The release of new spots in managed isolation and quarantine has been postponed for 24 hours, amid uncertainty with the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said in a tweet its virtual lobby would open at 11am on Wednesday instead, with the lottery for rooms taking place at noon that day (NZT).
“We need to carefully manage capacity as more travellers spend longer in MIQ. This reduces available rooms in MIQ,” MBIE said.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is expected to announce any potential changes to MIQ stay times, in light of Omicron, at 2pm.
The Government’s plan to begin to open up the borders to vaccinated Kiwis from early next year, with a seven-day home isolation requirement, could also be impacted.
As of Tuesday morning, the total number of Omicron cases detected at New Zealand’s border is 22. There are no cases of Omicron in the community.
Leading epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said there wasn’t a need to worry about Omicron as long as it remained in MIQ.
“This is really a big responsibility for the Government to assess this risk and manage it so we don’t get this virus transmitting in New Zealand,” he said.
The Ministry of Health said on Monday it was “carefully planning” for Omicron cases at the border and continued to manage all arrivals cautiously.
“This includes isolation and testing requirements for all new arrivals, robust infection and prevention control and PPE measures at airports and MIQ facilities, and frequent surveillance testing of staff who have any contact with recent international returnees.”
The Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly around the world.