Kiwi in Australia misses farewell of dying father after battle to try and get home

A trans-Tasman bubble could start next month but Kiwis travelling from Australia to see dying relatives are still being denied exemption from quarantine.

Rael Kwasnik has spent almost a week battling to get home from Sydney to see his 87-year-old father Sam, after finding out he had just two days to live.

"I would move in mountains with a mask on and PPE to get to the funeral tomorrow," he told Newshub. 

On March 17, Kwasnik applied for an emergency spot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ), and sent a doctor's letter as proof, two days later. But he didn't hear back.

"Everyone will do everything except for the ones with the power to make the decisions," he says. 

Getting desperate, he booked a flight home just in case, and followed up with three urgent emails. 

He begged officials: "You can chain the door, provide me with an ankle tracker, whatever it takes."

He told them he'd provided more than enough evidence and not received any update.

"In every email I attached the letter from the doctor saying he's got two days to live," he told Newshub. "What do you do? What do you do?"

Three days later, his application was finally approved. He landed in Auckland where his parents live. But despite MIQ records showing there were 172 free rooms there at the time, he was taken to the Grand Mercure in Wellington.

National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says it's not good enough. 

"Really we should be making the system as easy as possible to operate - not making it as difficult as possible," he said. 

While waiting to hear if he could leave MIQ early, Kwasnik's mum rang to tell him his dad had died. Being Jewish, his dad needs to be buried within 48 hours. But his application to go to the funeral was rejected on Wednesday afternoon.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern doesn't think the Government is being too hard-nosed when it comes to compassionate exemptions. 

"No, I don't think so," she said. 

In a couple of weeks we'll know when we have a trans-Tasman bubble, made possible because of the low-level threat posed by Australian arrivals.

The cruel irony is that if it were in place now, Kwasnik would have none of these problems and he would have made it home to say goodbye. 

Megan Main, Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, said Mr Kwasnik’s application to be exempted from having to stay in managed isolation was declined "because he was deemed a high risk".

"The key factor in assessing an exceptional circumstances exemption application is the public health risk of transmitting COVID-19 to the community. The threshold is extremely high and very few exemptions are granted."