New Zealand has posted a record 3297 community COVID-19 cases, amid another increase in hospitalisations.
The coronavirus is straining the country’s health system like at no other time during the pandemic.
On Wednesday, health officials reported 179 people were in hospital with COVID-19, including one in intensive care.
The number in hospital, and the single-day increase, are the highest recorded in New Zealand.
One in every eight tests are returning positive, showing how widespread infections currently are.
Auckland reported 1729 cases — a small drop from Tuesday — but other areas across the country have jumped.
The Waikato (297 cases), Christchurch (176), Bay of Plenty (157) and Wellington (151) are enduring major outbreaks.
The Southern region, which includes Queenstown and Dunedin, recorded a huge jump to 455 cases, which the health ministry has attributed to a data reconciliation.
Public health experts hope New Zealand’s high vaccine rates and ongoing booster campaign will see it avoid death rates suffered by Australia during its recent outbreak.
As of Wednesday, 94.9 per cent of eligible Kiwis have been double-dosed, with 67.7 per cent also receiving a booster shot.
The children’s vaccination campaign lags.
Less than half (48.5 per cent) of Kiwis aged five to 11 have been vaccinated, including 28.8 per cent of Maori kids.
In Wellington, a protest by Kiwis aggrieved by the government’s adoption of vaccine mandates has simmered down.
Hundreds of people have occupied the lawns outside Parliament House and surrounding streets for the past 16 days, setting up campsites and leaving their cars blocking streets.
Police said a number of protesters chose to leave in the past two days, following heated clashes on Monday and Tuesday.
“Constructive discussions with protesters are ongoing,” a police statement issued on Wednesday read.