The Prime Minister and Director-General of Health have painted a rosy picture of New Zealand's COVID-19 outlook, as high vaccination rates begin proving their worth and the country tracks well towards increased freedoms in the coming weeks.
Speaking at the post-Cabinet press conference on Monday afternoon, Dr Ashley Bloomfield delivered an optimistic update - despite it falling on the same day the country recorded an all-time high total of 162 new COVID-19 cases.
He told reporters that while case numbers are at higher levels than ever, total hospitalisations of people who have contracted Delta are growing at a much-reduced rate.
"In fact, a number of those people in hospital are in hospital for reasons other than COVID-19, but they happen to have a diagnosis of COVID-19 as well," he said. "Importantly, the number of people receiving ICU or HDU-level care is really quite low."
Dr Bloomfield says the low death rate throughout the Delta outbreak reflects vaccination status, the help of treatments like oxygen, and the young age of cases, with only 22 of last week's cases over 65.
Even at the highest scenario of hospitalisations, Dr Bloomfield says experts believe the health system will be able to manage despite the increased strain.
He said our testing positivity rate is at 0.6 percent, up from 0.4 percent. But he said it remains one of the lowest in the OECD, with the World Health Organization describing anything under the 3 percent threshold as being a low rate.
The R value of the virus is still between 1.2 and 1.3, but Dr Bloomfield believes vaccination rates should be showing their impact. He says there were less than expected number of new COVID-19 cases and ICU admissions last week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was also positive about our COVID-19 status, telling Kiwis there's no need to be afraid of the virus and vowing to have digital vaccine certificates ready for use by the end of the month.
She says while cases are growing, a high proportion of people having been double-jabbed provides the safety to move Auckland to step two of alert level 3 from next week. Ardern also confirmed New Zealand was well on track for increased freedoms by Christmas time.
However it's not all good news. Of particular concern to health officials is an increasing proportion of COVID-19 cases who are Māori - from less than 10 percent of new cases in August to between 40-50 percent now.
But Māori in Auckland are responding well to the call for testing, Dr Bloomfield said, with 12 percent of this group having received a test in the last fortnight.
Pasifika case numbers, which were high at the start of the outbreak amid the emergence of the Assembly of God church cluster, have dropped right back.