* Covid-infected wait 24 hours to enter Auckland's Jet Park as case numbers grow
* Locations of interest: More supermarkets, two Farmers stores, another uni campus
* Isolating families struggle to access food
* Vaccine mistake: Five people may have been given saline instead, investigation under way
Today's Covid-19 case numbers are the highest since the Delta outbreak began and health officials won't have a clear picture until tomorrow on the spread of cases during lockdown.
The 62 new cases announced by director general of health Ashley Bloomfield have brought the total in the outbreak to 210. Six sub-clusters have emerged.
More than 100 cases are associated with the Samoan Assembly of God church in Māngere, which is the biggest sub-cluster.
Bloomfield today took aim at the racist remarks made to some in the Samoan community, calling them "disappointing and gutless".
The second biggest is the Birkdale flat on Auckland's North Shore, which is linked to some of the earliest cases in the outbreak.
And 14 cases are associated with a Massey household, but the rest of the sub-clusters were fewer than 10 people so Bloomfield would not reveal what they were.
Bloomfield also revealed a positive case in Warkworth, north of Auckland. Wastewater testing had found traces of Covid-19 and the case explained those results, he said.
The number of contacts of Covid-19 had also increased again to 20,383 as of this morning.
About 12,700 of them had been contacted - and 62 per cent had returned a test result.
New Zealand's elimination strategy has copped criticism in the past 24 hours from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who called the efforts "absurd".
Asked if the strategy was a viable, long-term option, Covid-19 Response Minister Hipkins said they were looking ahead and things would change as vaccination rates rose.
"New Zealanders at home who are saying 'is this the right strategy' - it's too early to throw in the towel now. But you will see changes in the medium term, we do want to see a time when lockdowns are not the answer to cases in the community. But we are not there yet."
He said mask use would continue to be a feature as alert levels dropped, as would scanning into venues.
Of today's case numbers, Bloomfield said it was "steady but not exponential growth".
Hipkins said they were seeing cases who were not close contacts of existing cases but had been at locations of interest. However, they pre-dated lockdown.
Bloomfield said the picture would be much clearer by tomorrow whether people had been infected in the community since the lockdown began. That would be an important fact for the Cabinet decision on lockdown.
He said New Zealand had never had a split of Level 4 and Level 3 in different regions, so planning was going on for how that would work.
He said the determination was not just whether there were cases in different regions, but whether there was a risk of that. That would depend on where contacts were, and how many had been tested. He would not say whether regions with no cases would only drop to level 3, or whether they could go to level 2.
Bloomfield said health workers were looking to see if cases were popping up that did not appear to be linked.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG
Bloomfield said the list of contacts was growing every day, but he was satisfied that very close contacts were being isolated and tested.
The delay in getting some of those tested was partly because of the decision to wait until day 5 for testing among those who were asymptomatic.
On the number of cases and locations of interest, Bloomfield said the key thing was that from the start a very broad approach was taken to including people who would have previously been considered "casual" contacts.
That was because of Delta, but it meant a lot more work in following up to make sure people were isolating.
There are 22 community testing centres in Auckland - four are reserved for the high-risk testing from the clusters.
"Wherever you get a test, it is free."
Asked why saliva testing was not being used, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there had been delays with the nasal swab testing but the backlog had since been cleared.
"The processing of a saliva swab versus a nasal swab is as long, if not longer than a nasal swab."
Bloomfield said his team was in touch with providers of saliva testing and he had asked them to push that work forward in case it was needed.
He said it could be rolled out further than the borders, including for health workers.
Results should now be in within 24 hours and the urgent cases were fast-tracked.
He said saliva testing was available for border workers, and about 400 workers had signed up for that.
He did not address the question on why it was not being used in the outbreak.
Asked if the elimination strategy was a viable, long-term option, Hipkins said they were looking ahead and things would change as vaccination rates rose.
"New Zealanders at home who are saying 'is this the right strategy,' it's too early to throw in the towel now. .. But you will see changes in the medium term, we do want to see a time when lockdowns are not the answer to cases in the community. But we are not there yet."
He said mask use would continue to be a feature as alert levels dropped, as would scanning into venues.
Crowne Plaza investigation
On the Crowne Plaza and the public walkways nearby, Hipkins said there had been a thorough investigation of anyone who was in the vicinity at the times of potential exposure.
He said a gap in the perspex between the atrium and the Crowne Plaza lobby was being closed before it was opened for MIQ again, and checks were made to ensure that the air conditioning units did not cross over. It had not been raised as a concern by infection control and there was still no evidence that the virus had transmitted that way.
Bloomfield was not sure if there was any evidence of people being nearby when others in rooms adjacent to the NSW positive case were exercising in the exercise area.
Delays getting cases into Jet Park
There have been delays in getting Covid-19 cases into the Jet Park quarantine facility.
Hipkins said there was still capacity at Jet Park, and expected it was a public health consideration rather than space for the delays in people being admitted.
On delays in getting people into Jet Park, Bloomfield said part of the issue was safe transportation.
Jabs to essential workers
Hipkins says 80,000 people got a vaccine yesterday - the biggest day yet. There were also record numbers of tests.
Hipkins reminded people that over-30s could now book vaccines from today.
"Nobody wants to be in lockdown and the best way to return to enjoying the freedoms we have had is very high vaccinations."
Hipkins said more than 6500 essential workers such as supermarket workers had been vaccinated over the past week.
The deadline for all border workers to get vaccinated was tomorrow and that would be checked.
The wider border workers - including ports - have a further month.
More than 1 million doses had been given out in Auckland generally - a third of all doses.
Hipkins disputed suggestions that Pacific health providers had not been going into churches to vaccinate people, saying he had been told they had been doing that.
He said once gatherings were able to begin again, after lockdowns, that would escalate.
1 MIQ case today
There is one new case in MIQ today.
In MIQ, officials are introducing a Day 6 test for those where there is a positive case on their floor.
On quarantine, he said an extra facility with 100 beds was being prepared for the next day or so. If that filled up, another facility could be stood up - however, that had to be balanced with the need to keep room for returning travellers.
Hipkins said that was why the MIQ bookings had been suspended.
"The quarantine part requires a more intensive level of staffing than in MIQ."
He said the changes included increasing staff.
Investigation into saline vaccines
On the issue of whether people got saline vaccines at Highbrook vaccination centre, Bloomfield said it was on July 12.
A left-over vial indicated some people might not have received a vaccine that day.
He said immediate changes were made to ensure more regular checking of the vials, rather than leaving it to the end of the day, Labels were now also being out on syringes once they were drawn up.
Bloomfield said in mid-July there was no discussion around booster shots and Pfizer was a two-shot regime. He said they were now looking at whether to offer the 732 people at the centre that day a third dose, in case a small number had missed out on one dose.
Letters would be sent to those people tomorrow, and decisions would be made on the third dose based on scientific advice.
Bloomfield said there had been a range of views on what to do about those vaccinations. Asked why they had not gone public with it earlier, Bloomfield said those issues were being canvassed.
He said it was always the intention to contact the 700-odd people who were vaccinated on that day.
Hipkins said more primary care facilities were being brought into the vaccinations programme and about 650 vaccination places would be available.
On education in lockdown, Hipkins said learning from home was hard for parents, students and teachers. Extra support was being put in for teachers.
Further funding had been given to the Ministry of Education to ensure schools could support learning from home, including learning packs and about 7000 devices, which would go out in the next few weeks.
The television channels for education had also started again today.
Hipkins was also looking at support for tertiary students, as happened last year. He said he was not ruling out further assistance.
That could include hardship funds.
On Parliament, Hipkins said select committees were under way all week for ministers to answer questions on the response. "We are mindful of the need for that scrutiny and for Parliament to be able to come together as soon as possible."
He said they were exploring a way for Parliament to meet virtually, as had happened in other countries. He was hoping for a consensus on that from other parties.
Hipkins - referring to his recent faux pas about telling Kiwis to socially distance when they go outside to "spread their legs" - said, "my message is, if you had a good laugh at my expense, go get a vaccine".
Experts are expecting cases to continue to rise, with modelling now suggesting they could hit 1000.
In developments today, although compliance with lockdown rules has been deemed high, police have put roadblocks between Auckland and Northland to try to stop people travelling between the regions without a valid reason.
The outbreak has also put the contact tracing, testing and quarantine system under pressure: some positive cases were now having to wait at home and had been told the Jet Park quarantine facility was full and alternative quarters were being prepared.
Testing samples were also sometimes taking days to be tested – Bloomfield has said they are only fast-tracking the samples of those considered to be at most risk because they were household or work contacts of a case, or in locations that were very high risk.
Public health director Caroline McElnay told a select committee yesterday that 11 per cent of the closest contacts had tested positive so far, and about half were yet to get results back.
There were a further 14,967 close contacts - 56 per cent had returned test results, and 0.2 per cent were positive.
Of about 405 casual plus contacts, half had been tested with no positive results so far.
As of yesterday there were 148 cases – most were in Auckland but 11 were in Wellington.
Bloomfield also revealed the two largest clusters yesterday - including about 58 cases linked to a Samoan Assembly Of God Church service and 23 associated to a Birkdale flat, which included a workmate of the Devonport tradie who first tested positive.
Bloomfield said there were about six potential clusters all together, but has not revealed the other four. It is known that at least nine students at AUT have now tested positive.
Act leader David Seymour has called for the Government to be more transparent with the figures, including releasing daily the number of close contacts traced and tested, and how many were still outstanding. He said that information had only been presented after questions in a select committee and should be released daily.
After the press conference, Hipkins will again appear before MPs on the health select committee again along with border officials.
The select committees are replacing Parliament, which was suspended for this week, and a string of ministers are lined up to speak on the Covid-19 response.