Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the risk from the 40 supermarkets being listed as locations of interest is "reasonably low".
Speaking to Newstalk ZB Drive host Heather du Plessis-Allan, Hipkins was asked why the grocery stores were only being listed now.
"If people are doing the things we ask them to do, then supermarkets should be reasonably low-risk," Hipkins said.
Hipkins hoped to have "more to say" on Covid jabs coming into the country in the next day or two.
"People are working around the clock to do what they can do to get more vaccines into the country."
"Pfizer were very very clear right from the beginning that people can't buy their way to the front of the queue."
Hipkins did not want to get into the details of negotiations with other companies. Asked if he was nervous about the situation, Hipkins said:
"I'm regularly nervous at the moment. When you deal with Covid-19, there's plenty to be nervous about."
Regarding vaccine deliveries, Hipkins said: "We have not delayed any deliveries. But when we get to the point when everybody has been vaccinated, then we would look to delay those deliveries."
On MIQ bookings, he said New Zealand is still setting aside 800 MIQ spots for Antarctica workers, many of whom are American.
Community cases rise
There were 75 new community cases and one MIQ case today. Health boss Ashley Bloomfield says the bounce in numbers is not unexpected.
Thirty-two of New Zealand's overall 687 community cases are now in hospital - with eight in ICU including three on ventilators.
And Bloomfield announced today that 40 Auckland supermarkets would be added to the locations of interest today out of "an abundance of caution".
He said health officials believed the risk to shoppers was low and it was not necessary to get a test.
"People should look out and if anyone has been in one of these, even if it was some time ago, the advice is to just be careful and watch for symptoms if you were there at the time and place on the website, so no need to go and get a test, just for awareness."
Just after 4pm the Ministry of Health's locations of interest list was updated to include seven supermarkets: Pak 'nSave Clendon, Countdown Ponsonby, Countdown Three Kings, Countdown Warkworth, Countdown Mt Roskill, Countdown Papatoetoe and Pak 'nSave Mangere.
A fruit and veg store in Manurewa called Pacific Fresh was also added to the list.
While community cases were higher than on Tuesday, Bloomfield said it was clear that on average the daily case numbers are lower than the peak.
Hipkins also revealed details of a new MIQ booking system - and announced that new bookings in managed isolation were going on pause for the next week or two.
Hipkins also took a swipe at National and Act over their push for Parliament to convene in person in Wellington, saying he didn't think many New Zealanders were focused on the "pantomime of Parliamentary Question Time".
He noted that no Labour MPs have travelled to Wellington.
On a question on the mind of many parents, Hipkins said moving school holiday dates was "unlikely" and that it was a difficult shift to make. He wouldn't rule it out, however.
Public health units have been working with Tegel after three workers tested positive. The workers have been linked back to exposures in the community.
"It's very important that if you have casual workforce...that you confine those casual employees to one site and not working at multiple sites," Bloomfield said.
54pc of eligible Kiwis get the jab
Although Covid case numbers are bouncing around, New Zealand's vaccination rates are only going in one direction.
Three and a half million doses of the Pfizer vaccine had been administered in New Zealand as of midnight, Hipkins said.
Fifty-four per cent of the eligible population in the country have received at least one dose, he said.
More than 85 per cent of people aged 65-plus have now been vaccinated with one dose, Hipkins said.
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About 37 per cent of the Māori population have had at least one dose, and 47 per cent of the Pasifika community.
The rates of vaccination within Maori and Pacific have doubled," Bloomfield said, and additional funding is going out to providers.
Bookings have surged in recent times, Hipkins said. More than a quarter of a million people booked for a vaccine on August 25.
Sixty eight per cent of New Zealanders 12 and older are either booked or have had a vaccination.
New Zealand is on track to achieve "a good high rate of vaccinations", Hipkins said.
People should reserve their spot at Book My Vaccine, and call 0800 28 29 26 if they have any questions on vaccinations, he said.
An update on vaccine supply will be provided at the end of the week, Hipkins said.
Auckland will be the priority, he said. Walk-in clinics around the rest of the country might need to be scaled back.
MIQ pause - and new booking system on the way
A pause on releasing any further MIQ vouchers has been extended for a few weeks, Hipkins said.
"I acknowledge that is not easy for New Zealanders abroad looking to come home.
"We're asking Kiwis abroad to play their part in this response by being patient."
The pause on releasing further vouchers does not pause emergency vouchers. People can still make applications to come home for emergencies.
The booking system will operate differently when it starts back up again. A virtual lobby booking system will be introduced. People will be selected "randomly", removing the issue of being the quickest person to "hit the button", Hipkins said.
He said it will create a more level playing field for people once they are on the site.
There won't be any vouchers released for the next week or two.
The overriding legal principle is that restrictions put in place are proportionate to the level of risk, Hipkins said, about restricting New Zealanders from coming home.
"There is a lot of demand. Those hoping to have summer holiday in New Zealand, my request to them is to leave the vouchers for those who need it. Now is not a good time to return with the intention of going back."
168,000 New Zealanders have moved through MIQ with "very few incidents", Hipkins said.
"We are doing what we can do safely," Hipkins said about the MIQ voucher pause. People need to adjust their expectations, he said.
Several hundred rooms will be available for quarantine use within the next 24-36 hours at The Holiday Inn near the airport.
During this week, people currently in quarantine will start to leave, Hipkins said, releasing some capacity.
He thanked staff who worked at these facilities. He said "it's a very stretched workforce."
Hipkins said the booking of the English netball team in MIQ was already under way, but where it is feasible to push back further group bookings, they are looking into it.
Travel across Auckland border
The number of companies issued with travel documentation to move across the boundary in Auckland between level 3 and level 4 is more than 3000, covering 23,000 employees, Hipkins said.
Plumbers and other tradespeople can work under alert level 4 as long as they are wearing PPE to help in emergencies, Hipkins said.
People should be checked at the door of the airport terminal before getting a flight out of Auckland, Hipkins said.
"This is disappointing, these people should not be travelling," he said of reports people have left Auckland in level 4.
Infringements should apply. Students should not be returning to their halls of residence if the place they are currently in, is in alert level 4.
New location of interest
A new laundromat has been added to the Ministry of Health's locations of interest, although the total number of sites visited remains the same.
The Ministry is asking anyone who visited Crystal Laundromat in Manurewa on Tuesday, August 24 between 11.45am and 2pm to monitor for symptoms.
People are asked to self-monitor for for 14 days after exposure and if any develop, they should get a test and stay at home until they receive a negative test result, and until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.
Epidemiologist Dr Michael Baker told the Herald on Tuesday there was reason to be optimistic, but was reluctant to identify a trend just yet with still 51 "mystery cases" not yet epidemiologically-linked to the outbreak.
"The critical thing is being certain about where these mystery cases are coming from."
While they could be cleared up in days, they could also represent "leakage" in the lockdown system and points of community transmission.
Some could be bubble breakers passing it along to many others, or essential workers in tightly controlled environments. There were 106 essential workers infected in the outbreak so far, including three announced Tuesday at the Tegel chicken plant in Henderson, Auckland.
"Household contacts are not so much of a concern but we really want to see those cases still being investigated get down to zero as quickly as possible," Baker said.
Meanwhile, today it was revealed Crystal Laundromat East Tāmaki, at 186 Te Irirangi Drive in Clover Park, South Auckland was visited by a Covid positive case on Saturday, between 11am and 2pm.
It is the third Crystal Laundromat to feature on the Ministry of Health's website.
A positive case also visited the Crystal Laundromat Manurewa, on Roscommon Rd, on Tuesday August 24, between 11.45am and 2pm.
Crystal Laundromat New Lynn on Great North Rd, West Auckland, was linked to a positive case on Saturday, August 21, between 3.45pm and 4.30pm.
Today is also the day the vaccination programme opens to those aged under 30 and over 12, about 1.5m people.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government could need to slow vaccine rollout to pre-outbreak levels if it cannot secure more supplies - and has not ruled out slowing or halting new bookings in other regions to allow it to keep pace in Auckland.
Ardern said the "surge" prompted by the outbreak had pushed vaccine rates up to 80,000-90,000 a day - and well over 500,000 a week.
The problem is about 800,000 doses are in stock, and deliveries at the moment are averaging about 300,000 a week.
The original rollout plan was to be vaccinating about 350,000 people a week at this point.
The pressure comes off next month, when the country will receive nearly all of the vaccine it hopes to administer by the end of the year - roughly four million doses in total - but at current rates could risk running low, or need to slow, this month.
Ardern said yesterday efforts continued to secure more vaccines to keep up with that surge demand, and she would be making announcements on these in the coming days.
It is understood efforts include looking at swapping vaccines with other countries further along their rollouts for ours at a later date - similar to deals Australia has done with Poland and Singapore.
Police have checkpoints in place to prevent people leaving or entering the Auckland and Northland regions.
Numerous police officers are checking that drivers have essential traffic letters before letting them through.
As of 9.30am yesterday, 2524 businesses had been issued with business travel documentation for movement across level 3 and 4 borders.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said checkpoints were in place south of Auckland to stop motorists and to ensure their travel was essential.
He said police had been through the experience before so were well practised and had lanes for trucks.
"Anyone attempting to travel across the regional boundaries separating alert level 4 and alert level 3 areas, should expect to be stopped and asked for proof of essential travel," he said.