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Covid-19 hospitalisations remained steady in the South yesterday, the 32 people with the disease in hospital being one higher than on Tuesday.
Both Dunedin and Southland Hospitals have been at or over capacity in their Covid wards during the past week, but case numbers have dropped slightly since the weekend.
The 617 new cases reported in Otago and Southland yesterday was 42 down from Tuesday.
Nationally, the Ministry of Health recorded 8150 new community cases yesterday.
It also reported 11 new deaths of people who had Covid, in the southern region.
The 11 deaths included a child aged under 10 though the ministry did not disclose where in New Zealand that person had died.
It also reported the first case of Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1 in the community without a clear link to the border.
As Covid-19 cases start to rise again in the north, Auckland University computational biologist Dr David Welch wants to see mask restrictions tighten.
"While daily cases numbers have flattened nationally, they are again beginning to increase in the northern region and hospitalisation rates have also increased slightly over the past month," Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.
There is likely to be a second wave, Mr Hipkins said.
Waning immunity, a new season and new variants were all factors in driving numbers up, Dr Welch said.
"I’d say masking is very effective so it’s good that it’s encouraged in some places.
"I think it could be more strongly encouraged in other places. For example, we’re seeing cases rising in schools at the moment.
"I’d like to see masks mandated in schools and I’d like to see more being done on ventilation to be understand risky indoor environments."
Dr Welch hoped the fourth vaccine rollout would begin at the start of June rather than later in the month.
"There’s well over a million people who are due for a dose now but haven’t taken that opportunity so I’d strongly encourage anyone out there to get a vaccination if they’re due."
— Additional reporting RNZ