Coronavirus: No mandatory quarantine because Kiwis have human rights - Labour MP Willie Jackson

Labour MP Willie Jackson has defended the Government's decision not to quarantine everyone arriving in the country, citing human rights concerns.

More than 10,000 Kiwis have reportedly come home to ride out the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 50,000 people in the past couple of months.

While they're expected to go into self-isolation in case they're infected with the deadly virus, only those showing clear symptoms at the border are placed into enforced quarantine. 

As of Thursday, that was only 115 people

"It's a high-trust environment. The vast majority of people understand their role and comply," Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told the Epidemic Response Committee on Wednesday. 

"I have a lot of confidence in that. We rely on them to do that because we can't police every person."

Other countries are quarantining all new arrivals however - including Australia, which has had a much bigger outbreak of the disease than New Zealand.

Appearing via video link on The AM Show on Friday, Labour's Willie Jackson said the lockdown - in place since last week - had been "going terrific" and there were no plans to toughen up at the border.

"The reality is last time I looked we had a democratic country, we had human rights. Look, if they've got symptoms they go into quarantine. 

"But 90 percent of the people who are coming in don't have symptoms. If they've got symptoms, they go straight into quarantine." 

Some people infected with the virus behind COVID-19 are asymptomatic, however, able to spread the disease without suffering any ill-effects themselves - young people especially, studies suggest.

This is why health experts say social distancing is so important - even if you don't feel sick, you should be staying away from people who aren't in your home bubble just in case. 

"Because we're on lockdown, we should be managing to stop the spread of those cases from one bubble to another bubble," microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles told Newshub.

"The whole reason for us being in this lockdown was that if there were cases out there we didn't know about, that this would stop spreading any further."

Judith Collins and Willie Jackson in a prior appearance on The AM Show.
Judith Collins and Willie Jackson in a prior appearance on The AM Show. Photo credit: The AM Show

National MP Judith Collins, also appearing via video, said the border should be tightened.

"Whether they're New Zealanders or not, I don't think that makes the big difference... If you're coming from a place where there is COVID-19 virus endemic in the community, you've got to put your country first - and that means go into quarantine."

Jackson said New Zealand, with few confirmed cases of community transmission, was "doing pretty well" without mandatory quarantining.

"In the wider population, you're going to get the odd idiot... We don't need to have a hard-edged attitude. I know Judith and Simon [Bridges, National Party leader], you know, they go and question people and lock everyone up.

"That's not our style, that's not the Jacinda [Ardern, Prime Minister] style. The Jacinda style is to cut people some slack. In the main, we're doing well." 

Experts expect to see the effects of the lockdown start to show in the figures in about a week's time, after the incubation period for any cases brought in before the lockdown is over.