Covid-19 Delta outbreak: MIQ changes too little, too late for Kiwi stranded in Canada

The managed isolation and quarantine changes announced by the Government today are too little, too late, according to a Kiwi stranded in Canada on an expired visa.

Nash Forrester, 21, has been trying to get a spot in MIQ for four months without success.

Last week his visa expired, meaning he can no longer work to earn the money he needs to support himself until he can get back to New Zealand.

He was hopeful today’s announcement would allow vaccinated citizens to fly back and isolate at home but was sorely disappointed.

“From what I heard today those changes aren’t going to help me in any way. The rooms that will be re-released because of the 14 to seven day change may help me get home sooner but it’ll be just like it has been before – luck of the draw where I get placed in the queue and if I can secure a room,” he said.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced today that from November 14 those arriving in the country would only have to stay in MIQ for seven days, instead of 14, followed by home isolation for another three days.

An extra 1500 rooms were likely to be made available but that was a drop in the bucket compared with the 30,000 people who signed in to get a spot at each room release.

Forrester said it was a step in the right direction but didn’t go far enough.

“It’s probably just too late at this point for this step. This step needed to be taking place a couple of months ago,” he said.

“I don’t think it’ll do a lot for anyone really. It’ll help some but it won’t help enough. It’s sort of pointless at this point.”

Forrester, who moved to Banff two years ago to work as a chef, said today’s announcement meant he would most likely be stuck in Canada until the Government approved home isolation for returning citizens, which Hipkins said would come early next year.

“It still doesn’t help me for my situation in Canada not being able to work and make any money.”

He believed the New Zealand Government needed to be looking more to other countries and how they were managing to get citizens home while minimising the spread of Covid-19.

Forrester has been applying for MIQ spots for months – under the old first-in, first-served system – and now the new lottery system in which the closest he’s come is 3500th by the time the rooms were taken.

To make matters worse his dad’s fiance died three weeks ago and he was unable to get home to support his family.

This week, his latest bid to get home under the emergency exemption scheme was also rejected despite one of the categories for an exemption being for “New Zealand citizens or residents, who are unable to legally remain in their current location and have no other option but to return to New Zealand”.

Joint head of managed isolation and quarantine Megan Main said there was no guarantee that a person who fitted within the category would receive an emergency allocation because it depended on the number of applicants and available places in the given time period.

Applicants also had to prove there were no other means of staying lawfully in the country they were in including trying to convert their visa to another type such as a visitor’s visa, she said.

“MIQ declined Mr Forrester’s emergency allocation application as the delegated decision makers were not satisfied, from the evidence he provided, that he is legally unable to stay in his current location and has no other option than to return to New Zealand,” she said.

“These decisions are not easy ones to make and we are sympathetic to the distressing situations people applying for an emergency allocation are in. However, we need to balance each individual emergency application with our critical work to ensure the safety of all New Zealanders and the limited available capacity in managed isolation facilities.”

Forrester has applied for a visitors visa but the processing time at the moment is 130 days. Even if it’s granted he will remain unable to work, forcing him to continue to rely on the generosity of friends who are providing housing and food.

“I can’t support myself on zero wages,” he said.

He has appealed the decision to reject his emergency exemption and would continue to try his luck in the room releases but was hopeful the Government would again reconsider the system before the year was up.

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