ZB

MIQ halt: 'Extreme pressure' due to Omicron-infected arrivals

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 19 Jan 2022, 10:59am
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

MIQ halt: 'Extreme pressure' due to Omicron-infected arrivals

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 19 Jan 2022, 10:59am

The Government has defended halting the availability of managed isolation rooms, saying the MIQ system is facing "extreme pressure" from Omicron-infected arrivals. 

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the MIQ pause - announced via social media last night - also recognised how easily the Omicron variant can spread. 

"No decisions have been made on the date, sequence and conditions for the border reopening and Cabinet will consider options within the next couple of weeks based on the most up to date advice," he said. 

"Until then, we are not in a position to release more MIQ rooms." 

Hipkins said the focus would continue on encouraging people to get booster vaccine jabs and immunising kids aged 5-11 "before Omicron takes hold in the community". 

The latest MIQ room release was postponed due to the "unprecedented number of Omicron cases" last night. 

In a statement, head of MIQ Chris Bunny said there has been a ten-fold increase in positive Covid-19 cases at the border compared to December. Currently, the seven-day rolling average of border cases is 33. 

"We appreciate that this will be disappointing for many people wanting to come back to New Zealand. The Government's strategy is to minimise the risk of Omicron in New Zealand as much as possible," he said. 

"There will be room releases in the future for people wanting to secure rooms, however right now we cannot proceed as planned." 

Bunny said a room release will be scheduled for the future as officials navigate a "range of uncertainties and manage significant capacity pressures". 

ACT leader David Seymour said the decision "will be devastating for Kiwis abroad and it's time for a solution". 

"We can't go on like this, families have been torn apart and businesses can't get workers. It's time for some certainty." 

The current time for returnees in MIQ is 10 days, however, those who test positive and close contacts must stay longer. 

"In addition, we are monitoring the number of community cases, some of whom are required to come into MIQ," Bunny said. 

"We are constantly assessing the needs of the people coming into the MIQ system, which means at times we may need to convert managed isolation facilities to quarantine facilities. This means a further reduction in managed isolation rooms." 

A MIQ room release was previously scheduled for two days before Christmas but it was postponed until January 6, after the Omicron outbreak in many other parts of the world prompted the Government to scrap its self-isolation component for new arrivals. 

In the most recent MIQ lottery which dropped on January 6, 11,000 people queued online for MIQ spots, but most left disappointed. 

Cabinet ministers will meet this afternoon to assess the traffic light settings across the country and, most crucially, whether Northland will drop to orange. 

The outcome will be announced tomorrow as Labour MPs gather in New Plymouth for a new year caucus get-together.