Pausing MIQ room release a 'temporary position' - Hipkins

Source: 1News

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says the pause on MIQ rooms being released is a "temporary position" and acknowledges it is "disruptive and stressful".

Covid-19 Reponse Minister Chris Hipkins.

Hipkins will front media at 2.45pm on Wednesday in light of the room release pause. This will be streamed on 1News.co.nz and the 1News Facebook page.

It came as New Zealand's MIQ management faced criticism after informing the public via an evening tweet the next room release was delayed due to pressure from returnees with Omicron.

“Pausing the next MIQ lobby is a temporary position while MIQ is under extreme pressure from New Zealanders returning with Omicron," Hipkins said.

"It recognises how easily Omicron spreads, despite the extra layers of protection put in place in MIQs, and will help protect New Zealanders."

It was announced on Tuesday that the next release of MIQ rooms on January 20 had been postponed.

The decision on the date of the next release will be made in coming weeks as part of Cabinet’s considerations on the border.

"No decisions have been made on the date, sequence and conditions for the border reopening and Cabinet will consider options within the next couple of weeks based on the most up-to-date advice.

"Until then, we are not in a position to release more MIQ rooms," Hipkins said.

He said the Government would focus on getting booster rates up and immunising eligible children "before Omicron takes hold in the community".

"There are no easy calls when managing Covid-19 and the Government recognises that while this is temporary, it will be disruptive and stressful for a number of people."

ACT's David Seymour said the Government needed to prioritise and ensure vulnerable people had their booster shot, as an outbreak of Omicron was only "a question of when".

"What we're doing is futile, it's going to be out. We might get a few extra days, maybe weeks, does that outweigh the cost we are putting on people," he said, referring to MIQ pauses.

He said it was time to start letting people isolate at home, a move for New Zealanders in Australia that was due to start this month but was pushed back due to Omicron.

"What we do in terms of continuing or not continuing MIQ will make a minimal difference," Seymour said.

"It's going to leak out of MIQ, everyone accepts that. Would it leak more rapidly out of home isolation? Probably. Would that make a big difference in terms of when it gets out? We'll never know but I suspect it might be a difference of days anyway - on the other hand you allow a whole lot of people to reunite and reconnect."

National's Chris Bishop said New Zealanders deserved "a proper plan from the Government in light of Omicron".

"The impact of ongoing uncertainty and delays on Kiwis abroad should not be underestimated. The anger, pain and heartbreak is palpable."