The isolation length for Covid cases and household contacts will be decreased from 10 days to seven, kicking in from 11.59pm March 11.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that “high case numbers and household contacts, and the current 10 day isolation requirement, is having a wider impact on many parts of our lives”.
“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,” he said.
Hipkins said the reduction follows “similar changes overseas and increasing evidence that people are most likely to transmit the virus earlier in their infectious period”.
He said evidence showed the risk of reinfection with Covid in the first three months “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.”
Director of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said last week that people who had already contracted Covid and had undergone their isolation period did not need to re-isolate “for a period of some months” if they then become a household contact
“They would have a high level of immunity, and of course be at a very low risk of being infected and therefore at a low risk of infecting others,” he said at the time.
Under the new isolation rules, household contacts still need to take RAT tests on day 3 and 7 of the 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,” Hipkins said.
“If a person is isolating and still has symptoms after seven days, they are advised to stay home until 24 hours after symptoms resolve.”
Bloomfield said last week that “whatever the period of isolation, you’re taking a slightly increased risk that someone might still be infectious at the end of their infection period”.
“With the situation we’ve got with so many cases and also we’re seeing quite a big impact on critical services, that trade off is there to be made so I’ve asked the team to again look at just where the balance of risks and benefits is at the moment.”
The Government on Wednesday also announced New Zealanders can book to get vaccinated with Novavax from tomorrow.
“A shipment of more than 250,000 Novavax COVID-19 vaccines has arrived in New Zealand and preparations are well advanced for some vaccination centres to be able to offer it next week,” Hipkins said.
“Novavax will be available for people aged over 18. It requires two doses, with a three week gap. It has not been approved as a booster dose,” he said.
Middlemore Hospital was reporting 15-20 per cent of their staff were not at work due last week to either having Covid, being a household contact or looking after a case.
Health workers could already return to work as a household contact under strict conditions, however Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay confirmed critical health workers could also return to work if they have Covid.
She said that cases can go back to work if they were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms if they are either working in a ward of Covid patients with no stand down period, or after six days if they have produced two negative RAT tests.
Since then, hospitalisations due to Covid have increased almost by 400 across the country, with 757 in hospital with the virus on Tuesday.