As the country enters a critical week in the battle to conquer the coronavirus outbreak, the size of the challenge can be summed up in an expert's comment on the Delta variant.
"Delta is ferocious. We are going to have to come up with something more," said Covid-19 modeller Rodney Jones.
The comment will have some recalling the famous line from Jaws about needing "a bigger boat". That underlines the point that Delta is a different beast to the Covid-19 virus that caused the first lockdown last year.
At the weekend it appeared that case numbers in Auckland were still peaking with 82 on Saturday, 83 on Sunday and more people in hospital.
Delta is known to be far more transmissible. Now a British study has also found that the risk of hospitalisation from Delta is about twice as high as from the first, Alpha, variant.
Cambridge University researchers and Public Health England looked at more than 40,000 infected cases in England, involving mainly unvaccinated people. Only 1.8 per cent of cases analysed involved fully vaccinated people.
A study author noted that "in the absence of vaccination, any Delta outbreaks will impose a greater burden on healthcare than an Alpha epidemic. Getting fully vaccinated is crucial for reducing an individual's risk of symptomatic infection [and] reducing a Delta patient's risk of severe illness and hospital admission."
As Auckland prepares for more time in level 4 and the rest of the country appears set to slip to the slightly less rigorous level 3, it's worthwhile looking at the measures New South Wales has tried to throw at its raging outbreak without success.
The Delta outbreak in the Australian state began with an unvaccinated driver ferrying air crew in mid June. Cases are now over 23,000.
NSW authorities started slowly by calling for people to get tested in the Bondi area of Sydney and brought in mask-wearing for indoor places. Further restrictions were drip-fed for greater Sydney on group sizes for events and distancing. Full lockdown for the area was introduced on June 26 at 80 cases.
More vaccine doses were brought in and the pace of vaccination has since picked up markedly. Defence force troops provided logistical support. The lockdown was extended statewide on August 14. The state has also tried mandatory masking outdoors, night-time curfews and perks for the vaccinated.
The New Zealand Government has fired its best shot at Delta with a very quick and strict lockdown. Does it have a 'bigger boat' if needed?
The Government is attempting to ensure that the vaccine momentum since the outbreak began can be sustained in September with sufficient supplies.
University of Auckland Covid-19 modeller Shaun Hendy said that the Government could have to make level 4 even tougher if Auckland's outbreak did not even off soon. He suggested shutting some supermarkets and other essential businesses and making rapid testing available.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday that restrictions at workplaces able to open at level 4 could be tightened.
The quickest way out of this dilemma is by people following the rules, limiting their movements and getting vaccine shots. Introducing NSW-tried measures in Auckland such as mandatory masking when outdoors or a curfew could undermine public buy-in.
At least the source and main clusters are known, and hundreds of locations have been publicised. Hendy said cases were not doubling quickly as would happen in an uncontrolled outbreak.
Auckland University School of Medicine Professor Des Gorman said yesterday that his "suspicion is that level 4 is working very well". He added: "The thing we we have to look for are infections arising after lockdown and the groups to watch, of course, will be the essential workers".
If Delta is twice as difficult, it may simply take twice as much work to subdue.