COVID-19: Shorter MIQ stays for Kiwis stranded overseas coming soon

Newshub understands shorter managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) stays for Kiwis stranded overseas are coming soon.

The changes were supposed to be announced on Wednesday but were delayed until Thursday. 

The MIQ lottery has reduced Kiwis to numbers - numbers which mean Andrew Black remains stuck living in a hotel in Western Australia. He was working at sea when the bubble burst and he hasn't seen his family for five months.

"It's just so demoralising," he told Newshub. "I've been number 12,000, 14,000, 23,000."

He described it as "heartbreaking", but acknowledged he's "so lucky compared to some" who are "homeless, jobless". 

Change to MIQ is needed and it's coming. Instead of being locked up in an isolation hotel for 14 days, Newshub understands MIQ stays will be halved to seven day stays, followed by three days home isolation.

And it's starting very soon.

"We'll make some changes fairly quickly and then I think some people will want the roadmap to further changes," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday. 

Those further changes - likely coming next year - could mean even less time in MIQ or eventually just self-isolating at home.

"There's a lot of complexity to consider. We have to consider the situation in Auckland and outside of Auckland is different," Hipkins added. 

Reducing the time in MIQ means some more Kiwis could be home by Christmas but this definitely won't be an influx. Most of the rooms freed-up by the initial changes will be kept for quarantining high-risk COVID-19 cases who can't self-isolate.

"This is a very careful transition we're making and process we're embarking on," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

The changes on Thursday show the Government finally recognising there's more risk in the Auckland community than at the border in MIQ.

And with more than 500 COVID-19 cases self-isolating, telling COVID-negative, double-vaccinated Kiwis overseas that they can't do the same is becoming one of the biggest, cruelest inconsistencies in the system.