18 Jan 2022

Government postpones next MIQ lottery due to spike of Omicron cases at border

10:22 pm on 18 January 2022

The government has postponed the next MIQ lottery due to an "unprecedented" number of Omicron cases coming into New Zealand.

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File image. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

There has been a 10-fold increase in positive Covid-19 cases at the border compared to last month - with a seven day rolling average now up to 33.

In a statement published on the MIQ website on Tuesday evening, head of MIQ Chris Bunny said the next room release - scheduled for 20 January - had been postponed.

The increase in Omicron cases meant more rooms were needed for quarantine, the MIQ statement said.

"In addition, we are monitoring the number of community cases, some of whom are required to come into MIQ ... This means a further reduction in managed isolation rooms," the statement said.

"Also the move to a 10-day MIQ stay just before Christmas has resulted in a reduction in overall MIQ capacity, by approximately 30 percent."

The impact of Omicron on flights - cancellations and rescheduling - also had a flow-on effect for MIQ capacity.

A decision on when the next lobby will be held will be made in the coming weeks, as part of Cabinet's considerations on the border and Reconnecting New Zealand.

"We appreciate that this will be disappointing for many people wanting to come back to New Zealand. The government's strategy is to minimise the risk of Omicron in New Zealand as much as possible.

"There will be room releases in the future for people wanting to secure rooms, however right now we cannot proceed as planned."

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