Coronavirus: Expert urges Kiwis to follow rules to avoid more COVID-19 deaths

New Zealand has been given a stark reminder in the need to comply with COVID-19 rules and recommendations.

A father of four in his 50s, who worked at Auckland's Americold, died in intensive care on Friday, becoming the country's 23rd coronavirus-related death.

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles says it is heartbreaking news.

"This is why we're heading down the elimination path - we do not want New Zealanders to be fighting this virus. We know that even in those people who survive there can be rather severe consequences, and we also know it can be deadly."

Dr Wiles says the man's wife and son could only visit him in hospital because of the country's low COVID-19 case numbers. During the lockdown earlier this year when dozens of new cases were being found, people were denied the chance to get close to dying and sick loved ones. 

"This is easier to do when there are very small numbers of cases. It becomes very difficult to do when there are lots of people unwell and in hospital."

Despite the accelerating number of cases around the world, the daily death toll has recently levelled off at around 6000 a day. It's believed that's because the latest wave is being spread by young people getting out and about - restrictions have been lifted in some jurisdictions despite rising case numbers, while others have been flouting rules against large gatherings. 

"We do know that the older you are the more likely you are to die of this virus, but there are also lots of other factors that come into it," said Dr Wiles.

Bars and restaurants in Auckland are open for businesses with a limit of groups of 10 under the city's unique 'level 2.5' rules. 

Police assistant commissioner Richard Chambers says there will be extra officers out to remind people of the rules.

"Whilst you can be in a group of up to 10, there may be another group nearby - you've got to maintain that social distance." 

People are encouraged to wear masks when they can, and use the COVID-19 tracer app.

Chambers is confident vigilance is just as high as during the first wave.

"I haven't seen any change in people's views, in terms of their understanding of the rules. If we all do the right thing, we'll be in a good place... 

"It's a very small number of people who are struggling with the 'why' we are doing this. I would just encourage those few people to have a look at the international experience of the damage this pandemic has caused." 

New Zealand's death toll is 23. In the last week, the countries with the highest number of new cases per capita have been Israel, Brazil, Spain, the US and France.