Some high-performance athletes say their dreams and livelihoods are being destroyed as they are forced to withdraw from events abroad or face an uncertain amount of time abroad away from family and friends.
With many rooms in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities currently occupied by people with Covid-19 or their close contacts, the government has stopped accepting new bookings and it is unclear when they will resume.
That has made it difficult, if not impossible, for many of New Zealand’s best athletes to do their jobs.
It’s a tough choice: stay in New Zealand without a career or income, or go to events abroad and risk getting stuck abroad for an unknown amount of time.
Multisport athlete Braden Currie faced that situation in August.
With the Ironman World Champs postponed until early 2022, he was invited to the Collins Cup in Europe to compete for Team International.
It was too great an opportunity to pass up, so he traveled to Europe without a place at MIQ, leaving behind his wife and three children.
His wife Sally said that contests and endorsement deals were the family’s main source of income, so he had to leave.
“He’s in sixth place in the world and for the last two years he hasn’t been able to travel abroad to participate in events, but in the last six to eight months his sport has basically taken off again. And obviously, Brayden could only Staying out of competition for so long is his livelihood. His sponsors and his fans want to see him race. He wants to race. That’s why he does what he does. “
He said the apparent inequity of the MIQ system made the situation more frustrating.
Last year, waivers from MIQ were granted to several national and international sports teams.
So Sally wrote an open letter to Sports Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.
“How do you determine which sports are more important than another? Are you addressing this issue for our individual athletes? Are you representing them as sports minister, or is it only going to be proposed for mainstream sports that bring immeasurable to New Zealand? ? “
Since the Currie family expressed their frustration with the MIQ system, other athletes have come forward.
For top surfer Paige Hareb, the risk of not getting an MIQ spot was too high, prompting her to withdraw from the World Surf League ‘Challenger Series’.
In a Facebook post, he said that not knowing when he would be allowed to return to New Zealand, coupled with the risk the trip would pose to his health and income, meant it made more sense to cancel.
Others have decided to take a chance.
Olympic silver medalist Michael Venus left New Zealand in April to compete in the US Open, despite failing to earn a spot at MIQ when he returns.
Not knowing how long it will be before they can see each other again, his family decided to accompany him on tour.
Sally Currie said that Braden, who would be in Austria for the next seven weeks, was at the limit of his possibilities.
“Braden is excited. He is more excited than ever about his sport. There are many times a day while he’s there that he’s considering throwing in the towel and this is the first time in his entire career and that’s because he doesn’t know if can deal with the unknown, the constant unknown.
“When he finally comes home and then the world championship race comes, he has to go and do all this again knowing that he can’t get home yet. He’s not sure if he can really bear the emotional cost of that.”
Approximately 170,000 people have been through MIQ since it was established last year.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed yesterday the results of a survey of returnees who have passed through the system since May this year.
Although 88 percent reported that it had been a positive experience, they said the difficulty of obtaining a reservation was a point of frustration for many people.
“When we are able to open up to new reservations, the system will look and feel different. The new virtual lobby, accompanied by increased notice when coupons are released, will give everyone a more equitable opportunity to secure a reservation.”
“We are also constantly looking at how we can increase capacity. I recognize that the current travel restrictions are challenging for many people and I want to assure everyone that we are doing everything we can to provide safe passage to New Zealand for as many people as possible. we can safely accommodate without putting our hard-earned gains as a country at undue risk. “