3 Feb 2022

Frustrations mount over MIQ stays lasting over a month

8:09 am on 3 February 2022

Some families are enduring five-week managed isolation and quarantine stays after testing positive to Covid-19, and purposely trying to speed up infecting each other.

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Some returnees who are contacts of other returning family members testing positive to the virus are having to stay in MIQ for about a month or longer. File image Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Meanwhile, others have learnt they are not currently infected, just historical cases, and fear the border case tally is not accurate.

They are among the voices calling for a shift to self-isolation for returnees, ahead of an announcement by the prime minister today.

Shahlo Usmanova said she embarked on what she knew would be an emotional trip to Uzbekistan this year, so her sick father and one-year-old son would have a chance to meet.

She did not expect the endless MIQ that followed.

"We're stuck here because, obviously it's nobody's fault, but we got infected. Now I have no idea when I'm leaving," she said.

Usmanova feared her family could be in MIQ for as long as 28 days - 14 days isolation for her son who tested positive on arrival last Monday, plus another 10 days for herself and her husband, as contacts, on top of four days' isolation before the test came back.

She said that meant 24 more days of working remotely from the bathroom of their Jet Park hotel room, with only one sink to wash their laundry, hands, and baby's bottles.

"This could be all avoided if we were at home and he could at least enjoy some sun in the yard whenever. I just don't understand the logic of this all," she said.

Usmanova said her request for an exemption to go home was declined on the basis her child was not vaccinated - despite no vaccine being available for one year olds.

Exterior of jetpark

(File image) Photo: RNZ / Nick M

Casey Williamson was in a similar situation, except she said her daughter tested positive on day five, then her son a week later.

With each positive result, the group had to reset the clock on their isolation period.

She expected their quarantine stay would need to stretch to at least 38 days, and longer if she now tests positive.

Williamson said that was after travelling to Australia last year in the belief that she would have to go through MIQ, as indicated by the government - which has now stopped people making MIQ bookings to return home, altogether.

Williamson said families like hers had been purposely sharing toothbrushes and crockery.

"We were told by the medical team here after Luca tested positive that Omicron is very contagious and you're likely all to start testing positive one after each other. That didn't start to happen," she said.

"Lots of families here have been talking about speeding up the infection process within your family because that would actually get you out sooner, if everyone tested positive close together ... it's just speeding up the inevitable."

However, another returnee was concerned some of the people enduring extended MIQ stays did not need to be isolating at all.

The man, who asked not to be named, was moved to the Jet Park with his wife and children after two positive test results, and faced a potential three-week stay.

But he said he already had Covid-19 at the start of January and thought it did not stack up.

"For the last 10 days or so, none of us have had symptoms," he explained.

The man wanted health authorities to investigate if the cases could be historic, and said for a few days it was nearly impossible to find out.

But yesterday he got confirmation they were historic cases, and was granted an earlier release.

He said returnees with similar doubts should "just keep asking questions".

"Have proof of your historic infection and try to speak to the on-site doctor," he said.

The prime minister will deliver a speech this morning where she is expected to lay out a clear timeline for the border re-opening.

A staged timeline was outlined late last year, but was pushed back due to the risk of Omicron.

The latest plan states that from the end of February, vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia, and possibly elsewhere, will be allowed to skip MIQ and isolate at home.

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