More people who need to travel home to New Zealand urgently are now eligible for emergency places in managed isolation.
Until now, emergency allocation has been limited to New Zealand citizens or residents who have an imminent threat to their life or serious risk to their health, which requires urgent travel home.
Under a new two-tiered system, category 1 applications will get first priority for emergency places, followed by those in the second category.
- New Zealand citizens or residents where a serious risk to health exists for the applicant or their dependant, which requires urgent travel to New Zealand
- Where urgent travel is required to ensure a child is provided with appropriate care and protection.
- New Zealand citizens or residents who are required to provide critical care for a dependant person in New Zealand and need to travel urgently to do so
- A person whose entry to New Zealand is time-critical for the purpose of delivering a critical public or health service, such as the provision of specialist health services required to prevent serious illness, injury or death; or the maintenance of essential infrastructure whose failure would result in significant harm or disruption to a large number of New Zealanders
- New Zealand citizens or residents, who are unable to legally remain in their current location and have no other option but to return to New Zealand
- New Zealand and non-New Zealand citizens, where urgent travel to New Zealand is required for national security, national interest or law enforcement reasons
- New Zealand citizens or residents entering New Zealand to visit a close relative who is dying, where timely travel is unlikely to be possible if the person books through the Managed Isolation Allocation System.
The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) said there was no guarantee that a person who fitted within these categories would receive an emergency allocation, because it depended on the number of applicants and available places.
Deputy chief executive Megan Main, who is in charge of managed isolation and quarantine, said the emergency allocation process was "a last resort option" and the threshold was extremely high.
"We're able to do this now because since the Managed Isolation Allocation System became a legal requirement on November 3, we've been able to closely study the data of travellers into New Zealand," she said in a statement.
"Our experience with the new system and changes in traveller's plans have enabled us to optimise space within New Zealand's managed isolation facilities."
The complex nature of international travel during the pandemic had caused widespread disruption to flight schedules, affecting travel plans for those with vouchers at managed isolation facilities, she said.
Since 3 November, there have been between five and eight rooms left unused per day, as a result of people who either have a voucher but do not have a flight or have booked multiple vouchers.
"To date, we have released as many of these back into the system as possible by manually checking bookings on a regular basis. From now on, these will be kept aside for emergency allocations."
MBIE is confident it will be able to make about 150 rooms available per fortnight at its 32 facilities for those who need to travel urgently.