Epidemiologist Tony Blakely says he's confident Auckland will be out of its COVID-19 lockdown by Christmas.
The super city has now been in lockdown for 63 days. It's currently at COVID-19 alert level 3, still some of the toughest restrictions in the world.
New Zealand reported 94 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday - the highest number of daily infections since the pandemic began. Eighty-seven of those cases were in Auckland.
Prof Blakely was asked if restrictions could realistically be lifted by Christmas despite such a rise in cases.
"Yes," said Prof Blakely, a University of Melbourne epidemiologist originally from New Zealand.
"You're nearly at 70 percent double vaccination - already in Melbourne, for example, at 70 percent we're starting to release," he told The Project.
He said the idea would be to release Auckland from lockdown while vaccination coverage was going up behind the scenes.
"For places like New Zealand or WA [Western Australia] for example, who haven't been living with the virus, you'd probably hold on to 80 percent before you let the lockdowns go - and then you'll ease out of them - still aiming for 90 percent [vaccination] by Christmas."
Prof Blakely also said Aucklanders will be sick of lockdown.
"They need to be let out at some stage - I don't think they can just hold on and on and on for the benefit of the rest of New Zealanders but, at the same time, if they come out at, say, 75 to 80 percent vaccination coverage - yes, it is likely to leak down to Waikato, then down to Wellington and it could spread. That is just the reality."
He said it will be hard for the New Zealand Government to find the right balancing act.
Prof Blakely said the mentality around the vaccine has changed in Australia and believes it will in New Zealand too.
"You can't just keep Aucklanders locked up in their cage until the rest of the country's got to 90 to 95 percent vaccination, in my view.
"It's changed a lot over here. Only three months ago we're saying… '70 percent's going to be hard,' now we're saying, 'Gosh, 95 percent's on.'"
But a few things were needed to boost those rates, he said.
"Vaccine targets; and particularly… when you release mean that only vaccinated people can go out to restaurants - further incentivising people to get vaccinated.
"There seems to be a huge culture change here with more and more industries requiring people, if they work in those industries, to be vaccinated and I think everybody's just gone, 'Oh, OK, let's just get vaccinated.'"
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will reveal vaccination targets for easing restrictions on Friday.