After feeling unwell on Sunday morning and cancelling his attendance at a Samoan church service in Auckland, Chris Hipkins has now tested positive for Covid-19.
He has had cold and flu symptoms since Saturday and will be isolating for five days, or until he returns a negative test.
A spokesperson says he will continue with engagements that he can conduct via Zoom.
Hipkins is due to go head-to-head with National Party leader Christopher Luxon on Tuesday at the Press Debate in Christchurch.
It’s the third of four leaders’ debates and was scheduled for just a day after advance voting begins.
It’s understood a range of options are being looked at, including whether to move the date or have an alternative Labour MP step in for Hipkins.
Hipkins was scheduled to launch the Labour Party’s election manifesto in Auckland on Sunday afternoon, which was instead done by deputy Prime Minister and MP for Kelston, Carmel Sepuloni.
At least one other Labour MP, Rachel Brooking, and one member of Hipkins’ staff have also tested positive. Newsroom understands other staff are also feeling unwell and are isolating.
Hipkins has had a busy schedule in Auckland over the weekend meeting with the public – on Saturday he had seven MPs with him and two Auckland candidates when he visited the Chinese Moon Festival.
Sepuloni, Andrew Little, Helen White, Deborah Russell, Vanushi Walters, Arena Williams and Camilla Belich were tightly packed at Hipkins side during a press conference at the festival venue, some greeted by the PM with a kiss.
Speaking to media on Sunday, Sepuloni said there was a big team who could step in and fulfil commitments Hipkins has made around the country in coming days.
“People get sick and obviously he wants to do the responsible thing and take time out and doesn’t want to go around the country infecting others with Covid.”
Sepuloni said she will keep testing for Covid twice a day having spent time with Hipkins in the past week.
She expected the leader would keep working and giving out instructions and advice for those picking up the job in his absence.
Other leaders were sympathetic about the news of Hipkins’ positive test result.
National’s Christopher Luxon tweeted: “Get well soon Chris Hipkins. Will see you back on the campaign trail before too long”
Act leader David Seymour said at a media stand-up: “I’m really sorry to hear that. I just hope he’s okay, that his family are okay and that he makes a quick recovery. It doesn’t serve democracy to have people out of action for health reasons. We want a contest of ideas where everyone’s able to represent themselves.
“And it’s good that we no longer have the seven day isolation period that Labour kept around for such a long time. It means hopefully he can recover and be back on the beat .”