Health experts are urging the public to embrace basic known measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 as increasing numbers show a surge of illness is gripping the nation.
Ministry of Health numbers show an ongoing growth in transmission of Covid-19 with 9307 new community cases in New Zealand yesterday and a further 22 Covid-related deaths. There are 570 people in hospital with the virus, including nine in intensive care.
The numbers are a steady increase and come as winter illnesses strike at the nation's wellbeing.
It has seen Air NZ yesterday citing "increasing levels of illness in the community" as the reason for bringing back its Covid-19 fare credit scheme for those whose travel plans clashed with sickness.
Auckland University's associate professor Dr Siouxsie Wiles says Kiwis were not unified in their approach to public health measures.
Some "aren't giving up, they're still wearing masks" while others "want things to be like they were in 2019 if they've had Covid".
Wiles said it was "frustrating" when there wasn't a critical mass of people using basic Covid-19 protections "when we have all these public health measures available".
She listed RATs, masks, self-isolation and vaccines among the health measures that strengthened defences against Covid-19.
"I don't understand why we aren't using these measures we know work."
Precautions that helped included using RATs before attending events, she said.
"That way if someone is positive then they won't be going out."
Wiles said reduced capacity limits for events and venues - as available in Level Red - would help "but this BA.5 variant is so infectious it will spread with all the other things we're doing too".
"BA.5 is causing surges in other places. We're expecting it to happen here, on top of influenza.
"It's not a restriction to be thinking about ventilation, or opening windows. Those are just sensible precautions to take.
"My hope is that schools bring masks back more widely because it's obvious that schools which kept masks in place have far fewer absences and illness."
Wiles said those who had been ill and chanced infection again could not predict the severity based on their previous experience.
"Every time you get infected you roll a dice - it may leave you with heart problems, brain fog, or worse."
University of Otago professor Michael Baker said it was understandable "people want to get back into the swing of things".
"But when 2 per cent of the population is infected, and there are a few dozen people in the same room, there's a reasonable chance someone in the room can infect you."
Baker echoed Wiles on basic public health measures highlighting two steps that would make difference.
"One is using masks and associated ventilation, while the second is promoting self-isolation when sick. The great thing is that they work on all viruses."
Political scientist Dr Bryce Edwards said it was unlikely the Government would move back to the red setting unless the surge saw high numbers of Covid-19 infection. And in that case, he said it would be driven by the public mood.
"I do believe the Government will be seriously evaluating the need for a shift to red, but they desperately don't want to go to red if they can avoid it."
Edwards said there would be a mix of economic and political calculations, and consideration of how the health system would cope.
"If infections escalated higher, say beyond 20,000 daily cases, then I do think the public would start to want a shift to red."
Air NZ's chief customer and sales officer, Leanne Geraghty, said the airline had 670,000 booked to travel in the next fortnight and the return of the credit scheme for flights would allow flexibility to change plans.
The airline said it was hearing from a large number of customers sick with Covid or other winter illnesses, along with a rise in staff sickness.