Kiwis in Northland and Waikato are waking up to another day in COVID-19 alert level 3 after Cabinet on Wednesday decided to extend their lockdown.source

The regions, along with Auckland which is in alert level 3 step 1, will stay there until at least 11:59pm on Monday, October 18.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins had told The AM Show there were "positive" signs Waikato could move to level 2source, but decided against after two new cases were reported in Hamilton - both of which are yet to be linked to the outbreak.

"[The Ministry of] Health believes the risk from these cases - a couple - is low and there will be few locations of interest," he told RNZsource. "However we need to assure ourselves that there is not undetected transmission before lowering alert levels. Genome sequencing is underway and will hopefully shed new light on these cases."

Hamilton's Mayor Paula Southgate said she was disappointed in the decisionsource.

"I would have liked to see a move to level 2 so our business can get up and running but I am a pragmatist and I do accept this virus moves so easily and spreads dramatically, so I understand the need to take a relatively cautious approach."

This comes after 55 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Wednesdaysource, 53 in Auckland and two in Waikato - 26 have yet to be epidemiologically linked to the outbreak.

What you need to know:

  • Auckland will remain in alert level 3 under step one of the Government's 'roadmap to recovery' until at least next Tuesday.
  • Northland and parts of Waikato will remain in alert level 3 for a further five days until at least 11:59pm on Monday, October 18. 
  • Fifty-five new cases were recorded on Wednesday, 53 in Auckland and two in Waikato - 26 of the cases are yet to be linked to the outbreak, including the two in Waikato.
  • Thames-Coromandel mayor Sandra Goudie is yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but says not opposed to getting it. She said that her preference is to receive the Novavax vaccine.
  • Gary Jackson, director of population health at Counties Manukau Health, says the effect of the COVID outbreak on Middlemore Hospital could become "very scary" and reach capacity as cases grow.
  • A truck driver has tested positive after travelling from Auckland to Northland. The driver is under investigation but poses a "low risk". 
  • University of Auckland expert David Welch says at the current rate, there will be about 100 cases infectious in the community per day in a month's time.
  • Epidemiologist Amanda Kvalsvig has called a return to alert level 4 in Auckland the "best and probably only chance" at reversing the current trends.
  • Two staff members and two patients have tested positive following an exposure event at North Shore Hospital's dialysis unit over the weekend.
  • An early learning centre teacher has tested positive in Auckland - 11 close contacts have been identified so far, six of whom are children.
  • Click here for all the locations of interest.source

8:50am - Scientists who've gone out of their way to try and help the public understand the COVID-19 pandemic say they're being increasingly targeted for abuse and threats of violence. 

An international survey of scientist who've made media appearances to talk about COVID-19 has found more than a fifth - 22 percent - have "received threats of physical or sexual violence", 15 percent have had their lives threatened and about two-thirds are having second thoughts about sharing their expertise ever again. The results were published in journal Nature on Thursday. 

New Zealand scientists have not been immune. 

"This is not completely new but it has become much more intense and vitriolic during the pandemic," Shaun Hendy, a disease modeller at University of Auckland research centre Te Pūnaha Matatini, told Newshub. 

"While academics have been targeted online by people like Cameron Slater for some time, it has now become much more widespread with a small minority of people becoming attracted to conspiracy theories that claim the threats from COVID are exaggerated, faked, or part of a plot. 

"These notions are currently being promoted by the far right and anti-vax groups and it's very sad to see this is such a widespread phenomenon with scientists around the world being targeted in this way."  

Read the full story here.source

8:25am - Visits to Hillpark Bakery Manurewa, Leabank Superette Manurewa, Hillpark Superette Manurewa, Kiwi Bakery Manurewa, and Mobil Clendon Park are the latest locations of interest.

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, October 14

8am - New toy sales on Trade Me have increased by 40 percent as Kiwis rush to get their kids toys for Christmas amidst global stock shortage fears.

Spokesperson Millie Silvester said while there's still 72 sleeps until December 25, global toy shortage fears have pushed some parents to get started on their Christmas shopping already. 

"With global supply chain issues, there's going to be a shortage of toy products this silly season. This means if you want that 'it' toy for your child this Christmas - get in quick or risk missing out."

In September, the number of new toy sales on the site were up 40 per cent when compared with the year prior. 

"We have thousands of stores on Trade Me selling new goods and they're telling us that Kiwis have started their Christmas shopping earlier than normal this year while the digital shelves are full."

The toys which saw the biggest increases were trampolines, Lego items and kids bikes.

Young girl in pink top and colorful leggings jumps on trampoline in garden.
Photo credit: Getty Images

7:30am - Clinical psychologist Dougal Sutherland has spoken to The AM Show about doom scrolling.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic can create a funnel of anxiety-inducing information.

Sutherland said while Kiwis should continue to stay informed about current affairs through the news, it's also about finding a healthy balance where it doesn't impact your mood.

"I think we often wait to feel happy… [we need to] think about what can I do to lift my spirits up again."

7:10am - Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says the Government is considering more support for Auckland businesses.

He told RNZ's First Up he's aware of how tough the ongoing lockdown is on businesses in the hospitality, events and accommodation sectors.

7am - An Auckland Councillor says patchy vaccine uptake in south Auckland shows a "radical overhaul" is required in Government if vulnerable communities are to be safe.

Manurewa-Papakura Ward Councillor Daniel Newman says vaccination teams and community organisations are doing an "amazing job" to protect vulnerable communities in south Auckland, but says other agencies are either absent or seemingly indifferent to the crisis that is about to hit thousands of unvaccinated residents.

"The Auckland region is about to surpass 90 percent first dose vaccine uptake yet thousands of eligible people, particularly Maori and young people, will have no protection whatsoever. Those people are primarily located in low income communities where deprivation and hesitancy is highest.

"The public vaccination campaign was initially slow and not well targeted, but that is changing now. We're in a race against COVID-19 and unfortunately the pandemic is now seeding and transmitting among the unvaccinated population."

Newman says with Delta's speed of transmission, along with vaccine hesitancy, more help is needed.

"Kainga Ora is a major landlord in South Auckland. Its tenancy manager and senior managers all need to be in South Auckland knocking on doorsteps to plead for uptake of the Pfizer vaccine. Kainga Ora needs to help organise events in cul-de-sacs where vaccinators can undertake direct-to-whanau vaccinations while fulfilling mandatory observation on people's front lawns.

"Kainga Ora needs to help fund kai incentives to get its tenants vaccinated. The value of a vaccination massively exceeds the cost of the incentive.

"The Ministry of Education needs to mandate vaccination events in every South Auckland school. The Ministry needs to stand in between school boards and the public and stare down vocal opposition from anti vax parents who resent school-based vaccination events.

"Corrections needs to be organise prisoners serving home detention and those on bail to attend vaccination events. This cannot be left to individual prisoners to negotiate with their GP and Corrections officer, a proactive approach is necessary to help keep people safe.

"Oranga Tamariki needs to reach out to every vulnerable family, whanau or aiga and urge uptake of the vaccine. Once again, kai packs need to be offered and transport arranged to get people to a vaccination site.

"If we do all of these things, coupled with the vaccination events that are taking place around the clock, we may have a chance of getting communities that are currently sitting at around 70 percent closer to or over 90 per cent on first dose vaccination. Once we get that, we can plan for a final push to convert to full vaccination in three weeks."

ACT leader David Seymour.
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub

6:40am - ACT leader David Seymour is calling on the Government to set a date for Freedom Day and create a plan.

"This proposal is not radically different from the Government’s eventual plan, we are simply saying they should set a timeframe and stick to it," he said. 

"The Government might be able to afford procrastination, too many others can't.

"The Government got caught on the hop by Delta and not offers only uncertainty. It has gone on for too long. People will put up with a lot if they know when it ends, but Jacinda Ardern is careering from week to week with one madcap initiative after another."

Seymour said Kiwis in level 3 are "at boiling point" and need something to look forward to.

"ACT would take the following steps to Freedom:

1. Set the date and stick to it

2. Supercharge vaccination with community partnerships and financial incentives

3. Engage every sector in all-in sprints to reduce transmission, vaccination and death

4. Remove restrictions as we know them and get on with life."

6:15am - A new survey has revealed more than one in three businesses (34 percent) have changed their views on working from home, to offer it permanently to some workers outside of lockdowns. However, 73 percent of these organisations report some employees feel isolated at home and prefer the team environment of the office.

This increases to 80 percent within smaller businesses of fewer than 50 employees.

These organisations also said flexible working has reduced their teams’ ability to collaborate (20 per cent) and has had a negative impact on office culture (five per cent).

The research, by Southern Cross Health Insurance and BusinessNZ, surveyed 116 private and public sector businesses of all sizes, representing more than 95,000 employees.

Southern Cross Health Insurance CEO Nick Astwick said the pandemic has resulted in a material shift in the way people work, communicate, and connect, and New Zealand businesses have been at the forefront of embracing this change.

"Businesses have had it pretty tough but they moved quickly to adapt and reimagine how to operate in this new COVID-19 world so their organisations and people can flourish.

"The challenges of remote working outlined in the report are likely to have intensified during the latest lockdown, but businesses have continued to step up to support the wellbeing of workers as the effects of the pandemic continue."

6am - The AM Show is on now. You can watch the show here at newshub.co.nz or on Three or listen on Magic Talk.

Sandra Goudie.
Sandra Goudie. Photo credit: The Project

5:50am - Sandra Goudie, the mayor of Thames-Coromandel, is yet to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but says she's not opposed to getting it.

Goudie confirmed to Newshub she currently isn't vaccinated against COVID-19 and that her preference is to receive the Novavax vaccine, which is one supplier the Government has an agreement with.

She said it's her "personal choice" to receive this vaccine over Pfizer, but didn't go into further detail.