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Health authorities in New Zealand fear the nation's Delta outbreak will soon spiral out of control after another spike in community Covid cases.
Wednesday's total of 60 new cases follows a pandemic high of 94 on Tuesday with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warning cases "will continue to increase".
Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins has drastically upped case estimates for the outbreak, saying daily counts could reach the "high hundreds" and spread right around the country, and beyond its current nucleus of Auckland.
While New Zealand has successfully managed to keep infection to a minimum throughout the pandemic, like many other countries, it has failed to fend off the highly-infectious Delta strain.
NZ's Covid zero strategy a distant memory
There are now fears New Zealand's health system could become overwhelmed with Covid admissions as the virus takes hold.
While there are just five people in ICU as of Wednesday, that number is expected to grow in the coming weeks with the nation's once-praised Covid zero strategy now merely a distant memory.
New Zealand's health system is significantly less resourced than Australia's – with roughly 50 per cent of ICU beds than its cross-Tasman neighbour per capita.
Mr Hipkins and Ms Ardern stressed the importance of the nation's vaccine rollout to ensure it hits its vaccine targets before widespread transmission occurs.
"We do need to be prepared for that," Mr Hipkins told Radio NZ.
Ms Ardern added: "What we want though is for our ability to maintain a manageable situation."
As of Tuesday, 3.59 million Kiwis are at least partially vaccinated - or 83 per cent of the eligible (aged 12 and over) population.
Two-thirds, or 2.84 million, are fully vaccinated.
"We have to find the unvaccinated people before COVID-19 does," Mr Hipkins said.
Auckland remains in lockdown and will do so for at least another two weeks. Residents of the nation's largest city have faced the tight restrictions for more than two months.
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