COVID-19: Live updates - Tuesday 25 August 2020

live 25/08/2020

There are 123 active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, with nine new cases recorded on Monday.

One is an imported case that was caught in a managed isolation facility. The remaining eight - one of which is considered a probable case - were detected in the community, and have been epidemiologically linked to the existing Auckland cluster.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will reveal whether Auckland's preliminary, two-week alert level 3 lockdown will be eased or extended. The restrictions are tentatively set to be lifted at 11:59pm on Wednesday. The rest of New Zealand is currently under alert level 2.

What you need to know

  • New Zealand has 123 active cases of COVID-19, of which 104 have been found in the community and 19 were detected in isolation facilities
  • Three of the community cases have not been linked to the south Auckland cluster. One of those cases is the Rydges managed isolation facility worker. The other two are under investigation
  • As of Monday's update, 10 people are in Auckland hospitals, with two in intensive care
  • Auckland is at alert level 3 until Sunday night, while the rest of the country sticks at alert level 2 until September 6 at the earliest
  • Face masks or coverings will be mandatory on public transport from Monday

App users, click here to follow live.

Refresh the page for more updates.

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

5:30pm - Here's what New Zealand's COVID-19 case numbers look like in graph form.

5:15pm - Judith Collins has labelled Chris Hipkins a "part-time" Health Minister and wants to know which Government minister is ultimately responsible when something goes wrong in the COVID-19 response. 

The Opposition leader is not letting the Government forget Newshub's revelation that 60 percent of border-facing workers in Auckland had not been tested the week before the latest COVID-19 outbreak, falling short of Cabinet's expectations. 

"The Government has not undertaken what anybody would expect would be undertaken - in other words, what they promised. We would not do that," Collins said on Tuesday. 

"We're saying with any mistakes it's fronted up and we're not going to sit there pointing fingers at each other and saying 'oh, it was your fault, it was my fault, somebody's fault'. The fact is, is that that is part of ministerial responsibility.

"At the moment, the Prime Minister has put in place a Minister of Health, Chris Hipkins. He's essentially part-time in that role because he's got such big other jobs to deal with."

Hipkins is Labour's MP for Remutaka and is also Health Minister, Education Minister, State Services Minister and Leader of the House.

He said he "completely disagrees" with Collins.

"I can certainly tell you it doesn't feel particularly part-time at the moment."

Read the full story here.

Judith Collins
Judith Collins. Photo credit: Parliament TV

4:55pm - Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere says all students should be given pass marks to NCEA this year and 2020 should be declared "a COVID Education Amnesty Year".

He says 2020 has been "severely disrupted" by COVID-19 and Kiwi students should be assured of their right to graduate and move to next year's aspirations.

"We have a system that allows for an assessment, and those being assessed on present and past performance can receive the benefit of relativity," Tamihere says. "But if we do not have a government that asserts this form of amnesty, we heighten the unequal nature of our present education system."

He says students in decile 1-5 schools "cannot afford data, let alone devices" to complete their work remotely, and they also live in homes that are in "deep and constant" stress.

"All of these children deserve a shot at a new future where education leads to emancipation from their present difficulty and empowers them with an option of employment."

There have previously been issues in getting devices out to students at low decile schools, with some families sharing devices between children.

4:30pm - Winston Peters gave a scathing review of National's proposed offshore testing scheme, which would require returnees to get a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed to head to New Zealand.

Speaking to Magic Talk host Peter Williams on Tuesday, the NZ First leader says the plan "defies all medical analysis".

"It's a worthwhile policy unless you rely upon it because being tested before you get on the plane showing no symptoms does not mean you're COVID free," he says.

"That's the great flaw in their argument and I'm surprised that with Dr Reti on board now after all this time that they have missed the dangers of relying upon testing offshore, the person yet to show symptoms or picking up symptoms on the way through in the long transit.

"Yes it's a protection and we could enforce that as well but to think that someone is therefore COVID-free defies all medical analysis."

When announcing the policy last week, National leader Judith Collins said tough times need tough measures and we need to protect New Zealanders who are currently in lockdown or who are in hospital.

"I'm making it very plan: they need to get a test," she said. "We're dealing with a situation where we are looking at an economic crisis... they can come home but they need to get a test - and that's important... they're going to have to find a way to get a test."

Read the full story here.

NZ First leader Winston Peters
NZ First leader Winston Peters. Photo credit: Getty Images

4:15pm - The number of investor visa applications from wealthy Americans has soared, and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) says Aotearoa's COVID-19 response is behind the surge in interest.

NZTE says some people want to invest in a New Zealand company that is operating or selling in their home market, while others wanted to relocate their own business here.

"New Zealand's response to COVID has definitely been noticed in other countries, and has created a window in time where interest in relocating businesses to New Zealand or investing here is higher than normal," NZTE general manager of investment Dylan Lawrence says.

"Where before we might field one to two approaches a month we're currently receiving about five a week. But there is a difference between having interest and then having engagement and outcomes."

Read the full story here.

3:55pm - ACT leader David Seymour has slammed the COVID Tracer app as "completely useless".

It comes after Seymour asked Health Minister Chris Hipkins during Parliament's Question Time on Tuesday: "How many of the identified 2300 close contacts of cases have been identified by two people checking in at the same location using the New Zealand COVID Tracer app?"

Hipkins replied by saying the app is just one of the tools used for contact tracing, and he has confidence in the National Close Contact Service's ability to trace people, but records aren't kept of how people are identified.

"Public health units do not specifically record how they've identified the close contacts across all 2446 cases, but I've been advised that the app is being used to help find the up-to-date contact details for close contact follow-up," he says.

"It is in the case investigators' operating procedure to request the digital diary of a case, where they have one."

Seymour later said it is "deeply concerning" there is no measurement to the effectiveness of the finding close contacts through the COVID Tracer app.

"We can almost guarantee the answer [to tracing cases through the app] is none. Even now only a few percent of people are using it, so the chance of matching a contact is next to nothing."

The Ministry of Health says over 1.8 million people have registered to use the app and it is "encouraged" by the recent uptake.

3:20pm - First Union is calling for security guards to be placed on all buses to enforce the Government's mask mandate and create more jobs during the pandemic.

The union's secretary for transport, logistics and manufacturing Jared Abbott says bus drivers are thankful for the change - which will come into force from Monday, August 31 - but he believes there is growing concern about drivers being responsible for enforcing the rules and trying to manage uncooperative passengers.

"The bus driver's responsibility is to ensure the bus is driven safely...They aren't trained as security guards, they are not equipped to do that."

He also pointed out that many bus drivers aren't highly paid.

"If they are expected to do all of these different jobs for that kind of money, it's just not realistic."

Read the full story here.

3pm - New Zealand First has joined National's call to reconvene Parliament's Health Select Committee so that MPs can scrutinise the Government's COVID-19 response in a public setting. 

National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti has written to Health Select Committee chair Louisa Wall twice so far to request the committee convene and call on Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Health Minister Chris Hipkins to appear. 

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has announced that his caucus agrees, and believes it is "logical" for the committee to meet to "canvass the advice" of Dr Bloomfield in relation to Monday's lockdown extension. 

"Given the economic and health consequences of the Cabinet's decision it is appropriate for the accountability function to be performed while Parliament is sitting," Peters said on Tuesday.

Read the full story here.

2:25pm - Over in Australia, Victoria recorded 148 new cases and eight further deaths on Tuesday. The case numbers have slightly increased compared with Monday's numbers, when 116 cases were announced.

It comes after state Premier Daniel Andrews signalled plans to extend the state of emergency in Victoria to allow it to last for up to 18 months. This would give the chief health officer additional powers to help contain the spread of COVID-19, he says.

2:05pm - National's economic development spokesperson Todd McClay says the hospitality sector needs more targeted assistance from the Government to help it get through the second lockdown.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced a new wage subsidy last week and this is available to businesses nationwide. However, there are currently no targeted packages for specific sectors.

McClay says lockdown has had a disproportionate effect on hospitality businesses, and "12 percent of them [are] preparing to close within the next 30 days" as a result of alert level 3.

"Had the Government managed the border properly many of these businesses would be trading today. Instead because of the Government's systematic failures, jobs and businesses are being lost. Every job represents a family who now doesn't know how they are going to pay their bills," he says.

"The Government must release all its advice so businesses in Auckland and around the country understand why it's not business as usual yet."

Todd McClay. Credit Getty Images

1:35pm - Hipkins says every day minister are very interested to hear of new information about cases. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, he says, but there are still gaps at the moment.

The most concerning case still under investigation is the one in North Shore Hospital, Dr Bloomfield says.

It's too early to read anything into the case of re-infection in Hong Kong, the Director-General says.

The team dealing with exemptions is working as quickly as possible. Exemptions relating to funerals are prioritised.

Hipkins disagrees with Judith Collins' comment that he is a "part-time" Health Minister. He says it doesn't feel like that at the moment.

1:30pm - No businesses have so far been fined for not displayign QR codes. Hipkins says officials are taking an educative approach. He says most businesses are working hard to comply.

Dr Bloomfield has been involved in briefing the Opposition about the outbreak. Hipkins says briefings have been provided whenever they are asked for and one is planned for Tuesday afternoon. National's Health spokesperson requested one on Monday.

Hipkins says if people are in a group and aren't in usual contact with the other individuals, Kiwis should wear a mask.

There are still some cases that are genomically linked, but the source of exposure remains unknown. The vast majority have an epidemiological link.

1:25pm - Hipkins says New Zealand has a good number of swabs and has the capacity for its upcoming testing blitz. 

How much of the 70,000 testing target will be asymptomatic individuals? Hipkins says the majority will be in the community, including asymptomatic people.

1:20pm - Dr Bloomfield says there is a low level of influenza at the moment. He hopes people continue to get tested if they have symptoms. But officials will also be ramping up testing of asymptomatic individuals.

The Health Minister says it is a matter for the Health Select Committee on whether they decide to reconvene. This wasn't something raised by National during discussions about bringing Parliament back. Hipkins wouldn't provide a view on whether the committee should come back together. 

He believes officials are accessible and need time to "actually do the work".

1:15pm - Regarding the case under investigation, Dr Bloomfield says genome sequencing shows a link to the cluster. But the source of exposure remains unknown. Their household and work contacts have come back negative. 

This person is intensive care in North Shore Hospital.

1:10pm - Health Minister Chris Hipkins thanks health professionals for their work since the outbreak began. He says since August 12, more than 100,000 Aucklanders have been tested. Across the country, 194,000 people have been tested.

Hipkins says contact tracers are reaching the gold-standard of 80 percent of people being contacted within 48-hours. He says this should give Kiwis a sense of pride and confidence in our syste,.

The minister says the Health Ministry will be working with DHBs, public health units and the community to target an additional 70,000 tests across New Zealand over the next week. About 7000 tests a day are expected to be in Auckland.

This target will include those in isolation facilities, facility workers, high-risk border workers, the usual symptomatic testing and targeted testing of asymptomatic people in some communities. Testing in south Auckland will be particularly important. An additional six mobile testing units will go to schools and churches.

These are complimentary to existing stations.

1:05pm - Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there are seven new community cases, all connected to the cluster. They are all located in Auckland.

Two of the new cases are linked to a church and two are household contacts.

We now have recorded 1339 confirmed cases. A previously recorded case is now considered recovered. So, we now have 129 active cases. Nineteen of those are imported cases.

As of Tuesday morning, 2446 close contacts have been identified in relation to the cluster and 2390 have been contacted, are isolating and are being tested.

There are now 160 people linked to the cluster who have moved into the Auckland quarantine facility. That includes 89 who have tested positive.

We have eight people receiving hospital-level care. Two are in Auckland City Hospital. One person has been discharged.

There are two in North Shore Hospital, one of which is critical in intensive care. There are four patients in Middlemore Hospital, of which two are in a critical condition in intensive care.

There is an additional person in Waikato Hospital, but not as a direct result of COVID-19.

On Monday, 4434 tests were processed, taking our overall total to 701,504 tests.

We now have had more than 1.8 COVID Tracer App downloads. There have been 318,278 QR codes created.

12:50pm - We will have the 1pm briefing from the Director-General of Health and Minister of Health very soon. It will stream online and on Three.

12:45pm - Winston Peters is a big fan of requiring masks on public transport.

12:35pm - The National Party wants the latest wage subsidy scheme extended to cover the extra four days of alert level 3 lockdown in Auckland after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern deemed it too complex. 

The alert level 3 restrictions were supposed to end at midnight on Wednesday but Ardern on Monday extended it until Sunday as a precaution following the Ministry of Health's confirmation of eight new COVID-19 cases in the community. 

The Government imposed the level 3 restrictions almost two weeks ago when COVID-19 was discovered in south Auckland, and a new wage subsidy extension was announced to help struggling businesses - but it only covered two weeks.

Read more here.

12:20pm - Question Time returns at 2pm.

Among Tuesday's questions are:

Greg O'Connor to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government supporting New Zealand businesses and workers through the global COVID-19 pandemic?

David Seymour to the Minister of Health: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that "The ability to contact trace quickly is one of the key tools we have to find new cases and get them in isolation to avoid future lockdowns, so always using the app is a big investment in keeping our businesses and economy open"; if so, how many of the identified 2,300 close contacts of cases have been identified by two people checking in at the same location using the NZ COVID Tracer App?

Judith Collins to the Prime Minister: What led to her announcing the appointment of Heather Simpson and Sir Brian Roche as part of "a small team to support Health to stand up the comprehensive testing strategy that we set out in June"?

Find the full list here.

12:10pm - NZME reports that a worker in a central Auckland office block has tested positive for COVID-19. The media outlet says tenants in the Crombie Lockwood tower - located on Queen St - have been told of the case via an email.

Other tenants were told that the individual had last been in the building last week Monday and only went into their office.

They wouldn't have been able to go to any other floor and it's unlikely they were in contact with anyone else in the building. Cleaning routines in the building had continued through alert level 3.

"ARPH has advised that the test results will determine how far back they need to contact-trace," NZME quotes the email as saying.

The worker and their household contacts are now in quarantine.

12pm - Peters says there are "ongoing discussions" about mandating face coverings in other areas besides public transport.

Asked on MagicTalk if coverings could become mandatory in places like stores, supermarkets and malls, Peters said "it's all about proximity".

"It's not just the buses, it's not just the trains or, dare I say it, the airlines, it's proximity. To ensure that we do have the kind of protections that people need, then we need to enforce the proximity rules.

"You can't have inconsistencies because when that happens you have huge holes in your dam, so to speak, and it's never going to work."

He was also asked if there had been any discussions about mandating masks in these places.

"There's ongoing discussions and you can be assured from this conversation what our view is. But our view has been to have masks from day 1 and to have the military involved from day 1," Peters replied.

He also wants to see rules around wearing face coverings enforced.

"If you don't intend to have punishments for people who breach the rules, then you don't intend to enforce the rules and we don't intend to get on top of the problem."

Peters said if someone isn't wearing a covering, they shouldn't be allowed on a bus. But wouldn't this put too much responsibility on bus drivers?

"He just tells the miscreant, you are not getting on here and if you want to have an argument about it, I'll hit the button and the police will be around here in five second flat, or the army in five seconds flat."

11:40am - Peters was asked about New Zealand First and National's border security policies. Both included setting up a border force-type agency, while New Zealand First wants military bases to house returnees.

"The reality is they don't seem to understand that ours is based on using our military utilities and facilities and taking people away from our biggest population in the country, namely Auckland," said Peters.

"We welcome the army being brought in by the Prime Minister, but we were saying that from day 1. You have got to have the military. They know what they are doing. They know the familiarity of taking instructions and orders. They are organised. They are your natural asset." 

National would also require anyone returning to New Zealand to show proof of a negative test before boarding a flight back. Peters says you can't just rely on that.

"It's a protection. Maybe we could enforce that as well. But to think that someone is therefore COVID-free defies all medical analysis."

However, National would still require returnees to spend 14 days in managed isolation or quarantine facilities and get tested twice while in them.

Peters said needing to get tested overseas could be an "enourmous impediment" as tests aren't readily accessible in some countries.

11:35am - Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says no one is happy with the lockdown extension, but it was necessary.

"None of us are happy with having to go ahead with four more days. But the reality is, you have to face the medical or the health facts. The reality was we still had growing numbers from the day before," he told MagicTalk.

"Happy about it? No. But we have to live it."

Asked if there was a big spike in cases before Sunday, would the Government change its mind about lowering restrictions, Peters said that would be a bridge the Government would cross if it was to come up.

11:20am - The man who allegedly absconded from an Auckland managed isolation facility to visit an inner-city supermarket has pleaded not guilty.

Davinder Singh, 32, pleaded not guilty to a charge of failing to comply with the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act. He did not attend court on Tuesday and is next scheduled to appear on October 7. 

The 32-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 after allegedly absconding from Auckland's Stamford Plaza Hotel on the evening of July 7. 

Read more here.

11:10am - Public transport users in Auckland are being reminded of the importance of their HOP cards as a means of contact tracing.

In an email on Tuesday morning, Auckland Transport told users there are several things they can do "to help us all keep safe while using public transport".

That includes updating HOP card contact details to make contact tracing easier, registering the HOP cards and wearing a face covering.

The HOP cards have been helpful over the last few days after at least three people travelled on buses before testing positive. Having the HOP card data allowed officials to track down who else was on the bus.

10:55am - With face coverings mandated on public transport at alert level 2 and above from next week, more people nationwide will be wearing some form of mask.

So what are the different types of masks, how can you make sure you wearing them correctly, and where can you get one?

Find out more here.

10:35am - The current situation is "very difficult" for the South Island, Collins says. But without all the information and public health advice that Cabinet has access to, "it would be wrong for us to be second-guessing that information". She suggests that information could be made available to the public.

The South Island is currently at alert level 2. The Prime Minister said on Monday it was important to have some restrictions across the rest of the country for the time being in case a positive individual was to leave Auckland when the city moves to alert level 2 next week.

10:30am - Collins says with a strong border and effective COVID tracing applications, any incursion would be more quickly detected and found.

If there was an incursion, Collins says the Prime Minister must be accountable.

Can she promise that as Government, National wouldn't allow COVID-19 into the community? 

"I think that we can say that we will not allow it to be in a country, the New Zealand community, and not be able to be very quickly contained," she says.

She critcises the lack of testing of asymptomatic workers at the border that was happening before the latest outbreak.

10:30am - Collins says with a strong border and effective COVID tracing applications, any incursion would be more quickly detected and found.

If there was an incursion, Collins says the Prime Minister must be accountable.

Can she promise that as Government, National wouldn't allow COVID-19 into the community? 

"I think that we can say that we will not allow it to be in a country, the New Zealand community, and not be able to be very quickly contained," she says.

She critcises the lack of testing of asymptomatic workers at the border that was happening before the latest outbreak.

10:25am - Dr Reti says evidence, including from the World Health Organization, has evolved over the last few months on the use of masks. 

He says the issue of the use of masks in schools is a complex issue. The National spokesperson expects officials will be taking on board advice around those over the age of 12 wearing masks.

There is a trend towards more people wearing masks in more situation, Dr Reti says.

Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says if the economy is shut down in a lockdown, there is a good argument for public support. But National wouldn't be prepared to go as far as cash grants. The wage subsidy is the best way to support businesses in the first instance, he says.

Goldsmith says it is critical for the economy for the border to be working properly. He says if businesses are told they cannot trade, they need to be given some support.

10:20am - Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins is now speaking to media. 

Collins says Dr Shane Reti has asked, for a second time, that the Health Select Committee be reconvened. This could feature the Director-General of Health and Health Minister. She wants to see these figures questioned, particularly about issues at the border. The first request was turned down.

She says the wage subsidy should be extended by four-days to reflect the lockdown extension. It's a "particularly difficult time" for businesses, she says, especially with the extension being over a full weekend.

"We have decided that is the kindest thing and the most sensible and pragmatic thing for the Government to do."

Prime Minister Ardern said on Monday the subsidy wouldn't be extended. Businesses, if they have had revenue drop by 40 percent, could instead apply for the initial wage subsidy extension if they haven't before.

Collins says, long-term, the wage subsidy is "not sustainable in its current form". She says this is why the border is so important economically, as having a strong defence provides certainty.

"The main thing businesses are wanting from us is to be able to have the border safe so they can actually have some confidence in their own businesses."

The National Party fully supports mandating masks on public transport, something that should have already been done, Collins says.

10:05am - A Facebook page has sprung up featuring Kiwis in rural parts of New Zealand sending messages of support to Aucklanders.

Kia Kaha Auckland is the "brainchild of a group of business people from the food and fibre sector in the Waikato".

The page already features a number of videos and pictures from rural centres, with messages of support for those in Auckland.

Spokesperson Lee Astridge, from No8HR in Te Awamutu, said in a statement that the group of rural Kiwis behind the page believe that showing care and compassion to those caught up in the Auckland lockdown is important.

"This is a way the rest of New Zealand can show the Auckland team of 1.9 million that the rest of team of 5m was thinking of them and wishing them strength in adversity," Astridge said.

"These are the people that buy our products every day. We’re a bunch of rural people who believe that stepping up and showing we care for everyone in New Zealand ultimately gives the country the best chance to thrive."

The group is also working to make sure resources from the food and fibre sector get to communities in need.

Dairy Women's Network chief executive Jules Benton is on-board with the idea.

"We just loved the idea of connecting our rural communities with those in Auckland. Our town and country lives are very different but also mutually dependent and we wanted to make sure that our Auckland communities felt supported by us," Benton says.

"At the end of the day, it’s tougher for everyone in Auckland at the moment and we know that they’re doing this for all of us. We wanted to say 'Thanks'."

Find out more here.

9:50am - A clinical psychologist says many Kiwis will have expected the decision to mandate masks on public transport, but there will still be a period of adjustment.

The Government announced on Monday that at alert level 2 and above from Monday, masks will be required on public transport.

Dr Sarb Johal says that provides clarity to people who might be feeling anxious.

"Many people would have expected it… It's going to be welcome in that it's going to be very clear. People are going to know what is expected of them when they are going into particular situations," he told Newshub.

"What might take a bit of time is for us to get used to carrying them around with us, and not just that, but putting them on when we are out in those situations."

He expects that, with time, mask use will become normal.

"As we see more and more people wearing them, they will become normal in our environment as just something that we do."

But there will be a period of adjustment, as people get used to not being able to see as many facial expressions. Instead, people might communicate more with their eyes and hands.

"Some people might find it a little bit disturbing that they feel like they need to do this now in public. But equally, there are a lot of people who perhaps are feeling quite anxious who will be reassured."

Dr Johal believes Kiwis understand the purpose of masks isn't just to look after themselves, but others in their community.

9:40am - Tuesday's COVID-19 update will be provided by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Health Minister Chris Hipkins.

Newshub will stream that press conference online and on Three at 1pm.

9:25am - The Government's failure to ensure border staff were tested for COVID-19 was a "stuff up" but it's what it does now that matters, says Phil Goff.

The Auckland Mayor admitted the blunder was problematic in an interview on The AM Show on Tuesday. However he says the following response impressed him.

"The good thing is when they found it they addressed it. There will be stuff ups along the way because there is no perfect blueprint," he told host Duncan Garner. 

Read more here.

9:10am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sees "no reason" why Auckland's alert level 3 lockdown should be extended for a third time, suggesting she's confident the city's restrictions will be lifted come 11:59pm on Sunday.

However, Ardern reiterated that Auckland would continue to see new cases of COVID-19 emerge in the community, due to the long tail of the existing cluster.

When asked by The AM Show host Duncan Garner on Tuesday if there was any guarantee that Auckland would transition to alert level 2 on Monday, Ardern said: "I see no reason why we shouldn't."

Read more here.

8:50am - Speaking to The Breeze, Health Minister Chris Hipkins says authorities don't want to be heavy handed with enforcement of the new face covering rule. From Monday, at alert level 2 and above, it will be mandatory for people to wear a face covering of some type on public trasnport.

"We don't want to end up with a heavy-handed enforcement regime. So, we are saying to people, please do this, it's the rules," Hipkins says.

"At the end of the day, we didn't have to do a lot of enforcement of our level 4 and level 3 lockdowns, because, actually, New Zealanders understood why we were doing it and they wanted to comply with the rules because they wanted to get out of the restrictions as quickly as we could.

"Similarly with masks, we don't want to have to focus on enforcement here. We just want people to do the right thing."

8:30am - Jetstar has suspended domestic flights until at least September 6. It comes after the Government extended the Auckland lockdown until Sunday and decided to keep the rest of the country at alert level 2. Those settings will be reviewed on September 6.

"As a low-cost carrier, Jetstar is unable to continue its operations in New Zealand whilst there is a requirement for airlines to keep the middle seat free, a statement from Jetstar says. 

"The limitations on the number of customers that are allowed on board our aircraft make the operations of our flights unviable."

It is contacting impacted customers to offer them a range of options, such as to change their travel date or receive a credit voucher.

"As per our Fly Well program, we have implemented a range of measures to ensure safe air travel.

"These include initiatives at airports and on board, like encouraging online check-in, providing every customer with a kit that has a mask and sanitising wipes. We carry spare kits on board in case someone needs to change their mask during the flight."

8:15am - The Bay of Plenty Civil Defence is reminding residents that a face covering - like a scarf - can be used instead of a mask.

8am - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says you can't guarantee anything during a pandemic, but doesn't see any reason why Auckland shouldn't leave lockdown on Sunday. 

Even if Auckland sees the number of cases recorded in recent days continue, that's not a reason not to leave lockdown. The tail of the cluster will be "reasonably long". She says the current outbreak is contained and the extra four days provide additional assurance.

Ardern says officials don't believe there is a second cluster. Genome sequencing has been helpful in showing the most current active community cases are connected.

The Prime Minister says the source of the current outbreak remains unknown. She says the virus is very tricky, pointing to how people were infected on a bus and how the Rydges worker possibly contracted the illness in a lift.

No link between the border and the cluster has been found, despite comprehensive testing of border workers, she says.

Issues at the border are being fixed, Ardern says, such as by bringing in new NZDF personnel and moving away from private security guards. 

Under Auckland's stricter alert level 2, social gatherings will be limited to 10. People can go to hospitality venues, but only in groups of 10. Those restrictions will be reviewed on September 6.

Ardern says compared to the rest of the world, New Zealand, economically, is doing better than most countries. 

"No country has got away without paying a price."

She said the Government is doing its best to limit the economic impact, such as with the wage subsidy and interest-free business loans.

7:50am - In sports-related COVID-19 news, Olympic sprint great Usain Bolt is in self-imposed quarantine and awaiting results of a COVID-19 test.

Reports suggested the eight-time Olympic gold medallist had tested positive for coronavirus, days after hosting a lavish 34th birthday party in Jamaica, where the guests included West Indian cricketing great Chris Gayle, and football stars Raheem Sterling and Leon Bailey.

But Bolt has taken to social media to clear things up.

Read more on that here.

7:35am - The hospitality sector is reeling from the extension of Auckland's lockdown, with one industry expert saying this weekend could be the final straw for some businesses.

On Monday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the city will stay at alert level 3  until midnight on Sunday.

Julie White, chief executive of Hospitality NZ, says many members of the organisation already have their backs against the wall.

Read more here.

7:20am - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the lockdown extension will have an economic cost. But that must be weighed up against the virus spreading across the community and causing more economic destruction.

"It is disappointing for those businesses that can't operate during alert level 3."

But he says the decision is justified by the health advice.

Goff says the Government will need to try and avoid alert level 3 or level 4 in the future and keep restrictions to alert level 2 and below.

He says wearing a mask on a bus is a no-brainer. Three cases of COVID-19 are now believed to be linked to travellers on a bus route.

"We will have to learn smarter ways of keeping it out, smarter ways of not spreading it,"

He also doesn't want Aucklanders to become complacent whenever the Super City returns to alert level 1 or 2.

Goff says there have been "stuff-ups" at the border as some on the ground often don't properly implement guidelines sent from above. But he is happy the gap has been found and is now being fixed.

He expects "continual improvement" from the Government and, despite the issues, believes New Zealand has done better than most countries internationally.

Asked if its a guarantee that Auckland will leave lockdown on Sunday, Goff says nothing is guaranteed in life. But he says Aucklanders are doing the right thing and should continue to follow the guidelines.

It was pleasing to see only one community case on Sunday, Goff says.

"I thought 'terrific, hey, we are on the way back, lifting it on Wednesday.' Monday came along, and suddenly there were eight cases again."

He says there is always a risk of another cluster.

"There could be another community cluster. We hope thats not the case. We could find that with five churches, five schools, four different workplaces, people travelling on buses, there could be other people who have gone out, contracted it and spread it to others. Those are all risks."

7:10am - Air New Zealand has come out in support of mandating masks on public transport, including aircraft. It has been compulsory for those flying out of Auckland under alert level 3, but will now be required for everyone under alert level 2 and above.

"We will now start to review our domestic network and will be contacting customers who may be affected by the extension of current Alert Levels," says chief executive Greg Foran.

"We understand the impacts these disruptions cause to our customers and we’ll do our best to get our customers to where they need to be."

7am - Hospitality New Zealand says the lockdown extension and decision to keep the rest of the country at alert level 2 is "hugely disappointing and frustrating" for the industry.

"The safety of all New Zealanders is our first priority. We supported the Government’s directive to stamp out COVID-19 when it reemerged in the Auckland community, however, it’s very frustrating for the regions outside of Auckland to still have to operate under Level 2. It’s still extremely restrictive for our operators," chief executive Julie White says.

"With this extension in Auckland, the hospitality sector will be in a state of carnage, because these lockdown measures will have a ripple effect across the entire country."

She says unless a business is fully set up for a takeaway service, it's difficult to operate under alert level 3 "as you simply don't generate enough income to sustain working seven days a week".

"As for operating under Level 2, this is still quite prohibitive because abiding by the three S’s and limiting venues to 100 people, greatly reduces income."

She encouraged people to use the COVID Tracer app when shopping locally.

6:50am - Shaun Robinson from the Mental Health Foundation says with Kiwis juggling family commitments and others being concerned about their jobs and financial security, the lockdown extension won't be welcomed by all.

"For a lot of people, even though it is only a few days, it is going to be unwelcome news," he told Newshub.

"[It] could easily just ramp that level of anxiety, especially as I think people were looking forward to ending level 3 on Thursday or earlier."

"I think it is really important that people look again at the sorts of little things you can do each day to sustain mental wellbeing and help to relieve that anxiety or depression or anger or sadness or fear."

He said Kiwis need to remember its okay to feel emotions. 

"It's perfectly normal. Everyone in New Zealand will be feeling some level of emotion at different stages in this pandemic."

Robinson said people should keep to routines, eat healthy, stay connected with loved ones and neighbours, and keep both physically and mentally active.

He also suggests taking a break from consuming media content about the pandemic. 

6:30am - The impact of Auckland's alert level 3 lockdown restrictions is being felt right across the country as struggling tourism operators prepare for a longer fight.

Tourism Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts says he understands why the decision has been made, but knows it will put "a heavy burden on the shoulders of tourism operators".

"This is not just an Auckland story, certainly Auckland has the greatest restrictions but  the impact for tourism is being felt right along the country," he told Newshub on Tuesday. 

Read more here.

6:20am - Greg Harford from Retail NZ says there is "significant pain" out there among retail businesses, with sales down 40 percent nationwide and about 80 percent in Auckland at the moment.

"There is a massive amount of consumer spending that is not there at the moment."

Businesses were able to get through the first lockdown with the help of the wage subsidy, but Harford believes this lockdown will force some stores to close.

He says operators feel "gloomy and depressed" with many not confident they will survive the next 12 months. 

"This extra three weeks has the potential to tip many businesses over the edge".

He believes thousands of employees will exit the sector over the next few months.

While the Auckland lockdown has been extended from Wednesday to Sunday, Harford says those extra four days are the busiest for retail.

He encourages people to shop locally online.

The new two-week wage subsidy introduced after the latest outbreak of COVID-19 won't be extended. But businesses which haven't applied for the original wage subsidy extension may be able to access that if revenue has dropped by 40 percent.

6:15am - In a statement on Tuesday morning, supermarket chain Countdown says it will continue to support small businesses through alert level 3.

That includes by providing rent relief to cafes, travel agencies, hairdressers, takeaway outlets and real estate agencies with shops on Countdown sites in Auckland.

"The outlook continues to look uncertain for many of our retail partners and small businesses, and we want to do what we can to help our tenants bounce back from this," says Countdown general manager formal development and property Jason Stockill. 

"In the first lockdown our tenants were able to allocate savings from rent relief to focus on other expenses.  We hope that this second rent relief package will help ease some of the pressure small businesses are facing at this uncertain time."

Countdown says all stores nationwide have returned to their normal operating and closing hours, including in Auckland.

6:10am - The Entertainment Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) says ongoing limits on mass gatherings and changes to alert levels are severely affecting venues' ability to stay open.

"While we agree with a COVID-19 Elimination Strategy - examples of what other countries are doing would be worse for the sector - we cannot support endless changing of gathering number restrictions. We don’t agree that larger events can’t go ahead safely under level 2," says Trusts Arena chief executive and EVANZ board member Mark Gosling.

"We don’t believe social distancing rules should be the new normal in theatres, venues and at events. We don’t want our future to be empty rugby stadia and online performance. So we have to find other ways of keeping events running and our venues open."

EVANZ says a series of COVID-19-safe rules can be applied to allow events with crowds.

"Compulsory masks are great, temperature checks on arrival are fine, new ways of ticketing people to stop human-to-human contact are fine, but we cannot keep postponing and cancelling events, tours and performances without more financial support for the sector," Gosling says.

"When considering the proposed level 1.5, and even Auckland’s new '2.5', the Government needs to think very seriously about limiting gathering numbers in venues, stadia and performance settings. Even better, include the industry in those discussions."

At alert level 2, gatherings are limited to 100 people. Auckland will be at a more strict alert level 2 next week, with gatherings limited to 10 people. 

But EVANZ says social distancing doesn't work on stage and is difficult in theatre foyers and toilets. It also doesn't believe it is feasible to sell every second seat or take out rows of seats. 

"New Zealand’s many venues – from independent theatres all the way through to large sports stadia and events centres – have all but been forgotten in all of the COVID funding. In addition, the constant uncertainty is an issue for arts organisations, who can’t dive on stage as soon as they’re permitted.

"There is a long planning and rehearsal period, and they need weeks to drive ticket sales. It’s expensive and deeply frustrating to keep shifting everything by a few weeks or days at a time."

Gosling says some venues are hanging by a thread and may have to close.

"While the wage subsidy has provided some support until now, many of our members are nervous about the future and – when it comes to financial support – are falling through the cracks.

"Events deliver a significant amount to New Zealand’s GDP and employ thousands of people. We have to come up with ways for venues to deliver their events safely to the many New Zealanders who benefit from them."

6am - It's time for The AM Show. Among Tuesday's guests are Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and Greg Harford from Retail NZ.

5:50am - What would it take to get New Zealand back to alert level 1? 

"Obviously, we want to see a sustained period of time where we are not seeing new cases, where we are absolutely confident that any active cases that we have got are contained," says Health Minister Chris Hipkins.

"When we get to that point, as we have previously, then I think we will have more confidence in being able to move further down the alert levels."

Asked how long he is willing to wait, Hipkins says decisions must be made with the latest information.

"You just have to make each decision based on the information that you have got at the time. We don't have enough information to make that decision now or to pre-empt what that decision might be."

5:45am - Health Minister Chris Hipkins recognises that "everybody is disappointed that we find ourselves in this position again", but he believes extending the lockdown is the right decision.

"From a health perspective, it's the right decision. So as Minister of Health, I think this is the right thing to do. It maximises our chances of not having to have another lockdown."

Hipkins said officials are doing well to manage the cluster.

"We do seem to have a handle on it in the sense that all of the new cases are people who are known contacts… That's reassuring. But there are still new cases coming through. That means we do still have to be vigilant about it."

He told MagicTalk that Cabinet did look at if other parts of the country could move to alert level 1, but said it would become logistically difficult.

"One of the difficulties with that is we have relatively free movement between the North and the South Island, and between Auckland and the South Island."

5:30am - The decision to extend Auckland's lockdown until Sunday night has been welcomed by some medical experts, including public health professor Michael Baker and modelling expert Shaun Hendy. 

While the vast majority of cases reported daily are linked to a single cluster and contact tracing is occuring rapidly, there are two cases still under investigation. 

"We may not have this completely under control and we may need a longer extension but for the time being I think the Government is managing that risk with this shorter extension," Hendy told Newshub

Prof Baker also said another extension may be needed.

"We could potentially see at the end of the week we've still got reasonable numbers and we might potentially have to revisit that, but at this stage this is a real triumph for the approach New Zealand's taking now."

However, the four-day extension is going to significantly impact some businesses.

Marisa Bidois from the Restaurant Association says having Auckland stores closed for another full weekend is a blow. 

"Keeping the rest of the country at level 2, also seems an unnecessary measure given where the current clusters are. We are currently looking at a closure rates of between 10 and 12 percent of all hospitality businesses as a result of the restrictions.

"Our businesses are crying out for help and yet we’re still being denied targeted support.

"We've faced ongoing restrictions to trading and reduced visitor numbers from the ongoing closure of the border. The majority of our industry is made up of small owner operator businesses that cannot sustain these ongoing closures and restrictions. Quite simply, there will be at least 10 percent of our industry closed which translates to around 13,000 jobs rising if these restrictions continue."

The Prime Minister said the rest of the country will remain at alert level 2 for the time being, noting that inter-regional travel out of Auckland will be opening up from Sunday. Keeping some restrictions in place nationally will help in case of the low chance a positive case leaves Auckland.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa acknowledged extending the COVID-19 restrictions was needed to protect Kiwis' health, but said that it would put even more pressure on tourism businesses.

It says consumer spend data shows tourism operations across the country are being adversely impacted by the Auckland lockdown. For the week ending August 16, accomodation spend was down 24 percent nationally compared to the week before, while food and beverage spend was down 27 percent and transport/travel down 36 percent.

“While the safety of New Zealanders is paramount, the Government must acknowledge that COVID-19 responses have disproportionately impacted the tourism industry," said chief executive Chris Roberts.

"The package announced back in the May Budget cannot be the end – if we are to have a tourism industry that survives the biggest crisis in its history, there will need to be ongoing targeted relief."

In a statement on Monday night, BusinessNZ welcomed the clarity on alert level timelines. However, chief executive Kirk Hope said the processing of exemptions to restrictions had taken too long. 

"These processes - including communications processes - must be of a much higher standard for the remainder of the time that Auckland is in alert level 3.

"The BusinessNZ network is keen to work with the Government on adapting and communicating guidelines for future alert level changes, so businesses can respond to their new environments quickly."

More reaction to the extension can be found here.