NZ will still move to a self-isolation model - Chris Hipkins

New Zealand will still move to a self-isolation model but there is still a question mark over when that will begin, says Chris Hipkins.

The Covid-19 Response Minister fronted media on Wednesday after a 'pause' was put on MIQ room releases.

"There is no question we are moving to a self-isolation model. The question of exactly when that happens, and the sequence of when that happens has changed," he said.

An Air New Zealand plane.

The Government pushed back the border's home isolation reopening dates to late February, it had previously been January 17 for New Zealanders in Australia.

"We've been looking very, very closely at that, we obviously want to give New Zealanders time to get their boosters, we want to keep Omicron out of the community, which we have been successful at doing over the summer break.

"But we acknowledge we will be moving to a self-isolation model. Exactly when the date is, that's the question before us at the moment."

He said there was still work underway on the border and it would be kept under review.

"We're likely to have MIQ for quite some time, whether we have MIQ for everybody is a different question to that and I think it is likely that a significant number of people will be able to isolate at home rather than in MIQ."

Hipkins said there were still decisions to be made around the late-February re-opening timeframe, and whether there would be any changes to that.

"I think there's a lot of people who would prefer to isolate at home and prefer to have the certainty of when they're going to do that rather than book through MIQ. We've got to finalise those decisions, we'll be working as quickly as we can to do that."

Regarding a late-Tuesday tweet informing the public the next MIQ room release was being delayed, Hipkins said it was a "relatively operational matter".

He said it was a decision he made on Tuesday and it impacted rooms for March and April.

"It's a delay for a period of time while we figure out exactly what is going to happen at the border. As soon as we can give people more certainty around when the next room release will be, we will certainly do that.

"We have to recognise MIQ is very full. We're dealing with far, far more positive cases at the border now."

Head of MIQ Chris Bunny told 1News MIQ was under pressure “like never before”.

“There are severe capacity constraints in January and February for both managed isolation and quarantine rooms. A large number of Omicron cases at the border means more rooms are needed for Quarantine.

"We’ve needed to convert some managed isolation facilities to quarantine facilities, meaning fewer isolation rooms available for returning New Zealanders," he said.

“Our MIQ system is helping slow down Omicron entering NZ to buy us as much time as possible for people to get booster shots and for our tamariki to be vaccinated. In addition, we are monitoring the number of community cases with the Delta variant, some of whom need to come in to MIQ.”

A decision on when the next MIQ room release will be made by “in coming weeks as part of Cabinet’s considerations on the border”.

"There is finite capacity within the MIQ system though and that’s for good reason. Covid-19 is still spreading around the world and we need to keep New Zealand safe. We constantly have to strike a balance between bringing people into New Zealand and protecting us all from Covid entering the community.”

Cabinet was be meeting on Wednesday to review the traffic light system and discuss planning for an Omicron outbreak, Hipkins said.

"We've been discussing that over the summer break, a lot of planning work has gone into how we will deal with Omicron when it does make it into the New Zealand community," Hipkins said.

"Any changes around the framework, we'll talk a little bit about that tomorrow, we're obviously talking about that at Cabinet today, but we will make further announcements on that."