Northland and parts of Waikato remain in alert level 3, an early childhood teacher tests positive and food banks get a funding boost. Here's what you need to know from today's Covid-19 news.

The numbers

  • There were 55 new cases reported today
  • Of the new cases, 29 were epidemiologically linked, 26 were yet to be linked
  • The total number of cases this outbreak is 1719
  • There are 32 people in hospital

Announced by the Ministry of Health this afternoon, post-1pm briefing, an early childhood education teacher in Auckland has tested positive and eleven of their close contacts include six children who were in two separate bubbles.

Source: Ministry of Health • *Auckland

Northland and Waikato remain in level 3

Both Northland and parts of Waikato will remain in level 3 for another five days.

Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate says she understands the need to take a cautious approach, but the community is well and truly over lockdowns.

Two of the new cases today were in a single household in Waikato and were not yet linked to earlier cases.

Authorities were still struggling with contact tracing and a lack of places of interest from the two women who travelled to Northland from Auckland. Only one of the women is cooperating.

Meanwhile, as Auckland remains in alert level 3, step 1 for at least another week, Covid-19 Reponse Minister Chris Hipkins told Checkpoint the government is not considering putting Auckland back in alert level 4.

Former Whangarei GP and National Party deputy leader Dr Shane Reti was in Ruakaka helping with swabbing and vaccines, alongside iwi health provider Kia Ora Ngati Wai today.

Maori sidelined by Covid-19 response - Northland service provider

A Northland service provider says Maori have been sidelined in the Covid-19 response, which is being described as a breach of te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Te Hau Ora o Ngapuhi argues the vaccine rollout has created barriers instead of getting rid of them for Maori, which violates the right to equitable treatment.

And a Auckland University virologist says underlying health issues in Maori and Pasifika haven't been considered considered in the government's handling of the Covid outbreak.

Natalie Netzler says the government's moved away from its elimination strategy and she doubts this would have happened if New Zealand's general immunisation rates were as low as the rates for Maori and Pacific peoples.

She says it's inexplicable why Maori and Pasifika weren't prioritised sooner in New Zealand's vaccination roll-out.

Low risk Covid-positive people will be able to isolate at home 'quite soon'

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Checkpoint Covid-positive people who are low risk and can isolate safely at home, will be able to "quite soon".

"Potentially within the next week," he said.

Hipkins said he was not aware of any positive Covid-19 cases isolating at home currently.

"We are actively considering our MIQ settings in light of the fact that we are unlikely to get back to zero cases in the New Zealand community," Hipkins said.

"The situation has changed here."

Is alert level 3 paving the way for Delta to grow?

A Covid-19 modeller says alert level 3 is likely paving the way for the Delta outbreak in Auckland to grow.

If the R-number of the delta variant is around 1.3 - meaning cases could double every fortnight.

Te Punaha Matatini principal investigator and Auckland university physics lecturer Dion O'Neale told Midday Report there's very little chance that the R-number is less than one at the moment.

This is partly due to the transmission environment under alert level 3 conditions, he said.

6 million vaccine doses administered

More than 6 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have now been given in New Zealand, with the vast majority of those who have caught Covid-19 during the current outbreak unvaccinated.

Source: Ministry of Health • Does not include children under 12

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says three-quarters of the eligible population are either fully vaccinated or booked in to do so.

He said just 3 percent of those in the current outbreak were vaccinated.

More funding for food banks and social agencies

Food banks and other community organisations helping Auckland's most vulnerable people during lockdown are getting another funding boost.

Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says after eight weeks of high demand, the stores and resources of many foodbanks are running low and more support is required.

Another $13.5 million from the Covid Response and Recovery Fund has been approved, bringing total support for foodbanks and other services to just over $38m during this outbreak.

Sepuloni says while emergency grants for food are trending down again, there are still many whanau who need help.

Govt considers strengthening border requirements for essential workers

Health officials are investigating whether to increase the frequency of testing of those regularly crossing the border and whether there should be a requirement for them to be vaccinated.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the government was always looking at how it could continue to tighten the restrictions where possible.

Any changes to the requirements will still need to be practical, Hipkins said at today's briefing

"It isn't possible just to have no movement in and out of Auckland. It's just not feasible for us to completely isolate Auckland from the rest of the country," Hipkins said, adding that goods and people needed to be able to move across.

Australian cases and death toll rises

Over in Australia, Victoria reported a record high Covid-19 death toll today - 13 deaths.

There are now 19,861 active cases of the virus in Victoria and 114 lives have been lost in the current outbreak.

As restrictions were eased for some in New South Wales, the state recorded 444 new cases and four deaths in the 24 hours to 8pm yesterday.

With Canberra still in lockdown, ACT recorded 51 new cases.