Kiwis have been so surprised about Jacinda Ardern’s new Covid-19 home isolation rules, that some thought it was a bad joke.
Earlier this week, the New Zealand government issued instructions saying ‘household close contacts’ of a positive Covid case must isolate for up to 24 days – even if they do not have the virus.
This means that household contacts are required to isolate longer than the actual case themselves, which only has to isolate for 14 days.
‘The isolation period for Covid-19 cases in the community is at least 14 days, including 72 hours symptom-free,’ the instructions say.
‘Your household members will need to remain in isolation for at least 10 days after you have been released as a case. This means they will need to be in isolation for longer than you.’
As news spread about the rule this week, many Kiwis were quick to speculate over whether it could be a mistake.
However the government confirmed that the confusing isolation rule was not a mistake, and that close contacts are required to isolate for 24 days.
Jacinda Ardern has introduced a new Covid-19 home isolation rule so extreme that some people thought it was a bad joke
How employers and employees will manage the lengthened isolation period is already raising concerns.
‘Unless they’re helping people financially I doubt people are actually going to do this, people have kids to feed and homes to keep,’ one Kiwi wrote.
‘This government does not know what they’re doing,’ another wrote.
‘Who has that much annual leave to take, because that’s what we have to do at our job, use our annual leave,’ said Haze.
Employment lawyer Barbara Buckett, of BuckettLaw, told RNZ it’s unclear how people who can’t work from home can stretch their existing leave balances over the 24 days.
‘It really is a compulsory leave situation which may or may not comply with the sick leave requirements and certainly 24 days is going to exhaust most people’s sick leave,’ she said.
However, others suggested the rule change was a good idea.
Dave McGrath said: ‘It’s super simple, the family members might catch it from them for up to 10 days, and need 14 days from then. Some people just enjoy complaining.’
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told the New Zealand Herald 24-day isolation periods are not new and based on health advice that have underpinned New Zealand’s Covid response.
New Zealand’s tough new Covid-19 isolation rules
The isolation period for COVID-19 cases in the community is at least 14 days, including 72 hours symptom-free.
Your household members will need to remain in isolation for at least 10 days after you have been released as a case.
This means they will need to be in isolation for longer than you.
The isolation period for close contacts is 10 days from last exposure.
You will need to be tested immediately and on day 5 and day 8 after last exposure.
If you refuse or are unable to be tested, you may be required to isolate for longer. Public health officials will guide you.
The changes are part of the first phase of NZ’s new three phase plan to try and ‘stamp out’ Omicron before it spreads widely.
This is despite the NZ government acknowledging the inevitability of an Omicron surge by saying overseas experience shows that new cases from the new variant double every two to four days in the same announcement.
Instructions issued by the New Zealand government appear to suggest ‘household close contacts’ of a positive Covid case in New Zealand must isolate for up to 24 days, even if they do not have the virus
‘This means a 10 case outbreak could reach 1,000 cases per day in just six to 12 days,’ Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said.
On Friday, NZ announced 105 cases of Omicron, up just 15 from the previous day.
The changes are part of the first phase of NZ’s new three phase plan to try and ‘stamp out’ Omicron before it spreads widely
The first stage of the new Kiwi plan looks set to stay in place until NZ reaches 1,000 cases a day, when the nation will move to phase two – which is expected to be around February 6.
Under NZ rules someone is considered a close contact if they have been within 1.5 metres of a maskless positive case for at least 15 minutes; or if they kissed or shared a drink, cigarette or vape with a positive case; or were with a positive case for at least an hour indoors.
At stage two of the plan, positive cases need to self-isolate for 10 days and contacts for seven days as the focus shifts to slowing the spread.
Under the plan’s first two stages a positive case can be identified using a Rapid Antigen Test but must be confirmed by a PCR test to be an official positive case.
At stage three, RATs will become the normal testing tool to confirm cases.
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