Chris Hipkins signals massive changes to managed isolation for returning Kiwis

The New Zealand Government appears set to announce an early Christmas present for Kiwis stranded overseas.

In an interview with Newsroom political editor Jo Moir, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins signalled the end of the requirement for returning New Zealanders to spend time in MIQ may be closer than expected.

"You haven't got much longer to wait,'' Hipkins said ahead of Cabinet's meeting today where ministers will be considering a change in MIQ, meaning shorter stays in managed isolation, and for some, scrapping it all together.

Hipkins said he expects fully vaccinated Kiwis with negative tests will be able to return home bypassing MIQ entirely, with a short period of isolation at home before the end of summer.

"It's likely to be in the next few months that there will be much greater freedom to move in and out of the country with isolation at home being the default,'' Hipkins told Newsroom.

"We may put the restrictions on the nature of the travel initially. It might be for people normally resident in New Zealand, or New Zealand citizens or permanent residents.''

Newshub understands Cabinet will be discussing the possible changes to managed isolation on Tuesday afternoon.

Home isolation is already happening as part of managing the current COVID-19 Delta outbreak in Auckland, with as many as 100 Aucklanders isolating at home rather than managed isolation centres such as Jet Park.

The changes are expected to only be applied to returning New Zealand residents, not to tourists.

"People coming home to reconnect with family are more likely to have home isolation options, whereas visitors are going to need to be isolating in hotels and that brings a new layer of complexity,'' Hipkins said.

"But within the next few months I think the default position at the border is going to be isolating at home. They will come into the country, go straight home and isolate for a period, and assuming they don't have COVID-19 then that's it."

Home isolation will only be considered for those who can prove they have been double vaccinated with an approved vaccine, have a recent negative COVID-19 test, and are travelling from low-risk countries.