* Countdown staff bear brunt of customer annoyance at meat shortages
* Derek Cheng: Ongoing lockdown for Auckland, but for how long? And what's the Plan B?
* Watch: Chris Hipkins' amusing raunchy slip up at Covid press conference
* Jamie Morton: How did Delta get into NZ?
* Opinion: Testing chaos a consequence of Government caution
Case numbers could rise for another five days, says Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall - and numbers today could be the highest we have seen so far.
Meanwhile, new locations of interest have been added by the Ministry of Health, bringing the total to 302.
New locations of interest include:
• KFC Glenfield
• KFC Māngere
• Westside Fitness Henderson
• Food Village Manurewa
• Pak n Save Clendon
• Countdown Takanini
• Countdown Manurewa
Those who were at the Jets Gym in Ōtāhuhu between 12pm and 3pm on Monday, August 16, are told to isolate immediately.
A positive case was at KFC Māngere for an hour on Sunday, August 15, from 2.15pm to 3.15pm.
Those who were at KFC Glenfield, on the North Shore, are affected if they were there on Saturday August 14 between 10.40am and 6.30pm. Two other KFC restaurants (in Auckland's Botany Downs and Takapuna) were earlier listed as locations of interest by health officials.
Westside Fitness in Henderson, West Auckland, had a positive case there on Wednesday, August 11, for two hours between 5.30pm and 7.30pm.
Shoppers at Countdown Takanini are also advised to get tested after a positive case was there for 10 minutes last Monday, August 16, between 10am and 10.10am.
The same advice is given to anyone to was at the Food Village in Manurewa, on Browns Road, on Thursday, August 12, from 10am to 10.15am.
The same advice is given to anyone to was at the Food Village in Manurewa, on Browns Road, on Thursday, August 12, from 10am to 10.15am.
The last two locations of interest added this morning are Countdown Manurewa - where a person visited on Monday, August 16, between 12pm and 12.30pm - and Pak'nSave Clendon on Tuesday, August 17, between 9am and 11am.
Testing turnout slows
The demand for testing in Auckland is clearly moving south with queues at testing centres on the North Shore at record lows.
The Albany centre at North Harbour stadium - where a woman last week waited 11 hours only to be turned away - is very quiet with waits expected to be under two hours.
The same goes for the Wairau Valley centre, which has contained the queue for testing inside the Eventfinda Stadium car park.
Queues at the traditionally busy Northcote testing centre have dropped dramatically this morning.
Fewer than 80 cars are in line on College Rd. Last week, queues of more than 250 cars stretching two kilometres caused waits of more than 10 hours.
There were about 140 cars queuing for the Henderson testing centre as at 8am - much less than what was witnessed last week for this time of day.
Some Auckland testing centres have scaled back their hours - saying they will not be open past 5pm.
Lockdown decision looms
Hopes that some of New Zealand might be able to move out of a full lockdown early seem to be up in the air with Verrall saying "tens of thousands" of Aucklanders left the region when the lockdown was announced, and that's a risk.
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"I think [falling case numbers] could still be a wee way away - it could be another five days before we see the impact of the transmission that was happening in the community prior to lockdown pass through," Verrall told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking.
Verrall said it was possible we could see a higher number of cases today than we had in previous days.
Asked whether Auckland was in for another four weeks in lockdown, Verrall said she didn't have a view on today's Cabinet decision but there were still areas of ongoing risk around the country, particularly Auckland.
Verrall said officials did not know where every exposed person went in New Zealand when the lockdown was announced and that was the risk when changing alert levels by region.
She acknowledged that "tens of thousands" of people had left Auckland. "That's the level of risk we're dealing with there."
Asked who would look after borders when and if alert levels changed by region, Verrall said there was a lot of work going on. Police would look after roads while MBIE would do businesses affected by road blocks.
Cabinet will meet today to decide on whether to extend the nationwide alert level 4 lockdown beyond midnight on Tuesday, which most observers think is inevitable. The decision will be announced by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at 4pm.
There are 72 Covid community cases - 66 in Auckland and six in Wellington - and five people are in hospital, but are not requiring intensive-care treatment. A queue of cars is already lining up at the Henderson testing station this morning, following tens of thousands of tests at the weekend.
"In terms of the decision, we get a lot of the informtion in the hours before the decision is made but one thing to be aware of, we are only in day six of this lockdown," said Verrall.
She told TVNZ contact tracers had managed to find 10,000 close contacts connected to the almost 300 locations of interest.
She said it was "massive" that 5 per cent of the Auckland population had been tested. When demand was high for testing, people who were at highest risk were prioritised. She said sometimes there was a delay in letting people know if their tests were negative.
Verrall told The AM Show: "We are in a situation where we need to be very cautious and we are making sure we are adjusting the response as we go to deal with these pressures."
Verrall said she did not think an outbreak could be turned around with contact tracing alone when the government was dealing with Delta. She believed lockdown was also needed to get on top of it.
Verrall told Hosking that the country could do up 60,000 vaccine jabs a day.
The government planned to offer everyone a vaccine by the end of the year. "My message to New Zealanders is almost everyone is eligible to book if not right right now, but in the coming days so just get online and book," she told The AM Show.
Expert warns of messy, frustrated lockdown exit
An adviser to the Government on Covid-19 is warning Kiwis to prepare for a "messy and frustrated" exit from lockdown to a life that may not be as free as the last 18 months.
Wigram Capital Advisors' Rodney Jones, who has been advising the Government on Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, warned that the highly transmissible Delta variant would make for a difficult exit from lockdown.
He said New Zealanders may need to prepare for life not going back to the way it was before the latest outbreak.
"We're not going back to what we had for the last 18 months," Jones said. "At what point do you say, 'You had a fantastic 18 months, but in some ways the future we face is not going to be as good as that'."
Jones said that in hindsight, the country should have been at a permanent state of level 2. "We should have been at level 2. Once we had a certain number of Delta cases at MIQ that's quite a different mindset you have to have," he said.
Jones said his pessimism was down to the extraordinary transmissibility of the Delta variant of the virus, which he thinks is no match for even New Zealand's relatively good MIQ system.
The pandemic had forced "tough choices" on New Zealand: to shut the border completely, (which is impossible and maybe illegal) manage a closed border using MIQ, or to use vaccinations to protect people.
Jones said managing a functioning MIQ system with Delta was going to be difficult, meaning "our only defence becomes vaccinations".
"You go from the public-national defence to the individual armour of the vaccine," Jones said.
Jones' comments come as the number of cases in the latest outbreak continued to rise over the weekend, although not at the same breakneck pace as the outbreak in New South Wales, which announced more than 800 new cases on Saturday and Sunday.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced 21 new cases of Covid-19 in the community on Sunday, bringing the number of cases likely connected to the latest outbreak to 72.
The number of locations of interest ballooned to almost 300, and included a large number of mass gatherings.
Hipkins said the decision would go down to the wire on Monday, with Cabinet waiting until it gets the latest case data before making a decision on alert levels.
"We will give people plenty of notice," Hipkins said. "There's still more information to gather."
The big question is how long places like Auckland and Wellington will need to stay in lockdown to stamp out the virus - and whether stamping out the Delta variant is even possible long-term.
Jones said New Zealand's response was "limping to year-end" at which point a decision would need to be made about how the Covid strategy would evolve. But the key would need to be high rates of vaccinations.
"The equilibrium in this pandemic will be found when the virus stops mutating so quickly and the vaccines have caught up with that," he said.
Jones said that the latest outbreak was tracking better than Victoria and New South Wales, meaning the country might avoid a prolonged lockdown.
Fellow modeller Shaun Hendy, whose team had also done modelling for the Covid response, was more optimistic.
Hendy said an extension of lockdown through to the end of the week is likely.
"Given the high number of exposure events I think there is still a chance it's got to parts of the country other than Wellington," Hendy said.
Only by the middle of next week can we start giving the all clear in other parts of the country.
Hendy said there is a "good chance" of getting ahead of the virus "assuming we don't see clusters outside Auckland and Wellington".
He was hopeful that once vaccinations had been widely rolled out to 70 per cent of the population, that level 3 and 4 lockdowns might be taken "off the table".
"We're still going to see things like masking, scanning a supercharged contact tracing system, maybe we can start taking those alert levels out of our levies - at least alert level 3 and 4," Hendy said.
Another decision the Government will have to make today is what to do with Parliament, which is due to return tomorrow.
That decision could be down to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern alone, who can request the Speaker delay the return of Parliament by a as long as a month, on the advice of Bloomfield.
Hipkins, who also serves as leader of the House, suggested that if the return of Parliamentary sitting was delayed, the Parliament's select committees would reconvene to provide scrutiny of the Government.
"We'll have conversations with the other political parties before we make that decision - part of those conversations will include how we ensure democratic scrutiny in the event Parliament cannot meet in person as it ordinarily would," Hipkins said.
"That will include considerations of select committee meetings, televising of select committee meetings and a whole variety of other things," he said.
Expert predicts around 20 cases per day
Canterbury University Covid-19 Modeller Michael Plank told RNZ today he expected to see 20 new cases per day. But there may be more given the large events that took place.
He said it would not be until the second half of this week before we started to see any sign that lockdown was having an impact on the spread.
It was "definitely good news" that there seemed to be one cluster only.
"We're not completely out of the woods yet in terms of another cluster being out there, people could still be in the incubation period," he said.
Delta had a "wide ranging" incubation period.
He said it was possible that people were not yet sick but were still infectious. He predicted that the L4 lockdown would last at least another week.
"I think it makes sense to go week by week at this stage, a lot can change in a week, and in a week's time we will start to see the impact of that lockdown," he said.
He said at some point regions outside Auckland could come down in levels but we needed to remain cautious given people could still be in the incubation period.
Jet-boaters face charges
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said charges are "very likely" for a group caught jetboating near Wanaka over the weekend.
He told RNZ it was "incredibly disappointing" to see the men from multiple bubbles breaching the rules of lockdown.
He expected an update later today with news of charges against the group.
Coster said most people were behaving.
"We're pretty happy at what we're seeing, by and large, at the moment," he said.
In terms of protests he said police had taken a "pretty firm approach" and people had "dispersed quickly".
Most people had acknowledged "now was not the time" to be out in force.
Coster said police were not against lawful protests but during Level 4 restrictions it was not appropriate.
He was concerned at what was happening in Australia with protests but did not believe New Zealand would see numbers of people breaching lockdown to gather at this stage.
Seven Countdown supermarkets closed
Seven Countdown stores in Auckland remain closed due to staff shortages after people were identified as close contacts and had to self isolate.
Countdown spokeswoman Kiri Hannifin told RNZ there were about 20 incidents a day where people refused to wear masks or showed violence or aggression towards staff.
She worked yesterday as a "greeter" at a store.
One person did not want to wear a mask but "by and large" they were compliant.
She said police would be called in any situation where someone threatened staff safety.
Hannafin said stocks were "holding up pretty well".
There were limits on items that "sell very well at times like this" but there was lots of stock. "The stores are looking good," she said.
Hannafin said the company's biggest fear was Covid hitting the distribution centres.
"We've been worried well before the current situation we're in," she said.
However there were very strict protocols in place at the centres.
Hannifin said front facing staff started to get vaccinated on Saturday. There was a dedicated site just for Countdown staff.
She went herself on Sunday and said it was "joyous" to see staff and their families getting vaccinated. "I am incredibly relieved... they deserve it, they are essential workers," she said. "I'm so happy."
Northland, Taranaki and Christchurch would all have similar opportunities. "It's awesome, so good," she said.
Hannifin reiterated that Kiwis should shop in store if they could - which would free up online services for those who really need it.
"Including 400 of our own staff who are home and can't leave," she said. It was possible some stores could be dedicated for online orders only.