased that the Government is being very precautionary and looking at getting this into our kids soon."
8:50pm - A sixth traveller in New South Wales has been infected with the Omicron variant.
The fully vaccinated traveller, who recently visited southern Africa, arrived on flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney on November 25 and tested positive to COVID-19 on Tuesday. They are isolating in Sydney.
Everyone on the flight is deemed a close contact and has been told to get tested immediately and isolate for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status.
NSW Health is contacting all passengers and flight crew to advise them of their isolation requirements.
NSW Health says it's aware of at least six people on this flight who had been in southern Africa in the previous 14 days.
There is currently no evidence that transmission occurred on the flight. However, investigations into the five COVID-19 positive passengers on the flight, which includes two confirmed cases with the Omicron variant, are ongoing.
8:25pm - Dr Jin Russell, a developmental paediatrician at Starship Children's Hospital and PhD candidate at the University of Auckland's School of Population Health, says she welcomes the announcement that 5 to 11-year-olds will likely be able to get the Pfizer vaccine before the end of January.
"In the current delta outbreak, every week we wait translates to hundreds more children infected with COVID-19 and being put into isolation because children are the last remaining unvaccinated group in the population," she says.
"While COVID-19 is most often a mild or asymptomatic illness in children, severe illness can happen, and is expected to be inequitably felt. Even though children tend to experience much milder infections than older adults, they also suffer from the indirect impacts of COVID-19, such as infected or hospitalised family members, having to quarantine or isolate, and inability to attend school."
Dr Russell says this is especially true for Māori communities.
"According to the 2018 Census, 32 percent of Māori are under 15 years of age, versus 19.6 percent among the total population. The rare but severe complication of MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) has been found to be more frequent among Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and Pacific children in overseas studies, raising concerns that similar inequities would occur here," she says.
"We have a second shot at achieving an equitable paediatric vaccine rollout. A school-based rollout, alongside existing vaccine clinics, would be the most equitable in terms of access. Reaching children with certain pre-existing conditions, children with vulnerable household members, and Māori children should be prioritised for the paediatric vaccine rollout."
8:05pm - Two Nelson schools are set to close on Thursday following positive COVID cases within the schools' communities.
A staff member at Broadgreen Intermediate School has caught the virus. They were infectious from November 23 while at the school. The school will shut tomorrow as it undergoes contact tracing.
Parents will be notified if their child is a close contact, says principal Pete Mitchener.
Board chair Lisa Charles and principal Isaac Day say a staff member has tested positive and they were infectious since November 29.
"We are now required to undertake a contact tracing process to determine close contacts with this staff member. This will require us to close the school on Thursday the 2nd of December. We apologise for the late notice as we received confirmation after 3pm," they say.
"We will be in touch with families by tomorrow afternoon to determine the level of contact that you or your child may have had, whether this is close, casual plus, or casual. Advice we give will depend on the level of contact. We will get this to you as soon as we can, please be patient as we need to work through this tomorrow."
7:40pm - National's economic development and small business spokesperson Todd McClay says the Government has "missed an opportunity" with its voucher scheme since it "fails" to address the businesses that are hurting the most.
"For some reason the Government has decided the businesses that need help to get back on their feet, as Auckland comes out of a three month lockdown, are council-owned facilities like swimming pools and the zoo," he says.
"I'm sure the families who are lucky enough to receive a free trip to the zoo will appreciate it, but it’s hard to see how this is going to help stimulate Auckland’s battered economy or address the months of economic damage Auckland's bars, restaurants and tourism businesses have faced."
McClay says there isn't anything in the package for hospitality, accommodation, or tourism businesses, many of which are "on the brink of failure".
"There is nothing to make it easier to trade such as overriding outdoor dining restrictions. There is nothing to help small business owners access the cash they will need to survive a traffic light disrupted summer," he says.
"There is nothing to reduce the burden of Government costs, taxes or regulations that make it hard for small businesses to thrive even at the best of times.
"Not only that, but it seems the scheme is so half-baked it's not even ready to go, with Aucklanders having to wait two weeks to find out what bureaucratic hoops they will have to jump through to get their hands on a voucher."
6:55pm - A New Zealand expert is urging the Government to send clear messaging about meeting up outdoors to keep Kiwis safer this summer, especially if the new Omicron COVID-19 variant arrives on our shores.
On Friday, New Zealand will move to a new system of living - transitioning to the COVID Protection Framework or 'traffic light' system, which rates regions as red, orange or green depending on COVID-19 cases in the community and vaccination rates.
But the easing of restrictions coincides with the discovery of the Omicron variant in South Africa. While it's yet to arrive on our shores, it's caused global alarm - with countries including New Zealand limiting travel from southern Africa.
On Wednesday, epidemiologist Amanda Kvalsvig said New Zealand needed a "layered approach" to protecting people this summer.
"With a new variant on the horizon, this summer should be the one when New Zealanders start to take air quality seriously. Summer weather gives us so many opportunities to stay connected and stay safe," said Dr Kvalsvig, from the University of Otago in Wellington.
"It would be good to see clear messaging from Government about exercising and meeting up outdoors, and when indoors, keeping doors and windows open as much as possible.
"Where that isn't feasible, as is the case in many classrooms and workplaces, good ventilation systems and HEPA filters can help sustain air quality."
6:25pm - There are three new locations of interest. They are:
- Brentwood Hotel Kilbirnie, November 22 from 7:30pm to 11:59pm
- Marty's Pool Bar Tauranga, November 24 from 7:45pm to 10pm
- Pak'nSave Cameron Road Tauranga, November 28 from 4:45pm to 7pm.
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 - Children's Commissioner Frances Eivers says she welcomes the announcement of the plan for the rollout of vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 years early next year.
"As we enter the next phase of the pandemic, where COVID-19 is likely to be in more of our communities, it is crucial that mokopuna have good access to the vaccine. This not only provides protection for them but plays a part in protecting the community," she says.
"We urge the Government to engage with Māori, paediatric immunisations specialists, schools and communities as soon as possible on the rollout of the vaccine to these children."
Eivers says a successful rollout requires well-thought-out planning and information to be given to all stakeholders, especially children and young people.
"A key challenge in planning a vaccination approach for children aged 5 to 11 will be achieving an equitable and universal delivery for those in communities with less vaccine protection," she says.
"We ask that the Government learn from previous rollouts and prioritise areas and children most at risk."
5:10pm - Vaccine passes will be required for people to enter key public facilities in Dunedin beginning on Friday, the Dunedin City Council says.
DCC chief executive Sandy Graham says the decisions made on Wednesday are designed to keep people safe when Dunedin moves into the Orange setting under the traffic light system.
Dunedin's new measures will be rolled out in two stages, beginning at Moana Pool, the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool, Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and DCC-organised events, beginning on Friday.
All other public-facing facilities, such as Dunedin Public Libraries, Lan Yuan Dunedin Chinese Garden, Olveston, the i-SITE visitor information centre and Civic Centre, will follow on Monday.
The staggered approach will ensure appropriate measures are in place at each facility, the council says.
"This means anyone wanting to enter any of our public-facing facilities will be required to produce a vaccine pass," Graham says.
"We realise this will have an impact on some members of our community, but our priority is to keep our staff, customers and the wider community safe."
The same mandate will apply to DCC staff, contractors, volunteers, and elected members, who must also be fully vaccinated to enter once the new requirements are in place at each facility.
4:35pm - A COVID-19 Group spokesperson from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) has clarified how north Waikato residents can proceed under the traffic light framework.
People who live above Auckland's regional boundary but are technically in Waikato - such as Port Waikato, Pokeno, and Onewhero residents - are moving to Orange this week, along with the rest of Waikato. However, because Auckland will enter the framework at Red - and they are included within Auckland's boundary - Newshub has received emails saying they are confused as to where they can travel until the boundary lifts on December 15.
Until December 15, the DPMC spokesperson says travel across the Auckland boundary remains restricted in both directions.
"Port Waikato is included in the boundary with Auckland and means travel across the boundary remains restricted until then. This includes when Port Waikato moves into the traffic light system at Orange," they say.
"Until 15 December residents of Port Waikato can continue to travel in and out of Auckland provided they don't cross the boundary. This means they cannot visit other parts of the Waikato not behind the Auckland boundary.
"Between 15 December 2021 and 17 January 2022 restrictions will ease and people can travel more freely."
A map for the traffic light settings for the North Island with the Auckland alert level southern boundary can be found here.
4:10pm - There are four new locations of interest. They are:
- Farmers Kilbirnie, November 26 from 9am to 9:10am
- The Warehouse Kaitaia, November 27 from 10:44am to 10:54am
- Z Service Station Turangi, November 29 from 6am to 6:15am
- Rosebowl Bakery & Cafe, Feilding, November 29 from 9:30am to 9:45am.
3:40pm - Dr Amanda Wallis, the research lead at Umbrella Wellbeing Ltd, says the traffic light system may create uncertainty for Kiwis since we're forced to determine our own comfort levels when mingling with others, travelling, and using public spaces.
"When socialising with loved ones, for example, choosing in the moment whether to mask up, physically distance, and meet inside or outdoors may be cognitively taxing, as well as potentially costly to our own wellbeing," she says.
"Social norms inform our behaviour to a large extent, and research shows that navigating public health measures may contribute to feelings of social anxiety through fear of norm violation."
Wallis says to combat this, people could prepare for upcoming events by establishing their intentions and social norms ahead of time.
"Consider messaging family members or friends a few days prior to the event and let them know you plan on wearing a mask, for example, and create a psychologically safe discussion around how you might keep each other safe," she says.
"Try to centre the focus of this conversation on COVID-19 as the threat, rather than each other. For example, 'I know this is new territory for all of us but I'm quite scared about catching COVID-19 – do you mind if we catch-up outside to play it safe?'"
3:15pm - Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, an epidemiologist and senior research fellow and the University of Otago, Wellington's Department of Public Health, says the traffic light system puts a high dependence on vaccination - something that is "concerning" because vaccinations alone aren't enough to stop outbreaks.
"And of course, vaccine percentages aren't quite as good as they appear. Children under 12 years aren't eligible so they aren't counted in the vaccine statistics, but they can develop COVID-19 infection and can pass the infection on," she says.
"What this means is that we need a layered approach to protection that will keep people safe over the holidays. With a new variant on the horizon, this summer should be the one when New Zealanders start to take air quality seriously."
Kvalsvig says summer weather gives Kiwis many opportunities to stay connected and keep safe.
"It would be good to see clear messaging from Government about exercising and meeting up outdoors, and when indoors, keeping doors and windows open as much as possible. Where that isn't feasible, as is the case in many classrooms and workplaces, good ventilation systems and HEPA filters can help sustain air quality," she says.
"Wearing masks adds another layer of protection both for the wearer and those around them. This NHS video is a great example of the kind of public health messaging that we could be using here.
"All of these measures work together to reduce the amount of virus that people are breathing in. Importantly, they'll continue to work regardless of which COVID-19 variant is circulating."
2:50pm - Thursday is the last day for people aged 12 and over to ensure they are fully vaccinated in time for Christmas.
If you haven't yet had a first dose and you want to travel out of Auckland to be reunited with family for Christmas, then Thursday, December 2 is your last chance to ensure you're getting double-vaccinated before the festive period, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) said on Wednesday.
On Thursday, people can head to any of the community vaccination centres across Auckland or to one of the 300-plus vaccinating GPs and pharmacies to receive their dose, or they can visit the following pop-up events:
Otahuhu Business Group Return - Thu 2 Dec, 9am - 5:30pm, King Street Carpark, Otahuhu
CV Compton - Thu 2 Dec, 6:30am-8:30am, 90 Marys Road, Onehunga
Orakei Marae - Thu 2 Dec, 9am - 2pm, 59B Kitemoana Street, Orakei
Muriwai Golf Club - Thu 2 Dec - Fri 3 Dec, 9am - 3pm, 101 Coast Road, Muriwai.
"With Auckland moving into the traffic light system at Red on Friday, and the border opening up in just over two weeks, it's vital that those waiting don't wait any longer," said NRHCC vaccination programme director, Matt Hannant.
"The best way to protect your whānau over the holidays is to ensure you are fully vaccinated, and it also opens up many more freedoms for you to fully enjoy the kiwi summer."
The big push for vaccinations in Tāmaki Makaurau also coincides with Auckland DHB closing in on the 90 percent first dose milestone for Māori - becoming the first DHB in the country to come close to this achievement.
"We have just over 200 more Māori to be vaccinated in the Auckland DHB area to hit this milestone so we're really encouraging whānau to come in this week and get protected for Christmas."
Whānau Ora is holding a special 12-hour vaccination event on Saturday, with a concert in the afternoon that will feature a line-up of bands and musicians, including Rob Ruha. The first 1000 people to get vaccinated will receive a free hāngī pack and go in the draw to win spot prizes such as return flights to Queenstown, cell phones and gift vouchers.
And Ira Kōkō Santa Dot is also coming to town, with the big man in red and his elves visiting a string of pop-up vaccination hubs across the city, with the main event at Rainbow's End in Manukau.
Most community vaccination centres in Auckland will have a period of shutdown for Christmas Day and the main public holidays, with December 23 the final day before Christmas.
There will still be some sites open over the Christmas holiday period, including some local GPs and pharmacies, to help anyone who decides to get vaccinated over the break.
People can walk in at any of our vaccination centres, many of which operate seven days a week. The Albany community vaccination centre, which had been due to close last weekend, will now remain open through until the middle of 2022.
Full details of opening hours and sites can be found at vaccinateforauckland.nz
If you're over 18 years old and it's been at least six months since your second dose, you are now eligible for a booster dose. You can book an appointment online using the Book My Vaccine website or by calling 0800 28 29 26. Booster doses are available at all community vaccination centres and vaccinating GPs and pharmacies.
And for those wanting to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, bookings can now be made online at Book My Vaccine. Here's a link to an interactive map showing the list of vaccination sites across Tāmaki Makaurau that are offering the AstraZeneca vaccine: vaccinateforauckland.nz.
2:40pm - With less than 48 hours before New Zealand transitions to the COVID-19 Protection Framework, Labour still has yet to put in place key elements to make the system work, according to National's COVID-19 Response spokesperson, Chris Bishop, who has issued a scathing rebuke of the Government's planning ahead of the shift to the new system.
"Jacinda Ardern announced the traffic light system over a month ago, yet key elements are still unresolved. Kiwis who have been vaccinated overseas are reaching out to me because the Ministry of Health have told them it will be 14 days before their vaccination status can be confirmed in New Zealand, yet the traffic light system kicks in from Friday," Bishop said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Those who have requested a paper copy of their vaccine certificate have been told they won't receive them until next week. For thousands of people this means they won't be able to access services over the weekend... this just isn't good enough."
On Wednesday morning, the Opposition had a 100-page Health Order dropped less than 48 hours before the Order came into effect, Bishop said.
"What has the Government done in the last month that it was only able to give affected businesses less than two days to understand this complex new system? Clearly the traffic light system was not ready to go when it was announced in October," he continued.
"On Monday, Grant Robertson said simply that Cabinet will monitor the impact of the [Red] setting and wait until January before deciding if any support payments are needed. This is harsh news for bars and restaurants across Auckland, who suffered 100 days of lockdown and now will be unable to host large Christmas and New Year's events. Andrew Little managed to confuse matters more, suggesting yesterday that someone who hosted a Christmas or New Year's function where someone wasn't vaccinated could face a $12,000 fine.
"Now we have the situation where we are scrambling to get a vaccine certificate system working."
2:30pm - The Restaurant Association says it is "absolutely crushed" for Auckland's stricken hospitality sector following the industry's "exclusion" from the Government's new package to 'reactivate' Auckland post-lockdown.
As part of the $37 million package, the Government will provide 100,000 vouchers to Auckland residents to encourage families and individuals to visit local attractions, with discounts and free access to Auckland Council facilities also on offer.
"We are absolutely crushed for our Auckland businesses that have been closed for months on end and are left with nothing in this package. They may as well just call the campaign 'explore Tāmaki Makaurau minus hospitality' this summer," a spokesperson for the association said on Wednesday.
The association believes the Government has adopted an idea similar to one it had proposed for the hospitality industry in September - but has now excluded the sector from the benefits.
"For 475 days we have been calling for targeted support, yet every call has fallen on deaf ears. In September this year we released a suite of targeted support package options for the Government to consider. Included in this was 'Dine & Discover NZ', a voucher scheme which is eerily similar to today's announcement. It's about increasing demand and building the confidence with consumers, and we feel strongly that including hospitality in this scheme would absolutely do that," the spokesperson said.
"It's nice of the Government to offer this present on the first day of December, yet the ones who proposed it are not unwrapping the gift. It is another kick in the guts for morale for this industry that has been brought to its knees.
"Annually this industry contributes more than $12 billion to the economy and yet this Government seems determined to watch us crumble from afar."
2:20pm - Aucklanders will once again be able to enjoy Waiheke Island from December 3, Ferry company Fullers360 said on Wednesday.
To make sailings as safe as possible, from December 3 onwards, Fullers360 will implement new vaccination guidelines for its Waiheke Island, Rangitoto Island, Tiritiri Matangi Island, Rotoroa Island and Coromandel services. All passengers over 12 years old are required to be fully vaccinated, have a vaccine exemption or have returned a negative test within 72 hours of travel.
Similar to how the Auckland border will be managed, regular spot-checks will be in place across these Fullers360 services and passengers may be asked at any time to present their vaccine pass, exemption or a negative test.
In addition to complying with the relevant vaccination guidance, passengers must wear a face covering on-board and inside ferry terminals and scan in using the NZ COVID Tracer app.
2:10pm - Here are the latest locations of interest as of 2pm:
- Z Service Station, Rutherford, Nelson
- Papamoa Sports Tennis Club, Papamoa
- Two Dollar Things, Nelson
- Rattle n Hum Bar, Nelson.
For the relevant dates, times and public health advice, click here.
1:55pm - Here are the regional updates from the Ministry of Health:
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 result.
If you are not vaccinated, now is the time, as vaccination is 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, there are 124 new cases being reported in Auckland.
There continues to be daily reviews of testing numbers and testing locations to ensure good coverage of risk areas.
Health staff are now supporting 3,993 people to isolate at home, including 1,064 cases.
There were 14 cases confirmed in the Waikato overnight, with seven in Te Kūiti, two in Huntly, two in Ōtorohanga, one in Hamilton, one in Ngāruawāhia, and one location under investigation.
Six cases have been linked to previous cases and the remainder are under investigation today.
Two cases which remained under investigation on Tuesday have now been confirmed as living in the rural community of Te Anga.
Two locations of interest were confirmed in Huntly and Hamilton on Tuesday.
There are eight pop-up and dedicated testing sites operating across the Waikato today in Hamilton, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, Taumaraunui, Tahāroa, Thames, and Te Kūiti.
There are two COVID-positive patients in Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit.
In the Waikato, public health staff are now supporting 119 cases to isolate at home.
Bay of Plenty
Today we are reporting four new cases in the Bay of Plenty.
All are close contacts of previously reported cases in the Tauranga area and are self-isolating at home.
The ministry is also reporting on an emerging cluster at Te Akau ki Papamoa School. As of 9am this morning, five people associated with the school have tested positive.
Given the number of close contacts among the teaching staff, the decision was made to close the school on Tuesday.
Testing has been stood up in the Papamoa area and anyone with symptoms is encouraged to come forward. Local health authorities are setting up additional testing at the school in response to expected demand.
Toi Te Ora Health, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education have been working closely with the school since the first case was identified.
The spread of COVID-19 in the Bay of Plenty is another reminder to get tested if you're feeling unwell and get your first and second dose of the vaccine if you haven't already.
Details of testing stations in Bay of Plenty can be found on the Healthpoint website.
Today, we are reporting one case in Manawatū. This case was initially under investigation and was confirmed after the 9am cut-off. It will be officially added to the case numbers on Thursday.
Public health staff are continuing to interview the person, who is understood to live in Waikato and work in Manawatū.
Any locations of interest will be added to the Ministry's locations of interest page later today.
Testing is also available at GP and urgent care clinics. Additional testing capacity in the area will be stood up, if required, and details will be available on the Healthpoint website.
We are also calling for people to get vaccinated, with many sites available across the region. Vaccination clinic locations are available on the MidCentral DHB website.
We are reporting one new case in Nelson-Tasman today. Three cases referred to in Tuesday's statement are being officially added to the tally today.
Today's new case is not linked to an existing case, and the public health unit are investigating a possible source.
Three new locations of interest in Nelson have this morning been added to the Ministry's website. People in the Nelson-Tasman region are asked to check this page as it is updated regularly.
This takes the number of active cases in Nelson to four, all of which are isolating.
We are also asking anyone in the Nelson-Tasman region with symptoms – no matter how mild – to please get tested, even if they are vaccinated - and remain isolated until they return a negative test result.
Testing is available today at:
Stoke CBAC: Saxton Field parking area, Suffolk Rd, Stoke
9am to 6pm (every day this week)
Nelson CBAC: Trafalgar Centre carpark, Paru Paru Rd
9am to 6pm (today).
Additional testing capacity, to ensure good coverage, is underway and details will be available on the Healthpoint website. Testing is also available at GP and Urgent Care clinics.
We are also calling for people to get vaccinated, with many sites available across the region. Vaccination clinic locations are available on the Nelson Marlborough Health website.
1:46pm - Hipkins has condemned plans by local iwi to erect roadblocks in Northland.
"The only people that should be putting any roadblocks in place if they are justified by law are the New Zealand Police," he says.
"So no, there should not be any iwi roadblocks being set up."
1:43pm - Hipkins says localised outbreaks are expected as New Zealand enters the COVID-19 Protection Framework, but that doesn't mean the Government will be "flicking" regions between the Red and Orange settings.
1:36pm - The first case identified in Nelson-Tasman, reported on Monday, had been presenting symptoms for a "wee while", Dr Bloomfield says, and was active in the community.
He says the new case reported today, which was first identified on Tuesday, is not linked to the three other cases reported on Monday and Tuesday, who are all close contacts of one another.
The fourth case has a number of workplace and household contacts, who are being isolated and tested.
1:35pm - Here's Wednesday's figures from the Ministry of Health:
More than 41,000 vaccines delivered yesterday; 146 community cases; 83 people in hospital, 9 in ICU
There were 41,077 total vaccine doses administered on Tuesday, including 7,432 first doses and 14,223 second doses. To date, 93 percent of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 86 percent are fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 vaccine update
Total vaccines administered to date (percentage of eligible people): 7,579,500: 3,896,368 first doses (93 pct); 3,618,781 second doses (86 pct); 13,224 third primary doses; 51,127 booster doses
Total vaccines administered yesterday: 41,077: 7,432 first doses; 14,223 second doses; 1,312 third primary doses; 18,110 booster doses
Māori (percentage of eligible people): 470,566 first doses (82 pct); 391,640 second doses (69 pct)
Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people): 261,383 first doses (91 pct); second doses 235,377 (82 pct)
Total first and second vaccines administered to Auckland residents yesterday: 1,271 first doses; and 2,912 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 (89 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 (81 pct)
Lakes DHB (percentage of eligible people): First doses (88 pct); second doses (79 pct)
MidCentral DHB (percentage of eligible people): First doses (92 pct); second doses (84 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: 83: North Shore (15); Auckland (35); Middlemore (31); Waikato (2)
Vaccination status of current hospitalisations (Northern Region wards only): Unvaccinated or not eligible (53 cases / 70 pct); partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose (10 cases / 13 pct); fully vaccinated at least 7 days before being reported as a case (12 cases / 16 pct); unknown (1 cases / 1 pct)
Average age of current hospitalisations: 46
Cases in ICU or HDU: 9 (2 in Auckland; 4 in Middlemore, 1 in North Shore; 2 in Waikato)
Seven day rolling average of community cases: 157
Number of new community cases: 146
Number of new cases identified at the border: Two (and 1 historical)
Location of new community cases*: Auckland (124), Waikato (14), Bay of Plenty (4); Nelson Marlborough (4)
Location of community cases (total): Northland 83 (59 of whom have recovered); Auckland 7,896 (2,311 of whom have recovered); Waikato 461 (189 of whom have recovered); Bay of Plenty 61; Hawke's Bay 1; Lakes 26 (3 of whom have recovered); Taranaki 6 (all of whom have recovered); MidCentral 5 (1 has recovered); Wairarapa 3; Wellington 18 (17 of whom have recovered); Nelson/Marlborough 5 (1 recovered); Canterbury 9 (5 of whom have recovered)
Number of community cases (total): 8,574 (in current community outbreak)
Confirmed cases (total): 11,353
Historical cases: 203 out of 9,549 cases since 1 January
Cases infectious in the community: 43 cases reported yesterday have exposure events
Cases in isolation throughout the period they were infectious: 86 cases reported yesterday have no exposure events
Cases epidemiologically linked: 73 of today's new cases
Cases to be epidemiologically linked: 73 of today's new cases
Cases epidemiologically linked (total): 6,386 (905 unlinked in the last 14 days)
Number of active contacts being managed (total): 6,817
Percentage who have received an outbound call from contact tracers (to confirm testing and isolation requirements): 71 pct
Percentage who have returned at least one result: 73 pct
Locations of interest
Locations of interest (total): 155 (as at 10am 1 December)
Number of tests (total): 4,941,226
Number of tests total (last 24 hours): 31,926
Tests processed in Auckland (last 24 hours): 13,970
Tests rolling average (last 7 days): 27,763
Testing centres in Auckland: 18
Wastewater detections: There are no new unexpected detections
NZ COVID Tracer
Registered users (total): 3,429,590
Poster scans (total): 550,280,459
Manual diary entries (total): 20,992,248
- Poster scans in 24 hours to midday yesterday: 2,659,940
* Today's cases
Today, we are reporting new community cases in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, MidCentral and the Nelson-Marlborough region.
The case in MidCentral was reported to the Ministry after the 9am cut-off time for reporting and will be officially added to the case numbers on Thursday.
We reported three of the four cases in Nelson-Tasman on Monday and Tuesday. These have been officially added to the case tally today. In addition, we are reporting one new case in the region.
There are no additional cases to report today in Northland, Hawke’s Bay, Lakes, Taranaki, Wairarapa, Wellington or Canturbury.
1:30pm - Hipkins reiterates that it may take longer for returnees who received their jabs overseas to receive their My Vaccine Pass, as it's a more intensive process to verify their vaccination status.
People who had their jabs overseas can be issued a temporary pass in the meantime, Dr Bloomfield adds.
Teams are working to clear the backlog of queries, he says.
1:17pm - Hipkins says the emergence of the new Omicron variant is a "cause for concern, but not a cause for panic".
He reiterates that New Zealand remains in "a good position" to minimise the impact of the variant, with international border restrictions still in place.
He says knowledge of the variant is continuing to emerge and the variant is still in its infancy. International evidence is being monitored.
Plans and protocols are under "constant review", he says.
"We are ready and we have plans in place."
He says vaccines are still the number one protection against COVID-19. There has been no change to the advice on booster vaccines - people must be 18 and over and have had their second dose at least six months ago.
1:12pm - Hipkins says the country is on track to exceed a 90 percent overall, nationwide vaccination rate within the next two to three weeks if demand continues at the current level.
The uptake of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been low so far, he says, as expected - about 650 doses have been administered so far.
Hipkins says the Government has "advanced" its planning for the rollout of the vaccine for five-to-11-year-olds.
"Planning is well underway," he says.
The Government expects to begin rolling out the vaccine for under-12s before the end of January, he says.
"Pediatric doses" of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been secured, he says, pending Medsafe approval.
1:08pm - Dr Bloomfield is urging people who develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to get tested immediately. He says some new cases have waited more than a week to get swabbed.
He is also encouraging people to keep up their use of the NZ COVID Tracer app as New Zealand transitions to the new COVID-19 Protection Framework.
When out and about, people need to remember to scan in, present their My Vaccine Pass, and wear a mask, he says.
1:03pm - Chris Hipkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield have arrived for the 1pm press conference.
There are 146 new cases of COVID-19 to report today, says Dr Bloomfield - 124 in Auckland, 14 in Waikato, four in Bay of Plenty and one in Nelson-Tasman.
The new case is in addition to the three reported on Wednesday.
There are 83 people in hospital, nine of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units.
12:45pm - Events to commemorate Waitangi Day at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in February next year have been cancelled.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Waitangi National Trust said COVID-19 will make it nigh impossible to safely proceed with the events, which normally attract crowds of up to 40,000 people.
Trust chairman Pita Tipene said the decision has not been taken lightly, but the health and safety of visitors, staff, and the local community is paramount.
The Trust will instead work with broadcasters to deliver a virtual Waitangi Day experience, Tipene said.
12:35pm - Whānau-owned business Ngāi Tahu Tourism has announced all visitors to its attractions will be required to show proof of vaccination from Friday, December 3 - the day New Zealand officially enters the COVID-19 Protection Framework.
As part of the wider Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Group, Ngāi Tahu Tourism takes its health and safety obligations to all kaimahi, manuhiri, whānau and communities very seriously, general manager of corporate services, Jo Allison, said on Wednesday.
She says it is both a "social and corporate responsibility" to support vaccinations in the interest of the public good.
"We know vaccination is the most effective way of minimising spread of the virus and keeping people well. At Ngāi Tahu Tourism, we need those who visit our attractions to have that peace of mind that the person they are sitting next to on the Shotover Jet, or the person they are hiking the ice with at Franz Josef Glacier Guides has the best protection available against COVID-19."
All open Ngāi Tahu Tourism attractions will be covered by the new policy from December 3. This includes Shotover Jet, Dart River Adventures, Franz Josef Glacier Guides, Agrodome, National Kiwi Hatchery, Hukafalls Jet, the All Blacks Experience, Dark Sky Project, and the Hollyford Wilderness Experience.
The attractions will also continue to follow Government guidelines and implement secondary measures where needed, such as strict hygiene measures, social distancing, masks and scanning in.
Visitors from Friday will need to provide proof of vaccination via My Vaccine Pass.
Ngāi Tahu Tourism also strongly encourages a 100 percent vaccination rate for its own workforce and has enabled time off work for staff to get their jas.
Like many employers across the country, the Office of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu is working through a consultation process with all staff regarding a vaccination policy.
12:25pm - Here are the locations of interest identified so far on Wednesday:
12:15pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield will hold a press conference today at 1pm.
You can watch the briefing via our livestream, which will be available above these updates.
12:05pm - The leader of an iwi healthcare provider in Taranaki is worried a shortage of oximeters will hamper its ability to help whānau isolating at home with COVID-19.
It's expected most people with mild to moderate symptoms of the virus will self-isolate and recuperate at home, with a smaller number recovering in supported accommodation.
But Rachel Rae, the kaiwhakahaere of Taranaki iwi Ngāti Ruanui, fears equipment shortages could make it difficult for confirmed cases to self-monitor their health at home.
An oximeter clips onto the finger and measures the heart rate and oxygen levels in the blood. If a person has COVID-19, the oxygen saturation should be higher than 95 percent - and if it is not, medical assistance should be sought.
Rae - who was busy at an Eltham vaccination clinic - told RNZ the devices were in short supply.
"Ngāti Ruanui at the moment have very limited stock of oximeters and temperature checks and things like that. We will have an issue," she said.
"Hopefully the DHB or someone will can send us supply because we want to be prepared as much as we can."
11:55am - The Omicron variant will inevitably turn up in a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility, but it is too soon to predict whether the Government will revise its plan to lift the restrictions at New Zealand's international border from January, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.
Hipkins told RNZ's Morning Report on Wednesday morning that New Zealand's MIQ system is one of the tightest in the world - but there is no way to be 100 percent protected.
"If you look at the way it has spread and how quickly it has spread into countries like Australia and the UK, it's inevitable that it will show up in our MIQ facilities at some point," Hipkins said.
The minister acknowledged the "worst-case scenario" would see the Government "revisit" its plan to gradually reopen New Zealand's international border during the first quarter of 2022.
"The worst case scenario is that we may have to revisit that. Still very early days yet, still too soon to be making those kind of predictions."
11:45am - A panel of expert advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have narrowly voted to recommend the agency to authorise Merck & Co's antiviral pill to treat COVID-19.
The US drugmaker published data last week suggesting the drug was significantly less effective than previously thought, reducing hospitalisations and deaths in its clinical trial of high-risk individuals by around 30 percent.
However, medicines such as Merck's molnupiravir, developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, are likely to become important therapeutic tools that people will be able to take at home as soon as symptoms of COVID-19 develop.
A rival drug being developed by Pfizer Inc, called Paxlovid, is particularly promising, having shown an 89 percent reduction in hospitalisations and deaths in its clinical trial. The FDA could consider that drug within the next few months.
The FDA's Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee voted 13-10 to recommend the agency to authorise the drug after discussing concerns that the pill could cause the virus to mutate - as well as safety concerns about the potential for birth defects. Both FDA staff scientists and Merck have suggested the drug should not be recommended during pregnancy.
The vote comes as fears around the new Omicron variant have rattled financial markets and sparked concerns about the strength of the global economic recovery as the world continues to fight the pandemic.
The oral therapies target parts of the virus that are not changed by mutations in the Omicron variant. They could become even more vital if vaccine-induced and natural immunity are threatened by the new strain.
11:35am - The Green Party is welcoming the additional support for Auckland this summer, but believes the Government needs to do more to ease the hardship many families in Tāmaki Makaurau are experiencing due to the ongoing restrictions.
"We welcome support for Auckland and Aucklanders who've been through a lot these past few months. But those struggling to make ends meet, which has become even harder throughout COVID-19, deserve equitable support. Liveable incomes and affordable, secure housing is what's required for everyone to be able to participate in their communities and engage in these attractions," Chlöe Swarbrick, MP for Auckland Central, said on Wednesday.
"This announcement, unfortunately, does not support or 'thank' Aucklanders equitably. It doesn't deal with the inequities COVID-19 not only exposed, but amplified. These won't go away unless they're addressed. While some families will enjoy a deserved day out, others will undeservedly be going hungry. Labour has shown they can find the money to give a welcome boost to local tourism and it should do the same for families' incomes."
Green Party spokesperson for Social Development and Employment, Ricardo Menéndez March, said the Government's cash injection for local food banks and community organisations is simply 'sticking a plaster on a gaping wound".
"Food banks are not a solution to poverty; they are a sticking plaster on a gaping wound of systemic inequality," he said.
"Families do not want to go to a food bank to feed their kids. They want liveable wages, income security, affordable homes, and a proper economic safety net. Only providing leftover food for people who are already left behind is not good enough."
11:25am - The Prime Minister and Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni are at Auckland Zoo answering questions regarding the Government's new $37 million package to revive Auckland.
Zoos, swimming pools and museums are among the venues included in the voucher scheme, Ardern said. As part of the package, 100,000 vouchers will be made available to encourage Aucklanders to visit their local attractions. Discounts or free access to Auckland Council facilities will also be on offer.
11:15am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is welcoming the Government's Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Stimulus Package, a new initiative designed to boost the city's economic recovery after 106 days in lockdown.
The multi-million-dollar fund will support a range of activities over the upcoming summer, from vouchers and discounts to encourage Aucklanders to enjoy attractions in the region, to local activations that support and promote free community events.
The funding will also help boost Auckland's domestic marketing campaign in the new year, aimed at attracting the rest of New Zealand to visit the region.
In addition, the Government also confirmed a further $12 million in immediate funding for Auckland food banks and community food organisations.
"This funding, which is in addition to the significant financial support already provided to Auckland businesses, recognises the sacrifices Aucklanders have made throughout the COVID-19 response to contain the virus and buy time for people in other regions to get their vaccine rates up," Goff said following the announcement on Wednesday.
"It will enable Aucklanders to make the most of our region over summer and provide a welcome boost to community and local events. The extra $12 million in funding for foodbanks and community organisations will provide necessary support to those in our community who have had a particularly tough year."
11:10am - New potential exposure events have been identified in Nelson after three residents tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
One of the cases paid a visit to the Secrets Gentlemen's Club, a "private brothel" and strip club on Nelson's Hardy St. Hardy's Bar & TAB has also been listed for a third time.
For the relevant dates, times and public health advice, click here.
11am - A new support package announced by the Government on Wednesday will help revive economic, social and cultural activities in New Zealand's largest city this summer, and ensure those in hardship also get relief.
The Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni and the Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash have announced a Reactivating Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland package, developed alongside Auckland Council and Auckland Unlimited.
"Summer and more freedoms are on the horizon but we know that alert level restrictions have been tough on families and on the businesses that rely on visitors," Sepuloni said on Wednesday.
"Families need a break, businesses need new customers, and those in the most hardship also need help with the basics like food. This package will help to spark the city's arts and culture life again, reactivate economic activity and enhance people's wellbeing over summer.
"The new funding will encourage whānau to re-engage with the special qualities that make Auckland vibrant, modern and exciting. But we also have families experiencing real deprivation and they need immediate support.
"There will be 100,000 vouchers available for families and individuals as well as discounts or free access to Auckland Council facilities to help get Aucklanders out and experience the city while providing much-needed foot traffic in the CBD.
"We are also immediately boosting funding for food banks and community food organisations to meet demand and to ensure they're able to support households this Christmas.
"Yesterday we announced details of the Arts and Cultural Events Support Scheme which opens today for applications. This provides certainty for event organisers, confidence for vaccinated New Zealanders to attend and enjoy events, and reassurance for artists and crew who intend to put on events."
"The Auckland region has been hard hit by the COVID-19 Alert Level restrictions. More than 100 days under Alert Level settings have significantly affected economic activity in the region," Nash added.
"The $37.5 million package has been put together jointly with Auckland Council and Auckland Unlimited. The first initiative is the Explore Tāmaki Makaurau this Summer voucher and discount scheme. It will take a few weeks to implement but will be well worth it when it goes live.
"The second initiative is the Local Activation Programme, a contestable fund for businesses or community organisations to organise events that are free for the public. It will help bring neighbourhoods and town centres back to life.
"We encourage Aucklanders to rediscover the best of local businesses and visitor attractions. This support will reach a wide range of communities and neighbourhoods, through activities like Christmas markets, New Year cultural performances, and council-run sports and leisure facilities.
"About $1.8 billion in wage subsidies have already been paid to workers in Auckland, and a further $1 billion to businesses for fixed costs under the Resurgence Support Payment. A new transition payment for Auckland, Waikato and Northland will also pay up to $490 million to regional businesses.
"This support package takes the next step by revitalising households, businesses and community groups to get out and enjoy the best that Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer through a targeted boost to the regional economy."
An overview of the package:
- Explore Tāmaki Makaurau this summer: 100,000 vouchers to attractions and discounts to Council facilities to encourage families and whānau to visit Auckland attractions, facilities and cultural venues.
- Local Activation Programme: a contestable fund for small-scale events and activities at regional and local level.
- Marketing campaign to promote Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland attractions, including a campaign to encourage visitors.
- Food banks and community food organisations in Auckland receive an immediate funding boost.
10:45am - More pupils at Te Ākau ki Pāpāmoa School in the Bay of Plenty have tested positive for COVID-19, with all staff and students now considered close contacts.
All students and staff at the Pāpāmoa School are required to get tested immediately and self-isolate at home, the principal, Bruce Jepsen, said in a post to the school's Facebook page on Tuesday evening.
"I have been informed by the Ministry of Health that more students have tested positive for COVID 19 at Te Akau ki Pāpāmoa School," Jepsen said in the statement.
"All students are now considered close contacts and must self-isolate. All staff including teachers and support staff are now considered close contacts and must self-isolate.
"All students and staff have been identified as 'close contacts' and need to get tested immediately, and self-isolate at home.
"The school is now closed for logistical reasons. A review of this situation will be undertaken early next week."
The Year 1-6 school, located near Tauranga, has a roll of 690, according to the Education Review Office.
10:35am - David Seymour has lambasted plans by local iwi to block unvaccinated Kiwis from travelling through Northland, calling out former MP Hone Harawira, an advocate for the checkpoints, for attempting to enforce decisions without legal or political backing.
Harawira, the founder of Te Tai Tokerau Border Control, is echoing calls from local iwi to prohibit unvaccinated New Zealanders from entering Northland's Bay of Islands this summer, arguing the region needs time to boost its vaccination rates. Fully vaccinated visitors would be welcomed, he told The AM Show on Wednesday morning, but the unvaccinated would have to wait until 90 percent of Northland's eligible population is inoculated.
The former MP says iwi leaders are willing to work closely with police and have the support of the local District Health Board. But ACT Party leader David Seymour is not a fan of the proposal.
"Hone Harawira does not speak for New Zealanders and has no right to stop our freedom of movement," he said on Wednesday. "He has no mandate, he doesn't speak for New Zealanders, he doesn't even speak for Te Tai Tokerau, he should follow the law like everyone else.
"Whether Harawira likes it or not, the Government makes the laws, not him. Tourism businesses up north have been through enough without him standing in their way."
Seymour is now calling on the Government and the Prime Minister to "take a stand" against the roadblocks - despite Ardern asking iwi on Tuesday to "work closely with the police" on the issue.
"The police and the Government need to take a clear stand against his roadblocks. Jacinda Ardern can't afford to give more wishy washy comments about consulting with iwi. Tell Hone and his mates to go home," Seymour said.
"The police shouldn't stand alongside them and help them with their illegal checkpoints. Tell them to pack up and if they don't - arrest them.
"If Harawira wants to help his community, he should be out encouraging people to get vaccinated, not restricting other people from moving around their own country."
10:25am - A number of businesses are staunchly opposing the Government's My Vaccine Pass mandate for businesses to operate under the COVID-19 Protection Framework, saying they will not be asking customers to present their vaccine certificates upon entry.
On Friday, New Zealand will transition to the new framework, or 'traffic light' system, which assigns regions different settings - Red, Orange or Green - depending on their vaccination rates and whether COVID-19 is in the community.
Auckland, the epicentre of the ongoing outbreak, will enter the framework at Red, the most restrictive setting, along with Ruapehu, Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Wairoa, Gisborne, Ōpōtiki, Whakatāne, Kawerau, Rotorua Lakes and Taupō Districts. The rest of New Zealand will start at Orange.
Under the Red setting, hospitality venues and other close-contact businesses can reopen - as long as vaccine certificates are used. If a hospitality business refuses to adopt the new system, they are only able to operate contactlessly.
Palmerston North's Coffee on Ascot said it had made some tough calls around the traffic light system.
"We have decided we won't be excluding anyone from our premise, discrimination is not why we opened our business. We opened with the hope of providing hospitality to all that walked through our doors," the cafe's owners said on Facebook.
Dripping Bowl restaurant in Wānaka also will not be asking customers to present a vaccine certificate.
"We want everyone to feel valued and heard in our community, no matter what," its owners said on social media.
The owners of Tauranga's Little Guy Bagel and Brew said they are not willing to compromise their values.
"Because of this, we have decided that we at Little Guy will not be requiring any customer who chooses to partake in our services to provide their vaccine passports upon the launch of the traffic light system and to be a part of our community," the business said in a statement on Facebook.
"We understand that this presents some challenges and changes for our business and what it looks like to serve you physically, but it will never change our ethos and we will learn to adapt to continue to serve you."
10:15am - The Government's financial accounts continue to reflect an economy that has performed better than expected, despite the latest outbreak of the Delta variant, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Wednesday.
Core Crown tax revenue was $2.5 billion above the Budget 2021 forecast, coming in at $31.8 billion. This was largely driven by better-than-expected corporate profits and more people in work.
The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) was a deficit of $7.8 billion, $1.8 billion higher than forecast, as restrictions to contain the pandemic triggered the payment of Government financial support.
As a result, core Crown expenses at $41.9 billion were $4.9 billion above forecast due to the payment of wage subsidies and COVID-19 Resurgence Support Payments to protect jobs and livelihoods.
Net core Crown debt stood at 34.2 percent of GDP, below the 36.7 percent forecast.
"This better-than-expected result shows the resilience of the economy as it operates under alert level restrictions," Robertson said. "We have been taking a balanced approach as we protect New Zealand from the global COVID-19 pandemic. This approach has been reflected in these results.
"As the country transitions to the new COVID-19 Protection Framework and the fewer restrictions that go with it, the prospects are strong for the economy to support the recovery and deal with long standing challenges such as climate change, housing and child wellbeing."
10:10am - Financial support will be allocated to 160 successful applicants for the COVID-19 Community Fund to support organisations helping women/wāhine and girls/kōtiro in New Zealand that have been affected by the pandemic, Minister for Women Jan Tinetti announced on Wednesday.
The $2 million COVID-19 Community Fund was allocated to the Ministry for Women as part of the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund established under Budget 2020.
"COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on women around the world including in Aotearoa New Zealand, resulting in job losses, increased caring work, and increased family violence. Supporting New Zealanders through what has been a tough time has been our focus," Tinetti said.
"We received a high volume of applications from a range of excellent community organisations that support women and girls from across the country and are experiencing an increased demand for their services and reduced resourcing due to COVID-19."
The successful applicants range from support for mental health services; safe houses for women and children experiencing family violence; support for retraining and upskilling for women who have lost jobs; as well as increased support for volunteers that support women and girls and essential supplies such as food, nappies and sanitary products for marginalised women and girls.
"Many community organisations, and communities, are still feeling the ongoing effects of COVID-19. The most recent lockdowns have put a further strain on already limited resourcing. This funding will enable those organisations to meet increased demand by improving some of the financial strain caused by COVID-19," Tinetti continued.
"I want to thank all the organisations that submitted applications. There are so many amazing people in our community organisations doing incredible ongoing work."
A full list of successful applicants can be found at https://women.govt.nz/news/covid-19-community-fund-2021-recipients.
9:40am - Here's a recap of Tuesday's figures:
9:15am - In case you missed it, Hone Harawira says fully vaccinated Kiwis are welcome in Te Tai Tokerau over the summer - but unvaccinated travellers are asked to steer clear.
The Te Tai Tokerau Border Control founder and local iwi are calling for unvaccinated visitors to be barred from entering Northland as the region battles to boost its flagging vaccination rates.
"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," Harawira told The AM Show.
9am - In the Auckland District Health Board area, 96.2 percent of eligible residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine - the highest rate in the country.
University of Auckland epidemiologist Rod Jackson said the achievement should be the new national benchmark - and matched by second doses as soon as possible.
Speaking to RNZ, Jackson said all the New Zealanders who dislike Aucklanders should set themselves a challenge to "see if they can do better".
Auckland DHB is also on track to be the first in the country to vaccinate 90 percent of eligible Māori with at least one dose. As of Tuesday, the DHB was just 292 people short of that goal.
Meanwhile, Counties Manukau DHB has vaccinated 93 percent of its eligible population with at least one dose, and 83 percent of Māori, while Waitematā DHB has vaccinated 94 percent with at least one dose, and 87 percent of Māori.
Nationally, the DHBs trailing Auckland are Capital and Coast and Canterbury, both sitting on 93.5 percent for first doses.
Across the Tasman, Australia's capital Canberra is currently on 98 percent.
"Let's aim to beat Canberra ... that should be our goal," Jackson said.
8:45am - Newly minted leader of the National Party, Christopher Luxon, has doubled-down on his criticism of plans to barricade the Northland region from unvaccinated travellers, with local iwi set to establish their own border in a bid to protect its people - a population which has struggled to boost its vaccination rates.
With Auckland's regional boundary set to lift on December 15, Northland iwi and community leaders are calling for a ban on all unvaccinated visitors until 90 percent of its eligible population is fully inoculated. Former MP and Te Tai Tokerau Border Control founder, Hone Harawira, told The AM Show on Wednesday morning that the local District Health Board is also backing the call, adding that iwi leaders intend to work closely with police.
But Luxon, who rose to the helm of the Opposition on Tuesday, has described the plan as "nuts".
"It's really not acceptable... you've got tourism and hospitality businesses that have done everything right, they're probably very safe and everyone is in good shape. We need that to be resolved and you can't have that situation for summer," he told broadcaster Mike Hosking during an interview with Newstalk ZB.
Luxon said the situation was an example of the state of New Zealand's politics - "everything is just dreamt up on the fly".
Earlier on The AM Show, Luxon expressed concern that the roadblocks would cut off a crucial lifeline for Northland's struggling businesses, noting that an influx of holidaymakers would inject some much-needed cash into the region's tourism sector.
8:35am - Plans by iwi to establish roadblocks to safeguard the Northland region over the summer have been criticised by new Opposition leader Christopher Luxon, who expressed concern about local businesses being denied much-needed foot traffic.
Former MP and Te Tai Tokerau Border Control founder, Hone Harawira, reiterated on Wednesday that local iwi intend to erect a border to protect the region, which has battled to boost its vaccination rates. He said both iwi and the District Health Board have joined the call to allow only fully vaccinated visitors into Te Tai Tokerau until 90 percent of its eligible population is inoculated.
Speaking with The AM Show on Wednesday, Luxon said the situation needs to be closely monitored.
"I think there are ongoing conversations with the hapu involved. But you know, we've got a lot of tourism businesses there, we've got a lot of people who've worked really hard trying to keep their customers safe, and we know that is the place New Zealanders want to go holiday in," he said.
"I think there's some inconsistency there. We're going to release a border from Auckland, but you can't go to the Bay of Islands. And that issue does need to get resolved."
Whangārei's Mayor, Sheryl Mai, also appeared hesistant towards the idea, telling Newshub that barricading the region could be a substantial blow for businesses that are desperate for visitors. She noted that Auckland holidaymakers are key to the survival of a number of businesses.
"People who are in business in Northland who rely on visitor numbers, absolutely rely on our friends and family from Auckland," Mai said.
"They desperately need their coffers to be filled with the wallets of people who have been in lockdown and want to come north and are desperate to have a good time. So it would definitely have a severe impact on our economy in the region."
Mai added that tourism keeps towns like Russel, Waitangi and Paihia alive.
"It would be devastating for them," she said.
8:25am - Fully vaccinated Kiwis are welcome in Te Tai Tokerau/Northland this summer - but the unvaccinated are being asked to stay away, Hone Harawira said on Wednesday.
The former MP and founder of Te Tai Tokerau Border Control is calling for unvaccinated visitors to be barred from entering the region, which has battled to boost its flagging vaccination rates.
Speaking to The AM Show on Wednesday morning, Harawira said a border will be established to protect the Bay of Islands - and motorists' vaccine certificates will be checked.
"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.
Local iwi and community leaders only want fully vaccinated visitors until the region has inoculated 90 percent of its eligible Māori and non-Māori - and the Northland District Health Board has also joined the call, Harawira 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.
"The doors are still open and we want to try to make sure that if people are double-vaccinated, they are going to be welcomed into the territory."
Te Tai Tokerau Border Control is working with police to manage the roadblocks, he added.
8:10am - The number of business closures has exceeded the creation of new firms for the first time in nearly a decade.
Data from Stats NZ and the not-for-profit organisation, The Facts, showed 64,809 firms closed their doors in the year ended February, while 64,488 firms were created, resulting in a net decline of 321 - the first since 2012.
Small business consultant and co-founder of The Facts, Geoff Neal, said the sharp increase in closures can only be explained by the pandemic and the associated lockdowns and travel restrictions.
"There's a very consistent trend - that there's about 60,000 businesses created per year and about 50,000 close - and this has really bucked the trend of previous years."
Neal said the data did not specify reasons for the closures but it appeared the level of exit sales and owners retiring had remained consistent with previous years.
Closures were most prominent among the sectors most affected by the pandemic, including hospitality, tourism, event, wholesale trade and fitness sectors, he said.
The consequences were devastating for the livelihoods of many, he said.
"What we are talking about is not just businesses here, these are people - this is a lot of partners, husbands and wives, and families impacted, often multiple generations. Every time a business closes that's lost wealth, health, relationships and sometimes lives as well."
Neal expected the figures for the current financial year, which will include the latest round of lockdowns, will reveal a continuation of the recent trend.
8am - Financial markets fell sharply on Tuesday (local time) after the head of drugmaker Moderna said existing COVID-19 vaccines would be less effective against the new Omicron variant - but they recovered strongly after more reassuring comments from European officials.
European Medicines Agency (EMA) executive director Emer Cooke told the European Parliament that existing vaccines will continue to provide protection.
Andrea Ammon, chair of the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC), said the cases of Omicron so far confirmed in 10 European Union countries have so far been mild or without symptoms, although among a younger age demographic.
Major European stock markets, spooked by fears that vaccine resistance may trigger restrictions that would choke off a nascent recovery, dropped about 0.5 percent at around 3pm GMT, having fallen as much as 1.5 percent in early trade.
In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 respectively opened 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent lower.
"There is no world, I think, where [the effectiveness] is the same level we had with Delta," Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told the Financial Times. "I think it's going to be a material drop. I just don't know how much because we need to wait for the data. But all the scientists I've talked to are like 'this is not going to be good'."
The University of Oxford said there is no evidence that the current vaccines will not prevent severe disease from Omicron, but added that it was prepared to rapidly update its shot, developed with AstraZeneca, if necessary.
7:50am - The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has voiced concern that some countries are introducing blanket measures against the Omicron variant that may not be necessary, penalising African nations unfairly.
"I well understand the concern of all countries to protect their citizens against a variant that we don't yet fully understand," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday (local time).
"But I am equally concerned that several Member States are introducing blunt, blanket measures that are not evidence-based or effective on their own, and which will only worsen inequities."
First reported in southern Africa a week ago, the variant has sparked international alarm, prompting nations to slap curbs on travel in a bid to seal off their populations. The response has highlighted the disparity between massive vaccination drives in wealthy countries, and sparse inoculation in the developing world.
In remarks to a closed-door meeting posted on its website, Tedros urged the 194 member states to stick to "rational, proportional" measures.
There are still more questions than answers, he said, regarding Omicron's severity and its possible resistance to vaccines.
No Omicron-linked deaths have yet been reported, but the WHO has said the variant poses a high risk of increasing transmission.
"Once again, I thank Botswana and South Africa for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant so rapidly," added Tedros. "It is deeply concerning to me that those countries are now being penalised by others for doing the right thing."
7:40am - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says imposing a new lockdown is unlikely as the newly identified Omicron variant infiltrates the country, with 13 cases of the strain now identified in England.
"I think another lockdown of the kind that we've had before is extremely unlikely," Johnson told a press conference. "But we keep everything under constant review."
Health officials in the Netherlands say the new variant had been detected in the nation before two flights arrived from South Africa last week with the virus on-board. At least 14 people on flights from Johannesburg and Capetown arrived at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on November 26 carrying the new variant, the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) said.
"We have found the Omicron coronavirus variant in two test samples that were taken on November 19 and November 23," the RIVM said. "It is not clear yet whether these people have visited Southern Africa."
Meanwhile, Australian authorities on Tuesday confirmed a person with the Omicron variant has been active in the community.
The fully vaccinated individual visited a busy shopping centre in Sydney while likely infectious, officials said. The passengers on-board the person's flight have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days regardless of their vaccination status.
Australia has now recorded six infections with the new variant, but the latest case is the first where the person has been active in the community. The five others have been in quarantine and are either asymptomatic or displaying very mild symptoms.
7:35am - To recap, three people have now tested positive for COVID-19 in Nelson.
The two new cases, announced on Tuesday, are known contacts of the first case, which was reported by the Ministry of Health on Monday.
"All three cases are in isolation, with investigations into the source of infection ongoing," the ministry said.
"So far, initial case interviews have identified a small number of close contacts, who are also isolating with testing arranged."
New locations of interest were announced on Tuesday evening, including a restaurant, bar and service station.
Ninety percent of eligible residents in the Nelson-Marlborough region have received their first dose of the vaccine, while 84 percent are fully vaccinated.
Due to a technical error, the three cases have yet to be officially added to New Zealand's tally of cases. They will be included in Wednesday's figures.
7:30am - David Seymour claims a glitch in the system is preventing fully vaccinated returnees from obtaining their My Vaccine Pass.
The ACT Party leader says he's been in contact with a number of New Zealanders who have not been able to get their vaccine certificates authorised by the Ministry of Health as they received their vaccinations overseas.
"ACT has been contacted by many people desperate to get a haircut who haven't been able to get their vaccine pass authorised by the Ministry of Health," he said on Wednesday morning.
"It's one thing to miss out on a haircut, [but] now they will be excluded from going anywhere on Friday despite doing the right thing and being fully vaccinated."
He claims the Ministry of Health "is taking weeks" to verify the vaccinations of returnees who did not receive their jabs in New Zealand.
"It needs to answer why it's taking so long to verify vaccinated people. People should not be excluded from society when they've done the right thing and had the jab," he said.
"COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins should outline what steps he's taking to speed this process up."
7:25am - A number of potential exposure sites have been identified this week in relation to the new cases in Nelson, including restaurants, supermarkets, a McDonald's, a liquor store, a bar, and a service station.
Here are the current locations of interest for Nelson as of 6pm on Tuesday:
7:20am - Kia ora, good morning, and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak for Wednesday, December 1.