“New COVID isolation rules for Omicron are unworkable, and the way they were dumped on the Ministry of Health website on a Friday afternoon is unprofessional,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Late on Friday, rules appeared on the Ministry of Health website to the effect that a person who tests positive must isolate for 14 days, and household members must isolate for a further 10 days.

“The way this has been announced, or rather not announced, echoes the cancellation of the 20 January MIQ lottery. That lottery was cancelled on the website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, that was deleted and later confirmed in the form of a tweet. This is not leadership of communication in the middle of a pandemic.

“A Government prepared for Omicron would make clear announcements, rather than slipping critical details about isolation onto websites on Friday afternoon. Instead they have buried the rules on the Ministry of Health website with no formal announcement.

“The rules announced are unworkable, they will lead to a domino effect where a household can be down for a month. The Ministry of Health website says ‘The isolation period for COVID-19 cases in the community is at least 14 days, including 72 hours symptom-free,’ and ‘Your household members will need to remain in isolation for at least 10 days after you have been released as a case. This means they will need to be in isolation for longer than you as the case will [sic].’

“The effect is that if you test positive, members of your household may have to isolate for 24 days. People who cannot afford that will have a strong incentive not to get tested, defeating the purpose of the policy. If the advice is taken seriously, it will cripple the health workforce and supply chains more generally.

“New Zealand’s advantage with COVID is that we can learn from other countries, but we are doing the opposite here. Other countries are loosening their isolation requirements to keep hospitals opening and supermarkets shelves full, but we are tightening ours.

“By contrast, isolation rules in the UK were changed on Monday so that all people in the household of a case can leave isolation after five days if they have negative tests on two consecutive days. They have done this because their previous isolation rules devastated supply chains.

“In New South Wales, cases are required to isolate for 14 days but critical workers can leave earlier. Unlike New Zealand, New South Wales does not automatically deem household members as close contacts and require them to isolate. It allows people to use their judgement.

“The Government badly needs to front on this issue. It needs to explain why these rules are put in place, and why it believes the benefits of an isolation regime stricter than any other country bar China is justified. It should release the modelling it has relied on in an open and transparent way, the way this Government once promised to act.”