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Covid-19: More than 16,000 people vie for 1250 rooms in MIQ facilities


MIQ facilities such as the Crowne Plaza in Christchurch look set to be in use for some time longer as uncertainty remains about when quarantine restrictions will ease.

STACY SQUIRES/Stuff

MIQ facilities such as the Crowne Plaza in Christchurch look set to be in use for some time longer as uncertainty remains about when quarantine restrictions will ease.

Despite travellers from Australia not being eligible for the latest round of MIQ rooms, more than 16,000 people have tried to book one of the 1250 available rooms for March and April.

The latest MIQ virtual lobby for quarantine places was held on Thursday afternoon and 1810 people secured spots, while 14,800 people missed out.

New York-based software engineer and filmmaker Rowan Wernham has tried eight times to get an MIQ spot through the virtual lobby lottery system and fallen short yet again.

New York-based Kiwi software developer and filmmaker Rowan Wernham has missed out on MIQ lottery places eight times.

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New York-based Kiwi software developer and filmmaker Rowan Wernham has missed out on MIQ lottery places eight times.

He was looking forward to coming home to New Zealand on February 15, the day after the Government was due to open up quarantine-free travel to double-vaccinated travellers from countries outside of Australia.

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Now those plans are now in disarray. He’s got property leases and house moves in both countries planned which are now all up in the air, and he still can’t get back to his homeland.

“I’ve done eight lotteries and lost every single one.”

“It’s been two god-damn years of the pandemic and they’re still dumping this on people. It’s unbelievable.”

Even if he did land a spot, he would have had to pay another $3000 in MIQ fees, which he also took objection to because it would have been due to the Government’s change in policies, not his own decisions.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment acting deputy secretary MIQ Andrew Milne said they were aware the changes brought in on December 21 to reduce the risk posed by Omicron has caused disruptions to travellers.

The ministry said it had to reduce the number of rooms available in this round to manage operational complexities created by the Omicron and Delta variants of the Covid-19 virus.

“For this reason, today’s lobby was smaller than usual, and focused on March and April.”

“This was our fastest lobby yet, but also the smallest amount of rooms to date.”

The next MIQ voucher release is scheduled for January 20.

Australian travellers blocked

In this latest round of room release, no places were available for people coming from Australia because there were no red flights available in March and April.

Matt Smith is a Kiwi living in Brisbane who was “heavily affected” by the recent decision not to allow travellers from Australia in the current voucher round.

He had signed a contract for a new job in Dunedin starting in March, but these plans are now in jeopardy.

“I resigned from my job, notified my land agents that I’ll be cancelling my lease, and moving home after not seeing family for 28 months. Two days later, the rules changed again, and self-isolation is no longer in play, and we’re back to this lottery system.”

Now that’s not an option, he’s left in limbo.

“There is a very high chance, the job will no longer be available as I had already negotiated a late start date and I may be stranded without my job here in Australia and no home to live in.”

Air NZ was still taking green bookings from Australia for those months because they anticipated the Government opening up quarantine travel in late February.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson said they were doing everything they could to get people home.

“Our hearts go out to customers who are trying to return home to New Zealand and face continued uncertainty, particularly over this holiday period.”

“The New Zealand Government has signalled that MIQ-free travel for New Zealanders travelling from Australia is expected to resume at the end of February, and in response to this we are operating a schedule of green flights from Australia in March and April.”

The spokesperson said if a decision was made to extend the requirement for travellers from Australia to enter MIQ beyond the end of February, then Air NZ would “update our schedule accordingly and ensure there are red flights available for customers to return”.

A MBIE spokesperson said the ministry was “working with government agencies and airlines in relation to the delayed border opening and possible flight schedules”.

A self-isolation regime for those travellers coming from Australia had been due to start from the middle of this month, but just before Christmas the Government delayed the phased border reopening until the end of February.

Just before Christmas the Government also cancelled a scheduled release of MIQ rooms due to uncertainties around the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.



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