Experts have backed the Government's call to keep Auckland locked down for four extra days.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced that, on the advice of director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Cabinet had decided to extend Auckland's level 3 restrictions to midnight on Sunday. The rest of New Zealand remains at level 2.
Ardern also announced everyone will be required to wear masks on public transport for level 2 and above - and this would come into force on Monday.
While the Government had initially planned to run the restrictions until midnight on Wednesday, public health experts urged it to keep them in place for another week past that to further beat down Auckland's cluster.
At the same time, the business community has been crying for relief. Research released over the weekend revealed 89 per cent of businesses in Auckland are on the wage subsidy and an Auckland Business Chamber survey showed almost 20 per cent of businesses did not believe they would survive.
This afternoon, scientists welcomed the announcement.
Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker felt it ultimately signalled a move away from relying on lockdowns, and more on contact tracing, testing, and mask use.
"This is definitely a more nuanced approach," he told the Herald, adding that it could prove the path for New Zealand's future elimination strategy.
But he cautioned that case numbers would need to be closely watched in the short-term.
Baker, a long-time advocate for mask use, was also "delighted" at the Government's new orders around masks, saying that it could even lead to relaxed physical distancing measures on planes, trains and buses.
University of Auckland modeller and physicist and Te Pūnaha Matatini director Professor Shaun Hendy said he also supported the decision.
"Although the public health response has been very effective since the first case was detected, there is still the need for population-wide measures to manage the risk around the edges of this current cluster," he said.
"We need more time to be sure that we have stamped out any further chains of transmission that might still be active, despite the best efforts of our contact tracers."
Hendy said Covid-19 was an elusive disease that was very hard to manage, as had been seen through some of the infections that occurred before Auckland went to level 3.
"Even something as straightforward as sharing a bus ride or an elevator is a risk," he said.
"Our modelling suggests that we need more time in alert level 3 in Auckland before we can be confident the spread is under control."
Hendy saw this outbreak as different in several ways to the one New Zealand experienced in March and April.
"The virus is thought to spread more effectively in winter conditions. It has also affected Auckland's Pasific population, who are likely more vulnerable to the disease.
"On the other hand, contact tracing has so far proved very effective and testing rates last week were phenomenal. There is much more judgment involved this time in making the call to move between alert levels.
"This judgment will need to be exercised again later in the week as our understanding of this cluster grows."
University of Auckland infectious disease expert Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles saw the call as a pragmatic one.
"The last thing we want is to miss some cases that then turn into further community transmission," she said.
"Keeping the rest of the country at Alert Level 2 is an important trade-off that will allow Aucklander's to travel around the country while still helping to slow down any transmission of the virus should someone who is infectious leave Auckland.
"This is our first resurgence so I am pleased to see the Government modify its response as needed while sticking to the elimination strategy."
University of Canterbury mathematician and modeller Professor Michael Plank said there were signs the virus' reproductive number - or how many other people could be infected from one case - was less than one at level 3, meaning cases were decreasing.
"But there are almost certainly still active, unidentified cases in the community with the potential to spark new outbreaks if we relax too soon," he said.
"This has proved to be a large and complex cluster with transmission in a range of settings including multiple workplaces, families, shops, public transport and churches
"We are still finding new cases every day, including some with no obvious link to the cluster."
Plank said the cases that had been seen as a result of contacts between strangers on bus journeys were an example of how quickly this outbreak could spread.
"Although contact tracers are trying to track down people who were on these buses, they may not be able to find every one, so there is a risk some will slip through the net."
Provided the recent trend of cases continued, he said, the extra four days at level 3 would provide a better chance of containing the cluster.
"We should also remember there is still a risk of the outbreak spreading outside Auckland," he said.
"And this risk will rise with increased travel between regions. So it's absolutely essential the rest of New Zealand stays at alert level 2 for the next couple of weeks and sticks to the level 2 rules."
Victoria University clinical psychologist Dr Dougal Sutherland acknowledged the extension would be disheartening for many.
"Whereas the first lockdown was accompanied by an increase in anxiety for some, the recent return to level 3 seemed to bring with it a collective downturn in mood," he said.
"'Oh no, I thought we had beaten this' was a common refrain. The Prime Minister acknowledged this in her press conference, saying that she knows some people found it harder this time around. The Government announcement today could further erode our collective sense of hope."
But he added the country was now at a turning point to how Kiwis viewed things as a nation.
"Perhaps the best thing we can do is to mentally prepare for the future, whether that be with or without lockdown, is to begin learning how to think optimistically, albeit in a realistic way."
Hendy urged people to keep taking Covid-19 seriously.
"Remember, if you feel ill, don't go to work, and if you have any of the symptoms of Covid-19, seek a test," he said.
"If you can, make sure you wear a mask when on public transport, as will be compulsory from this coming Monday, and consider doing so in any other situation where you are indoors in close contact with other people for an extended period.
"Download the app, enter your contact details, and make sure you scan those barcodes. If you don't want to use the app, keep a diary of where you have been and how you travelled there."