Thursday, December 9

MIQ reserves frustration worsens with government tweet

New Zealanders stranded abroad are outraged after being told that the freezing of managed isolation reserves meant they could “take a break” from their attempts to find a space at MIQ around the clock.

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Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced last night that bookings would be paused for a few days due to the latest Covid-19 outbreak.

A woman trying to secure her own Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) voucher asked MBIE on Twitter why the change had been made. The answer: “Hi, it helps because people can take a break from not updating the website while there is a pause.”

Since then, MBIE has apologized for not being clearer and causing discomfort.

“I don’t know what is more deaf: the tweet, or not deleting it 12 hours after it caused a firestorm,” said a Twitter user this morning. Since then it has been shot down.

One user responded to the tweet saying it was an “absolutely disgraceful response from anyone these days, let alone a government department. You should be ashamed. Be nice, yeah sure.”

New Zealander Martin Newell, who is trying to return to his family from Hong Kong, is a member of the Grounded Kiwis group, which has 3,000 members.

It was created by people who could not access the MIQ and has a petition for 15,000 names that is being taken to Parliament to push for changes to the MIQ.

“You know what, everyone would love not to update the website, but they would love to say ‘hey, we’ve improved the system,’ so you don’t have to update the website,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s very helpful. I think a lot of people are stressed and anxious and need to go home. We absolutely believe that MIQ provides a valuable service to keep New Zealanders safe, and we understand that the government is providing MIQ rooms to those who cannot safely isolate themselves at home, and we support that as a way to contain this outbreak that New Zealand is currently experiencing.

“But there was a letter posted this morning from MBIE, talking about room availability, and in this letter they have over 800 rooms available in September, but they haven’t released, and they have over 2000 rooms available in October and November. Now, September starts in just over a week, so why have so many rooms been held? “

Figures to quantify the number of people unable to access MIQ were hard to come by, but the group is conducting surveys to find out, he said.

As far as was known, MIQ was meeting only 15 per cent of the demand and a good proportion of those trying to find places were New Zealanders who needed to leave the country to see dying relatives or receive medical treatment abroad.

A woman was 28 weeks pregnant in El Salvador and was told by doctors that she had to return to New Zealand to give birth; Instead, she faces a $ 100,000 medical bill to give birth as a woman staying longer on a transit visa in the United States.

“Recently another lady contacted us, she’s a former Irish patriot,” Newell said. “Her sister was diagnosed with cancer in Ireland and it has metastasized all over her body … she wants to go say goodbye to her sister, but she can’t get a place at MIQ. There are so many of these stories that are simply tragedies that are not there. being satisfied by the current system. “

In a written statement, MIQ joint chief Megan Main said the announcement about the room release hiatus was intended to reduce stress.

“The current outbreak in the community means that MIQ needs to carefully manage capacity when community members enter the facility to self-quarantine,” he said. “We understand that it is stressful for people trying to secure a room when demand is high. We know that many people constantly update the website looking for rooms.

“The announcement about the launch pause and the relaunch of the rooms was intended to reduce stress and inform people looking to book a coupon, so they can stop updating the website as there would be no rooms to protect.

“We apologize for not making this clearer in the tweet and for any inconvenience caused. We can assure people that the emergency allocation process remains open for New Zealanders requiring urgent travel within the next 14 days. We will inform the company. people when the system returns to normal. “

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