Government extends pause on MIQ vouchers, asks Kiwis to delay Christmas travel plans

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has a message for anyone planning on coming to New Zealand this Christmas for a summer holiday: Don't.

Hipkins announced a further extension to the pause on issuing MIQ vouchers for Kiwis overseas wanting to come home.

"I acknowledge that it is not easy for New Zealanders overseas looking to come home," he said during Wednesday's 1pm COVID-19 update.

"We do need to be able to isolate current COVID 19 cases in the community, and their contacts, safely in order to bring the entirety of New Zealand back to a greater sense of normality as quickly as possible.

"That is one of the reasons why we are asking Kiwis abroad to play their part in this response by being patient."

The minister said the fact that the Crowne Plaza remained closed and the need to turn a current MIQ facility into a quarantine centre for COVID-19 patients has put the system under immense pressure.

Hipkins says the pause will not affect those applying for emergency voucher allocations.

"New Zealanders who are in desperate need to come home urgently can still make an application for an emergency allocation," he said.

The extension to the pause will also affect businesses which rely on workers coming from overseas.

"We are working to defer where we can group bookings coming in and that includes deferring some of the regional seasonal employment workers who were due to be coming in over the course of this coming month so we can again further ease pressure on the MIQ system."

When asked if New Zealanders should forget any plans for Christmas family reunions, Hipkins said he's asking those who want to come to Aotearoa with the intention of returning somewhere else to put those plans on hold.

"We will have further vouchers to release before the end of the year, so there will be more opportunities for people to come back, but clearly there is a lot demand so those who were hoping to have a summer holiday in New Zealand. my request of them is to leave the vouchers and room availability to those who really need to come home, and are coming home for good," Hipkins said.