Omicron variant

Information on this page can be attributed to a managed isolation and quarantine spokesperson.

On 21 December 2021, the Government announced a number of changes to MIQ in response to the Omicron variant.

Omicron: Government’s plan to minimise risk(external link) — Beehive website

MIQ plays a critical role in keeping our communities from Covid-19, including variants like Omicron. Aotearoa New Zealand has a model of acting cautiously, which has helped us bring more than 210,000 returnees through managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

We are seeing a number of returnees becoming ‘border cases’ who have tested positive to Omicron after arrival in New Zealand.  MIQ is helping to manage the public health risk of Omicron for all New Zealanders.

Managed isolation and quarantine facilities are well set up to care for Omicron cases and protect the community. The staff at our facilities are experienced in managing and caring for positive cases.

All Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities follow very strict Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) measures developed by the Ministry of Health to manage the risks of spreading COVID-19. They are constantly reviewed and refined by the Ministry of Health to ensure they are fit for purpose. Our IPC controls were reviewed in light of the Omicron variant and the Ministry of Health’s advice is for us to continue with our rigorous IPC protocols.

The Government also agreed to a suite of precautionary measures including a temporary change to the length of stay at MIQ. All travellers now stay for 10 days in a MIQ facility, with no self-isolation component, and undergo testing on day 0/1, day 3, day 5/6 and day 8/9.

Testing frequency helps us identify cases at the border. As a precautionary measure, anyone with a positive test result will be treated as an Omicron case until proven otherwise by whole genome sequencing.

Delay to phased border re-opening

On 21 December 2021, the Government announced several measures to reduce the risks posed by Omicron. One of these measures was to delay stage 1 for Reconnecting New Zealand and the opening of the medium risk-pathway that would allow eligible travellers to travel from Australia to New Zealand and self-isolate (instead of entering MIQ) until the end of February 2022, rather than from 17 January 2022 as originally planned

These changes have had a range of impacts on MIQ and travellers who had taken steps to enter the country, which we are addressing.

Australian travellers

MIQ is working to facilitate the return to New Zealand of those people who travelled to Australia and expected to be able to return home after 17 January 2022 and self-isolate for 7 days instead of staying in managed isolation.

Read more: MIQ working with travellers returning to New Zealand following changes to phased border re-opening

A temporary emergency allocation category is to be implemented for New Zealand citizens in Australia who face significant and severe hardship if they do not return to New Zealand in the next 2 months. Applications will be accepted between 13 January and 13 February, for travel to occur within 14 days.

Find out more about Emergency Allocation criteria changes

Protocols in MIQ

At every MIQ facility returnees must remain physically distant from each other, and from staff members, at all times.

At MIQ facilities, returnees cannot leave their room freely. They must stay in their room unless they have a medical appointment, are on their specified fresh air or smoking time or there is an emergency, such as a fire or an earthquake.

In quarantine facilities staff wear full PPE when escorting returnees to and from their rooms. Returnees are required to wear PPE in line with Ministry of Health guidelines while outside their room. Health staff conducting health checks wear full PPE (face shield, gown and gloves) and do not enter quarantine rooms.

In addition to our IPC protocols, regular staff testing also remains an essential part of our defence against COVID-19 – as does our fully vaccinated workforce.

The work MIQ staff are doing is a critical part of New Zealand’s ongoing efforts against the changing nature of COVID-19.   Every day they put themselves between us and existing and emerging strains of the virus, to keep returning New Zealanders and our communities safe. They are our frontline defence against COVID-19.

More information

Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World(external link) — Unite against COVID-19

Omicron: Government’s plan to minimise risk(external link) — Beehive website

Changes to MIQ following Omicron cases

MIQ working with travellers returning to New Zealand following changes to phased border re-opening

Cleaning and infection prevention

COVID-19: About the Omicron variant(external link) — Ministry of Health

Last updated: 10 January 2022