Coronavirus: 'Growing' concerns people breaking self-isolation rules

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is receiving a "growing number of reports" from New Zealanders claiming others are breaching self-isolation amid the country's COVID-19 outbreak.

The ministry is being inundated with reports that people "are not complying with self-isolation advice", a MoH spokesperson confirmed to Newshub.

"People who disregard our self-isolation advice can put a large number of other people at risk, which can place a huge burden on our health system," the spokesperson said.

"If the MoH becomes aware that a person is disregarding the self-isolation rules, police can be notified."

The spokesperson said police are currently following up with alleged breachers who have come to their attention, but details can't be released due to privacy reasons.

If a person continues to break self-isolation protocol, they may be fined or arrested. If a foreign national is not willing to comply, it's highly likely they will be deported. 

Medical Officers of Health can also require New Zealanders to be in self-isolation and call on the police for enforcement.

However, the ministry reiterates that the rates of compliance nationwide are overall "very high".

"Our experience has been that voluntary rates of compliance with our self-isolation requirements are very high and virtually all people arriving in New Zealand are agreeing to self-isolate.

"Health, police and immigration officials are working together and taking a case-by case approach to any issue that arises."

Self-isolation has been recognised by health officials as one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Eight new cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed on Thursday, bringing New Zealand's case total to 28.

New Zealand's self-isolation guidelines

  • limit contact with people other than the family members of companions you travelled with (for those returning from affected countries)
  • avoid having visitors 
  • ask friends, family or delivery services to drop off food and supplies
  • avoid face-to-face contact that is closer than two metres and for more than 15 minutes
  • don't share crockery, cutlery, towels, pillows or beds with others in the home
  • maintain regular cleaning and sanitising of surfaces and household items
  • work from home if possible 
  • wash your hands frequently 
  • practice good coughing and sneezing etiquette
  • avoid communal/shared areas or cleaning them well after each use
  • going outside (to do gardening or go for a run, for example) is permitted if close contact with others is avoided.

"A fundamental part of this is not going to work or going to places where there are other people if you are sick or even starting to feel sick," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has reiterated.

“I want to again thank everyone who has self-isolated - whether that be confirmed cases, close contacts or those who've returned from overseas. Self-isolation remains one of the most important tools in the fight against COVID-19."