Omicron outbreak: MIQ-dodging family: Customs confirms one point, other agencies scrambling

Details about an apparent MIQ-dodging family are lost in an information black hole between multiple agencies as they play pass the buck.

On Monday, Kiwiblog’s David Farrar posted about the story of “a Kiwi family in Australia who were desperate to get home, as there were serious mental health issues due to being stuck in Australia”.

Being unable to secure MIQ vouchers, they struck upon the jape of booking a flight from Australia to Fiji, with a stopover in Auckland.

“In Auckland they got the kids to refuse to get back on the plane, as the kids wanted to see the rest of their family in Auckland. It seems that there is some international convention that prohibits forcing children onto a place, so the family was transferred into an MIQ facility in Auckland, which is what they wanted.”

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Farrar later told the Herald, “A friend called me up to tell me about them. He had lots of details such as the costs of broken flights etc so I regarded it as a true story, not an urban legend.”

A Herald query to MBIE’s Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) division was referred to Customs.

“Customs is aware that on 12 December 2021 four New Zealand travellers declined to board a connecting flight to Nadi,” a spokesperson said.

However, the agency said questions about what steps were taken after the refusal to board would have to be answered by MIQ and the Ministry of Health.

The Herald complained this process was frustratingly circular, given MIQ had put the ball in Customs’ court.

A response was then forwarded from joint head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Chris Bunny, who said: “It is a legal requirement to have a valid MIQ voucher to enter New Zealand. If someone arrives in the country without a valid MIQ voucher, then their case may be referred to NZ Police for enforcement action.

“We would be extremely disappointed by anyone who purposefully ignores the process, especially when there are thousands of New Zealanders, often in difficult circumstances, who want to come home and who follow the rules.”

So was the family who refused to board their connecting flight to Nadi referred to the police? And were they put in MIQ in the meantime?

An MIQ spokesman said yesterday evening, “We do not yet fully understand the facts of this situation so are not in a position to advise what further action is appropriate at this stage.”

A member of the police comms unit was loathe to put any resource into attempting to confirm police action, given MIQ officials were not clear on whether the matter had been referred to law enforcement.

The Ministry of Health acknowledged Herald questions yesterday but has yet to supply responses.

Meanwhile, the pressure on Kiwis overseas has increased with news that the latest room release has been delayed because of an “unprecedented number of Omicron cases”.


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