Coronavirus: Business expert backs ankle bracelets for self-isolation trial

The Government's chief COVID-19 business adviser Rob Fyfe says "everyone wins" if the self-isolation trial to be held later this year is a success, because it will free up space in managed isolation.

The trial will be open to vaccinated employees of specific businesses and organisations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, who will have "skin in the game" to ensure it's a success.

The former head of Air New Zealand said there would be no tolerance for organisations and individuals taking part who break the rules, putting the country at risk of an outbreak. 

"If you want to participate in a scheme like this, you have to sign up and say, 'my participants are going to adhere to the programme rules', and if they don't, my view is you should be chucked out of the programme," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"It's a privilege, not a right. You only have to look at what's going on in Australia with people not adhering to the rules and the damage it causes to society. We have to get serious about this stuff… lives are at risk." 

In New South Wales, people can isolate at home even after a positive COVID-19 test - but many haven't obeyed the rules, helping fuel the outbreak across the Tasman. 

Fyfe said if it takes putting ankle bracelets on participants, so be it. 

"I'd happily wear an ankle bracelet. If it was a choice between going into MIQ or quarantining at home by myself wearing an ankle bracelet… for me, that's entirely acceptable. If it's not acceptable for you, that's fine - you can go through managed isolation. It's just a choice."

University of Otago senior health lecturer Lesley Grey earlier this week told The AM Show many people would gladly put on an ankle bracelet if it means they can isolate at home, rather than paying thousands to stay in MIQ.

Without it, she feared a minority of people would break the rules. 

"For most people trust will be good enough. However there will always be one or two people for whom trust cannot guarantee that good-enough self-isolation will happen."

Fyfe said with employers desperate for staff, getting more people across the border safely is vital. He dismissed suggestions workers have been put off coming to New Zealand thanks to our tough border restrictions, which have successfully kept the virus out of the community for more than five months now. 

"New Zealand's reputation has definitely grown through this COVID [pandemic], our health status and the value of that has definitely grown. 

"As soon as we move into that first quarter next year and start to see these restrictions relax, I think we're going to see strong demand of both labour and business investment flow back into New Zealand." 

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