Amid New Zealand's COVID-19 outbreak, self-isolation is imperative to preventing the spread of the disease. The 14-day period ensures that anyone who may have been exposed to the virus can't infect others - so if people start breaching self-isolation protocol, it puts people at significant risk.
Current travel restrictions in New Zealand require anyone who returns from overseas (excluding select countries) to self-isolate for the two-week period as a precautionary measure.
If anyone becomes aware of people breaking the rules, it's important they are reported.
"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," a Ministry of Health (MoH) spokesperson told Newshub.
"So far we have been made aware of a very small number of people who have indicated that they are disregarding the self-isolation rules. We can not give any details of these cases for privacy reasons."
How you can report someone for breaking self-isolation
If you're at the airport and become aware that someone is intending to continue with their travels, it's important to inform authorities.
"Make customs officials and health staff aware," MoH Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield advised.
"After a conversation explaining why self-isolation is necessary, most people are willing to comply."
If you become aware that someone in the community has returned from overseas and is still going to work or social activities, Healthline should be told.
"Let Healthline know and that can be followed up, or you can let the police know," Dr Bloomfield said.
Medical Officers of Health can also call on the police to assist in enforcing self-isolation.
How is New Zealand enforcing self-isolation?
The MoH spokesperson warned that "various repercussions" will be enforced if a person continues to disobey self-isolation rules, including fines or arrest. Just how much someone can be fined is currently being established by the Government.
Foreign nationals who aren't willing to comply are "very likely" to be deported.
"Cabinet has approved for temporary visa holders to be liable for detention and deportation if they do not comply with instructions," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the media on Monday.
Ardern says anyone who is deported from New Zealand will face "serious and on-going consequences".
"[There is] a high likelihood of being turned down for future visa applications here and in many other countries."
Dr Bloomfield confirmed a traveller who arrived in Christchurch intended to continue with her travels despite the new regulations. She is likely to be deported.
Health staff are currently stationed at New Zealand's airports prior to immigration and customs. If staff aren't satisfied with arrivals' plans for self-isolation, they will be referred to police or customs officials and may be refused entry.
The ministry will also be carrying out phone calls and spot-checks to ensure everyone is following the regulations.
"We are in the process of doing spot checks on people to ensure they are undertaking the appropriate self-isolation," Dr Bloomfield reiterated.
The MoH spokesperson confirmed that the ministry, police and immigration are working together to handle any issues that may arise on a case-by-case basis.
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 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."