New Zealand has recorded its highest daily COVID-19 case count of the pandemic, with 94 infections on Tuesday.
The community case count exceeded the previous high of 89 in April 2020 and is a marker of worse to come.
The rolling seven-day daily case average from the country’s Delta outbreak is 55, and the government predicts counts of about 140 by month’s end.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had two key messages for Kiwis, noting the spread of the virus was linked to non-compliance with rules.
“Please do get vaccinated … and I will again reiterate the call to ask people to please follow the rules,” she said on Tuesday.
There are 38 Kiwis in hospital, up eight from Monday. A dozen of them are younger than 39.
“If you are young, you are sadly not invincible,” Ms Ardern said, urging vaccine uptake among younger Kiwis.
Of Tuesday’s cases, 87 were in Auckland and seven in the neighbouring Waikato. Most remain unlinked to earlier cases.
NZ’s biggest city will spend at least 11 weeks in lockdown, with the next review on November 1.
As fears grow that Auckland’s Delta outbreak will spiral, Ms Ardern said Australian lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne were guiding her approach.
After watching cases explode on this side of the Tasman, she said she wanted to avoid the same in Auckland.
“I remember looking at those graphs in NSW and Victoria saying, ‘What happened there?’,” she told TVNZ.
“I could see there came a point where both states where it really took off … my assumption is that it just got hard for people.
“That’s why we said, ‘You can meet another household outside, because by being outside we can do that safely’. It was a way to just get humans to connect again.”
Ms Ardern said NZ would adopt an official vaccination target and reconnection plan on Friday, a delay that has irked many.
Opposition Leader Judith Collins said if the government had set a target, Ms Ardern should release it immediately.
“She’s treating New Zealanders, all of us, like children, instructing us to be patient as we wait for our presents,” she said.
Ms Ardern has given hints at part of the plan, saying she would like to see vaccination rates rise high enough so the border around Auckland could be dismantled by Christmas.
“That’s what we’re all working towards … that would be our hope on current trends,” she told NZ television.
“On Friday we’ll put much more specificity, much more detail around what Aucklanders can expect in the future and what will help us get there.”