Could New Zealand’s default Covid isolation period be shortened?
There is growing support for changes to New Zealand’s isolation rules, which would see some people with Covid-19 only stay at home for five days.
The University of Auckland’s Covid-19 Modeling Aotearoa group has published new findings that a ‘test to release’ policy would help reduce transmission, as it would help uncover a small number of people who need to self-isolate up to 10 days.
The report’s lead author, Emily Harvey, said: “What we looked at is if there is a better option than this 7 day general isolation period.
“The fact is that we know that a quarter of people will still be contagious during those seven days, while conversely a whole bunch of people stop being contagious before that point and so there are a few days of additional isolation that they may not need to do.”
She says rapid antigen tests are reliable for determining when someone is no longer infectious.
“That means some could end their isolation sooner, in fact the majority of people could end their isolation earlier and only a few people have to self-isolate for that longer period.”
The owner of an Auckland cafe with two staff out of action due to the virus said: ‘Getting those staff back two days early would be great.
But Pavilion’s Phillip Smith said he would like to ensure the health of team members always comes first.
“If they felt capable and if they felt strong enough because hospitality is very physical, you know.
“I’m very comfortable with seven days. I think that’s fair. But if they wanted to go back to 5 and they were negative, why not?”
Epidemiologist Michael Baker says the modeling work that has come out is very helpful.
“The actual length of time people are sick and spreading the virus depends on the person, and it’s between 5 and 10 days,” he said.
He said the latest findings mean “we can improve how we choose this time by using testing.”
He was in favor of two tests to be released, rather than just one.
Baker told 1News: “It’s all a bit of a trade-off between obviously getting people back to work and school, but at the same time protecting the people around them.
“So it would be much better to go to 7 days plus a RAT test at this point for release and a minority of people might test at 5 days and might find they’ve cleared the virus and that’s confirmed after two negative RAT tests but there is risk in all of these approaches, it’s about balancing the risks and the benefits.”
He also said people should test carefully and take it seriously.
“People need to understand that this is the heart of controlling the transmission of this infectious disease.”
But he agrees that it’s a good idea for people to be able to re-enter the community, if they are no longer contagious.
He also thinks most New Zealanders now know how to use rapid antigen tests correctly.
National has been calling for a change to isolation rules for months, saying the government has been too slow to act.
In a statement, the Department of Health said: “We are keeping our response to the global pandemic under review and any decision to change any aspect of our response is based on the latest scientific evidence and information available.”
But he reiterated that the current isolation period is 7 days, and if a person is still not feeling well by then, they are advised to stay home until 24 hours after the issues resolve. symptoms.
Harvey said: “We are at the point where people want to get back to life as soon as possible.
“Covid is definitely less of a big deal now, but people still don’t want to spread it if we can avoid it, so that’s where we can have more nuanced targeted isolation.”
She said isolation is not black or white.
The next review of New Zealand’s Covid parameters will take place next month.