Mandatory isolation period reduced for vaccinated COVID-19 cases, close contacts

The mandatory isolation period for COVID-19 cases has been reduced from 14 to 10 days, while fully vaccinated close contacts only have to isolate for seven.

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall, an infectious diseases expert, said the change reflects the "different transmission dynamic of the Delta variant", which is different to the original strain of COVID-19 that emerged in Wuhan.

"If you are vaccinated and catch COVID-19, by day 10 of infection you will pose a very low risk of passing on the virus - and do not need to isolate for as long as someone who's unvaccinated," Dr Verrall said on Tuesday. 

"That's because the amount of viral, genetic material declines faster in fully vaccinated people. Vaccination also helps prevent a person with COVID-19 from becoming seriously ill and reduces the likelihood they'll end up in hospital."

While the isolation period for fully vaccinated people in the community has been reduced from 14 to 10 days, they must be 72 hours symptom-free. As for partially vaccinated or unvaccinated cases, they must still isolate for 14 days, including 72 hours symptom-free. 

Dr Verrall said close contacts who are fully vaccinated need to self-isolate for seven days while close contacts who are partially vaccinated or not vaccinated need to self-isolate for 10 days.

To be considered fully vaccinated, it needs to be seven days before someone had their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. 

The changes to the isolation protocols comes after several deaths of people isolating at home. A man in his 60s on Friday was the third person to die while isolating at home with the virus in Auckland in one week. 

As reported by Newshub's Michael Morrah, one man who died at home with COVID-19 told Healthline he "wanted to go to hospital" after coughing up blood, but was told it was "just normal COVID symptoms".

The Government used to keep all COVID-19 cases in state-run managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities, but as local cases ballooned in Auckland, protocols were quickly changed to allow home isolation. 

Health Minister Andrew Little admitted last week that the home isolation system "wasn't ready" to cope with more than 120 daily cases of COVID-19 in the community.

There are currently more than 4000 people isolating at home in Auckland, including 1893 COVID-19 cases. 

To monitor cases at home, oximeters are provided to monitor the level of oxygen in their blood. But reports have emerged of cases not being given one, and being offered throat lozenges and paracetamol as treatment.