Health expert supports Michael Baker's flu isolation idea, but Business NZ worried it would increase economic and mental health pressure

Businesses don't want to see isolation periods introduced for those who have got the flu - but a health expert supports the idea.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker earlier on Thursday said those with the flu should isolate in hopes it will ease the pressure on Aotearoa's stretched health system, as an influx of the flu and COVID-19 take hold. 

It's been called a twindemic, a combination of COVID-19 and the flu that is overwhelming Aotearoa's health system. And across the motu hospitals have too few staff and far too many patients. 

In Auckland, 400 people are day are visiting Middlemore Hospital's ED, Wellington Hospital has been forced to put off non-urgent care and surgeries, while Dunedin's reached capacity. 

Prof Baker called for mandatory self-isolation for people with the flu on Thursday morning on AM. 

"I think the same rule should apply [as COVID]. You should basically stay at home at least until you don't have any symptoms, do a RAT [Rapid Antigen Test] and obviously that's seven days [if positive]," he said.

"Even if you're negative for that RAT test, we know it's not always totally sensitive. And I think you need to wait until you don't have symptoms again."

College of GPs director Bryan Betty told The Project he supports the idea.

"Five hundred people die from the flu per year. It's critically important to slow the speed, so staying home is a really, really good strategy."

Business New Zealand CEO Kirk Hope acknowledged the pressure Aotearoa's health system is under but worries about the stress that flu isolation would put on businesses. 

"Adding isolation periods to the flu would increase economic and mental health pressure for businesses and employees."

Prof Baker told The Project he's calling for a cultural shift in how Aotearoa treats flu and other respiratory infections. 

"So people don't feel any concern about staying home, and staying put for at least five days when they have these viruses and are not going to share them around."

He added the shift would see an environment where, for instance, at a workplace, someone has got symptoms and is able to isolate.

"We've got to make it easier for people, and that means a whole lot of changes in the way we do business."

Watch the full interview above.