More MIQ capacity for travelers and community cases “in weeks” – Hipkins

The Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) changes announced this week will free up facilities to meet demand from New Zealanders abroad and the outbreak in the community, the Covid-Response Minister said. 19, Chris Hipkins.

Chris hipkins
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

In parliament this afternoon, Hipkins said Cabinet was looking very closely at MIQ’s parameters in light of fewer cases and more fully vaccinated travelers crossing international borders, even as community-based cases of the outbreak of Delta were increasing.

He said the changes would free up some capacity at MIQ facilities, including for travelers returning from overseas.

However, he also noted that there was an increasing demand for the use of the facilities by people in the community with Covid-19 who needed to self-isolate.

“It is possible that international arrivals will have more traffic at the border, before the end of the summer,” he said.

“We will see more community cases and more cases to be isolated in community MIQ, but this will free up additional capacity for those coming from overseas.

“It’s not going to double our capacity or anything like that, but there will be some increase.”

He said there had been a significant growth in community demand for MIQ facilities by those who were unable to safely self-isolate at home.

“We currently have four facilities that… take community cases. Probably consider that at least one more would be converted for short-term community use, but beyond that the modeling gets pretty sketchy.

“Where there are these very large households, it puts an additional demand on MIQ because in fact you need them so that they can isolate themselves safely.”

He said the changes to MIQ would be announced in the coming days and implemented “within weeks”.

New Zealanders hoping to return from overseas have struggled with the government’s MIQ reservation system since its inception, the ombudsman is currently investigating the fairness of the system.

Changes were made to the system in September in an effort to make what was a first-come, first-served system fairer, which led to dependence on robots and automation.

The new system randomly allocates MIQ seats to those waiting in a virtual lobby, but demand has remained high and some have argued for greater prioritization based on need.

Emergency places are available, but they are relatively rarely granted, with less than 10% of requests being approved.

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