Ashley Bloomfield says Auckland could potentially come out of alert level 4 before the daily numbers are at zero, as long as new cases haven't been out and about potentially infecting other people.
Auckland will be at level 4 for another couple of weeks at least, with dozens of cases a day still being found. The past two days have seen numbers fall however, signs the strict lockdown is working.
Wednesday's number could break that trend though, with the results of a round of close contact testing due.
"We'd hope for a lower number," the Director-General of Health told The AM Show. "But what I would say is - and we saw this last April as we came down - the numbers will bounce around a bit. Over the last day or two we've been testing a lot of those close contacts who have been due their day 12 test, and I'm expecting some of those will be positive. So the number may be lower, it may be a little bit higher. Let's just see.
"The key thing is it does look like we hit the peak a couple of days ago and we're heading in the right direction."
Even if Wednesday's numbers go up, Dr Bloomfield expects they'll come down from here - the lockdown's been in place long enough that most wild transmission should have been cut off, with isolated households now making up the majority of cases.
"We want to make the most of it, we want to really squeeze the life out of this thing and get the numbers down low. As long as any cases coming through are ones that we would expect - they are people in isolation, they haven't been infectious in the community, then it would be fine for Auckland to come down to alert level 3. But it really depends very much on people just sticking with the game over the next couple of weeks…
"The more we see our cases being people who are either contacts of existing cases - particularly family members, that's where we're tending to get most of the spread - or they're people who we might expect, there's still the odd case popping up in an essential worker workplace, but as long as we can get around those really quickly, then the numbers will come down quite quickly."
Northland's set to move to level 3 at 11:59pm Thursday, provided wastewater testing doesn't pick up any unknown cases.
"So far so good," said Dr Bloomfield. "We've got the final wastewater testing results due Thursday, that will be helpful, and we're just chasing up the last of the close contacts up there who were due a test. We'll run those to ground and hopefully everything's on track for Northland."
Auckland now has three hotels acting as quarantine facilities for known cases, and one - the Holiday Inn - is also hosting household contacts who can't safely isolate at home. But not everyone who's tested positive is in one of those facilities, Dr Bloomfield said.
"There are four people who are isolating at home with the approval of the Medical Officer of Health - that's because they have specific medical or support care needs which can only be really dealt with in their home environment."
He said they're being monitored to ensure they don't leave or have visitors.
"Generally they're people who are not in a position to leave the house anyway."