There are 23,183 new community cases of Covid-19 being reported today, with 503 people in hospital, including seven in intensive care.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health said a new death of a New Zealander with Covid-19 haas been recorded with a person passing away in a Bay of Plenty rest home. The person died of an unrelated medical condition while receiving palliative care and had tested positive for the coronavirus.
There are 146,527 known active community cases in New Zealand.
Today's new community cases were in the Northland (520), Auckland (13,237), Waikato (1870), Bay of Plenty (1332), Lakes (537), Hawke's Bay (315), MidCentral (381), Whanganui (79), Taranaki (289), Tairāwhiti (134), Wairarapa (94), Capital and Coast (1487), Hutt Valley (642), Nelson Marlborough (271), Canterbury (1294), South Canterbury (53), Southern (615) and West Coast (16) DHBs.
Speaking at today's media conference, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said for the period of 21-27 February, about 1 percent of the New Zealand population were active Covid cases.
Dr Bloomfield said the hospitalisation rate is just 3.5 per 1000 active cases, but as seen in other countries hospitalisations lag by a week to 10 days behind case numbers, so both the rate and the number in hospital are expected to rise over the next couple of weeks.
About one in 10 people in hospital in Auckland were there with Covid-19, including those in emergency departments, he said.
Dr Bloomfield said 85 percent of the cases reported today were from self-reported rapid antigen tests, and he hoped people who would be motivated enough to seek such a test would also then self-report it. However, he acknowledged it was hard to gauge how many were going unreported.
He said other indicators - including hospitalisation rates and people turning up unwell to emergency departments - gave a "quite good picture" of how many total cases there were.
He expects the peak of case numbers will be over the next week or so, and hospitalisations can be expected to peak about two weeks later - so the burden on the health system will be largest perhaps in the last week of March.
Bloomfield said the infection rate for vaccinated people aged 12 and over with a booster is only a fifth of what it was for those without any vaccination.
He urged people who were eligible but have not yet had a booster - or other vaccinations - to go and get it, as he said it remained the best protection against going to hospital.
There were 17,963 vaccine booster doses given yesterday, as well as 391 first doses; 869 second doses; 94 third primary doses; 1391 paediatric first doses and 248 paediatric second doses.
There were also 11 cases reported at the border today.
Yesterday authorities reported 22,152 new community cases and 405 people in hospital, including 10 in intensive care.
There have now been 165,440 cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand since the pandemic began.
The number of active community cases swells
On Wednesday New Zealand passed 120,000 currently active cases of Covid-19 in the community.
Middlemore Hospital in Auckland said they had 400 frontline staff off work sick or isolating, and the Manukau Surgery Centre has had to shut down half of its elective surgery, to redistribute those staff.
University students living in halls of residence have told RNZ almost everyone they know has Covid-19, making for a surreal orientation week.
Modelling expert Professor Michael Plank told RNZ the number of people in hospital has been doubling roughly every five days, and if that trend continues there will be more than 800 people in hospital within a week.
As the numbers look at the moment, he expects the hospitalisation rate to peak at about 1000 people in hospital in about three weeks.
Free rapid antigen tests can now be ordered online for home testing for those who are symptomatic or a household contact, and can be picked up from collection sites.
The Ministry of Health said RATs are still available at community testing centres for eligible individuals, and they can be bought at some retail stores.