Before the Covid-19 pandemic, no New Zealander would have heard of MIQ or the Managed Isolation and Quarantine system.

It was on April 9, 2020, that New Zealand’s MIQ started at a few hotels after NZ closed its borders to all but citizens and residents. Over time, in line with NZ's elimination strategy, the MIQ system evolved into the frontline defence in the fight against Covid-19.

And with anyone travelling to NZ having to go through 14 days at a MIQ facility along with the number of Covid tests before they could safely come to the community, NZ’s MIQ arrangements were some of the tightest in the world.

However, over time and with the world acknowledging that Covid-19 and its new variants are here to stay, the need for MIQ has started being questioned and there have been voices asking to dismantle the MIQ

The government has recently announced that fully vaccinated Kiwi travellers returning from all countries will no longer be required to stay in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) from February 14. Also, NZ citizens and residents returning from Australia will get to bypass MIQ even earlier, starting from January 17 and then from April 30, NZ will start to reopen to all fully vaccinated foreign nationals

However, the new Omicron variant could change that. The government’s Covid-19 Response Ministry spokesperson has recently said, “We've signalled that we were going to remove border restrictions in January/February. Of course, the worst-case scenario is that we may have to revisit that. Still very early days yet, still too soon to be making those kinds of predictions."

The Omicron variant was first reported by South African health officials on November 24?. But it might have been detected in Europe days before South Africa raised the alarm.

Indian Weekender spoke to leading political parties to know whether they would support MIQ in the event of a new Omicron variant or would they still want to dismantle it completely with a permanent move to self-isolation and negative pre-travel Covid test. Interestingly, all the political parties had a different take on the same.

 

Chris Bishop, National Party’s COVID-19 Response spokesperson

National's view is we should be removing the requirement for fully vaccinated people to enter MIQ when they enter NZ (if they have a negative pre-departure test).

We will continue to need quarantine rooms for people who are unvaccinated and who test positive on arrival or in the community. 

 

David Seymour, ACT Party leader

We should keep MIQ for another two weeks until Omicron details become known, then make it for high risk and unvaccinated only, and we should close borders selectively when new variants emerge.

 

Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, Green Party Covid 19 Response spokesperson

“Tight border restrictions have been a crucial part of protecting people in Aotearoa New Zealand, but as the pandemic continues, we need a fairer way to manage the risks posed by international travel.

“We need to maintain capacity for managed isolation in the event that new variants coming to Aotearoa make home isolation unsafe.

“Independent of our border response, we need a specific work programme to reunite split families and bring migrants stuck offshore.”