There are 106 new cases of Covid-19 today, bringing an end to what had been a rare two-day streak of announcements in which the cases were only in the double digits.
There are 77 people in hospital with the virus, seven of which are in ICU.
Fifty-six per cent of those in hospital are unvaccinated.
A further 25 per cent have only received one dose, or are within 7 days of their second, and only 13 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The vaccine status of the remaining 6 per cent is unknown.
The latest cases include 93 in Auckland, eight in Waikato, and three in Northland, as well as one case each in Whanganui and Canterbury that were preliminarily reported yesterday afternoon.
There are 3628 people isolating at home in Auckland instead of at MIQ facilities. Of them, 857 have the virus.
Sixty-seven of today's new cases have not yet been epidemiologically linked.
More than 90 per cent of eligible Māori in Auckland's three DHBs have now had their first dose of the vaccine.
Capital and Coast DHBs also reached that milestone today.
Four other DHBs – Waitematā, MidCentral, Hutt Valley and Wairarapa - are all close behind with first dose vaccination rates for eligible Māori at or above 87 per cent, the Ministry of Health reported today.
Of the three new cases in Northland today, one is an essential worker based in Whangārei who regularly travels to Auckland. The case was picked up as the result of routine surveillance testing.
The other two cases, in Kaitaia, were close contacts of previous cases and had already been isolating.
Waikato's eight new cases include two in Hamilton, two in Te Kūiti, three in Piopio and one in Huntly. Only one case remains under investigation, with the others linked to previous cases.
The two latest cases in Canterbury include a close contact of yesterday's case and a young child in the same household. All three have gone to a MIQ facility.
Health officials praised the person whose case was detected yesterday.
"As soon as the person in Canterbury learned of their contact the person got a test and had been isolating at home since that time," the ministry said.
"The person's prompt actions have reduced the chances of further spread and underline the importance of getting a test immediately if you have been to a location of interest, are identified as a contact or possible contact of a case, or if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms."
Nationwide, the vaccination rate is now 93 per cent for those with one dose and 88 per cent for second doses. In total, 7.7 million jabs have been administered.
The nationwide first-jab vaccine rate for Māori is 84 per cent and it is 92 per cent for Pacific people.
There have been two new cases identified at the border.
Covid hits Whanganui
The case from Whanganui, revealed yesterday, involves a person who travelled from Waikato who is now isolating at a DHB facility.
Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall acknowledged it has caused anxiety in the community, especially with Auckland's citywide quarantine from the rest of the nation expected to end later this month - despite the elimination strategy having been abandoned.
The new case should make Whanganui residents realise that the pandemic will very easily be able to travel down the highways to the region, the mayor said, echoing his past encouragement for people to get vaccinated.
But visitors to Whanganui also need to be responsible, he said, encouraging people to stay away if they're sick. They should make sure they're tested and vaccinated, and not be blithe about the regulations, he said.
Great start for traffic lights
Sunday's Ministry of Health update comes after two consecutive days of relatively good news for the nation as a whole, with less than 100 new Covid-19 community cases per day on the first two days of the new traffic light system.
Prior to Friday, there hadn't been an update with cases in the double digits since late October.
Saturday's announcement saw 98 new cases of Covid-19 across six regions - including three in Northland, six in Bay of Plenty, two in Hawke's Bay and one each in the Lakes and Nelson Marlborough regions.
However, the Whanganui case and an additional case in Canterbury were announced later in the afternoon.
There were 92 cases on Friday.
As of yesterday, 73 cases were hospitalised - seven of which are in ICU.
Numbers likely to rise
The low Covid-19 numbers in recent days are great news, and they show that the nation's vaccination push is working, two prominent academics told RNZ.
But don't expect them to stay that way, they warned.
"There's far more mixing of people now [under the traffic light system], far more interactions, and it wouldn't at all surprise me if our case numbers start to rise again," said University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles. "The question is whether we can keep them at a level that protects our health system and our hospitals."
In a week or two we'll start to know what impact the traffic light system is having on case numbers, she predicted, imploring Aucklanders to consider staying a home for the holidays even if the Government does allow for travel.
"We obviously have the unvaccinated and the under 12s and they are not protected from severe disease, so depending on where the virus spreads, we could see a massive rise in cases and hospitalisations if it starts to circulate in those people and communities that are not already protected by vaccinations."
Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker told RNZ he also expects numbers to rise, but it could be offset somewhat by the warmer weather as people spend more time outside - where it is more difficult for the virus to get a foothold.
He's most worried, he said, about pockets outside Auckland where vaccination rates remain lower than average.
Close to 30,000 people got tested on Saturday, higher than the rolling daily average for the past 7 days, which sits at 27,804.
Nearly 8,000 of yesterday's tests were in Auckland.
Jab rates going up
However, there has been some encouraging news about vaccination rates in recent days, and more good news was expected today.
On Saturday, Auckland's three DHBs – Auckland, Waitemata and Counties Manukau – were just 20 doses short at the time of reporting of achieving 90 per cent first dose rate for the region's eligible Māori population. Eighty-one percent of the same population has been double jabbed.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health also reported Saturday that 90 per cent of the eligible Pacific population in Auckland's three DHBs have now received one dose of the vaccine, while 82 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Across the nation, 93 per cent of eligible Kiwis had received a first dose as of yesterday, with 87 per cent double jabbed.
Cook Islands' first case
Like Whanganui, the Cook Islands were are also reckoning with their first confirmed Covid-19 case this weekend.
But Prime Minister Mark Brown insisted the detection - involving a 10-year-old boy who arrived on an repatriation flight from New Zealand - is not a cause for anxiety. It shows the system to allow visitors again is working, he said.
The boy, who is ineligible to be vaccinated because of his age, arrived with his family on Thursday and returned a weak positive on Friday night. The case was announced on Saturday.
Neither the boy's siblings, his vaccinated mother nor the 175 passengers who shared the flight with them had tested positive for the virus by Saturday.