Thousands of New Zealanders stuck abroad are hoping to return home by Christmas as more managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) rooms are released.
At least 18,000 people jammed into the online lobby for MIQ vouchers.
Today, 3800 rooms for October, November and December were released at 6pm.
More than 25,000 people tried to secure 3000 spots during the first release of MIQ spots last week.
The new system randomly assigns rooms.
Former NRL player and referee Henry Perenara told Checkpoint he was 18,875 in the queue.
He is returning home permanently after two decades in Australia.
"I think it's fair to say I won't be getting one of these 3800, which is unfortunate, but here's hoping the people that desperately need it get home to see their families.
"It's difficult. It's tough ... but I can't do much about it."
He believed spending Christmas in Sydney was a "very real possibility".
"I'm fully vaccinated. With a bit of luck, they might open the bubble. That's my only slim hope that the trans-Tasman bubble where we don't need to quarantine opens up prior to Christmas."
Poet Hinemoana Baker was on a Creative NZ writing residency in Germany when the pandemic hit. She wants to return home to her dad who is unwell.
She was 10,765 in the queue.
"So, I won't be coming home any time soon.
"I was already crying before it turned up. The good thing is there are 3800 rooms filled with people who really need them, in very dire circumstances."
Baker earlier told Checkpoint it was "distressing and it feels a little bit humiliating to have to be taking a lottery ticket to come back home".
On Facebook, in a group for New Zealanders stuck overseas, she said there was a lot of comradeship and reassurance.
"Every time I do it, it kind of gets a little bit less difficult, and my skin is a lot thicker than it was in March 2020.
"I will try again because if I don't and something happens to my parent, I don't think I could handle it. So yeah, I'll be back in."
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