Covid-19 Local Government Response Unit Update - Thursday 10 February 2022

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Today’s update

Close Contact Exemption Scheme and “Bubble of One”

The government announced today two initiatives applicable to Councils that are at mitigating the impacts of the likely high levels of absenteeism caused by close contact isolation during Phases Two and Three of the omicron outbreak:

In today’s update we have provided an overview on how the schemes will operate and will be providing further sector specific information with a representative from MBIE in next week’s webinar hosted by Taituarā.

In the meantime, we will be sharing further advice and guidance as we receive it.

If councils have any immediate questions please send these through to the COVID response inbox.

Close Contact Exemption Scheme

During Phases Two and Three of the Omicron response, workers at registered critical services who are vaccinated and asymptomatic close contacts of a COVID-19 case will be able to continue to work, as long as they return a negative rapid antigen test prior to each day/shift they are at work during the isolation period and follow specific health protocols. They will only be allowed to go to work – not anywhere else.

This exemption to the close contact self-isolation requirements does not apply if the person is a confirmed case or if the person is displaying Covid symptoms.

An overview of the process is included in the attached.

To access the Close Contact Exemption Scheme:

Councils can use the self- assessment tool at  to see if they meet the criteria for being critical (more info on criteria below). 

Councils should nominate a person to start the applications process for their organisation and register through the Close Contact Exemption Scheme Registration Portal at

Once registered, the Council will be issued with a letter that, when New Zealand shifts to Phase Two of the Omicron response, will enable eligible workers to either use rapid antigen tests that the Council may hold (unlikely), or collect rapid antigen tests from a collection site (most likely).

Not all roles in Councils will be identified as critical and cannot be undertaken from home so Councils will need to work through a process to determine what roles qualify.

Councils will then be able to supply their critical workers with an authorisation letter for the worker to be able to collect their RATs if required.

Workers will get enough testing kits to cover the period they would have been isolating, and the places they can pick them up from will be put on the Healthpoint website.

There is more information on the Ministry Health website about Rapid Antigen Testing (RATs) Rapid antigen testing | Ministry of Health NZ

While the worker is in the workplace the following safety protocols must be complied with:

Daily symptom check and daily RAT testing is required before entering the workplace.

Strict use of a medical mask, donned  -  before entry to the workplace, changed as needed during the day and strictly complying with any infection prevention and control protocols at work.

When mask is removed (e.g., for eating and drinking) physical distancing must be maintained; eating alone in a well-ventilated space, outdoors where possible.

Travel solo, to, from and around work or between jobs where possible.

Ensure good ventilation when in small spaces and masks must be worn by everyone present.

Continue regular workplace surveillance testing if this is already in place.

If symptoms develop at any stage, follow the public advice for close contacts with symptoms:

The worker must self-isolate at home, away from other household members, as per standard close contact advice, including testing if applicable:

Critical services identification

Critical services are identified as:

  • Food production and its supply chain
  • Key public services such as health and emergency
  • Lifeline utilities like power and water supplies
  • Transport
  • Critical financial services
  • News media
  • Social welfare
  • Human and animal health and welfare

It is likely that Councils will identify as critical services, especially through the criteria of lifeline utilities, transport, social welfare and animal welfare. 

Bubble of One

‘Bubble of one’ Allows workers to return to work if they can remain isolated while working. It is likely to be less relevant to Councils unless you have staff that work on their own in a defined space where no others are present.

To use ‘Bubble of One’:

All services and businesses can use the “Bubble of One’ for any worker (regardless of whether they are critical workers or not). They must however meet the following criteria:

  • Vaccinated
  • They are asymptomatic
  • Able to maintain an individual “Bubble of One” at work, indoors or outdoors (they cannot be customer facing and they cannot use public transport)

Workers must be working in an indoor or outdoor defined space under the order, where no others are present in that space.

What do workers need to do while at work?

Strict use of a medical mask, donned before entry to the workplace, changed as needed during the day and complying with any infection prevention and control protocols at work.

The worker must eat alone in a well-ventilated space, outdoors where possible.

The worker should use a dedicated bathroom. If this is not possible no others should be present in the bathroom.

If symptoms develop at any stage, follow the public advice for close contacts with symptoms 

Continue regular workplace surveillance testing if this is already in place

What do workers do when not at work?

The worker must self-isolate at home as per standard close contact rules, including testing if applicable

Current requirements are available at   

Taituarā webinar

The webinar has been rescheduled for 3pm Wednesday 16 February.  Existing registrations have been carried to the new date and time.  Others can register at

Big Boost week

This week has been dubbed Big Boost Week, with a massive push to try and get as many New Zealanders to get their booster shot as possible.

Pop-up vaccination clinics are running extended hours across the country.

If you have received your second vaccine more than three months ago, you are eligible for your booster shot.

The extra 1 million people who can now get their booster will begin to receive a text or email alert.

Eligible people are encouraged to get their booster as soon as possible, before Omicron takes off significantly.

1.6 million or 51% of people eligible, have now had their booster.

You can get your booster at walk-in and drive-in vaccination sites, or book an appointment by phoning the COVID Vaccination Healthline 0800 28 29 26 (8am – 8pm, seven days a week), and online at

Flu vaccines

Up to 2 million New Zealanders will be eligible for free flu vaccines this year.

The Ministry of Health and Pharmac are currently updating the eligibility criteria for free flu vaccinations with a focus on reducing the age of eligibility for at-risk populations, and potentially including a wider range of young people.

Currently the flu vaccinations are free for pregnant women, over 65s, and people who have certain medical conditions, including those with cancer and diabetes

The flu vaccine can be safely administered at the same time as the Covid-19 vaccine, including with the booster shot or paediatric vaccine. 

Testing update

Phase One -

Phase One of the response to Omicron means continuing with the same testing, tracing, isolation and quarantine settings. PCR testing is the most effective way of testing during Phase One. As case numbers increase, testing, tracing, isolation, and quarantine settings will change.

The Ministry of Health has increased PCR testing capacity to 60,000 tests a day with a surge capacity of nearly 78,000 a day.

Phase Two –

Work is underway to determine how organisations running critical services including local authorities can access RATs in Phase Two.

Critical workers identified as close contacts will be able to use proof of a negative Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) to return to work during their required period of isolation if they are not symptomatic.