An unvaccinated Devonport tradesman, an Auckland City Hospital nurse, a teacher at a west Auckland school and other household contacts are among five positive cases of the highly infectious Delta variant confirmed in our biggest city.
Contact tracers and ESR experts are racing to confirm the extent of community transmission after the community cases were identified yesterday, plunging the country into lockdown.
The father of two daughters who are part of the latest Covid outbreak says he fears a sharp increase in cases, saying his daughters attended church and a nightclub over the weekend.
Auckland City Hospital has taken immediate action to shut down any potential spread after a fully vaccinated nurse was infected who had been working on a ward in recent days.
A source close to the fiancé of the infected Auckland City Hospital nurse said the man was, as of 11.25am, still waiting to be tested at his home.
"His fiancé has gone to Jet Park.
"He's sitting at home. They [medical authorities] said they'd be there in the morning [to test him] ... at 11.25 [he told me] he's still not tested. He'd just got off the phone with the contact tracers."
Long queues of cars have inundated testing stations this morning and supermarkets have reported panic buying as people stock up on essential supplies.
The Northcote testing site has lengthy queues. Many people in line arrived before the centre was open and waited around three hours.
Staff at the Northcote testing centre say there have been no security concerns.
Some staff are passing water bottles to those waiting in the centre's carpark. The demand for testing in Northcote is growing with more than 170 cars lined up to be tested at the College Rd site.
Sangita Singh, 40, is a nurse at Auckland City Hospital who works on the same ward as the hospital staff member who tested positive for the virus.
She had been waiting in line for almost two and a half hours when she spoke to the Herald.
Singh said she and her colleagues were told by hospital management to get tested.
"I think we are all a bit panicky," she said.
"I'm scared for my family and those who I've contacted [recently]."
She said workmates were in various places in line. Some hadn't had breakfast, she said, while others needed to use the bathroom.
Staff at the testing centre in Devonport are passing cookies and water to people waiting in their cars. It appears demand to get tested there is slowly easing, with wait times maxing out around 2 hours.
Newstalk ZB's Emme McKay has been waiting at the Balmoral testing centre and says the wait was so long she's been turned away.
She says there are about 200 cars waiting, and was turned away by staff who said there was a five-hour wait.
A long line of cars is stretching several kilometres along Orchard Road in Christchurch as hundreds wait for a Covid test. Vehicles are crawling along at a snail's pace- with some cars turning back. The waiting time for a test could be up to several hours.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER BLOG
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed today that five community cases of Covid have now been identified - all the highly infectious Delta strain - with no obvious link to the border or MIQ.
The first, a 58-year-old Devonport man was confirmed yesterday, sending the country into a snap alert level 4 lockdown.
Ardern said the man was a "tradesperson" and, as well as 15 locations of interest already announced, seven other locations he has visited were private homes.
A co-worker of the man has since tested positive along with three close contacts of the co-worker.
One is the Auckland Hospital nurse, which has sparked emergency measures at Auckland District Health Board to contain any potential hospital outbreak to protect staff and patients.
An email sent to staff says the DHB is concerned about a "hospital outbreak" and it is taking "a number of precautions".
Detailed contact tracing was under way and anyone who had been on Ward 65 in the past five days was asked to get a Covid test.
"Auckland City Hospital has taken immediate actions to shut down any potential spread," the Ministry of Health said.
"Those actions include stopping unnecessary movements between wards, testing all staff and patients on the ward the health professional worked on and standing down, testing and isolating staff on the same ward."
New Zealand Nurses Organisation co-president Kerri Nuku said she was concerned about the welfare of nurses working on the frontline, particularly those in Auckland and Coromandel.
Nurses had been preparing for a nationwide strike but were now trying to safeguard their families and care for the sick.
She had only limited information about the fully vaccinated nurse who had tested positive after working in recent days on a ward at Auckland City Hospital, and did not know how the nurse contracted the virus.
"Our nurses are reaching out to provide support.
"We are asking the DHBs to ensure nurses have adequate PPE and that our DHB processes are sound to ensure are members are kept safe."
Nuku said the organisation had received reports that some DHBs did not have proper processes in place regarding "fit testing" of N95 masks.
"We've heard that some DHBs are not bothering with the fit testing. At a number throughout the country, it's not considered to be a priority."
The alert level 4 lockdown was hugely traumatic and news a nurse had been infected added to that concern, Nuku said.
Suggestions that the nurse had not being showing symptoms showed how dangerous this virus was.
"You just don't know who you're working alongside or who you're standing behind at the checkout - that shows how absolutely deadly it can be."
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said contact tracers were working at speed to identify the chain of transmission, where the virus came from and where it had spread to.
"The faster we do that the faster we get out of it.
"We know it's the delta variant we're dealing with. We don't yet know where the linkage may be."
Experts were now going through New Zealand and Australian genome sequencing databases in a bid to identify where the infection had originated.
Fifteen separate locations of interest had so far been confirmed after the original case travelled to Coromandel last weekend while infectious.
The locations of interest would be updated throughout the morning, and were expected to grow "quite a bit".
Ardern and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will provide further information at today's 1pm media conference, including latest testing results and any further cases.
On the prospect of mandatory mask use and scanning, Hipkins said there will be places people have to scan in, "and there will be wider use of masks at alert level 2 and above".
Details would be released later today.
"My guidance to people this morning is if you're leaving home and you're going to be anywhere where there's other people, wear a mask."
"If you're going to the supermarket wear a mask. If you're going to the supermarket to fill up your car, wear a mask."
Devonport Business Association spokeswoman Shaulyn Van Baaren said news of the positive cases and subsequent lockdown was a "devastating blow" to local and nationwide businesses, "many of whom are still feeling the massive impact of last year's lockdowns".
"Retailers are unable to trade. Those with e-commerce sites are unable to ship to customers, nor can them guarantee willing supporters when that might change. Hospitality businesses would have had thousands of dollars in perishable foods onsite, and just six hours to make arrangements for that food.
"We encourage our businesses to comply with government regulations and they are all really good about doing so. Devonport business owners and staff know that they are part of the team of five million. This is their community; this has literally hit home and our businesses will do their part to keep our community safe. And when we are again safe, they will need their community to once again support them."
Auckland and Coromandel are expected to be at alert level 4 for at least seven days, while the rest of the country will be locked down for at least three days.
Hipkins said extra testing facilities would be popping up all over the country. There were also plans for "surge testing".
"The more tests we can do, particularly people who are showing any symptoms at all, the quicker we will be able to get on top of this."
Hipkins said he understood the fully vaccinated Auckland Hospital nurse had not been showing any symptoms.
"It is possible we're going to pick up cases of people who don't show symptoms."
Using the Covid Tracer app and getting a test if you felt unwell would help "run down this virus" and prevent it spreading in the community.
Work was also under way on the vaccine rollout to make it safe under alert level 4.
The Government was looking at drive through vaccination centres "where you can go and park up in a car park, someone will give you your vaccine, you wait for 20 minutes in your own car and then once you've been given the all clear you drive home again."
Hipkins said such clinics could be set up within the next 24-48 hours.
Meanwhile, there have been reports of Aucklanders fleeing the city last night after the lockdown was announced.
Concerned residents blocked State Highway 25 at Manaia, on the Coromandel Peninsula late last night after news that the infected Devonport man and his wife had travelled to Coromandel town on Friday.
Locals were asking anyone using the road for their essential workers certificate or proof of residence to get through, sparking tense scenes.
A resident posted on a Facebook page that traffic flow towards Manaia "has slowed right down".
"Manaia bridge is still closed and will be for as long as it takes to secure our community's health," the resident wrote this morning.
One of the Auckland locations of interest identified by health authorities is opening its doors today.
The Devonport pharmacy is open and staff are serving people. A staff member told the Herald they were too busy to comment.
There was no signs that the pharmacy was a location of interest.
The pharmacy told customers on a Facebook post this morning that it would be opening according to alert level 4 guidelines.
The post said four of the pharmacy's staff members are in isolation for 14 days after the infected Devonport man visited the chemist on Monday afternoon.
"We appreciate your help, patience and understanding during short-staffed two weeks period.
"Please stay home if feeling unwell and call / email us instead."
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking there was no known link with the Covid-positive UN worker who was recently flown to New Zealand from Fiji in a medevac transfer.
Robertson said the vaccination programme was on a "brief pause" while the Government handled the immediate impact of the new cases. Arden said vaccine centres should reopen in less than 48 hours.
Robertson said the cost of a week-long lockdown was up to $1.5 billion. "Overall this is still the best economic response."
The Reserve Bank's OCR announcement would still go ahead today.
Ardern told TVNZ all wastewater tests were clear except for the closest one to the Jet Park MIQ facility in Auckland. More wastewater testing would be carried out in the Coromandel.
"My very simple message: please stay at home," the Prime Minister appealed to the nation this morning. "Stick to your bubble, stay home."
Ardern said the Government's hope was a high number of people being vaccinated, along with other public health measures such as contact tracing, would reduce the number of lockdowns going forward.
She was confident New Zealand could beat Covid again by using the same tools it had used before, as long as everyone adhered to the rules. Her final message: "Stay safe everyone."
Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie, meanwhile, appears to have changed her tune when it comes to using the Covid-tracer app.
It comes after she told RNZ she wouldn't normally scan in when visiting locations, and the new case would probably not push her to scan more either.
Goudie now says she was being honest about her complacency with using the app, but says there's no question it's absolutely important to use the app.
She says this is a difficult time for everybody.
At noon, a protest against the lockdown was under way in Victoria St, Auckland.