MIQ shake up: Isolation time reduced, open border to some in Pacific

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

New Zealand's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) rules are set for a shake up, as thousands of Kiwis are unable to get into the country while community cases continue to rise.  

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND: A woman walks past the barriers outside the Grand Mercure Hotel in Britomart, Auckland, New Zealand, on 29 October 2020. The hotel is one of those being used by the New Zealand Government as an official Covid-19 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) centre housing returning New Zealanders (and some essential migrant workers) who all must complete a mandatory period of quarantine. (Photo by Lynn Grieveson - Newsroom via Getty Images)

From November 14, all travellers will only spend seven days in MIQ facilities, with three tests during that time. They will then isolate at home for about three days, with a test on day nine, before they can leave after that test returns a negative result. 

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said it was estimated to free up about 1500 MIQ rooms a month. 

Hipkins said the overall risk profile of Covid cases had changed, with only a small amount of people arriving in New Zealand with Covid, while MIQ was holding many high risk community cases in New Zealand. 

"We're also very aware of the pressure that has been building at the border."

From November 8, people from low risk countries would be able to come into New Zealand without isolating, that includes Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Tokelau.

Any non-New Zealand citizens must be vaccinated to enter.

In the first quarter of next year, home isolation may be introduced, coinciding with the introduction of the traffic light system. The length of time and requirements would depend on the Covid situation at the time. 

Hipkins said the timing of this was as they didn't want to accelerate Delta spread out of Auckland. 

National's Chris Bishop said the MIQ changes did not go far enough. 

"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," he said. 

"The tragedy is that these changes could and should have happened much sooner."