As it happened: Latest on Parliament protest, COVID-19 community outbreak - Wednesday, February 16

The Ministry of Health has announced a record day of cases with 1160 new infections.

Hospitalisations have also jumped with 56 people in hospital compared to 40 on Tuesday, which comes on New Zealand's first day of phase two of the Omicron plan.

What you need to know:

  • Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has activated a major operations centre in response to the anti-COVID vaccine mandate protests at Parliament, saying the impact of the demonstration activity in Wellington is "no longer tenable".
  • Protesters have been told to clear the roads, or their vehicles will be towed.
  • Meanwhile, there were 1160 new community COVID cases in New Zealand on Wednesday.
  • Location of new community cases: 861 are in Auckland, 73 in Waikato, 39 in Southern, 33 in Bay of Plenty, 32 in Capital and Coast, 24 in Northland, 20 in Hutt Valley, 15 in Nelson Marlborough, 15 in Hawke's Bay, nine in Taranaki, nine in Tairāwhiti, eight in Canterbury, five in Lakes, five in Wairarapa, four in Whanganui, three in MidCentral, three in South Canterbury and two unknown. 
  • Number of new cases identified at the border on Wednesday: 43
  • Cases in hospital on Wednesday: Total number 56; 24 in Auckland, 17 in Middlemore, six in North Shore, three in Tauranga, three in Waikato, one in Wellington, one in Rotorua and one in Christchurch.
  • NZ moved to phase 2 of the Government's Omicron plan on Tuesday night.
  • You can see the latest locations of interest here.  

These live updates have finished.

7:35pm - The Assistant Police Commissioner says about a dozen cars belonging to anti-COVID vaccine mandate protesters have been moved from the blocked streets of Wellington.

But despite police promises on Tuesday to tow illegally parked vehicles from the streets surrounding the Beehive, the majority had still not taken up the offer to move their cars to the city's Sky Stadium and park them there for free.

Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers says they've now secured towing capabilities for illegally parked vehicles should they be required, after Commissioner Andrew Coster threatened to tow cars on Tuesday - despite not having any towing companies on board. 

The now-secured towing companies would help police resolve the situation, Asst Cmmr Chambers said.

"We have secured towing capability and we are thankful to those operators for their cooperation with us and coming to support the situation here [that] we are wanting to resolve," Asst Cmmr Chambers told reporters on Wednesday.

Read the full story here.

6:50pm - The Ministry of Health has agreed to share the vaccination data of Māori children with iwi and Māori health providers.

They want it to encourage whānau with unvaccinated children to get them the jab.

But the health providers say they haven't been given enough information to do the job properly.

Read and watch the full story from Newshub's Māori affairs correspondent Te Rina Kowhai here.

6:20pm - Wellington's BMX and skating communities are angry after a "substantial stockpile" of mats were stolen from Ian Galloway Park, the city council says.

Social media posts allege the stolen mats match the description of ones pictured at the anti-COVID vaccine mandate protest site outside Parliament, now in its ninth day. The mats, donated to the skate park by the local BMX Club, were apparently due to be laid around the edges of the skate park's ramps.

"That is definitely them," one Twitter user responded to an image of the rubber mats on the protest grounds.

"They were acquired at great effort and cost by local skaters," another said.

However, the police nor the Wellington City Council have been unable to verify the allegations. A council spokesman confirmed to Newshub the mats were stolen and they are appealing for information.

Read the full story here.

6pm - It's time for Newshub Live at 6pm for the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak. You can watch online here or tune in on Three.

5:45pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it was "irresponsible" of ACT leader David Seymour to meet with a Parliament protest "intermediary" to deliver conditions to be met for dialogue.

Seymour said on Wednesday he met with the unnamed intermediary at the Backbencher, a pub across the road from Parliament, that was forced to close due to the week-long protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and other rules.

Seymour, who was joined by ACT MP Nicole McKee, said the conditions he delivered included removing vehicles blocking the roads around Parliament and Victoria University, and a guarantee that no more abuse would be hurled at passersby. 

Ardern has so far refused to engage with the protesters, who have camped outside Parliament in tents since early last week. 

"I don't think it was a responsible thing to do for a party that purports to be the champion of law and order or indeed businesses, to meet with those who are obstructing Wellingtonians from going about their everyday lives, bullying and harassing people who are trying to go to school or work," she told reporters on Wednesday. 

"I do think meeting with them was irresponsible."

Read the full story here.

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

  • Bus, Route 72X Botany Town Centre Stop B to Meadowland Drive, February 11 from 8am to 8:30am
  • Bus, Route 72X Meadowland Drive to Harrison Road Bus Stop, February 11 from 3pm to 3:30pm.

5:05pm - Asst Comm Chambers says protesters know that their protest is causing distruption for Wellingtonians.

And with that, his press conference has finished.

5:02pm - Asst Comm Chambers says it's police's desire that the additional tents now pitched on Parliament's lawns be removed.

He says they want protest leaders to encourage those there to remove their vehicles.

"Blocking roads is not the mature way forward to protest the issue they're protesting about," he says.

4:56pm - No police officers have tested positive for COVID-19 during this protest, Asst Comm Chambers says.

4:55pm - The protest has mainly been "orderly", Asst Comm Chambers says.

No arrests in the past 24 hours is also "encouraging", he adds.

4:51pm - About a dozen vehicles that were parked illegally left today, Asst Comm Chambers says.

He says the main goal is for vehicles to be cleared to people in Wellington can go about their daily business.

There are about 450 cars parked on the street.

4:48pm - Any cars that continue to park illegally risk getting towed, Asst Comm Chambers says.

He says this remains an "incredibly challening" thing for police to tackle.

"We continue for those influences within the group to do the right thing."

There haven't been any arrest in the past 48 hours.

4:46pm - Asst Comm Chambers has arrived.

He says some protesters have moved their cars voluntarily after speaking with police.

But while they keep seeing positive movement, they will continuing encouraging people to make the protest smaller.

4:35pm - Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers, head of the Police operation overseeing the protest activity at Parliament grounds, is due to front a press conference at 4:45pm.

You can watch this in the video player above. If you can't see the stream, try refreshing the page.

4:25pm - The continuing COVID-19 pandemic is pushing New Zealand's most vulnerable communities "over the edge", the Salvation Army warns.

In its latest State of the Nation report, the Salvation Army says inequities are being "laid bare" as the pandemic rages on.

"A lot of families were already living on the edge when COVID-19 hit our country," says director of The Salvation Army's social policy and Parliamentary unit Lt-Colonel Ian Hutson.

"The pandemic not only pushed some of them over the edge, but also increased the vulnerability of others, pulling them closer to desperation."

Many whānau are struggling with the rising costs of food, rent and housing.

The report found the waitlist for social housing has ballooned to more than 25,000, leaving many families in temporary accommodation. It also found Māori are five times more likely to need social housing.

Read the full story here.

4:10pm - There are three new locations of interest. They are:

  • Flight JQ295 Auckland to Queenstown, February 9 from 8:30am to 10:15am
  • Crew Room Bar Queenstown, 10pm on February 10 to 12:30am on February 11
  • The Soho Queenstown, 8pm on February 11 to 5am on February 12.

3:50pm - Below is an update from the Government on New Zealand donating more COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX:

New Zealand is donating further vaccines to COVAX and has commenced roll-out of Pfizer's paediatric COVID vaccine in Polynesia, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Associate Health Minister Aupito William Sio announced today.

"Widespread vaccination saves lives. It is critical to reducing the risk of new variants emerging and setting us all on a path to recovery. Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to ensuring developing countries have access to the vaccines they need to protect against COVID-19," Mahuta says.

New Zealand is contributing a further 7.3 million vaccines to COVAX including 5.8 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and 1.5 million doses of Janssen vaccine. This brings the total volume of New Zealand vaccine donations to COVAX to 9.7 million doses.

"Our latest, fully-funded dose donation to COVAX will also support vaccination programmes in developing countries, including in parts of the Pacific and in Africa where immunisation rates are low," Mahuta says.

This donation is supported by a grant contribution of $5.1 million to cover the cost of safe injection equipment and other ancillary costs. COVAX will allocate the doses to developing countries and deliveries will commence later this month.

These donations are additional to a total of $26 million in funding contributions made to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment over the last two years.

"COVAX is doing vital work to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are readily available for all. Aotearoa New Zealand was an early donor to COVAX and we remain strongly supportive of their important work," Mahuta says.

Through New Zealand's Advance Purchase Agreement (APA) with Pfizer, paediatric vaccine doses are also being provided to countries in Polynesia. The roll out of these doses has already commenced in Niue and the Cook Islands and planning is underway for donations to Samoa, Tonga, and Tokelau.

"We must do all we can to increase vaccine uptake everywhere, and Aotearoa New Zealand is playing its part. Our support for roll-out of paediatric vaccines in Polynesia is part of our ongoing commitment to ensuring our Pacific whānau have access to the vaccines they need," Sio says.

New Zealand has also already provided over 200,000 Pfizer doses from its APA to Cook Islands, Tokelau, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji, in addition to the support announced today.

3:30pm - A total 62 percent of those eligible to get their booster vaccine have got it, health officials say.

New Zealand has also administered just over 2 million booster to Kiwis since the rollout began.

Also, there are 7365 active COVID-19 cases in the country.

3:10pm - There are two new locations of interest. They are:

  • Kumon Flat Bush Education Centre, February 8 from 3:45pm to 7pm
  • Kingpin Queenstown, February 11 from 3:30pm to 5:15pm.

2:50pm - In the graph below, you can see the recent spike New Zealand's had in daily cases. 

The graph represents daily cases since the beginning of 2022.

2:30pm - The Marlborough District Council and Police representatives met again with members of the Freedom Convoy protest group this morning in Picton, the council says.

Last Friday the group representatives agreed the protesters would relocate from Nelson Square Reserve no later than 5pm today.

Council chief executive Mark Wheeler says a letter was given to the group this morning reiterating the council's offer for them to move from Nelson Square to Waitohi Domain, where they can gather during the day until March 4. 

"The Council has acted in good faith and been generous towards the group by allowing the protesters to continue their occupation of Nelson Square Reserve. Council now expects them to also act in good faith and keep their promise to vacate Nelson Square Reserve by 5pm tonight," Wheeler says.

The letter explains that the occupation of the reserve is in breach of the Reserves Act, Freedom Camping Act and the council's public places bylaw, and has generated numerous complaints from local residents.

"If the group does not vacate Nelson Square Reserve today as agreed, Council will have no choice but to trespass everyone on the reserve after the expiry of the deadline. That enforcement will be at the discretion of the Police."

Mayor John Leggett says the council hoped that issuing a trespass notice would not be necessary.

"I think the group has had its voice heard and that any further illegal activity will not help its cause. So far, the Picton community has displayed an admirable level of tolerance towards the protesters, based on the knowledge that an end point to the occupation of their local reserve was in sight," he says.

"If the group does not relocate today I fear the opinion of most of the community will harden towards the protesters. We have received many complaints already and I expect that will escalate if the group does not move on.

"It's clear to me that the vast majority of people want the protesters gone."

Leggett says he hopes the protesters would honour their side of the agreement and move on today.

2:10pm - Over in Queensland, Australia, there are 6596 new cases and 12 deaths to report today.

A total 432 people are currently in hospital, 38 of whom are in ICU.

1:50pm - The Ministry of Health has announced a suite of changes to the process for when Kiwis get infected with COVID-19 as Omicron continues to spread rapidly through New Zealand.

With daily cases climbing into the thousands and tracking the spread of coronavirus subsequently becoming more difficult under phase 2 of the Government's Omicron response, things have had to change.

The main changes to the approach under phase 2 are to isolation, the use of RATs, and increased use of digital tools.

Here's what will be different if you catch COVID-19 from today.

1:29pm - ACT leader David Seymour has met with a Parliament protest "intermediary" to deliver conditions to be met for dialogue with lawmakers. 

Seymour said on Wednesday he had met with the unnamed intermediary out the back of the Backbencher, a pub across the road from Parliament forced to close due to the week-long protest which has blocked traffic in the surrounding area of central Wellington. 

"For the length of time that we've had this protest, I've been listening to people who are affected in the area, people like Alistair Boyce who runs the Backbencher who had to close his business due to abuse from protesters," Seymour told reporters at Parliament. 

Read the full story here

1:05pm -  Here is the latest data from the Ministry of Health on the outbreak and vaccination campaign:

COVID-19 vaccine update 

  • Vaccines administered to date (percentage of eligible people aged 12 and over): 4,054,998 first doses (96%); 3,986,480 second doses (95%); 2,006,361 booster doses (62%). 
  • Vaccines administered yesterday: 660 first doses; 1,406 second doses; 1,710 paediatric doses; 46,156 booster doses. 
  • Māori (percentage of eligible people aged 12+): 516,764 first doses (90%); 493,679 second doses (86%). 
  • Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people aged 12+): 279,416 first doses (97%); 272,583 second doses (95%). 
  • Paediatric vaccines administered to date (percentage of 5-11-year-olds): 217,979 first doses (46%) 
  • Māori (percentage of eligible people aged 5-11): 30,735 first doses (27%) 
  • Pacific Peoples (percentage of eligible people aged 5-11): 18,082 first doses (37%) 

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

  • Northland DHB: First doses (90%); 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 (93%) 
  • Lakes DHB: First doses (93%); second doses (91%) 
  • MidCentral DHB: First doses (97%); second doses (95%) 
  • Tairāwhiti DHB: First doses (93%); second doses (90%) 
  • Whanganui DHB: First doses (92%); second doses (90%) 
  • Hawke’s Bay: First doses (97%); second doses (95%) 
  • Taranaki DHB: First doses (95%); second doses (93%) 
  • Wairarapa DHB: First doses (97%); second doses (95%) 
  • Capital and Coast DHB: First doses (99%); second doses (98%) 
  • Hutt Valley DHB: First doses (97%); second doses (95%) 
  • Nelson Marlborough DHB: First doses (97%); second doses (95%) 
  • West Coast DHB: First doses (93%); second doses (91%) 
  • Canterbury DHB: First doses (99%); second doses (98%) 
  • South Canterbury DHB: First doses (95%); second doses (94%) 
  • Southern DHB: First doses (98%); second doses (96%) 


  • Cases in hospital: Total Number 56: North Shore: 6; Middlemore: 17; Auckland: 24; Rotorua: 1; Tauranga: 3; Waikato: 3; Wellington: 1, Christchurch: 1. 
  • Average age of current hospitalisations: 65
  • Cases in ICU or HDU: 0
  • Vaccination status of current hospitalisations (Northern Region only, excluding Emergency Departments): Unvaccinated or not eligible (2 cases / 5%); partially immunised <7 days from second dose or have only received one dose (N/A cases / 0%); fully vaccinated at least 7 days before being reported as a case (23 cases / 57.5%); unknown (15 cases / 37.5%).


  • Seven day rolling average of community cases: 683
  • Seven day rolling average of border cases: 20
  • Number of new community cases: 1160
  • Location of new community cases*: Northland (24), Auckland (861), Waikato (73), Bay of Plenty (33), Lakes (5), Hawke’s Bay (15), MidCentral (3), Whanganui (4), Taranaki (9), Tairāwhiti (9), Wairarapa (5), Capital and Coast (32), Hutt Valley (20), Nelson Marlborough (15), Canterbury (8), South Canterbury (3), Southern (39), Unknown (2)
  • Number of new cases identified at the border: 43  
  • Location of origin of border cases: India (9), Japan (1), Malaysia (1), Pakistan (2), UAE (5), UK (2), USA (2), Full travel history not obtained (21).
  • Number of active community cases (total): 6,721 (cases identified in the past 21 days and not yet classified as recovered) 
  • Confirmed cases (total): 23,127

* Please note, the Ministry of Health’s daily reported cases may differ slightly from those reported at a DHB or local public health unit level. This is because of different reporting cut off times and the assignment of cases between regions, for example when a case is tested outside their usual region of residence. Total numbers will always be the formal daily case tally as reported to the WHO.


  • Number of tests total (last 24 hours): 28,140
  • Tests rolling average (last 7 days): 23,480
  • Number of Rapid Antigen Tests stock available in New Zealand: 7.2 million

1:03pm - The Ministry has provided an updated about their "Big Boost" campaign:

The Big Boost Week continues to see tens of thousands of people going out to get their booster dose each day. Yesterday, 46,156  booster doses were administered across the motu and brings the total so far to more than two million doses.

The Ministry of Health would like to thank everyone in New Zealand who has been vaccinated. You are doing your bit to keep all New Zealanders safe.

The COVID-19 vaccine remains our best defence against the virus. People who are vaccinated are less likely to get seriously unwell or be hospitalised than people who haven’t been vaccinated.

The booster vaccine offers a high level of protection against Omicron, so if it’s been three months since you got your second dose, please get your booster as soon as possible.

Omicron is highly transmissible, but all of us can play our part to slow the spread of the virus, help protect our most vulnerable people from being infected, and ensure our health system is able to manage extra demand for services.

Testing reminder

It is encouraging to see a high level of testing this week. However, it is important the right people get tested for the right reasons. Staff at testing centres will prioritise testing for people who are close contacts or are symptomatic.

There is good testing capacity throughout the country, but unnecessary testing could delay results for those who urgently need them.

People should only get tested if they have cold or flu symptoms, are a close contact, or if they have been asked to get tested by a health official.

We also want to reiterate our thanks to COVID-19 testing staff for their part in New Zealand’s defence against the virus.

We are anticipating continued high demand at our COVID-19 testing sites, so our request is to, please, be patient. Our frontline staff across the health sector are doing the best they can to help in a timely way.

For a full list of testing sites nationwide, visit the Healthpoint website.

Keep scanning

Scanning in with the NZ COVID Tracer App remains a valuable tool under Phase 2 of the Omicron response. Keeping a record of where you have been will enable you to quickly identify whether you’ve been at a location of interest. It will also enable you to quickly contact your contacts if you become a case. Keeping Bluetooth enabled also helps you anonymously protect people you’ve been near.

Self-isolating and reducing the spread of the virus means protecting your friends, whānau, community, and keeping the businesses and health services around you open, for a more comfortable and normal life at Red.

Neither the Ministry of Health, or any other government agencies, have access to the data on your phone. This is held by you unless you agree to share it with contact tracers or upload it through the contact tracing form.

1:02pm - The Ministry of Health has announced another record day of cases with 1160 new infections and 56 people in hospital on Wednesday

Of the new community infections, 861 are in Auckland, 73 in Waikato, 39 in Southern, 33 in Bay of Plenty, 32 in Capital and Coast, 24 in Northland, 20 in Hutt Valley, 15 in Nelson Marlborough, 15 in Hawke's Bay, nine in Taranaki, nine in Tairāwhiti, eight in Canterbury, five in Lakes, five in Wairarapa, four in Whanganui, three in MidCentral, three in South Canterbury and two unknown. 

The ministry announced there are 56 people in hospital with none in ICU or HDU.

Of the 56 people in hospital: 24 in Auckland, 17 in Middlemore, six in North Shore, three in Tauranga, three in Waikato, one in Wellington, one in Rotorua and one in Christchurch. 

There are 43 new COVID cases recorded at the border in Managed Isolation and Quarantine.

12:57pm - The National Party has lodged a notice of motion of no confidence in the Speaker of the House, Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop says.

Here is the full statement:

"Speaker Trevor Mallard's behaviour over the past few days has been unedifying, embarrassing and childish. Many New Zealanders are appalled and so are we," Bishop says.

"Actions like crowd-sourcing songs for a Spotify playlist to play to protesters and turning on the sprinklers have made people wonder what on earth Mr Mallard was doing.

"You can disagree with people without disrespecting them, and Mr Mallard's petulant behaviour has only inflamed an already tense situation.

"We do not take this step lightly. It is important to note that Mr Mallard's actions were done without the support of the New Zealand Police.

"To express no confidence in the Speaker is a serious step. But it is clear Mr Mallard's actions have made the situation worse, not better.

"The fact that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will not express a view on Mr Mallard's actions should speak volumes. She should now drop her support of him and replace him with a new Speaker who can command respect across the Parliament but also among the wider public."

The motion reads:

That the House has no confidence in the Rt Hon Trevor Mallard as Speaker of the House of Representatives due to his childish, provocative and embarrassing behaviour during the occupation of and protest at Parliament grounds in February 2022, which was counterproductive to resolving the situation and done without the support of the New Zealand Police.

12:46pm - As usual, the Ministry of Health will release its daily statement with the latest updates on the COVID-19 outbreak at around 1pm.

Stay tuned, as we will publish the newest developments live as soon as the statement is available.

12:43pm - Back to the press-conference. Ashley Bloomfield said case numbers will continue to go up and we are not at the peak. 

He said new community cases are likely to top 1000 today.

12:39pm - New Zealand's COVID-19 traffic light system is under review in light of the Omicron outbreak.

At the Governance and Administration Select Committee on Wednesday, MPs were told that the COVID-19 Protection Framework settings - the official name for the traffic light system - have been placed under review.

Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) COVID-19 Response Group deputy chief executive Cheryl Barnes said they were "at the direction of Cabinet having a look at the COVID Protection Framework particularly in light of Omicron and where any adjustments may need to be made in the future".

She expects to report back to ministers in the next month or two.

"That will include a look at the use of vaccination certificates as part of that framework."

Read the full story here.

12:35pm - Wellington City Council has announced that they issued approximately 335 tickets to illegally parked vehicles in the area on Tuesday.

12:20pm - We have had to remove the live stream from the video above but you can watch the rest of the press conference below. 

12:15pm - Bloomfield said that PCR testing remains the mainstay but are move to RATs in some cases for diagnosis once necessary.

On Tuesday at Middlemore Hospital about 10 percent of people who turned up to ED took a RAT and returned a positive result for Covid-19.

He said Rapid Antigen Tests are just not accurate enough.

Bloomfield has finished speaking.

12:14pm - Bloomfield said the general rule of thumb for a close contact is if you have been close - within 1.5 metres - to someone that has tested positive for more than 15 minutes and they were not wearing a mask. 

Bloomfield said direct contact like kissing or sharing a cigarette, sharing a drink bottle or someone sneezed on you, would make you a close contact. 

Bloomfield said there is more information about close contacts on the Ministry of Health's website. 


12:11am - Bloomfield says bluetooth notifications to people who've been close enough to cases to generate it will become "increasingly important" in Phase 2, until it becomes a "pingdemic" when it will be scaled back.

12:08pm - Household contacts will now only need to isolate for 10 days. Most importantly for people to know, your 10 days start at the same time the positive cases does.

They will be asked to get a test on day three and eight, if they are both negative, they will be released on day 10. 

12:05pm - Most cases will be notified by text message, which will come with a link  on self-isolation, how to tell others you have COVID-19, how to look after yourself and what help is available, Bloomfield says.

12:02pm - Phase 2 and 3 are all about flattening the curve, Bloomfield says. It's about keeping people out of the hospital and the country functioning.

12pm - Dr Bloomfield has arrived and is speaking.

11:48am - Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield will provide an update on home isolation in Phase 2 of the Omicron response.

Phase 2 will be triggered whenever New Zealand records its first 1000+ cases day - likely to be in the next day or two given daily numbers have been well over 700 this week.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield will explain how the home isolation changes in Phase 2 will be supported by technologies and other means through the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Dr Bloomfield will be joined by Ministry of Health primary care lead Dr Joe Bourne and MSD deputy chief executive Viv Rickard.

We will livestream the press conference here for you to watch live at 12pm. 

11:44am - In Victoria, they have seen a slight drop in COVID cases with 8,149 new infections reported in the last 24 hours. 

Victoria Health said there were 18 coronavirus deaths, up from 20 recorded on Tuesday.

Hospitalisations have decreased with 397 people in hospital, down from 441 on Tuesday while there are 68 people in ICU with 13 people on a ventilator.

11:32am - Over in Australia, New South Wales has recorded a second successive day of a jump in cases with 10,463 new infections reported in the last 24 hours. 

The new cases announced on Wednesday is up from the 8,201 on Tuesday, which is the second straight day of an increase in infections.

New South Wales Health said there were 27 coronavirus deaths, up from 16 on Tuesday. 

Hospitalisations have decreased for the third straight day with 1,478 people in hospital - compared to 1,583 on Monday - with 92 people in ICU.

11:22am - The Ministry of Health has announced three new exposure events at one 'high risk' location of interest in Queenstown. 

The location is Fogo Brazilian BBQ in Queenstown. The exposure times are:

  • Tuesday, 8 February from 12am to 11pm 

  • Wednesday, 9 February from 4:30pm to 10pm 

  • Thursday, 10 February from 11am to 9:30pm

The ministry said only staff are considered close contacts that were working during the exposure times. 

The ministry asks if you are a close contact to "self-isolate, test immediately and on day 5 after you were exposed at this location of interest.".  

For the relevant dates, times and public health advice - and updates to existing locations of interest - click here.

11:18am - Here is a video showing what the atmosphere was like down at Parliament on Tuesday.

10:55am - The Ministry of Health is urging Kiwis to get bolstered and continue doing the basics well. 

Here is the statement from the Ministry of Health:

The best thing New Zealanders can do as we move into Phase 2 of our response to the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is get boosted and give each other some space, said Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

"What we have learned from the overseas evidence and experience is this virus is more infectious and easier to pass on than other variants but overall seems to be having a slightly milder effect on people.

"This has led to people treating it like the flu and thankfully for most people it won't be serious. However, the more people with the infection the greater the likelihood of passing it on to those who we really need to protect, such as people who are immunocompromised and older people, who may become very unwell. 

Dr Bloomfield said that while almost everyone will be exposed to this variant it doesn't mean they will be infected.

"Everyone has a role to play in stopping this virus being passed on. The most important thing we can do is mask, pass, scan and keep your distance.

"We also know that boosters really strengthen the body's ability to fight this virus. That enhanced response gives much greater protection than two doses alone. Having tamariki vaccinated too helps protect them and their wider family group, particularly older whanau members."

Dr Bloomfield said the shift in approach to managing Omicron is to ensure support is targeted to where it is needed the most, so our health system and supply chains remain sustainable.

The key features of Phase 2 are a reduction in isolation periods required for cases (down to 10 days) and contacts (down to seven days); the use of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) to allow critical workers who are close contacts of a case to be able to go to work if they test negative; and a greater use of digital tools to support cases and contacts. There will continue to be a strong focus on vaccination.

Cases will now be notified by text message. The message will provide links to information on self-isolation, how to tell others you have COVID-19, how to look after yourself and what help is available.

Those who test positive will fill in a web-based form to help ensure that those with the highest needs, either health or welfare, are prioritised and managed accordingly. This might be, for example, if a person is immunocompromised or has an underlying illness that would be severely impacted by contracting COVID-19.

Cases will self-identify their close contacts online for contact tracing purposes and to help identify high risk exposure events. They will also be required to inform their employer themselves.

"Notifying cases by text will speed up the process and help reduce spread as cases can be contacted quickly - as soon as a positive result is confirmed by the laboratory- and isolate early. Their contacts can then also isolate early."

Phone-based interviews will continue by public health case investigators where required. This might include cases at Aged Residential Care facilities and those who don't have a mobile phone or computer.

Cases and household contacts will now isolate for 10 days with Day 1 being when the case receives their first positive test. Household contacts will need to test at Day 3 and 8 or if they become symptomatic. Non-household close contacts will isolate for seven days and test on Day 5 or if they become symptomatic.  

Contacts will also be notified via text message and will receive links to the information they need to self-manage. QR scans, Bluetooth and location of interest will continue to be used to identify contacts along with the cases own recollection of who they have interacted with, or where they have been.

As part of the move to Phase 2 of the Omicron Response Plan, a Section 70 Notice is now in place for Cases requiring them to isolate for 10 days from exposure. An additional Section 70 Notice relating to both close contacts and household contacts isolation and testing requirements is also now in place. 

10:32am - The Ministry of Health has announced three new 'high risk' locations of interest. 

The locations are:

  • Howick Pakuranga Netball Centre Pakuranga - Sunday, 13 February from 10:55am to 1:30pm 

  • Kingpin Queenstown - Wednesday, 9 February from 1pm to 7pm  

  • Good News Family Church Manurewa - Sunday 06 February from 12:30pm to 2:14pm

The ministry said patrons of Kingpin in Queenstown on the second floor bar area are close contacts while anyone else at the other locations during the exposure times are also close contacts. 

The ministry asks if you are a close contact to "self-isolate, test immediately and on day 5 after you were exposed at this location of interest.".  

For the relevant dates, times and public health advice - and updates to existing locations of interest - click here.

10:18am - A pregnant Whanganui MP has revealed her experience with the ongoing protest outside Parliament saying it's "not a peaceful protest".

Labour's Steph Lewis posted on Facebook on Tuesday night saying she "strongly supports the right to peacefully protest" but from her experience "the situation at Parliament goes well beyond what is a peaceful protest."

She said her colleagues, Parliament staff, police, security members and the public have been subjected to harassment and abuse from the protesters.

Lewis said she had "feared" for her safety and had been "afraid to go outside".

"There have been a number of protests at Parliament in my time there. Not once during previous protests have I feared for my safety or been afraid to go outside the buildings," she wrote on Facebook. 

"However, my office is on the ground floor of the complex and last week protesters took objects and walked around the buildings banged on our windows to intimidate MPs and staff. 

"They called at us "come out come out wherever you are or we will come in and find you." We were threatened with being lynched, hung, or kidnapped.

"The protesters have thrown eggs and other objects at school children passing by, and members of the public heading to and from work. Members of the public have also been yelled, spat on, threatened and harassed."

She said when Parliament adjourned at 10pm, a group of protesters were waiting at the exit for politicians to leave and they yelled abuse at them. 

"Our staff and colleagues have had to be escorted to and from the building by security. Many staff are afraid to come into work," she said.

"I saw one protester tailgate an authorised vehicle and drive over the rising security bollards to drive a vehicle into the precinct."

Lewis' experience with the protesters comes after they tried to deny the aggressive behaviour that has been reported. 

"We are a peaceful movement and do not condone or tolerate aggression or intimidation. We have a dedicated internal security team to maintain a peaceful operation.

"We speak for the vast majority of the protesters present, but not all. Accusations have been made about threatening behaviour and we encourage the police to work with us on that to identify those involved."

Lewis said she was "grateful" for police keeping her safe and hopes they can bring a peaceful resolution.

9:50am - In world COVID news, the Netherlands will lift most of its COVID restrictions on Friday. 

Dutch health minister Ernst Kuipers said on Tuesday (local time) the record levels of infections triggered by the Omicron variant have not translated in a peak of hospitalisations.

"The country will open up again ... happily we are in a different phase now," Kuipers said during a press conference.

Bars and restaurants will be allowed to stay open until 1am from Friday, instead of 10pm while visitors will need to show proof of either vaccination, a recent recovery from COVID-19 or a negative coronavirus test.

"We have just passed the peak (of new cases), that is why we insist we all should remain careful," he said, adding masks were not mandatory anymore but remained recommended.

9:30am - A tow truck operator says safety isn't the reason they won't help police move illegally parked vehicles, it's because they sympathise with the protesters.

RNZ reports that Greg Cox, who owns Wellington's Cox Heavy Salvage, said safety concerns are not what's stopping tow companies from getting involved.

"There's all different reasons being put forward, but the reason that the majority of my colleagues don't want to put their tow trucks out there is because they are sympathetic to what's going on in Parliament," Cox said.

Cox said some operators had made up excuses for not lending a hand in the towing operation.

"One of the Wellington operators said how he can't do it now - 'We have to isolate'."

Cox said police had contacted him twice asking for help with the towing operation.

"From the people who've rung me, text me, the feeling's pretty much mutual right through the country. There's not a business that hasn't been impacted by mandate, and everybody understands that."

If he turned up at Parliament with a fleet of tow trucks it would be a very bad look for his business.

"That'd be the worst advertising I'd get," he said.

"Contractors and transport operators have been feeling us out to say, 'Guys, what are your feelings, you know, we don't really want to see your tow trucks in here. We want you to stay on side'."

8:54am - Speaking to AM, reporter Ashleigh McCaul said there had been no signs of any tow trucks on Wednesday morning as protesters wake to day nine of their occupation on Parliament's lawn.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster had told AM earlier that towing could start in the next "day or so". 

McCaul said the scene outside Parliament on Wednesday is "livelier than they were yesterday" and that protesters have already become more vocal towards police since the police announcement on Tuesday afternoon. 

8:38am - Six60 has postponed their New Zealand tour because of the Omicron outbreak. 

The Six60 Saturdays tour was scheduled to start on March 5 at Rotorua's International Stadium but has been postponed until October.  

"We are gutted to have to push the tour back. We have been spending the past year building, practicing and designing a new show to bring home," Six60 said.

"We even hoped to debut our new album for our fans live in NZ, but it's really out of our control and we also want all of our fans to experience SIX60 in a safe, unrestricted environment.

"We're really sorry for our fans who are disappointed, but we will do everything we can to use this delay to bring NZ our greatest show and our greatest album ever."

8:30am - The Government is digging in its heels, refusing to offer businesses Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) as the demand for the easier and faster tests peak while community cases of Omicron spike.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told AM on Wednesday while a number of vulnerable groups will have them supplied in due course, they won't be given to everyone. 

"I know people want to have access to RATs, businesses want to use them for surveillance so they can regularly testing of their staff," Hipkins said.

"The government will not be providing those if they can source those, they can certainly do that but we won't be sourcing those tests for them."

Hipkins said the Government's focus is currently on making RATs available for critical workers who need them to return to work.

"At the moment, our focus is making sure they are available - free Government provided tests - to people who need to get a negative test in order to go to work every day because they are a close contact and they are essential because we need them to keep our infrastructure going and our supply chains going."

Hipkins said the Government has secured enough RATs to be able to operate the isolation exemption scheme so Kiwis can test to go back to work if they are deemed a critical worker.          

Hipkins said they expect to have "tens of millions" of rapid antigen tests in the country by the end of February while there is 50 million on the way in March. 

Testing stations around Auckland have been experiencing high demand in PCR tests over the past few days and Hipkins is urging anyone who isn't a close contact or has no symptoms to not go out and get a test.     

Hipkins revealed the rules travellers will need to abide by when managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) is done away with.

"We have to acknowledge that we are entering a new phase in our COVID-19 response. People coming across the border, aren't going to be any greater risk than people already in the community so we will be treating them on the same basis," Hipkins told AM on Wednesday. 

"So they will effectively be treated as a contact and they will isolate for a period but they will be able to isolate in a household with other family members. 

"They won't be allowed to have visitors and they won't be allowed to get out and about. They will be regularly tested, so we are reducing risk but we are not eliminating it completely because we are entering a new phase where there will be more risk out there already."

Hipkins urged people coming home from overseas to try not stay in overcrowded housing if possible to lower the risk of spreading the virus. 

"I would encourage people not to be coming into the country and isolating in overcrowded situations or in large households," he said. 

"Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) is still available in some cases where that is still absolutely justified, it may not be for a long time but I would encourage people to work out what other alternatives are, whether they can arrange for another place to stay, which is going to expose them to fewer people."

7:51am - Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told AM on Wednesday that protesters should prepare to start seeing their vehicles towed in the next 'day or so' if they don't move them to legal parking. 

"Yes we do have some towing capability available to us, it's not as much as we want that's why we have asked and appealed for further assistance and we continue to explore a range of options."

Coster said he wouldn't go into the details of how many tow trucks they have, but made it clear they had enough towing to get started.

Police Commissioner told AM that they aren't 'seeking an escalation' and urge protesters to move their vehicles.  

"We've got a large contingent of officers working on the operation - in the hundreds - and I think it's really important to say here, we are no threat to people protesting lawfully," he said.

"Our message to those who are protesting is, move your cars, we'll have no more interest in them or leave them where they are and don't expect to get them back anytime soon. We are not seeking an escalation here, we just need to clear the roads."

Coster said the protest has generally been peacefully so officers won't need to be armed when helping towing companies move vehicles.       

"Clearly with these situations you want to resolve them in a way that leads to some kind of lasting resolution," he said. 

"What we have seen overseas is if police go rioting in and escalate without succeeding, all you do is add to anger and resentment and increase the risk to the public presented by the protest.   

"We are engaging with protesters about the manner of the protest. Generally speaking, the best resolutions will come from that kind of engagement and that is what we will focus on. 

"There has to be a line here, this can't go on indefinitely. The blocking of the roads are causing an unacceptable impact and that's why we are focusing there first.

"The easiest thing for me would be is if this group of protesters would protest lawfully so it didn't require police involvement, that looks like clearing the roads, the structures around Parliament, the range of problems that sit there and that's where I have to focus my effort."

7:13am -The National Party says if they were in power, everyone would be considered a critical worker so they would have access to Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) so people could test and return to work. 

National Leader Christopher Luxon told AM on Wednesday that there are currently not enough RATs in the country. 

"At the moment we have 7 million rapid tests in the country and we've obviously got Omicron kicking off now," he said. 

"We've been talking about this for months and it's not just to be critical or to be unhelpful about it. We are actually saying for months that this is the key tool you actually need in this phase of the fight and we haven't got enough of them. 

"I was in Christchurch just a few days ago talking to businesses that have secured their own rapid test, they've been commandeer. They now go through a very convoluted process as a so-called critical worker. 

"We actually just want all workers to have access to them, as they do in every other country around the world, where you can just pop into a supermarket or pharmacy and get a rapid antigen test, see you're good to go see your grandmother, your good to go to work and as a result that's a good thing."

Luxon suggests that the Government should approve the 60 manufacturers of RAT that Australia have today so there would be more access to tests.

Luxon says that New Zealand will need tens of millions of RATs right now if they want to keep up with demand.  

"If you think about it, there are five million people, we have just over seven [million rapid tests] that's a bit more than one per person, we are going to need tens of millions of these RATs here in New Zealand," Luxon told AM. 

"It's just maths, isn't it. If you think about places like New South Wales, they give every student, teacher, staff members at schools two RATs per week to be able to use to make sure they are good to go to school in that environment. 

"Other countries you go to a vending machine in Singapour and you have done so for a year and if you're feeling sick, you go to the vending machine get a RAT, upload your results and away you go. In the UK, you go to a pharmacy or supermarket, so we need tens of millions of them to be available to people."          

Luxon said if National was in power, everyone would be deemed a critical worker so they would have access to RATs.

"The real problem is actually unless you're a critical worker trying to get a RAT, you have to go through a convoluted bureaucratic process to get the Government to send them to you, you fill in a bunch of forms and do a bunch of stuff," he said.

"Our real argument is, yes you lower the isolation periods because you actually needed that otherwise people won't go and get tested and they'll avoid that, there is a disincentive to do that.

"What we really need is those RATs and that is what people are finding and the businesses I've spoken to want those tests, so they can test and get back to work. So we should expand the definition and make it available to all workers."      

6:33am - The Cook Islands have recorded no further COVID cases following the countries first community infection of coronavirus on Monday evening.

The health ministry, Te Marae Ora, tested a further 371 people for COVID-19 on Tuesday (NZ time), on top of the 90 tested on Monday.

Eleven of the 14 so-far identified close contacts of the positive case have returned a negative test - including the two people travelling and staying with the positive case. 

"Te Marae Ora would like to thank all those who presented themselves for testing today [Tuesday] and we encourage everyone who is either displaying COVID-like symptoms or who has visited a location of interest (see below) and has not been tested yet to get tested as soon as possible," Te Marae Ora said in a statement.

6:30am - Kia ora, good morning, and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the COVID-19 Omicron outbreak and the Parliament protest for Wednesday, February 16