Saturday, December 4

Reopened MIQ stocks welcome, but ‘still the same number of needles in the haystack’

At 8 am on Monday, the new MIQ ‘lobby’ system will open its virtual doors with 3000 places on offer.

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Barriers outside a managed isolation facility.
Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

New Zealanders caught overseas will have one hour to enter, where they will be placed in a random queue and given a spot when they get to the front.

Mike Newell, a spokesman for the Grounded Kiwis group that advocates a fairer MIQ system, said lifting the hiatus was a good start.

But he said the timing might be out of line for some New Zealanders abroad.

“This is not a good time for people who are, say, in the Middle East or Asia, and it may not be a good time for someone who is working on an oil rig.

“It is not accessible to everyone around the world.

“So we would like to see more visibility of how they plan to time and release rooms in the future.”

Approximately 4000 rooms at a time will be released every fortnight.

People abroad who need to travel urgently can still apply for a managed isolation emergency location.

But the criteria for that haven’t changed, and Newell said the group listened daily to people who were escaping from the cracks.

“We had the case of a man in the United States, his employment ended and his visa expires and MFAT cannot help him, they will not help him.

“You have no choice but to stay longer with your visa, in a country where they do not look very kind to those who stay longer, but you cannot get the place in MIQ because you do not meet the criteria for emergency assignment.” .

The number of rooms available at MIQ has not increased either.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the lottery system was not a silver bullet, but should help with planning.

“We will know how many people are joining the lobby before the booking process begins and that will give us a little indication of what we think their future demand patterns will be,” he said. Control.

Newell said it was not yet clear what will happen if the spaces are canceled at the last minute or if the rooms will go to waste.

For some trying to get out of New Zealand, the new system doesn’t solve much.

Auckland-based travel technology consultant Mike Moore has been trying for months to secure a spot at MIQ.

His brother, who lived in the UK, died unexpectedly a few months ago and wants to support his family in person.

But he is in a kind of limbo, with no guarantee of when he can return to New Zealand and he is withholding the reserve.

He said the latest ad didn’t change much at all.

“It doesn’t solve the fact that you have no idea when, or if, you will be able to get a space and when you could get a space. How and when you could travel, how you could reunite with family, or whatever big reason you might be. you have to go.

“There are still the same number of needles in the haystack here.”

Monday’s coupon release will not include red flights from Australia.

Hipkins said that a decision on the trans-Tasman bubble would be made next week, but that no one should trust that it will take off again anytime soon.

Point-based system

National Party Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said Morning report the changes were “basically a band-aid on a festering sore that is the MIQ system.”

“The key point is that the system does not discriminate based on why you want to go home to New Zealand.

“Someone who returns home from vacation is treated exactly the same as someone who is desperate to return home to visit a dying relative.”

He said it would be fairer to assign points based on people’s reasons for returning home, and the more points a person has, the better their chances of getting a spot on MIQ.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that for a two-week stay there was a lot of complexity in a points-based system. It involved detailed needs assessments and required the creation of a “huge system” that he said could mean delays.

Hipkins said there was an emergency allowance for people with an urgent need to return to New Zealand.

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