New Zealand has reported nine community cases of COVID-19, its lowest tally in more than a month.
The daily case number is the first in single digits since August 18, the day after the Delta outbreak was identified.
All nine of Friday’s reported cases were found in Auckland, and all have already been linked back to the outbreak.
“Today’s case numbers are encouraging and they indicate the hard work of Aucklanders in particular is paying off,” Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said.
“We don’t believe there is widespread community transmission in Auckland. But as you’ve heard us say before, the job is not yet done.”
Three Kiwis are in intensive care with COVID-19 among 13 in Auckland hospitals.
Auckland is in the sixth week of a lockdown to fight the outbreak, with Mr Robertson urging residents to stay in their bubbles and follow lockdown rules.
Following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s pledge on Thursday to “lead the world” in vaccination rates, vaccinations are continuing at a strong pace.
Health workers delivered another 49,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday: equivalent to roughly one per cent of the country.
As of Friday, 34 per cent of Kiwis are fully vaccinated against the virus, with 64 per cent partially vaccinated.
Death estimates disputed
Ms Ardern wants to vaccinate at least 90 per cent of New Zealanders, including 90 per cent of at-risk groups.
While the drop to single-figure case numbers and the increased vaccination rates are good news, Ms Ardern’s government is under fire for its release of “unconvincing” COVID-19 modelling on Thursday.
Modelling from Te Punaha Matatini, a cross-university research group, suggested more than 7000 would die if border restrictions were loosened with 75 per cent of New Zealanders vaccinated.
Another COVID-19 modeller, Rodney Jones, said the numbers were not plausible when compared with other countries with a similar population.
“That is 140 deaths a week. Singapore has had 11 deaths with just under 80 per cent vaccinated over the last month,” Mr Jones told Stuff.
“It’s absolutely unconvincing.”
Mr Jones and others believe Ms Ardern’s government is attempting to to scare the populaiton into getting vaccinated.
“The evidence is that negative takes and the use of fear does not get people vaccinated,” Jones said.
“It’s not helpful to put a model out like this at this point. We need to look to 2022 with confidence.”
Mr Robertson rejected that criticism.
“It’s important for us that we put out the results of the modelling that’s been done,” he said.
“One thing I know for certain is that every modeller believes every New Zealander should get vaccinated.”