Coronavirus: Govt vows to review COVID-19 criteria making it near-impossible to get compassionate exemption from MIQ

The Government has promised to review the criteria it uses to decide whether emergency arrivals are allowed a temporary pass out of isolation to say goodbye to a dying or dead loved one.

But it is defending its decision to block two returnees from Australia wanting to see their dead parents alone because they were deemed too high risk.

Shirley Kwasnik is grieving all alone. She buried Sam, her husband of more than 50 years, on Thursday. While she had friends there, she had no family.

Her son, Rael, watched the ceremony alone from a managed isolation facility in Wellington. 

"Being on your own, watching a Zoom, feeling helpless listening to the stories," he said.

When his terminally ill father took a sudden turn, he desperately tried to come home from Sydney to say goodbye.

"Five minutes, one on one - that's all any of us are asking for."

The Ministry of Health designed a points-based checklist called the health risk matrix to decide whether someone gets a temporary pass out. If you hit 10 points, you're too high risk and your case can't be reviewed.

On Friday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed health officials would review the matrix to see if it is still fit for purpose.

Rael wasn't told specifically why his application was declined. Officials told Newshub he was given an emergency spot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) within 29 hours of his request.

However, it made a point of noting his father had been sick for a while, so his deterioration was not sudden.

Rael's application for temporary leave was declined as he was deemed high-risk. One reason for that was he'd need to travel from Auckland to Wellington for the funeral.

That's despite them sending Rael to Wellington - even though there were 172 rooms available in Auckland.

"Department has increased the risk. They've put the hurdles in my way," he said.

For eight months the health risk matrix has been kept secret.

"I don't think the New Zealand public knows it's four points for a funeral but one point for a one-on-one. Where is that information?" he said.

But on Friday - after questions by Newshub - the head of MIQ Brigadier Jim Bliss promised to look at whether it should be made public, alongside a review of whether it's too strict. 

"We're constantly reviewing our systems and the risk assessment is currently under review," he said.

The review of the compassionate exemption criteria is a good move from the Government because although the system is designed to keep New Zealand safe from COVID-19, it's so rigid that it seems to set people up to fail.