Coronavirus: Experts warn against complacency as fourth wave of COVID-19 bites

A fourth wave of COVID-19 is biting and there's a warning it looks set to coincide with the winter flu onslaught.

But experts are worried New Zealanders' complacency could be the biggest risk to our overloaded hospital system. 

Hamilton's Cam Bichan was due to be best man on Saturday at his mate's wedding but COVID-19 put paid to that. Epidemiologists say he's part of the fourth wave of cases.

"Just really gutted for my mate, and a bit unfortunate my wife is pregnant as well, so just trying to manage it," he told Newshub.

On the COVID-19 ward at Waikato Hospital numbers have been tracking up here and across the country since February.

Over 14,000 people nationally reported as positive last week, up 2000 on the week before.

"One of the concerns with this particular wave is we are going into a winter. We have a lot of other infectious diseases around as well. It has the potential to compound things," said University of Auckland vaccinologist Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris.

The number of hospital admissions has doubled in the past seven weeks - 363 people are currently in hospital and nine in ICU.

And health officials say COVID-19 is also more prevalent once again in our wastewater systems.

Previous COVID-19 waves have lasted four-five months, health officials predict this one will pack less of a punch.

The Ministry of Health said it's not concerned yet, but those at the coal face are pleading with people not to overload already stretched wards.

"There is a degree of complacency out there, people need to get their boosters, they also need to get their flu vaccine as well," said Waikato medical officer of health Felicity Dumble.

And with this wave, a new public health study suggests youngsters in daycare could be at risk.

Four out of six early childhood centres tested had poor ventilation making them a breeding ground for viruses like COVID-19.

The Ministry of Education said every school last year got money for CO2 monitors to test for ventilation but admits only 1700 lower socio-economic daycares got money for them.

Centres like Waikato's Best Start missed out.

"At the end of the day we have children to think of, we have teachers to think of and if other sectors are out there getting government support, why shouldn't we?" asked Michelle Griffen.

And with whooping cough, measles, and flu the cherry on the COVID-19 cake, the message for the coming weeks is this:

"If you're feeling unwell put a mask on, stay away from crowded areas and wash those hands basic steps to avoid all infectious diseases," Prof Petousis-Harris said.

A fourth COVID-19 wave clearly not the only concern.