Businesses warn 14-day stand down for positive cases could bring them to a halt

Businesses essential to the supply chain are warning that a compulsory 14-day stand down for positive cases could see some not able to trade at all.

Others are sending workers home or implementing rapid antigen testing to try and slow down the Omicron spread.

When Omicron hit, the shelves emptied and so did Vodafone's office.

"We decided the best way to manage the health safety risk was to work from home from wherever possible and we put that onto place straight away," says Jodie King, chief people officer of Vodafone NZ.

Because even a moderate case scenario could have a huge impact.

"A midpoint one - the 25,000 per day one - you've got 350,000 people self-isolating," says Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

That makes companies like the Ports of Auckland nervous. Thirty-three crews are operating separately to avoid cross-infection.

But the company's worried self-isolation of 14 days for positive cases and 10 days for close contacts will play havoc.

"We don't want to experience what other countries have experienced where literally so many people are taken out that business literally comes to a grinding halt," says Ports of Auckland chief operating officer Mike Lightfoot.

Air New Zealand has one positive case and is expecting more. It's concerned about the 14-day stand down and wants that to change. And they have expert support.

"When Omicron becomes widespread in New Zealand we will need to look at shortening that isolation period," says epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker.

Supermarket chain Countdown is also bracing for impact, after watching what happened in Australia.

"Up to 30 percent of team have been off sick or isolating at any one time," says Countdown director of corporate affairs, safety and sustainability Kiri Hannifin.

Here that could be 6500 staff, hitting retail stores and crucial distribution centres. Countdown has started voluntary rapid antigen tests but has limited supply and wants some government backup.

"If our stock runs out, that the government will help us maintain these sites that are critical for food supply and the supply chain until our stock arrives," Hannifin says.

Because if the distribution centre goes down - there'll be even less to panic buy.

In response, the Government says it has 5.5 million rapid antigen tests in stock, tens of millions more on order and as cases tick up rapid antigen testing will be increased.

As for shortening the self-isolation period for critical businesses, again as cases tick up then that 14-day period will be reviewed and come down.

Further details on both testing and isolation periods will be revealed on Wednesday.