Guide to COVID-19 isolation: What you can, can't do if you're infected or a contact

With Omicron circulating in the community, the number of people isolating either as infected cases or close contacts is expected to quickly increase. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved New Zealand to red on Sunday after nine cases of Omicron were discovered in the Nelson region. 

The Government has implemented tougher close contact rules and has estimated 350,000 people at once could be self-isolating during this outbreak.

So if you end up in isolation at home what can you do and what are the rules?

What to do:

If you test positive for COVID-19, you have to isolate at home for at least 14 days - including 72 hours symptom-free. 

Your household members will need to remain in isolation for at least 10 days after the positive case has been released. That is unless they test positive for COVID-19, in which case they have to isolate for 14 days from the date of the positive test. 

This means your household members will end up doing longer than the positive case in isolation if they don't catch COVID-19. 

The point of self-isolating is to stop the spread of the virus and keep everyone safe, so you should be isolating in your bubble.  

The Ministry of Health website says if you're in isolation, you should not be leaving your home. This means not going to restaurants, gyms, supermarkets or pharmacies. 

You'll need friends or family to provide food, supplies and medicine to you for the duration of your time in isolation. Do this contactless so you don't accidentally pass on the virus to them. 

MoH says while you're in isolation in your home, try to maintain a two-metre distance from your household members and do not share a bed or bedroom with them to keep them safe.

The ministry says that you should minimise the time you spend in shared spaces such as bathrooms, kitchens and sitting rooms as much as possible and keep them well ventilated.

The key to keeping everyone safe in your home is to stay away from one another. Wear a face covering, open windows where possible, wipe down surfaces, do your own laundry and wash your hands often. 

What not to do:

When you're in isolation, you should not have visitors in your home except anyone providing essential care to you or someone in the household.

You should not leave your home for any reason except if you're seeking urgent medical care. This means you should not be going to work, school, public places or going on public transport during your period of isolation.

While you're isolating do not get vaccinated until you have recovered and been released by a public health official. 

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there could be "tens of thousands" of cases of the Omicron variant each day "within weeks", while Michael Baker warned Kiwis should expect to get the virus. 

So use this time to make a plan and prepare yourself so you know what to do if you end up in isolation.