New Zealand’s “Super Saturday” of Covid vaccinations has proved a hit, with more than 2.5% of the population responding to the call to get jabbed on a single day.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, set an ambitious goal of administering 100,000 shots on the day, aiming to push vaccination rates towards her 90% goal.
But New Zealanders turned out in even greater numbers. As of 7pm local time (0700 BST), health workers had administered 127,342 Pfizer doses on Saturday, jabbing at a higher per capita rate than any day of the rollouts in Australia, the UK, US or Canada.
The director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, could not hide his exultation as vaccine rates pushed past the 100,000 mark. “Already there and more to come. Let’s do this. Fantastic effort. Go whanau [family],” he said.
Ardern broke the news at 3pm, live on air during a special telethon – called the vaxathon – as part of the Super Saturday efforts. “Go big or go home,” she said, calling on New Zealanders to push closer to 150,000 jabs.
“The team of 5 million have turned out in record numbers to protect whanau and loved ones,” she added.
“Super Saturday has exceeded expectations and has ensured as a country we are more protected from Covid-19.
“Keeping up this momentum over the coming weeks means we could become among the most vaccinated countries in the world, ensuring we are protected from the virus and can get back to the things we love.”
The vaxathon called upon a who’s who of New Zealand talent. The film director Taika Waititi, the singers Lorde and Marlon Williams, as well as rugby’s All Blacks and netball’s Silver Ferns all joined the eight-hour broadcast.
Ardern’s fiance, Clarke Gayford, was on DJ duty, celebrating breaking the 100,000 barrier with a record scratch.
The vaxathon crossed live to events across the country, including festivals for Tongan, Samoan, Māori and other populations. According to the Ministry of Health, about 5% of the Tongan community in New Zealand were vaccinated on Super Saturday.
Air New Zealand opened one of its Boeing 787s to allow a lucky few to be vaccinated in business class, before eating in-flight snacks while waiting out their observation period.
Others were given free KFC, pizzas or vouchers for rolling up their sleeves.
The effort leaves New Zealand with roughly 83% vaccination coverage (of people aged 12 and over).
Health officials reported 41 community cases on Saturday, down from 55, 71 and 65 in the past three days. All but one of the new cases were in Auckland, the centre of the Delta outbreak that has led to 60 consecutive days of lockdow. The other case is in Waikato, and is a household contact of a previous case and the person is already in quarantine.
The government predicted this week case numbers would reach about 140 a day by the end of the month.
Wastewater samples have revealed Covid in Beachlands and Pukekohe in outer Auckland, Wellsford in Northland, and previously in Waikato’s Te Awamutu, suggesting the outbreak is not yet controlled.
There are 31 New Zealanders in hospital with the virus, with six in intensive care.