Government reveals vast majority of people applying for special travel exemptions are denied

It was revealed on Sunday that the vast majority of people applying for special travel exemptions in level 4 are having them denied.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said even those wanting to attend tangis or say goodbye to dying loved ones are being refused a pass to travel.

Aucklander Preetinder Kaur should've been on a flight to Wellington on Sunday for an important dental exam that happens only twice a year. 

She's been studying all year and in recent months swotting up to 12 hours a day, but instead of travelling she's doing an interview with Newshub about how upset she is that she can't sit the test. 

"I tried to apply for a travel exemption but they declined my travel exemption," Kaur says. "It was really heartbreaking."

The 31-year-old qualified and worked as a dentist in India, but because her qualifications aren't recognised in New Zealand she's been working as a dental assistant helping care for children's teeth.

To be able to practise as a dentist in New Zealand, Kaur needs to sit a special exam that's happening in Wellington on Monday.

Kaur is so determined to ace the test, she even quit her job to have more time for study.

"I'm unemployed right now, so again I have to search for a job so it's a mess now," Kaur says.

She thinks it's unfair she wasn't able to travel and as there was an option of "sitting an exam" on her travel application form which she believes gave her false hope.

She's been fully vaccinated for months and returned a negative COVID test on Friday.

The last few months have been all about the test, sacrificing family time with her husband and four-year-old daughter. 

With Kaur not able to take the exam on Monday, it has taken a toll on her mental health. 

"I'm more than angry and I'm depressed," Kaur tells Newshub. "Even my daughter asks 'why didn't they let you go?'"

The Government revealed on Sunday less than 5 percent of people applying for travel exemptions are having them approved - and that even includes people wanting to say goodbye to dying loved ones or attend tangi.

"I just want to acknowledge and extend my gratitude and sympathy to those people who are affected by these very very tight restrictions," Dr Bloomfield said at Sunday's 1pm press conference.

National Party deputy leader Dr Shane Reti criticised the Government's handling of the situation. 

"I think that the Government should have figured this out and maybe should have figured out a more humane way to allow people to safely traverse borders when we have a lockdown like this," Dr Reti said.

In the meantime, Kaur's on the hunt for a new job and hoping there is no lockdown in March when it's her next opportunity to sit the exam.