New Zealand has 129 active cases of COVID-19, 110 of which are linked to the community.
The resurgence of the respiratory illness two weeks ago pushed New Zealand up the alert level framework, with Auckland moving to alert level 3 and the rest of the country to level 2.
While restrictions were scheduled to last until Wednesday night, on Monday, Cabinet decided to extend Auckland's lockdown until Sunday to provided additional assurance the cluster was contained.
What you need to know:
- Five new cases were announced on Wednesday - three in the community and two imported
- Of 134 active cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, 113 were detected in the community. There are 21 additional cases in isolation facilities
- Five cases are linked to a Mt Roskill church and haven't yet been connected to the Auckland cluster (see 1:20pm, 3pm)
- Nine people are receiving hospital-level care, of which three are in an ICU
- It was revealed on Tuesday that 6000 returnees in managed isolation weren't tested on day three of their stay
- 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
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4:40pm - Miss it earlier? Here's National leader Judith Collins questioning Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Parliament over the wage subsidy scheme.
The Opposition has been calling for the Government to extend the subsidy by four days to cover the extension of alert level 3 for Auckland until Sunday.
4:20pm - The second outbreak of COVID-19 in the community will only add to New Zealand's economic pain and debt - but how will it be paid off?
Auckland heading back into lockdown has forced businesses to close and put severe restrictions on movement through the city's borders.
With New Zealand adding tens of billions of debt to get through the COVID-19 economic crisis, the question of how we're going to repay for it is becoming increasingly urgent.
Jacinda Ardern has refused to say if Labour will run on increasing taxes this election, telling The AM Show earlier this month that voters "won't have to wait very long" to see its tax policy.
One option could be raising taxes on the wealthy. New Zealand's top personal tax rate is 33 percent on income over $70,000 per year and the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll showed half of New Zealanders support an additional higher income tax bracket.
Newshub looked at what politicians and experts say on if we need to raise taxes on the wealthy.
4pm - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern does not think the wage subsidy needs to be extended to cover the additional four days of lockdown because the combined schemes have provided 22 weeks of support in total.
National Party leader Judith Collins says it is unfair on businesses that the latest wage subsidy extension is only paid out for two weeks, despite the Government extending alert level 3 in Auckland for an additional four days.
But Ardern does not think an extension is necessary, because the alert level 3 and 4 periods have equated in total to about nine weeks of constraint on businesses, and the combined wage subsidies have been available for a total of 22 weeks.
"As a Cabinet we weighed up a number of factors when considering the two week wage subsidy which has been applied across New Zealand," Ardern said in Parliament during Question Time on Wednesday.
"That included that Auckland has had a combined lockdown at level 3 and 4 in total of around nine weeks and the wage subsidy has been available for 22 weeks in total, far exceeding the level 3 and 4 levels."
3:40pm - Over in Australia, Victoria recorded 149 new cases and 24 further deaths on Wednesday. This is the second-highest daily death toll the state has seen, the highest being on August 17 when 25 people were confirmed to have died.
Cases are only one higher than what was reported on Tuesday, where 148 were recorded.
Victoria's chief health officer Brett Sutton says he hopes daily case numbers are below 100 next week and that they continue to decline.
"Clearly, we've got a tale that comprises both community cases - sporadic community cases - but also aged and healthcare workers," he says, according to 7 News.
"So there is that challenging transmission within health settings, within aged care and disability settings, that requires this coordinated action plan for those settings so that we can make sure that we're driving cases down across the board."
Victoria's stage 4 restrictions are currently in place until September 13. The state would've been in lockdown for six weeks by that date.
3:20pm - Here's what New Zealand's COVID-19 case numbers look like in graph form.
3pm - Auckland Civil Defence is reminding anyone who attended services at the Mt Roskill Evangelical Church on Stoddard Rd on August 8, 9 and 11 or a wedding there on August 7 to get a test and self-isolate.
There are five cases linked to this church that haven't yet been connected to the Auckland cluster.
2:40pm - Rough sleepers desperately seeking accommodation in Auckland are currently all in temporary housing - and the pandemic has helped motivate this.
Lifewise chief executive Jo Denvir says if COVID-19 has had one positive outcome, the level 4 lockdown pushed housing providers into action as workers rushed to get New Zealand's most vulnerable people off the streets and into temporary housing.
"The pandemic is actually what's got everyone motivated into putting rough sleepers into housing," Denvir says.
"[It's] fantastic. For the first time ever, everyone who wants to be housed in the central city is housed in temporary accommodation. I don't think that's happened before, ever. There's possibly a handful of people who aren't in housing - who don't want to be - but everyone else is."
2:25pm - Here's a brief summary of the latest COVID-19 information.
1:55pm - Auckland Councillor Richard Hills says while he supports the mandate of QR codes on public transport, he hopes it'll only a back up for those who don't have registered HOP cards.
"I have no idea how it'll be done. Even a few passengers would mean a considerable increase in journey times/delays," he wrote on Twitter. "If you catch [public transport] you'll know what I mean."
There were suggestions from other Twitter users that several copies of the QR code could be placed further down the bus.
He says Auckland had 1346 buses, 68 trains and 22 ferries at its last count, and believes "it'll be October" by the time bus companies get the stickers out.
1:30pm - Dr Bloomfield believes people will show up to the testing stations. But messages will also go out nationally and locally to encourage people to head out. He has also written to local health officials.
He says efforts over the last two weeks and the high test numbers show how things can be ramped up.
1:20pm - The five cases linked to the Mt Roskill church are not yet linked to the south Auckland cluster. They are linked to each other. Officials are waiting for genome sequencing.
Dr Bloomfield believes they will be linked to the cluster. He makes that judgement considering the demographic profile of the community there.
No other cases have been linked to the individual in North Shore Hospital.
Regarding managed isolation facility testing, Hipkins says from June 8 to Tuesday, there were 20,065 day three swabs taken and 19,473 day 12 swabs taken. There are 5204 people in these facilities, which explains why there are more day 3 than day 12 tests.
Fifteen adults have refused the day 12 test. Their stay is extended as a result of that. There have been 14 positive day 12 tests, of which 12 were negative at day 3. The other two hadn't had a day 3 test.
He said no one is coming out of the facilities without a clean bill of health.
Hipkins doesn't have the number of people who didn't have day 3 tests. These are not compulsory.
1:15pm - Health Minister Chris Hipkins says the display of QR codes will become mandatory from Thursday. These are measures to ensure the safety of public transport workers and passengers.
This requirement applies to buses, trains, taxis, ferries and rideshare vehicles. Transport operators won't have to enforce the order.
This will add to the contact tracing system's effectiveness, Hipkins says. While some public transport companies can identify people through ticketing systems, that isn't widespread enough to provide universal coverage. QR codes are less burdensome than manual recording of locations.
1:10pm - Dr Bloomfield says 160 people linked to the cluster are now in the quarantine facility, including 90 people who have tested positive.
Nine people are receiving hospital-level care. All are connected to the Auckland outbreak.
One in North Shore Hospital and two in Middlemore Hospital are intensive care and are considered critical.
On Tuesday, 8,559 tests were processed, taking the overall total to 710,063. Mobile and pop-up testing sites are being ramped up this week. There will be testing of asymptomatic people over the next week, Dr Bloomfield says.
Regarding the COVID Tracer app, there have been 1.8 million downloads, with an average of 1.4 million scans each day over the last week.
1:05pm - Dr Ashley Bloomfield says there are five new cases of COVID-19. Two of these are imported.
Three are community cases, of which one is under investigation. The other two are contacts of previous cases.
Another case found on Tuesday has been reclassified as under investigation and genome sequencing is underway on that.
New Zealand now has had 1344 COVID-19 cases. There are 134 active cases, of which 21 are imported.
A total of 2422 close contacts have been identified, of which 2368 have been contacted, are isolating and will be tested.
Dr Bloomfield says an area of interest is the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Church. Five people linked to this church have tested positive in the last two or three days. People who attended church events there on August 8, 9, or 11 or a wedding on August 7 should be aware of symptoms. If they are unwell, they should isolate.
12:50pm - It's nearly time for the 1pm briefing. Wednesday's update will be provided by the Health Minister and the Director-General of Health.
You can stream that on Newshub.co.nz or watch on Three.
2:05pm - OfficeMax is closing its New Zealand retail stores.
In an email on Wednesday, OfficeMax New Zealand managing director Kevin Obern said it was making the "difficult decision to close our retail network as we adapt to a changing market".
"A retail review reflected the need for us as a business to make some really difficult decisions now, in order to better position ourselves for the future. The trend to increasing online purchasing, as well as changing office and work practices, compounded by COVID-19, means we need to evolve to remain relevant to today’s market.
"This decision has been very hard as the stores have been part of our business for many years. Our priority at this time is to support our team – particularly those team members directly impacted by this decision – as well as to help you, our customer, understand the changes and how we plan to continue to provide you with a high level of service."
It's proposing for stores to cease trading towards the end of October.
"After 150 years, we remain committed to delivering excellent service to New Zealanders. We are investing heavily in our distribution facilities in Auckland and Christchurch, which will enhance our delivery service to you.
"We have a large team of over 600 people based throughout New Zealand to service our local communities, and our national and regional based sales teams will continue to work closely with you to provide the best workplace solutions to meet your needs."
Orders can still be placed via the OfficeMax website, by ringing the contact centre or via email.
11:55am - Question Time on Wednesday looks again to be centred around COVID-19. The questions include:
Judith Collins to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her statement that the reason the Government will not extend the wage subsidy to cover the additional four days of lockdown is because “it would require an entirely different process and regime”?
Greg O'Connor to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government supporting New Zealand businesses and workers through the global COVID-19 pandemic?
Dr Shane Reti to the Minister of Health: How many people in managed isolation have not had day-three tests since the week of 8 June, when the Government announced testing of people entering New Zealand would commence?
11:30am - ACT leader David Seymour is rubbishing the NZ COVID Tracer App after Health Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed there is no record of how close contacts are traced.
The Ministry of Health's contact tracing team has so far identified 2446 close contacts of COVID-19 cases in New Zealand, and Seymour asked Hipkins in Parliament how many of those contacts were identified from the app.
Hipkins said public health units "do not specifically record how they've identified the close contacts", but he said he has been advised that the app is being used to help find the up-to-date contact details for close contact follow-up.
But Seymour is questioning how the Government can be sure the app is useful if there is no record of how many people have been traced using it.
11:15am - The Taka He Monu (Tongan Methodist Church) in Point England is hosting a new pop-up testing centre. Officials want to complete 7000 tests each day in Auckland over the next week, with a focus on the Maori and Pacific communities.
11:10am - Median incomes from all income sources dropped in the June 2020 quarter for the first time since 1998. This captures income from salaries, wages, Government income and self-employment.
In the wake of COVID-19, median weekly incomes in June 2020 were down 7.6 percent on a year ago, to $652 per week, according to Stats NZ.
"The median is the midpoint, meaning half of workers earned above this amount and half earned below. Stats NZ uses the median value because it is less influenced by very high or very low earners than a mean average."
Labour market statistics manager Andrew Neal says COVID-19 played a part in causing movement.
"A number of factors have contributed to this fall, such as people away from jobs without pay due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more people receiving government transfers," Neal said.
"More self-employed earners were seen in lower income brackets as well, with median weekly incomes down almost $100 a week."
Median earnings from weekly and hourly wages and salaries increased year on year, but this was shadowed by a sharp rise in paid employees who reported no hours worked and no wage or salary income.
The number of people in such circumstances increased 54,700 (75.3 percent) to 127,300. Of these, 76,300 said that it was due to COVID-19.
"People reporting the pandemic as their reason for being away from their jobs and not being paid were more likely to be from younger age groups, and the retail trade and accommodation industry," Neal said.
"Both these groups tend to have lower incomes."
11am - The New Zealand Speech-language Therapists Association (NZSTA) says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of communication and connecting with others.
However, for those living with a communication disability, the sudden need to adapt to new ways of communicating has "added an extra level of strain to them and their whanau".
"Being able to communicate is essential for all relationships. The risk of social isolation is increased for all those with a communication disability and we (speech-language therapists) are very conscious of this during the lockdown period," says NZSTA president Annette Rotherham.
The role speech-language therapists play in helping those with disabilities meet their potential and connect with others is more critical now than ever, the NZSTA says.
"Having successful communication experiences allows people to take part, be confident and live a more fulfilled life. Being able to communicate, and being heard, supports self-esteem – without it, people can withdraw, and this sometimes results in social, psychological, health, mental health, and economic issues," Rothertham says.
The week of September 7 marks New Zealand Speech-language Therapy Awareness Week of Connection.
There has been concern recently about how the mandating of masks on public transport may hinder those who rely on seeing facial expressions and lip reading to communicate.
10:50am - Catch the latest episode of Newshub's Supplementary Question here.
This week we asked a question with frightening implications considering an election is mere weeks away and we're in the midst of a global pandemic: are conspiracy theories going mainstream?
10:40am - National's Health spokesperson says the purpose of reconvening the Health Select Committee is to critique and to collaborate on New Zealand's COVID-19 response.
After requests from Dr Shane Reti as well as New Zealand First, chair Louisa Wall told Newshub on Tuesday afternoon that the committee would reconvene. A previous request from Dr Reti had been rejected as a majority of members wouldn't agree to resuming.
Dr Reti told Newshub that on Monday he asked again for the committee to come back in light of the four-day extension to Auckland's lockdown.
"I am really pleased that the committee has changed its mind from the letter I sent last week, where the reply I got was that the other members of the committee would not agree to a majority that would allow us to reconvene. That was a disappointment.
"This is really important. We have to imagine, as an Opposition, wanting to both critique and to collaborate, that we really, at the moment, have two tools to use."
Those two tools are Written Questions and Oral Questions. He said Oral Questions have limitations and are often confrontational.
"Whereas in Select Committee, we're much more able to have a conversation and transfer information. Furthermore, other parties, it is across the House, the Health Select Committee, and a very good collaborative committee. So we are able to bring in other views, not just ours, to have a look and see how we can help this response," Dr Reti told Newshub.
The Minister of Health and Director-General of Health are likely to appear before the committee.
When making its decision to extend the lockdown, Cabinet considered eight criteria. Dr Reti said questioning the health figures on how this criteria was assessed and applied would be important.
10:15am - The Lincoln Rd Pak'nSave says it has been advised by the local DHB that a person who later tested positive for COVID-19 visited the store on August 17 between 12pm and 1pm. They were wearing a mask at the time.
No supermarket staff members are being required to isolate or be tested as the individual is considered a casual contact and the risk is "very low".
10am - At 1pm, Newshub will bring you the daily COVID-19 update. Wednesday's update will be provided by the Director-General of Health and the Health Minister.
You can stream that at Newshub.co.nz or watch on Three.
9:50am - Kiwis in rural New Zealand are sending message of support to those in Auckland. Here are some of the latest on the Kia Kaha Auckland Facebook page:
9:30am - This graph from the Ministry of Health shows the number of cases New Zealand has seen each day since March.
While the current south Auckland cluster is New Zealand's biggest, the country hasn't seen the large number of cases we were recording prior to and during the first lockdown. That's because there currently is only one cluster, rather than the multiple New Zealand had across the country earlier in the year.
9:15am - New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the lockdown extension is "not positive news". But he says we must put the country's health first.
"Until we secure that, we can't really rebuild New Zealand's future economic health."
He welcomed the decisions to mandate masks on public transport and bring in more NZDF personnel to assist at managed isolation and quarantine facilities.
"In the meantime, it will be a few more days before we will know how New Zealand First's campaign will unfold. Right now, patience is a necessary virtue."
9:05am - It could take three years for New Zealand's economy to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.
Its latest quarterly predictions show the effects of the pandemic are likely to persist until 2023 and that the latest lockdown has hurt business confidence.
"The new restrictions have hampered the recovery in activity seen in recent weeks as New Zealand moved down alert levels. Although retail spending had rebounded in the months following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, the recent increase in spending has yet to make up for the decline experienced during the lockdown," NZIER principal economist Christina Leung said.
8:50am - There are currently nine COVID-19 cases in hospital.
Two patients are found in Auckland City Hospital and are both stable on a ward.
Two of the infected individuals are located at North Shore Hospital. One of these cases is stable, while the second is critical in intensive care. This second case has been linked to the Auckland cluster via genomic sequencing. However, how they became infected remains unknown.
Four people are in Middlemore Hospital with COVID-19. Two are on a ward and two are critical in intensive care.
A single person is in Waikato Hospital. However, they are not in hospital as a direct result of having COVID-19.
8:35am - Judith Collins says the Government is being "silly" by not extending the wage subsidy for the extra four days Auckland is in lockdown - despite admitting she would not pay for every day the city was in lockdown if she was in power.
Collins told The AM Show on Wednesday the lack of extension on the subsidy was inexcusable.
"It's not as though businesses caused this lockdown - it's obviously been caused by a border mishap," she said.
8:20am - Jo Denvir from Lifewise tells The AM Show that for the first time ever, anyone who wants to be housed in central Auckland is housed in temporary accomodation. Some people don't want to be in housing.
She says the challenge will be moving people from temporary accomodation, like motels, to permanent places.
"The pandemic is actually what's got everyone motivated to put rough sleepers into housing."
Denvir says rough sleepers don't always want to enter temporary accomodation, but they currently "understand the risks". Once they are there, they see the benefits and are happy to stay.
8am - In his opinion piece on Wednesday morning, The AM Show's Duncan Garner writes about how the COVID-19 lockdown is impacting New Zealand's most vulnerable.
"I have unashamedly focused on the state and health of the economy during this pandemic because, well, someone has to. Without an economy, without businesses, without people employed - you have nothing.
"No tax base, no money to pay for a health system to treat the sick and the vulnerable, and no money to build a country."
7:45am - Looking overseas, sprinter Usain Bolt has tested positive for COVID-19.
It comes after the eight-time Olympic gold medalist hosted his 34th birthday with a mask-free party.
7:30am - Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch is speaking to The AM Show.
Lynch reports that around 6626 people in managed isolation were not tested on day three of their stay. About 25,000 swabs had been taken at day three by the end of July. By that point, 31,626 people had come through the facilities.
"It's not clear where those six-and-a-half thousand haven't been tested, whether it was before they put in the order that everyone needed to, or afterwards."
It's not compulsory to get a day three test, but people can't leave a facility without a negative test. That is why the day 12 test is so important.
"But what the Ministry of Health was telling us was that everyone was getting a day three and a day 12 test. One of the reasons the day three test is really important is that is where we are picking up the majority of our imported cases and that is what a lot of our modelling is based on," Lynch says.
7:15am - Three pop-up community testing centres were set up on Tuesday afternoon and will continue operating on Wednesday.
They can be found at the Ranui Library carpark, Randwick Park School, and Taka He Monu (Tongan Methodist Church).
7:05am - Police are thanking Aucklanders for their efforts in reducing the spread of COVID-19, but is also reminding them not to become complacent.
6:50am - Here's a look at New Zealand's COVID-19 epidemic curve.
6:30am - National Party leader Judith Collins says there's no excuse for businesses to receive no support for the extra days of lockdown. The party supports extending the wage subsidy by four days.
"You've got to have something in place," she tells The AM Show.
She says the Auckland lockdown is not the fault of businesses, but the result of a "border mishap". However, officials say no link has yet been found between the current outbreak and the border, and the source of the cluster remains unknown.
Collins believes there needs to be options for people to get back into work. The Government can't compensate for everything, but she wants to see more "give and take".
"It's time, sometimes, to give a little back to those businesses."
However, she doesn't believe cash grants for businesses are needed yet.
"There is a lot of businesses which believed the Government, as we all did, that they had the border sorted. It turns out they didn't. They've caused the problem. Just a little bit of generosity, I think from the taxpayers of New Zealand. I think most New Zealanders would think that was the decent thing to do."
Would National would close the border for a month? Collins says that's unnecessary if the correct systems are in place. She wants to see promises of testing border workers and returnees actually followed through on.
"They are still saying they don't know where it all came from. It didn't come out of the sky. It didn't come out of a rock in your garden. It came through the border."
6:15am - Here's a summary of the situation as Auckland wakes to another day in lockdown. Of the 129 active cases nationally, 110 were found in the community.
6am - It's time for The AM Show. Duncan Garner, Mark Richardson and Amanda Gillies have the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak.
5:50am - Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere is calling for all NCEA students to be given pass marks in light of the disruption they have faced this year.
"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 said.
"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 said many students, such as some in decile 1-5 schools, cannot afford data or devices to work remotely. They "also come from homes in deep and constant stress", Tamihere says.
"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."
The co-leader said he was worried the number of Māori not in education, training or employment may increase dramatically post-COVID-19 if nothing is done to support them.
"Māori have a right to go from poverty to middle class but we can only get there if the system accepts the very poor starting place that Maori are embedded in."
The Government has made some moves to support students during the pandemic, such as by investing in learning packs for those without adequate internet or television access and by allowing some senior students to return to school during alert level 3.
5:30am - With south Auckland hit hard by the latest COVID-19 outbreak, supporting the Pacific community has become a key priority for officials.
Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa announced late on Tuesday that the Government would invest $19.5 million into increasing the resourcing and capacity of those working to combat the virus.
"This second outbreak of COVID-19 is mainly in the Auckland region, where more than two thirds of New Zealand’s Pacific population live. The proximity and connection of this outbreak to Pacific communities has required an urgent and a locally targeted response alongside our national strategy," Salesa said.
"We’ve seen a rapid mobilising of our Pacific health workforce in response to this latest outbreak. By Pacific for Pacific health providers and the Auckland DHBs ably led by the Chief Executive of Counties Manukau DHB have worked diligently to address issues and to do whatever it takes to meet the task at hand in an integrated way with wraparound support for people who need it.
"However our teams on the ground are facing high levels of demand beyond what anyone could have anticipated and it is unlikely to be the last situation we’re going to need to mobilise for in our ongoing work to limit the effects and spread of COVID-19."
The funding will be directed towards five priority areas, with a focus on supporting Pacific communities:
- Enabling Pacific health and disability service providers in Auckland to meet the increased demand for their testing and wraparound support services
- Enabling Auckland metro DHBs (led by Counties Manukau) to sustain and expand their mobile outreach services and Pacific case management model (which now includes pathways for working with churches) that was established under the initial Pacific Response Package
- Establishing an enhanced Pacific priority outreach service as part of the National Close Contact Service (NCCS). This will be a specialised, priority mobile service which can be deployed to find, spot-test, and provide wraparound assessments for Pacific close contacts which cannot be traced through the main NCCS processes;
- Bringing together a group of leading Pacific researchers and health care providers to analyse current intelligence and data on the Pacific experience of COVID-19, and use this to inform current and future policy and service delivery
- Establishing a flexible pool of funding to assist disability support services and their Pacific COVID-19 response.
South Seas Healthcare chief executive Silao Vaisola Sefo says the Pacific community has been directly affected by this outbreak.
"The numbers have shown there is a high percentage of positive cases in the Pacific community, especially out in south Auckland," he told Newshub.
Sefo says it's important that new support is accessible to the community.
"We have actually got to go where the Pacific community congregates and those include the churches, which is going to make it easier access for people to get tested.
"We have testing stations up and running. However, we have to be flexible and go to where the Pacific communities congregate, and in this instance, the churches."
With testing numbers falling over the last few days, Sefo hopes the focus on Pacific families and catering to their needs encourages more people to get tested.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Tuesday that officials were wanting 70,000 people to be tested over the next week and that Maori and Pacific communities would be targeted in the blitz.
- To see updates from Monday 24 August, click here.
- To see updates from Tuesday 25 August, click here.
- To see updates from Friday 22 August, click here.
- To see updates from Thursday 21 August, click here.
- To see updates from Wednesday 20 August, click here.
- To see updates from Tuesday 18 August, click here.
- To see updates from Monday 17 August, click here.
- To see updates from the 12-16th August, click here.