Speaker Trevor Mallard drops isolation rules for MPs returning to Parliament

As a result the Prime Minister is making plans to visit Auckland next week.
As a result the Prime Minister is making plans to visit Auckland next week. Photo credit: Image - RNZ

BY Katie Scotcher for RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is making plans to travel to Auckland early next week.

Parliament Speaker Trevor Mallard has this evening dropped strict rules, requiring MPs in alert level 3 areas to isolate for five days before returning to Parliament.

The decision was made in response to feedback from political parties.

MPs must still test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of leaving the level 3 area and travelling to the Capital.

In a statement, Ardern confirmed she was looking to travel to the Auckland region for the first time since the start of the Delta outbreak.

"With the Speaker removing the rule that was a barrier to me heading to Auckland, I'm now making plans to get there early next week."

Opposition parties have criticised Ardern for not travelling to Auckland sooner, saying she could not understand what they were experiencing without visiting.

"I'll expect Jacinda Ardern will be on one of the first planes from Wellington to Auckland, no excuses now, it wasn't much of an excuse before but there's absolutely none now," National Leader Judith Collins says.

Collins says she is happy with the rule change, as her MPs will be able to return to Parliament.

"Very pleased that we can get back to some form of normality, otherwise some of our MPs probably wouldn't have been back in Parliament before Christmas and they're all getting paid, they all want to work, they are all working as best they can but they do need to get out."

Act leader David Seymour, who has been isolating after visiting Auckland last week, says the changes mean he gets to leave his home a day early.

"It doesn't make an enormous difference but I guess I could possibly go to McDonalds."

It is essential Ardern visits Auckland, Seymour says, to "see, hear and feel what Aucklanders are experiencing".

Mallard has also asked the Parliamentary Service to investigate making rapid antigen testing available at Parliament for staff.

Seymour wrote to Mallard earlier today asking for the tests to be rolled out to reduce the chance of an outbreak.

"A greater danger is spread of Covid from Parliament to the wider public. It is difficult to imagine a worse institution for spreading a virus than Parliament. People perfectly evenly distributed around the country come together and shout in the same room and then fly home each week," Seymour said.