COVID-19 managed isolation and quarantine payment scheme brings in just $205,000 as more than 700 waivers approved

The Government's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) payment scheme to help pay for the half-a-billion-dollar policy has so far brought in just $205,000, while more than 700 waivers have been approved. 

Data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) obtained by Newshub shows $205,403.58 had been paid to the Government as of October 10 from 65 invoices, while 712 waiver applications had been approved. 

Invoices are sent after people have left managed isolation. They have 90 days to pay after the invoice date, which means that no invoices are overdue at this point in time. 

The fees scheme was introduced on August 11 to temper criticism that taxpayers were footing the bill for the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who were choosing to return home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But the $205,000 is a drop in a bucket compared to the $499 million the Government set aside from March to the end of December to pay for MIQ, of which more than 66,000 people have gone through 32 facilities across the country. 

Following a transition period, MIQ operations formally transferred to MBIE from the Ministry of Health in September. MBIE has received the remaining $252 million which is expected to last until the end of December. 

The Government is expected to make decisions for ongoing funding shortly, a spokesperson for MIQ told Newshub. 

Applications to waive charges for managed isolation are considered on a case-by-case basis. Waivers are available in cases of undue financial hardship and other special circumstances. 

The MIQ website says it "recovers some of the costs for managed isolation to share the costs in a way that fairly reflects the benefits to both the New Zealand public of having a robust system, and those who leave and enter the country".

Who has to pay and how much?

The Government charges $3100 per person in a room, $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each additional child sharing the room. There is no charge for children under the age of 3 if they are staying in a room with another person.

Any New Zealander who leaves the country after the regulations came into force or if someone is visiting the country for less than 90 days is charged. This includes people returning to New Zealand after travelling to Australia. 

Even those entering the country on a border exception as a critical worker have to pay but there is an option for their employers to pay for the costs. 

Deportees do not have to pay for managed isolation, nor do diplomats and official Government representatives. Refugees and protected persons do not have to pay for their first entry into the country. 

Have any changes been made? 

Labour announced on the campaign that if re-elected it would enable a 10 percent quota for critical workers and would review criteria to enable a broader range of workers to enter the country.  

It came after the Government made changes to border exception rules to allow some partners of Kiwi citizens and residents to be able to reunite in New Zealand. 

The Government also created a new border exception category to enable the return of some temporary work visa holders and their families to resume their jobs or businesses. 

The border is currently closed to almost all travellers to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Only a small number of people have been allowed to travel to New Zealand, such as Kiwi citizens and people with a critical purpose to travel.

Every returnee must spend two weeks in a state-run managed isolation facility and receive a mandatory test on day 12. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is sent to a quarantine facility in Auckland. 

Occupancy in MIQ is based on current ticketing sales provided by airlines. The use of an allocation system will be mandatory from November 3 to ensure ticketing sales do not exceed capacity.

Kiwis have been defending the MIQ hotel facilities after a Fox News segment speculated that the Government has been throwing people into "quarantine camps".