Nearly 20,000 new community cases in New Zealand

There are 19,566 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today, the Ministry of Health has reported.

It said there were also 373 cases in hospital and nine in ICU.

The new community cases today were in Northland (329), Auckland (12,530), Waikato (1,812), Bay of Plenty (1,185), Lakes (376), Hawke's Bay (168), MidCentral (260), Whanganui (45), Taranaki (165), Tairāwhiti (88), Wairarapa (42), Capital and Coast (691), Hutt Valley (355), Nelson Marlborough (196), Canterbury (740), South Canterbury (37), Southern (529), West Coast (17) and one case is unknown.

There were 22 cases identified at the border.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said there were just under 100,000 active cases across the motu.

"I know that such a high daily case number can be concerning for people to hear, and many of us will now have whānau members who now have Covid-19, but it's important to remember that Covid-19 now is a very different foe to what it was at the beginning of the pandemic."

He said the high vaccination rate meant for most people it would be a more mild illness and could be managed safely at home.

He said PCR testing had served NZ incredibly well, but with thousands of cases each day NZ did reach the point last week where rapid antigen testing became both useful and appropriate.

He said samples were typically pooled earlier on in the outbreak, but a positive test in a batch means each will need to be retested. Higher test positivity rates now however meant it becomes less feasible.

He said prior to 7 February, none of the labs had ever exceeded 5 percent test positivity, but the swift increase in positive cases has affected that. Labs had also had other difficulties including vacancies in roles and sickness because some lab workers have contracted the virus.

On vaccinations, the ministry said 388 first doses were given yesterday; 733 second doses; 74 third primary doses; 23,465 booster doses; 1,452 paediatric first doses and 231 paediatric second doses.