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Four probable Covid-19 cases linked to infections in community, Dr Bloomfield invokes Public Health Act powers

Dr Ashley Bloomfield has invoked Public Health Act powers as four probable Covid-19 cases linked to community transmission were announced today.

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Some Aucklanders waited more than four hours to get tested at stations. Source: 1 NEWS

It comes as four new cases of community transmission were confirmed late last night, after 102 days with none recorded. 

It's prompted an urgent return to Alert Level 3 lockdown for Auckland, in force for three days until midnight Friday. The rest of New Zealand has been moved to Alert Level 2 for the same amount of time.

Relive 1 NEWS' live updates of the day as it happened below.

WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:

- Yesterday four new cases of Covid-19 through community transmission were announced in NZ, all from the same household in Auckland

- Contact tracing is underway, with almost 300 close contacts in isolation so far. Authorities are yet to find a link to overseas travel or a managed isolation facility, but one of the cases worked in a facility with links to Auckland Airport

- Aucklanders are ordered to stay home to prevent the potential spread of Covid-19, police set up checkpoints at the city's border

- Face coverings are recommended but not mandated at this stage

- Live updates from this morning can be found online here

5.16pm: All Countdown stores nationwide will close at 9pm tonight and re-open at 8am tomorrow. The stores will operate from 8am to 9pm until further notice.

A limit of three items per customer has also been reintroduced for flour, rice, dry pasta, canned baked beans and spaghetti, UHT milk, frozen vegetables, toilet paper, paper towels, personal wash, hand sanitiser, Paracetamol, household cleaners, period products and baby formula. 

A limit of six has been put on wine and beer, as well as one pack of all mask products per customer. 

Countdown's Priority Assistance service has since been reintroduced.

The supermarket chain's Albert Street Metro branch is temporarily closed in order for staff to support other stores in the region.

4.57pm: Two matches had been scheduled to be played this weekend in the final round of Investec Super Rugby Aotearoa, with The Highlanders due to host the Hurricanes at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday evening and the Blues to host the Crusaders at Eden Park on Sunday afternoon, New Zealnd Rugby said in a press release this afternoon. 

The Blues-Crusaders game cannot go ahead, while the Highlanders-Hurricanes game at Level 2 can be played with significant restrictions on crowd attendance.

4.47pm: Ms Ardern has called on the National Party to channel their energy into "supporting New Zealand's overall response to this resurgence". 

She said the suggestion the Government has withheld information from the public "is just nonsense". 

4.45pm: 
Just over 200 close contacts of the four new cases announced yesterday have been identified and contacted as of this afternoon. 

4.40pm:
Ms Ardern would not say whether the upcoming election would be postponed as a result of Covid-19's resurgence in New Zealand. Further information will be provided before Parliament is dissolved on Monday.

4.34pm: 
Several hundred to possibly over a thousand people will be affected by Dr Ashley Bloomfield’s exercising of an oral direction under the Health Act.

4.32pm:
Businesses will be given a one week grace period to generate a QR code before facing potential penalties. 

4.30pm: Interviews with the four probable cases are ongoing to establish whether there are any links to staff at managed isolation or quarantine facilities or border workers, Ms Ardern said. 

4.27pm: Two of the probable cases relate to work places, the others another household connected to yesterday's infections. 

4.26pm: Ms Ardern has ended her prepared remarks by speaking about the toll Covid is currently is taking in Australia, and why the plan needs to be followed to avoid similar situation. 

4.22pm: Regarding masks, three million will be released to social services for the use of people who may not be able to afford them, and one million will go to Countdown. 

4.19pm: Ms Ardern says any decision on moving up and down stages will be made on Friday, well before the midnight deadline for the three day restrictions announced last night. 

The display of the Covid app QR code at shops will become mandatory in a week's time. 

4.15pm: Dr Bloomfield exercised an oral direction of the Public Health Act to require people from two workplaces in Auckland to isolate at home and do not go to work until they have been contacted by public health officials.

That included any employees or contractors of Americold in Mt Wellington, Auckland and the Dominion Rd branch of Finance Now.

It also included any any visitors to those workplaces and any people who ordinarily live with those workers, contractors and visitors.

4.14pm: Dr Bloomfield says two of the four people already confirmed with Covid-19 in the community visited a number of locations in Rotorua over the weekend. They stayed at the Wai Ora Lakeside Hotel, and visited the luge. 

Over 200 close contacts of the infections have been identified, many linked to two workplaces. 

4.10pm: There are four probable cases of Covid-19 connected to the four cases in the community, Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.

There is one case confirmed in managed isolation. 

The four connected cases are also isolating. 

3.50pm: We're around 10 minutes away from the update. 

3.25pm: Just a reminder the Prime Minister and Ashley Bloomfield will speak to the media for the second time today at 4pm. You can watch it live at 1news.co.nz or on TVNZ1.

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The election is just six weeks away, but NZ has been thrown back into Covid restrictions.

3.05pm: Ms Collins says it is important that we have the Government respect the pre-election conventions. She is calling for the election to be delayed "until a date later in November". She said ideally, the election would be delayed until next year.

"It's very hard to have any democratic vote if people can't vote, that is the problem."

3.00pm: National leader Judith Collins is fronting media to express her disappointment about the community transmission and to call on the Government to show transparency.

A sign put up at Lambton Quay Unichem Pharmacy in Auckland telling customers they've sold all their facemasks. Source: 1 NEWS

2.55pm: Pharmacies in Wellington are selling out of facemasks. One pharmacy in Lambton Quay has sold out signs.

2.45pm: A police officer at one of nine checkpoints at Auckland's exits says the expect Kiwis to comply. More here -  

One person in custody after incident at Hamilton Covid-19 testing centre

2.30pm: A person has been taken into custody at a Hamilton testing centre. Read more in the link below.

2.18pm: The Pasifika community is being urged to prepare in case of a Covid-19 outbreak.

John Fiso, chairman of Pacific Health Plus and the Pacific Leaders Group, also said in a statement that the Government needed to step up.

“Medical and other resources must be quickly assessed and mobilised to ensure our communities, and providers within those communities, are ready to combat what could be a worst case scenario for our Pacific families in high density areas,” said Mr Fiso.

Pasifika community in South Auckland concerned and 'hugely disappointed' with new Covid-19 cases
Auckland family who tested positive to Covid-19 have connections across city

“With news of transmission in South Auckland - where New Zealand’s largest Pacific population lives - further spread of the deadly Covid-19 in our most vulnerable communities could become a reality - and we must be ready.

“The effects of an outbreak on our close knit Pasifika communities with all of the challenges they already face - job losses, low incomes, multiple family members in condensed housing, and our country’s worst health statistics - has the potential to be catastrophic for this group of New Zealanders.

“This Government enjoys the most loyal support from the Pasifika population in New Zealand - now is the time to repay that loyalty in their time of need.

2.10pm: All of this weekend's netball matches in the ANZ Premiership have been declared draws. Netball New Zealand's seeking further advice about the finals on August 23.

2.00pm: With the General Election on September 19 just 38 days away, the Electoral Commission is assessing the change in Covid-19 Alert Levels as it continues preparations.

“We’re working through the implications of these most recent developments and what they might mean for the 2020 General Election and referendums, and we will keep the public updated,” Chief Electoral Officer Alicia Wright said.

1.55pm: Hawke’s Bay DHB has revised its visitor policy, and implemented a no visitor policy for high risk areas of Hawke’s Bay Hospital, with Alert Level 2 restrictions having come into force at midday.

Under the revised policy, only with exceptions granted by the Clinical Nurse Managers or shift coordinator of the Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, Special Care Baby Unit and Mental Health Inpatient Units, can people bring a support person with them.

1.50pm: New North Rd in Eden Terrace is at a standstill, with a queue of cars waiting for Covid-19 tests more than 650m long.

As well as the increased demand for the Eden Terrace testing centre, construction staff are trying to get material in to the city rail link site as they're upgrading the Mt Eden station.

Traffic is backed up around the corner to the intersection of Mt Eden Rd and Boston Rd, a witness told 1 NEWS.

Queues for the Covid-19 testing centre in Eden Terrace are backed up 650m to the intersection of Mt Eden Rd and Boston Rd. Source: 1 NEWS

1.41pm: Police are largely going to take people at their word at the checkpoints in and out of Auckland during lockdown.

At the Bombay checkpoint, Sergeant Andrew Health told 1 NEWS he's never performed a task quite like this in his 17-year career.

Police will have the power to arrest people but he's hoping people will comply willingly, admitting they'll be taking drivers at face value and relying on their honesty about their reason to travel.

1.32pm: ACT leader David Seymour says the election campaign has been "sideswiped" by Covid-19.

"If we are in Level 2 or 3 next week it’s impossible to have a free and frank election," he told media today.

He's calling for increased transparency from the Government to reassure "anxious" businesses, but says it's "clearly not the time for finger-pointing".

He also backs the Government's decision to push back the dissolution of Parliament to next week, saying it was a decision that had to be made.

1.26pm: Millenium and Copthorne Hotels says it's not sure how badly the Alert Level rise will impact its revenue, while refunding people who had stays booked over the next few days.

Copthorne Hotel in Auckland has closed its doors under the Level 3 rules but other hotels around the country will remain open under Level 2, with hotel staff supplied with PPE and social distancing brought in. Corporate staff will be working from home.

Two of the Government-managed isolation facilities are run at its hotels - Grand Millennium Auckland and M Social Auckland - and will continue during the lockdown.

1.17pm: Police were called to a testing station in Hamilton where tensions were running high, some people upset staff had stopped letting people join the queue.

No one's been able to join the line to be tested for more than two hours as staff struggle with the high demand.

The centre is also open tomorrow from 8am to 8pm.

1.11pm: A person is in police custody after an incident at a testing station in Hamilton, a spokesperson confirmed to 1 NEWS.

The person is currently being spoken to by police.

1.08pm: A Rotorua man with flu-like symptoms says he was turned away from a testing centre twice today because it was too busy, despite being referred by his GP.

"Basically ended up with a couple guys either side of my car told me to get away ... they straight up said, 'That's not our problem, go away'," Robert Wynn told 1 NEWS.

It comes after the Prime Minister told New Zealanders not to go for a Covid-19 test unless they have cold or flu-like symptoms, or have contact with the borders or managed isolation facilities, in a bid to curb demand on the testing centres.

One of the confirmed cases had been in Rotorua last weekend, while symptomatic, prompting the Government to set up a second testing centre in the city.

12.45pm: The Ministry of Health won't be providing its usual Covid-19 case update at 1pm today. 

Instead, the numbers will be released at the 4pm press conference with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, which will be aired live on TVNZ1 and streamed on 1NEWS.co.nz and the 1 NEWS Facebook page.

The daily update usually includes cases confirmed before 9am that day, however yesterday Ms Ardern called an emergency press conference when the four cases of community transmission were confirmed.

Aside from those four, New Zealand has 22 other active cases in managed isolation or quarantine facilities.

12.15pm: Dozens of people are already queuing to be tested at a pop-up facility in Rotorua, after it was revealed two of the confirmed Covid-19 cases had been there over the weekend.

They had visited some family and tourist attractions before testing positive.

1 NEWS reporter Sam Kelway says there's a "good stream of people" waiting to be tested, to rule out further spread. He estimates around 50 to 60 people are waiting at the moment.

12.00pm: Auckland is now official in Alert Level 3, and the rest of New Zealand has entered Level 2 restrictions. Here's a recap of what you need to know.