The Government is embarking on a week-long Covid-19 testing blitz, promising to test 70,000 people in a bid to "further tighten the screws on this elusive virus".
The approach will be "aggressively targeted," according to Health Minister Chris Hipkins, with a specific focus on South Auckland.
Officials will be testing asymptomatic people in this region – a new strategy for this outbreak – and will target specific regions, rather than only people with Covid-19 symptoms.
And, as the total number of tests taken since the new wave began is today expected to surpass 200,000, Hipkins is urging New Zealanders not to relax when it comes to testing.
This comes after he received reports of "testing fatigue" in the community.
"My message to New Zealand is please, play your part by getting a test," Hipkins said.
There were seven new cases of Covid-19 yesterday – all related to the Auckland community cluster.
Of those, two were linked to churches.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said that eight people were in hospital in Auckland – one in critical condition at North Shore Hospital and two in Middlemore's ICU.
The North Shore case remains under investigation as officials try to find the link back to the Auckland cluster.
Speaking to media yesterday, Hipkins said New Zealand's Covid-19 defence system has "gone into overdrive" as the resurgence plan has taken effect.
In fact, he said since August 12 – when level 3 lockdown came into force – there had been 100,000 tests in Auckland alone, and 194,000 tests across the country as a whole.
"That's a very impressive feat."
The next step is testing 70,000 people across the country in the next seven days.
Some 70 per cent of that – 7000 tests a day – would be in Auckland and the other 3000 would be split up among the rest of the country.
To put that in perspective, there were 4434 tests completed on Sunday.
Additional testing units are being deployed in "strategic locations" in Auckland, including schools and churches, with a specific focus on South Auckland.
Mobile sites are being finalised, but they aim to make testing for Pacific and Māori communities as easy as possible.
The current plan includes sites being set up in Rānui, Glen Innes, and Manurewa, Hipkins said.
Bloomfield noted that South Auckland communities had been "incredibly responsive" to the call for testing.
The plan is to test asymptomatic people in these communities in a bid to make sure "we have absolutely run this virus to the ground," Hipkins said.
He added that asymptomatic testing was "certainly justified in an area where you're dealing with a cluster".
Meanwhile, University of Hong Kong scientists claim to have the first evidence of someone being reinfected with the virus that causes Covid-19.
"It shows that some people do not have lifelong immunity to the virus if they've already had it," microbiologist Kelvin Kai-Wang To said.
"We don't know how many people can get reinfected. There are probably more out there."
Asked about this case, Bloomfield said it was too early to read anything into that finding.
"That's what you heard the World Health Organisation come out and say as well, and I endorse that."
This comes as Ardern has defended Cabinet's decision to extend Auckland's lockdown as the hospitality sector says many bars and restaurants won't reopen when Auckland goes into level 2.
She told Newstalk ZB yesterday that more time was needed at alert level 3 to have greater confidence about the perimeter of the current outbreak, which now includes New Zealand's largest cluster.
But Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White said her sector was feeling the pain of the lockdown restrictions.
"Our backs are up against the wall; we've suffered huge economic pain and we're pleading as an industry that is on its knees.
"We urgently need targeted support - where's the appetite from Government to come to the party on this?"
Ardern has confirmed that the wage subsidy scheme would not be extended further, despite the lockdown's extension.
But National leader Judith Collins said the scheme should be prolonged to account for the lockdown.
"It's certainly of no fault of the hospitality sector or businesses in general or their staff and it is a particularly difficult time particularly during the weekend which is normally the busiest time in the hospitality sector, but also for retail," she said.
This comes as the economic cost of the lockdown has been revealed.
In Question Time yesterday afternoon, Finance Minister Grant Robertson revealed Treasury estimated that each week of level 3 amounted to $500 million in lost economic activity.
That means, according to those estimates, the cost of Auckland level 3 lockdown would be well over $1 billion.