Covid-19 briefing: Stays in MIQ to be halved under new system

The government is revealing changes to MIQ today, with stays halving from 14 to seven days, followed by isolation at home for three days.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have been giving today's update on the government's response to the Delta outbreak.

Under the new MIQ regime, which will begin from 14 November, arrivals must be fully vaccinated and will be tested on days 0, 3 and 6 and undertake a rapid antigen test before leaving MIQ, before a day-9 test at home.

He said this will free up about 1500 rooms a month in MIQ. Some of this will be taken up by community cases but some will go into the booking system for travellers from overseas.

The second step will reopen the border to low-risk travellers from Samoa, Tonga and Tokelau without isolation.

This one-way quarantine-free travel will begin from 8 November.

The third step will allow more people to isolate at home, available to increasing numbers of travellers in the first quarter of 2022.

He said changes at the border will be linked to the traffic light system.

"The faster New Zealanders get fully vaccinated so that we can move to the traffic light system, the faster we'll be able to open the border."

He said New Zealanders will also understand that the government does not want to accelerate the spread of Covid-19 around the country by lowering restrictions before we reach very high levels of vaccination.

Hipkins said the first priority for allowing people into New Zealand is Kiwis and people who already have visas, followed by other groups like international students.

"Tourists are more of a challenge ... what you will see though in the first part of next year will be quite different from the way we've been managing it over the past 18 months."

Hipkins said stopping Covid-19 at the border had been a priority and New Zealand's ability to do so had led to levels of freedom over the past year and a half which were the envy of many other nations.

"As a country we owe a massive vote of thanks to our front-line MIQ and border workers," he said.

Hipkins said in the meantime, the message to all New Zealanders was very simple - get vaccinated.

National Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop said the party welcomed the move, but much more was needed.

"I would describe them as the bare minimum that the government could do," he said.

"The tragedy of all of this is that the government could have been collecting vaccination data on travellers to New Zealand much earlier than August 23 and we have never had an adequate explanation from the government as to why they didn't bother.

"We could have made these changes earlier and the thousands of cases of hardship that we see at the border that populate and fill MPs' inboxes every day ... some of them could have been avoided."

He said today was a good step in tearing down a partial barrier to fortress New Zealand, and would help reduce the impact of the MIQ "lottery of human misery".

"But we cannot remain the hermit kingdom forever. We need to reopen to the world, so we've got a lot more work to do."

Radio New Zealand, RNZ
November 16, 2021

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