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25,000 overseas New Zealanders vye for 3700 MIQ rooms in latest release

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 05/10/2021 Samantha Gee
a sign on the side of a building © RNZ / Marika Khabazi

There were 25,000 New Zealanders around the world stuck in front of their screens today, desperately trying to get a space in managed isolation and quarantine in a bid to return home.

It was the third release of the MIQ virtual lobby system, with around 3700 rooms released.

But for many, it was yet another blow.

Auckland woman Roshni Sami has been trying to get a spot in managed isolation for her husband, so he can return to New Zealand for the birth of their first child.

She is 29 weeks pregnant and has had extenuating circumstances throughout her pregnancy.

But her husband Walt, who is in Tennessee with his family, has been rejected for an emergency space in MIQ.

The couple have appealed that decision in the High Court.

"We expected that four or five months would be enough time to go through the old MIQ system to get a place but then everything was scrapped and now we're just in the lottery with everyone else and it's becoming very desperate for us and we're both extremely worried."

They were in spot 24,237 in the queue when the rooms first opened at midday, dropping to about 20,000 on the list and missing out on a space yet again.

"The government has really let us down on this side of things, they obviously just didn't think about women or women's health when they set up the MIQ emergency classification. It's totally gender blind and it's totally unfriendly to families as well."

Martin Newell, who is part of the Grounded Kiwis group that is working to support hundreds of New Zealanders stuck overseas, said there were tears of joy and tears of sadness from those vying for a spot in MIQ today.

"We've heard stories from sisters that need to say goodbye to their sisters on the other side of the world. We've heard stories of pregnant women that need to come home too for medically essential reasons to give birth, we've had people in America that are overstaying their visa and risk detention because the New Zealand government won't provide them a spot in the MIQ system.

"People are desperate and the system is broken and it needs to be fixed."

He said New Zealanders trying to get home were frustrated, exhausted, angry and desperate.

Last week almost 23,000 people had signed a petition urging the government to create a fairer managed isolation system.

"The booking system is unfair, the system doesn't have enough supply and it doesn't account for fully vaccinated travellers."

Tauranga woman Caroline Salisbury was also devastated to miss out on a spot. She is waiting in Queensland for a chance to come home after going to visit her son following the death of both her parents.

She flew to Australia on the day Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the trans-Tasman bubble was put on hold and has been unable to return since.

"It's quite distressing and very unsettling ... you build up waiting for it on Sunday and Monday thinking, will I be lucky this time?"

On her third attempt today at booking a spot today, she started out at 17,959 in the queue.

"To me, home isolation, is the answer to all this. Trust people or don't even trust us, put anklets on us, use voice recognition or photo recognition software, it's not that hard. Countries everywhere are doing home isolation, it's done here in Australia."

She said the system desperately needs to change.

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