New Zealanders abroad have reacted desperately to the news that the government has doubled the time returning citizens must stay to avoid paying a $ 3,100 quarantine fee.
The changes, announced Wednesday, mean that people returning home from abroad will have to stay six months, rather than the previous three, to be exempt from the fee, a move the government has said will help the system of managed isolation is “more financially sustainable”.
But the change adds another barrier for those hoping to visit family in New Zealand or find respite from pandemic conditions abroad. Owen Williams, a New Zealander who lives in Canada and works in technology, said the change made a home visit financially unfeasible – flights only cost $ 3,000 and $ 270 for a pre-departure test and general moving costs.
“Changing it to six months can simply be undone with the additional cost of MIQ. [managed isolate and quarantine] – puts him out of reach to go home before this is over, which seems to be the whole point, ”he said. “The message is loud and clear: even if you are a citizen, unless you are rich, don’t go back.”
Wilson said he did not object to paying a fee for those who visit the country briefly or come and go on vacation. But the new measures could make travel unaffordable for many New Zealanders hoping to work from home temporarily, hold overseas visas or visit family members. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said it believed the new charges would be paid by about 3 percent of returnees.
New Zealand requires anyone entering the country to spend two weeks in an MIQ facility. The system is already difficult to access; currently requires an online reservation, and availability is displayed for the next four months. Often all spaces are reservedand new stains can disappear in minutes.
Facebook groups with more than 20,000 members have sprung up to help people undertake the return journey and negotiate MIQ bookings. Some report sitting in front of their computers for hours every day, waiting and waiting for a workable date.
On Wednesday, social media users reacted to the new charges with anger and sadness. “Well those are plans for my parents to meet their first grandchild out the window for the foreseeable future,” one user tweeted. Another wrote: “Now, in order to see my family (who I haven’t seen in over 2 years), I basically have to quit my job and risk losing my Canadian visa.”
Many New Zealanders stranded abroad have experienced months of confinement, high risk of infection, economic conflict and death toll in the hundreds of thousands. In countries like the US, rates of depression and anxiety have risen about 11%. For some expats, seeing the window of possibility of returning home closing further increases the psychological and mental health burden.
It’s “like we’re beating ourselves up for not coming back right away, or needing to see our families for a breather after 14 months of endless heartbreaking shit,” Williams said. “Very strange, lonely feeling – [I] I wish there was a little more empathy. “
Last year, the managed isolation and quarantine system was costing New Zealand around $ 2.4 million one day.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism