New Zealand's fifth COVID-19 wave hits new heights

The latest COVID-19 figures have revealed that New Zealand's fifth wave of the virus shows no signs of slowing.   

In the last week, 8040 new cases were reported, with an average of 1146 cases being reported each day, the highest since the fifth wave began.   

And 74 of the cases reported were individuals who had been reinfected with the virus within 90 days of last having it.

There were 324 cases in hospital as of midnight on Sunday, six of whom were in intensive care.  

The seven-day rolling average for deaths attributed to COVID-19 has also risen to 11.   

ESR wastewater surveillance from the week ending January 7 showed a national average of 8.59 million copies of the virus detected per person, per day in wastewater.  

This is three times the levels observed mid-spring and higher than any of the values recorded over December.  

Auckland is being hit the hardest by the fifth wave, with 2766 active reported cases across Counties Manukau, Auckland Central, and Waitematā.   

Canterbury has 884 active cases.   

Epidemiologist Michael Baker isn't surprised numbers are rising and told Newshub in December "I'm not surprised because we're in the middle of this fifth wave of infection and we have seen the arrival of another sub-variant JN.1".  

JN.1 is a sub-variant of Omicron that has quickly become the most common strain of the virus across countries like the United States.  

Te Whatu Ora told Newshub that free RATs "remain available for the public to access until the end of February 2024".  

However, beyond that time it remains unclear whether tests and masks will continue to be available free.   

Te Whatu Ora said that is "currently under consideration".