Number of returning kiwis who can stay in managed isolation limited to less than 7000, as no new facilities are being brought on for now

Number of returning kiwis who can stay in managed isolation limited to less than 7000, as no new facilities are being brought on for now

Air Commodore Darryn Webb says the country's managed isolation and quarantine capacity is close to being exhausted. 

There are few, if any, hotels that can be used for managed isolation/quarantine beyond the 32 already in use - for now.

These facilities can accommodate 7000 people at any one time, although the aim is to only have them 90% full to provide a bit of wriggle room for cleaning in between stays, for example.

A spokesperson for the Government Covid-19 response group said: "The constraint does not necessarily lie with the number of suitable facilities, but with all aspects of the system, including having a suitable number of staff to run managed isolation and quarantine facilities. 

"Behind each facility is a staff with specialist skills, including teams from Police, health, security, and Defence Force."

The managed isolation/quarantine facilities have to meet Ministry of Health standards, which require rooms to have their own bathrooms. They also have to be close to appropriate healthcare. 

Webb and Housing Minister Megan Woods ruled out using hotels in Dunedin, Queenstown and Invercargill, but said they had increased capacity by a third in the past three weeks.

The contracts the Government has with hotels are six months long.

Airlines may have to keep halting bookings

Due to this capacity limit, airlines that fly into New Zealand will be given two-week rolling quotas. They will be able to decide how they manage the demand.  

Air New Zealand, which put a hold on new bookings earlier in the month following a request from the Government, will extend this hold until July 29.

“Following this there is capacity for Kiwis to book flights to return home and we will continue to manage this going forward,” Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran said.

400,000-600,000 kiwis in Australia

Woods said the bulk of the 600,000 to 900,000 New Zealanders living abroad are in Australia - somewhere between 400,000 and 600,000 people.

She said it was difficult to say how many kiwis could be expected to return to New Zealand, but noted the scale of the second wave of infection in Australia would have a bearing on this.

“People’s continued employment is a critical part of their decision of whether or not to stay, given they don’t have access to income support if they’re not an Australian citizen," she said.

Asked whether New Zealand could forget about letting international students into the country in the first trimester of 2021, given isolation is at capacity and there could continue to be a steady flow of returning kiwis, Woods said it was too early to say.

She said having a trans-Tasman bubble would change a lot.

“I’m continuing to work with all of my colleagues, who [work with] sectors that want to see borders re-opened, around how that might be facilitated when the time is right,” she said.

“We as a government are committed to retaining a strong line of defence at the border to ensure that we can protect New Zealanders’ health; we won’t experience the surges that other countries are seeing at the moment, and we can protect the gains that we’ve made.”

Since March 26, 30,475 New Zealanders have gone through managed isolation/quarantine.

Exemptions to leave isolation early reinstated

Webb said people could once again apply to leave isolation/quarantine early for “exceptional” circumstances.

He said there had been 138 inquiries for early leave in the past week and 50 actual applications. Only seven have been granted.

Woods said the Government was still seeking legal advice on charging returning New Zealanders for their stays in managed isolation.

National said that should it get into government, it would from October charge single adults $3000, couples $4000, and children over three $500.

Woods released a statement in response, saying she believed returnees should assist with the “considerable” expense of accommodating them in managed isolation.

She said a cost recovery regime would have to be “fair and equitable” and consider the legal right of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents to return home.

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54 Comments

you would think they would set up a booking site so people can book a spot in a hotel to come back , when confirmed they could then use the reference number to book an airline ticket

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Why make it that complicated? The system they have in place is much simpler, they give the quota to the airlines. If you want to come back you book a plane ticket, the plane ticket includes the quarantine reservation. If there are no quarantine spaces, then there are no tickets. Airlines are very good at rationing a limited resource, they do it with seats every day.

Bringing it in house gives government full visibility over who intends to return and in what volumes. It enables them to increase and reduce capacity based on longer term bookings than when someone buys a ticket. Not saying that they could actually manage it well just saying there are positives in bringing this type of thing in house.

Are you kidding, they need to be kept together as they come in, that would just be absolute chaos

National said that should it get into government, it would from October charge single adults $3000, couples $4000, and children over three $500.

National and labour have both reached new levels of idiocy. I don't know whether to describe national's idea of charging a small fortune to visitors as idiocy or economic treason. While the rest of the world have taken a pragmatic approach we're doing this hysterical thing...

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So what's the solution to this issue? Taxpayer keeps paying? Do we get taxed more to cover this additional expense, or simply cut spending in other areas? Fair enough disagreeing with the proposal, but I'm not hearing any solutions there. Feel free to empty your bank account to fund the quarantine expenses, but personally I'd rather see my tax money spent on health services and keeping the country running thanks.

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Not sure why it's proving so difficult, I think,
If returning to NZ after 5 years plus outside of NZ, pay the full costs, for the reason they haven't been contributing tax to NZ, but are now back not because they want to be, but because they have no job and want one in NZ, and if not a job a benefit.
People overseas less than 5 years, maybe a tiered cost system depending how long they've been away.
People going on holidays since March this year, pay the full cost.
People caught overseas on holidays or trips that started before March this year, either no cost or a reduced cost.

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The rest of the world can be pragmatic as they haven’t achieved elimination. I’d much rather have our freedom and a locked border than an open border and various levels of isolation and social distancing.

Not sure how pragmatic it is anyway, I'd say it's not really, in the badly hit places their economies are being destroyed and people are dying, is that really such a pragmatic choice?

Eliminating the virus is a fools errand. We have to live with it. Spending hunderds of millions of dollars hotel stays is not a good idea. Neither is it a good idea to eliminate all tourism. There's no long term benefit for the country in doing that. You know the real reason NZ is doing this is because we only have 3 ICU beds per 100K citizens. If the government spent money on ICU beds then at least something good might come from that.

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So allow the virus back in, then shut down the bars again, restaurants again, theaters, restrictions on retail shopping again etc?
To attempt to save a few hundred millions but end up costing billions, it's a false economy.
No thanks, there's almost the whole rest of the world you can go to if you crave that so much.

There's almost the whole rest of the world you can go to if you crave that so much.
I live in Germany where the economy is functioning well. Tourism is operating, restaurants are open, everything is open. The economy is functional, and best of all this situation is totally sustainable into the future. It makes me sad to see NZ go down an unsustainable costly path that leads to lower living standards.

No it's not. It's totally unsustainable, totally reliant on fossil fuels.

Get your definitions right, eh? There's no excuse for such waffle, this late in the trajectory.

I think it's fair to say that turning NZ into a fortress is unsustainable.

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A couple of months ago you were posting panicked messages here about how Germany and yourself were toast .
Things can change very quickly with this virus - both ways.

NZ bubble is of course not sustainable "forever" - that is not the point. We have the option of playing for time - while work is being done on treatments and a vaccine - and we are using it.
Chances are it will work out to NZ benefit- but no guarantees ; time will tell.

If the CFR would have been 5% and R0 would have been 7 then we would have all been up the proverbial creek. Luckily it's nowhere near as dangerous as initially thought. ps I had it and it wasn't that bad.

Glad it worked out OK for you. ; does not mean it does for everyone.
What you wrote illustrates my point - we know a lot more now than 2 months ago - and we will know a lot more again 2 months from now.

The parameters for handling the situation in Germany are quite different to those in NZ ( Germany has a stronger medical system - but does not have the option of keeping the virus out - and that is just scratching the surface of the differences ).

Maybe this is another case of something that is good for Germany not necessarily being the best for NZ and vice versa ( rather like the "progressive" tax system you are so fond of :) ) .

Hey I'm not that progressive. I almost spat my coffee out reading the Green Parties proposal.

who would believe it - we agree on something :).

"Everything is open", but surely you still have some restrictions, Germany has a lot of cases of the virus, are your bars and restaurants full? do you have full stadiums?
We do in NZ, and it's employing a lot more people with everything open and unrestricted, than it would be if for example we still had to do social distancing.
A few hundred million for a while to keep the border secure in the scheme of things is absolutely nothing.
NZ has spent a heck of a lot more due the virus being here on wage subsidies etc, than it ever will on the border (touch wood it stays out until a vaccine or antiviral drugs).
It's a false economy to get excited about having to spend a few hundred million on the border, if it comes back in we are looking at billions again.
My understanding is the EU is now looking at spending a ridiculous amount of money on measures around the virus, so it doesn't look like this is going to be cheap for Germany etc.

For sure there are restrictions. Going to the train station reminds me of some post apocalyptic film with everyone wearing masks. Same at the supermarket or chemist. We're all supposed to obey 2 m social distancing. When I say the restaurants are full I mean outdoors. Nobody is allowed to be seated inside at a public restaurant. You're only allowed to have the mask off outside you see. To the greatest extent possible the authorities and public seem to have made the economy functional. I was thinking of going on holiday to Italy. I chatted to a guy today who's going on holiday to Greece next week. I think countries like Sweden, or the USA that bite the bullet will recover the fastest. This is the end game that I see for the world - just living with it.

Good luck over there fat pat, I know where I'd rather be though.
Sweden's approach doesn't really look to have been that successful, apparently the economic impact to them has been the same as compatible nations anyway, but with much more the deaths.
As far as having better immunity as a nation, even that's not very certain, one recent report was finding almost all of the the antibodies were disappearing after such a short time as a couple of months.

Spend enough time on Alcatraz and you'll learn to love it.

Had 6 months to come home. A lot of my friends came home not long after Winny told people overseas to do so - they all self quarantined. If it wasn't convenient to come home then but you want to come back now the grass is greener, you pay.

Had 6 months to come home. A lot of my friends came home not long after Winny told people overseas to do so. You come home now, you pay.

Hey, fat pat, every country is different. The strategy works well in your country doesn't mean it will work well in New Zealand. New Zealand is a small country, this means it is possible for us to eliminate the virus, or at least we can eliminate the community spread. This also makes us extremely vulnerable if we have an community outbreak as we just don't have enough medical care for everyone. So listen to the experts. We dont want to see people get charged for quarantine, but if it's at the cost of tax payers money, I simply think it's not fair, especially not fair for next generations. The next generations have done nothing. Now they have to suffer high tax rates in future. Not even mentioning the housing issue they will be facing in future. Speaking money like this is just not sustainable.

I get that. Our health care system can only handle 3 ICU beds per 100K people. Politicians never discussed it so there was never any informed public debate about options. I read somewhere that Germany ramped up from 30->50 ICU beds / 100K citizens. If... If NZ eventually concedes that we have to live with the virus, which I think is highly likely in the long term, then hundreds of millions of dollars that could have been spent training nurses or buying ICU equipment would have been squandered on useless hotel stays. Regarding the charging of outsiders, people forget that Kiwis working overseas and tourists bring foreign money into the country. New Zealand is already a very expensive little country to visit. If the government charges visitors two weeks of their precious time and adds 1000 euros to their visit then they simply wont come, and there may even be worse unintended consequences.

Iceland appears to be doing just fine without quarantine measures. In fact they are now allowing travel from some countries without even testing.

I'd suggest we follow their lead on reopening borders if it continues to prove successful.

https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/iceland-lifts-travel-restrictions-...

That's a good idea.

Think of all the inheritance money it would free up

12
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Seems foolish to me.

Customs passenger arrival numbers for last 14 days total 2921. That is less than half the potential 7000. 7000 is a tiny number, about ten percent of the 3 million tourists the country handles each year. The govt should also be allowing students to come and study following quarantine.

Maybe the Government should help the tertiary institutions set up make shift campuses at the Airport? Because the students are here for the quality of the education NZ provides, so location shouldn't matter right?

Just study online. Same quality. No worries

Exactly. Unless it was all about immigration vs education.

The international recognition of a Diploma in Business Management from the NZ Institute of Golden Lucky Snapdragon will not diminish if it goes online.

Spare a thought for those "holidaying" kiwis overseas. Since March we are trying to find an air ticket home, with a viable transit option in the middle, all along paying taxes and rates in NZ. But month after month, more hurdles seem to be added to it, not only, but also by the NZ government. Nothing wrong with quarantining arrivals, but it really feels like NZ has thrown us in the 'THEM" basket, like leppers and parasites.
Well, the longer this goes on, the less income tax I will be paying in NZ ... there is an upside to everything … or is there?
That also means that "US" arrivals will be paying less towards paying off the 50b NZ$ Covid debt - we may have to leave that to "THEM", the team of 5 million.
But what I really want to say is that "US" vs "THEM" has probably no winners - we Kiwis should be in this "TOGETHER".

And BTW: It is not the "horrors of the world" over here in Europe as often stated in the NZ media - but we still call NZ home, together with you. We might see it again one day ...

There are still quite a few foreign airlines flying in and out of nz from around the world

Correct, but one needs to carefully check airlines' cancellation policies - or lack thereof. One cannot book again and again, then get cancellations, and accumulate air credits with every airline that sells tickets. For example, Thai Airways is selling tickets for later this year, but is not operating any international flights right now, with no confirmed start date either, and is also in bankruptcy proceedings. All refunds suspended. Keen to pay them? The devil is in the details, like Melbourne airport now closed for transit. Or Singapore is closed to almost all transit, bar some specific exceptions that don't get us home. Even seen economy tickets for 13K NZ$ one way, via airports that are closed to transit. I could go on forever, but don't want to complain, it is what it is. Just saying that there is no sensible way for us to get home (yet).

JPT - not sure where you are obviously but have one son almost finished quarantine who came home from London Heathrow via Singapore with 90 mins turnaround. Was able to travel a week after booking so all good. Other son tried to get home from London in June and had flights changed a number of times. Came home via Doha and Melbourne which is now difficult but one of his mates is due to leave London very soon via Doha but has 2 day stopover in Sydney. Not so easy now there are seating quotas admittedly but stick at it.

Thanks for the useful info. We need to stick with StarAlliance, i.e. rebook that instead of buying a new ticket with a non-StarAlliance airline and thus losing our existing tickets. Singapore Airlines has very few departure airports in Europe, and does not allow a pre-connecting flight to get to those departure airports. Otherwise, transit in Singapore is not allowed. If one doesn't make the first flight (separate ticket) for whatever reason, the second ticket is no show/lost. Plus my special Covid visa extension does not allow me to get to London, Frankfurt, …
And once in Auckland with Singapore Airlines, after the quarantine, we would have to arrange and pay our own transport to Wellington, because that last leg on the air ticket becomes void with the quarantine. 2 people with 4 bags and a short notice booking with Air NZ - another 1000 NZ$ I guess. The total cost of returning will probably be around 10K.
Details, details, till the head spins.
I wish all those comments were correct that say kiwis stuck overseas had enough warning and time to get home by now. It's not that easy. But hey, we are healthy and it's summer here.
Anyway we are confident that one day we will get home - maybe even vaccinated by then ;-)

I hope you manage to get home as quickly as possible - it must be a very stressful situation that few can appreciate unless facing it themselves.

Can I ask if you booked it all by yourself or used a travel agent.
That is in those situations that a travel agent is worth every penny ( not saying that was your situation)

Booked myself, because it was an award flight - travel agents don't like these much …
The award flight itself makes rebooking harder again …
Perfect storm … but we will find a way some day to come home ...

I definitely feel a lot more sorry for someone like you, than I do someone who has been living in aussie for 10 or so years paying tax over there, on the "special NZ Visa", who has lost their job and wants to either get a job or benefit in NZ, having contributed very little to NZ.

If you're legitimately stuck on holiday and are still a tax resident, then that's rough and there is no way I would say you should be charged quarantine fees.

But overseas-based Kiwis who haven't contributed to NZ in years (other than to visit every three years, spend a couple of weeks driving here to renew their voting rights and see relatives in Xmas and then sodding off) deciding to opt-on to the team of 5 million when it suits them can get stuffed. As soon as this dies down, many will be overseas again and won't be contributing to the long-term economic recovery, nor any of NZ's structural issues such as housing or other living costs.

They will, however, continue to vote in our elections and insist on their right to foist governments and taxes upon those who do live here.

Fair point.

Agreed. Hope you find a way back soon mate.

thanks mate, looking forward to helping rebuild NZ economy ...

Agreed, and then some of them have the nerve to tell us how nasty we are expecting them to pay, and how we've changed.
What about the billions in student loans a lot of them owe us with no intention of paying back? are we nasty for wanting that paid back too?

Which hotels in Auckland are not isolating returnees?
Must be having an impact on domestic tourism, with people being put off staying in Auckland.
E.g. Sky City, Grand Chancellor, etc are self-declared non quarantine hotels

Let them eat cake where they pay their tax. In most cases that is "elsewhere"

Just pointing out that this site is aimed at those who are investors, among others. I am a citizen who lives overseas and i have been paying non-resident withholding tax on the income/profits of my NZ investments for several decades. I think that phrase, ‘NZ taxpayer’, might include me in a broad sense. I believe last year alone, $600 million was paid in NRWT. So it is disappointing to read posts that overseas kiwis have paid no tax and have lived the high life and are basically traitors to those who stayed so let’s make the bastards pay etc populist nonsense. Though certainly, some aspects are worth exploring eg charging non-citizens.
I live overseas not in any high-flying way but because my skillset is niche and there is no work in NZ in my line. I have tried to come back several times and each time either the workplace closed down or no job materialised.
Now where i work overseas, they are cracking down on foreigners and it looks like my work permit won’t be renewed. This is the case for many Kiwis around the world. I hung on as long as i could. It was logical to do so. But soon NZ may be the only place i can go and live with automatic residency. Unemployable, i will live off my investments. I don’t think it would be fair to charge me for my quarantine on the basis of not being a taxpayer, when I have paid into the NZ tax pool, but as a non-resident.

What next, Homestay for the Returnees ?
I have a spare bedroom. How much will I get, for rent and board ?

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