11 Jul 2021

MIQ and pre-departure arrangements criticised

11:08 am on 11 July 2021

New Zealanders anxious to be reunited with loved ones trying to return home say giving MIQ rooms to those taking overseas holidays is cruel, and the government needs to provide assistance for pre-departure Covid-19 tests.

No caption

A display board at Queenstown Airport shows cancelled international flights. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Some New Zealanders overseas say it's ridiculous that people going offshore for a holiday have an equal chance of getting a room in managed isolation as those trying to get home for the first time during the pandemic.

RNZ has been contacted by people frustrated with the difficulty of securing a hotel room.

One woman said her daughter cannot get home after two and a half years in London because of the high demand for rooms.

However, she said her son's friend had just secured a spot, so will shortly leave New Zealand for an overseas holiday.

Another in California said hundreds of people are desperate to get home, yet athletes get priority treatment and have no trouble getting in.

Call for refunds for pre-departure testing

A New Zealand citizen living in Australia is calling on the government to refund families who pay for pre-departure Covid-19 tests but then have their travels disrupted.

Ashwin Naidu is an administrator for a travel-bubble group on Facebook and said one test can cost $120 or more, and the price to test a whole family can quickly mount up.

He said it was unfair that some people have had to get repeated pre-departure tests because of border changes.

'Green flights' meant to repatriate people from New South Wales were meant to start on Saturday, but on Friday the New Zealand government announced flights would be delayed until the government was sure the state's outbreak was contained.

"People for the last couple of days from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday have been paying for their pre-departure testing for the last couple of days to go from Sydney to New Zealand.

"So now all those tests have become invalid because the flights have all been cancelled."

Naidu said that move meant many would-be returnees would have to redo their tests later on.

He said the government should either allow people to use the free tests available in Australia, or refund the test fees.

"Some of these are genuine people who have come on holiday here and now their flights have been cancelled many times and now they've had to fork out even more money, and they want to return just to get home to their country, to get home to their family in New Zealand."

The additional expenses from staying longer in Australia and cancelled flights could put people under financial strain, he said. And he had started a petition asking the government to refund pre-departure tests that had to be voided.

Sydney lockdown 'weirdly loose' - stranded traveller

A New Zealander stuck in Sydney has told RNZ the city's lockdown has not been strict, and is comparable to between alert level 2 and 3 in New Zealand.

Alice Murray travelled to Australia for an urgent matter and was meant to come home on Sunday before the green flights were cancelled late on Friday afternoon.

She said she now does not know whether to wait for Sydney's cases to drop, or bite the bullet and return to do a mandatory 14 days in MIQ. And she was concerned restrictions in the city had been loose.

"The government... are saying don't go out unless you need to do essential things like grocery shopping, but yet you can go and buy a hoodie at Rip Curl it's just so weird.

"We haven't heard from Air New Zealand yet, about what the process will be in terms of getting a flight, going into MIQ etc. It's hard to know whether to wait and see if case numbers go down and they reinstate green flights or whether it's going to just go totally out of control and we should just get on the first flight that we can."

Murray said it was yet to be seen whether new, harsher restrictions in NSW would be adhered to.

The state's numbers are increasing, on Saturday they reported 50 new cases from the previous 24 hours, and Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned the outbreak was expected to get worse, before the numbers could begin to come down.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs