A fresh wave of criticism about the managed isolation (MIQ) system is flying the Government's way after revelations it received advice it could have been scrapped in November.
Official documents released on Tuesday said MIQ for returning Kiwis could have been ditched in November - advice the Government was slow to act on.
In addition, it took the Ombudsman's involvement for the documents to be released because the Ministry of Health didn't want the advice made public.
For Kiwi journalist Charlotte Bellis, who received international attention for her reporting of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the revelation brings back tough memories.
"I get emotional thinking about it now," she told AM on Wednesday. "It was a lot… Just the rollercoaster of it and thinking, 'OK, we can come, actually no we can't come home and what do we do?'"
Bellis last year sought an emergency MIQ spot after discovering she was pregnant while in Qatar - a country that doesn't allow sex outside of marriage.
Her application was ultimately rejected and she was forced to return to war-torn Afghanistan, where she and her partner held a visa.
Bellis' MIQ case also grabbed international headlines and was used by Opposition political parties at home to highlight issues with the system.
She has since made it back to New Zealand, having completed a stay in MIQ last month.
Responding to the latest revelations, Bellis said the system wasn't right or logical.
"If you've got Kiwis who are [COVID] positive in New Zealand who can just go home and self-isolate but you've got Kiwis abroad who are testing negative and not even allowed to get on a plane… it just wasn't fit for purpose anymore."
Bellis said overseas Kiwis were treated like an "enemy".
"A lot of people sacrificed a lot and it was never really appreciated."
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told AM the document's advice wasn't final and the Ministry of Health would have to answer why the MIQ memo wasn't released.
"It was their document, not mine... I don't think there was any great conspiracy to keep the information private there," he said. "As I indicated, the advice that actually came to the Government came a week later [after the memo] and we released the decisions on that the day after we got the advice."
Nearly 230,000 people went through the MIQ system after the pandemic began in 2020.