Hope for COVID-19 alert level 1 in Auckland as Cabinet meets before tomorrow's decision

American yachtsman Ken Read is hopeful Auckland will shift to COVID-19 alert level 1 in time for this weekend's America's Cup races between Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa. 

Cabinet is meeting on Thursday afternoon to discuss the alert level settings. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will make the announcement on Friday in Auckland at noon. 

Auckland was shifted to level 2 on Sunday after spending a week in level 3 lockdown. It was the second time the city had been put into lockdown this year and longer than the previous three-day lockdown just over a week prior. 

Auckland was thrust back into lockdown on February 28 after a 21-year-old MIT student, Case M, tested positive. It confused officials because while he had a sibling at Papatoetoe High School where the outbreak occurred, they had returned three negative tests. 

It turned out Case M's mum, Case N, broke lockdown rules by meeting up with the mum of another family linked to Papatoetoe High School during the previous three-day lockdown - a meeting that had not been disclosed to officials. 

Case M spooked health authorities because he ignored advice by visiting several populated places, including a gym, after getting tested. It left the Government no choice but to impose a lockdown in Auckland.

But after five days of no new community cases, Auckland was shifted to level 2 last Friday. Since then, there have been no new community cases, so the case is looking strong for the city to shift down the alert levels on Friday. 

The Ministry of Health confirmed on Wednesday that the one person remaining from the gym Case M visited was tested on Tuesday and has returned a negative test.

Ardern said last Friday Cabinet would review the decision in a week, "with a view to moving Auckland to level 1 at the start of the weekend, if we are in a position to do so".

"We haven't said that it's the case that if we get new cases that will stop us; it all depends very much on the context," she said.  

"If we're seeing them within identified contacts - people who we've already asked to be isolating - then that would not necessarily stand in the way of a change of alert level. But we always keep it under advisement. So you'll get a sense, as we're on the podium, as to whether we have any concerns."

American yachtsman Ken Read is eager for restrictions to be lifted in time for the America's Cup races this weekend in Auckland. 

"When we walked down yesterday morning the Viaduct was just starting to buzz a little bit and it felt different. But I have to admit, it didn't feel America's Cup-ish. I think if we can get this back to level 1, this thing is a buzz," he told The AM Show. 

"You saw a lot of boats out there yesterday, but still that stadium course - that course that Grant Dalton dreamt of right smack in the middle of the harbour - that's really what this regatta's all about. That's the hope and that's the dream of all the people putting it on. 

"So I think without level 1 it's not going to seem not quite America's Cup-ish. If it does drop down that level I think this place goes crazy."