With two days to go until Cabinet's alert level D-Day, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is asking why the South Island is not at alert level 1.
"What on earth are we doing here in a lockdown [level 2] in the South Island when this is an Auckland-focused issue?" Peters told a Business NZ audience yesterday via video call from his campaign bus.
Auckland is currently at level "2.5", and the rest of New Zealand is at level 2.
Cabinet will meet on Monday to decide whether the current alert level settings - scheduled to expire at 11.59pm on Wednesday - should change.
Yesterday almost 9000 tests were processed and there was one new case of Covid-19, a person in their 50s associated with the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Church group.
"One is good, nought is better," Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said, adding it was too early to ease restrictions.
"We just need to be very cautious. Silent transmission outside the known clusters is a real possibility.
"If you take the foot off the brake too early, it just starts to accelerate again."
It was also still unclear if there was any transmission outside Auckland, he said, and thousands of Aucklanders had travelled outside the city since it was in level 2.5.
The high number of younger cases - 37 per cent of them are in their 10s and 20s - was also cause for caution, as people in those age groups tended to be more social.
Auckland University Professor Shaun Hendy, whose team has been modelling Covid-19 for the Government, said the case numbers and testing rates were reassuring.
"But there will still be uncertainty around the extent of the Mt Roskill cluster, especially since we know there was spread taking place at level 2.5."
There was a chance it could have spread beyond the church cluster via casual or environmental contacts, he said.
"This suggests we should be cautious in stepping down alert levels."
Baker is among the Otago University public health experts who have argued for more nuanced alert level settings, including stricter rules on mask use and on travel in and out of high-risk regions.
Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the risk was too high to move the rest of the country to level 1 because Aucklanders or visitors to Auckland could carry the virus to another part of the country.
"If that does happen, level 2 settings will lessen the impact of any spread. It means we prevent further fallout," Ardern said at the time, on September 4.
But she added that regional differences could be used in the future, depending on the health risk.
"We will use all of the evidence for the next Cabinet [meeting] to determine whether, for instance, the rest of the country might be in a place to see some changes next time."
Yesterday the Government softened its criteria for foreign workers to come to New Zealand under the "other critical worker" category.
Previously a person had to have experience and technical or specialist skills that were "not obtainable" in New Zealand in order to get through.
But the criteria wording has now been changed to not "readily obtainable" in New Zealand.
The Labour Party also released a border policy to allocate 10 per cent of the space in managed isolation facilities - or about 1400 people a month - for skilled migrant workers.
It would also put $12 million a year towards attracting offshore investment.
Other parties have so far not released much detailed policy around when to allow more non-Kiwis into New Zealand.
Act leader David Seymour has called for the Government to set the rules around what makes a safe place for managed isolation, and then allow in foreigners to stay at places - including Airbnbs - if those rules were met.
Arrivals would also be electronically monitored, with strict punishment if they broke isolation rules.