Auckland will move to alert level 2 on Wednesday night and the rest of the country moves to alert level 1 from late tonight, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed.
The Government had already agreed in principle to move New Zealand down to alert level 1 and Auckland to alert level 2 with eased restrictions on gatherings but made the final decision today.
When the moves happen:
Auckland will move to level 2 on Wednesday at 11.59pm.
That will mean gatherings of up to 100 people will be permitted.
The rest of New Zealand will move to alert level 1 at 11.59pm tonight.
Ardern explained the wait for alert level 2 for Auckland was so the correct orders could be prepared.
Until the change, Auckland is at a heightened alert level 2, dubbed level 2.5, with gatherings capped at 10 people except for funerals and tangihanga which are allowed 50.
The rest of the country is in alert level 2 with gatherings capped at 100 people.
"Essentially Auckland needs more time ... there is still a need in Auckland for a cautious approach."
But the rest of the country could move tonight because officials were confident it had been contained to Auckland.
Cabinet will review the alert levels again on Monday, October 5 whether - moving alert levels at 11.59pm on Wednesday October 7.
How to fix Auckland's Harbour Bridge
There will be a temporary solution for Auckland Harbour Bridge beginning tomorrow for a temporary piece - it will be tested and if all goes well, there should be two new lanes opened by the end of the week.
Ardern said there were teams working on both the temporary and permanent solutions to repairing the strut.
Ardern said it should be remembered this had been described as a "one in 50 year event".
In a matter of seconds we had the windspeed almost double and at the same time a truck happened to be on the bridge at the same time, said Ardern.
Rules around masks
In Auckland, face coverings will still be required on public transport and on planes to, from or through Auckland.
For the rest of New Zealand, face coverings will no longer be mandatory but will be encouraged on planes and public transport.
Why the PM made the call
Ardern said the virus is "under control" and there have been no new cases linked to the cluster for seven days.
She said the three deaths were a sad reminder of how serious the virus is.
Tests proved the virus hasn't spread beyond Auckland and Ardern said that proved the Government's approach "was the right one".
"Don't ever assume your symptoms are nothing," Ardern said urging people to get tested if they felt unwell.
As well, New Zealanders should keep using the Covid Tracer app.
Ardern didn't anticipate having larger campaign rallies despite having the rest of the country at alert level 1.
The Trans-Tasman bubble could be back on the table if Australia gets itself to a place where they don't have community transmission. Meanwhile, the Cook Islands was waiting for New Zealand to be in a "good place", said Ardern.
Auckland mayor on the shift
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff welcomed the Government's decision.
"The shift to Level 2 is encouraging and reflects the hard work of Aucklanders to contain the latest outbreak of Covid-19," he said.
"However, Covid-19 is highly transmissible, and we need to remain alert. Please continue to follow all the health guidelines, so that we can join the rest of the country at Level 1 as quickly as possible.
"We have seen twice now how effective the measures to constrain Covid-19 are when followed correctly. I encourage all Aucklanders to keep up the good work. Stay cautious, stay the course, and continue with all the good health practices we have learned in recent months.
"This means self-isolating and getting a test if you feel sick, wearing a face-covering on public transport and in situations where physical distancing is difficult, keeping up with hand-washing and good hygiene practices, and recording your movements with the NZ Covid Tracer app.
No new cases today
Because Aucklanders did what was asked of them, it prevented the spread across Auckland and the rest of New Zealand and the contact tracing and testing systems meant they could get on top of cases quickly, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield revealed there were no new cases ahead of the decision.
On the man who tested positive after being in managed isolation, Bloomfield said modelling backed up the current quarantine timeframe and testing.
The mystery case should be commended for his actions, said Bloomfield, and he thanked him and his family for their "quick-thinking" as it saved the virus from spreading further
Three neighbours of the man, identified as close contacts, have all returned negative tests.
There were 86 people on his charter flight from Christchurch to Auckland are being contacted. People sitting in rows near him are all being tested.
Bloomfield said the man could have been infected on his flight from India as there were eight other cases on that flight.
Other possible scenarios are that he was infected during his time in isolation and CCTV is being reviewed, as well he could have been infected on the charter flight. Officials weren't ruling anything out, said Bloomfield.
Ardern said she was "confident we will be able to answer the question" of the mystery case. She said the most likely outcome was the mystery case caught Covid-19 on his flight from India.
The Government was getting advice on whether they needed to do some risk-profiling of returnees or implement another test, said Ardern.
The tests could be for those who'd been on a flight where there's been cases of if they came back from a high-risk country, but for other people coming back from places where there are zero cases like Brisbane they wouldn't be needed, she said.
The Government is leaning towards additional testing, rather than extending the period of managed isolation.
Bloomfield said he'd spoken to epidemiologist Michael Baker this morning about his recommendation for "alert level 1.5" with masks still mandatory and he'd taken it on board when he recommended masks still be encouraged in places where social distancing wasn't possible.
Three people in hospital
There are three people in hospital with Covid-19.
There are 62 active cases - 29 are imported cases and 33 are community cases.
3568 tests were processed yesterday.
Cabinet also committed to invest $27 million in Covid-19 vaccine development through the global COVAX Facility, with the money coming from the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund.
Scramble to solve mystery around Chch case
Yesterday health officials were scrambling to get to the bottom of a mystery case where a man tested positive five days after finishing his two week managed isolation stay and returned two negative tests.
The man isolated as soon as he started to feel unwell and got tested. Two members of his household have also tested positive.
After returning to New Zealand from India, the man quarantined in Christchurch and flew home to Auckland on a charter flight on September 11.
It is unknown how the man was infected and the Ministry of Health is now investigating whether it was during his flight from India. The genome sequencing is consistent with two confirmed cases from the same flight, which landed on August 27.
"It is possible that this case was infected during that flight and has had an extremely long incubation period – there is evidence that in rare instances the incubation period can be up to 24 days," the ministry said.
But the man could have also been infected during a Government-chartered flight with other returnees in managed isolation facilities from Christchurch to Auckland after leaving the facility nine days ago. People on this flight were being contacted and assessed.
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said cases such as the man testing positive after completing two weeks in isolation were "very unusual".
However, it was documented that some people had unusually long incubation periods, and he believed it was worth reviewing whether New Zealand should lengthen the isolation period.
The person could also have been infected within the managed isolation facility, in which case the genome sequencing could connect him with another case from the facility.