COVID-19: Dr Ashley Bloomfield reveals when he thinks case numbers will drop as more cases 'definitely' recorded overnight

Sixty-two new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Wednesday, the highest daily total since New Zealand's latest outbreak began nine days ago - but the Director-General of Health says the peak is still yet to come.

The outbreak now stands at 210 cases, the majority of which have been detected in Auckland. A small number have also been found in Wellington, but the rest of the country currently remains untouched.

New Zealand has now entered its ninth day of lockdown, with the Auckland region to remain under alert level 4 protocol until August 31 at least. However, the rest of the country has a chance of shifting to a lower level of restrictions at 11:59pm on Friday.

But with more than 20,000 contacts identified in connection to the outbreak and almost 500 potential exposure sites, data modelling suggests case numbers will continue to swell - with the outbreak possibly ballooning to around 1000.

Speaking to The AM Show on Thursday morning, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the peak of the outbreak is still pending.

"Look, there were definitely more cases trickling in through the day yesterday, talking to our colleagues up in Auckland, and we'll expect more overnight," he said.

"Yesterday, 62 was a pretty high number, and we may well have a high number again today. We will be looking over this next day or two to see that levelling off and then start to drop."

Experts have consistently advised that numbers will continue to climb before the effects of lockdown make a visible dent, with cases gradually beginning to level out before tailing off - a pattern referred to as flattening the curve.

"It is important to realise that every single one of us has a role to play in flattening the curve. Doctors need to identify and test possible cases quickly and place them in strict isolation, so they can't infect others. Public health authorities need to identify close contacts of cases and place them into strict quarantine to limit possible spread. Physical distancing measures like cancelling sporting events, concerts and other large gatherings can also help to slow transmission of the virus," says the World Health Organization's official advice.

Dr Bloomfield said health officials are hopeful that a downturn in case numbers will be seen over the coming days. 

"Well my hope is that it will be even before then, but Friday/Saturday would be our hope," he said. 

"We will see the alert level 4 restrictions really start to kick in then, even though this is Delta - and we've seen a large number of cases just showing how quickly this variant does transmit through the community."

Dr Bloomfield also addressed the reported vaccination botch-up that made headlines on Wednesday. It's understood that on July 12, five patients at the Highbrook Vaccination Centre in East Tamaki may have received an incorrect dose of the vaccine after health staff discovered a left-over vial during their end-of-day reconciliation. 

It has been suggested that the patients may have instead received a shot of saline solution instead of the vaccine, but health officials say it is still unclear what happened - despite the investigation beginning about six weeks ago. As of Wednesday, the affected patients had yet to be identified or contacted about the blunder - leading to outrage from Opposition parties who have called on the Government for greater transparency.

Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show it is not yet known what happened, but said it is unlikely the patients were injected with saline - a solution of salter and water used to dilute the vaccine once it has thawed.

"If there were five people out of the 732 [vaccinated that day], it wasn't actually that they got saline, but they would've got a diluted dose," he said. 

"One of the vials, which would've had a dose left in it - we were only getting five out of the vials at that clinic that day - there may have been five people that got a diluted dose that day. 

"I'm sorry that the incident happened."