New Zealand has just shy of 900 quarantine rooms available in managed isolation facilities for Covid-19 cases.
The arrival of Omicron will see more cases, and close contacts, needing to self-isolate. Nearly everyone will be required to self-isolate at home, or in other accommodation – a shift from the start of last year's Delta outbreak which saw many cases put into MIQ.
There are 674 quarantine rooms available in managed isolation facilities in Auckland, 83 in Hamilton, 26 in Wellington and 101 in Christchurch.
These rooms will be used for both community cases, and cases caught at the border.
On Wednesday, there were 677 people in quarantine facilities occupying 372 rooms.
Of these, 651 were border cases (357 rooms), and 26 were community cases (15 rooms).
Some public health experts are calling for the rooms designated for community cases to be prioritised for larger households, who would struggle to separate themselves from positive cases in the home.
Current self-isolation rules see positive cases staying at home for at least 14 days. Household contacts, who have not yet caught the virus, need to isolate for that time and an extra 10 days on top of that. That could see people in isolation for at least 24 days.
Auckland University associate professor of public health Collin Tukuitonga said while the self-isolation rules were a "pragmatic response" to Omicron, they would be difficult for large households.
"With Pacific communities, up to 40 per cent are intergenerational, meaning grandparents, parents and grandchildren all in one place...and these are small facilities."
He said it was hard for people to isolate properly.
"It pretty much means that everyone in the house will be infected because it's difficult to isolate safely in situations like that."
Tukuitonga said we would have to be "highly selective" about who goes into managed isolation facilities. He said it would be "ideal" if members of these larger households could go into quarantine to try to stop the spread.
Many of the households also had people in roles who couldn't work from home if they had to isolate, he said.
"Stocking supermarkets and frontline workers...it's difficult to work out how you can isolate or work safely from home when there's overcrowding and limited facilities."
Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall is set to outline the next phases of the Government's Omicron response on Wednesday, which is expected to include any changes for isolation and close contacts.