The Government has set the dates for when fully vaccinated New Zealanders can come home without entering managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) on arrival.

From January 17, fully vaccinated Kiwis can travel from Australia without shelling out for a stint in MIQ, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Wednesday. From February 13, fully vaccinated Kiwis can return home from all other countries and bypass MIQ upon entering. Fully vaccinated foreign nations can start arriving from April 30, although this is a tentative date.

International arrivals will still need to self-isolate for seven days at home and present two negative tests for COVID-19 - one on arrival and one before entering the community.

Meanwhile, hair salons are throwing open their doors in Auckland as the stricken city marks its 100th day in lockdown. Hairdressers are the first close-contact business to trial the My Vaccine Pass system ahead of the transition to the COVID-19 Protection Framework on December 3.

What you need to know

  • There were 215 new cases of COVID-19 to report on Wednesday - 181 in Auckland, 18 in Waikato, three in Northland, 12 in Bay of Plenty and one in Canterbury.
  • Eighty-seven people are in hospital, eight of whom are in intensive care or high dependency units.
  • Auckland's border will open on December 15, allowing fully vaccinated Kiwis to travel to and from the region - people can also present a negative test received within 72 hours prior to departure.
  • All of New Zealand will move to the traffic light system on December 2 at 11:59pm.
  • Hairdressers are opening their doors in Auckland on Thursday to trial the My Vaccine Pass system.
  • Workers covered by the My Vaccine Pass mandate - staff working at businesses that are required to use vaccine certificates to operate - must have their first jab by Dec 3 and be fully vaccinated by Jan 17.
  • New Zealand's international borders will begin to reopen from January - from January 17 fully vaccinated Kiwis can return home from Australia without MIQ.
  • The Government is investing more than $1b in testing, tracing, investigation and support for cases in the community, with a $300m boost to Pharmac to buy new medicines to treat COVID-19 and wider use and availability of rapid antigen testing in December.
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest locations of interestsource here.

Follow Newshub's live updates below - app users, click here

12:30pm - There will be no press conference at 1pm - instead, the Ministry of Health will release a statement containing the latest updates.

12:20pm - Fletcher Building is proposing mandatory vaccination for anyone who undertakes work on its sites and workplaces.

"Fletcher Building is proposing that everyone who undertakes work on our sites/workplaces [must] be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to carry out their roles. If the proposal was implemented, everyone would need to be fully vaccinated by February 15, 2022," New Zealand Distribution chief executive Bruce McEwen said on Thursday.

The proposal also covers Fletcher Building's external supply chain, which - if implemented - would require workers to be fully vaccinated by March 14, 2022.

The company, one of the largest in New Zealand, is also seeking feedback on a proposal to implement COVID-19 testing "as required".

"As COVID-19 becomes more widespread in the community, our people will have increased exposure outside of work which increases the risk of transmission in our workplaces. Fletcher Building and New Zealand Distribution strongly believe vaccinations not only save lives, but keep our workplaces, teams, customers, and communities safe," McEwen said.

"In addition, we have sought expert advice, which is clear that vaccinations are the strongest and most effective control measure to protect our people, workplaces and wider communities."

12:10pm - There are several new locations of interest as of 12pm, including the first related to the recent case in Palmerston North:

  • Noel Leeming, Palmerston North
  • The Plaza Shopping Centre, Palmerston North
  • The Warehouse, Palmerston North
  • Kmart, Palmerston North
  • Matangi Takeaways, Hamilton
  • New World, Pahiatua.

For the relevant dates, times and public health advice, click heresource.

12pm - ACT leader David Seymour is welcoming the Government's move to make rapid antigen testing more widely available, but says the announcement has come "months too late".

The party has been pushing for saliva testing and rapid antigen testing to be used more widely as they become available, with their first call for greater testing options issued in March.

"That was nine months ago. Instead of preparing for this, the Government inexplicably banned rapid antigen tests from being imported," Seymour said following the announcement on Thursday.

"In June I said in Parliament: 'The one that ACT has an objection to is the actual ban on point-of-care tests. It's another theme of this Government's response that it has been, again, very fixated on who delivers the service: Ministry of Health good; everybody else bad, out in the cold. That has held us back as a country. It's made our response to COVID-19 less nimble and less efficient'.

"ACT has been saying all along that the Government needs to be better prepared and make use of technology. While we welcome today's development, it is, as usual, far too late."

11:50am - To recap, the Government has also announced additional social support for individuals and whānau who contract COVID-19 and need to isolate at home.

Here are the key points:

  • The Government is providing $204.1 million to fund regional, locally led responses to support people who are isolating and recovering from COVID-19 at home. The investment will fund welfare support under the Care in the Community Model, providing food, financial assistance, and connection to the right services.
  • New regional COVID-19 welfare teams led by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) will coordinate social service support for people isolating at home.
  • Regional teams will work alongside other Government agencies, iwi/Māori and community providers to deliver housing, food and income support and provide funding where needed. They will also work with Health, HUD, Kāinga Ora and MBIE to find suitable alternative accommodation if someone who has tested positive can't isolate at home.
  • Those who test positive will be provided with information on how to access welfare support if they need it. Cases will have their needs assessed and if they require welfare support, MSD will act as the coordination point for local partners, providers and community groups.
  • A dedicated 0800 COVID-19 welfare support helpline will be available to support those in isolation throughout their recovery.

11:40am - To recap, the Government has announced ia new testing and contact tracing strategy to support the COVID-19 Protection Framework. 

Here are the key points:

  • Nearly $1 billion is being invested in COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and case investigation.
  • Daily laboratory capacity will increase to 60,000 PCR tests in the first quarter of 2022.
  • A new national telehealth service specialising in the investigation of cases, featuring 475 investigators, will be launched to supplement the work of Public Health Units. The investigators will be trained by the end of November. 
  • With more New Zealanders gaining protection from COVID-19 through vaccinations, the Government will introduce a wider range of testing options that provide other benefits such as accessibility, convenience and speed.
  • Nasopharyngeal PCR tests will continue to be used as the primary diagnostic test, but this will be supplemented by saliva-based PCR testing, rapid antigen testing and rapid PCR tests.
  • Rapid antigen tests will be more widely used from December 1, with businesses able to directly source approved rapid antigen tests from authorised suppliers for use within their workforce. These tests will be more widely used across the health system, including for aged residential care.
  •  
  • Rapid antigen tests will be available to the general public at pharmacies from December 15, with tests to be administered under the supervision of pharmacy staff. A PCR test will be required to confirm any positive results.
  • Under the new framework, regions at Red and Orange will focus on symptomatic testing and surveillance testing in high-risk settings. Regions at Green will see a greater focus on surveillance testing.

11:30am - A series of new investments and initiatives have been announced on Thursday morning to supplement the COVID-19 response under the upcoming 'traffic light' system.

Here are the key points regarding the Government's new 'Care in the Community Model' to support COVID-positive Kiwis and their recovery at home:

  • The Government is rolling out its COVID Care in the Community Model to support cases of COVID-19 as they isolate and recover at home. The COVID Care in the Community Model outlines a framework for how community support will be provided to those who are isolating at home.
  • Under the model, all new cases will be initially contacted by a healthcare provider within 24 hours of a positive result to discuss any health, accommodation and wellbeing requirements. Household contacts will also need to isolate, and they will be supported with health and testing advice. 
  • The model will also ensure all cases have a designated point of contact, most likely from a local healthcare provider, who will be responsible for looking out for the person's health and wellbeing needs - including making a plan for checking in regularly while the person is infected. 
  • All cases will receive a health pack tailored to the individual's needs, delivered within 48 hours to help the person manage their recovery.
  • Cases will be provided with ongoing clinical monitoring over the duration of the isolation period to make sure they are coping with symptoms and it is safe for them to continue being cared for in the community.
  • A health assessment will be provided at Day 10 to determine whether the person can safely end their time in isolation.
  • As part of the shift to Care in the Community, the Government is providing $300 million for the national drug-buying agency Pharmac to buy more new medicines to treat COVID-19.

11:20am - Here are the latest locations of interest as of 11am - one has been updated from earlier:

  • The RnM Sports Bar & Grill, Rotorua
  • Ebbett Toyota, Hamilton
  • Z 15th Ave Petrol Station Tauranga.

For the relevant dates, times and public health advice, click heresource.

11:15am - Northland District Health Board (DHB) chief executive Dr Nick Chamberlain has squashed rumours that he suffered a severe heart attack following a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, speculation the DHB says was rife among those with anti-vaccination views.

Dr Chamberlain was "shocked" to hear he was at the centre of a "nasty rumour spread by anti-vaxxers", the DHB said in a statement on Thursday. The rumour was circulated so widely, it even reached his daughter in Wellington.

"Dr Chamberlain is happy to dispel rumours that even reached his daughter in Wellington and say he is alive and kicking and has not even had his booster dose," a spokesperson for the DHB said.

"Bookings don't open to those who had their second COVID-19 dose six months ago until Friday, November 26."

Dr Chamberlain said this is yet another example of how dangerous anti-vaccination sentiments can be - and this time, it has affected his whānau directly. People were even calling from Australia to check if he was okay.

In a statement, Dr Chamberlain encouraged those who are hesitant to get the vaccine or lacking confidence in its efficacy to speak with someone who can provide reliable information.

"Don't rely on what you read on social media, please. Instead, speak to a member of your whānau or your local iwi or Māori Health Provider. Or make an appointment with your GP. They are offering FREE appointments to patients who have questions and concerns about the vaccine," he said.

"Trust the science and make a decision one way or another. However, I encourage everyone eligible to get vaccinated. Yes, you can still get COVID-19 if you're vaccinated the same way you can still get pregnant if you use contraception -and the same way you can die from a car accident if you use a seatbelt. That doesn't mean you're not going to use contraception or a seatbelt.

"The vaccine is not a cure. It's a layer of protection - up to 95 percent and protects you from getting severe symptoms from the virus so that you don't die.

"It also reduces the risk of spreading the virus so that other people you care about don't die. Unfortunately, we have seen from this latest outbreak how quickly this virus has spread within our region, and we need our population to get vaccinated before our borders open."

11:02am - Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni announced on Thursday that $204.1 million will be made available to support individuals and whānau who contract COVID-19 and need to isolate at home.

The funding will include:

  • new regional COVID-19 welfare teams from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to coordinate social service support for those isolating at home
  • regional teams working alongside other government agencies, iwi/Māori and community providers for housing, food and income support
  • Government investment of $204.1m into welfare system support for Care in the Community.

"As we enter a new phase in our response to COVID-19 which will see more people isolating at home, we are changing our strategy to ensure everyone gets the support they need in order to isolate and recover safely," Sepuloni said.

"Supporting the welfare needs of individuals and whānau is central to how we will manage COVID-19 in the community from now on. Each region in New Zealand has different community support and groups available to them, therefore the Government is providing $204.1m for region-specific, locally-led responses. 

"Whether you are in Westport or West Auckland we want to ensure welfare support such as food, financial assistance, and connection to the right services is available for you and your whānau.

"For those who need to isolate, we're making the process as simple as possible. When you have a COVID test you will be provided with information on how to proactively access welfare support if you need it.

"If you receive a positive test, you will be contacted by someone who will assess your needs. If you need welfare support, then MSD will act as the coordination point for local partners, providers and community groups to deliver the support you require.

"MSD's regions will work with partners, including iwi/Māori and local providers to deliver this support and provide funding where it is needed. They will also work with Health, HUD, Kāinga Ora and MBIE to find suitable alternative accommodation if someone who has tested positive and can't isolate at home.

"A dedicated 0800 COVID-19 welfare support helpline will also be available to support those in isolation throughout their recovery.

"During the response to Delta, the Government provided $38.15m in funding for food support and community connection services to help whānau access the immediate support they need. We have seen some excellent work being carried out by our community providers, particularly by Māori and Pacific focused organisations in Auckland.

"As we move to the traffic light system and ease restrictions across New Zealand, we know that we will need to take a locally-led approach specific to each region and community. This funding will support this approach by empowering our local partners and organisations to deliver welfare support. Our high rates of vaccination mean New Zealanders are in a strong position as we move to ease restrictions and open back up. But we also know there are many for whom getting COVID-19 will not only be dangerous for their health but also challenging for their situation. This package is about making life as easy as possible as people recover.

"We will continue to monitor the needs of the community and respond if more support is required."

Carmel Sepuloni.
Carmel Sepuloni. Photo credit: Getty Images

11:01am - A new national testing strategy will provide better protection for high-risk groups as New Zealand transitions to the COVID-19 Protection Framework, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced on Thursday.

The transition to the COVID-19 Protection Framework will be supported by a new testing and contact tracing strategy, which includes:

  • wider use of rapid antigen testing from December 1
  • increasing daily laboratory capacity to 60,000 PCR tests in the first quarter of 2022
  • a new national telehealth case investigation service with 475 investigators
  • a nearly $1 billion investment in testing, contact tracing and case investigation.

"Delta is here, so we are ensuring we have the tools in place to support the transition to the new framework, and to help minimise the spread of COVID-19," Verrall said.

"When we were pursuing an elimination strategy we relied on highly sensitive PCR tests because the cost of missing a case was too high. With more and more New Zealanders gaining protection through vaccinations, we can now introduce a wider range of routine testing options that provide other benefits such as accessibility, convenience and speed.

"With more COVID-19 cases appearing around the country, testing, tracing and quickly isolating cases and their contacts will be all the more important for protecting whānau and communities. We will focus surveillance testing and contact tracing where it's most needed, to find and minimise COVID-19."

Nasopharyngeal PCR tests will continue to be used as the primary diagnostic test, but this will be supplemented by saliva-based PCR testing, rapid antigen testing and rapid PCR tests.

From December 1, businesses will be able to directly source approved rapid antigen tests from authorised suppliers for use within their workforce. These tests will be more widely used across the health system, including for aged residential care.

Rapid antigen tests will also be available to the general public at pharmacies from December 15, with tests to be administered under the supervision of pharmacy staff. A PCR test will be required to confirm any positive results.

Under the new framework, in regions at Red and Orange there will be a focus on symptomatic testing and surveillance testing in high-risk settings. Regions at Green will see a greater focus on surveillance testing, to quickly find any new clusters of cases.

Targeted testing will provide greater capacity for laboratories to process priority testing as part of the Government's efforts to protect vulnerable and high-risk communities. Work is underway to expand capacity to 60,000 PCR tests per day by early next year.

"We have also stood up a new national telehealth case investigation service, and are training 475 investigators by the end of this month. This will add significant new capacity on top of the excellent work of our Public Health Units. There is a focus on recruiting Māori and Pacific staff, to ensure we can respond to these communities," Verrall said.

"Under the new strategy there will be more ways to test people with faster results, providing greater certainty and reassurance – and less disruption to our everyday lives. No country has managed to eliminate delta completely, but we have protections in place to minimise its impact."

Dr Ayesha Verrall.
Dr Ayesha Verrall. Photo credit: Getty Images

11am - The Government is increasing the support for New Zealanders who test positive for COVID-19 through the rollout of the COVID Care in the Community Model - and a $300 million funding boost to Pharmac to purchase new medicines to treat the virus, Health Minister Andrew Little announced on Thursday.

"Delta is here so we are changing our strategy for how we deal with the virus. Supported recovery at home and greater access to medicines to stop people getting very sick are the cornerstones of the Care in the Community model," Andrew Little said.

"As we move to the 'traffic light' system, reduce restrictions, and remove the Auckland boundary, people will be travelling around the country in the months to come and we will see more cases across the country.

"The vast majority of people who get COVID will have mild to moderate symptoms and won't require hospital care, but we need to make sure those recovering at home have the support and medicine they need to recover safely, and that others in the household are safe as well."

The COVID Care in the Community Model provides the framework for how end-to-end community support will be provided as cases increase throughout the country, and sets out the expectations of health and welfare providers.

For someone with COVID-19 who can isolate at home, Care in the Community will include: 

  • An initial contact from a healthcare provider within 24 hours of a positive result notification, to discuss any health, accommodation and wellbeing requirements. Household contacts will also need to isolate, they'll be supported with health advice and getting tested as well.   
  • A designated point of contact, most likely from a local healthcare provider, who will be responsible for looking out for the person's health and wellbeing needs, including making a plan for checking in regularly while the person is infected. 
  • A health pack tailored to the individual's health needs delivered within 48 hours to help the person manage recovery.
  • Ongoing clinical monitoring over the duration of the isolation period to make sure the person is coping with symptoms and is safe to continue being cared for in the community.
  • A health assessment at Day 10 to determine whether the person can safely end time in isolation.

At this point, household contacts will need to stay at home for at least 10 days, to make sure they remain free from the virus. The households' dedicated health contact will continue to check in on them during this time.

Everyone can also do their bit now to help themselves and their loved ones by using the Readiness Checklist to plan and prepare.

COVID-19 medicines funding

As part of the shift to Care in the Community, the Government is providing $300 million for the national drug-buying agency Pharmac to purchase more new medicines to treat COVID-19.

"Medicines are being rapidly developed and can stop most people getting so sick they need to go to hospital," Little said.

"Vaccinations are still the first and best line of defence against the virus, but we want to make sure people who contract COVID-19 have access to new treatments as soon as possible.

"New Zealand is at the front of the queue for these medicines. We were one of the first countries in the world to secure supplies of the new antiviral drug molnupiravir for treating people with mild-to-medium COVID-19 infections, and Pharmac is talking to other pharmaceutical companies about their medicines.

"Cabinet has agreed to provide an extra $300 million so the purchase of COVID drugs doesn't affect Pharmac's ability to keep buying medications and treatments for other conditions."

Here's a recap of what supporting New Zealanders to recover from COVID-19 in the community will entail:

  • a $300 million boost to Pharmac to buy new medicines to treat COVID-19
  • Care in the Community approach will see most cases receive initial contact from a healthcare provider within 24 hours
  • support pack provided within 48 hours
  • regular health checks throughout recovery.
Health Minister Andrew Little.
Health Minister Andrew Little. Photo credit: Getty Images

10:35am - Dr Kyle Eggleton, a rural health expert at the University of Auckland, says more thought needs to be put into the methods of communication used by health authorities to contact New Zealanders in rural communities.

Phone calls are not always a viable option due to patchy coverage, and in-person visits by health providers can be too risky. However, emails are not timely enough and will not pick up subtleties in a person's conditions. 

"Video consultations are not widely used and require a reasonable familiarity with technology to set up," he said. 

"When you are ill you will want the most convenient and easily-used technology i.e. phone. However, phone coverage is patchy in many rural areas and sometimes totally absent. For these locations health providers will probably have to physically visit - which is resource-intensive, takes people away from other tasks, and places the health provider at risk of infection.

"Some things to consider include providing phones and data packages to people who have limited income, and ensuring that lots of resources go into rural primary care for physical monitoring of patients who have limited communication or fragile health."

10:30am - A health expert is concerned the current home isolation policy relies too much on ticking off a "checkbox list" without considering the nuances of health and the associated risks.

Dr Kyle Eggleton, the associate dean of Rural Health at the University of Auckland's Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, says the current policy relies on a risk stratification by Public Health as to whether a person can safely isolate at home, whether they need to isolate in MIQ, and if they can isolate at home, how frequently they need to be contacted. A list of conditions that places people at risk of complications and requirements are checked off.

"Although the current policy does not involve notification to primary care of cases isolating at home, a new policy is being formulated that will notify primary care as well as social service providers (in order to ensure that people's social needs are met). This proposed policy is an improvement on the old, existing policy," he said on Thursday.

"However, there are some significant issues that we need to be mindful of. One issue relates to thinking about risk as being a little more nuanced than ensuring that a checkbox list is completed. Health is complex with multiple intersections, and a greater deal of flexibility should be applied to risk stratification. I also question whether Public Health are in the best position to understand a person's risk, and would think that the primary care team would understand an individual's circumstances a lot better.

"One reason for this is that Public Health do not have access to the GP's notes and are only reliant on the history taken from individuals as well as any hospital records."

10:20am - Chris Hipkins says the staggered reopening of the border is to ensure the country doesn't flip-flop in and out of restrictions in the event the influx of international arrivals causes a surge in case numbers.

"There's a lesson to learn from those countries overseas who have tried to do too much at once when it comes to reconnecting. [It] often leads to a big surge in cases and it means that you have to go backwards. We don't want to be in that position," he told RNZ's Morning Report on Thursday.

It echoes comments he made earlier on The AM Show, during which Hipkins said the Government wanted the reopening of the border to be "sustainable". He said nations who have tried to go too far, too soon have often suffered the consequences, and a staggered approach to new arrivals is the best way of avoiding a possible spike in infections.

He noted that with New Zealand transitioning to the new framework next week and Auckland's regional boundary lifting on December 15, there are already a number of changes on the way that will increase the risk of COVID-19 in the community.

"Next week Auckland will be opening up to much more business than it has before, with active COVID cases in the community. A couple of weeks later we're seeing the boundary around Auckland removed. Those two things significantly increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading in New Zealand and an increase in case numbers already."

10:10am - There are two new locations of interest as of 10am:

  • Ruck n Maul, Rotorua
  • New World, Gate Pa, Tauranga.

For the relevant dates, times and public health advice, click heresource.

9:50am - The Government is relying on the "goodwill and honesty" of international arrivalssource to self-isolate for seven days before entering the community, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday morning.

From January 17, fully vaccinated Kiwis can return to New Zealand from Australia without entering managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) on arrival. From February 13, fully vaccinated Kiwis can come home from any other country, with New Zealand eventually reopening to all fully vaccinated foreign nationals from April 30.

New arrivals will still be required to self-isolate for seven days and present two negative tests before entering the community.

Speaking to RNZ's Morning ReportsourceHipkins admitted there is no robust way to monitor people in self-isolation.

"Obviously with the number of people we're talking about, and we're talking about potentially going from a couple of thousand people a week to many thousands of people a day coming into the country, it's going to have to be a relatively light-touch monitoring regime," he said.

He said the level of resource required to intensively police international arrivals "just wouldn't be possible or sustainable".

"We are going to be relying on the goodwill and honesty of people coming into the country."

9:35am - In case you missed it, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says New Zealand could revert from the upcoming traffic light system back to the alert level framework - and potential lockdowns - as a "back-up plan" if a vaccine-resistant variant arrived in New Zealand.

His comments come after accusations from the Oppositionsource that the COVID-19 Response (Vaccinations) Legislation Bill, which will allow the Government to implement the traffic light systemsource, was rushed through Parliament without the chance for parliamentary or public scrutiny.

The Bill passed under urgency on Wednesdaysource.

"Parliamentary urgency is never an ideal situation," Hipkins admitted on Thursday. "I'd rather us put things through a more regular Parliamentary process and that there was more Select Committee scrutiny and people had the opportunity to have their say.

"The reality is all of those things take time and when you've got people sitting at home waiting to get their freedom back, we want to move as quickly as we can," he told The AM Show.

Hipkins said the Government was "absolutely committed to the traffic light system" but a contingency pan would be to revert to the alert level framework, and possibly lockdown, "if things got really bad".

"We've got multiple plans but even with multiple plans, it's still an uncertain environment and you still have to keep readjusting."

Read more from Hipkins' interview heresource.

9:23am - Here's a recap on Wednesday's 215 cases:

Coronavirus: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak - Thursday, November 25

9:10am - Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard has on Thursday released a guide to the operations of the Parliamentary Precinct under the COVID-19 Protection Framework, also referred to as the traffic light system.

"After seeking feedback from a range of groups who use the precinct, I have developed a system which prioritises the safety of those who work in and visit Parliament, mitigates risk where possible, and supports the effective function of our democracy," Mallard said.

"It is clear there are a range of views from different groups, but the widely held feedback from staff who have Parliament as their workplace is that allowing unvaccinated visitors would pose a risk to them. All MPs and staff members, including those who have friends and whānau who are vulnerable to COVID-19, or who are vulnerable themselves, should be able to come to work at Parliament and feel as safe as possible."

From January 1, 2022 visitors will be required to present a COVID-19 vaccination certificate in order to take tours of Parliament. This requirement will also include education groups for adults and children over the age of 12 years and three months. The wellbeing of staff, visitors and the wider community is the focus of this decision.

"I believe strongly in the accessibility of our Parliament and this not a decision I have taken lightly. There are a range of virtual offerings that are available to support the accessibility of information for those who choose not to present a vaccination certificate. The offerings include a virtual tour via the Parliament XR app, videos and other digital resources."

Staff vaccination is a matter for the employers who have staff on the precinct, but this framework signals that the movement of staff who choose not to present a vaccination certificate will be restricted to only movement strictly necessary for those staff to complete their jobs, he added.

The new system, with the exception of tours and education settings which will be effective from January 1, will be effective from when New Zealand implements the COVID-19 Protection Framework at 11:59pm on Thursday, December 2. Parliament will use My Vaccine Pass to confirm vaccination status.

All MPs will be fully vaccinated by the time the COVID-19 Protection Framework comes into play. The system also covers the house, select committees, events and hospitality venues, and other visitors. 

This system has been considered based on the current environment and will be reviewed on or before March 31, 2022. 

8:55am - Public health expert and epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker says the Government's decision to stagger the return of international arrivals throughout the first quarter of 2022 is as much to do with administrative capacity as it is to do with managing risk.

He told the New Zealand Herald the Government's phased approach is largely centred on the complexities and challenges of managing pandemic prevention systems. 

"It's a mixture of a genuine desire to protect New Zealand from the ravages of the pandemic, and an element of administrative capacity," Baker told the Herald.

Despite criticisms lobbed at the Government for preventing Kiwis from returning home in time for Christmas, Baker said it would be logistically impossible to open the border before the festive season.

He said the systems were "groaning" with the volume of demands, including for MIQ spaces and vaccine passes.

"We are in an age where we expect everything to work seamlessly," Baker said. "We are moving into a different strategy now, and what we call a tight suppression approach."

8:40am - The Government has finally announced a date for when New Zealand can welcome back foreign travellers - but not everyone in the tourism industry is celebrating. 

"It feels a little bit like we're being thrown scraps - like a dog," Wendy Van Lieshout, the chief executive of Active Adventures, told Newshub. "We're kissing goodbye to another whole New Zealand summer which in our [company's] case, represents about $9 million to $10 million in revenue... so it's absolutely devastating," she says. 

But it's not the date itself that's causing the most concern. 

On Wednesday, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins outlinedsource the reopening plan for the international border. From April 30 onwards, fully vaccinated foreign nationals will be able to travel to New Zealand without staying in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) - but they must self-isolate at home for seven days and return two negative tests before entering the community.

"I can assure you, as a tourism business, not a single international customer will want to self isolate in any shape or form," Van Lieshout said. 

The Tourism Export Council says the self-isolation requirement is "total nonsense" and New Zealand's global reputation as a travel destination is at risk of being destroyed. 

"The world-class visitor offering that we have built up over 50 years will be smashed to smithereens and our global reputation will go down the gurgler. It's a serious, serious issue," chief executive Lynda Keene told Newshub. 

The council says if the requirement is not dropped, New Zealand will effectively be taken off the map in 2022.

Read more here.

8:32am - A new text service has been launched to support the vaccination of disabled people, Minister for Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni announced on Thursday.

The service, run by Whakarongorau Aotearoa on behalf of the Ministry of Health, is in response to feedback from the disability community and is an addition to the COVID Vaccination Healthline, which already offers phone and email support for disabled people and people living with impairments to get their vaccination.

"We're making it easier for the deaf, hard of hearing community and others who may be speech impaired to get vaccinated. They can now text 8988 for access to vaccine information, help to book a vaccination appointment, or support with transport," Sepuloni said.

"It's heartening to see good uptake of the phone and email service which has already received over 3400 phone calls since September. It has not only been a safe haven for disabled people to discuss vaccination, anxiety or needle phobias, but they've been supported to access sites with low sensory settings for example as well as home vaccinations.

"The Whakarongorau service is staffed with a dedicated team of advisors who are either living with a disability themselves, have close whānau with a disability or have extensive experience working with the disabled community. Their lived experience makes the service unique and underlines the ethos of The Manaakitanga Journey to enhance the vaccination experiences for disabled people.

"One in four New Zealanders identify as disabled or having an impairment. As of November 21, of the 37,269 people supported by Disability Support Services and long term ACC clients nationwide, 86 percent have had their first dose, and 79 percent have been fully vaccinated.

"As we take steps towards more freedoms as a fully vaccinated Aotearoa New Zealand, we're committed to ensuring that our vaccination programme continues to be as accessible and inclusive as possible to all New Zealanders. We're in a new phase in our fight against COVID, and an even greater fight to protect the hauora of disabled people and their whānau."

8:20am - A little-known sect led by a pastor who pokes eyes to heal is at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea, the country reporting a new daily record of 4116 cases as the spike in severe cases puts a strain on hospitals.

In a tiny rural church in a town of 427 residents in Cheonan, south of Seoul, at least 241 people linked to the religious community had tested positive for coronavirus as of Wednesday (local time), a city official told Reuters.

"We believe the scale of the outbreak is large," the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a statement.

About 90 percent of the religious community was unvaccinated and the majority were in close contact through communal living.

Many of the congregation were elderly, in their 60s and above, and were unvaccinated, the official said. Just 17 of the 241 cases had been vaccinated.

"I believe it's the church's anti-government beliefs that refrained the believers to get the vaccine," the official said, adding that the town was put under a lockdown.

Read more here.

8:10am - A little-known sect led by a pastor who pokes eyes to heal is at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea, as the country reported a new daily record of 4116 cases and battles a spike in serious cases straining hospitals. 

Meanwhile, cases have jumped 23 percent in the Americas in the last week, mostly in North America, where both the United States and Canada are reporting increasing infection rates.

And Europe is once again the epicentre of the pandemic, World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday. WHO officials warned the SARS-CoV-2 virus would keep spreading intensely as societies return to the social mixing and mobility of a pre-pandemic period in the run-up to the year-end holidays.

"In many countries and communities, we are concerned about a false sense of security that vaccines have ended the pandemic, and that people who are vaccinated do not need to take any other precautions," he said.

Here are the latest developments in the pandemic from around the world overnight.

8am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has defended the Government's phased reopening of the international border over the first quarter of 2022, despite criticism that fully vaccinated Kiwis won't be able to come home from Australia until almost a month after Christmas.

From January 17, fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers will be able to enter New Zealand from Australia without being required to stay in MIQ on arrival. The timing has riled many critics of the Government's plan, who question why the border couldn't open to Australia ahead of the festive season - allowing Kiwis stuck across the ditch to reunite with their families.

Speaking to The AM Show on Thursday morning, Hipkins said the Government wants to stagger the risk over the coming months. New Zealand is set to adopt the COVID-19 Protection Framework from next week, allowing a return to relative freedom for fully vaccinated Kiwis. On December 15, Auckland's regional boundary will lift, allowing New Zealanders to travel to and from the Super City. Fully vaccinated Kiwis can then start to return from Australia the following month.

"We don't want a whole lot of extra risk at the same time," Hipkins said. "We want to try and do this in a way that's sustainable."

Hipkins cited international examples, such as countries in Europe, who have removed their restrictions simultaneously rather than adopting a staggered approach. Many are subsequently forced to reintroduce restrictions as the sudden return to freedom can cause case numbers to surge to uncontrollable levels, he said.

"We're trying to [phase] it in ways that avoid surges... and us reimposing restrictions."

With tens of thousands of Kiwis possibly returning from Australia each week, Hipkins said it's difficult to model how many could be potentially carrying the virus as it depends on the spread within Australia.

"The fact they're double-vaccinated doesn't mean they can't be carrying COVID-19."

7:55am - Criticism has been lobbed at the Government for its decision to push the legislation for the COVID-19 Protection Framework through Parliament under urgency, bypassing the lengthy select committee process - and omitting parliamentary and public scrutiny. 

Speaking to The AM Show, Hipkins admitted it was "not a perfect process" and "not ideal", but it reflected the urgency of the situation. The Government confirmed on Monday the framework would come into effect for New Zealand from 11:59pm on December 2 - a week-and-a-half after their announcement.

"We're trying to manage through a global pandemic, and manage that in a way that accepts the reality - COVID-19 is now here in New Zealand and it's not going to go away. We need to have a system in place that manages that while giving New Zealanders as much freedom as possible," he said.

When pressed as to why Parliament did not begin the process earlier - with the Government initially announcing plans for the new framework in October - Hipkins conceded that he would have preferred to "put things through a regular parliamentary process", but it would have taken too long given the circumstances.

"Parliamentary urgency is never an ideal situation. I'd much prefer we put things through a regular parliamentary process and people had the opportunity to have their say, but reality is, all of those things take time. When you've got people sitting at home waiting to get their freedom back, we want to move as quickly as we can," he said.

"Yes, it's not ideal, but we've put extra safeguards in place - every decision that gets made under the law change that was passed by Parliament yesterday is subject to select committee scrutiny and has to be confirmed by a vote in the House of Parliament, and the law itself expires after a period of time - it has to be periodically renewed by Parliament as well.

"I'm not going to say that's a perfect process, it's certainly not. But we've got to move quickly."

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty Images

7:49am - Chris Hipkins has confirmed that reverting to the alert level system is the Government's "back-up plan" if a vaccine-resistant variant of COVID-19 emerges in New Zealand.

Speaking to The AM Show, he said this "possibility" could set the country "back a long way" as the COVID-19 Protection Framework is designed for a highly vaccinated population.

"The back-up plan, if things got really bad, would be to go back to the alert level system," he said.

"If you ended up with a vaccine-resistant variant of the virus, which the scientists will tell you is absolutely possible... that [would] put us back quite a long way... of course, it's not what we think is going to happen."

He said the alert level system would be a "contingency plan" in the event that a new, vaccine-resistant variant arrives on New Zealand's shores.

"We don't want to do that," he said, reiterating that the Government is "absolutely committed" to its COVID-19 Protection Framework.

7:45am - COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is speaking on The AM Show.

You can watch the interview live on Three or via our livestream here.

7:30am - Auckland's hairdressers and barbers will once again be welcoming in customers on Thursday after more than three months of closed doors.

The Government is allowing hair salons to reopen for business a week before the COVID-19 Protection Framework comes into play at 11:59pm on December 2. Over the next week, hairdressers will trial the new My Vaccine Pass system, which will come into effect nationwide once the new framework is implemented. It rewards fully vaccinated Kiwis with pre-pandemic freedoms such as dining out, festivals, events, gyms - and haircuts.

Close-contact businesses must check customers' vaccine passes on entry to verify they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Businesses must use the system if they are to resume operating - if they opt not to, venues such as hospitality must continue with contactless trading and takeways, as required under alert level 3.

From today, fully vaccinated Aucklanders can get - for many - a much-needed cut or trim, as long as they book in advance and have downloaded their My Vaccine Pass. Hairdressers will be able to use the NZ Verifier Pass app, officially released on Tuesday, to verify their customers' passes.

Staff must also be fully vaccinated and operate as they would under alert level 2 - with masks and maintaining a 2m distance between customers. More information on operating close-contact services can be found here.

Hairdressers and barbers have been chosen to trial the vaccine pass system as there are typically fewer staff employed and customers in the space are often limited by the number of available chairs and hairdressers. Distancing between customers can also be easily maintained.

7:25am - Here's a recap of the Government's plan to gradually reopen New Zealand's international borders from January 2022:

  • Fully vaccinated Kiwis and other eligible travellers will be able to return to New Zealand from Australia without staying in MIQ from 11:59pm on Sunday, January 16, 2022.
  • Fully vaccinated Kiwis and other eligible travellers will be able to return to New Zealand from all other countries from 11:59pm on Sunday, February 13, 2022.
  • All fully vaccinated individuals will be able to travel to New Zealand from April 30, 2022 onwards, with the re-opening staged over time. This date might change, or the overseas influx could be tailored by visa category.
  • All international arrivals will be required to self-isolate at home for seven days upon entering New Zealand and present two negative tests - one on arrival and one before entering the community.
  • The Very High-Risk classification for Indonesia, Fiji, India, Pakistan and Brazil will be removed early next month.

7:20am - Kia ora, good morning, and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak for Thursday, November 25.

Today marks Auckland's 100th day in lockdown. It also marks the day the city's hair salons can reopen to trial the new My Vaccine Pass system ahead of the transition to the COVID-19 Protection Framework.