The isolation period for COVID-19 cases and their household contacts will be reduced from 10 to seven days, Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins announced today with the change to come into effect from 11:59pm Friday 11th March.

“We remain committed to reducing the spread of Omicron to protect our health system and each other. However high case numbers and household contacts, and the current 10 day isolation requirement, is having a wider impact on many parts of our lives,” Chris Hipkins said.

“There needs to be a balance between effectively controlling the outbreak and the flow-on effect for business and essential goods and services such as transport and food supply.

“The most up to date public health advice is that there is a decline in infectiousness of Omicron over time, and that in most cases transmission occurs within seven days.

“Our primary objective is to stop the chain of transmission as much as possible to manage the spread of Omicron. Seven days isolation will break the vast majority of potential transmissions, while ensuring people can get back to work quicker and therefore reducing the impact on business operations.”

Household contacts will need to have a rapid antigen test at day 3 and day 7 of their isolation period. If they become symptomatic they should also get a test, and if the result is positive, they are required to isolate for seven days from that point.

If a person is isolating and still has symptoms after seven days, they are advised to stay home until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.

“I urge everyone to make sure they report their rapid antigen test result on My Covid Record, even if it is negative, so we can understand transmission within households and how the outbreak is spreading through communities,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The reduction in the isolation period follows similar changes overseas and increasing evidence that people are most likely to transmit the virus earlier in their infectious period. This evidence also shows that the risk of reinfection within the first three months after someone has Omicron is very low.

“For this reason, recovered cases will no longer need to self-isolate if they become a household contact within 90 days after having the virus. This is an increase from the current 28 days.

“Under the Red setting of the COVID-19 Protection Framework there are additional public health measures in place that reduce the risk of onwards infection. These include limits on the sizes of gatherings, wearing face masks and physically distancing. I urge people to follow these guidelines to continue to protect our vulnerable friends and whānau,” Chris Hipkins said.

Read the full press release here.

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Bernadette Robert

Bernadette Robert