COVID-19: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says protocol before two new coronavirus cases confirmed 'did not meet our expectations'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand's two latest COVID-19 cases emerged in circumstances she considers "unacceptable".

A 24-day streak of no new COVID-19 cases was broken on Tuesday when the Ministry of Health revealed the two new infections both related to recent travel from the UK and were given a compassionate exemption to travel from Auckland to Wellington to attend a funeral.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on Tuesday the two women - one in her 30s and the other in her 40s - were tested at a community-based assessment centre on Monday and returned positive tests the next day.

Ardern said in a Facebook live video on Tuesday night there was always an expectation New Zealand would see fresh cases of COVID-19.

"Having said that, the two cases that we've had come in from overseas that were announced today [Tuesday] were not announced under the circumstances that we would have expected at our border.

"Those circumstances, we do not consider [it] acceptable - the testing of those individuals was done outside of their isolation facility. That does not meet our expectations."

Ardern told New Zealanders, "I know it will not meet your expectations either".

Other potential contacts with the two cases include those who flew on a Brisbane to Auckland flight on June 7 and those who were housed in the same managed isolation facility in Auckland.

Staff from the hotel who came in close contact with the cases will be stood down and tested, while CCTV footage from Auckland International Airport is now being reviewed to see if any border officials came in close contact.

Ardern said the circumstances could not be repeated. Health Minister Dr David Clark announced later on Tuesday afternoon that all-compassionate exemptions would be suspended.

"The checks and balances, in this case, were not adequate - no question," Ardern said in the Facebook live video.

"Ultimately, after taking a look at what has happened here, there is already an expectation that no-one leaves quarantine until they have completed their two weeks and been tested.

"Of course, that was our expectation already so that is where there is a failure in this case."

Dr Clark told reporters on Tuesday evening compassionate exemptions should be "rare and rigorous", adding it "appears that this case did not include the checks that we expected to be happening". 

New Zealand's border measures were a "key line of defence against COVID-19 and we must ensure they are as robust as possible", he said.