COVID-19: Chris Hipkins warns virus will spread more around New Zealand if Government scraps remaining restrictions

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins warns COVID-19 will spread more around New Zealand and could further impact the health system if the Government scraps the remaining restrictions in place.

Speaking to AM for his weekly interview, Hipkins said the Government would decide on Tuesday whether or not to ditch the mandatory seven-day isolation period.

"It's always a finely balanced set of decisions," he told host Melissa Chan-Green.

"On the isolation period, we've got to weigh up a number of things; we've got to weigh up the potential impact on case numbers, [and] we also do weigh up the impact on employment and on the labour market.

"One of the challenges here is if you have to isolate, then obviously you can't go to work - that has a labour market implication. But on the other hand, if you go to work with COVID-19 and you give it to a whole lot of people, that can also have a labour market implication."

Hipkins said scrapping the isolation period could also impact the education sector.

"I was Minister of Education last winter and we had a number of instances where schools saw the spread of COVID-19 through their classrooms and a whole lot of teachers ended up getting it [and] having to take time off work and, in some cases, schools struggled to stay open during that time - which meant parents having to take time off to look after their kids.

"These are all the things that we've got to weigh up and make sure we're getting the balance right here."

In the week to April 3, there were 12,202 new cases of COVID-19 in the community - 5149 of these reinfections. And if the Government scraps the isolation period, Hipkins said "we have to accept... more people will go to work with COVID-19 and more people will get it".

The Government would receive modelling on exactly what impact removing the isolation period would have on case numbers, Hipkins said. Cabinet would analyse that modelling on Tuesday afternoon before announcing any decisions, the Prime Minister added.

Meanwhile, prominent public health professor Michael Baker encouraged the Government to keep the isolation period in place - telling the NZ Herald "we need to consider the massive strain COVID-19 is having on the health system".