Coronavirus: Live updates - Jacinda Ardern's COVID-19 alert level decision, September 14

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed Cabinet's decision to keep Auckland under alert level 2.5 restrictions and the rest of New Zealand at level 2 for at least another week. 

What you need to know:

  • Auckland and the rest of New Zealand will remain under the current settings until Monday, September 21. If there continues to be no cases outside of Auckland, the rest of New Zealand will move to level 1. 
  • Cabinet will also review Auckland's level 2.5 settings on Monday, with a view to increase gathering limits if the city is in a similar position with containing the cluster. If that change is agreed, it would come into effect on Wednesday, September 23.
  • The Ministry of Health has relaxed rules around physical distancing on public transport and aircraft because of the successful uptake of mask wearing and people using the COVID Tracer app. 
  • It's been two weeks since Aucklanders woke up to what the Prime Minister described as "level 2.5", with social gatherings limited to 10 people and masks recommended to be worn in public. 
  • The rest of New Zealand has been under level 2 as a precaution for about a month now after community transmission of COVID-19 was discovered in Auckland.
  • There are currently 58 active cases of COVID-19 in the community all in Auckland and 39 cases in the Government's managed isolation facilities, bringing the country's total number of active cases to 96. 
  • The Ministry of Health reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday, a female child linked to the Auckland cluster, who has been in isolation since August 30 due to being a household contact of a confirmed case.

These live updates have finished.

6:25pm - Politics has seeped into the Government's decision to maintain the current alert level settings according to National leader Judith Collins, as she questioned restrictions beyond Auckland. 

Collins said political interference is at play with the alert level extension.

"The alert level moves are starting to look very political," she said. "I'd like the Prime Minister to front up and tell us exactly how those decisions are made." 

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters broke step with his Cabinet colleagues, invoking a rare 'agree to disagree' clause in NZ First's coalition agreement with Labour, arguing for level 2 in Auckland and level 1 for the rest of the country. 

"Slogging it out in circumstances where you can't get people into the hall, you can't talk to them. Politics and campaigning is a legitimate, essential issue when it comes to democracy and it's not happening," he said.

Read Newshub political editor Tova O'Brien's story here

6pm - It's time for Newshub Live at 6pm. Watch online here or tune in on Three.

5:05pm - Hospitality New Zealand says the extension of alert levels "will mark the end for some hospitality operators".

Its chief executive Julie White says while it wasn't a surprise the levels were extended, the "piecemeal approach" to remain at the status quo for another week is still a constraining environment for operators.

"We still have operators that can only realistically trade at level 1, due to social distancing measures, so the longer they are closed, the harder it will be for them to reopen," she says.

"We really would like to see a move to level 1-1.5 as soon as possible. A silver lining is that the social distancing requirements on public transport has been eased, that will come as a big relief to our hospitality tourism operators."

4:50pm - This year's Waikato A&P Show has been cancelled amid uncertainty around COVID-19, and its organisers are replacing it with a number of limited mini-events open to competitors only and an online version.

The show was scheduled to be held from October 30 to November 1 at the Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton.

"It's very frustrating and disappointing but at least we've got something," general manager of Showing Waikato Cara Ferris says. She added she was still "very excited" about the launch of the inaugural National A&P Online Show, which would take place in lieu of the physical event.

Read the full story here.

4:20pm - Another scientist in New Zealand have given their reaction to the country's alert level extension.

University of Canterbury Associate Professor Arindam Basu says Monday's announcement was "more or less expected".

"The one week of extension of the status quo with review on Monday the 21st is based on detection of new cases and a modelled 'significant' possibility at this stage of 'one' case exiting Auckland and attending a 'super spreader' event, sparking new clusters," Basu says.

"While this still leaves the possibility that next Monday we may see extension of the current restrictions, given the pattern, if we were to strictly use masks in public spaces and public transport as physical distancing restrictions are relaxed, still maintain a safe distance, and if the current levels of testing were to continue or increase, we may see a sooner or easier transition to level 1."

3:55pm - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says relaxing the physical distancing requirements on public transport is good new for the city's residents because it allows more people to use trains, buses and ferries to get around the city.

"It's important that everyone continues to wear a face covering on public transport to limit spread of COVID-19. Please also keep track of your movements with the NZ COVID Tracer app and continue good hygiene practices like handwashing and covering coughs or sneezes," he said.

He added that public transport users may still see physical distancing stickers while on board, but these will be removed over the coming days.

3:40pm - There are reports of massive queues around a Northcote testing station after a confirmed case walked around the area. Are you in that queue? Let us know and send your photos to

3:12pm - National Party leader Judith Collins is questioning the Prime Minister's decision to keep the South Island under alert level 2 restrictions when there hasn't been a case of COVID-19 there for months.

"Why is the South Island still at Level 2 when there hasn't been a case recorded there since the end of May? South Islanders have put up with the inconvenience of restricted gatherings, cancelled sports fixtures and half empty businesses," Collins said.

"They've had enough."

Collins described the response to the first outbreak in March as "sound", but said the Government is now "in danger" of "using a mallet to crack a nut" when it comes to handling the disease.

"For many under continued lockdown, far from the outbreak, the worst effects won't come from the disease itself but the economic fall-out of how we handled it," she said.

"The Prime Minister's claims about the positive state of the economy do not line up with the number of people out of work and the even larger numbers who have retained work due to the wage subsidy.

"If Labour had a clear plan at the border, this outbreak could have been tracked and traced much earlier. Now those in South Island are continuing to pay a price for an outbreak happening hundreds of kilometres north of them."

National leader Judith Collins can't understand why the South Island is still under alert level 2 restrictions.
National leader Judith Collins can't understand why the South Island is still under alert level 2 restrictions. Photo credit: Newshub

2:48pm - Air New Zealand is making more than 180,000 of its cheapest fares available for sale following the removal of physical distancing on aircraft.

"We're thrilled to be able to offer 160,000 of these fares for under $50, with 9000 of these available during the upcoming school holidays," said Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran.

"This is our way of saying thanks to our customers for their support over the past few months. While our borders are closed, we know Kiwis are keen to get out and explore or visit friends and family, so we want to make travel as easy as possible - and this is also great news for local tourism."

Foran said air crew will continue to wear masks, and face coverings are still a requirement for customers.

Air New Zealand is also removing change fees for domestic flights booked for travel up until March 31, 2021. Customers will be able to change their flight to a new date or time, or if they no longer wish to travel, they can put their fare in credit for a later trip. 

Customers who choose to put their fare in credit before the end of March 2021 will have until the end of December 2021 to book using their credit and a further 12 months to fly after the date of booking.

2:40pm - Jetstar has announced it will resume domestic services in New Zealand from Thursday, September 17. The decision comes after it was confirmed that on-board social distancing restrictions will be eased, allowing airlines to utilise the middle seat.

Jetstar Group CEO, Gareth Evans, thanked customers for their patience and support over the past few weeks.

"We're really pleased to get our planes and our people back in the sky, right in time for school holidays so we can help reconnect family and friends across the country," Evans said in a statement.

"We also know that our low fares services help to bring more people to the communities we fly to - boosting local economies and creating jobs - which is vital after what has been a tough period for many small businesses and town.

"New Zealanders love to explore their own back yard - the bounce back in demand following our previous suspension was really strong. We know Kiwis are as excited as we are about getting back in the air to visit loved ones or discover a new part of this incredible country."

2:36pm - Experts are weighing in on the Government's decision to extend the alert level settings by at least another week.

Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington

"It's good to see the Prime Minister reinforcing the need for caution while there is still community transmission. There are at least two very good reasons to step down alert levels slowly. The first is that a low number of daily cases is not as reassuring as it might be. COVID-19 is extremely infectious, and a small number of cases can quickly escalate to a major outbreak," she said.

"The second reason for caution is the time-lapse effect of new cases: a new case today indicates transmission that was happening up to two weeks ago, not transmission today. Likewise, it'll be a couple of weeks before we can assess transmission happening right now."

Professor C. Michael Hall, Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship, University of Canterbury

"The Government's decision reflects its continuing cautious balancing act between opening the economy up further and reducing infection risk," he said.

"Although contingent on the tracking of cases, the schedule outlines in terms of reducing levels does provide clarity for business and the tourism and hospitality sector in particular.

"The changes in physical distancing measures on planes and transport will be especially welcomed by carriers and destinations alike."

Dr Bodo Lang, University of Auckland Business School

"The Government has managed to keep New Zealanders compliant with COVID regulations. Reactance theory predicts that consumers can have strong negative reactions when they realise that their freedom is restricted," Lang said.

"While Government communication has been strong, the likelihood of 'compliance fatigue' could be reduced by paying careful attention to how to minimise consumers 'reactance' to taking away their freedom."

2:24pm - The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association (NZALPA) has welcomed the Government's decision to ease social distancing restrictions on transport and reinstate the middle seat on domestic airline flights. 

"Following on from our advocacy for the compulsory use of masks on all flights, we are pleased that the Ministry of Health and Cabinet has listened to expert advice and eased the physical distancing restrictions on New Zealand airlines," said NZALPA President Captain Andrew Ridling.

"This effectively reinstates the middle seat for use and this will now increase travel availability, helping get more domestic flights back into the air, and supporting both the travel and tourism sector's economic recovery." 

2pm - The Restaurant Association is "disappointed and surprised" that the rest of New Zealand remains under alert level 2 restrictions for at least another week, as the industry struggles.

"We continue to call for targeted assistance to compensate our businesses who through no fault of their own are experiencing significantly reduced revenues," said Marisa Bidois, CEO of the Restaurant Association.

"We met with Treasury last week to discuss some of the ideas we've put on the table such as our Dine Out To Help Out scheme as well as additional fiscal relief as this pandemic continues to disrupt our lives."

1:48pm - The Ministry of Health has issued a statement on how the successful uptake of mandatory face covering and individuals tracking their movements means physical distancing requirements can now be relaxed.

"With the use of face coverings, our updated advice is that physical distancing should be maintained where possible, however it is not required on either domestic flights or on public transport such as trains, buses and ferries," the statement says.

"Reports are that passengers on public transport are taking the use of face coverings seriously and regularly scanning QR codes on all forms of transport. This along with electronic ticketing on airlines means we can contract trace rapidly if required.

"The advisory by Ministry of Health and Ministry of Transport for recommended seating configurations on public transport that promoted physical distancing have now been revoked, effective immediately."

Airlines and transport operators requiring pre-bookings have been advised of these changes and can now accept higher volumes of bookings.

1:42pm - ACT leader David Seymour has described Cabinet's decision to keep New Zealand at alert level 2 a "slap in the face" to New Zealanders.

"The Government says it has done a great job, and we must stay locked down. They cannot have it both ways. Either the Government has failed, or the restrictions can be lifted," Seymour said.

"Six months into this epidemic, the only tool the Government has is lockdowns. This approach is not sustainable. New Zealanders are understandably becoming increasingly frustrated at the rules and restrictions they're facing because the Government didn't go hard or early enough."

Seymour said restrictions on the South Island are "particularly harsh" because there hasn’t been any community transition there in the latest outbreak, and yet they have been unable to go about their daily lives.

“Many in the hospitality business are allowed to open but cannot make money doing so. It is death by 2000 cuts - 1000 last lockdown and another 1000 now," Seymour said. 

1:27pm - Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has invoked the 'agree to disagree' provision in New Zealand First's coalition agreement with Labour, over Cabinet's decision to maintain alert level 2 settings outside of Auckland.

"The Director-General of Health has stated that the COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland is contained. Additionally, he believes there is a low risk of transmission outside of Auckland," Peters said.

"These assessments are underpinned by a secure border, good levels of community testing and responsive contact tracing processes."

Peters said it will be around 120 days since the last community transmission or reported case - with the sole exception of the four Tokoroa cases, all linked to the Auckland cluster - outside of the Auckland region.

"Travelling around the South Island has reinforced that people are not observing social distancing in the absence of any registered or real threat of COVID-19 exposure since late April," he said.

"Not because they are against the Government's COVID-19 response, but because they have applied their own 'common sense' test to their risk of exposure to the virus."

Peters said businesses outside Auckland affected by alert level 2 restrictions are looking to the Government to fairly apply restrictions to match the health situation they face.

"People are also asking me how it is fair for the election campaign to be conducted under the alert level restrictions and some feel, as we do, that there is not an even playing field for respective campaigns under these conditions."

Peters said New Zealand First supports the continuation of alert level 2 in Auckland but it cannot support a continuation of level 2 outside of Auckland. 

Ardern says modelling done for the Ministry of Health continues to suggest around a 25 percent chance of cases moving outside of the Auckland region, and with inter-regional travel open there remains a risk of spreading the virus to the rest of the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters did not agree with Cabinet's decision to keep the rest of New Zealand under alert level 2.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters did not agree with Cabinet's decision to keep the rest of New Zealand under alert level 2. Photo credit: Getty

1:16pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that physical distancing is no longer required on planes and public transport because masks are mandatory. Airlines will no longer have to sell fewer seats on planes. 

"I know this change will make a real difference to Air New Zealand and those parts of the country seeking increased numbers of visitors, and the change made demonstrates the willingness on the Government's behalf to constantly review our settings, with everyone's health at the top of our minds," Ardern said. 

1:09pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that the current alert level settings will remain in place for the time being, but Cabinet will review the settings next Monday on September 21. 

Ardern said Cabinet will meet next Monday with a view to increase gathering limits for Auckland, which would come into effect on Wednesday, September 23.

Cabinet has agreed in principal to move the rest of New Zealand to alert level 1 on September 21 if there are still no cases beyond Auckland. 

12:53pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given a Facebook update ahead of her announcement on whether to change the alert level settings. 

"We're in Dunedin today. I'm chairing Cabinet from here this morning (virtually) but had a quick moment to spare beforehand so popped down to the new site for Dunedin Hospital to share a wee update!" Ardern captioned the video. 

12:48pm - The Ministry of Health revealed on Sunday that healthcare worker from the Auckland quarantine facility had tested positive for COVID-19, and the results of the investigation into the origins of the case have been revealed.

The case is genomically linked to three cases that have been in the quarantine facility that are linked to the Auckland cluster. An investigation is continuing into how the transmission happened.

The healthcare worker has five household contacts, and all have returned a negative test result. As close contacts they will remain in self-isolation for the full 14-day period and will be retested twice.

Nine staff from the quarantine facility have been identified as close contacts, tested, and all have returned a negative result. They will also remain in self-isolation for the full 14-day period and will be retested. 

12:44pm - Les Mills Takapuna gym says there are 89 people considered close contacts, after a person later diagnosed with COVID-19 visited the gym, as well as Countdown Milford and The Warehouse Milford. 

Read more here

12:40pm - The Ministry of Health reported one new case of COVID-19, a female child who is epidemiologically linked to an existing case associated with the Botany sub-cluster in Auckland.

The child has been in isolation since August 30 due to being a household contact of a confirmed case. It brings total number of active cases in New Zealand to 96, 39 in managed isolation facilities and 57 in the community. 

12:10pm - ACT leader David Seymour is calling on the Government to provide more clarity about how it will pay back the billions of dollars borrowed to pay for COVID-19 support. 

"The next generation of New Zealanders will be stuck with the bill from a Government that gave unnecessary hand-outs disguised as COVID-19 support," Seymour said.

"Whether it was $10 million for the Prime Minister to have her photo taken with a bungee jumping operator, or an increase in benefits that was entirely ideological and nothing to do with COVID-19, the Government has taken the attitude of clocking up debt and hoping for the best."

The 2020 Deloitte and Chapman Tripp Election Survey hosted by Business NZ revealed on Friday that 71 percent of businesspeople think the Government has done a good or excellent job of handling the COVID-19 outbreak. 

It also found that 43 percent say the Government is spending the right amount on COVID-19 financial support, while 26 percent say it's spending too much, and 17 percent say it's spending too little.

11:45am - Otago University professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist, believes there's "a case" for moving the rest of New Zealand down to alert level 1, but says he would prefer to see an "alert level 1.5" and have a limit on large indoor gatherings. 

"We've been advocating for having another level; 1.5, just like 2.5, and this is really so that we can limit the size of big indoor gatherings because that's where you can get these super-spreading episodes," Baker told The AM Show on Monday.

"I think many people around the country, they want to get the added freedom of level 1, but I think we all have some concerns about still limiting the potential for transmission of this virus."

Read more here