PM hints at changes to MIQ amid public plight of Charlotte Bellis

Source: 1News

Jacinda Ardern has signalled there will be changes ahead for the MIQ system after she was questioned on Wednesday about why it has been so difficult for pregnant New Zealanders offshore to secure a space.

Problems with Kiwis securing MIQ spots have been in the spotlight over the past week, as the plight of journalist Charlotte Bellis made world headlines.

Ardern said there had been “no easy answers through this period and I think we’ve all known they have been very tough calls”.

But, she acknowledged going forward, a “change of system entirely" was due to remove what she called was “the bottleneck”, while keeping people safe.

Chris Hipkins also responded after Bellis accused the Covid-19 Response Minister of breaching her privacy.

Bellis, a Kiwi journalist based in Afghanistan and 25 weeks pregnant, was rejected an MIQ spot on January 23 after officials said the application was outside a 14 day return window and it wasn’t time critical medical treatment.

Hipkins said on Monday Bellis was offered consular assistance twice.

Tudor Clee, the lawyer for Bellis, said on Tuesday they were "looking at options", claiming Hipkins had breached her privacy, that permission was not asked and that statement was not correct.

In response, Hipkins said he did not want to comment "while she is considering her potential legal options".

"It’s her right to do that," he said in response to a reporter asking if he would apologise.

Hipkins said he was only made aware of the case “a couple of days ago” by a member of Parliament and said his office had contacted MIQ to make sure her case was being “appropriately handled”.

He said MIQ had “already been reviewing” Bellis’ case and were looking at how they could better deal with it given her “extraordinary circumstances".

Officials reversed the original decision on Tuesday and secured a space for her.

Acting Privacy Commissioner Liz MacPherson said on Tuesday despite a person speaking to media about their situation, it "does not, in itself, provide authorisation for the Minister to disclose additional personal information about the individual".

"A Minister should only release personal information that the individual has not already made public if the individual has clearly authorised such disclosure, or if an exception to information privacy principle 11 applies.

"This principle relates to the disclosure of personal information and includes some exceptions such as where disclosure without authorisation is necessary to prevent a serious threat to individual or public health and safety."

On MIQ, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday there was “no question that in amongst the 200,000 people who have been able to enter through our managed isolation system, that there have been within that, people with some really, really terrible and difficult stories and situations”.

She said “on the flipside, that system has saved thousands of lives”.

Ardern said there would be more information on the MIQ system announced on Thursday.