Health chiefs say New Zealand should now start to see the peak of Covid-19 cases in the Delta outbreak as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stresses the level 4 lockdown is working.
Ardern and her Cabinet colleagues are due to meet tomorrow to decide if lockdown restrictions can lift in parts of New Zealand.
The 68 new cases reported in the community today is the highest daily number yet in the current outbreak. It brings the total to 277.
Of those 277, 34 people had received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine and 10 were fully vaccinated, director of public health Caroline McElnay says.
Covid-19 has also been detected in Christchurch wastewater, though McElnay pointed out there were three active cases in managed isolation in the city. Samples from nearly every other wastewater catchment were negative, she said.
In Wellington, Covid-19 continues to only be detected at Moa Pt. No new results had been reported from Auckland wastewater since yesterday.
Of the 277 cases in the outbreak, 263 are in Auckland and 14 are in Wellington.
Overall, New Zealand was in a very similar place to yesterday, Ardern said. The numbers were not unexpected, she said.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we continue to see high numbers because of those household contacts," Ardern said.
What does this mean for lockdown?
The lockdown was having an impact, Ardern said.
The virus hasn't spread beyond Auckland and Wellington. If it weren't for lockdown, Ardern said she was sure we would have seen cases spread further.
"With Delta, people are infectious much sooner and appear to give it more people. We can expect the lag time in our numbers to be longer, and bigger," Ardern said.
She said we need to be "incredibly vigilant".
Experts were telling the Government to stick to the elimination strategy, Ardern said.
The collective goal was to move away from lockdown measures and vaccines would help the country do that, the Prime Minister said. She said it was not the Government's intention to use lockdown measures "forever".
Ardern said compliance with level 4 restrictions had been impressive so far.
"Always act as if you might have Covid," she reminded New Zealanders.
"The most important thing you can do to avoid further lockdowns, is to get vaccinated."
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She wants to see the highest number of people vaccinated as possible before New Zealand abandons the elimination strategy.
Church cluster rises to 114 cases
There are still six sub-clusters. The Birkdale Social Network cluster has 35 confirmed cases and the Māngere church cluster has 114 cases.
Individuals were split across multiple congregations, Ardern said, which had caused some challenges.
There are 495 locations of interest - but only three new ones were added today: a pre-lockdown rugby game and two supermarket visits post-lockdown.
A total of 24,402 contacts had been formally identified by 8am today. Sixty-five per cent have been followed up by contact tracers and individuals are self-isolating. Seventy-one per cent of all close contacts have had a test.
Yesterday New Zealand labs processed 41,739 swabs nationwide.
In Wellington, 3303 swabs were processed and more than 20,000 swabs were processed across Auckland yesterday.
Twenty-three community testing centres are open in Auckland today.
There are six regular testing centres, and 12 pop-up centres. Today is expected to be another busy day at testing centres.
Missing link to Crowne Plaza
There was a possible link between a case detected early on in the outbreak and the Crowne Plaza. But the person who might be the missing link had tested negative twice, and their household. It was not something the Government was "canvassing widely", Ardern said.
New South Wales Health has reported 1029 cases in the community, the worst single day of the outbreak to date.
Ardern on vaccine investigation
The Ministry of Health has copped criticism on the lack of contact with a very small number of people who might have received a saline vaccine at the Highbrook jab centre in Auckland's East Tamaki.
"It was not good enough it took that length of time to tell people what happened," Ardern said. She said the delay was because the best alternative option for those people affected had not been decided, "but no one's safety was compromised", she said.
Alert levels decision
The Government is beginning to consider whether it can lift alert levels anywhere in the country outside Auckland, and will announce its decision tomorrow.
Potential exposure sites in the outbreak are mounting and authorities warn the first wave's peak will hit in the next 48 hours.
A second quarantine facility is due to open in Auckland to place the ballooning number of infected people needing to be isolated from families.
Outbreak models show a need to keep the city in lockdown for weeks to curb spread.
Yesterday was another record day for vaccination: 87,772 doses administered. More than 3 million doses have been administered since the campaign began. The largest number of bookings was made yesterday: 2700.
Five secondary school rugby games played at South Auckland's De La Salle College are now potential exposure sites for Covid-19.
Everyone who watched or took part in a sporting clash at the Māngere school on Saturday August 14, is considered a close contact and is asked to isolate for 14 days. They include teams from Mt Albert Grammar, King's College, St Paul's College, Massey High and Dilworth School.
The locations of interest website does not specify which of the clashes are possible exposure events, rather it lists the school.
There are 494 exposure events involving 364 locations on the Ministry of Health's locations of interest.
Bloomfield said this morning there were more cases to report, but none outside Auckland.
He also revealed a possible link from a case in the Māngere church sub-cluster to the traveller in the Crowne Plaza had been identified, which could solve the issue of any missing transmission links in the whole outbreak.
So far, six epidemiologically linked sub-clusters have been identified within the outbreak. The largest cluster, associated with the AOG church in Māngere, has 105 cases and the Birkdale Social Network cluster, associated with the very first case, is at 36 infected people.
Last night Otahuhu College was the 10th Auckland school added to the growing list.
Another fashion shop at a busy North Shore mall was added, along with a fruit and vegetable store in South Auckland.
Bloomfield this morning revealed around 200 beds could be made available at a second quarantine facility in Auckland.
If the situation continued to worsen there were still options for people to quarantine elsewhere in New Zealand in facilities in Wellington and Christchurch.
Meanwhile, the country's top health official this morning apologised after saline-diluted doses were administered to five people instead of the full-strength Pfizer vaccine in Auckland last month.
Fresh concerns have emerged of a similar incident happening at a Christchurch vaccination centre.
"I'm sorry that happened but we did want to tell people what the options were," he said.
Everyone who got vaccinated on July 12 would either get an email today or letter couriered to them to explain the situation and outline options. Those in the group who hadn't received a second dose would now be expedited, he said.
Bloomfield, who did not have details about the Christchurch situation, said it took seven weeks to reveal the Auckland incident as there had been a lot of discussion about who was vaccinated and what happened.
They had then sought advice from their technical advisory group. It was only in the past month that evidence had emerged about getting a third dose. "We wanted to be in a position to tell them everything we could.
Auckland University Covid-19 modeller Professor Shaun Hendy said he expected Auckland to stay in level 4 lockdown for "multiple weeks".
"We will be looking to get back to zero cases. The first good signs will be when we see those numbers come down," Hendy told TVNZ.
He said there was hope the number of cases would start to drop from next week.
Bloomfield revealed work was under way to look at what an internal boundary between Auckland and the rest of the country would look like, what travel would be permitted across the boundary and how it would be enforced.
Hendy agreed a north-south divide would make sense.
"I think at this stage, a North Island and South Island split is probably what we'd be looking at."