Purpose-built MIQ facilities are urgently needed to increase capacity, prevent future outbreaks, and make the elimination strategy sustainable for longer.
The Opportunities Party (TOP) says the Government must not waste any more time and provide facilities that are fit-for purpose for the long-term management of this persistent virus.
25,000 Kiwis are trapped overseas and unable to return because we have severely limited MIQ spaces. 25,000 Kiwis unable to see terminally ill loved ones, unable to celebrate milestones with friends and families, and unable to return to live in their own country because there is not enough space in MIQ.
MIQ is the only way into New Zealand. It is designed to be the gate that keeps COVID out. Although to say it was designed is a bit generous. As a matter of expedience and urgency, hotels were rapidly converted into managed isolation facilities. These hotels are usually located in busy urban areas and the worst place to host potential COVID cases. TOP has been calling for purpose-built MIQ outside of Auckland for over a year now. The evidence is crystal clear:
- Increased capacity allows Kiwis to return home. Dedicated facilities can increase the number of rooms available and be better designed to stratify travels based on risk. Low risk travellers (vaccinated, from a low COVID area, negative predeparture test) could spend a shorter time in managed isolation – getting more people through. The lack of spaces was understandable at the start of the pandemic, but we are now more than 18 months into it and it will continue for some time. The Government has an obligation to its citizens to allow them to come home.
- Hotels are not fit for purpose. Many health experts agree that hotels and COVID is an accident waiting to happen. Some isolation hotels have been shut down further limiting the spaces available because of the high health risk. We need to plan long term and reduce the risk of further lockdowns. Already the current outbreak in Auckland is proving difficult to get under control. We must use what little time we have to make these outbreaks less likely to happen.
- Reduce the risk of COVID infections in our Māori and Pasifika communities. Auckland is home to a large Māori and Pasifika community, who have been shown to be at greater risk of being caught up in these outbreaks. The health risks to Māori and Pasifika who catch COVID is also greater than for Pākehā. MIQ must move.
- Make the elimination strategy more sustainable. Elimination is still the best approach for New Zealand. However, it can be hard to stomach that when it is your family you can’t visit, your loved one’s funeral you can’t attend or your child’s birthday you have to cancel. By increasing the accessibility of our MIQ system, it will reduce the social strain of the elimination strategy while keeping us safe from COVID. This will increase the social license needed to keep pursuing elimination, keeping it viable for as long as possible.
- Even as we open travel bubbles around the world, there will still be places for a long time that will be struggling with COVID or future pandemics to deal with. Having these facilities is future proofing New Zealand’s public health.
With these things in mind, we again call for the Government to move MIQ out of Auckland and into dedicated fit for purpose facilities. With over 25,000 Kiwis trying to return home and only 3,000 spaces, the Government must act. It has already lost a year. We cannot afford to delay any more.