There are five new confirmed Covid-19 cases today - all related to the community cluster in Auckland.
Four are in Auckland and the other one is related to the Tokoroa case, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said in today's update.
The cluster now has 78 people linked to it, making it the country's third biggest to date, after the Bluff wedding which had 98, and Marist College which had 96.
There are six people in hospital, including one person in intensive care in a stable condition.
There is another case under investigation which was originally classed as being connected to the Auckland cluster. They visited St Lukes Mall on Wednesday, August 12, which has been shut since alert level 3 came back into place.
Rydges case - lift contamination possible source
The maintenance worker from Rydges Hotel who tested positive but who is not related to the broader Auckland cluster used the same lift shortly after a Covid-positive woman from the United States, Bloomfield said.
It was a matter of minutes between the maintenance worker and the Covid-positive woman being in the lift and was a "strong line" of investigation.
Bloomfield said it could be that the maintenance worker was infected by touching the same button as the Covid-positive returnee. While there is usually low risk of contamination from touching an infected surface, the pair's close proximity meant there was a good chance that could be how the infection occurred, he clarified later in the update.
The two nurses who went into the woman's room have both now returned negative test results.
A small number of household and workplace contacts had been identified for the other Auckland case under investigation and would also go through a second and third interview as more information is gleaned each time Bloomfield said.
Americold outbreak probably person-to-person contact
"Very low" levels of the virus were found on swabs from one of the Americold cool storage facilities at the centre of the cluster, but they were too low for transmission, so surface infection has now been ruled out.
As such, officials have ruled out the first infection of the Auckland cluster came from refrigerated items in the Americold store.
Bloomfield said it "probably always was" from person-to-person contact but officials couldn't identify how the first person became infected.
"We haven't got any hints yet about what came before that."
Bloomfield said while they hadn't found the source of the Auckland cluster, they were narrowing it down through a process of elimination.
"We'll aim to find the main source."
Health Minister Chris Hipkins, who was also at today's update, said the reaction to any further outbreaks would depend on the circumstances. For example the rogue Rydges case wouldn't require a full lockdown.
The human cost of other strategies was "very, very high".
Bloomfield said people wanting tests who weren't symptomatic were putting additional unnecessary pressure on the testing regime.
Two thirds of the testing since the outbreak was focused in Auckland which Bloomfield said was good, but there were also good levels of testing in other parts of the country.
Anyone in the country without a visa should still get a test, Hipkins said. The information supplied from that procedure would not be used for immigration purposes.
Bloomfield said New Zealand had a very good supply of swabs and a good supply chain.
More than 150,000 tests have been processed since the start of the outbreak.
Bloomfield said there was an expectation bus drivers transporting MIQ guests should wear masks.
Next few days could be critical
Hipkins said he knew restrictions were "difficult and frustrating" but the next few days could be critical "to breaking the back of the latest resurgence" of the virus. He urged people to stay in their bubbles and keep following the rules.
He said 1.6 million people had now downloaded the Covid Tracer app.
There have been about 7800 requests for exemptions to get in or out of Auckland. More than 1000 have been granted and about 100 declined.
More than 18,000 tests were processed yesterday.
There had been 7649 workers at Auckland Airport and Ports of Auckland tested. Another 370 people considered higher risk because they are on the frontline had also all been tested, barring a "very small number".
Ninety-nine per cent of workers at MIQ facilities have now been tested - there are seven people left.
All have tested negative except for the "mystery Rydges case".
No sign of transmission outside border
Hipkins said this showed a strong indication there was no sign of transmission outside the border.
He acknowledged the Pasifika community as data showed they were being tested at a much higher rate than other populations.
"Everyone who takes a test should be seen as a community test."
Hipkins said "a big restructuring exercise" and more bureaucracy wouldn't necessarily help the border operation.
Another rumour scotched
Hipkins said the latest rumour that Oranga Tamariki would take away children of positive cases was completely untrue.
Genome sequencing of the new case under investigation is still ongoing and Bloomfield said he couldn't hypothesise about whether it was a third strain of transmission until the results were back.
When Cabinet reviews the alert levels tomorrow, it will look at the latest information about the cluster, contact tracing, results from the surge of testing, whether there are any cases that can't be connected and whether any new cases are within the existing contacts or if they weren't known about previously.
"There's not an exhaustive list of hard and fast rules here," Bloomfield said.
The Prime Minister will take the podium tomorrow afternoon about Cabinet's decision.
Hipkins said his focus now was "regularising" testing over the next few days, not about the miscommunication between the Ministry of Health and Cabinet.
Bloomfield said the level 3 restrictions meant the three DHBs in Auckland had scaled back planned care and this would be reviewed tomorrow.
Bloomfield said the Health Ministry was in the process of rolling out the testing strategy across multiple sites and agencies.
"It just required more scale up and more co-ordination."
Hipkins said National's policy for all returnees to return a negative test was fraught because people could be infected in transit when they go through transit hubs and change flights.
New Zealand has facilitated tests for people leaving to countries which require negative tests for entry at their own cost.
The Government was unlikely to make vaccines mandatory and Hipkins expected there would be "very good uptake".