Kiwis - from the top down - have been warned against complacency as the country fights the return of Covid-19.
One expert called the Government "almost negligent" for its efforts around improving contact tracing technology, and called for more mandatory mask use at levels 2 and 3 and nuanced alert levels reflecting updated scientific understanding about the virus' transmission.
That was rejected by Health Minister Chris Hipkins, who said: "Governments have to find a balance ... our first priority is always New Zealanders' health but we also need to consider the impact on the economy and on what the country is prepared to accept".
Some Aucklanders - whose city is under a 14-day level 3 order - came under fire yesterday for going to the beach, but individual behaviour shouldn't be the focus, University of Otago professor of public health Nick Wilson said.
"This is 99 per cent the Government's responsibility to get right. They've done some very good things ... they've moved very quickly, but they've not properly made use of masks … they've got poor contact tracing capacity [and] an alert level system that was designed three years ago.
Meanwhile, Professor Sir David Skegg, told RNZ the country needed to get organised so we could cope with outbreaks without having lockdowns.
A Hong Kong professor told him of three essential things to deal with Covid-19 - physical distancing (including mask use), testing/rapid contact tracing and border controls.
"He said if you relax any of those three you better make sure you tighten the other two. We didn't just relax physical distance at level 1 - we stopped it," Sir David said.
"I think there are some sensible things we could be changing while this virus is around."
Greater Auckland is at level 3 and the rest of the country at level 2 after new community transmission of the virus, which has infected 21 million and killed 762,000 worldwide, was discovered Tuesday.
Thirty-seven confirmed and probable community transmission cases have been discovered, with 35 linked to the Auckland-origin cluster and two still under investigation.
Asked about compliance with level 3 requirements in Auckland, Hipkins pleaded at yesterday's 1pm press conference for people to obey the rules, including physical distancing and good hygiene.
"We all want to be out of level 3 as quick as we can."
As Hipkins made his comments, several Auckland beaches and parks featured scores of people enjoying the sunny weather, something city councillor Alf Filipaina said was disappointing as it was "disregarding clear Government guidance to stay home and stay local when exercising".
Wilson, who has studied pandemics for 20 years, said the Government needed to look at itself too.
"There's a deficiency in the Government's approach."
Mandatory mask use, especially in indoor public settings and on public transport, would reduce the risk of needing economically-damaging level 3 and 4 lockdowns.
The Government also needed to put more effort into investigating overseas contact tracing advances, such as a Spanish trial of a bluetooth-enabled smartphone app using the Google-Apple platform. That technology doubled contact tracing success.
South Korea also had success that could be emulated.
Changes to alert level restrictions were also needed - international evidence had shown situations where people were breathing heavily, talking loudly or singing - such as in gyms, nightclubs and churches - were riskier for transmission, Wilson said.
"I'm not at all worried what's happening on St Heliers beach ... that's very low risk. But there's nothing to stop a church in Wellington having a choir practice … one person in a choir outbreak in America infected nearly every single person in the choir.
"Why have these restrictions on some parts of the economy where there's very little impact? Why not focus more on these concerning settings?"
The alert level framework, and all Government decisions, are science-based and easy to follow, Hipkins said.
"It's also important to stress that there is no technology silver bullet, despite what some say. Some technologies ... are not that practical and rely on personal information being shared, which would concern some."
The Covid Tracer App was "gold standard" and had momentum. And while the effectiveness of South Korea's Covid-19 response was "broadly comparable" with New Zealand, Spain had been "nowhere near as effective."
Kiwis could be proud of their response to Covid-19 so far, with New Zealand having one of the most open economies in the world at level 1 - but the Government was, and would continue to, constantly review and modify the response, Hipkins said.
"Whatever tools a country adopts, it's impossible to eliminate risk completely. We've focused on minimising it as much as possible, while being very mindful of the effect on businesses and on people's everyday freedoms."