New Zealand’s COVID-19 outbreak leapt by 62 cases on Wednesday as leaders insist the new community cases won’t blunt their elimination aim.
The new cases – 61 in Auckland and one in Wellington – mean New Zealand’s first Delta outbreak has so far infected 210 people.
Director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said the case numbers, after 41 on Tuesday and 35 on Monday, were yet to get out of hand.
“While this is steady growth, it is not exponential,” he said.
There are hopes the outbreak could peak at 62 daily cases – well short of New Zealand’s record day of 89 infections during April last year.
New Zealand has been in lockdown since last Wednesday, and authorities believe those restrictions will soon start to be reflected in daily case figures.
Encouragingly, health authorities are yet to pick up any out-of-home infections during the level four lockdown.
“We’ll begin to see a slowing of those numbers,” Dr Bloomfield said.
The outbreak remains centred on Auckland, which has 198 of the cases, with 12 in Wellington.
The health ministry has also released the ethnicity of infections, showing 40 of Tuesday’s positive tests are Kiwis with a Pacific background.
The Samoan Assembly of God cluster, linked to an Auckland church service, accounts for 105 cases.
Of those infected, 12 require hospital-level care.
Wednesday’s most encouraging news came from vaccination numbers.
COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said 80,033 New Zealanders were administered one of their two doses on Tuesday; a new daily record of almost 1.6 per cent of Kiwis.
From Wednesday, eligibility to get vaccinated also expands: Anyone aged 30 and over can book in.
New Zealand remains well behind all other advanced countries for vaccination rates per capita.
Jacinda Ardern’s government remains resolute in its desire to return to zero community cases of COVID-19 this year, executing its elimination strategy.
Australian PM Scott Morrison ruffled feathers in New Zealand when he likened places pursuing an elimination strategy to cave-dwellers and calling them “absurd”.
Ms Ardern shrugged off the criticism, telling Coast FM she was “not fussed” by the comments.
Instead, Ms Ardern’s deputy Grant Robertson bit back against Mr Morrison’s argument.
“I just don’t see it the way that Scott Morrison and others are presenting it,” he told Kiwi radio station Newstalk ZB.
“Certainly every public health expert I speak to says that what we’re doing right now is exactly the right strategy for New Zealand.”
The COVID-19 outbreak has been traced back to a Kiwi man who traveled from Australia earlier this month.