The Government will send all of the confirmed community cases of Covid-19 to a quarantine facility instead of allowing them to recover at home.
This is already the case for any cases found in border hotels, but was not previously the position for those out and about in New Zealand who contracted the virus.
Health Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced the new rules at a press conference on Thursday, after announcing 13 new cases of Covid-19 in the community.
These 13 are all linked to the original four in the community that emerged earlier in the week.
They are a family member, colleagues, and family members of the colleagues of the original four.
No definite source of the infection has been established.
“We see more transmission occur within households. One of the features within facilities is arrangements can be made to keep positive and non-positive cases apart.”
“Sometimes inadvertently there can be spread. Sometimes people who are the best at self-isolating at home – someone can come and visit.”
Bloomfield said this could help New Zealand’s decision-making around alert levels.
He has the legal power to compel people into quarantine under Section 70 of the Health Act, which allows him to “require persons, places, buildings, ships, vehicles, aircraft, animals, or things to be isolated, quarantined, or disinfected as he thinks fit”.
Bloomfield said there had been some initial reluctance from the families involved but this had not lasted.
It’s understood this stance applies to the current cluster but may not be extended to all confirmed cases if a wider outbreak was to occur.
Genome testing at this point had not linked the new infections with any recent cases in border facilities, but more testing was being done.
Quarantine facilities have more stringent security and more health staff than regular managed isolation hotels.
National Party health spokesman Dr Shane Reti said he supported the decision after discussing it with officials.
“I’ve checked with officials that they have the legal authority to do that and have been reassured yes they do,” Reti said.
“I’ve asked them to make sure that any transitions from community to quarantine are done in appropriate ways.”
He said he was not worried about the possibility of quarantine driving down testing rates.
“That could be the safest place for you, your family, and your community if you end up positive.”