New Zealand's biggest city is likely to have reached its peak of Omicron cases - but the rest of New Zealand continues a steady rise.
With 7234 cases in Auckland reported on Thursday, experts believe the region may have reached its peak - the rolling average of cases per 100,000 people has fallen from almost 700 to just over 600.
Nationally, 21,015 new Covid-19 community cases were reported yesterday with 773 people in hospital, including 16 people in intensive care.
Canterbury University Professor Michael Plank said it was likely Auckland had hit peak cases but as hospitalisations lagged behind it was possible the city's hospital figures could continue to increase or remain flat for a while yet.
"It could be another week or two before we start to see them come down."
Nationally, modelling indicated the most likely scenario was hospitalisations peaking at somewhere around 1000, he said. "It still looks roughly on trajectory for that as a national peak. Maybe it will come in a little bit lower if we are lucky."
Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said looking at the latest numbers, it appeared cases in Auckland had peaked.
"Optimistically, it looks like Auckland may be past its peak with cases and hospitalisations may be on this quite high plateau and might in the next week start to come down."
Overall, Baker said the number of hospitalisations and deaths would be much higher if it weren't for New Zealand's high immunisation rates. "It would be much higher if it wasn't for that. It would be not manageable, absolutely unmanageable if it weren't for vaccination."
Baker said hospitalisation figures showed how exhausting this time must be for health workers across the system, from primary care to emergency departments. They would be run off their feet while their workforce was depleted by infection and other Covid-19 issues. "It's a very tough period," Baker said.
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said there was quite "a high turnover" of people with Covid-19 in hospital, with many patients spending only one or two nights in the wards.
"There are a lot of people coming and going," Bloomfield said. "The more Covid there is in the community, the more likely it is people who are turning up to hospital for other reasons, whether it is an injury or another illness, will have Covid."
Bloomfield said of the people hospitalised in the Northern region wards (Auckland and Northland hospitals) yesterday, 125 are Māori, 199 are Pacific peoples and 224 are non-Māori and non-Pacific people.
He said around 40 per cent of people turning up at Middlemore's emergency department, where everyone is tested for the virus, were testing positive.
Counties Manukau DHB chief executive Dr Pete Watson told TVNZ's Breakfast yesterday that staff were under pressure but continued to work hard to treat the now more than 150 Covid patients at their wards.
"It's really tough. I've got to be honest - people are tired. Many people are going off sick and it's stressful," he said. "It's a day at a time."
The number of deaths related to the virus has hit 91, Bloomfield announced yesterday while revealing a new system in how officials would report Covid-linked fatalities.
Nine previously unannounced fatalities were reported as a result - including the death of a Kiwi over the age of 100. Health officials also reported the death of a person on Wednesday at North Shore Hospital.
Each one of these deaths represented a community and a whānau that were grieving, Bloomfield said, as he shared his condolences.
Bloomfield also announced yesterday that data since January 1 showed that 21 per cent of people hospitalised, who had their genome sequenced, had the Delta variant and 79 per cent had the Omicron variant.
The last time Delta was detected in a community sample that was sequenced was mid-February, he said.
Baker said it was good news that the "Delta variant seems to have vanished" because it was inherently more severe than Omicron.
"It had a much high propensity to put people in hospital and intensive care and so it's good news to hear that Omicron seems to have fully displaced it."
Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners president Dr Samantha Murton, who joined Dr Bloomfield at yesterday's press conference, said there had been a substantial increase in the volume of work for GPs while some had reported being abused, yelled at and had things thrown at them.
Murton noted the levels of stress among people across the country as they grappled with Covid-related issues and she urged people to be kind, especially with the administration staff, who bore the brunt of calls.
"In my practice, I actually have a sign on the wall which I put up a long time ago that says we value and respect our reception staff, we hope you do too. The fact we have to put a sign up like that shows the way some people respond to the services."
The average age of those in hospital with Covid-19 was 54 yesterday. Of the 21,015 new cases reported, 660 were detected via PCR testing and 20,355 were found using RATs. The seven-day rolling average for Covid-19 community cases is 19,741.