National, Greens sceptical of self-isolation trial for some travellers

Hundreds of workers returning from overseas will soon be able to skip a stint in a MIQ hotel and isolate at home instead.

It is part of the Government's long-awaited plan to re-connect New Zealand to the world.

It will start with a small scale trial before becoming an option for fully-vaccinated New Zealanders travelling from medium-risk countries next year.

The pilot will run from October to December and will be open only to people returning from short work trips.

The Government will soon be asking for expressions of interest from businesses which need to send their workers overseas.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Ministry of Health will have to sign off on an isolation plan.

"They will not be able to isolate with family members or others and that's key because with Delta we see in-family transmission as a significant problem, so you will not be able to isolate with family members or people who have not travelled with you."

Employers will be responsible for their staff during the trial, Ardern said.

If one of their employees breaks the rules, the company will be named and shamed.

"We believe that will bring extra skin in the game, a real focus from employers and organisations to make it a success and to ensure that we don't have any wayward behaviour over the course of this pilot."

Sir David Skegg, who guided the Government's plan to reopen borders, advised ministers not to let travellers self-isolate at home.

He pointed to New Zealand's experience at the start of the pandemic: recent returnees did not follow the isolation rules and the measures to ensure they did largely failed.

"The kind of home isolation we had before just won't cut the mustard."

Ardern assured him the trial will be vastly different.

"The kind of home isolation we had before just won't cut the mustard."

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson is worried about how isolating at home will be managed in practice.

She is sceptical of the motivations behind the trial, too.

"We've got concerns that it is being given some concession around quite narrow economic agenda and we want to know that we are absolutely putting public health safety right at the forefront of any of these decisions."

National Party COVID-19 response spokeperson Chris Bishop said the plan was light on detail.

"How exactly will it work? How will the trial operate? Who will be selected? How long will it operate for? How will the effectiveness of it be assessed?"

The Government is yet to decide which countries workers will be able to travel to.

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said the speed at which the pandemic is changing meant it was still too soon to say.

"There are no guarantees and risk assessments for countries do change overtime, so that will have to be borne in mind both by the Government and businesses wishing to take up the scheme."

Officials will be working closely with businesses to ensure they are prepared for the trial, Verrall said.

They will also work through any other problems that arise, such as the cost of monitoring those in isolation and health checks.