Kiwis share stories of struggles getting managed isolation spots in new blog

Kiwis who are desperately trying to get a spot in managed isolation but are facing long delays have shared their stories of frustration on a website. 

The complaints are being posted to a new website called MIQ Stories which shares Kiwis struggles getting back into the country.  

It comes amid huge demand for MIQ spots which has seen some people resort to using coding scripts to get a place

One woman, who posted on the website, says she has stage four pancreatic cancer and expects this to be her last Christmas. But she says her Canada-based daughter is finding it impossible to get a MIQ spot to come and see her. 

"I have stage four pancreatic cancer with metastatic tumours now in my lungs. I spent most of last year having chemo. [I stopped] in February this year to give my body time to try and recover from nerve damage caused by the chemotherapy.

"I am heading back into chemo again in December with the last hope of chemo. My life expectancy is not good," the woman wrote. 

She says her daughter and her daughter's husband were unable to visit last year because of COVID-19. But now she is sick, they want to come back for five months to support her. 

"They now want to come home to be here for five months to be here to help while I am going through chemo and spend some time for the children to get to know me. This will probably be my last Christmas.

"We have been trying to get MIQ for them since November was released. We have the harder task as there are five of them… [so] they need two rooms."

She said she spends all day refreshing the MIQ website but hasn't had any luck. 

"My son-in-law is a policeman and has taken leave so that they can be here for me, but he has to be back at work at the end of May 2022.

"So if they can't come now, I won't see them again. I just don't know what to do next."

She's not the only one struggling to get a spot. Another person said she flew to the UK in June to be with her dying father but now can't get back. 

"I had to make the awful decision to fly and be with him. I had to choose to take my daughter who is two and leave behind my two sons (four and six) and a partner who is still having to try to fulfil his job."

She said while she was lucky enough to get a MIQ spot for August 14, her children are struggling without her and she wants to come back sooner. 

"After a week in the UK, it became apparent that I needed to be back home with my boys. I've had my daughter in tears for her daddy and brothers and my sons ringing me in tears wanting me home.

"So I then begin to hunt for an earlier spot. It's been impossible. Every date that I tick, [I] miss out on. I've emailed Jacinda [Ardern], Chris Hipkins and MIQ and gotten dull half-hearted responses."

She said her partner is struggling to manage everything while she is away. 

"Not only am I having to deal with dad dying but being torn apart from my boys and partner. My partner has had to deal with my two boys whilst also getting a stomach bug which wiped him out for a few days. I've applied for emergency allocation and am still waiting to hear."

She said her daughter turns three on August 2 and her eldest son turns 7 on August 10 and at this rate, they won't be able to celebrate together. 

"He's [eldest son] asking me why I can't be there. It's also my birthday on August 26 but I don't care about me, just my kids and them being able to celebrate with their family. It's been a traumatic experience." 

New Zealand's MIQ Allocation System has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks due to fierce competition for spaces. 

Joint Head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Brigadier Rose King told Newshub MIQ's main role is to keep COVID-19 out of the country.

"We want to be able to bring everyone home who wants to return but we have to do that in a safe, managed way. For New Zealand, that number is about 4000 rooms a fortnight, which is more rooms per capita than Australia has.

"The reality is that demand for space in managed isolation facilities is always high, and there is finite capacity within the MIQ system, and that's for good reason - COVID-19 is raging around the world and we need to keep New Zealand safe."

King said MIQ has served the country well by helping to bring more than 155,000 people here, while also protecting Kiwis' freedom.

"Since March, more than 33,000 people have returned to New Zealand, and last month alone the number was more than 7800. Unfortunately, in periods of high demand some people will miss out on securing an MIQ voucher, regardless of the system that is used.

"There's no silver bullet that means everybody can get home when they want. I know it's really frustrating for people. I know that there are people who are sitting in front of their computers, constantly refreshing that page all day.

"It's upsetting for people and it's really uncertain. They don't know if they're going to get a place, let alone when."

She said a waitlist is currently being considered but it is extremely complex and presents other challenges.

"One of the challenges of the waitlist is it pushes the problem further up the pipeline - it would not guarantee people vouchers, it would only save their place in a queue, where demand is still significantly greater than supply.

"We're also working on some options around how we can alert people that vouchers are coming up, while making sure we don't overwhelm the system."

She said several other system changes were made last week, including allowing someone who is logged in to refresh without having to re-enter all their details.

King said people overseas who need to travel urgently should apply for an emergency allocation.