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COVID-19 reinfections and isolations

Published 24 Jul 2022

Staff being sick or having to isolate remains an ongoing problem for businesses throughout NZ as this wave of Omicron COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with front line staff and supply chain business nationwide.

The Leave Support Subsidy (LSS) is still available if needed for staff having to isolate for at least 4 days and cannot work from home.

Employees having to isolate for extended or multiple periods appears to be a problem along with supplying required proof of isolation a further challenge.

When someone tests positive for COVID-19 they have an obligation to report this to the Ministry of Health. They will get confirmation by text (sms) message that they have registered their infection and a second one when their isolation period is up.

As an Employer when you apply for the LSS you have an obligation to prepare and retain evidence to support your application. You can legitimately request this information as proof of their isolation requirement, and in good faith you could be entitled to expect that confirmation. Employers are being discouraged from asking employees to produce a medical certificate for COVID-19 infections since this puts extra burden and risk on our over-burdened health system.

Isolating due to COVID-19 is still 7 days from when either symptoms started, or a positive test - whichever came first. After 7 days you can leave your isolation on your own accord. Employees do not need to produce a negative test as proof of cure, unless the Employer has this as policy. It has also been seen that RAT tests do sometimes indicate a positive result even after isolation periods have been undertaken and the person is asymptomatic.

For a household contacts there is still an obligation to isolate for 7 days also from the same date as the positive person. Household contacts do not need to isolate if;

  • they have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days and have since recovered or;
  • it has been less than 10 days since they last isolated as a household contact.

RAT tests should be undertaken on days 3 and 7, and reported to the Ministry of Health if positive.

Isolation for sickness and household contacts are now massively exacerbating the workforce availability problem already severely limited by a lack of a migrant workforce, and with top epidemiologists calling on the Government to introduce mandatory isolation for victims of flu also, this could bring the country's workforce to a grinding halt, although the Government are currently not adopting this stance.