Travellers to trial home isolation

A home-isolation trial for some business travellers has been welcomed as the "first crack" at reopening our borders, but a specialist warns it could mean little if the "long tail" of Auckland’s outbreak is not stamped out.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said self-isolation was being considered as an option in advance of a highly vaccinated public.

Before the country got to that stage, a trial involving 150 fully vaccinated travellers who can bypass managed isolation and quarantine and isolate at home would start at the end of October and run for about six weeks.

It would be coupled with a testing and monitoring regime. Travellers would not be able to leave their homes, or have anyone else there unless they, too, had travelled as part of the same party.

Ms Ardern said she was also looking at shorter periods of isolation for some.

"All of this will help with the bottlenecks, which have kept our borders safe."

The announcement has been welcomed by Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett, who predicted businesses "locked in New Zealand or marooned overseas and locked out of MIQ will leap at the opportunity" to participate in the trial.

He predicted there would not be any setbacks as a result of the trial, even as Auckland still battled to eliminate the latest Delta outbreak.

"They have skin in the game and every business, especially the trailblazers of this trial, will want to show that they recognise that the ability to travel while New Zealand is living with restrictions to eliminate Covid is a privilege," he said.

University of Otago epidemiologist Prof Michael Baker said it was good to see the self-isolation trial under way, but he was cautious about how much could be learned from it.

"To really do a proper study you need to do it on a much bigger scale.

"The real question will be how it works when scaled up to tens of thousands of people."

He said low-risk regions to be involved could include Covid-free states in Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China.

The bigger question, though, would be how New Zealand was coping with the virus next year and if it was still circulating here, along with vaccination levels, Prof Baker said.

He said it was clear the virus was continuing to transmit among specific groups and there needed to be a much more targeted approach to stamping it out.

"We are on a knife edge at the moment."

Without a targeted approach, Auckland could be hovering between Level 2 and Level 3 for some time, he said.

The plan to reopen quarantine-free travel for recognised seasonal employer workers from the Pacific would start again with Vanuatu from early next month, Ms Ardern said.

All those taking part from Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga would need at least one vaccine dose.

RSE workers would also have to isolate for seven days on arrival, but this did not need to be done at an MIQ facility.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter