Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her top Covid-19 Minister, Chris Hipkins, are pushing back on claims the vaccine rollout has been delayed.
This comes after the Ministry of Health quietly updated its vaccination timeline and has been accused of pushing back the start date for group four – the majority of New Zealand.
That rollout will now begin at the end of July; previously, the official advice was that the group four rollout would begin "from July".
National Party Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop said this was clearly a delay and the Government tried to hide it.
"If there are going to be delays, the Government should tell us. Right now it looks more like a surreptitious attempt to hide the fact our vaccination rollout is slow."
But, speaking to media this afternoon, Hipkins would not admit that this was a delay.
"July is July - so it will still be from July," he said.
But he said that the vaccine rollout might need to "slow down a bit in July" if the supply of vaccines begins to run low.
The Government is waiting on the next shipment of Pfizer vaccines, which is still expected in July.
Speaking to reporters this morning, Ardern denied there was any delay in the vaccination rollout.
"Not at all," she said when questioned on the Ministry's change.
"We have always said the end point for us is the end of the year, that's our goal to have as many people vaccinated as possible by the end of the year.
"We have been very open about, with the vaccine rollout, we will be rolling out in line with the supply we have."
She said New Zealand was not receiving all of its vaccine doses at once – "we have to make sure we're matching demand … with the supply that we have at any given time".
Meanwhile, Kiwi health officials will decide tomorrow whether the suspension of the Victoria transtasman bubble should be extended as Melbourne battles an increasing outbreak.
There are no new Covid cases to report in New Zealand today.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield hosted an update today amid news the Victoria outbreak has swelled to 15 cases in the community.
Kiwi health officials continued to keep a "close eye" on the situation in Melbourne, Bloomfield said.
Pausing the bubble was an "appropriate and proportionate" response given the evolving situation in Victoria.
Bloomfield said the pause would be evaluated after 48 hours from when the pause began at 7.59pm yesterday.
That means they will provide an update on if the bubble suspension pause needs to be extended tomorrow.
He noted that there was the possibility that there is still undetected community transmission in Victoria.
Two people had contacted the Ministry of Health to say they had been in one of the locations of interest in Melbourne - both travellers had returned negative tests, Bloomfield said.
There were no new Covid cases to report in managed isolation or the community today.
New Zealand's "number one task" was to keep Covid-19 out of the country, Bloomfield said.
He noted that Taiwan, which initially had a very good response to the pandemic, was now experiencing its own outbreak.
Bloomfield reminded people to keep using the Covid Tracer app.
"Please do make a habit of using the app."
He also encouraged everyone to get vaccinated, when they were able to.
195,000 Kiwis fully vaccinated
Hipkins said there have been 562,149 Covid vaccines administered in New Zealand so far - 85,000 more than this time last week.
A total of 195,000 people have now been fully vaccinated with both doses.
Hipkins said the Government was 8 per cent ahead of the rollout schedule.
All district health boards were now vaccinating Group 3 people (there are 1 million people in this group).
But DHBs did need more vaccines to continue - "not everyone in Group 3 can expect to get a vaccine immediately".
Hipkins said he had "always envisaged" there being overlaps with vaccination groups.
But "we simply won't have enough vaccines" by the end of June to do all of Group 3.
Some of these people would likely have to be waiting a little longer to get their vaccine.
"July is July - so it will still be from July," Hipkins said when challenged on if there was a delay in the vaccine rollout.
From early June Pfizer would provide a supply update for what was happening after July.
"We might need to slow down a bit in July," he said on the vaccine rollout.
The delivery schedule had not 100 per cent been confirmed with Pfizer yet.
But he said the Government was endeavouring to start vaccinating Group 4 people in July.
Hipkins said he, and every government, has been "leaning" on Pfizer.
Saliva tests for frontline workers
Meanwhile, the use of saliva testing will be expanded for workers at the front line of the Covid response. That means 1400 border workers will be tested this way.
This will mean frontline workers won't have to have nasal swabs as much - Hipkins said some frontline workers have had more than 100 nasal swabs so far.
It means workers who need to be tested once a week can move towards saliva testing and they don't have to have the nasal swab as much.
Asia Pacific Healthcare Group has won the tender to roll out the saliva testing in New Zealand.
Victoria authorities 'very concerned' as outbreak grows
Victoria's Acting Premier James Merlino told media today it had been 36 hours since the first of the now 15 cases was identified.
"These cases are linked and that's a good thing."
However, authorities were "very concerned" by the number of cases and exposure sites.
"I cannot rule out taking some further action," Merlino said.
"We'll update people as soon as we know. It's fair to say the next 24 hours are going to be particularly crucial."
Hipkins announced on Tuesday that quarantine-free travel with the Australian state would be suspended from 7.59pm (NZ time) for 72 hours while the source of infection was investigated.
"While the [new Melbourne community] case announced today is not unexpected as a contact of a case announced yesterday, New Zealand officials have assessed that the most cautious option is to pause the travel bubble with Victoria as there are still several unknowns with the outbreak," Hipkins said.
Anyone in New Zealand who had been at a location of interest in Melbourne at the specified time should contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 as soon as possible for advice on isolating and testing, Hipkins said.
Anyone who had visited Melbourne since May 11 should monitor for symptoms and seek advice from Healthline if any symptoms developed, Hipkins said.
A Section 70 notice had been issued under the Health Act with a number of requirements for any person who attended a location of interest.
Hipkins and Bloomfield will also today be revealing the latest vaccine rollout figures.
As of last Thursday, 505,820 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine had been administered, three months after the first person was vaccinated.
Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, three weeks apart, are required for protection from the virus, which has killed 3.4 million people - including 26 New Zealanders - since the pandemic began 18 months ago.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Health research on vaccine potential uptake showed the number of people who said they were unlikely to get vaccinated had fallen to 12 per cent, down from 20 per cent in March and 24 per cent in December.
Today's update comes after two new Covid cases were reported on Tuesday in managed isolation.
They were both travellers from Japan, the ministry said.
The total number of active cases as of Tuesday in New Zealand today was 22.