Critical workers to bypass home isolation – Expert Reaction

Close contacts of Covid-19 cases will be exempt from home isolation rules if they’re working in a critical sector and test negative via rapid antigen testing, as part of a newly announced exemption scheme.

It will be up to businesses to assess whether they meet the criteria as a critical service and if they wish to apply for the scheme, which opens for online registration today. The scheme is set to kick off when the country enters Phase Two.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the news.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist and Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, comments:

“We have seen from the experiences of countries overseas that as cases of Omicron spread rapidly in the community, the sheer number of people isolating can negatively impact supply chains and the provision of all sorts of services, including those that are essential. Replacing isolation with regular rapid antigen testing for vaccinated people is a pragmatic approach to trying to keep supply chains and essential services running.

“It does come with a risk, as the rapid antigen tests will miss some infectious people so it is important that those taking part wear a well-fitted and effective mask and ensure that if they are working alongside others that they keep their distance and have windows and doors open to improve ventilation, wherever possible.

“It is important for everyone to remember that we all have a role to play in keeping Omicron levels as low as possible to delay the need to move to this phase of our response. That means getting boosted as soon as we are eligible, wearing a well-fitting mask that covers our mouth and nose and keeping our distance from others, and improving the ventilation of indoor environments, even if that just means opening the windows.”

No conflict of interest.