COVID-19: Cabinet only received self-isolation advice on Sunday afternoon - Jacinda Ardern

The Prime Minister has hinted there's a chance New Zealanders returning from Australia on Monday may not have to self-isolate for the full seven days and the requirement could be scrapped.

From midnight, New Zealanders fully vaccinated have been allowed to return from Australia without the need to go through managed isolation and quarantine. Currently, however, they do have to undergo seven days of self-isolation.

But with high levels of COVID in New Zealand's community, the Government has been under increasing pressure to ditch the precautionary measure. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says an update on the matter can be expected later on Monday.

"What we've always said is we'd base the decisions on the number of cases we had at the time," Ardern told AM.

"At the beginning of February when we stepped out… those different phases of people coming back to New Zealand, we had roughly 150 cases a day - [it's] dramatically different now in the space of a few short weeks and even last week we saw a big change in the number of cases we were managing."

But Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Friday he had told the Government New Zealand's border rules were at odds with community isolation requirements. 

The Government moved New Zealand to phase 3 of its Omicron response on Friday - meaning only household contacts of COVID-19 cases are legally required to isolate. 

When asked about Dr Bloomfield's advice, Ardern said: "The Director-General of Health, I'm sure, would acknowledge that the advice we're speaking to is the advice coming from Professor David Skegg and the [COVID Public Health] Advisory Group."

"We moved very quickly to get our experts together and, just to say again, the advice we received was yesterday afternoon - late," Ardern said on Monday.  "We've moved very quickly to be able to consider that as a Cabinet today."

Ardern refused to pre-empt any Cabinet decisions.

"It is really important that we work through all of the implications, consider the advice we've been given - but we will be doing that in very short order and it's only a matter of hours away before I have the chance to then share those decisions," she said.

Ardern wouldn't divulge the advice Cabinet had received. She said it would be released on Monday afternoon.

"What we already said at the beginning of February is once you get cases at a certain point, it actually does become the case that the extra cases at the border don't have as much impact because of what you've already got in the community - so we've asked for this advice because we're obviously at that place now for consideration. The thing we want to think about, though… is just the scale of extra cases you're bringing in because we've got to think about when we open up to everybody."

It comes after community COVID cases hit another all-time high on Sunday with 14,941 new infections. Forty-one cases were detected at the border.