Scientists have cut off calls from overseas New Zealanders who want fewer border restrictions, warning that such an operation could lead to another delta outbreak.
About 16,000 people have signed a Ground Kiwis Petition for more vaccinated travelers for more managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities and alternative options such as self-isolation.
Tony Blackley, a New Zealand-born epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne, admitted that it was not good to be locked out of the country, but it was an unfortunate fact.
“Yes, it is difficult. It is an epidemic in 100 years.”
Blackley said Auckland’s current Covid 19 outbreak was clear evidence of the risk of easing sanctions or opening the border too soon.
“The danger of bringing. [too many] People are back now, until you get more coverage of your vaccine, that’s real.
“It’s a serious threat. You don’t want it.”
Michael Baker, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Otago, agreed that the more people return, the greater the risk of an outbreak and then a lockdown.
“We need high vaccine coverage before we can change our settings at the border,” Baker said.
“The cost of failure is very high now … we know how incredibly destructive, dangerous and expensive lockdown can be.”
Per capita, New Zealand has already brought in more than double the number of passengers as Australia, Baker said.
“In the short to medium term, it’s hard to see that there are more options to bring more people across the border.
“Unfortunately, [New Zealanders abroad] Have to be patient “
Both professors advocated the use of MIQ facilities as the best solution, but said border restrictions could be eased once New Zealand’s vaccination levels were significantly higher.
“The good news is that New Zealand, along with other countries, is really increasing vaccination coverage,” Blakely said.
The risk of getting you back in December before Christmas will be greatly reduced.
For months, the number of people trying to come home has far exceeded the number of MIQ places available – about 4 4,000 rooms a fortnight. The problem has been exacerbated since the Delta eruption, with any new space temporarily frozen.
Passengers can apply for an emergency, but Ground Kiwis spokeswoman Alexandra Burt said. The limit was too high.
Burt said it was “unhelpful” to tell New Zealanders to be patient in “extremely frustrating situations”.
“Many of them have no jobs, no means of livelihood, they are stranded abroad. They have no way to be patient and wait. They need to come back. ۔ “
He said the group did not want to jeopardize New Zealand’s security and did not believe it would be done with a “risk-taking approach”.
“It’s not about ending MIQ or anything like that,” Burt said.
“It’s about a risk-oriented approach – taking into account factors like where someone is coming from, if they’ve been fully vaccinated, if they’ve already been vaccinated.”
Burt said she understood the need to increase New Zealand’s vaccination rate, but noted that the rollout was slow.
The government is exploring the possibility of opening new MIQ facilities, particularly in Rotorua, but has not expressed a desire to do so on a large scale, citing barriers to work and community pushback.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had planned to make it easier to open the border next year, following a sharp rise in vaccination rates last month, including isolation for some low-risk travelers.
Ardern told reporters yesterday that the timetable had not derailed.
“If anything, of course, we’re looking at our vaccination program really fast, and the sooner we can get through it, the more flexibility it gives.”