There are 12 new cases of Covid-19 today, all in managed isolation.
Ten of the cases arrived on a flight from India on September 26, flight AI1354, said director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay.
She said it could be the highest number reported in one day from the same flight and it was possible we could see more cases linked to the flight.
It comes after 17 people on a flight from India that arrived on August 23 tested positive for Covid-19 while in quarantine over the following weeks.
The latest group tested positive around day three of their time in managed isolation. All have been transferred to the Jet Park Hotel quarantine facility.
The 10 cases were spread out on the plane, sitting between rows 14 and 41, McElnay said.
The theory is that the travellers were infected in India before boarding the flight. Genomic testing was being done and authorities would look to see if anything suggests transmission on the flight. Test results should be through within the next few days.
Before people board flights in India they are being checked to see if they are symptomatic.
The journey from India was flown by Air India, with its international crew in managed isolation when they arrived - which is now standard practice, McElnay said. The crew has since left the country.
"I think they were in for two days," McElnay said. "They were transported to managed isolation, [they] stay there and then get back on a plane and returned back to India."
For the remaining two cases, one arrived on a flight from the United States on September 26, testing positive on day three of their stay.
The 12th case arrived from the Philippines via Taiwan on September 23. They were tested because they were a contact of another case and tested positive yesterday.
An infant under the age of 1 is included in today's 12 new cases. The oldest is aged 70+.
Children under the age of 12 months old are not always tested for the virus, and nor do they need to be, McElnay said.
If the parents of the child test positive, it's about how you manage the cases. Whether you add the baby to the total number of cases doesn't change how you manage the cases, she said.
New Zealand has contributed to global initiatives around finding a vaccine. "We're very much part of that global initiative," McElnay said.
McElnay said she appreciated today's number of cases was a lot and it reflected the high levels of Covid-19 that were popping up around the world.
"This also re-emphasises why we have strong border control measures in place."
Asked if she knew how many people had arrived in New Zealand since the latest outbreak from India, McElnay said she didn't have the numbers.
However, the Ministry is looking at pulling together figures to assist with their assessment of high-risk countries.
"We are also looking at pulling the data on recent flights so we can see how that matches up with the level of risk in those countries."
The Ministry continues to look at the advice they give for managing people who arrive in the country, including those that are high risk.
There is a range of advice they are pulling together, McElnay said, including whether pre-departure testing needs to take place.
Some of the rapid testing used overseas isn't as accurate as the testing the Ministry prefers to use in New Zealand, McElnay said.
53 cases, one in hospital
New Zealand now has 53 active cases - 42 have been imported, the remaining were in the community. There are 1492 confirmed cases that have been reported to the World Health Organisation.
Fourteen people are isolating in an Auckland quarantine facility from the community, which includes five people who tested positive for the virus.
One person remains in hospital with Covid-19. They are on a general ward in isolation at Middlemore Hospital.
"Since August 11, our contact tracing team has identified 4047 close contacts of cases, of which all have been contacted and are self-isolating, or have completed self-isolation," McElnay said.
The number of cases has dropped from yesterday because some records have been identified as duplicates in the Ministry's system.
Over 5000 tests were completed yesterday, the total number of tests completed nears 1 million.
The Auckland August cluster is not yet considered to be closed.
A "formal and lengthy" process needs to take place before they can confirm the case is closed, McElnay said.
"It's certainly looking very encouraging and hopefully we'll be able to report that it's closed in due course."
The Ministry, along with the All of Government group, are reviewing their plans for any outbreak, resurgence and a range of different scenarios as they move into the summer months.
The process is largely time-focused, with 28 days having had to have passed since the last case tested positive.
"On the basis of what we're seeing at the moment, that would certainly be another 28 days before we could officially close it," McElnay said.
McElnay reminded school holidaymakers of the importance of remaining vigilant to stop the virus spreading. Anyone who becomes ill on holiday should contact Healthline or their GP.
"If you're told to get a test, do not wait until you get home to get tested."
People should also sign in to places using the Covid Tracer app or by keeping a record of where they have been.
"This is especially important when on holiday because you may not remember all the locations you've visited," McElnay said.
Good hygiene practices should be maintained, including washing and drying your hands, or using hand sanitiser if you're unable to wash your hands.
There are now 2,287,700 users registered on NZ Covid Tracer app.
The app has recorded a total of over 80 million poster scans, and users have created 3,475,327 manual diary entries.
Today's press conference is the first since September 22, when Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield fronted.
Yesterday, it was revealed there was one new case of Covid-19 in managed isolation in New Zealand. There were no new cases in the community.
The case arrived in the country from France via Singapore on September 25, the Ministry said in a statement.
One person with the virus was in isolation on a general ward at Middlemore Hospital.
Earlier this week, the Ministry said public health services were continuing to contact trace, test, and isolate close contacts of three community cases reported on September 23.
There were a total of 44 close contacts associated with those cases, all of whom are self-isolating. All but one returned negative test results, with one result pending on Tuesday.
The trio is a family group linked to the September 11 chartered flight from Christchurch to Auckland for people leaving a managed isolation facility having completed their 14 day-stay.
Also on the flight was the man who tested positive for Covid-19 at the weekend whose virus is thought to have had a rare three-week incubation period.
Yesterday's new virus case had been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility. There were 17 people total isolating at the facility from the community, including nine who have tested positive for the virus and their household contacts.
Since August 11, the contact tracing team had identified 4073 close contacts of cases, of which 4073 have been contacted and are self-isolating or have completed self-isolation, the ministry said.
"This number has dropped since yesterday due to records being identified as duplicates in the system.
"Twelve previously reported cases are now considered to have recovered, bringing our total number of active cases to 44.
"Of those, 30 are imported cases in MIQ facilities, and 14 are community cases."
New Zealand's last remaining cluster
Health and data researchers say we're looking good for a move down alert levels, but level 1 should come with strings attached.
In the past two weeks there have been eight community cases and none in any of the past four days.
Public health professor Nick Wilson said the drop in cases was a success story for health authorities and the New Zealand public.
"The situation is looking very good for Auckland. It's looking like there'll be downward adjustments to alert levels when they're next reviewed.
"We really are heading strongly back to the whole country being Covid-free."
The main Auckland cluster, with 179 cases, was easily the biggest the country's faced, almost twice as big as any other.
Why are QR scan counts plummeting?
The Government has put a dramatic drop-off in QR code scans down to an update to its NZ Covid Tracer app - but an expert suspects the bigger reason is complacency.
It comes as the Government has signalled that Bluetooth-enabled tracing tech could be rolled out as soon as November.
The August Auckland Covid-19 outbreak prompted a surge in people using the phone app to scan QR codes for contact tracing, rising from 30,659 to 1.1 million recorded scans within a week.
By the time the city moved out of lockdown, daily numbers had reached 1.7 million - and went on to hit a peak of 2.5 million on September 5.
But since then, numbers have been coming back down, falling to about two million on September 12, 1.5 million on September 20, 1.2 million on Saturday - and just over 975,000 on Monday.
Asked about the trend today, a Ministry of Health spokesperson cited an update to the app, rolled out on September 9, as a "significant factor" in the drop-off.
While the update made the app more user-friendly by removing the requirement to sign in before scanning, it also delayed the reporting of anonymised scan data to the ministry until users logged back into the app.
Dr Andrew Chen, a researcher at University of Auckland-based Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures, believed the key reason was fewer people were bothering to check in.
"While I agree that this technical issue would contribute to the decline in scan counts, I think that the majority of it would be explained by fewer people participating."