COVID-19: New Zealand approaching next plateau for outbreak as country marks one year since delta lockdown

Health officials say we have passed the peak of the latest COVID-19 outbreak and we are approaching the next plateau. 

There are currently 496 people in hospital with a further 16 deaths. 

It comes as it marks one year since New Zealand was plunged into lockdown after a community case of delta was found in Auckland. 

The dreaded unscheduled media conference where it was announced was one year ago and New Zealand moved into alert level four.

It unknowingly became a day where our COVID-19 journey changed forever. 

Cue the dash to the supermarket, the long testing line, and the empty roads that followed. 

Initially, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the lockdown would last three days.

"Except for Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula, who we anticipate will likely be at level four for seven days due to them being closely linked to our current case," Ardern said.

Aucklanders ended up being hunkered down for 107 days. 

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told AM the long lockdown was needed.

"It would have saved many lives. The alternative would have been widespread transmission of the delta variant, a bit like what we saw in Australia, and that would have resulted in many deaths over that period."

The biggest challenge for our health system was still to come - winter. 

"Never before has Aotearoa been tasked with such a high prevalence of COVID-19 cases alongside a really big season of influenza as well as increases in other winter illnesses," said interim national medical director of Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand Pete Watson. 

But it's safe to say the peak of the second wave has passed, coming down into our next plateau, according to health officials. 

Deputy Director-General of Public Health Dr Andrew Old said it will be interesting to see how low New Zealand will go in terms of case numbers

"The question now is how low will we go in terms of daily cases. We didn't drop quite as low as we expected between our earlier peak and second peak and that's going to be particularly important in terms of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 over the next few months."

While on Wednesday New Zealand announced 4489 new community cases, this time last year it was different.

"A 58-year-old male from a household in Devonport on the North Shore in Auckland," former Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said at the time.

How times have changed, but the public health message remains the same. 

"Vaccination, mask-wearing, isolating when unwell, testing and self-reporting results," Watson said.

Tools that will be in our toolbox and useful for years to come.