Two Covid-19 deaths in Auckland in 12 hours have proven a sharp reminder of the dire outcomes for some infected with a virus that has killed more than 876,000 worldwide this year.

Two people with the virus - a man in his 50s and 85-year-old former Cook Islands' Prime Minister Dr Joe Williams - died in Auckland hospitals on Friday. Three new cases of the virus, two in the community and one in managed isolation, were reported yesterday.

Health authorities are also probing a possible case in managed isolation in Christchurch.

Meanwhile, more than 300 yachts are stuck in limbo across the South Pacific as cyclone season nears, barred from berthing in New Zealand due to Covid-19 restrictions.

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The Ocean Cruising Club (OCC) says it has written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister Chris Hipkins several times lobbying for help, but there has been no solution to date.

The group says the developing situation has reached a crisis point and crews on the yachts urgently need refuge from the cyclone season starting on November 1.

Read the full story here.

The deaths were a "stark and sad reminder of just how deadly this virus is and can be", Ardern said.

New Zealand has 112 active cases, and now 24 deaths. There have been 26.7 million cases and 876,200 deaths worldwide.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wearing a mask during her visit to the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington on August 27. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wearing a mask during her visit to the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington on August 27. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Williams' death at Auckland City Hospital marked a double tragedy for his family, after the respected Mt Wellington GP's brother Tuaine Williams, 92, died peacefully a day earlier at The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.

The double tragedy had hit the family hard, Williams' nephew Dr Kiki Maoate said.

"They are reeling from it."

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His uncle was an inspiration, Maoate said.

"His closeness and wanting to help people gave him that drive to be good at what he did."

Williams was a former Cook Islands health minister who later led the country for four months in 1999. He was also a New Zealand First candidate in 2005 and yesterday received tributes from deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters as well as director general of health Ashley Bloomfield and finance minister Grant Robertson.

"He was an enduring example of a Cook Islander who came to New Zealand for education, and then made a real difference in his chosen career," Peters said.

Dr Joe Williams, former Cook Islands Prime Minister, died in Auckland City Hospital on Friday. He had earlier tested positive for Covid-19. Photo / Supplied
Dr Joe Williams, former Cook Islands Prime Minister, died in Auckland City Hospital on Friday. He had earlier tested positive for Covid-19. Photo / Supplied

Williams was admitted to hospital on August 13 and was thought to have come in close contact with someone connected to the Auckland August cluster.

That cluster, which sparked Auckland's almost three-week return to level 3 lockdown, was first detected on August 11 in a family member of a worker at Americold coolstore, which is near Williams' Mt Wellington practice.

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He became the 24th person in New Zealand to die from Covid-19 and the second in a day related to the Auckland cluster.

The other man, whose death at Middlemore Hospital on Friday marked New Zealand's first Covid-19 fatality in more than three months, was described by Newshub as a father of four and worker at Americold who was originally from Tokoroa.

The two Covid-19 positive cases in the community yesterday were epidemiologicaly linked to the Auckland cluster, the Ministry of Health said.

"One case has been linked as a close contact to the Americold household sub-cluster and the other is a close contact of a confirmed case linked to the Mt Roskill Evangelical Church sub-cluster."

The third case was a child already in quarantine with family members. The child is linked to a previously identified case who arrived from India on August 23.

Two people with Covid-19 were yesterday in hospital, one in Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit and one in a ward at North Shore Hospital.

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Since August 11, the ministry's contact tracing team has identified 3222 close contacts of cases, of which 3177 have been contacted and are self-isolating. Seventy-seven people linked to the community cluster are at Auckland's quarantine facility, including 60 who have tested positive for Covid-19.

The new cases increase active case numbers to 112 and the total confirmed cases in New Zealand to 1416.

Ministry of Health officials last night confirmed they were investigating a possible case of Covid-19 in Canterbury.

The person is in managed isolation. However, it is unclear whether or not they have come from overseas or have been in the community.


Laboratories nationwide processed 9470 Covid-19 tests yesterday, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 807,460.

The country will remain at level 2 - except Auckland, which is at the more restrictive level 2.5 - until at least September 16, Ardern said on Friday.

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Under level 2.5, travel restrictions in Auckland are relaxed but social gatherings remain limited to 10 people and travelling Aucklanders have been urged to take that limit with them.

Aucklanders pictured at St Heliers Beach during last month's level 3 lockdown. That's ended, but social distancing measures remain. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Aucklanders pictured at St Heliers Beach during last month's level 3 lockdown. That's ended, but social distancing measures remain. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A global survey ranked New Zealand the second safest country in the world when it comes to Covid-19, behind Germany, but ahead of third-placed South Korea. Australia was 6th, China 7th and the United States 55th.

The Deep Knowledge Group survey found the most dangerous nations for Covid-19 - which has infected 26.5m worldwide - were Somaliland, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Mali, Forbes reported.

Whether a country had been hit hard by the virus was taken into consideration, as well as whether there was political will and social acceptance of quarantine and lockdown measures.

The survey also considered whether the national and local governments cooperated well, a nation had good monitoring and detection, and a strong medical system.