New Zealand hit a "grim milestone" yesterday which could have been 10-15 times higher if it weren't for the country's high vaccination coverage, one expert says.
There were 7592 community cases of Covid-19 reported yesterday and 640 cases in hospital, including 23 in intensive care.
A further 11 Covid-related deaths were also reported, taking the total number of publicly reported deaths to 500.
University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said reaching 500 deaths was "awful" and a "grim milestone" but at the same time New Zealand had the lowest cumulative mortality rate in the OECD at 100 per one million people.
"The risk prior to this was at least 10-15 times higher if we didn't have vaccines."
The Covid-19 "cumulative mortality rate" is the number of virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic divided by a country's population size and is often expressed as "deaths per million people".
Baker said the statistic could be used to compare mortality between different countries but countries recorded deaths in different ways so exact comparisons needed to be made with caution.
Australia's cumulative mortality rate was 255 per million while Britain's was 2491 per million and the United States' rate was 2960 per million.
Baker said Singapore - which had followed a similar elimination strategy to New Zealand - had a rate of 238 per million people.
"Very effective vaccines and high coverage has, in many ways, tamed the pandemic. Even when you add it up, it's 450 or so deaths this year, it's less than a tenth of what we would've seen had we not had high vaccine coverage. It's saving a lot of lives basically."
To date, 96.4 per cent of people have had one vaccine dose, 95.2 per cent have had two and 72.7 per cent of those eligible have been boosted.
For Māori, these figures are 91.2 per cent, 88.2 per cent and 57.2 per cent, respectively.
Of the 11 deaths reported yesterday, 10 people had died in the past three days and one person had died 12 days earlier.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement that delays in reporting deaths could be linked to the virus being discovered only after the person had died.
Two of the people whose deaths were reported yesterday were in their 60s, three were in their 70s, three were in their 80s and three were over 90.
The ministry said three people were from the Auckland region, three were from Waikato, one was from Hawke's Bay, one was from Taranaki, one was from the Wellington region and two were from Canterbury.
"This is a very sad time for whānau and friends and our thoughts are with them," the ministry said.
The seven-day average of cases has continued to decline. Yesterday, the average was 10, 169 compared with 13,218 the previous Monday.
Baker said everything - cases, hospitalisations and deaths - was going down but the rate of decline was slowest in the Southern region, Canterbury, South Canterbury and the West Coast.
"I think you can be fairly confident now that this pandemic wave has peaked everywhere in New Zealand but the rates are still the highest, relatively speaking, in the South Island."
There were 312 community cases reported in Northland yesterday, 1378 in Auckland, Waikato 667, Bay of Plenty 309, Lakes 150, Hawke's Bay 284, MidCentral 350, Whanganui 138, Taranaki 248, Tairāwhiti 69, Wairarapa 89, Capital and Coast 549, Hutt Valley 332, Nelson Marlborough 270, Canterbury 1286, South Canterbury 153, Southern 937 and the West Coast 68.
The location of three cases was unknown.