MIQueue misery ‘obscene’


An Auckland man with Covid-19 spent six days isolating in his car while tens of thousands of double vaccinated travelers who tested negative are still forced to face the misery of the MIQueue lottery:

Auckland businessman Murray Bolton says he has been “inundated” with requests for assistance from desperate, double-vaccinated and COVID-negative Kiwis trying to get through New Zealand’s broken MIQ system after his own successful court challenge, but that MBIE remains obstructive and “refuses to face reality”.

“My lawyers have been absolutely inundated with requests for assistance from people from all walks of life, both trapped in New Zealand and overseas,” Mr Bolton said. “A number of people clearly have grounds for self-isolating on their return which fit with the purposes of the government’s health orders and the law as outlined by the High Court in its decision on my judicial review. But they are still facing an obstinate bureaucracy that refuses to acknowledge the law or the reality of the virus in New Zealand.”

“The stories are heart breaking. There are so many accounts of personal loss brought about by this broken system, the furthest thing you would ever expect to see from the kind of society we like to think New Zealand is.”

Mr Bolton said he has personally signed off a number of requests to fund New Zealanders’ legal assistance in navigating the MIQ exemption system through his lawyers, Martelli McKegg who are working as quickly as possible to help those they can. This may extend to further legal action to hold the government to account.

“I have also shared my extensive investment in legal research on this issue with numerous people bringing their own actions, including Grounded Kiwis.”

“Let’s call this situation what it is — obscene,” Mr Bolton said. “Scarce room spaces and our overstretched health workforce are tied up babysitting perfectly healthy returning New Zealanders, while hundreds of vulnerable Aucklanders battling COVID are left to fend for themselves.”

“As of today there are 1382 New Zealanders who caught COVID in Auckland isolating at home,” Mr Bolton said. “And we know now that many are falling through the cracks, isolating in garages or cars, or suffering with severe symptoms but unable to get the attention of the health services. These stories are appalling, and particularly unforgiveable with the resources being wasted on MIQ.”

“Professor Michael Baker, one of the most principled and consistent independent expert voices since the beginning of the pandemic and certainly no COVID-appeaser, said today MIQ is ‘redundant’ for any double-vaccinated arrivals into Auckland.”

“Every Kiwi who has contacted us for help is double-vaccinated,” Mr Bolton said. “But they have had to endure, lottery after lottery for MIQ spots and been left disappointed and hopeless. People’s loved ones are sick and dying and they cannot get back to see them.”

“I also heard about people’s incredible business innovations and opportunities for the New Zealand economy, to keep going against the tide of the pandemic or to push forward into new frontiers,” Mr Bolton said. “But MIQ means business people are unable to get out of New Zealand. Others, who left in order to keep their businesses alive overseas, have been stuck outside the border and unable to get back for more than six months. Many of these people have empty homes sitting in New Zealand that they can easily and safely self-isolate in and be no burden whatsoever to the health system. Other people have obtained spots on global programmes, with potentially invaluable networks between New Zealand and the world, but are unable to be able to take them up because they cannot get home if they leave the country.”

“MBIE have not made any amendments to their website to reflect the outcome of the judicial review decision,” Mr Bolton said. “They are living in denial and trying to keep New Zealanders in the dark about their rights. There is no information reflecting the law that allows exemptions from MIQ on grounds other than “medical” grounds. MBIE is still rejecting applications with pro forma responses, plainly not having even considered them, telling desperate people that they have to submit information they are not legally required to, and even rejecting out of hand plainly eligible exemptions.”

Obscene is the right word for this broken system.

An email from National’s Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop says:

Did you know that right now there are just 35 people with COVID in MIQ in New Zealand (out of over 4000 people), while there are 1773 people with COVID isolating at home?

The New Zealand government is overseeing a ridiculous situation where people who actually have COVID isolate at home, not in quarantine, but fully vaccinated travellers who don’t have COVID have to go into MIQ.

This situation needs to change – not at some vague point in 2022 which is the government’s timeframe, but right now. By ending MIQ for fully vaccinated travellers to New Zealand, we can free up space in quarantine for people with COVID who actually need it. You may have seen the tragic stories in the last week of people isolating and passing away at home.

It’s not just National who says this is absurd. Professor Michael Baker and his colleagues agree that Public health would be better served by having MIQ rooms available for community cases, when their homes are not suitable for home isolation. . . 

MIQ for incoming travellers was sensible last year when the aim was to keep Covid-19 out of New Zealand.

But now with so many people stranded off shore and with the disease wide spread in Auckland and leaking through the borders, it is no longer working.

When there’s such a shortage of  MIQ beds they should be left for people with the disease who can’t self-isolate safely and double vaccinated travellers who have had negative tests should be able to skip MIQ providing they can self-isolate safely at home.

National’s petition seeking this has received nearly 90,000 signatures. You can add yours here.

Too little, too slow


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?

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