12 Nov 2021

National says MIQ for Covid-free returnees 'perversion of priorities'

12:07 pm on 12 November 2021

The National Party's Covid-19 spokesperson says the use of Auckland MIQ for returnees is ridiculous when there are more than 2000 community cases isolating at home.

National party COVID-19 Response Spokesperson Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop said National wants MIQ abolished for fully vaccinated people coming from overseas who have tested negative for Covid-19. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The first lot of returnees who stayed in MIQ for seven days, down from 14, will be able to leave on Sunday. After leaving MIQ, the group of about 2600 people will then have to isolate for three days at home.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker welcomed the changes but said any length of stay is now redundant for people planning on heading into Auckland.

National's Chris Bishop agrees saying the system is a complete perversion of priority and it needs to be changed.

He said on the one hand there are people with Covid-19 isolating at home.

"Whilst fully vaccinated travellers from overseas take up previously 14 days in MIQ, that's now going down to seven days in MIQ, but that's still seven days too long. As Michael Baker says we should be using those MIQ spots not for fully vaccinated travellers with no Covid but for people with Covid."

He said currently the system is not working and must be changed.

"Our policy is if you're fully vaccinated without Covid, so you pass a negative pre-departure test, and you come from a low risk jurisdiction like Queensland for example, which has minimal amounts of Covid in fact none probably, you would just go straight into the community if you take a test on arrival as well."

Bishop said people coming from places were Covid-19 was more prevalent such as New South Wales would be required to do a week's home self isolation on entering New Zealand.

He said the key point is people coming to New Zealand without Covid-19 should skip MIQ which would free up space for community Covid-19 cases.

Bishop said not everyone with Covid will have to go into MIQ and the public health assessment will be the key to determine whether that is needed.

He said he is surprised that Health Minister Andrew Little has said he was taken by surprise by the number of people of community cases of Covid-19.

"The prime minister says they've done the modelling, Andrew Little says the cases are actually higher than what they were modelled, there are people who disagree with that - so we'll wait and see exactly who's right and who's wrong."

Bishop said anyone who is isolating at home with Covid-19 needs as good support as possible and that is not happening at the moment.

"So you need to involve GPs, it's not clear to me that everyone is getting these pulse meters for example, the contact from public health has been wanting - there are stories of people waiting two, three, four sometimes five days between contracting Covid and getting contacted by public health teams to provide that support."

Bishop said there has been a lack of government planning around the Covid-19 response this year because it assumed it could eliminate Covid-19 in the community, as it did last year.

"I think the government and the ministry thought that they could run the 2020 playbook which were very tight border settings, lock Auckland and the country down, and we would eliminate Delta."

But Bishop said when that did not work, the government had no back-up plan.

"We're now having to scale up very quickly community and home based isolation without any real forethought or planning because we assumed that we wouldn't need it."

He said the government should have put plans and technologies such as saliva testing and rapid testing in place long before they were needed.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Joint Head of MIQ Brigadier Rose King declined a Morning Report request to be interviewed on the subject.

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