Travellers entering or returning to New Zealand must book a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility. This is where they will spend at least 14 days starting from the time they arrive in the country. A MIQ facility is booked through a virtual lobby that uses a lottery system, which opens an hour before each room release.
This is a requirement for almost anyone entering the border, including New Zealand residents, citizens, tourists, and medical professionals, with a few exceptions, such as diplomats.
Note that getting a MIQ voucher doesn’t guarantee entry to the country. You have to complete the requirements set by the NZ government such as a valid passport or visa to go past the border.
The MIQ virtual lobby booking system is now using an updated system to address all the issues that have been causing huge stress for anyone entering NZ. However, it introduced new problems for thousands of Kiwis.
Compared to the previous system, the new system now sets out specific times to book rooms rather than random releases. This prevents people from waiting in front of their computers throughout the day just to secure a voucher.
The new system puts an end to the first-in, first-served model. It doesn’t matter what time you enter the system. As long as you’re able to put your name on the list within the hour that the lobby opens, you have an equal chance as everybody. Once the hour timeframe is finished, the lottery system starts, where your names are put in a randomised queue.
There’s no limit on how many users can enter the lobby. If there are 22,000 who have entered their names on the list, all of them will be in the lottery, but users can see their place on the queue.
Before the MIQ virtual lobby opens, it’s highly recommended to complete the following steps in advance for a smoother booking.
It’s important to keep your browser open. You don’t need to refresh the tab, as it can increase the risk of something going wrong. If you leave the computer once you’re first on the queue, you're given 15 minutes to respond. If you miss that, you lose your position in the queue and you'll need to start all over again.
Booking for yourself:
If you’re booking for yourself, you need to ensure that your passport number matches the information that you entered on the MIAS website. If they don’t match or your passport number has expired, you won’t be able to book a MIQ facility.
Booking for a group or on behalf of someone else:
If you’re booking on behalf of someone else, the same steps are to be observed. Make sure that their details are correct and up-to-date or you can’t book a room for other people. If you’re booking for a group of people, make sure that no one in your group or travel agency is using your passport number. Otherwise, you won’t be able to book a room.
Here are some common application mistakes and what you can do:
Once you’re on the site, you have 48 hours to go back and add your flight details. If you’ve failed to add these details within the timeframe, your chances will be cancelled. This process remains the same as the original system.
While the process is more organised than the old system, it still doesn’t address the lack of supply issues. When the lobby opens, almost 25,000 people are entering their names on the list. They scramble for only 3,000 new room releases in MIQ facilities for October, November, and December of this year.
“There is not an unlimited number of MIQ rooms, and there’s a good reason for that – we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and we need to keep New Zealand safe. We understand people want to enter MIQ on a date of their choosing, but we have to ensure arrivals in New Zealand occur in a safe, managed way,” Joint Head of MIQ Megan Main said.
Thousands of Kiwis located offshore have experienced not only mental stress from this system but also financial stress. Some have paid a lot of money for visa extensions for over a year now since the pandemic started. Also, Kiwis who have family members abroad have been putting off their visits. They missed important life events such as funerals, birthdays, and graduations, all because they can’t book MIQ for their returns.
London-based Kiwi Regan Collins urges the New Zealand government to consider alternatives like a 14-day hotel quarantine. “It does feel like some sort of cruel game to enter a lottery for a flight back home, surely there should be some form of priority to those with special circumstances such as critically ill loved ones,” he said.
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