23 Sep 2021

Business pushing for self-managed isolation for overseas work travel

7:30 pm on 23 September 2021

New Zealand needs to find better ways to deal with the effects of Covid-19 or risks being left behind by the rest of the world, according to Orion Health's chief executive.

Ian McRae

Ian McCrae. Photo: supplied

Businesses are calling on the government to drastically revamp managed isolation to stop them being kneecapped on the international stage because they can not travel.

Orion Health chief executive Ian McCrae told Checkpoint that in the context of trying to deal offshore, New Zealand was "essentially a hermit nation".

"It's very difficult. I mean we are looking to need 20 people up in the Middle East and another 15 up in Canada this side of Christmas and as it stands there is no way for us to get those people into those countries … we'll probably miss out on some work and for other companies the situation is, well, far, far worse."

The problem was Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), McCrae said.

"We need a second path through MIQ because the current one clearly doesn't have the capacity. We need a path for businesses, sports teams, others, where there is an easier way of coming into the country."

He proposed business employees who had travelled overseas would isolate at home or in hotels which were not managed by the MIQ system.

"There needs to be penalties. There needs to be strict protocols that need to be reviewed and accredited, and you know, companies take this stuff pretty seriously, because if they don't, then they can't travel and they can't do business.

"The beautiful thing here is it's not going to cost the country, the government, it will cost them very little because the cost would be picked up business."

Changes needed to happen faster, McCrae said.

"We can't sort of have this drift until next year, and you know, I presume the government is working on this and and it needs to happen far quicker than it is."

He would like to see something operating before Christmas.

"We have, you know, significant numbers of people we need to send overseas. The idea of doing a quick business trip to go to n event, a conference, or visit a customer is today impossible...

"To do business as a company, as a nation internationally, you just gotta travel..

"But it's going to become increasingly more difficult when [other] countries are opened up. Those countries people are travelling, OK, and we say we're from New Zealand and can't travel OK, so it's going to become increasingly more difficult to explain.

"We need to plan to transition from complete isolation as a country to being completely opened up probably sometime next year.

"I think we are chasing as a country this elimination strategy and it's a pipe dream."

He said businesses would be trustworthy with self-managed isolation.

"Businesses take this pretty seriously because, well, their success depends on it. Our current MIQ processes and systems have been far from perfect, so I think that businesses would do a good job in this area."

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