Omicrony variant

14/01/2022

How not to shut down a story:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and fiance Clarke Gayford are refusing to answer further questions about the extent to which Gayford tried to get Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) for his friends.

On Wednesday the Herald reported a pharmacist alleging Gayford had tried to help friends get an RAT via a phone call and being “very unimpressed” when he was told that the health guidance was for a PCR test, rather than an RAT.

The friends were suspected close contacts of a Covid-19 case and current Ministry of Health guidelines say close contacts should get a nasal PCR test, not a rapid test.

The country was facing its first community case of the Omicron variant at the time.

In a Facebook post, the pharmacist alleged Gayford had said the Ministry of Health policy had changed and allowed close contacts to get an RAT.

Gayford admitted a friend had put him on speakerphone while in a pharmacy to discuss RATs, but did not give his version of the phone call. He apologised for any “confusion”.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister’s office refused to answer further questions about the extent to which this was a one-off occurrence, and whether it was appropriate for him to try to get the test.

Is a woman responsible for her fiancée’s actions?

No.

But when the woman is the Prime Minister the questions are legitimate and deserve an answer.

When other media approached the Prime Minister’s office about the story, the office refused to comment, but referred reporters to a statement issued by Gayford’s managers.

But on Thursday morning, Gayford’s managers were not issuing his statement – already published by the Herald – to other media, impeding their ability to cover the story.

In a news story, TVNZ’s 1News said it “approached Gayford’s management team for a response,” after being directed there by the Prime Minister’s office. However, Gayford’s management “refused to comment”.

Only in the afternoon were other media able to obtain the statement – after some had raised the issue with the Prime Minister’s office. Gayford’s management blamed the delay on holidays and staff needing to talk to senior management before sending the statement. 

Gayford’s management refused to answer further questions about the incident. 

How to make a bad story worse – try to keep it quiet, especially when there are so many questions that have yet to be answered.

Questions like:

Why would musicians think calling their mate who just happens to be engaged to the Prime Minister would help him get an RAT?

Why would the mate then try to persuade the pharmacist to give them the test?

This is a particularly nasty case of the Omicrony variant.

Apropos of the Omicrony variant, even if the musician in the pharmacy wasn’t from overseas, how do others in the music industry manage to get to the front of the MIQueue?

How can these people take precedence over New Zealanders desperate to get home and essential workers in sectors including health, agriculture and education which are desperate for staff?

And apropos of those oblivious to the plight of the desperate would-be returnees is the case of Labour list MP Marja Lubeck who spent summer in the Netherlands:

The list MP, who contests Auckland’s Kaipara ki Mahurangi electorate, was born in the Netherlands and later moved to New Zealand.

Lubeck’s trip is possible thanks to her securing an MIQ spot, allowing her to isolate upon her return to New Zealand. But the MIQ system is becoming increasingly controversial; regular releases of MIQ places are almost always oversubscribed, meaning many New Zealanders are barred from returning home. . . 

There is no question that she got that spot by anything other than luck but that is no comfort for the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who are stuck overseas and in far, far greater need of getting to the front of the MIQueue but who have had no luck in the MIQ lottery.

That she could think it was fine to compete against those people for one of the scarce spots shows a serious error of judgment.

Compounding that, what does it say about her judgment that she left the country in spite of the government of which she is a part having a travel advisory that very clearly tells New Zealanders to stay home:

Do not travel overseas at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, associated health risks and widespread travel restrictions. This do not travel advisory (level 4 of 4) applies to all destinations except the Cook Islands….Read more . . 

The musician made an error of judgement, Clarke Gayford made a bigger one and Marja Lubeck made two, all of which reflects badly on them and both Gayford and the PM compounded the damage by refusing to answer questions.

Could it be that compromised judgement is one of the symptoms of the Omicrony variant?


Who’s essential?

12/01/2022

A rest home has empty beds because it can’t find enough staff.

Health professionals are over-stretched because hospitals are under-staffed.

Fruit and vegetables are going unharvested because market gardeners and orchardists can’t find enough workers.

There’s a nationwide shortage of people in a wide variety of occupations including agricultural contractors, auditors, dairy farm workers, midwives and vets.

There are New Zealanders overseas who are qualified for these jobs who want to get home but can’t. There are others with visas who could fill some of the vacancies but they are stuck in the MIQueue too.

Yet a DJ managed to get an MIQ spot three times last year and scores of  other DJs came into the country in 2021.

How do local DJs who have lost work opportunities feel about that?

How do all the 10s of thousands of New Zealanders who are desperate to come home and can’t get a spot in the MIQ lottery feel about that?

And what does it say about a government that considers DJs essential when so many other really essential workers are stuck overseas?

If they asked voters, who’s essential there would be a very long list before anyone mentioned DJs.


Not actively working

10/01/2022

MIQ failures are creating mayhem and distress for families:

The Government has cruelly chosen not to fix known problems in the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) online booking system that are keeping families from reuniting says National’s Spokesperson for Immigration, Erica Stanford.

“Resident 2021 visa holders and families of essential workers like our nurses and teachers who hold valid visas have been unable to book MIQ spots because the system can’t verify them.

“Resident visa holders were told they would be free to travel in and out of New Zealand like all other residents, subject to booking MIQ. However, a glitch in the system has locked them out of booking MIQ spaces and many who left temporarily are unable to even try to return home.

“The Government are actively are choosing not to fix this problem, telling those trapped offshore ‘although we are aware of the problem we are not actively working on fixing it’.

Only government employees, secure in their jobs, would treat people like this.

“Similarly, another MIQ glitch that has taken too long to fix saw essential workers seeking to bring their families to join them unable from being able to apply for spots in this weeks’ MIQ room release.

“Our essential workers have done everything the Government has asked. They’ve patiently waited for months to reunite with their families. Now the Government is telling them to continue supporting our COVID-19 response while telling them they’ll have to wait even longer to see their families.

Who was it criticised Australia for its treatment of illegal immigrants? Ah yes, it was our Prime Minister whose government is subjecting essential workers, here legally, to inhumane separation from their families.

“The Government’s failure to fix these issues with urgency is cruel and appalling – and is sending a message to migrants that they don’t care about them.

“This is a classic case of ‘computer says no’. New Zealand residents are being told they are not able to enter the country at all until the borders open – just because of a computer glitch the Government refuses to fix.

“I’m calling on Chris Hipkins to act with urgency to fix these issues and ensure New Zealand residents can return home and essential workers can be reunited with their families. We simply cannot afford to have more essential workers leave New Zealand because their families can’t get here.”

We are desperately short of essential workers in every sector.

The government, and its employees, should be doing absolutely everything possible to keep those already in the country here and enable the ones offshore to get in.

The MIQueue failures are causing mayhem and distress for citizens, residents and their families, keeping out people who want to come in and preventing those here from leaving for fear they won’t be able to return.

The increasingly dire warnings about the imminent arrival of the Omicron variant are a very strong signal nothing will be done to alleviate the problems soon even if there was a much better response than although we are aware of the problem we are not actively working on fixing it.

Not actively working – that could apply to the whole government.


How would you feel?

07/01/2022

The first MIQueue lottery took place yesterday.

How would you feel if you were one of the people who didn’t get an MIQ spot?

How would you feel if you got one then couldn’t get a flight that suited and had to forgo the MIQ room?

How would you feel if you were an employer whose essential worker missed out in the MIQueue lottery?

This is an inhumane and unfair system.

The government can’t keep keeping citizens and permanent residents out and forcing others to stay here for fear they won’t be able to return.

There are much better ways to keep Covid-19 out while allowing people who need, or even want, to come in to do so.


He’s devastated

30/12/2021

The DJ who has taken Omicron into the community says he’s devastated.

In a statement on his Instagram page late on Wednesday night, DJ Dimension – whose real name is Robert Etheridge – said he tested positive after 10 days of isolation.

“In line with the Government rules, I was in managed isolation for seven days followed by three days of home isolation,” Etheridge said.

“During this time, I received three negative tests and showed no symptoms. After completing my ten-day isolation, and of the understanding that I had completed my quarantine, I entered the community.  . . 

That was a misunderstanding.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson earlier told the Herald the infected person did not wait for a negative test result before they left the place they were self-isolating.

It was only a matter of time before Omicron crossed the border.

Now it has and the man who let it out says he’s devastated.

If he’s devastated how will so many other people be feeling?

This variant is highly infectious. It will be a miracle if he hasn’t infected people who will infect more people.

And among the others who will be devastated will be the tens of thousands of grounded Kiwis, stuck overseas at the mercy of the MIQueue lottery who will be asking how this man got into the country when they are locked out.


Don’t know or won’t tell?

24/11/2021

This is not the time for the government to be sowing uncertainty:

That the Prime Minister can’t answer even basic questions about her Government’s traffic light system is cause for major concern, says Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins.

“When asked what the criteria were for moving from one traffic light colour to another, the Prime Minister was unable to say.

“When asked why the South Island was being put into orange – despite having zero Covid cases – she refused to answer.

A government that is restricting what people can do ought to be able to answer any and all questions about the restrictions.

“When asked why Kiwis would be able to fly from Auckland to Wellington with just proof of vaccination but a Kiwi in Queensland would still need to get lucky in the managed isolation lottery and spend a full week in MIQ, she claimed it wouldn’t be fair on New Zealanders stuck in other parts of the world.

“This, despite Auckland having more than 4600 cases in the community while the entire state of Queensland has a total of just four.

It would be hard enough to be stuck in the MIQueue if there was a good reason for it.

When people are more likely to get, and spread, Covid-19 in Auckland and people with the disease are permitted to self-isolate in the community, there is not good reason for not allowing people from low-risk countries who are double vaccinated and test negative to self-isolate in the city.

“The Prime Minister claimed this morning that venues won’t have to use the vaccine verifier app and can instead simply sight someone’s Covid Pass. This comes despite the Ministry of Health’s website stating that use of the app is required for entry.

It must be one or the other, it can’t be both.

“No wonder businesses are confused. These are all details that should have been decided and clearly spelled out months ago.

“We went 18 months without a significant Covid outbreak. The vaccine rollout began more than nine months ago. Delta first arrived in MIQ some seven months ago. This current lockdown began more than three months ago.

“What the hell has the Government been doing all this time? It’s a straight question New Zealanders are asking, but the Government can’t provide a straight answer.

Can’t answer or won’t, because that would be admitting they wasted the time they had, basking in their high opinion of themselves instead of preparing for the outbreaks happening elsewhere?

“Businesses in Auckland have been forced to stay closed for almost 100 days.

“If they are to survive, they need certainty about support they will get, clarity about when Auckland and the rest of the country will move to green, and time to plan for the critical holiday period.

“The Prime Minister needs to tell New Zealand exactly what circumstances and vaccination rate is required for the country to go to the green light.

“Then she needs to put an end to the MIQ lottery of human misery and allow fully vaccinated Kiwis with a negative Covid test to come home for Christmas, starting with the trans-Tasman bubble.”

Is it that the PM doesn’t know the answers to the questions, or that she knows and won’t tell?

The former would be incompetence, the latter control freakery – whichever it is, it’s feeding the growing frustration over continued uncertainty.


MIQueue must go for most

05/11/2021

National has launched a petition to end MIQ:

The time has come to end the lottery of human misery that is MIQ, says National’s Covid Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“We have today launched a new petition so that Kiwis on and offshore can tell the Government in no uncertain terms that it’s time to end MIQ.

“We now have a farcical situation where fully vaccinated New Zealanders, with no Covid, who win the MIQ lottery have to spend 14 days in MIQ in Auckland, while more than 1300 people with Covid or who are close contacts of Covid cases isolate at home in Auckland.

“This makes no sense. It is unfair, callous and illogical.

“Tens of thousands of Kiwis have been shut out of their home country because of the MIQ system. The stories that fill MPs’ inboxes are truly harrowing.

“The MIQ system is not politically or morally sustainable. It is legally questionable.

“This isn’t the Kiwi way. It isn’t kindness. It isn’t compassion. The Government is now engaging in wilful, state-sponsored cruelty on an industrial scale.

The government grandstanded on Australia’s treatment of illegal immigrants. Its treatment of its own citizens who can’t get home is far worse.

“It’s time to end MIQ and allow Kiwis stuck offshore to come home for Christmas.

“Fully-vaccinated travellers to New Zealand present negligible risk. Since we started collecting MIQ vaccination data from August 23, just two fully vaccinated travellers in MIQ have tested positive later than day eight in MIQ.

“National is launching this petition to demand the Government put an end to MIQ. Clearly we need quarantine facilities for some community Covid cases, but we must move to a system where fully vaccinated travellers who return negative pre-departure tests can enter New Zealand without spending time in MIQ hotels.

“National’s ‘Opening Up’ plan envisaged travellers from lower risk jurisdictions – such as Queensland – not entering isolation at all, while travellers from higher risk places such as New South Wales would spend a week in isolation at home. Under both scenarios, MIQ would cease and there would be no state-imposed limits on travellers to New Zealand.

“Ending MIQ would reunite families, end the enormous anguish at the heart of the system, boost tourism, and help fill skill shortages in New Zealand.

“We can’t remain stuck behind the walls of Fortress New Zealand forever. We have to reopen to the world, and a good place to start would be getting rid of the lottery of human misery that is MIQ.” 

People are stranded overseas after losing, or finishing, jobs and packing up their homes.

They are locked out of the country after mercy visits to the ill and dying and for funerals.

Others are stuck here unable to go overseas for such mercy visits or business for fear they won’t be able to get home again.

This is inhumane.

There is more risk of getting Covid-19 from Aucklanders than there is from double-vaccinated travellers who have had a negative test before boarding a flight home and again on landing.

If people who have Covid-19 are being trusted to self-isolate at home, double vaccinated returnees could be too.

A friend’s daughter recently moved to Japan. For two weeks she had to isolate in her apartment. Several times a day at irregular intervals she was phoned to check that she was where she was supposed to be.

If that works there, why couldn’t it work here?

You can sign the petition here.


Can’t get in, can’t get out

04/11/2021

Aucklanders’ hopes of being able to get out of the city by Christmas have been dashed:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s admission on radio today that the hard border around Auckland is set to remain in place over summer to unvaccinated people proves she’s prepared play The Grinch in order to mask her Government’s failures, says Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins.

She came without packages, she came without bags, she went on the radio, to make Christmas hopes sag.

“Speaking to ZM, the Prime Minister said: ‘We are looking at how, if you are adding on a testing regime, how you would manage that number and that scale of people being tested, but also, yes, using vaccine certificates is part of that, so, while we are still working on it if anyone wants to make sure they are able to leave over the summer, it’s another reason to get vaccinated’.

“The PM should be explicitly clear on whether Aucklanders will be free travel this summer.

“She says there are still issues being worked through on, if and how Aucklanders will be able to travel this Christmas.

“This just isn’t good enough. 

“National has called for easing MIQ so that Kiwis can come home for Christmas. Now we hear that Labour might not even allow Aucklanders to travel for Christmas.

“There are no excuses for the Government to still be working on major aspects of their so-called traffic light system.

“New Zealanders need certainty. People are planning their summers now. Families want to know if they will see each other at Christmas. If they don’t know what the situation at the Auckland border will be many people simply will not plan a family Christmas or summer holiday.

“Not only will that keep loved ones separated, a closed border will be dire for the tourism industries of places such as Coromandel and Northland that rely on visitors from Auckland.

“Most Kiwis have done the right thing and got vaccinated. We can’t lock up Auckland forever because the Government has set a vaccination target that is more ambitious than anywhere else in the world.

“National’s ‘Back in Business’ plan calls for regional boundaries to be abolished once an 85-90 per cent vaccination milestone is met, or December 1, whatever comes first.

“Labour’s target of 90 per cent for every single DHB is impossibly high, and some DHBs are so far behind it’s impossible to see the target being met anytime soon.

“Kiwis need a path back to normality. Summer is what we’ve been looking forward to. But it seems the PM wants to play The Grinch and keep us locked up forever.”

Tens of thousands of people can’t come home because of the shambles that is MIQueue and now Aucklanders aren’t going to be able to get out of their city when they want to:

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Checkpoint the government is considering the option that Aucklanders have an allocated time slot to leave the region over the summer holidays.

The measure would reduce the risk of queues of traffic at the boundary checkpoints, as vaccination certificates are checked. . .

Reduce queues? How would that work? Another lottery like the MIQueue for people trying to get into the country? And what about the people from north and south of Auckland wanting to get through the city to and from Northland and Waikato?

What was he thinking? Was he even thinking?

National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop told Checkpoint he thinks the potential time allocation for Aucklanders to leave the region in holidays is “the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard”.

“MIQ is bad enough, with the lottery of human misery for Kiwis to come home to their own country. The idea that Aucklanders will be allocated by the government a week away or something, when I first saw it on Twitter… I actually had to reread it about three times. I couldn’t believe it. . . 

This government hasn’t the logistical expertise needed to enable New Zealanders to come home. How on earth do they think they’ll be able to get a workable timetable for Aucklanders to leave their city?

 


MIQueue not fit for purpose

30/10/2021

How will the tens of thousands people losing the MIQueue lottery feel about this?

A loophole in the troubled MIQ has been identified after an email was sent out by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise three days ago.

The door’s being opened for up to a dozen people to come back to New Zealand and stay in managed isolation if they book for lunch or dinner at the New Zealand Pavilion at the Dubai Expo.

They don’t have to begin their journey in New Zealand, they can travel from other countries to Dubai, they don’t even need to be engaged in the Expo nor do they need to have any commercial activity in Dubai.

They have to be an export customer which most of us are likely to be.

They have to return to New Zealand on an Emirates flight leaving on November the 21st. . . 

How will the people desperately trying to win a spot in the MIQueue lottery feel about this?

Just one guest stayed at the Grand Mercure managed isolation hotel in Wellington last week, where dozens of staff were working.

The person was involved in an emergency medical evacuation.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Managed Isolation and Quarantine confirmed the 102-room hotel had just one guest between October 21 and October 28.

It meant 88 isolation rooms went empty over that period, as well as 13 quarantine rooms.

Up to 50 staff were still working at the facility during that time, looking after the single guest.

“Other guests have not been staying at this facility to maintain the cohorting system between incoming and arriving guests,” the statement said. . .

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders are stuck overseas wanting to come home.

Some have lost their jobs and with them visas making them effectively stateless.

Some are desperate to get back for births and deaths.

Some are elderly at risk of losing their pensions if they don’t get back in time.

Then there are New Zealanders who need to go overseas for business or personal visits but can’t leave while they can’t get a space in MIQ that will allow them to come back.

There are families who have been apart for months with some here and others stuck abroad. This includes a two year-old who has been separated from his parents for 17 weeks.

And there are essential workers whose skills and experience we desperately need who keep losing in the MIQueue lottery.

How will they be feeling about the hotel with only one occupant and the loophole that enabled a lucky dozen to come home via the Dubai expo?

They will be justifiably angry.

MIQ might have worked at the start but it’s no longer fit for purpose and the delay in allowing double vaccinated travellers who test negative at both ends of their journeys will give them little if any comfort.


Too little, too slow

29/10/2021

Yesterday’s announcement of the prospect of shorter stays in MIQ will give little comfort to those enduring the MIQueue misery.

The Government’s changes to the cruel MIQ system are a start but they need to go much further and much more quickly, says National’s Covid spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“As I revealed last week, fully vaccinated travellers to New Zealand, with a negative pre-departure test, pose negligible risk.

“Just two fully vaccinated travellers out of 20,000 or so people who have been through MIQ since August 23 have tested positive on day eight or later, indicating MIQ could be reduced immediately to seven days without any real risk.

“While fully vaccinated travellers with no Covid have been spending 14 days in MIQ, more than 200 people with Covid have been isolating at home in Auckland.

Even if only those travellers who could self-isolate in that city where the disease is already widespread in the community, were permitted to do so, it would relieve some of the MIQueue pressure.

“The tragedy is that these changes could and should have happened much sooner. The Government only started recording the vaccination status of people arriving into MIQ from August 23. Why didn’t this happen sooner? The Government has never given an adequate explanation as to why it didn’t bother to collect the data earlier than August 23.

“If we had the data from vaccinated travellers in April or May, potentially tens of thousands more people could have come safely through the border much earlier than now.

“The Government’s changes should also go much further. This is about the bare minimum that the Government could have done, and it won’t help Kiwis offshore desperate to return home. The stories of human misery and hardship that populate the inboxes of Members of Parliament are harrowing. The sooner we can end this lottery of human misery, the better.

“We need to quickly move to a situation where fully vaccinated travellers from low-risk jurisdictions do not have to isolate at all, assuming they have a negative pre-departure and post-arrival test. National would introduce this once New Zealand is at 85 per cent fully vaccinated, which is only weeks away. This would mean thousands of travellers from places such as Queensland could be home for Christmas.

“National’s ‘Opening Up’ Plan also calls for travellers from medium-risk locations, such as parts of the US, the UK and some states of Australia, to be allowed to skip MIQ and isolate at home for seven days.

“It’s time we reopened to the world. We can’t remain shut behind the walls of Fortress New Zealand. Today’s news is a good start, but there is so much more to do.”

Halving the time people are required to stay in MIQ will free up some rooms – but many of them will be taken up with people from the community who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 so the change won’t do much to improve the changes of the tens of thousands of people forced to take their chances with the MIQueue lottery.

That includes business people, one of whom, challenged the government in court:

A High Court judge has ordered the government to take a second look at an Auckland richlister’s bid to bypass the MIQ system by self-isolating at his gated home following a high-stakes business meeting in the pandemic-ravaged United States.

Justice Geoffrey Venning issued the brief ruling from the bench on Thursday. He is expected to issue a full written ruling on Friday. . . 

Bolton, who is 73 and has received both Covid-19 jabs, sought a judicial review after the Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) rejected his MIQ exemption application. The landmark case argues that the system unreasonably limits citizens’ freedom of movement and breaches the Bill of Rights Act.

Part of his proposal was to take a private jet to and from the United States so as to reduce his risk of being exposed to Covid-19. Upon return, he and his partner would stay at their gated home in the swank Auckland suburb Herne Bay for two weeks – the same amount of time people are required to stay at MIQ facilities, if they’re lucky enough to get a spot – and submit to all testing requirements.

High-profile lawyer John Billington QC argued that his client would be more likely to catch Covid-19 if in an MIQ facility rather than following his own proposed plan. The Crown, however, argued that the biggest risk would be attending the board meeting in Boston. . .

Would the risk at the board meeting be very different from that of buying groceries or any of the other activities permitted in ‘pandemic-ravaged’ Auckland?

The government has made us fearful, boasting of the months of freedom we enjoyed while others were locked down last year, but unwilling to loosen control to enable us to enjoy some of the freedom those overseas have now.

As Russell Coutts says:

The fact is that people are living with Covid offshore and although some people, perhaps many, rightly remain cautious, life has largely returned to normal in many places. But that is not what we are being told here in New Zealand.

The erosion of our freedom of choice, freedom of speech and the loss of precious time with family and friends and all the other negative aspects of a lockdown should be balanced against the health risk of Covid. Imagine if we had invested the 1 billion plus spent each week on lockdowns on improving our health system, education or roading (we had 8 road deaths in NZ last weekend).

It seems totally insane that double vaccinated people are terrified of meeting unvaccinated people. Is that how it’s going to be for the rest of our lives? What about the people that have health issues and can’t get vaccinated? Are they going to be banished from society? (for the record I’m double vaccinated).

Finally the fact that the NZ government has now said that even if Auckland achieves 90% double vaccination that it’s people may likely still be restricted from traveling at Christmas seems like a total nonsense. (For those overseas people reading this, Auckland already has 93% first dose and 82% second dose vaccinated – the entire country has 87% first dose and 72% double dosed).

It’s also total nonsense and contradictory that double vaccinated people that have negative covid tests are being locked down for 14 days in MIQ whilst people with Covid are being allowed to self isolate in the community.

How New Zealand, a country where it’s people greatly valued freedom off choice…..how we even got to this stage of blindly accepting this sort of unilateral rule, power and dictatorship from our government is deeply troubling indeed.

 Fear was part of what got us here  – fear of the disease, fear of overwhelming the health system, fear of death.

As more of us get vaccinated, as many people with Covid-19 are at home rather than in MIQ or hospital, and with better treatments for the disease available, is that fear justified or has it become an overused  political weapon?


Let Me Get Home

26/10/2021

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier is launching a broad investigation into the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) booking system after receiving hundreds of complaints.

Mr Boshier says he has identified some common themes in about 200 complaints relating to the booking system.

Many of the complaints come from people who are having difficulties around the world obtaining vouchers for places in managed isolation or have concerns about the booking system overall.

“The complaints fit into four broad categories – they claim the allocation system is unlawful, unfit for purpose, unfair, and poorly managed. I have decided to do my own independent investigation into them all.”

“One of the specific complaints is that disabled people are being disadvantaged. I have concerns about whether the online booking system is accessible and whether suitable alternatives are being offered for those who have difficulty using this digital platform.”

Mr Boshier says he has notified the agency in charge of the booking system, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, of his intention to investigate.

“I want to give the public some assurance that the MIQ booking system is working as well as it should.”

“While I could investigate each of these complaints in turn, I don’t believe this is the most efficient way of addressing any underlying issues. That is why I am looking at them together.”

“When a new complaint comes in, my team will assess whether it should be addressed as part of this investigation or investigated and resolved individually.”

Mr Boshier will continue monitoring the wider MIQ system to identify any other interventions that may be needed.

He acknowledges the MIQ system was set up quickly in response to an immediate crisis.

“Border restrictions, along with managed isolation and quarantine facilities, are going to be a fact of life for some time to come.”

“I want to find out how MBIE is responding to these concerns and whether it has a robust plan in place for allocating places in the coming months and years. If there is not, I will recommend it makes improvements.” . . 

The current plan is anything but robust.

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders are stranded overseas, many of them are in desperate situations, all are frustrated by a system that is not fit for purpose.

That people with Covid-19 are being trusted to self-isolate at home when those who are fully vaccinated, have a negative test before they board a flight and when they land, are still have to join the MIQueue to get home and are then subject to 14 days in MIQ makes it worse.

 


Grounded Kiwis take Govt to court

09/10/2021

Grounded Kiwis are taking the government to court over the MIQueue shambles.

Grounded Kiwis, a newly incorporated society advocating for Kiwis at home and abroad impacted by the Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) system, has filed a judicial review claim in the High Court in respect of the Government’s operation of the MIQ system, and the limitation this has placed on New Zealanders right to return home.

The claim alleges that the Government has acted unlawfully, unreasonably, and in breach of section 18(2) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 in the way it has established and operated the MIQ system, in particular in respect of the ‘fastest finger first’ model, the current ‘lottery’ model, and the emergency and group allocation system.

Paul Radich QC and Lucila van Dam, public law barristers at Clifton Chambers in Wellington, are acting for Grounded Kiwis. . .

The claim is a judicial review. The right to apply for judicial review through the High Court is a central part of the “rule of law”. A core role of the courts is to enforce legal rights and obligations, and judicial review specifically is a key way of making sure that government bodies and officials act within the law and not arbitrarily.

The claim filed by Grounded Kiwis alleges that the Minister of Health, Minister for Covid-19 Response, and Chief Executive of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment acted unlawfully and unreasonably in respect of the design and operation of the MIQ system. It alleges that the previous ‘first-in-first served’ allocation system, the current ‘lottery’ allocation system, and the offline allocation system (including emergency allocations) are in breach of section 18(2) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and that the Ministers have failed to take into account the right of New Zealanders to enter New Zealand. The claim also alleges that the Minister for Covid-19 Response breached the public’s legitimate expectation that he would develop a sustainable, scalable model for isolation as a matter of priority. . .   

The MIQ system is not fit for purpose and all the lottery has done is to show the extent of the problem with more than 20,000 people trying to return to New Zealand.

Grounded Kiwis has set up a GiveALIttle page to pay the legal costs. The link at the top of the page will take you there.

UPDATE:

The GiveALIttle target has been reached.


MIQueue madness could cost lives

07/10/2021

This is MIQueue madness:

Southland Hospital’s maternity unit may be downgraded because its clinical director can’t get back into New Zealand.

Dr Jim Faherty, who runs the hospital’s Obstetrics and Gynaecology service, has been trying to return home to his family and his important job for a month, but can’t get a spot in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ).

He’s frustrated with the opaque, clunky and time-consuming emergency allocation process and is struggling to understand why the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment doesn’t recognise his role as critical.

This is despite a letter from the Southern District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming explaining why the specialist surgeon is urgently needed back in Southland where maternity services are “precarious”. . . 

After losing his mum in March and being unable to attend her funeral in the United States, Faherty’s father was admitted to a US hospital in a serious condition in August, where he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and renal failure, with six months left to live.

Fleming wrote that the DHB discouraged staff from travelling, but given the emotional impact of Faherty’s situation, decided it was extremely important he be allowed to see his family in the US.

Faherty and management understood that he would be eligible for two of the emergency allocation categories outlined on the MIQ website – namely, the category related to delivering critical public or health and disability service and the one for New Zealand residents visiting terminal family members. . . 

How on earth can he not be eligible?

MIQ joint head Megan Main said the category Faherty applied under was only for people who were starting a new critical job in New Zealand.

All applications for emergency were assessed on a case by case basis, she said. . . 

Can she not see the stupidity of the first sentence and the contradiction of the second?

Assessing by a case by case basis shouldn’t be a tick box exercise matching the application against the criteria. It should look at the individual circumstances of the the applicants and consequences of refusing entry not just for the applicants but others who depend on them.

In this case it isn’t just the doctor and his family, it’s the staff and patients at the hospital who urgently need the doctor’s services.

This madness could cost lives.


%d bloggers like this: