There are 205 Covid cases in the community today, as health officials confirm the death of a man who was being treated at Middlemore Hospital.
The male patient who died was aged in his 40s, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.
"Our thoughts are with the man's family and friends at this deeply sad time."
Of the 205 new community cases, 175 are in Auckland, one is in Palmerston North, 20 are in the Waikato, five are in the Bay of Plenty, one is in Taupō and four are in Northland.
There are 85 people in hospital today, up two from yesterday, with cases at North Shore (20); Middlemore (22); Auckland (38); Whangārei (1); and Waikato (4).
Six people are in ICU or a high-dependency unit. The average number of people in hospital is 48.
Today's numbers were released as Cabinet is meeting and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will make an announcement at 4pm about Auckland's fate. It is likely residents will be told to be patient, potentially skipping 3.3 entirely in favour of heading straight to the traffic light system next week.
Forty-five patients (56 per cent) in hospital have not been vaccinated, the ministry said.
Fifteen (19 per cent) of those hospitalised had one vaccine dose and 18 (22 per cent) were fully vaccinated). The vaccination status of the remaining two cases was unknown.
Five new cases in Bay of Plenty
The person who tested positive in Palmerston North is linked to a previously reported case. Public health staff have deemed this case as low risk as the person has been isolating since November 17.
Of the five Bay of Plenty cases, four have been linked to existing cases in Mt Maunganui. Investigations were underway into any possible links between the remaining case and any known cases.
"It is critical that anyone with any cold or flu symptoms gets tested as quickly as possible - maintaining a high rate of testing in the Bay of Plenty will help contain the spread of Covid," the ministry said.
The Taupō case is a close contact of a known case, the ministry said.
Of the four Northland cases, three were in Kaikohe and are linked to an existing case.
The fourth case is a border worker who has not get been linked to a known case. Public health officials were today interviewing this case to determine whether they are a community or border-related case, and to identify any locations of interest.
Public health staff are currently supporting 4416 people to isolate at home around Auckland - this includes 1570 cases.
Ardern indicated earlier today that all businesses, including cafes and restaurants, will open again within days of the big review date - November 29.
It is expected Auckland and the rest of the country will then move into the traffic light system within a day or two of next Monday, she told Three's AM Show.
Asked if businesses should expect to be open within a day or two of the November 29 Cabinet decision, she said: "Correct."
Ardern says the country's largest city is on a "very clear" path to what will start to be a somewhat normal life.
Speaking to TVNZ's Breakfast, she said vaccination rates reaching 90 per cent coverage in many parts of the city was making a huge difference compared to when the country went into lockdown in mid-August. At that time, the vaccination rate was about 20 per cent.
For those hospitality businesses hoping for a move into alert level 3.3 this week, it seems unlikely; given the high number of community cases still being identified in the city.
But Ardern has given a strong indication that those in the hospitality sector should plan to get back to business next week.
"Plan for the 29th. We've already given that certainty - the 29th is the decision day for us around which levels parts of the country will go into," Ardern said.
"But Auckland already know - they're going into red. That means that hospitality reopens - cafes, restaurants, it means gyms, it means all those close personal services everyone has missed. They all reopen."
Napier store's deep clean
A Napier op shop has closed for a deep clean after a person tested positive for Covid in the area.
In a post on Facebook, the Salvation Army said this was purely a precautionary measure and they had not been notified the store was a location of interest.
"We've seen some comments on social media suggesting we are a location of interest for the Covid case in Napier. We just wanted to say that we have NOT been informed by Hawkes Bay District Health Board that we are a location of interest or to close our Carlyle Street store because of a covid case," the post said.
A deep clear was booked for 7am this morning by specialist cleaners, the post said.
"We understand people may be concerned but we want to assure you that we are taking necessary precautions to keep our staff and customers safe."
No locations of interest in Napier have been posted on the Ministry of Health website as of 12.30pm today.
Hawke's Bay District Health Board said last night: "The case agreed with public health to go to a community isolation facility so appropriate health and welfare needs could be met over the coming days."
Police were working together with the Ministry of Health on the circumstances in which the person who later tested positive for Covid-19 left Auckland for Napier.
Mayor warns of 'somewhat dire' modelling for Waikato
Meanwhile Ōtorohanga mayor Max Baxter has issued a grim warning for the Waikato, saying modelling for the Waikato indicates a dire situation for the region for December with a huge increase in Covid cases predicted.
Baxter's warning comes after Ōtorohanga - one of the region's hot spots - has not recorded any new cases over the past few days.
"All the modelling that has been done indicates a somewhat dire situation for the Waikato for December with a huge increase in positive Covid cases across the region predicted," Baxter said on social media.
"Therefore please continue with ensuring you stay safe as possible. Ōtorohanga vaccination rates are still 10 per cent lower than our neighbouring councils of Waipa and Waitomo so if you are still considering getting vaccinated please make that move now for your own protection."
Yesterday there were 149 new community Covid cases reported, with 83 people in hospital.
Most were in Auckland, but a small number popped up in Northland, the Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Canterbury.
Then later in the day, two more cases popped up in Northland.
Combined with the 172 cases published on Saturday, which included a Wellington case, it appears Covid has now reached most parts of the North Island and isolated cases are now appearing in the South Island too.
But majority of infected people outside of Auckland still have a clear link to the main outbreak in the city.
Last week, the country hit a new record for the highest number of daily community Covid cases. On Tuesday, 222 new cases were reported.
Change in alert levels
This morning, Ardern said the city was unlikely to see any change to alert levels today.
"Cabinet will give some consideration to the meantime, but we are not expecting significant changes."
Her message to hairdressers and cafe and restaurant owners was: "Plan for the 29th, when Cabinet would meet to decide when to move to the traffic light system."
Vaccination rates reaching 90 per cent coverage in many parts of the city was making a huge difference. In comparison with when the country went into lockdown, in mid-August, the vaccination rate was about 20 per cent, Ardern told Breakfast.
The Government wanted to move to the traffic light system with community Covid case numbers that were as low as possible.
Te Pūnaha Matatini modeller Shaun Hendy said the situation was "looking better in Auckland" but case numbers may soon peak in the city.
The "R" rate, which measures how much the virus has been spreading, had been "falling over the last few weeks, which suggests the vaccine rollout is starting to get ahead of the outbreak in Auckland at least".
He said a move to 3.3 was a "big one" because indoor hospitality was a "clear risk, and arguably less safe than opening under the traffic light system".
"At this stage, it might be prudent to wait a week until we transition to the new system to avoid confusion and taking on extra risk."
Alert level 3.3
Moving to alert level 3.3 would mean hospitality venues could open to indoor dining with an allowance of up to 50 people.
Facilities like cinemas, casinos and theatres could open with a limit of 50 people in a "defined space," wearing face coverings and 2-metre physical distancing.
Outdoor gatherings get bigger, with 50 people allowed.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker said he was not in favour of moving Auckland to alert 3.3, saying those settings could "really accelerate transmission", given that it would allow people to congregate in more indoor settings.
"I would be much more concerned about 3.3 that has people going into a large number of indoor environments."