Covid-19: Everything we know so far about the self-isolation trial

An eagerly anticipated trial that will allow a small number of business travellers to isolate at home after returning from overseas is ready to get underway.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that expressions of interest for the self-isolation pilot will open this week, with all international travel and self-isolation stints to be completed before Christmas.

The trial is set to lay the groundwork for a more relaxed border policy next year that will remove the need for all travellers to go through managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) hotels.

“While this is a pilot, it gives you a sense of where we intend to go on our borders, with a wider range of options for safe return to help ease pressure in our MIQ system in the future,” Ardern said.

What is this self-isolation trial?

Plans for a pilot scheme that will see a small group of people travel overseas and self-isolate at home on their return to New Zealand were first revealed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in mid-August, during an announcement about the Government’s border reopening strategy.

Why is this trial being done?

The purpose of the trial is to figure out how an alternative to spending two weeks in MIQ could work for travellers who haven’t been to “very high risk” countries.

Who is organising it?

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, along with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

When will it be held?

Those taking part will need to arrive back in New Zealand between October 30 and December 8. This will have the last travellers leaving self-isolation on December 22.

Who gets to take part?

Not just anyone. Only 150 people will be able to take part, and they will need to be travelling for work purposes.

“The reason we are focused on work-related travel is because of the extra layer of protection that having an employer with some skin in the game provides,” Ardern said.

Among these 150 people would be a “small number” of government officials, but the vast majority would be from the private sector.

These employees will have to be New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. They will also have to be fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

How do you sign up?

Employers will need to apply on behalf of their employees. Expressions of interest can be submitted from 9am on Thursday, September 30 through to 5pm on Saturday, October 9.

All expressions of interest which meet the criteria will then be put into a ballot. Those successful will be advised on October 15.

What will it involve?

Participants will have to stay in their place of self-isolation for at least 14 days, and won’t be able to leave the property at any time.

Accommodation will have to be approved. It will need to be a private dwelling with no shared ventilation system, and cellular coverage.

They will have to isolate alone, or with members of their travelling party. They can’t isolate with family or other household members.

They won’t be allowed any visitors, except for medical staff for testing purposes, or emergency or other essential services if necessary.

They will also have to provide their own food and supplies – although contactless deliveries will be allowed. They will also have to comply with Ministry of Health testing requirements, and all monitoring requirements.

When will the rest of us be able to self-isolate?

Ardern said self-isolation wouldn’t just be limited to business travellers in the future. But the “narrow scope” now was to kick things off safely.

Otherwise, the pilot was being run “in preparation for a highly vaccinated population”, she said.

While the vaccination process was still underway in New Zealand, the intention was that in the first quarter of 2022 – when more Kiwis were vaccinated – self-isolation at home could become a more widespread option.

September 27, 2021

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