Update on Managed Isolation emergency applications

Published: 04 December 2020

The range of circumstances for those who need to apply for an emergency allocation in managed isolation to travel home to New Zealand urgently has been widened.

Comments from Megan Main, MBIE Deputy Chief Executive, Managed Isolation and Quarantine

Places in managed isolation are currently extremely limited due to high demand leading into the summer holidays. Previously the criteria have been limited to New Zealand citizens or resident-class visa holders who have an imminent threat to their life or serious risk to their health, which requires urgent travel to New Zealand. We have now adjusted the range of circumstances currently being considered for emergency allocations to include a broader range of circumstances.

These decisions are not easy ones to make. We are sympathetic to the distressing situations people applying for an emergency allocation are in. We need, however, to balance each individual application with our critical work to ensure the safety of all New Zealanders and the limited available capacity in Managed Isolation Facilities by sequencing beds as they become available.

Emergency allocations are processed in a tiered system. Applications will be prioritised depending on their category, as these reflect the most urgent and time-critical situations which may require travel to New Zealand. Category 1 applications will be given priority over Category 2.

Category 1

  • New Zealand citizens or residents where a serious risk to health exists for the applicant or their dependant, which requires urgent travel to New Zealand; OR
  • Where urgent travel is required to ensure a child is provided with appropriate care and protection.

Category 2

  • New Zealand citizens or residents who are required to provide critical care for a dependant person in New Zealand and need to travel urgently to do so; OR
  • A person whose entry to New Zealand is time-critical for the purpose of delivering a critical public or health service, such as the provision of specialist health services required to prevent serious illness, injury or death; or the maintenance of essential infrastructure whose failure would result in significant harm or disruption to a large number of New Zealanders; OR
  • New Zealand citizens or residents, who are unable to legally remain in their current location and have no other option but to return to New Zealand; OR
  • New Zealand and non-New Zealand citizens, where urgent travel to New Zealand is required for national security, national interest or law enforcement reasons; OR
  • New Zealand citizens or residents entering New Zealand to visit a close relative who is dying, where timely travel is unlikely to be possible if the person books through the Managed Isolation Allocation System.

There is no guarantee that a person who fits within these categories will receive an emergency allocation, as this will depend on the numbers of applicants and available places.

The emergency allocation process is a last resort option and the threshold is extremely high. To be eligible for an emergency allocation, the travel must be time-critical, the applicant must be legally entitled to enter New Zealand and they must be willing to travel within seven days of making their application. Evidence will be required to support all applications to ensure a fair and consistent process and it is important to note that people still need to complete their 14 days Managed Isolation. 

We’re able to do this now because since the Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS)(external link) became a legal requirement on November 3, we’ve been able to closely study the data of travellers into New Zealand. Our experience with the new system and changes in traveller’s plans have enabled us to optimise space within New Zealand’s Managed Isolation facilities.

The complex nature of international travel during this global pandemic is seeing widespread disruption to flight schedules, affecting travel plans for those with vouchers for managed isolation facilities.

Since 3 November we have seen around 5-8 rooms unused per day as a result of people who either have a voucher, but don’t have a flight or have booked multiple vouchers. To date we have released as many of these back into the system as possible by manually checking bookings on a regular basis. From now on these will be kept aside for emergency allocations.

We have also seen around 7-8 rooms unused per day as a result of people who have a voucher and flights booked but do not arrive in New Zealand. These are more challenging to return to the pool of available vouchers as they tend to only be identified after a plane has departed and is en route to New Zealand.

Due to these factors, we’re confident we can make around 150 rooms available per fortnight for those who need to travel urgently. We will review this number over time to ensure it is sufficient to accommodate travel which is genuinely urgent while not compromising the operational safety of our 32 facilities.

Last updated: 04 December 2020