COVID-free, vaccinated man on day 13 of MIQ allowed out for two hours to see dying dad

The managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system has been given a major makeover. 

From November 14, MIQ stays will be slashed in half. Arrivals will spend seven days in MIQ and then a further three self-isolating at home, with four tests over that period. 

From Monday, all arrivals are required to be fully vaccinated - unless they're Kiwis. And from November 8, those arriving from Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Tokelau will be able to skip MIQ altogether as long as they're fully vaccinated. 

Home isolation is on the cards for returning Kiwis but won't be introduced until next year. 

For Brad Stephenson, on Day 13 of his stay at an MIQ facility in Auckland, changes to the system couldn't come soon enough. 

He got a compassionate exemption to see his dying father in Tauranga. But despite returning five negative tests and being double vaccinated, he was only allowed out for two hours, before being carted back to MIQ in Auckland to check out on day 14. 

His visit was cut short by two hours because officials seemingly forgot there was a border around Auckland and didn't have the paperwork prepared.

"It's ridiculous," he told Newshub. "But as long as I get to see dad, it's not as bad. If he dies before I see him, well I'll obviously be heartbroken."

"It's just a comedy of errors continually it seems."

And Stephenson's not the only one with strong feelings. Todd Gibbs is stuck in the United States and is effectively stateless.

"Nobody can understand why I wouldn't be allowed home when I can't legally reside in the United States," he told Newshub. 

His visa has run out but he can't get home. He's now an illegal immigrant, living in fear of being caught. 

"Every day I'm walking a tightrope. If I put a foot wrong anywhere then I do face the risk of deportation."

Mike Moore is stranded in Auckland. His brother took his own life in May. He's been trying since then to get to the UK to see his grieving family but he can't go because he can't get a spot in MIQ to come back. 

"I've actually reached the point where it's becoming too stressful to even want to take part anymore, to be honest," he told Newshub. 

Maryjane Francis won the MIQ lottery and is thankful, but she's struggling on day 11 of her MIQ stay.

"I'm not feeling very well. I'm 72 - I don't need this rubbish."

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins' quarantine fix is to halve MIQ stays, with a three day home isolation period and a day nine negative test at the end. Full home isolation won't happen until next year. 

"It's not a long wait now and encouraging fellow New Zealanders to get fully vaccinated will help us get to that point faster," he said on Thursday. 

It's hard to fathom when local COVID-19 cases can quarantine at home. More than 200 in Auckland are doing that right now.

"It would be safer for me to self-isolate than someone who had just tested positive for COVID in New Zealand," says Gibbs. 

"This is just a shambles," adds Francis. 

More isn't impressed either. 

"It's one more step in a complicated dance that's not really going to provide much relief."

Hipkins says border rules are a delicate balancing act.

"There's roughly an equal number of people who think we're being heartless in not allowing more travel across the border and a roughly equal number of people who are saying we failed by allowing COVID-19 out of Auckland."

There are split opinions on that, perhaps, but the expat verdict is well and truly in: MIQ sucks.