New Zealand will stay at alert level 2 and Auckland at alert level 2.5 for at least 10 more days, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
Cabinet has decided to keep the current alert levels and will review them again on Monday, September 14, when they will decide whether to adjust them at 11.59pm on Wednesday, September 16.
It comes as director general of health Ashley Bloomfield reveals five new cases of Covid-19. Three are in the community.
Ardern said the cases in Tokoroa was an example of why all of New Zealand had to have restrictions.
Bloomfield said he wasn't looking for a run of zero cases in the community, but rather whether they were expected or unexpected. For example the cases today were connected to the Mt Roskill church and were already self-isolating.
Stick to the rules: Ardern's plea
She urged Aucklanders to stick to their limits this weekend and asked them to think of the rest of New Zealand.
"Do it for us."
Ardern described stepping down the alert levels as "perilous".
There will be a "highly visible" police presence at places people congregate this weekend, like at bars and restaurants.
Ardern said giving a fellow a "wide berth on the footpath" was an act of kindness.
Ardern reminded New Zealanders masks were mandatory on public transport and planes and encouraged in public places in Auckland, and asked Aucklanders to join in the "awkward experience" of working out what to do with it when you've ordered a hot drink.
"Let's double down on our efforts and keep going."
Health staff will be based at Auckland's domestic airport this weekend to monitor travellers. Anyone feeling sick should not be flying. Ardern said having the health station at Auckland Airport helped remind people of the restrictions.
"If you're unwell, don't travel at all - especially if you're from Auckland," Ardern said.
There was some discussion about moving Auckland from 2.5 to level 2 but the gathering limits had been in place for less than a week so there wasn't enough time to see their effect.
There was also discussion about moving the South Island down, but "ultimately we're a very mobile country" and the best mitigation on Covid-19 was social distancing.
The reasons behind Govt's decision
Ardern said the Auckland cluster remains contained and there is no evidence it needs to move back to level 3.
Nearly 300,000 tests have been conducted since the start of the outbreak, including community and border testing.
Since moving to alert level 2.5 in Auckland there have been another 30 cases but genomic testing shows they are all linked to a single index case, said Ardern.
Cabinet considered whether the cluster was contained, compliance with the rules and the cost of the restrictions when it made its decision.
She said a strong economic response was a strong health response.
Ardern said the case which couldn't be epidemiologically linked might mean there are people they're missing so meant they had to act cautiously.
The greatest period of spread in this cluster was over the weekends, said Ardern.
Lockdown would always be the last resort instead of "pinging" between levels.
"It is just not the time for Auckland to see changes there."
Ardern said she'd spoken to other world leaders about lockdown fatigue.
On fatigue, Bloomfield said the "incredible uptake" of the Covid Tracer app showed people were willing to do what was necessary.
Ardern said New Zealanders know the reward of compliance and "see the gains of it in the long term".
Bloomfield urged anyone heading out of Auckland to not mingle in groups larger of 10 and reminded them they would be restricted at hospitality venues anyway.
Ardern asked politicians to comply with the same restrictions they were asking of everyone else when they travelled in and out of Auckland.
PM's call the right one - Auckland mayor
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the government's decision to keep Auckland at alert level 2, with extra restrictions, is the right one.
"Aucklanders can be proud of the success we have had so far in constraining the second outbreak of Covid-19, and I thank them for the sacrifices they have made to achieve that," he said.
"But it's crucial that we stay the course. While we are all looking forward to level 1, the last thing we want is to move too early and risk a further resurgence of the virus.
"That would be the worst outcome—not only would it endanger the health and safety of Aucklanders, including some of our most vulnerable communities, it would also further damage businesses and the economy and put the gains we have made so far at risk.
"I urge everyone to continue following the rules: wear a mask when on public transport and in other situations where physical distancing is difficult, keep up with good hygiene practices like hand-washing, and track your movements with the NZ Covid Tracer app.
"Doing so will keep yourself and others safe, and will help get us back to level 1, with the extra freedoms and resumption of business activity that entails."
Today's five new cases
Two cases are in managed isolation and three are in the community which are all epidemiology linked to the Auckland August cluster.
There are 82 people from the cluster in managed isolation and Bloomfield said that number continues to decline as people recover.
There are six people in hospital - two are in intensive care.
Eight new cases have recovered meaning there are 112 active cases - of these 36 are in MIQ and 75 are community cases.
Contact has been made with 3136 of the 3191 close contacts identified.
Bloomfield said on today's report on racism in the healthcare system show that it was "a known issue" and organisations were working to try to improve it.
The current alert level settings (level "2.5" for Auckland and 2 for the rest of the country) are in place until September 6 – Sunday - but Ardern is set to announce today whether the country stays with that status for longer.
Yesterday she said the Government "will always be very cautious" about the timing of a potential move to alert level 1.
Two new Covid-19 cases were announced yesterday: a 21-year-old man linked to the Americold cool store group of cases and who was already in isolation as a close contact, and another woman in managed isolation.
Health officials are confident they are on top of the community outbreak of Covid-19 cases as Cabinet meets today to assess alert level settings - but warn cases will likely continue for several more weeks.
University of Otago Professor of Public Health Nick Wilson told Newstalk ZB today he did not expect Cabinet would lower the alert level to 1 from Sunday - but he did not think it would be too far off, especially if masks were used more frequently.
"We are not really seeing enough evidence yet of really good control ... we still get cases every day in the community. To be really confident, we should be waiting to see days where there's no new cases," Wilson told Mike Hosking.
"I think we could move faster [by] using masks better."
He believed masks could be made mandatory in areas other than public transport, which would help speed up elimination of the virus and a return to level 1.