Tears of anguish and relief: Thousands of Kiwis miss out on MIQ spots

Ben Leahy, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Oct 2021, 3:03pm
(Photo / Dean Purcell)
(Photo / Dean Purcell)

Tears of anguish and relief: Thousands of Kiwis miss out on MIQ spots

Ben Leahy, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Oct 2021, 3:03pm

Thousands of Kiwis have cried tears of anguish and tears of relief as the latest release of about 2100 managed isolation rooms have now been snapped up.

The Government released the rooms for December this year and January next year at 2pm today as up to 19,000 overseas Kiwis flooded into the new virtual lobby booking system in a desperate bid to secure one of the rooms.

All returning Kiwis have to spend two weeks in a managed isolation facility to be allowed back into the country.

For one returnee that meant unbridled relief.

"After 6-plus months of trying, I got a spot today," the woman wrote on Facebook.

"Cried many tears of relief as this gives my teenage children much-needed certainty now around what happens next."

"My heart does go out to those still trying, and I hope that this isn't a requirement for much longer."

However, others were filled with disappointment at the severe shortage of rooms.

"Well that was fun ... Said no one," one man wrote.

"Aroha to all of you who are separated from your whanau and just want to get home. Kia kaha koutou!"

Returnee Marcus earlier told the Herald he was sitting up into the wee hours of the morning in London but it hadn't been looking hopeful.

He was more than 12,000 places back in the queue of those wanting rooms.

"No other country in the world is restricting its citizens from returning," he said.

"It's cruel to sit awake until 2am in London to find there are no rooms in November and you are number 12,000+ when only 2000 rooms available."

Debbie also wrote in to say she was number 3251 in the MIQ queue.

It was her fifth attempt to secure a room in the revamped MIQ virtual lobby system.

Others took to social media to report their failures and hopes.

"Well, another waste of time," one woman wrote on Facebook, saying she had been placed more than 10,000 places back in the queue.

Another poster in Wales had two places in the queue, one at 4200 and another at 19,000.

"I'm assuming I can go to sleep? It's 2am in Wales," she said with a crying emoji.

One woman posted a screenshot showing she was 13,960th place in line.

"Ridiculous. Good night".

However, other posters expressed hope.

"The nerves are insane! Number 693," one woman said.

"Currently at 475!!!! So so happy!!," another woman wrote.

One man said he is 778 in the queue and posted a picture of what he said were dates when rooms managed isolation rooms were available.

They ran from December 9 to January 30.

"Good luck everyone," he said.

It comes as the MIQ booking system has previously been labelled an "absolute joke" and "heartbreaking" by those who have not been successful.

Now the Ombudsman announced today it is set to investigate the Government's rollout of the booking system.

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier said the investigation had been prompted by hundreds of complaints.

The complaints fitted into four broad categories - claims the allocation system was unlawful, unfit for purpose, unfair, and poorly managed, he said.

Today's pending release is the second time rooms in MIQ have been made available for 2022.

To get into the lobby, people have to have an account at the Managed Isolation Allocation System website and have all their personal information - including passport - and flight details handy.

People can only make one booking for themselves (or a group) each turn and, once the room release starts, everyone in the lobby will be randomly organised into a queue.

But the lobby system has been slammed by those who are unsuccessful.

The previous release of MIQ rooms on October 5 offered about 3700 spots.

But more than 25,000 overseas people flooded into the virtual lobby as they vied for one of the managed isolation rooms.

Sydney resident Maggie told the Herald she was number 23,222 in the queue in what was her third attempt to secure a room under the MIQ lottery system.

Louis Ribiere-Male, a 21-year-old Kiwi studying at the University of Sydney, said he was 25,215 in the queue.

Ribiere-Male, who hasn't been home since early 2020, said out of the 30 Kiwi students trying to get home, he only knew of one who had succeeded.

Hannah Fan, another University of Sydney student, was in the same boat as Ribiere-Male at roughly 23,000th in the queue.

Late last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said 12,000 rooms would be released over a period of several weeks.

"The reason we stagger those releases is because some people may have urgent needs that only arise say, in October and November and it allows those people to get equal access if those needs arise a little closer to the time."