The walled city state of Auckland looks likely for some time, possibly until the end of the year.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's news, at Thursday's Covid-19 briefing, that Auckland would remain cut off from the rest of the country for now, has helped explain why there have been hints all week that a drop to alert level 2 is still on the cards.
A trade-off of level 2 easing for Auckland - in exchange for continued protection from having Aucklanders visit the rest of the country - seems at least possible next week.
If so, it would confirm that the elimination strategy has evolved into one of tight suppression, where small clusters are managed and monitored and low case numbers tolerated, in an attempted slow strangulation of the Delta outbreak.
And it would suggest the Government has found a formula for keeping sustainable restrictions in place while the innoculation effort continues. This would buy time, allowing more freedoms while attempting to bolster the vaccination effort in New Zealand's most vulnerable area: Auckland.
The economic powerhouse, the biggest city, and site of most MIQ facilities is clearly the most important part of the country in which to achieve 90 per cent vaccination levels. Ardern said about 83 per cent of Aucklanders had received their first dose.
Earlier in the week, the Government's plan of working towards reopening in slow steps attracted criticism from political opponents and some medical experts.
Covid-19 experts, on the other hand, have warned against a Cabinet decision on Monday to shift Auckland down to level 2, amid fluctuating Delta case numbers under level 3. Thursday's 19 new cases compared to 45 the day before.
The Government took a wider view of what it hopes to achieve with its Covid strategy when it moved the city from level 4 last month. Experts spoke out against that shift then. However, Government and health spokespeople have said Delta is having most impact on households and there is a degree of control rather than widespread transmission.
If Auckland drops to level 2, the Government's sedate pace overall will likely be maintained as people are prodded to get jabbed.
New Zealand's rollout is showing signs of hitting a ceiling, just when it needs a shot in the arm to aim for a high vaccination rate.
"We are at the hard end now," Ardern said. "Those who took no convincing, they're done."
Daily vaccine dose numbers have fallen to half of the peak early in the Delta outbreak. And that's just as shots become more widely available, in less bureaucratic ways, such as with mobile buses, walk-ins, drive-throughs and in GP clinics. Added to that list is a free taxi service for people getting their first dose in Auckland.
Data shows that booking levels for vaccinations among the under-40 age group nationwide are low. Some people will hopefully be making use of methods that don't require bookings.
A vaccine passport system is due in November, and widespread use of vaccine certificates to gain entry to crowded places and events will have to be strongly considered.
France's Covid passport covers entry to shopping centres, bars, sports stadiums, cinemas, restaurants, nightclubs, and some transport.
Despite an outcry and demonstrations, President Emmanuel Macron's move in July worked. At that stage 54 per cent of the population had received at least one shot. In the next month, an extra 10 million people got a first dose. By the start of this week, 74.3 per cent of the population was partially or fully immunised, including 88 per cent of people aged over 12.
The most effective use of vaccine passes in New Zealand would be requiring them on entry to supermarkets and shopping centres. That would have an impact on people from all walks of life.
At some stage, travel out of the fortress city could be a perk for the vaccinated to encourage more people to get jabs. Motorists might even brave a good old fearsome Auckland traffic jam for that.
Where to get a vaccination in Auckland - without a booking