The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we travel. And getting a MIQ slot seems to be the biggest hurdle for those who want to travel to or from New Zealand today.
The MIQ or Managed Isolation and Quarantine allocation system is an online portal for everyone travelling to New Zealand to secure their place in a managed isolation facility before they board their flight. The system that came into place as an important part of our border measures to keep COVID-19 out of New Zealand has now become a cause of stress due to the non-availability of vouchers.
As of this week, the slots till November are booked, and there is no definite indication on when the government will be releasing the slots for December and January. This uncertain situation is causing anxiety and stress to thousands of Kiwis who want to come and those who want to travel especially on an emergency basis and then come back to New Zealand.
Social media and the internet is full of stories related to stresses and pressures that people are facing due to not getting MIQ vouchers. While there is a group named MIQ: NZ Managed Isolation and Quarantine on Facebook, there is a website named Grounded Kiwis, seeking to change the Managed Isolation and Quarantine system that will both protect New Zealand and help Kiwis easily return to New Zealand
Many people are sharing their stories about the difficulty they are having in securing a MIQ slot.
Sharing his anxiety of not getting a MIQ voucher for his wife, Jatinder (an NZ resident) whose pregnant wife (in India) recently got her visitor visa approved under the partnership category, says, “It is after a wait of months that my wife's visa got approved but now I am facing a bigger hurdle on getting a MIQ booked for her. Since she is pregnant she is only allowed to fly till September. I am getting anxious what if I don't get a MIQ slot till then.
“I truly believe NZ has an amazing reputation overseas for its response to COVID-19 but the way this MIQ voucher system is being run is doing damage to the image of the country.”
Maria, a member of online group MIQ: NZ Managed Isolation and Quarantine posted, “When I moved to NZ 30 years ago, my concern was being so far away from my family in Sweden. I was always prepared to jump on a plane at any time should anything happen to my family. Little did I know that today I would be unable to fly back to attend my mother's funeral with no prospect of returning to NZ in any foreseeable future.
This situation is so heartbreaking, frustrating and distressful [sic]. I wake up every morning wishing I was still asleep, and dread logging onto the MIQ website as it only makes me more depressed. I can only hope for some improvement to come for all of us.”
Dubbing this “whole MIQ thing is a big sham,” Harinder Kaur, says, “I have been trying for several days even though I managed to click on the date, the message that came through was that the date was taken. Not sure how anyone can secure any date. Feeling so disappointed and helpless.”
Even the political parties are feeling the need to address this issue. "The current system is causing stress and anxiety for our overseas Aotearoa community, and among those in New Zealand with loved ones abroad. We must do everything we can to address these concerns and ensure an equitable MIQ system." Julie Anne Genter MP, Green Party Spokesperson for Covid-19 Response has recently said. On 30 August, a Virtual Town Hall with Julie Anne is happening where one can share their concerns and questions about the current MIQ system on video platform Zoom.
Even the health professionals feel that the current MIQ system including the unavailability of rooms and seeing new vacancies booked almost immediately has increasingly become a stress issue for many.
Neha Golchha, a Registered Clinical Psychologist in both NZ and India says, “Uncertainty is all around us, never more so than today. As human beings, we crave security and want to feel safe and have a sense of control over our lives and well-being. The challenges faced due to the non-availability of MIQ slots are spiralling fear and anxiety.
“Many people have reported feeling stressed, anxious, and powerless over the situation. It is draining them emotionally and making them feel trapped which is not a good sign. We are amid a mental health pandemic and have good reason to believe that this mental health crisis will lead to increased cases of depression throughout the year. Many of us have loved ones overseas – but, for me like many others, the scariest part is the real possibility of not being able to get to meet them if they are directly affected by the virus in the coming weeks/months.”
Giving her opinion on what should be done by the government, counsellor Kavita Ram of Ahimsa Counselling, says, “I can only imagine the toll that the getting a MIQ slot is taking on people. It is a sorry state of affairs. The government should create a system that enables New Zealand to remain COVID-19 free by all means, but ensure a mechanism exists to enable people to travel stress-free. The government should be thinking about modifying managed isolation rules and purchase and build more MIQ facilities if needed.”
Lastly, giving her tips on how to beat the stress, Ms Ram says, “Try to be positive and focus on what is in your control. Do stay connected with your loved ones – be it through what's app, Skype or Zoom. And, lastly, keep yourself safe