The case for self-isolation for NSW returnees

A reader writes to the PM:

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing directly to you to highlight some information regarding self-isolation and the risk of positive COVID-19 cases arising from returnees impacting the wider community.

As a background my son has just missed out in the MIQ lottery yet again, and it is increasingly likely to be stranded in Sydney once his university studies are completed for the year.

Given we have moved from an “elimination” strategy to a “containment” strategy,  I ran some numbers to assess the self-isolating risk for New Zealand residents currently in NSW and in the MIQ “lottery”.

As calculated in the below table the chance of a returnee from NSW spreading COVID-19 to the wider community is almost zero. A copy of the spread-sheet is attached if your advisors wish to alter any assumptions.

Given COVID-19 is already in the community (current 7 day rolling average of 24 daily cases), it appears illogical to make obtaining one of the limited MIQ spots a condition of returning to New Zealand given the low probably of a new case from a returnee from NSW adding to the daily totals (especially in Auckland/Waikato). The very minor COVID-19 risk is surely outweighed by the on-going damage to the large number of people’s mental health.

The Bill of Rights states that every New Zealand citizen has the right to enter New Zealand. Whilst there is a possible justification for curtailing this right due to health reasons, this surely can no longer apply given that COVID-19 is now “established”.

The logical solution seems to be:

·         to allow self-isolation for returnees from low risk countries to free up MIQ spots or,

·         reduce the MIQ stay to 7 days (which Australia is starting for self-isolation), or

·         urgently set-up more MIQ spots.

If the MIQ policy is not going to be relaxed in the next month, could you please advise what “the plan” is, so those stranded overseas can make suitable future arrangements rather than being left in eternal limbo by the on-going torture of MIQ lotteries. I look forward to your response and would be happy to discuss any matters.

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