Coronavirus: Kiwis urged to come home now MIQ facilities are barely half-full

Chris Hipkins is urging Kiwis thinking about coming home to get in now, while there's plenty of space in managed isolation and quarantine facilities (MIQ).

After months of reports of Kiwis struggling to book a room, they're now barely half-full. The latest data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment shows there are currently just 2094 rooms with people in them, out of a total of 4000.

Just over 3000 are booked for later this month, leaving nearly 1000 free for anyone feeling a bit homesick and wanting to escape the growing COVID-19 threat overseas.

It's not just the effect of the Australia travel bubble either, the COVID-19 Response Minister told The AM Show on Tuesday.

"There might be a seasonal factor here because we're seeing fewer people coming in from further abroad than Australia as well, so it is freeing up space. But it does mean for people who want to come home, now's a good time."

Four months ago, the hotels were full. There was more capacity then too - 4500 rooms, with some hotels since closed for investigation after post-arrival infections. 

Hipkins says the window of opportunity will likely only last the winter. 

"It's possible as we head towards summer... that demand will go up again. My message to Kiwis abroad is if you really do want to guarantee you can come home, now is good."

The drop in demand has allowed the Government to dedicate MIQ space to seasonal workers, and Hipkins said about 1250 international students have also had dedicated rooms approved. 

"There is space to bring people in - the [recognised seasonal employer] workers, international students, other essential workers; but also now is a good time for New Zealanders around the world looking to come home to New Zealand, now is good. We have space available." 

Later this year as various vaccine rollouts around the world hopefully start to take effect, Hipkins suggested more countries will join Australia on the no-quarantine list. 

"We want to resume international movement as we can. I've always said - and I think this is proving to be true - it's not likely to be, suddenly one day we wake up and the borders are all re-open. It's likely to be incremental change over a period of time."