Coronavirus: Opposition at odds with Government over mandatory isolation requirement for COVID-19 cases

The Government has decided to keep the seven-day isolation rule for COVID-19 cases but has asked for more advice on whether people can return to work if they test negative before their time is up.

Cabinet made that call with the strained health system in mind - something the Government's hoping to fix by opening the immigration floodgates and offering automatic residency to basically every single health professional.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall decided we need to keep protecting each other - the seven-day mandatory isolation period is here to stay.

"We consider it on a rolling basis but certainly my expectation is we will reach a point where there isn't a mandatory isolation period," Hipkins said.

Aucklanders Newshub spoke to were split on whether isolation should stay or go.

"I think it's having a bit of restriction on business," one said.

"No no no no absolutely not, I think isolation is what's kept us safe," another said.

Over the last week, there have been more than 12,000 cases and eight people have died. In total, almost 2700 people have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

But the Opposition says mandatory isolation should've gone yonks ago - as it has in many other countries.

"I think we're at the place where we can take strong guidance but I'm not sure we need mandatory isolation periods," National leader Christopher Luxon said.

ACT leader David Seymour said the Government's "been treating adults like children for far too long".

"Retaining a seven-day mandatory COVID isolation period makes New Zealand a global oddity. It's a kind of Hermit Kingdom redux, 2023 edition, where Labour keeps treating adults like kids and putting costs on the economy like money is no object," Seymour said.

The Government has asked for specific advice on test to work - so if people test negative they can leave isolation early.

"There is a labour market incentive for this as well. People with COVID-19 going to work potentially infect more people and more people end up being off sick as well," Hipkins said.

Modelling released today showed ending isolation periods could result in an up to 25 percent increase in the number of hospitalisations and deaths over the next six months.

President of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners Dr Samantha Murton said isolation periods are more nuanced than we're treating them.

"Some people will find that they're not shedding COVID within a few days but others will still be quite sick and sneezy and coughy for quite a bit of time so it varies from person to person," she told Newshub. "Having a strict seven-day rule is actually quite tricky."

But she warned our health system is already on its knees.

"We are managing-ish but with time it will get worse once winter hits," Dr Murton said.

The Government's answer: open the immigration floodgates - well attempt to. It's finally put basically every single health role on the immigration green list - everyone from dentists to counsellors will be given automatic New Zealand residency.

"A strong signal to health workers internationally that we are serious in rolling out the welcome mat," Hipkins said.

When asked what took the Government so long, Hipkins replied: "Look we've continued to keep it under review."

The Prime Minister is just hoping his tardy welcome mat looks nicer than everyone else's.