Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that Auckland will shift to alert level 1 settings on Thursday, October 8, now that the city has gone 10 days without a case of COVID-19 in the community.
What you need to know:
- The Prime Minister has announced Cabinet's decision to shift Auckland down to alert level 1 from its current level 2 rules during a 1pm press conference in Christchurch.
- Auckland will move to level 1 later this week because under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act, new health orders need to be processed at least 48 hours before it comes into force.
- Auckland has been under alert level 2 for 12 days after it was shifted down from level 2.5 on September 24, meaning group sizes could rise to 100, but guests at hospitality venues had to be seated and separated, with a single server.
- If Auckland is shifted to alert level 1, it will align with the rest of New Zealand, which has been at level 1 since September 22, under which there is no cap on gathering sizes.
- University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker thinks Auckland should be moved to a level 1.5 scenario, with a cap on large indoor gatherings, just to be safe.
- Business owners are getting restless, according to Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett, who is concerned about businesses only being able to operate at half capacity due to restrictions.
- It's been 10 days since a case of COVID-19 was reported in the community in Auckland on September 25, a woman who was already in self-isolation and was a household contact of a case linked to the Mt Roskill bereavment group.
- The Ministry of Health reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday and five new cases on Sunday - all of them in the Government's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities.
- There are currently 34 cases of the coronavirus in MIQ and six in the community, and there is no one receiving hospital treatment for the virus.
These live updates have finished.
1:41pm - The hospitality industry is showing signs of improvement, with a new survey showing 79 percent of hospitality businesses outside of Auckland reporting improved revenues for September compared with August.
The Restaurant Association survey showed that in Auckland the losses are higher with 80 percent reporting significantly reduced revenues against the same period in 2019.
But with hospitality venues no longer having to abide by gathering limits and having customers seated after alert level 1 comes into force on Thursday, the city's venues could pick up again.
"The moves between alert levels has been difficult. The overwhelming feedback now from members is to move to level 1 and stay there," said Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois.
1:35pm - Otago University senior health lecturer Lesley Gray says it was the right decision to move to alert level 1, but echoed the Prime Minister's call for Kiwis to remain vigilant.
“I think the right decision will be a move to level 1 for Auckland this week, although given our experience with unanticipated community transmission in August, I do feel that mask wearing on public transport should be required at all aert levels."
Mandatory mask wearing is only required at alert level 2 and above.
"It is encouraging that around 3 million people have now downloaded the COVID tracer app, however if people are not scanning when entering a business, or signing in if they do not have the app, is a bit like having fly screens on your windows with your doors wide open," Gray said.
The latest data shows more than 2 million people have downloaded the NZ COVID Tacer app.
"The better we are at recording our movements, the quicker we can alert possible contacts if we were to have a future community outbreak. Maintaining good hand hygiene, covering coughs or sneezes and not becoming complacent are key."
1:19pm - Ardern says the border remains "critical" in New Zealand's defense against COVID-19, and criticised the Opposition over previous calls to relax the restrictions, which she described as "risky".
1:15pm - Ardern has been told by experts that they are about 95 percent certain there is no more community transmission of COVID-19 in New Zealand.
1:12pm - Ardern is urging New Zealanders with COVID-19 symptoms to keep getting tested, and not become complacent, now that Auckland is joining the rest of the country and moving to alert level 1.
"I can't put enough emphasis on that," she said. "We need to keep up that vigilance around testing."
Laboratories in New Zealand processed 2834 tests on Sunday, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 982,819. Weekends often bring fewer numbers of people wanting to get a test.
1:10pm - Ardern says New Zealand is looking at joining Australia "as soon as it is safe to do so" in a trans-Tasman travel bubble arrangement.
1:09pm - The Prime Minister is urging New Zealanders to remain vigilant despite the the whole country now moving to an alert level 1 scenario.
"Keep using the app and signing in wherever you go," she said.
1:05pm - Ardern has confirmed Auckland will join the rest of New Zealand at 11:59pm this Wednesday, October 7.
1:02pm - "I know for many this one has felt harder... more fragmented... it felt longer and dragged on," Ardern said of the second Auckland lockdown. "But despite that, Aucklanders and New Zealanders stuck to the plan which has worked twice now."
1pm - Ardern says it appears the COVID-19 outbreak is "under control" in New Zealand, because it's been 10 days since a case in the community was reported and only five people are yet to recover.
12:45pm - The Ministry of Health has reported one new case of COVID-19 in MIQ and no new cases in the community. It brings the number of active cases in the country to 40 - 34 in MIQ and six in the community.
The person who has tested positive arrived from Hong Kong on October 1 and returned a positive test as part of routine testing at around day three. They have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
There is no one in hospital with COVID-19 in New Zealand.
12pm - National Party leader Judith Collins thinks Auckland "obviously needs to go to level 1" as the Prime Minister and her Cabinet's alert level decision looms.
"It obviously has to go to level 1. This is getting utterly beyond a joke. We've got no community transmission, that we're told about anyway - I presume there's none," she told reporters in Auckland.
"We don't know of any, so unless there's an announcement today..."
Collins rejected the suggestion she was questioning the Ministry of Health's data on how many active cases there are in the communty.
"I'm a lawyer so I always question. Lawyers do that - it's part of the job, I always question. There's an announcement at 1 o'clock and I'm not privy to what that announcement is."
Collins criticised the Government for not preparing a health order before the announcement so that Auckland could potentially move to level 1 by midnight.
That's what happened with the rest of New Zealand at the Prime Minister's last announcement two weeks ago. The rest of the country was able to shift to level 1 by midnight that night because Cabinet had already prepared the health order.
But no such in-principle agreement has been signed off for Auckland this time.
"Well, nothing much surprises me with this Government, it's basically hiding behind COVID for everything," Collins said.
Collins also slammed the Government's response to COVID-19.
"They should have the COVID app operating, the Government should have put in place a Bluetooth tracking mechanism as well, which they don't seem to have sorted out yet," she said.
Collins has already claimed credit for the Government rolling out a 'CovidCard' technology pilot in COVID-19 managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
"They should have been testing people before they get on a plane to come to New Zealand. They should have done a lot of things.
"So yeah, I think actually Auckland needs to be in level 1 and I'm going to make that call without the advice that the Prime Minister has, becuase quite clearly she's happy to leave this country in lockdown.
"We have an economic crisis that we're about to move into. This country needs to get moving and it needst to get moving now."
11:30am - University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker says modelling indicates there's a more than 95 percent chance that COVID-19 has been eliminated.
But he told The AM Show he would like to see Auckland shift to an alert level 1.5 setting rather than see it move down to level 1, because there is no restrictions on gatherings at level 1.
"We would advocate that we actually have a level 1.5 now - it means we can come out of level 2 sooner but this level keeps some sensible precaution," he said.
"It would mean pretty much business as usual except mask use in very specific situations. This would put very few restrictions on most businesses."
Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett told Newshub on Sunday an alert level 1 move is overdue, with some businesses only able to operate at half capacity.
"There is an element of impatience and frustration," he said. "This last lockdown has been absolutely painful for Auckland. There's a lack of clarity - there's just uncertainty."