The impact of MIQ: Survey finds nearly 80 pct experience anxiety, depression, panic attacks

As mass MIQ is set to wind down, Newshub can exclusively reveal the toll the system has taken on the Kiwis who have used it. 

Almost 80 percent say it affected their mental health, including anxiety, depression and panic attacks. 

But the pain is almost over, with managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) officials loosening who gets a compassionate exemption. 

France-based Rachel Bradley has experienced panic attacks due to the stress of MIQ. She was distraught after thinking she had missed Thursday's room lottery draw, as she's desperate to get home to see her critically ill dad in hospital. 

"I know that people are probably going to think 'oh she's stupid isn't she, got the wrong time', but I haven't slept for three days now," she told Newshub.

Luckily, some good news came an hour later. For once, all the spots in the lottery didn't get snapped up. 

"That's my tenth lottery and I'm on number eight emergency requests."

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says MIQ is "not a system we would have in an ideal world". 

"We're dealing with a global pandemic," he said on Thursday. "It's a system that we've needed to have."

Rachel's anguish is shared by so many. 

A survey by Grounded Kiwis given exclusively to Newshub found 78 percent said the system impacted their mental and physical health. 

Of those, 70 percent said it made them experience stress, 63 percent had anxiety, 35 percent had depression, 32 percent had insomnia, and 12 percent had panic attacks. 

"It's served us pretty well overall as a country, but there's no question for individuals it's had a significant impact," Hipkins said. 

That impact is about to be lessened as en masse MIQ winds down. 

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), in charge of MIQ, is seeing the light: with Omicron circulating in the community, the risk of people leaving MIQ early is lower.

"In the last two days, the Director-General of Health has signed off an updated risk assessment tool," said Chris Bunny, the head of MIQ. 

The updated risk assessment tool means people can apply from the day they arrive, travel between the North and South Islands, and take public transport - even with their unvaccinated children. 

"The ministry knew that Omicron was in the community. The ministry did not update that tool to allow more people out of MIQ early," said National's COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop. 

Hipkins said it will enable "a lot more flexibility than we've previously seen". 

It's good news for Rachel, who's hanging out to see her dad and smash some Kiwi delicacies. 

"I'm looking forward to a mince and cheese pie, you know?"

Some comfort food after a very uncomfortable ordeal to get home. 

MIQ officials say their hands are tied when assessing applications for early release. They have to stick to the Ministry of Health's Assessment Tool. 

And they have already used the updated tool to approve three applications in three days.