People will be able to travel to or from Auckland from December 15 if they have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine or have returned a negative test, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
There are 194 cases of Covid-19 in the community today and a further person has died with the virus. A man, in his 60s, died at North Shore Hospital. The Ministry said he was admitted to hospital on November 4 with Covid symptoms and subsequently tested positive. He died yesterday.
There are new cases in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Lakes/Taupo and Canterbury.
Green light for Xmas travel
From December 15, people travelling out of Auckland who are fully vaccinated or test negative 72 hours before departure will be able to leave the city.
The rule will be in place from then to January 17.
Police will have operational discretion and those who break the rules could face a $1000 fine.
On Auckland's northern boundary, police will work with iwi and so people there have confidence checks are in place to keep people safe.
On enforcement, that was being left with police but Ardern said police would be communicating with the people of Tai Tokerau to make sure movement was safe.
Ardern said she recognised there were lower vaccination levels in Northland.
Air New Zealand has put in place vaccination and testing requirements. Checks for travellers out of Auckland Airport will be done at the check-in stage. Air New Zealand will require a vaccine certificate or a negative test result for flyers departing Auckland from December 15.
Interislander ferries will also use these requirements, done so with the South Island in mind.
It represents a significant shift for New Zealand and Ardern said as she encouraged people to get vaccinated.
Ardern cited details which were released today about the vaccine pass and how to apply for it. She was aware more than 60,000 people had done so today.
Other ministers will look at how testing and social care will work for those with the virus.
Ardern said it was important community care was robust as to reduce the onward spread.
Traffic light system 'shortly after Nov 29'
On November 29, Cabinet will confirm Auckland's move into the traffic light system, into the Red level, she said. Ardern indicated the move to the new system would be very soon after the November 29 Cabinet meeting and would be a similar timeframe to level transitions as they have been in the past, when asked if it would be 24 hours or 48 hours from that time.
The rest of the country will move at the same time as Auckland, the Government will confirm at that meeting.
Areas with lower vaccination areas will be moved into the red level to protect people and promote vaccinations.
The traffic light system is safer than the alert level system, Ardern said.
More guidance would be released on the traffic light system as it relates to different sectors.
On a potential move to step 3 of alert level 3 for Auckland, Ardern said she wouldn't predict the decision by Cabinet. However, she hoped today's announcements would give people certainty.
Asked about the Green traffic light level, Ardern said today was about advising Kiwis on what would happen on November 29 and it would be determined what levels different areas of the country would move to and it was expected that move would happen soon after.
"Prepare for the new framework...it's coming very soon," Ardern said
No area would step into Green straight away.
For a vaccinated person, Ardern said they would notice very little difference between Orange and Green.
Aucklanders will experience a change and a lowering of restrictions before December 15, Ardern said.
Asked about the timing of the December 15 decision, Ardern said the whole country needed to be in the new framework by then so the two weeks between then would give Government the chance to implement it.
Ardern said there had been a phenomenal increase in vaccination levels over recent months and this framework would offer greater protection because of those levels.
On lower vaccination areas, Ardern said vaccination levels would be key in deciding when those areas would move to different levels in the traffic light system.
For those who say they have concerns about areas with low vaccination levels, Ardern assured them red would give them protection.
From January 17, Ardern said vaccination levels would be very high and testing and certificates would be used to slow the spread. She noted we needed to move into a system where we didn't have hard borders.
On concerns about the behaviour seen by those resisting vaccination, Ardern noted more than 90 per cent had received at least one dose which indicated that the large majority were on board, and other countries had implemented similar requirements which we could learn from.
Ardern said there would be separate announcements regarding the international border.
On the transtasman bubble and whether that will be reinstated before Christmas, Hipkins said the goal was to make changes that would "stick" or wouldn't be quickly repealed. He again referenced risk around the international border and echoed the Prime Minister on how the Government would move carefully on this issue.
It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect there wouldn't be substantial changes to the international border until early next year. More specific dates would be provided before the end of the year.
Asked whether Maori cases had been modelled regarding today's announcements, Ardern said she hadn't seen specific modelling which detailed impact by ethnicity however, she did note the design of the framework was the best way to limit spread.
Asked whether Maori vaccination was being sabotaged by the Ministry, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield denied those accusations which had been reportedly made by Whanau Ora chief executive John Tamihere.
On help for businesses regarding compliance with vaccination requirements, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said this was not foreign to places in hospitality which already checked age, however, the vaccination requirement was much broader than that industry.
Careful thought had been employed regarding vaccination requirements for business and police were available to provide support around compliance.
"They know what's coming," Hipkins said of police.
On modelling on cases and deaths, Bloomfield said some modelling had been received about the pattern of travel but he hadn't cited it yet.
He also noted the modelling almost changed day by day.
Ultimately, the decisions made today have been made to prevent and slow case growth, he said.
On contact tracing, Bloomfield said it would be able to hold up under the larger number of cases. Capacity was being increased on a weekly basis. He acknowledged the focus of contract tracing had been shifted to focus on closer contacts.
There are 180 cases in Auckland, four in Northland, five in Waikato, seven in Lakes district and one in Canterbury.
With the Canterbury case, officials have found a determined clear link to the Auckland cluster.
The person flew back to Christchurch on flight NZ 1295 last Saturday, November 13 after travelling to Auckland for an event.
The person became symptomatic on Sunday and went for a test on Monday and lives in a household of six people. The household is isolating and will be tested.
Of the seven cases in Lakes district, one of them was reported following the 9am cut off time and will be included in tomorrow's case count.
Six of the cases are in Taupo and can be linked to known cases in the area. One case is in Turangi and is also linked to known cases in Taupo.
In Waikato, two cases are from Ôtorohanga, one from Te Kuiti, one from Huntly, and one from Cambridge.
Of the cases, three are known contacts of previous cases. Investigations into the remaining two cases are under way today.
There are four cases receiving care at Waikato Hospital.
There are four new cases in Northland; one in Kaitaia, two in Dargaville, and one unlinked case in Whangârei who will be interviewed today. One of these cases is not included in the overall case numbers today and will be added to the tally tomorrow.
Interviews are ongoing and any new locations of interest will be added to the Ministry of Health's website.
One person remains in Whangârei Hospital in a stable condition.
One hundred and thirty-six of 191 cases reported yesterday have no exposure events and 146 of today's 194 cases have been epidemiologically linked. Forty-eight of today's 194 cases are still to be epidemiologically linked.
There are 88 cases in hospitals around the country today, down from 91 yesterday. Seventeen are in North Shore, 27 in Middlemore, 38 in Auckland, one in Waitakere and Whangarei and four in Waikato.
The vaccination status of those in hospital is: 57 per cent are unvaccinated, 11 per cent are partially - less than 14 days - vaccinated, 12 per cent are partially - more than 14 days - vaccinated and 4 per cent, or three cases, are fully vaccinated. For 2 per cent of cases their status is unknown.
As for wastewater samples, Covid-19 was detected in samples collected in Tauranga and Mount Maunganui on November 15 This follows positive detections from samples collected on November 10 and 11.
Covid was also detected in samples collected in Taupô on November 13 and 15 and in Tûrangi on November 15.
A sample collected in Masterton on November 15 was negative.
As for vaccines, there have now been 7,255,235 doses given: 3,812,895 first doses (91 per cent); 3,442,340 second doses (82 per cent).
For Mâori 78 per cent have had their first dose and 62 per cent their second dose.
Eighty-nine per cent of Pacific Peoples have had their first doses and 77 per cent their second dose.
Regionally, Northland DHB has reached 83 per cent first dose and 72 per cent second dose. Ninety-three per cent of Auckland metro have had their first dose and 86 per cent their second.
In Waikato DHB, 89 per cent have had first dose and 80 per cent their second jab.
Lakes DHB - 85 per cent have had their first dose and 74 per cent their second dose.
In Taranaki, 88 per cent have had their first dose and 76 per cent their second.
For MidCentral DHB, they've reached 90 per cent of first doses and 80 per cent for second.
At Wairarapa, 90 per cent have got to first doses and 79 per cent second doses.
For Canterbury DHB 94 per cent have their first dose and 83 per cent their second.
Killer Beez linked to new Covid-19 cases
Two of Masterton's Covid-19 cases are linked to a gathering of the Killer Beez which occurred in early November.
The Herald understands one of the cases is the daughter of a senior member of the gang.
A number of gang members travelled from around Aotearoa – including the South Island - to the gathering held in the region between November 5 and 7.
Wairarapa Area Commander Inspector Scott Miller said it was attended by members from throughout Wairarapa, as well as other areas of the lower North Island and upper South Island.
Miller says police were "overall satisfied" with the behaviour of attendees, but remained highly visible in the area.
"There were no significant incidents of note and no arrest made."
A social media post claims the two cases visited Woodville, and also attended a tangi in Martinborough last week.
Both cases are isolating in Masterton, according to the Ministry of Health.
Vaccine passport website overwhelmed as people rush to it
Earlier today people wanting to download their vaccine passports on the My Covid Record website - which is now live - faced a bumpy start this morning, however, when the site seemingly buckled under the pressure.
People trying to access the service were told "too many requests" around 7.15am.
Hipkins told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking that once the country moves into the traffic light framework people will need to prove that they have it, either show it and print it out, he said.
The website was working this morning and can produce about 200 vaccine certificates per second.
"All the feedback I've had is that it's working but there may be periods where there's a little delay."
More than a million people had downloaded their records since the website had been operational. The next step to get your certificate should be a "very seamless one".
He thought most people would find it straightforward and they had about 2000 people road test it - many with different levels of digital literacy, he said.
Senior citizens also have the option of making a call to get their certificate instead of having to download or print it out, he said.
On people who had been vaccinated overseas, he told TVNZ's Breakfast that that part of the vaccine passport system would take longer as it was a manual process.