COVID-19: Live updates - Tuesday 18 August 2020

live 18/08/2020

Live updates from New Zealand's seventh day of lockdown (Level 3 for Auckland, Level 2 for the rest of the country) courtesy of Newshub.

Tuesday marks a week since Kiwis learnt of new cases of community transmission in Auckland.

Since Wednesday, the Super City has been under alert level 3 restrictions, while the rest of the country sits at alert level 2. Those restrictions are likely to remain in place until midnight on August 26.

Sixty-nine active cases of COVID-19 have been detected in the community.

What you need to know:

  • Since last Tuesday, New Zealand has recorded 69 cases of community transmission, with all but two detected in Auckland. Two were recorded in Tokoroa.
  • The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 90, after 13 new cases were recorded in the community on Tuesday.
  • A maintenance worker at the Rydges in Auckland is among those who has tested positive. He is not linked to the main cluster.
  • The Ministry of Education will soon allow Year 12 and 13 students in Auckland back to school while the city is in lockdown. More detail on that is expected on Tuesday.
  • The election was delayed on Monday from September 19 to October 17. That also meant Parliament's dissolution was put back. MPs will return to the House on Tuesday afternoon.
  • Auckland is under alert level 3, while the rest of the country is at alert level 2.

Refresh the page for the latest updates.

3:20pm - Epidemiologists say New Zealand needs a new, more generic pandemic plan which caters to worst-case scenarios.

The Ministry of Health first drafted a pandemic plan in 2004, called the National Health Emergency Plan: Infectious Diseases, but experts say this doesn't properly account for a non-influenza outbreak.

Professor Nick Wilson, who works in public health with the University of Otago, says there are two major issues with the current plan. First, it makes assumptions about vaccines that don't fit other diseases, and secondly, it doesn't properly consider what measures are needed at the border if a deadly disease hits.

Read the full report here.

3:10pm - A Rydges Hotel maintenance worker that tested positive for the virus has been connected to a person who arrived in New Zealand from the US. The same genome sequence was found in samples from the two people.

The returnee stayed at the Rydges Hotel in July before being moved to a quarantine facility.

The Ministry of Health says there is no obvious person-to-person connection between the worker and the returnee at this stage.

Professor Michael Plank from Te Pūnaha Matatini and the University of Canterbury says since the hotel worker didn't have face-to-face contact with guests, it suggests transmission may have happened via a contaminated surface or another border worker that wasn't detected to have the virus.

"This underscores the importance of regular testing of everyone working at the border or quarantine facilities. If the worker is the index case for this outbreak, there is a good chance we have caught it before it can cause a major new cluster. But we won't know for sure until the contact tracing investigation is complete," he said in a statement to the Science Media Centre.

Epidemiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles also says this case shows the importance of regularly testing border and managed isolation and quarantine facility workers.

"The latest information shows just how important genome sequencing can be in helping to identify potential sources of COVID-19 transmission in countries like New Zealand which are managing the pandemic well."

Read the full report here.

The Rydges Hotel in Auckland
The Rydges Hotel in Auckland. Photo credit: Getty Images

2:50pm - Jacinda Ardern has also lashed out at US President Donald Trump after he described our new COVID-19 cluster as a "big surge" in cases.

She described Trump's claim as "patently wrong" and says there is no comparison between the two countries when it comes to our respective health responses.

"I think anyone who's following COVID and its transmission globally will quite easily see that New Zealand's nine cases in a day does not compare to the United States' tens of thousands, and in fact does not compare to most countries in the world."

Read Zane Small's full report here.

2:40pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reportedly been given an official warning in Parliament by Speaker Trevor Mallard.

The incident came while National's finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith was delivering a speech highlighting perceived failures in testing at the border.

She allegedly yelled, "You told us we were scaremongering, you said we were scaremongering", according to Newshub political reporter Anna Bracewell-Worrall.

National MP Nicola Willis said Ardern was "appearing very defensive" in Parliament.

2:22pm - Here's all the latest figures in graph form.

2:17pm - Dr Woods says the rollout of the testing regime - which two months ago promised that asymptomatic MIQ staff would be tested - is a matter for the Ministry of Health.

In defending why the maintenance worker case wasn't picked up earlier when he had reported symptoms two days prior to his test, she says it's because he had attributed them to a preexisting condition.

She also said it's not always easy to pick up genuine COVID-19 cases because it's a "tricky virus" that comes with a range of symptoms.

2:05pm - Dr Woods has told a journalist she rejects the premise of his question after he suggested there's a "total accountability gulf" between her ministry, the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Health.

She's clear that the regime they used to have was a voluntary one, but that there was testing for all symptomatic staff. However that's now changed to ensure asymptomatic staff receive swab tests too.

She says 100 percent of staff at the Rydges have been tested, while 97 percent of staff at MIQs across Auckland have received a test.

"From our perspective, everything that needed to happen, happened from Sunday [the day the test was returned] onwards."

1:58pm - Dr Woods says there is no evidence it's person-to-person contact, but they're investigating and can't rule it out.

She says there are "no glaringly obvious points of connection" and confirms no one - including the maintenance worker - were able to enter the room during the US case's stay.

She adds that the woman did not leave her room very often - only leaving on two or three occasions - and officials are looking at CCTV footage at the periods of time she was out.

Dr Woods says the Rydges is "an incredibly well-run facility" that's had no issues in the past.

1:50pm - Megan Woods, the Minister in charge of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, says emergency procedures were activated after the case of a Rydges maintenance worker was detected.

Dr Woods says there's a genomic link between the case and a positive case from the US who stayed there until July 31. The room she was in has not been occupied since she left, and has now undergone intensive cleaning.

Air Commodore Digby Webb says this incident is different in that it's the first time a staff member connected to a facility has tested positive.

The hotel was put into immediate lockdown on Sunday, when the test was returned.

1:45pm - Dr Bloomfield says the Ministry of Health's plan is to genome sequence every case. This is already well underway.

He also confirms the cluster that was first identified last Tuesday is on track to become the biggest COVID-19 cluster in New Zealand since the first recorded case of coronavirus back in March.

However the Director-General says this is partly because the Ministry of Health is more confident they're capturing all new cases, whereas during New Zealand's first outbreak there would've been cases that were missed.

1:35pm - Hipkins is issuing two new health orders this week:

  1. To formalise the testing regime for air crew
  2. To formalise routine testing of border staff

The Health Minister says his second health order will outline exactly what the Government will expect from surveillance testing.

He has also shut down talk about ending the current lockdown earlier or later than the Prime Minister initially stated, saying "it's far too early" to make caller.

He adds that it's "encouraging" that the person who started the damaging online rumour about a person sneaking into a managed isolation facility is remorseful.

1:25pm - Hipkins is asked why the Government says there was a reluctance among staff to get tested, when those on the ground says there hasn't been.

He says the advice he has had is that there was some reluctance. Hipkins says workers shouldn't have been declined tests.

Dr Bloomfield says there are two possibilities for how the Rydges worker contracted COVID-19. One is human-to-human transmission, and that's part of the reason all the guests and staff are being retested. There may have been an intermediary between the guest who tested positive from USA and the maintenance worker. The second is environmental contamination.

1:20pm - How likely is it that there is another cluster linked to this new hotel worker and the USA strain? Hipkins says current information shows it is contained, but investigation work is underway. Close contacts - including household and work contacts - have been isolated and tests have come back negative.

"This is how we want the system to operate. Where there is an incursion, you identify it quickly and you stamp it out."

Hipkins says there are strict procedures at managed isolation and quarantine facilities. But he says there is no 100 percent guarantee the virus won't get through.

Dr Bloomfield agrees this seems contained.

1:10pm - On the Americold environmental testing, a final report is expected soon. However, Dr Bloomfield says that route of transmission now appears unlikely. 

There are just shy of 1.5 COVID Tracer app users.

Chris Hipkins says over the last five days more than 100,000 tests have been processed. Labs are working well within the 48-hour turnaround period.

He says testing is ramping up at the border. So far, more than 3485 workers at ports around New Zealand have been tested.

More than 5000 staff have accessed the Port of Auckland since July 21. Of these, 2194 have been tested. A dedicated testing team is operating for extended hours to get these people tested.

At the Port of Tauranga, a testing site was set up on Monday to test about 6000 workers. As of this morning, 95 high-priority workers had been tested alongside others.

As of Monday night, 2407 of 4474 workers had been tested at Auckland Airport.

At isolation facilities, 2806 tests have been completed - 97 percent of the Auckland MIQ workforce.

1:05pm - Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there are 13 new cases of COVID-19 in the community. All but one of these are connected to the community cluster. The additional case is believed to be linked to the same cluster.

Ninety-eight people linked to the cluster have been moved into a quarantine facility. Six people are receiving hospital-level care. None are requiring intensive care.

New Zealand now has 90 active cases, 69 of which are linked to the Auckland cluster. An additional one has been found in the community.

The additional case is the Rydges hotel worker described below. Genome sequencing found this is not linked to the Auckland cluster, but closely linked to a retunree from the USA. The pair didn't have any human-to-human transmission.

Since August 11, 1880 close contacts have been identified, of which 1691 have been contacted and are isolating and are awaiting testing/have been tested.

Two new places on interest: Pak'nSave, Glen Innes (the case visited several times between July 31 at 10:09am and August 8 at 10:10am) and the Mt Roskill Primary School. The case was there in the period between 1:40pm on August 10 and 1:40pm on August 11. People who were there at that time should be aware of symptoms, but nothing else is needed.

12:50pm - We are now expecting Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Chris Hipkins, Megan Woods and and Air Commodore Darryn Webb at the 1pm briefing, which Newshub will stream and air on Three.

12:30pm - Results of genome testing from two Auckland COVID-19 cases that were under investigation have been returned, with one connected to the Auckland cluster.

The Ministry of Health says the second is a man who works as a maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel managed isolation facility. He does not have any routine contact with guests and partial genome sequencing results indicate his infection is not linked to the community cluster discovered last week.

No other cases linked to this person have been identified to date. 

The Ministry says further genome sequencing and matching will take place on Tuesday and a full analysis is expected later.

"The person returned a positive result for COVID-19 on Sunday 16 August with symptom onset on 11 August. He was transferred to Jet Park Hotel quarantine facility on Monday 17 August. It has taken till this morning for genomic sequencing results to confirm the origin of the case," the Ministry of Health says.

"Genome sequencing shows a returnee from the USA with the same sequence as the maintenance worker was at the Rydges Hotel from 28 July to 31 July before they returned a Day 3 positive test and were immediately moved to the Jet Park quarantine facility on 31 July."

The Ministry of Health says at this stage there is "no obvious person-to-person connection between the worker and the returnee from the USA but investigations continue".

CCTV footage and swipe card movements have been reviewed and "so far show no interaction between the two people including no entry to physical locations occupied by the returnee from the USA".

"The room the USA returnee was in has been unoccupied since the case was transferred to the Jet Park quarantine facility and is still empty. The room underwent hospital-grade cleaning with hydrogen peroxide vapour sanitation using a BioQuell machine.

"Contact tracing and testing has not connected any further cases to the maintenance worker, and to date this remains a single case."

Six people he worked with at the managed isolation facility have been identified and are considered "close contacts". They are now in isolation.

"They have all returned negative results from surveillance testing last week, however as a precaution all staff and returnees at the Rydges are being retested again via an onsite testing team. Forty-five staff members and 54 guests were tested yesterday, the remainder will be tested today.

"Three household close contacts of the man are all in self-isolation and have been tested."

The Ministry of Health says the man attended two of the Emmanuel Cook Islands Good News Fellowship church services on the morning and evening of August 9.

Health officials have contact traced all attendees as close contacts. As of last night, all but nine of them had been tested with the remainder being tested today. All are in self-isolation.

"The venue of the service is a school hall and deep cleaning of the facility is currently underway. 

"Health officials are currently assessing if environmental testing at the Rydges would provide any further insight, however, the frequent deep cleansing of the facility means this is most likely not possible.

"The man carried out maintenance tasks on vacant rooms between bookings, following full infection prevention and controls, including wearing PPE."

All staff have been tested since the Auckland outbreak and are being retested.

"Returnees are also undergoing testing and in some cases, being retested now."

Actions undertaken at the Rydges Managed Isolation Facility

As soon as the positive test was established a series of actions were undertaken immediately at Rydges including:

  • The hotel was put into immediate lock down on Sunday morning, as soon as the positive test was returned. 
  • Thorough cleaning of shared areas of the hotel was carried out.
  • Close contacts of the staff member identified and put into self-isolation until tested (noting that this staff member was not in a public-facing role)
  • Lock down of guests in hotel lifted once cleaning completed and close contacts identified.
  • Close analysis of movements were undertaken at including a review of CCTV and a review of room entry data to look for connection to cases
  • Genomic Sequence sought from ESR
  • Health advice sought
  • Further testing of all returnees and staff undertaken
  • Confirmation that infection prevention controls have been followed
  • Normal procedures resumed

12:25pm - There continue to be calls for the likes of butchers and greengrocers to be able to open during alert level 3. National's Dan Bidois - who has completed a butcher's apprenticeship - is among those wanting the change. 

12:15pm -  Meanwhile, across the ditch, an independent report into the handling of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Ruby Princess in March has found New South Wales health officials made "inexcusable" mistakes.

Those mistakes included allowing the unchecked disembarkation of around 2700 passengers - 120 of whom were feeling unwell - from the cruise ship and onto the streets of Sydney.

"The report also confirmed that none of the crew onboard the Ruby Princess misled public authorities when being permitted to dock in Sydney on March 19," the report states.

Read more here.

11:55am -  Judith Collins claims to have been contacted by managed isolation facility staff who say they were refused tests, and she is challenging the Prime Minister to release communications to prove otherwise. 

"Staff have contacted us to let us know that they were not refusing to have tests and that they were in fact not offered tests and even some people have contacted us to say that they asked for tests and were refused them because they were asymptomatic," Collins said on Tuesday. 

The National Party leader said she's had a "couple of people" contact her directly about being refused tests - one of them she claims was someone "reasonably senior" at the Jet Park Hotel in Auckland used for quarantining arrivals. 

Read more here.

11:40am - Parliament has released the primary questions MPs will ask of the Government at Question Time at 2pm.

They include:

  • James Shaw to the Minister of Finance: Is the Government supporting working people who need to take leave due to COVID-19; if so, how?
  • Judith Collins to the Prime Minister: What advice, if any, has she received on the most likely way COVID-19 entered Auckland, causing the lockdown which began on 12 August, and what weaknesses, if any, have officials identified in border procedures which may have left New Zealand vulnerable to fresh outbreaks of COVID-19?
  • Gerry Brownlee to the Minister of Housing: Does she think the public should be concerned that post the 23 June announcement by the Minister of Health that “a testing strategy to keep New Zealand safe” with priority testing for MIQ staff and international and maritime crews was not comprehensively put in place, despite the Prime Minister stating last week that testing was happening all the way through?
  • Kiritapu Allan to the Minister of Education: What steps is the Government taking to support students whose learning has been disrupted by the shift to COVID-19 alert level 3 in Auckland?

The full list can be found here.

11:35am - The Secondary Principals' Council of NZ has released a statement questioning the Ministry of Education's decision to allow senior students to return to Auckland schools to prepare for major assessments.

That decision - which requires strict health and safety protocols to be in place - has been welcomed by Auckland Grammar School and Act's David Seymour.

But principal Maurie Abraham of Hobsonville Point Secondary School opposes the move. 

"The wellbeing of students, teachers, and communities is paramount, and a clear and consistent approach is what we need right now," he said.

"Teachers are worried that the proposal conflicts with current public health advice, and creates unnecessary and unreasonable pressure on schools, which are already working hard to return to online learning.

"We have major concerns about this decision, and so do most Auckland teachers and principals.

“All principals and teachers are totally committed to student learning and wellbeing, however every extra person at school under COVID-19 alert level 3 increases risk."

More detail is expected out on Tuesday, including when schools will be able to allow students back.

11:25am - An alcohol and health expert says the COVID-19 lockdown has enabled a rise in harmful drinking, as Kiwis move away from the controlled environment of bars and into their homes.

Dr Nicki Jackson, the Alcohol Healthwatch executive director, says when people think of harmful drinking, often the first place people visualise is a bar - but times are changing.

"For so long we've shined the spotlight on bars and nightclubs and the assaults that are associated with them," she told The AM Show on Tuesday. 

Find out more here.

11:05am - Auckland could be lifted out of lockdown before 26 August, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

In an interview with The AM Show on Tuesday, Ardern said there was a chance the city could move alert levels when the decision is reviewed 

"Our goal is to get out [of lockdown] as soon as possible," she said.

Read more on that here.

10:50am - Gerry Brownlee doesn't believe a comment he made in an email on Monday about the Government benefitting from a "favourable media" undermined the media.

He doesn't believe that creates distrust between people and the media. 

His now-infamous comments last week about "interesting" things that had happened before news of the community transmission broke were a "mistake". He didn't mean to imply anything with his comments.

Brownlee says briefings to the Opposition have improved over the last two days.

10:40am - The National leader wouldn't comment on remarks by US President Donald Trump about New Zealand seeing a 'big surge" in COVID-19 cases.

"I haven't heard them and I am not here to talk about Donald Trump."

10:30am - Collins also mentions the Prime Minister said some people were reluctant to get a test. The National leader says she has been contacted by workers saying they wanted to get a test, but weren't offered one.

"They asked to have tests and were refused them," Collins said.

She said while the border testing issue has been characterised as a miscommunication between officials and Cabinet, she believes it's a failure of the system.

One of the people she has spoken to works at the Jet Park Hotel - a facility used for quarantining positive cases.

10:25am - National's Judith Collins says the party will be questioning the Government on Tuesday on the "failure" at the border, particularly about why Kiwis were told all border-facing workers would be tested, when it now appears they were not.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday morning that it was Cabinet's understanding that both symptomatic and asymptomatic workers would be tested. She now understands not all of the latter were.

"It did not meet our expectations," Ardern said.

Collins says it is an "absolute failure".

10:20am - There were a lot of cars held up near the Bombay checkpoint on Tuesday morning, according to this photo.

10:10am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has admitted border testing for COVID-19 fell short of the Government's expectations but says there will be marked improvement moving forward.

In an interview on The AM Show on Tuesday, Ardern said while there was testing taking place at the border and in quarantine facilities it was "not nearly as comprehensive" as it should have been.

Ardern says there was supposed to be tests for asymptomatic and symptomatic people but asymptomatic people were not being tested.

Read more on that here.

9:55am - New research shows Kiwis are aware of, but not overly concerned about, cyberattacks while working from home during the pandemic. 

A survey conducted globally by Unisys found 22 percent of Kiwis were concerned about the risk of a security breach while working remotely, while 26 percent were concerned about the risk of being scammed. In comparison, 55 percent of Kiwis worried about economic stability, 41 percent about their own financial security and 34 percent about job security.

It also found that 40 percent of Kiwis are concerned about computer viruses and hacking - down from 48 percent last year - and 35 percent are concerned about online transactions, down from 39 percent.

"New Zealanders appear to be distracted by their higher concern of national infrastructure and family well-being during the pandemic. This is a critical issue for organisations that underwent a rapid transformation to move to work from home models as it appears employees likely assume that their employer is taking care of securing data and systems," said Andrew Whelan, vice president, commercial and financial services sector lead, Unisys Asia Pacific.

"Yet for many for organisations, the initial priority was to simply get people working remotely and their security measures have not yet caught up with the wider attack base this created.

"People remain one of the top points of vulnerability – especially as attackers use high interest in COVID-19 to trick people into clicking on links or giving information which can launch ransomware and other malicious software. Employers need their people to remain vigilant."

9:40am - Act's David Seymour wants Auckland principals to do the "right thing" and open their schools to senior students. It comes after the Ministry of Education announced senior students would be allowed back to school to prepare for upcoming assessments as long as strict health and safety protocols were followed. The details of this are expected to be revealed on Tuesday.

"This is a hugely important time for senior students. They’re nearing their crucial end of year exams. If schools follow the rules and practice distancing, there’s no reason why they can’t be there safely," Seymour said.

"The Ministry of Education has now given principals the choice the allow students back. This should be a no-brainer.

"Students did a great job of catching up after the lockdown earlier this year. They have handled a huge amount of stress and pressure and I commend them for that. But we’re at the business end of the year now and they shouldn’t be disadvantaged because some principals don’t want to open the doors.

"We've had months to plan for this scenario, so principals should be ready to do the right thing."

9:30am - A young man behind the Reddit musings that seemingly inspired a widely-circulated COVID-19 conspiracy theory has now revealed his side of the story.

Last week, a rumour regarding the source of Auckland's outbreak of community transmission ran rampant on social media. A viral Facebook post, alleging COVID-19's reemergence was due to a young woman infiltrating a managed isolation facility to visit her deportee boyfriend, appeared to kickstart the torrent of misinformation online. 

In a piece for New Zealand journalist David Farrier's Webworm newsletter, released on Tuesday morning, film editor and Tickled collaborator Dylan Reeve linked the theory's origin to a Reddit comment shared by a young professional.

The man, who has not been identified, was tracked down by Reeve for a phone interview.

Read more about that here.

9:10am - Wellington's Weta Workshop says it has been advised an individual who later tested positive for COVID-19 visited the Weta Cave earlier in August.

The person was at Weta Cave between 9:15am and 9:45am on Thursday, August 6, and later tested positive for COVID-19 when they reached an overseas destination. 

General Manager David Wilks says the visitor was asymptomatic during their visit.

"They did not do a tour. The Ministry advised us that the risk level from this visit was very low. However, as a precaution they asked us to advise our crew to monitor their health closely, and be vigilant for any symptoms in line with the national guidelines around COVID-19.”

9:05am - Social media users are confused and baffled by Donald Trump's claim that New Zealand is seeing a "big surge" in COVID-19 cases, with many pointing out that pales to what the United States is recording daily.

"42,000 cases in a day is 1 case every 2 seconds. So the US already had a worse day than New Zealand at 12:00.20 AM," one person said.

"I wish we had what New Zealand calls a 'big surge'," said another.

"New Zealand jumped into action as soon as they saw an issue," a third points out.

"We’ve been 'surging' since the beginning, and it hasn’t stopped."

8:55am - The Employers and Manufacturers Association is concerned about workers and businesses needing to get through through the regional border checkpoints.

"The system is just not working properly and there is no consistency of information to the police manning the borders, or to those trying to get through," says EMA chief executive Brett O’Riley.

"We find it puzzling that people who have had exemptions as essential workers since lockdown in March cannot now use them to get through to do their jobs even though this is alert level 3."

O'Riley says he had heard anecdotally of dairy factory workers at Pokeno - south of Auckland - being turned back at the border while waste management crews who live on one side of the border can’t get through to work. He's also heard of a farmer who has property in two regions, but can't tend to them in the middle of calving season.

He says the EMA has spoken to officials about streamlining the process to get exemptions, as are available for some affected by the border.

"Some of our members have been told that it will take the Ministry of Health up to seven days to process their applications for exemptions, by which time we’ll likely be back at Alert Level 2!" O’Riley says.

"All we’re asking is for officials to adapt and respond the way they’re asking business to adapt and respond."

According to the COVID-19 website, you don't need an exemption to travel into or through Auckland if you are: 

  • returning to your primary home
  • accessing medical services
  • maintaining a shared childcare arrangement
  • relocating a home or business.

However, documents supporting the reason for travel will help. If someone is travelling through Auckland, they cannot stop and must wear a face covering.

Exemptions are available for those moving freight or involved in dairy production, processing and distribution. People working for a number of other organisations can also get an exemption. See a full list here.

8:35am -  Jumping back to The AM Show interview with the Prime Minister, Ardern says it is possible the alert levels change on Friday, when a review of the current restrictions take place. 

In regard to a lack of testing of border workers, Ardern says the question is whether testing was as comprehensive as Cabinet expected. A strategy from June included testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic people.

"Now, what we are learning is whilst we did have testing stations set up at the border on the 10th of July and the 16th of July, it appears that we weren't picking up necessarily all asymptomatic workers as we expected," she says.

She said some of the workers were getting tested away from the border, at other testing stations.

A health order now requires all border workers to be tested.

8:15am - US President Donald Trump says New Zealand's new outbreak of COVID-19 is a "big surge".

Speaking on Tuesday (NZ Time), Trump said New Zealand "beat [the virus]", but is now dealing with a "big surge".

"The places they were using to hold up, they are having a big surge. I don't want that. I don't want that. They were holding up names of countries, and now they are saying 'whoops'.

"Even New Zealand, you see what is going on in New Zealand. They beat it, they beat it. It was like front page, they beat it because they wanted to show me something. The problem is [a] big surge in New Zealand. It's terrible. We don't want that."

New Zealand has 58 new active cases of COVID-19 in the community. On Monday, it recorded nine new cases. On Sunday, the United States recorded 42,000 new cases. 

Overall, New Zealand has reported 1280 cases of the virus, compared to nearly 5.6 million in the US.

8am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tells The AM Show she couldn't just delay the election by two weeks, due to logistical issues for the Electoral Commission. The earliest available option was October 17, the date chosen. 

She doesn't believe there will be significant restrictions in place during September, when the election was initially scheduled for. Concern was around the formal campaign period leading up to the September 19 election.

7:30am - Michael Lunjevich, a Kiwi in managed isolation who has arrived back in the country from Dubai, is critical of the regime.

"The testing was not happening, and even the bus driver on the way to our hotel said he hadn't been tested, hadn't been offered a test, so he went and got his own test. You arrive at the hotel and you see people who are on day 14 of their quarantine and we're on day 1."

Health Minister Chris Hipkins has recently said he understood all border and facility workers were being tested, but this turned out not to be the case. The Director-General of Health said on Monday that testing was being scaled up. It is now mandatory for all frontline workers to be tested.

Officials also say guidelines are in place to separate returnees from other bubbles and if protocols are followed, there should be no risk.

Lunjevich says he is still proud to be a Kiwi and is complimentary of the staff at the facilities.

7:15am - Tim O'Connor tells The AM Show he is ecstatic that senior students will be able to return to school ahead of their assessments. He thanks the Ministry of Education for listening to requests. 

He said there are massive constraints.

7:10am - With COVID-19 back in the community, there are a lot of developments you are not going to want to miss. Take a minute to sign up to Newshub's daily newsletter so you can stay up-to-date.

7am - The Government has made it easier for New Zealanders to take time off work to get tested or self-isolate if they need to by means of the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme.

"To further support wide-scale testing, we've removed the revenue-drop and 'negatively impacted' tests for the COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme," Robertson said.

But some want the scheme to go further. Read more here.

6:40am - While Auckland Grammar School is welcoming the Ministry of Education's decision to allow senior students to return to school ahead of assessments, the Māori Party opposes the move. 

“We should not risk sending Auckland high school students back to school while they are still in lockdown, the safety and wellbeing of our tamariki, kaumātua and whānau must be our number one priority,” said co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

"The Government allowing senior students to return to school could put the whole community in danger, especially for Māori and Pasifika whānau who often live in intergenerational homes and are the most at risk from this latest outbreak."

Ngarewa-Packer said its time we "redesign our education system to ensure that students and their teachers can work in flexible ways".

"If the lockdown goes on beyond two weeks, NZQA and the Ministry need to respond by increasing the learning recognition credits that are already on offer and utilising the flexibility that NCEA allows.

"Teachers are telling us they want the focus to be on the positives and the opportunities available to young people. They want us to support them to close the digital divide and design learning and assessment that can be done anywhere and anytime.

"When we need agile and innovative student-centred responses why are we doing what we’ve always done and continuing with approaches that only suit a few."

The Ministry is expected on Tuesday to provide more details about when students can return. Stringent health and safety rules will be required at the schools.

6:25am - Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says the two-week wage subsidy is the right length.

However, he questions the 40 percent revenue drop requirement.

He says the objective of the wage subsidy is to keep people in jobs and doesn't want to see anything hamper businesses accessing the subsidy if they need it.

"It's not about helping the business, it's keeping the employees."

Barnett also wants the Government to consider allowing more customer-facing businesses open, like greengrocers, considering that supermarkets and dairies can operate.

6:15am - Auckland Grammar School headmaster Tim O'Connor has told Newshub that the Ministry of Education will allow Year 12 and 13 students to return to school to prepare for their upcoming assessments.

He says there will be very stringent requirements, including only having bubbles of 20 students and enforcing physical distancing. 

"It won't be a normal timetable. Students shouldn't think they are just returning to normality. This will be a completely different structure for them."

O'Connor says the school will be doing all it can to keep students and staff safe.

"It includes things like having our entire school campus fogged with an antiviral microbial product." 

He hopes the students will be back within days. 

The Ministry of Education was working through legal requirements overnight. More details are expected on Tuesday.

The health requirements are as follows:

  • Physical distancing must be observed at all times – 1m inside and 2m outside
  • Students must be organised into bubbles of no more that 20 with one teacher
  • The student make-up of each bubble cannot change throughout alert level 3
  • Bubbles must not mix with each other inside or outside in the school grounds
  • A teacher cannot be associated with more than one bubble of students but a bubble of students can have more than one teacher throughout Alert Level 3.
  • Rigorous hand washing and drying must be adhered to and hand sanitizer available at the entrance to classrooms
  • Coughing and sneezing must be into the elbow
  • Students and teachers must stay home or be asked to go home if they are unwell.

6am - It's time for The AM Show. Click here to watch online or you can watch on Three.

5:55am - With the election being delayed on Monday, Parliament's dissolution has also been postponed. That means MPs will return to the House on Tuesday afternoon, likely including some who have already given their valedictory speeches.

Auckland-based MPs won't fly down to Wellington.

5:40am - The Cancer Society Auckland has cancelled it's annual Daffodil Day street appeal due to the alert level 3 restrictions.

Chief executive Andrew Young told Newshub that volunteers needed to be given certainty and with cases rising every day, that meant cancelling the August 28 event.

"Cancelling the street appeal for Auckland has been heartbreaking and it has been one of the toughest decisions we have had to make."

He said thousands of volunteers had worked for months in preparation for the fundraising event, but they supported the decision.

About $1 million is at stake, and Young is asking people to donate online.

5:30am - During the Monday 1pm briefing, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield outlined four Auckland locations which were attended by an individual who has tested positive for the virus. People who were at these locations at the specified times may be a casual contact, and should monitor their health over the coming days. 

One of these is a Buttabean Motivation boot camp, that took place early on August 10 and 11 at the Edmonton Primary School hall.

Principal Magaret Samson wrote on Facebook on Monday evening telling parents and families that there is no risk to students or staff.

"The Ministry has assured me that our staff and children are safe and we have no need for concern," Samson said.

"BBM advised that they have procedures in place for cleaning the premises after each session which was carried out by BBM staff on both of these mornings. The school is also taking the extra precaution of having a thorough Deep Clean carried out in the Hall tomorrow.

"The Board of Trustees and the Ministry of Education are happy with the procedures we have in place.

"Please remain calm and be reassured that none of our staff or students are at risk from this case."