LISTEN TO UPDATES ON NEWSTALK ZB
There are 20 new community cases of Covid-19 to report today, all in Auckland.
Sadly, officials are reporting the death last night in North Shore hospital of a woman in her 90s who was a confirmed case of Covid-19. The woman had a number of underlying health conditions, the Ministry of Health says.
Twenty seven Kiwis have now died of Covid-19 since the pandemic hit our shores last year.
The last Covid death in New Zealand was in February this year. That person also died in North Shore Hospital.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed her condolences to the family and loved ones of the person who passed away from Covid-19 overnight.
"Every death is a reminder of the damage Covid-19 can cause when it gets into our community," she said.
The woman had underlying health conditions which meant it was not clinically appropriate for her to receive ventilator or ICU care.
However her whānau was regularly updated and was able to speak with her over the phone.
She was a household contact of a case and was confirmed as a case before being admitted to hospital on 28 August from home. She was a household contact of a case and had been confirmed as a case before admission to hospital.
The latest case numbers in the outbreak first discovered when a Devonport man tested positive on August 17 were encouraging, deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said yesterday.
However, he warned the outbreak of the deadly virus' highly infectious Delta variant could have a long tail, with positive cases continuing in Auckland for weeks.
Across the Tasman, where the states of New South Wales and Victoria have given up on eliminating the virus - instead opting for suppression while vaccinations catch up - infections continue to rise ahead of the expected peak in a couple of weeks.
Victoria announced 190 new cases today, while New South Wales recorded 1431 new locally-acquired Covid-19 cases yesterday and 12 deaths.
Queensland, which managed to squash a recent community outbreak, faces a nervous wait after a 4-year-old girl tested positive to Covid-19 in the state's south-east yesterday.
If the state hopes to stay Covid-zero in the community, locking down hard and fast must be considered, infectious diseases expert Dr Paul Griffin told ABC News Breakfast today.
The most recent New Zealand numbers were hopeful, Covid-19 modeller Professor Shaun Hendy said.
"We've seen the clear downward trend this week that we were looking for so we can be reasonably confident now that alert level 4 is doing its job against Delta."
A "September exit [from level 4] is certainly looking more possible, but the risk still remains of a long tail as we experienced last year in the 2020 August outbreak".
Meanwhile, the lower case numbers yesterday hadn't led him to change his thinking on the likelihood of leaving lockdown, which he thinks will come down to what we see in the next few days, fellow modeller Rodney Jones, of Wigram Capital Advisors, said.
"It is the path from here that matters."
Other data released yesterday showed control of the outbreak to be improving.
The number of mystery cases - where a link can't be found to the current cluster - halved on Friday, from 65 the day before to just 31.
The news that 65 per cent of cases were in isolation throughout their infectious period is positive, but that still leaves a significant number of cases that had at least some exposure to the community.
Some 35 per cent of Friday's cases had exposure events where they might have passed the virus on to others.
And Kiwis have also been warned how dire the situation will become if the Government's elimination strategy fails.
While falling case numbers are providing hope, New Zealanders are being warned the Delta variant of Covid-19, and how quickly it spreads, means elimination could still fail.
Academics say the reality of losing the elimination fight would be grim.
Restrictions would need to be in place for months until vaccine rates climbed above 80 per cent, the virus would probably escape Auckland, the healthcare system could be overwhelmed and there would be deaths.
University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker remained confident New Zealand would eliminate the virus, but acknowledged there was a risk it could fail.
"There has always been a risk that we would fail against the Delta variant."
If the Delta variant spread out of control, it would not mean the end of restrictions.
Instead it might mean lockdown, for Auckland at least, could need to be extended until Christmas.
Meanwhile, the person who had escaped from MIQ overnight on Wednesday - getting a ride to his Otahuhu home - presented "no risk to public safety", Robertson said.
The incident, which he described as "regrettable", would be investigated thoroughly, he said.
Robertson also yesterday launched another round of business support on Friday, reopening a second round of wage subsidy for businesses affected by the extension of level 4 and level 3 lockdowns throughout the country.
He also adjusted eligibility criteria enabling newer businesses to take advantage of the subsidies.
The Government's resurgence support payment had previously been restricted to businesses in operation for six months - this was now shortened to just one month, enabling newer businesses to receive the payments.