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Aucklanders are being urged not to panic buy and have been offered a wave of extra financial support as the city heads into another 12 days of level 3, while the rest of New Zealand continues under level-2 restrictions.

The fortnight in lockdown will mean personal sacrifices for the people of New Zealand's biggest city, but Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says the consequences of easing restrictions now could mean much more pain for the city.

Last night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Super City would stay at level 3 until 11:59pm on August 26.

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Until then, all 1.5 million Aucklanders are again being asked to stay home in a bid to stamp out what has been identified as a new strain of Covid-19.

Ardern said the alternative to a longer lockdown could have led to a "potential explosion in cases" and would be the worst thing for Auckland and the wider New Zealand economy.

She also revealed some new information about the Auckland cluster – it was made up of a new strain of Covid-19, not seen in the country's first wave.

This means that Covid-19 has not been lying dormant in the community since the last outbreak.

Ardern said this discovery showed Covid was not a "burning ember in our community – it appears to be new to New Zealand".

She also revealed that extensive testing and contact tracing has revealed the earliest known case was a worker at the Americold cool store in Mt Wellington.

They had become sick on approximately the July 31.

"This may not yet be the origin of the outbreak, but on the information we have to date, it's the earliest sign of the re-emergence of the virus," Ardern said.

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But, in terms of where the virus originated, Ardern said there is still no clear answer.

What is known, however, is that tracing and testing have so far been unable to find a link to border or managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

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"We have got rid of Covid before, Ardern told media last night, "and we can do all of that again".

She said she would characterise the Government's approach to the new outbreak as a "short but precautionary hold".

An investigation will stamp out the virus, Ardern said, adding that New Zealand's Covid-19 strategy is still elimination.

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The Government, Ardern said, does not want Auckland to be in Level 3 any longer than was needed, so the lockdown settings will be reviewed on August 21.

"It is wise to take a bit of extra time," Ardern said, of the lockdown extension.
"That extra bit of time is our best way of getting out quickly."

There was, however, some good news for Aucklanders.

"There is nothing to suggest we need to move to a Level 4 lockdown at this stage as we do not have a number of clusters or unrelated cases," Ardern said,

Health Minister Chris Hipkins during the Covid-19 response update with director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Health Minister Chris Hipkins during the Covid-19 response update with director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

This has been welcomed by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who said there would need to be sacrifices for Aucklanders under level 3.

But he urged residents not to panic buy.

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"Melbourne's experience shows us that if we don't take [the right] approach, Covid's spread can be rampant, with a big cost on human wellbeing and lives. In the end, an even stricter lockdown becomes necessary, which has high economic costs as well."

There are currently 29 cases of community transmission in New Zealand; they are all linked to the initial Auckland cluster, identified on Tuesday.

One other case, which officials say is likely linked to the cluster, is still being investigated.

Ardern said the outbreak was discovered relatively early and, because of the snap-lockdown, the virus' wider spread has been limited.

There was also a lifeline for businesses – the wage subsidy scheme, which was due to expire on September 1, will be extended nation-wide to cover the remainder of the lockdown period.

The mortgage deferral scheme has also been pushed back – now extending past the initial September 27 deadline.

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Both scheme extensions will be paid for, using the Government's $14 billion Covid-19 fund.

Officials will continue their work to establish this strain's origins during lockdown period.

Both Ardern and Health Minister Chris Hipkins has assured New Zealanders there are enough Covid-19 tests in the country to satisfy the demand.

In fact, Ardern said there were more than 300,000 in stock – some 30,000 tests have been undertaken in the last 48 hours alone, half of which were in Auckland.

Meanwhile, Ardern told reporters that moving the entire North Island into level 3 was unnecessary because all of the cases were connected and in isolation.

A few hours before the Cabinet meeting, Director-General of health Ashely Bloomfield revealed there were 13 new cases of Covid-19 in the community – 12 confirmed and one probable.

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All the cases announced today were "clearly linked" to the existing Auckland cluster.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during the Covid-19 response update with Health Minister Chris Hipkins, Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during the Covid-19 response update with Health Minister Chris Hipkins, Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Bloomfield identified a number of schools which have closed, after it was confirmed that the new infected had links to the schools.

But there was confusion when Bloomfield said that Pakuranga College as an affected school.

During the 1pm briefing, the school's Facebook page reported that this was, in fact, the "first we have heard of this".

The high school's principal, Mike Williams, was demanding answers from the Ministry of Health.

Soon after the press conference, the ministry issued a statement clarifying and apologising for the situation.

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"While there is a casual link, the Ministry is awaiting further test results and at this point no additional public health action is required from the school.

"The Ministry apologises for putting information in the public domain without first notifying the school."