COVID-19: Government to release around 3000 new MIQ rooms for Kiwis stranded overseas

The Government has announced the pause on managed isolation vouchers will end on September 20, with a "virtual lobby" being set up for the next round of MIQ vouchers.

On Monday, approximately 3000 rooms will be released that can be booked for the September - December period through the Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS).

Joint Head of MIQ Megan Main says the new lobby system is being launched to make booking more transparent.

"We know that the current environment is difficult, where demand for MIQ rooms is significantly greater than the number of rooms available," said Main.

"I know people spend many hours in front of their computers constantly refreshing in the hopes of securing a voucher. I know this lack of certainty has been really challenging for people. 

"The lobby means we can let people know in advance when room releases are happening." 

The lobby can be entered an hour before rooms are released, which will be from 8am (NZ time) on Monday, September 20.

Main says the lobby is not a first-in, first-served model, everyone has an equal chance of getting through to try to secure a room. Once the room release starts, all of the people in the lobby will be automatically moved into a queue - this will be randomised, removing the need to be the fastest.

"There is no limit on how many people can wait in the lobby and there is no need to keep refreshing the website anymore. People will be able to see their place in the queue," she said.

"To enter the lobby, people will need to enter a passport number - this must match a passport number of someone who is travelling, which is entered in the MIAS website. It's important that people know their preferred flight route and select the correct date for arrival. We don't want people to just grab any date.

"Flights from most locations around the world only arrive on particular days so people need to make sure they're booking an MIQ date that aligns with the arrival date of a flight from their location. People need to look at the flight checker on the website before the lobby opens, and select the appropriate date for arrival."

The lobby won't be available for people wanting to travel from Australia, with Kiwis across the Tasman "missing out" this time around. A voucher release including Australia is set to happen later in September.

Main said while this is a big improvement for the system, it's not a silver bullet.

"There will still only be a limited number of rooms available during the room release, which means that given the current demand for rooms there will still be people who miss out this time.

"There is not an unlimited number of MIQ rooms, and there's a good reason for that - we're in the middle of a global pandemic and we need to keep New Zealand safe. We understand people want to enter MIQ on a date of their choosing, but we have to ensure arrivals in New Zealand occur in a safe, managed way."

Once all rooms have been taken, the lobby will be closed and anyone in the queue will be informed that they have been unsuccessful. 

Several thousand rooms will be made available before the end of the year and people will be given at least 24 hours' notice before each release.

For people overseas who need to travel urgently, emergency allocation vouchers are still available.