By Lucy Craymer
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's health ministry sees strong signs that the country's latest COVID-19 wave has peaked, as new cases continue to trend lower.
The number of people in hospitals with COVID is also down on late July.
"The case rates have continued to trend lower across all regions for the second week running," Andrew Old, head of the New Zealand Public Health Agency, told reporters on Thursday.
In the past seven days there were on average 6,142 new cases daily of COVID, down from a seven-day rolling average of 7,776 new cases a week earlier, according to Health Ministry data released on Thursday.
According to data issued on Thursday, 663 people are in hospital with COVID, well below levels seen in late July, when more than 800 people were in hospital with the virus.
Australia is seeing signs of an unexpectedly early peak in its winter outbreak. Australian Health Minister Mark Butler told Nine News that the government was quietly hoping cases had begun falling.
New Zealand's latest modelling showed case numbers were at the lower end of what had been expected. The decline "strongly suggests we've reached a peak," Old said.
The Omicron BA.5 sub-variant is driving the current wave in New Zealand, which has 5.1 million people. There have been 44,776 active cases in the past seven days.
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Bradley Perrett)