It was a dark chapter in the history of Covid-19 in New Zealand yesterday, with 175 new community cases, including confirmed cases in Taranaki and Taupō, and 93 people in hospital.
While Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were gridlocked by anti-lockdown and freedom protests, which Auckland Mayor Phil Goff branded "crass and stupid", the grim daily update from the Ministry of Health came out.
Included in the 175 new cases of Covid-19 in the community were five in Taranaki, which had first been announced on Thursday.
Taupō has now four confirmed cases - the first of which was revealed by mayor David Trewavas, while Auckland continued to wear the brunt of the Delta outbreak, with 159 more people infected with the virus.
Although the hospitalisation numbers are rising, the health system is coping, says director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay.
Intensive care units were 70 per cent full, and ventilator capacity was at 15 per cent.
"We can manage, but it is important that we limit the loads on our hospitals," Dr McElnay says.
Public health staff are renewing their calls to anyone in Auckland who is displaying any symptoms, no matter how mild, to get tested.
Anti-government protesters began a low-speed rally in cities including Auckland and Wellington late this morning, with about 200 vehicles in Auckland and 50 in Wellington.
The Freedoms and Rights Coalition protest group claimed to be intentionally travelling at 50km/h and created major delays for thousands of motorists.
Auckland's mayor Goff had visited volunteers and medical staff at Mt Smart Stadium yesterday afternoon when he encountered protesters on the motorway.
"Apart from spreading disinformation and lies about Covid and vaccination and trying to prevent people going into Eden Park to get vaccinated last weekend, was there anything else the extreme anti vaxers could do to alienate more people in the community? Apparently yes," Goff wrote on Facebook.
"Cars across the three lanes of the motorway doing 50kph deliberately blocking people going about their business. Crass and stupid but what else would you expect!"
In Christchurch, inclement weather delayed a planned rolling motorway blockade, but organisers vowed to try again next weekend.
Although the protesters were voicing concerns about Covid-19 vaccine mandates, they have been used around the world and gained broad political support.
The latest Talbot Mills Research poll also shows strong public support - with 78 per cent agreeing with a vaccine mandate for health workers, and 76 per cent for teachers.
Ninety per cent of people in New Zealand eligible to be vaccinated have received at least one dose. Eighty per cent are fully vaccinated.
Children under 12 can't be vaccinated yet, but schools in level 3 areas can again open their doors for all children in years 1 to 10 from Wednesday. Senior students have already returned to the classroom.
Rules for schools to manage include keeping kids in separate, stable groups that don't mingle, using physical distancing where practical, and requiring faces masks inside for children in Year 4 and above.
Pfizer was expected to make an application to Medsafe on vaccines for children "in the next couple of weeks", director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said last week.
If provisionally approved by Medsafe, Cabinet will then make a final decision on use.
"It will be offered if it gets through these approval processes — or if and when — in 2022."