There are 28 new community cases of Covid-19 today - 27 in Auckland and one in Wellington, Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay has confirmed.
This takes the total number of cases in this outbreak to 764. Unlinked cases have dropped from 65 to 31, McElnay said.
There are 43 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with nine in ICU. A total of 31,668 - or 84 per cent of contacts - have been followed up by contact tracers, while 89,073 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were delivered yesterday. Just over 64,000 of those were first doses.
There are a number of people walking into vaccination centres casually, but McElnay has urged those people to cancel their booking if they're doing that.
McElnay said there were nearly 31,000 tests processed yesterday. There were a total of 12,796 conducted over the past 24 hours.
McElnay said the drop-off in Auckland's Covid test numbers in recent days is due to a "bulge" from the initial rush of locations of interest at the start of this outbreak, and the rush of close contacts from that. She added that they may have to target their testing in the future to certain areas.
"We do need to keep testing," she urged.
Waitakere, meanwhile, detected a positive case in wastewater testing yesterday but this is not unexpected given there have been cases in that area, McElnay said.
Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson called today's numbers "encouraging" and thanked all public health units across the country who are tracking down contacts.
Significant work is going into driving the Māori vaccination push, he said, while health providers are also looking at "flexible" ways of getting the vaccine to these communities to boost their jab rates.
He refuted the assertion that Australia has "nicked" New Zealand's vaccines with their big influx of Pfizer vaccines announced recently. He insisted they were getting regular deliveries of Pfizer, but said that in order to "meet the momentum" of the recent surge, the Government "continues to look for vaccine supplies".
Escapee's movements revealed
Robertson also answered questions on the Covid-infected man who escaped a quarantine facility in Ellerslie in the early hours of yesterday morning and spent half a day on the run, before being arrested almost 14 hours later.
He said the man was tested because they were a close contact of another positive case.
CCTV footage showed the man left his room many times and eventually escaped down a fire well. He left the facility just after 1am and walked home. Defence force staff noticed the man was not in his room and started their check of the facility. Robertson said he would have had to jump over two fences to escape the facility.
There are no locations of interest due to that walk home and there was no contact with any other person, Robertson said.
"There was no risk to public safety due to this incident," Robertson said of the escapee - adding it was "regrettable".
He "rejected the assertion" that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put public safety at risk by not releasing information about the escapee at yesterday's 1pm press conference.
Robertson said Ardern knew it was an "evolving situation" and police were undertaking their investigation to find the man.
"This was a fast-evolving situation. As soon as we were able to talk about it, we did," he said.
"It would be irresponsible [to reveal information] while the active [police] operation was underway."
This is the first time someone has absconded since the defence force took over MIQ in the middle of last year, Robertson said - adding he thought the system was working well. He acknowledged MIQ was "not a prison".
"The system has been working well," Robertson said. "Every facility has high levels of security."
While Robertson could not say at what exact time police arrived at the house to apprehend the man, he did confirm that all the police officers who apprehended him were either fully or partially vaccinated.
Asked for comment on a reported second lockdown breach by top Kiwi athletes, Robertson shared his sympathy with those restricted by the level 4 regulations in Auckland.
"I know it's tough," he said.
Update on business support
Robertson also said $454m has been approved for business support due to the lockdown.
The six-month test to be eligible for business support has now been reduced to one month. There has been a change to the criteria, Robertson said.
An administrative error on the wage support website between 8pm and 10pm last night left it offline. Robertson said any businesses affected should contact his ministry directly or contact the relevant authorities to reapply.
Employers can apply for the wage subsidy on behalf of casual workers, and Robertson encouraged employers to have that conversation with staff. They are "continuing to look at all the support" provided - for potential expansion to it.
All major banks have waved contactless debit fees and anyone under financial difficulty should contact their bank about mortgage fee deferrals, he said.
Robertson said the Government is taking a look at the residential rental rules under level 4. He reiterated that the enforcement of eviction under level 4 is not allowed.
Yesterday's case numbers
New Zealand notched up 49 new cases of Covid-19 yesterday.
Experts say the figure shows a clear downward trend from the peak of more than 80 cases a day over the weekend - however there are concerns case numbers are not falling fast enough to guarantee Auckland a timely exit from level 4 restrictions.
Professor Shaun Hendy, a Covid-19 modeller at the University of Auckland, has said he wants to see cases "come down faster though, so we can relax alert level 4 as soon as possible".
National leader Judith Collins is calling on the Government to drop the South Island to alert level 2, noting it had been nearly a year since a positive case was detected in the community there.
"South Island people and businesses are being put under unnecessary stress for no good reason," Collins said.
"If Wellington, which has had a number of positive cases during the current outbreak, can be at level 3, it seems a major overreaction to have the same alert level in the south, where there have been none."