Coronavirus: Auckland will shift to alert level 1 despite new community case of COVID-19

Auckland will shift to alert level 1 at midnight despite a new community case of COVID-19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced.

It means Auckland will join the rest of New Zealand with no more restrictions on the size of social gatherings, but wearing masks on public transport will continue to be mandatory.

Announcing the alert level change on Monday afternoon, Ardern said the latest outbreak is a "stark reminder" that as long as COVID-19 is in the world, it's a threat to New Zealand. 

The Government's decision comes a week after Auckland was put into a three-day alert level 3 lockdown, following the discovery of three community cases of COVID-19 - a Papatoetoe High school student and her parents.

Last Wednesday two new community cases were confirmed, but Auckland was shifted down to alert level 2 because the new cases were connected to the original cluster, easing anxieties of a widespread outbreak.

Another community case connected to the existing cluster was discovered on Friday, a household contact of one of the previous cases. No community cases were reported over the weekend.

A community case was discovered on Monday, also connected to the original cluster. They had previously been tested and returned a negative result, but isolated at home since Monday last week. They were transferred to quarantine on Friday as a precaution.

The public health risk is considered by the Ministry of Health as "very low".

The Prime Minister said on Monday she is "not at all" concerned about the latest community case because of its connection to the original cluster. 

The source of the latest community outbreak is still unknown. One of the cases - the mother of the student - works at LSG Sky Chefs which does laundry for airlines, and it remains a possible location of transmission. 

The Four Points by Sheraton managed isolation facility in Auckland continues to be investigated. This is where there is a possible genomic similarity between a previous positive case and the current community cases - though it is not a direct match.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hinted on Monday morning that Auckland would shift down to alert level 1 as long as there were no signs of an outbreak beyond the original cluster.  

"Bar anything untoward arising I would expect we move down the alert levels," she told The AM Show. "We've had 70,000 tests since Sunday, so that scale and things like wastewater testing gives us confidence it's a leakage rather than an outbreak."