Community case numbers jumped to 44 today, while the government announced Northland would move to alert level 3 after a person who travelled throughout the region tested positive.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins held a press conference at 6.30pm, where he announced Northland would move to level 3 from 11.59pm tonight. It will stay in level 3 until 11.59pm on Tuesday, and Cabinet will review the alert levels for all regions on Monday.
Hipkins said Northland would move up an alert level because a person who travelled throughout the region and tested positive had been uncooperative with contact tracers and authorities, and the region had a low vaccination rate. It is one of the least-vaccinated regions - just two thirds of residents have had a Pfizer dose.
Hipkins said he understood the woman obtained a document allowing her to travel from Auckland to Northland by providing false information, but this was yet to be verified. She travelled extensively throughout the region, but the reason for her trip was not known.
It is believed she travelled with another woman, who was identified today, but is yet to be located.
"We believe this new information warrants an alert level change decision to keep Northland people safe," Hipkins said.
"Without placing restrictions on movement there is a possibility that the virus could spread quite rapidly within the community."
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai said the woman should have considered the risk she was placing on the region.
"Everybody is now going to have to scramble and make dramatic changes to the way they operate and it just means that we are on tenterhooks to see if this person has infected others."
Epidemiologist Michael Baker said without full cooperation with contact tracers, public health staff are reliant on swabbing and wastewater results to track the virus' spread.
The first locations of interest for Northland have been added to the Ministry of Health's website.
Forty-four new community cases
There were 44 new cases of Covid-19 reported in the community today, including three in Waikato.
In a statement, the ministry said 12 of the new cases are yet to be linked to earlier cases. There are now 26 cases that are unlinked from the past 14 days.
Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said the higher number of new cases today was not unexpected "because there have been a number of contacts of new cases and we can expect to get fluctuations from day-to-day".
The three new cases in Waikato are all linked and contacts of existing cases.
- There are 25 people in hospital, including five in intensive care.
- Three new cases detected among international arrivals
- There has been a total of 1492 cases in this outbreak
- There are 16 epidemiologically linked sub clusters, six which are active
- There are 14 epidemiologically unlinked sub clusters, five which are active
Testing and vaccinations
Speaking at the press conference, Hipkins said he had two things to ask of Northlanders.
"First, if you have any cold and flu like symptoms please come forward and get a test as soon as possible."
"The second request that I have and I can't stress this enough, is please get vaccinated."
McElnay said today that it was more important than ever that we keep testing, especially over the weekend.
She said 82,303 total vaccine doses were administered yesterday, making it one of the top 10 daily totals since the programme began, and the numbers included a record high of 10,145 vaccines administered to Māori.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been visiting North Island towns in an attempt to drive up vaccination rates.
Hastings woman Raiha Tahuri, 27, said Ardern "hyped" her up to getting her first-ever vaccine.
"Yeah I think it was the prime minister that got me over the line to be honest. She genuinely looks deep, like real deep into my eyes and asks 'would you be willing to be vaccinated because I was willing to support you?' and I said 'yes', I genuinely said 'yes as a role model for others my age as well, 'cause we've got the lowest rates.''
Tahuri was vaccinated with the prime minister and Labour ministers Meka Whaitiri and Kiri Allan in the car with her.
Meanwhile, people with chronic health conditions which prevent them from being immunised against Covid-19 say they feel like outcasts because of how the government has approached vaccination.
Legal action taken against government over MIQ system
The group Grounded Kiwis has filed papers in the High Court in Wellington seeking an urgent judicial review of the isolation and quarantine system.
They allege Hipkins, Health Minister Andrew Little and the head of MBIE have all broken the law in the way they've set up and run the Managed Isolation and Quarantine system (MIQ).
Grounded Kiwis spokesperson and lawyer Alexandra Birt told Checkpoint one of the key issues in the court action against the government is the failure to include alternatives in MIQ.
Birt said one example was that there was no method in the system to allow vaccinated people coming from low-risk areas, such as Western Australia, to isolate at home.
Under the MIQ system, Birt says the government has been limiting New Zealander's right to return in a way that has never been limited before.
Fears of more exposure events at Middlemore Hospital
A non-Covid patient who visited Middlemore Hospital twice this week before testing positive has led to fears of two possible Covid-19 exposure events.
As of this morning 42 patients and 18 visitors have been identified as contacts, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
The person went to the hospital's ED on 4 October and was later discharged. They were asymptomatic at the time. They returned to the hospital yesterday, where they returned a positive result.
The ministry said so far 60 people had been identified as contacts, but no staff were required to stand down as they were wearing the appropriate PPE.