Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, February 4

A million additional New Zealanders are now eligible to receive their booster shot after a decision to reduce the interval between second doses and boosters to three months came into effect on Friday.

The wait time was previously four months, but COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said this week that getting as many people boosted as possible before Omicron worsens is critical.

It means that are now more than 3 million people over the age of 18 able to receive their booster shot.

What you need to know:

  • There were 209 new community cases in New Zealand of any variant on Friday - Northland (21), Auckland (99), Waikato (51), Lakes (15), Bay of Plenty (15), Hawke’s Bay (3), Tairāwhiti (4), MidCentral (1).
  • There were nine people in hospital: two in North Shore, one in Middlemore, two in Auckland City, two in Rotorua, one in Hawke's Bay and one in Christchurch.
  • The interval between the second dose of the vaccine and the booster is being shortened to three months, rather than four months
  • The Government has released a five-step plan for reopening New Zealand. This includes Kiwis from Australia bypassing MIQ from February 28.

These live updates are now closed

5:40pm - India passed a grim COVID-19 milestone on Friday when its death toll from the virus passed 500,000. 

Infections in India stand at 41.95 million making it the second worst hit country after the US. 

However some experts say the death toll is much higher, running into the millions. 

"Our study published in the journal Science estimates 3 million COVID deaths in India until mid-2021 using three different databases," Chinmay Tumbe, an assistant professor at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad who co-authored the study, told Reuters.

Last month, the Indian government dismissed the study as baseless in a notification saying there is a robust system of birth and death reporting Reuters reported. 

5:20pm - A total of 21 new COVID-19 infections were found among Olympic Games-related personnel on Feb. 3, down from 55 a day earlier, Games organisers said ahead of Friday's opening ceremony.

Hours before the Winter Olympics officially get under way, the total number of confirmed cases among Games participants since Jan. 23 was 308, among them six unnamed athletes of the German Olympic team, who tested positive after their arrival on Thursday.

They have now gone into isolation and are undergoing further PCR tests, the German team said.

An Australian athlete and an official also had to follow COVID-19 protocols after they were deemed close contacts, team chief Geoff Lipshut said on Friday.

Athletes considered close contacts are isolated from the rest of the team but can continue training alone ahead of their competitions.


5:07pm - Residents on Great Barrier Island are concerned after a flight from the popular holiday spot to Auckland was listed as a high risk location of interest by the MOH. 

The flight made the short journey on Saturday January 29 at 5:00pm. 

 Great Barrier Local Board deputy chairperson Luke Coles told the Herald vaccination rates on the island were low because people there like to get away from the system. 

The vaccination rate for the island is 82 percent. 

"No one knows anyone who has really been affected by it because we are so isolated and it hasn't got there and as a consequence people have taken it a little bit less seriously," Coles told the Herald. 

4:40pm - Kiwis heading off for the long weekend should have plans in place in case they get COVID symptoms, test positive or are identified as a close contact and need to self isolate where they are the MOH says. 

This may include extra costs involved to pay for accommodation to isolate at and changing your travel plans.

The MOH  said alternative accommodation options are limited.

"There are limited alternative accommodation options for those who are unable to safely isolate in their own homes or if they have travelled elsewhere, and as case numbers rise, the accommodation will be focused on those with high needs," the Ministry of Health wrote on their website.

They said travel can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 and anyone with COVID symptoms should not travel.

"It is also important people going on holiday this weekend take measures to reduce the risk of both catching and spreading the virus."

The most common early symptoms of the Omicron variant are a running nose and sore or scratchy throat.

4:30pm - Europe could be entering a "ceasefire period" in the fight against COVID-19 the World Health Organisation says. 

Hans Kluge, the Europe Director for the WHO said on Friday the continent could enter a "long period of tranquility" as spring hits, vaccination numbers rise and Omicron so far being a milder strain. 

Kluge said Europe has seen a rise in cases due to the OMicron variant but hospital admissins, particualry to ICU, were not rising and the fatality rate had remained flat. 

3:40pm - The Māori population is now 90 per cent partially vaccinated the Ministry of Health says. 

The ninety percent first dose milestone was today achieved by Māori across Aotearoa says Patricia Joseph, Equity Group Manager at Ministry of Health’s Immunisation Programme.

"Congratulations to all of our communities, health providers, partners and iwi for their part in this achievement, in particular Māori health providers that operate throughout the motu including some of our most remote regions.

"This is a significant accomplishment that should be celebrated, and speaks to the commitment Māori have to whānau and wider communities", says Ms Joseph.

“With Omicron now in our communities, the mahi continues, and we don’t stop at 90 per cent first doses. We want as many Māori as possible to get double dosed and boosted to ensure those in all our communities have the best protection possible."

So far, 116,557 Māori have had their booster, which is around 42% of those that have due so faible”.

“Please encourage your whānau and friends to get vaccinated and get the booster when you can”, says Ms Joseph.

3:30pm - Omicron has replaced Delta as the dominant variant of COVID-19 in Northland. There were 21 new cases notified to the Public Health Unit in the past 24 hours – the highest number of cases notified in a day for Northland, said Medical Officer of Health, Dr Bart Willems, Ngā Tai Ora - Public Health Northland.

"At the moment, cases are increasing rapidly in the Kerikeri area, and it is likely that eventually, we will see similar trends in other areas of Northland. However, anyone can help to slow it down," Willems said. 

"A slower and more controlled outbreak will help us protect Māori and our most vulnerable by allowing time for more vaccinations and supporting the healthcare system to care for everyone who needs it safely.

"In an extremely fast and uncontrolled outbreak, Northland is more vulnerable to the risk of health services and critical services being unable to keep up with demands. 

"For most, the severity of COVID disease is likely to be milder with Omicron infection, but many will still have severe disease needing hospital care."

3:10pm - Three more flights have been notified as high risk locations by the Ministry of Health. 

Flight NZ0535 Auckland to Christchurch on Saturday January 29.  

 Flight JQ237 Auckland to Christchurch - Mon 24 Jan 4:00pm - 5:30pm

Barrier Air Flight Great Barrier to Auckland - Sat 29 Jan 5:00pm - 5:30pm

For more information click here

2:50pm - A woman in an MIQ facility in Dunedin says people are deliberately trying to catch COVID-19 to shorten their stay. 

Casey Williamson, who arrived from Australia with her family on January 16 told the Otago Daily Times people trying to get COVID-19 to shorten their stay is rife with the facility. 

Five days into quarantine one of Williamson's daughters tested positive for COVID-19.  

People who test positive for COVID-19 spend 14 days in quarantine, but family members who don't have to spend a further 10 days in quarantine. 

"Us and everyone in our facility that we talk to outside, the number one thing people say is 'try and spread the virus as soon as you can because I don't think you guys realise you could be in here for months'," she told the ODT. 

2:30pm - Two drive-through vaccination centres are open this weekend. One will be held at the Tauranga Racecourse and the other at Whakatāne War Memorial car park.

"Nau mai, haere mai – we’re welcoming all Bay residents to get vaccinated at our drive-throughs this weekend," says Bay of Plenty DHB senior responsible officer – COVID-19 Programme Brent Gilbert-De Rios.

“Load up the car with your grandparents, parents and kids. Adults can get boosted and tamariki aged 5 and up vaccinated, all from the comfort of your car. Or if you’re ready for your first or second shot, that’s ka pai too,” says Gilbert-De Rios. 

Tauranga’s drive-through event is open this Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10 am to 3.30 pm, at the Tauranga Racecourse. The Whakatāne drive-through is open Monday from 10 am to 3.30 pm at the Whakatāne War Memorial car park.

2:15pm - The government's plan to re-open the border, allowing people to bypass what the prime minister has described as "the anguish of MIQ", is being shot down by the opposition as both too slow and too fast.

New Zealanders in Australia will be the first to skip managed isolation and head straight into 10 days of self-isolation in the five-stage re-opening plan.

National Party leader Christopher Luxon said MIQ doesn't make sense anymore and phasing it out is the right thing to do.

Read more here

2pm - Here is a bit of specific information about the Hawke's Bay cases: 

Hawke’s Bay DHB is today reporting three COVID-19 cases in the community.

Medical Officer of Health Dr Rachel Eyre said the three cases were linked to known clusters and had been isolating.

Dr Eyre said as COVID-19 cases continued to increase in the region, it was very important for people to follow public health advice and isolate while awaiting test results to limit the spread of the infection in our community.

Dr Eyre said anyone with cold and flu like symptoms, no matter how mild and even if they were vaccinated, needed to get tested.

"If anyone is travelling around the country and becomes unwell don’t wait to get tested. You can check testing stations and their availability around the country here."

1:40pm - Māori across Aotearoa will today reach 90% partial vaccination (first dose). As of 11am this morning, they were just 142 doses away from reaching this important milestone.

With Omicron in New Zealand, one of the best things you can do is get your booster as soon as it is due. From today, 1 million people are now eligible for their booster after the interval was reduced from four to three months.

Boosters lower your chances of getting very sick and being hospitalised. Being boosted also helps slow the spread of the virus. If you’re over 18 and your booster is due, please get it now.


The Ministry is reminding that only those who have COVID-19 symptoms – or have been at a location of interest at the relevant time – need to get a test and isolate at home until a negative result is returned. 

The most common early symptoms of the Omicron variant are a sore or scratchy throat, and a runny nose. If you have any of these symptoms, please get a test.

Waitangi weekend reminder

We are reminding you that if you are going away this Waitangi weekend, you should have plans in place in the event you are identified as a close contact, get COVID-19 symptoms, or find out you have COVID-19.

You are likely to need to self-isolate wherever you become a close contact or test positive, so there may be extra costs involved in paying for additional accommodation and changing your travel plans.

1:35pm - Today’s cases  

We are reporting new community cases in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Lakes, Bay of Plenty, Tairāwhiti, Hawke’s Bay and MidCentral.

We are also reporting three cases in Nelson Marlborough which will be officially added to the case numbers tomorrow.


Today we are reporting 21 new cases in Northland.

These include 12 cases in Kerikeri, five in Hokianga and four in Whangārei.

There were two new locations of interest published for Northland yesterday, both in Kerikeri. Please check the Ministry of Health website for latest locations of interest.


There are 99 cases to report in Auckland today. 

Health and welfare providers are now supporting 1,692 people in the region to isolate at home, including 642 cases.


We are reporting 51 cases in the Waikato today.

Of these, 23 are linked to previously reported case and the rest remain under investigation for links to known cases.

Eighteen of these cases are based in Hamilton, one is in Matamata and the others are still under investigation.


We are reporting 15 new cases in the Rotorua district today, with 13 linked to existing cases and two yet to be connected to the outbreak.

Bay of Plenty  

There are 15 cases to report in the Bay of Plenty today, all linked to previously reported cases.

Of these cases, six are in Tauranga and nine in the Western Bay of Plenty.

Radius Lexham Park, Katikati

We are reporting a case in a resident at Radius Lexham Park aged residential care facility in Katikati. The case is linked to a previous case in a staff member at the facility who tested positive on 27 January. 

All residents have been self-isolating and daily Rapid Antigen Tests are being carried out for all staff and residents. The facility is following the recommended response measures including staff wearing full PPE.


There are four new cases to report in Tairāwhiti today.

Three of these cases are household contacts of previously reported cases and were isolating when they tested positive.

One of these cases remains under investigation for links to a previously reported case.

In addition, we are announcing one further case in the region whose links to a previously reported case also remains under investigation. This case is not included in today’s numbers as the Ministry was notified after the daily reporting cut-off.

Hawke’s Bay

Today we are reporting three new cases in Hawke’s Bay.

All three cases are linked to previously reported cases and were already isolating when they tested positive.


Today we are reporting one new case in MidCentral. They are a household contact of a case and were already in isolation.

Nelson Marlborough

We are announcing three cases in the Marlborough region today.

All these cases were known close contacts of previously reported cases. They are isolating when they tested positive. Investigations are underway to identify any exposure events associated with these cases.

These cases are not included in today’s numbers as the Ministry was notified after the daily reporting cut-off.

1:30pm - There are 209 new community cases on Friday and 64 cases at the border. The seven day rolling average for community cases is 128.

COVID-19 vaccine update 

  • Vaccines administered to date (percentage of eligible people): 4,045,772 first doses (96%); 3,969,817 second doses (94%); 1,445,598 booster doses (71%)
  • Vaccines administered yesterday: 870 first doses; 1,817 second doses; 4,501 paediatric doses; 45,931 booster doses. 
  • Māori (percentage of eligible people aged 12+): 513,799 first doses (89.9%); 487,983 second doses (85%).
  • Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people aged 12+): 277,873 first doses (97%); 270,147 second doses (94%). 
  • Paediatric vaccines administered to date (percentage of 5-11-year-olds): 188,220 first doses (40%) 
  • Māori (percentage of eligible people aged 5-11): 25,350 first doses (22%) 
  • Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people aged 5-11): 14,411 first doses (29%) 

Vaccination rates for all DHBs (percentage of eligible people aged 12 +) 

  • Northland DHB: First doses (89.8%); second doses (87%) 
  • Auckland Metro DHBs: First doses (97%); second doses (96%) 
  • Waikato DHB: First doses (95%); second doses (93%) 
  • Bay of Plenty DHB: First doses (95%); second doses (92%) 
  • Lakes DHB: First doses (93%); second doses (90%) 
  • MidCentral DHB: First doses (96%); second doses (94%) 
  • Tairawhiti DHB: First doses (93%); second doses (89%) 
  • Whanganui DHB: First doses (92%); second doses (89.6%) 
  • Hawke’s Bay: First doses (97%); second doses (94%) 
  • Taranaki DHB: First doses (94%); second doses (92%) 
  • Wairarapa DHB: First doses (96%); second doses (94%) 
  • Capital and Coast DHB: First doses (98%); second doses (97%) 
  • Hutt Valley DHB: First doses (97%); second doses (95%) 
  • Nelson Marlborough DHB: First doses (96%); second doses (95%) 
  • West Coast DHB: First doses (93%); second doses (90%) 
  • Canterbury DHB: First doses (99%); second doses (98%) 
  • South Canterbury DHB: First doses (95%); second doses (93%) 
  • Southern DHB: First doses (98%); second doses (96%) 


  • Cases in hospital: 9; North Shore: 2; Middlemore: 1; Auckland: 2; Rotorua: 2; Hawkes Bay: 1; Christchurch: 1
  • Average age of current hospitalisations: 52 
  • Cases in ICU or HDU: 1
  • Vaccination status of current hospitalisations (Northern Region wards only): For privacy reasons, we are unable to report this information when hospitalisations are below five.  


  • Seven day rolling average of community cases: 128
  • Seven day rolling average of border cases: 49
  • Number of new community cases: 209
  • Number of new cases identified at the border: 64
  • Location of new community cases: Northland (21), Auckland (99), Waikato (51), Lakes (15), Bay of Plenty (15), Hawke’s Bay (3), Tairāwhiti (4), MidCentral (1)
  • Number of community cases (total): 12,630 (in current community outbreaks) 
  • Cases epidemiologically linked (total): 9,355
  • Number of active cases (total): 1,298 (cases identified in the past 21 days and not yet classified as recovered)
  • Confirmed cases (total): 16,901


  • Number of active contacts being managed (total): 5,253
  • Percentage who has received an outbound call from contact tracers (to confirm testing and isolation requirements): 76% 
  • Percentage who has returned at least one result: 73% 


  • Number of tests total (last 24 hours): 20,525
  • Tests rolling average (last 7 days): 19,779
  • Auckland tests total (last 24 hours): 10,383


  • There was positive detection of the virus in a sample taken from Whatuwhiwhi on 31 January. There was also a positive wastewater sample collected from Mangawhai on 1 February. Anyone in these area with symptoms is asked to please get a test. For testing locations in Northland, visit the Healthpoint website.

NZ COVID Tracer 

  • Poster scans in the 24 hours to midday yesterday: 2,382,036
  • Manual diary entries in the 24 hours to midday:  44,476

My Vaccine Pass 

  • Total issued to date: 5,029,692
  • Total yesterday: 15,703

1:10pm - There are four new close contact locations of interest:

  • ZERO-2-100 Fitness Cardio Room, Flat Bush - Sunday, January 30 between 7am and 11am
  • Zero-2-100 Fitness Flat Bush - Monday, January 31 between 7am and 11am
  • Papatoetoe Centennial Pool and Leisure Centre children's pool - Thursday, January 27 between 11:30am and 12:45pm
  • Bus 32 Jordan Road Mangere to Otahuhu Station - Thursday, January 27 between 1:15pm and 1:40pm.

12:50pm - We are now waiting on the 1pm update from the Ministry of Health.

12:45pm - Ardern says the criteria to move out of red is "quite straight-forward".

"We want to know that we are managing COVID within New Zealand in such a way that it is not placing extra pressure on our health system, that we are not seeing severe impacts on our vulnerable communities."

Being at start of an Omicron outbreak, red is the best place to be, Ardern says.

Officials will keep watching the health system to ensure it is coping.

12:40pm - Ardern says she expects to see demand increase for boosters now that more people are eligible. She says people will be safer if they get their booster shot and reduce the chance of serious illness if someone gets COVID-19.

12:35pm - Addressing comments from Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā that Māori weren't consulted about the reopening decision, Jacinda Ardern says the Government has worked with Māori throughout the COVID-19 response, including with the vaccination rollout. Any lessons learnt along the way are being used to improve future responses, she says. She's confident the response will protect all New Zealanders, including Māori.

The reopening dates will be when 92 percent of people will be eligible for their booster, meaning they will have the opportunity to safeguard themselves and their community, she says.

Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis says he disagrees there hasn't been any consultation. He said officials met with the pandemic response group and gave them a heads-up about the Thursday announcement and they were "relaxed about that". He says other Māori groups have been met with recently and proposed ideas have been taken on board.

12:25pm - The Prime Minister is currently holding a press conference. You can watch that here.

12:20pm - Medsafe, the New Zealand medicines regulator, has granted provisional approval to the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, Nuvaxovid, for those over 18. 

"The Medsafe team has worked tirelessly to ensure that COVID-19 vaccine applications are prioritised and urgently reviewed, while still maintaining the same scrutiny that all medicine applications undergo before they can be approved," says group manager Chris James.

"Medsafe only approves a vaccine or medicine for use in New Zealand once it is satisfied that it has met acceptable standards for quality, safety and efficacy."

Ministers will now consider advice from the Ministry of Health about whether to use the vaccine in New Zealand.

12:15pm - There are two new close contact locations of interest:

  • Cutting Club, New Lynn, Auckland - Thursday, January 27 between 9am and 6pm, Saturday, January 29 between 9am and 6pm and Sunday, January 30 between 9am and 2pm
  • Gym Zero Cardio Room, Flat Bush, Auckland - Saturday, January 29 between 7am and 11am

Find the full advice here

12pm - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is encouraging Kiwis now eligible to get their boosters to do so. On Friday, the time people have to wait between their second dose and the booster was cut from four months to three months, meaning a million more Kiwis are eligible. Two third of New Zealanders can now receive their booster, Hipkins says.

"There is plenty of capacity to get vaccinated this weekend and throughout February, wherever you are in the country," he says.

"This is the best thing you can do to protect yourselves and your whānau as we prepare for Omicron. Get boosted, and wear a mask when you can’t distance from others. We will have a much better chance of facing the virus if we are well prepared."

On Thursday night, medical type masks also became mandatory for people under a vaccine mandate and who are in public-facing roles to wear at work. Masks are also now mandatory in close proximity businesses, food and drink businesses and at public events and gatherings. They can no longer be a t-shirt, bandanda or a scarf and must cover your mouth and nose. They must attach with ear or head loops. 

11:50am - The National Party has released a "10-point Omicron plan", which it says would improve New Zealand's response to the variant. 

The 10 points are:

  1. Accelerate boosters and youth vaccines
  2. Upgrade the testing regime with rapid tests
  3. Increase use of high-quality masks
  4. Shorten isolation periods and fix community support
  5. Increase access to COVID treatments
  6. End MIQ and let stranded Kiwis come home
  7. Reinforce the health system
  8. Clarify available financial support
  9. Ensure children can learn safely
  10. Specify the criteria for removing restrictions

COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop has welcomed the Government's decision to end MIQ for vaccinated travellers and recognise the importance of rapid tests.

"We need to speed up the vaccine rollout for 5-11 year olds with pop-up vaccination clinics in schools (with strict parental consent provisions in place) and consider a shorter gap between first and second doses for children, as other countries have done. 

"National supports making the Novavax vaccine available to everyone who wants it, once it is approved by Medsafe. There is a small group waiting for Novavax, and if making it available gets a few more people vaccinated, then it is worth it.

"Now the Government has finally recognised the role of rapid tests, it needs to approve every test already approved in Australia and lift the pointless ban on buying them from pharmacies and supermarkets, so that people can take some personal responsibility and also do the right thing for the community.

"We should also provide every school with sufficient rapid antigen tests to conduct twice-weekly surveillance testing for all students, teachers and staff. If NSW and Victoria can do it, so can we.

"Finally, the Government needs to start charting a pathway back to something closer to normal life. Kiwis have sacrificed a lot over the last two years, have complied with each new public health restriction and each new impingement on the freedoms and rights that, in normal times, would have been considered unconscionable."

He doesn't want to see any "on-the-fly decision-making" that he believes marked the Government's response to Delta.

"New Zealanders deserve to know what the triggers will be - in terms of case numbers, booster coverage, or falling hospitalisation rates - for things like the move from Red to Orange to Green under the traffic light system, the eventual removal of gathering limits and restrictions on hospitality, when the vaccine pass system will no longer be required, and at what point vaccine mandates will be allowed to expire."

The full plan can be found here.

11:30am - Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā - the National Māori Pandemic Group - says the reopening decision announced on Thursday has been made without consultation with Māori or "consideration for their wellbeing". 

"We understand the importance of people being able to return home, and families being able to reconnect," says health researcher and lecturer Dr Donna Cormack,

“But we are concerned that in spite of repeated calls from Māori and the strong, clear messages from the Waitangi Tribunal to the government at the end of last year, this announcement fails to consider the disparate impacts and risks for Māori communities.

"Neither the press release from Grant Robertson, nor the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday, address issues around equity or talk specifically about what this border reopening will mean for Māori communities, or how Māori have been meaningfully involved in these decisions."

11:15am - Self-isolation rule-breakers could be slapped with a fine of up to $12,000, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned, ahead of the border reopening. 

The Government announced on Thursday that mandatory state-run managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) will be phased out for international arrivals from March, with travellers expected to self-isolate for seven to 10 days instead. 

"We have to keep in mind that when you move to self-isolation, it does have a high level of personal responsibility involved. There are fines attached - anywhere between $4000 to $12,000 if you breach self-isolation requirements," Ardern told reporters. 

Read more here.

11am - The announcement on Thursday that New Zealand would soon be reopening to the world received a lot of international attention. Here are some of the tweets from overseas media outlets about the announcement: 

10:45am - Another event has been cancelled due to the red light settings.

The Eye on Nature Whānau Day due to be held at the Auckland Botanic Gardens on Saturday March 26 will no longer go ahead. 

The event is run by the Beautification Trust and encourages families to engage with nature and learn about sustainability. It normally includes activities, games, live entertainment and prizes, often attracting more than 5,000 visitors from across Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and beyond.

"The safety of our communities, partners, volunteers and suppliers is at the heart of this decision.  

"We are exploring alternative ways to safely operate some activities at any traffic light setting by delivering engaging, educational experiences to the community, in place of the Whānau Day.

"This may be through smaller-scale workshops or pop-up activities in the Auckland Botanic Gardens over a series of weeks. All further details will be available through the Beautification Trust’s website and social media in due course."

10:30am - New Zealand’s critical shortage of specialist nurses made headlines again this week, but it’s not the country’s only pressing medical need.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) has estimated almost 3,000 more GPs and specialist doctors, and 12,000 more nurses, are needed to match Australia’s per-capita staffing levels.

The predicted impact of Omicron adds to the urgency, but since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic there have been regular reports of a medical workforce in crisis, with longer waiting times and patients being turned away.

Read more here.

10:10am - A million more Kiwis are eligible to get their booster on Friday. It will be interesting to see how many turn out and if there are many queues.

In Thursday's update, the Ministry of Health said: There were 36,230 booster doses administered yesterday, taking the total to date to 1,399,350. Also, 5,725 paediatric doses were given yesterday, bringing the total to 183,706.

9:55am - The BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron has been found in five African countries, a World Health Organization scientist said on Thursday, adding she was concerned about the development because samples of BA.2 may not be spotted as a form of Omicron.

The BA.2 sub-variant has begun to replace Omicron's more common "original" BA.1 variant in countries such as Denmark. Data from there suggests no difference in disease severity, according to another WHO official.

"BA.2 ... has been reported in five countries, that is Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Senegal as well as South Africa," Dr Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi told an online media briefing.

Read more here

9:45am - Here's the latest case summary from the Ministry of Health, including Thursday's data:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Friday, February 4

9:30am - African nations have been warned they need to speed up their vaccinations by six-fold if they want to have a chance of beating the pandemic.

That, and more, can be found in Newshub's wrap of what's happening globally with the COVID-19 pandemic

9:15am - If you're now eligible for a booster, there's no need to book if you prefer to just walk in and get your vaccine administered. 

 If you visit the COVID-19 website you can find the nearest walk-in vaccination centre to you. 

If you would like a bit more certainty, you're able to book online at Book My Vaccine or you can make a booking over the phone. 

The ministry says that when you arrive for your booster, the date of your last vaccination will be checked in the COVID Immunisation Register (CIR) to make sure you're eligible. 

9am - The COVID minister couldn't say when self-isolation may be dropped or what circumstances would be necessary to allow that. 

"There is still a lot of water to flow under the bridge over the next few months. We will at some stage almost certainly reach the point where self-isolation won't be required... we don't know at this point," Hipkins said.

He said it is difficult to predict what will happen in the next few months.

The Government announced on Thursday that by July visitors from Australia and other countries that don't require visas to come here will be able to travel to New Zealand. The border will fully open in October.

8:55am - Hipkins said that COVID-19 forecasting is a "little bit like the weather forecasting". It came after questions about when a large surge in Omicron cases is expected, something some experts had been anticipating would happen by Waitangi weekend. On Wednesday and Thursday, community cases remained in the 140s. 

"I've always been pretty sceptical about the models," he said.

He went on to say modelling can be useful and it is better to have some modelling than none. 

The public would expect the Government to considering different scenarios, he said, to ensure it can prepare.

8:50am - COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Newstalk ZB earlier that there will be a set of criteria for what is a critical business during the Omicron outbreak. A business will then be able to assess themselves against that criteria "and determine whether they fit that criteria".

If businesses meet the criteria, they will be able to access RATs, Hipkins said. 

Asked what happens if a business believes it fits the criteria, but officials turn around and say they don't, Hipkins said we've been through the process before of identifying critical businesses. He says businesses aren't being asked to shut down like during a lockdown, but identify if they "could have potentially infectious people in their workplace".

8:40am - Not sure if you're now eligible to get your booster shot? The easiest way to check if it's been three months since your second dose is to log into My COVID Record to view your vaccination history. 

To book an appointment, once you've logged in, click 'Book a COVID-19 vaccination'. Once you've filled in your information, it will show you a list of vaccination centres near you and a calendar with available appointment slots.

8:30am - The festering political boil MIQ has been lanced, but despite the delight, the social and economic wounds inflicted by COVID-19 will take longer to heal.

It's been all about the border regime this past week, building to a crescendo with the anticipation of the announcement and the Charlotte Bellis story.

MIQ, though, did its job, playing a major role in keeping case numbers, community spread and the death toll comparatively low in the last two years. The end of February had already been given as a likely timetable so everyone was keen to put a date on it; the furore after Bellis publicly and vocally made her case put the debate into overdrive.

Read more here

8:15am - Asked about the risk to other people in the same building as someone isolating, Hipkins said the risk will be more significant across the country regardless of actions taken at the border as Omicron is already here.

He said the spread could be "quite significant" and there will be people in apartment blocks who have had or have Omicron.

8:10am - Speaking to RNZ earlier, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says self-isolation for people returning to New Zealand from overseas is built on a high-trust model. It "wouldn't be possible" to monitor everyone self-isolating, he says. 

There are fines for those found breaking the rules - initially people will have to self-isolate for 10 days, but that will eventually drop to seven - but Hipkins was questioned on how officials will ensure returnees follow the protocols, such as using RATs provided on arrival.

"The consequences of somebody not following the rules and potentially taking COVID into the community is significant for the community and for them. There are some hefty fines that can be issued. The consequences of that should act as a disincentive to people breaking the rules."

Hipkins said there will be a "heavy emphasis on communicating to people" as they arrive back and on their journey what the expectations are for them. 

The minister wouldn't rule out requiring people to use the RATs and then uploading their results to a programme online, allowing officials to track who has done their tests and who hasn't. More detail is being worked through before the border reopens.

Cellphone monitoring at the scale expected would be very resource heavy, he said, and not something being actively considered.

He noted that it won't just be returnees self-isolating, but people who pick up Omicron in the community and their household contacts.

The reopening plan has been phased, Hipkins said, to ensure a lot of additional risk isn't added all at the same time.

8am - Here are some quick facts about the booster shot rollout and change in wait time:

  • The three-month interval only applies to the Pfizer vaccine. Additional advice is expected from the Government's technical advisory group on AstraZeneca later in February
  • The boosters are only available to people over the age of 18, but advice is being sought on administering them to those between 12 and 17.
  • Everyone over 18 can check when they are due for a booster by visiting or if they have one, referring to their purple COVID-19 Vaccine appointment card or calling COVID Vaccination Healthline 0800 28 29 26 (8am - 8pm, 7 days a week).
  • Book your booster or find a walk-in vaccination centre at or call COVID Vaccination Healthline 0800 28 29 26 (8am - 8pm, 7 days a week). Whānau bookings (group bookings for more than one person) can be made by calling 0800 28 29 26. 
  • COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be available at mobile and pop-up vaccination clinics, particularly in rural Māori communities as well as marae vaccinations where a number of kaumatua received their initial doses.

7:45am - If you need a reminder, here's Chris Hipkins' statement announcing the cut in booster shot wait times: 

A million more New Zealanders over 18 will be eligible for their booster from this Friday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

"Cabinet has considered advice from the Director-General of Health and the COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group and decided to reduce the interval between a person’s primary vaccination course and the booster from 4 months to 3 months – starting this Friday 4 February," Chris Hipkins said.

"This is a significant step in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it now means a total of 3,063,823 people aged 18 and over – two thirds of our population – will be eligible for their booster from this weekend. Over 1.3 million people have already got theirs.

"I urge every New Zealander who is eligible for a booster to get it as soon as possible. We are in a race against Omicron and the more people who are boosted the more we can reduce the impact of the outbreak.

"Bringing forward the booster timing will help those who have been immunised more recently. It will mean more people, especially Māori, will be able to receive a booster before Omicron takes hold in communities.

"Boosters lower your chances of getting very sick from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and ending up in hospital. Fewer hospitalisations from COVID-19 will mean our health system can continue to provide the full range of care people need, in particular for our most vulnerable such as people with disabilities or long-term illnesses.

"It is also important to reduce impacts on other workforces such as those involved with the supply chain to ensure people have access to goods and services.

"New Zealand is in the top 10 most highly vaccinated countries in the OECD – 94 percent of us aged over 12 are fully vaccinated. That’s close to four million New Zealanders, over a quarter of which have now also had their booster shot.

"Now is our opportunity to build on that. We have given ourselves a head start that we cannot afford to give up.

"If you are over 18 and it is three months since you received your primary vaccination course, get your booster. There is excellent capacity this weekend and in the coming weeks and enough supply throughout Aotearoa for everyone.

"Thank you to our vaccination providers and staff across the country who are working the long weekend to ensure New Zealanders have options to access their booster dose, wherever they are," Chris Hipkins said.

7:40am - Kia ora, good morning and welcome to Newshub's live updates for Friday. A million more Kiwis can receive their booster shot from Friday, with the Government having cut the wait time between second doses and boosters to three months from four.