Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is urging all eligible New Zealanders to get vaccinated against COVID-19 "if you want to avoid level 3".
Parts of Waikato are entering an alert level 3 lockdown after one case was found in Raglan and another in Hamilton East. These are both contacts of each other, but both are yet to be connected to the Auckland outbreak. The pair is also unvaccinated.
Ardern said during Sunday's COVID-19 update it is "not a coincidence" that the majority of those in the current outbreak haven't been vaccinated against the virus.
"That is because the vaccine works, but it's also because the virus is literally finding unvaccinated people," she says.
"Vaccination makes a difference, it keeps people safe, but it also gives us choices, and this is how stark those choices are."
Ardern says if the vaccination rate was at 90 percent or above in either Hamilton or Raglan, then it would've been "highly unlikely" she'd have announced the level 3 restrictions. Instead, she says they could rely on other tools like contact tracing and lower-level public health measures, but there are "fewer choices" while people are still getting vaccinated.
"We have a situation where the vast majority of New Zealanders eligible now are being vaccinated, but the virus is finding our unvaccinated individuals," Ardern says.
"If, in the meantime, the virus moves beyond the Auckland boundary and the places it moves to have low vaccination rates, then today is an example of how we will need to respond. Please get vaccinated today if you want to avoid level 3 in your community, and we can avoid it in the future."
To date, 5,319,381 total COVID-19 vaccines have been administered. Of these, 3,321,136 are first doses and 1,998,245 are second doses, meaning just less than 50 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
Ardern said in September she wants New Zealand to get as close to a 90 percent vaccination rate as possible to help the country avoid future lockdowns.