Over three months ago, the Ministry of Health provided advice to Chris Hipkins about the implementation of a ‘seven days managed isolation, three days self-isolation’ model. The advice said:
'There is a relatively low risk to public health by those arriving by air self-isolating compared to the public health risks posed by community cases or close contacts, particularly in the Auckland region.'
On Saturday 19 February, 1901 new cases were reported in the community and only 14 new cases at the border. As one commentator said during the Delta outbreak, there was far more risk of catching Omicron at the supermarket in New Zealand than from a negative-tested returnee. That is almost certainly true now.
The costs of MIQ now vastly outweigh its benefits. MIQ has not kept Omicron out, will be unlikely to keep any future variant out, and if future variants are less virulent, then it might not even be beneficial to do so. While people entering New Zealand without MIQ would certainly seed new cases, the domestic spread of Omicron is so rapid that the difference is unlikely to be significant.
Meanwhile, the personal and commercial costs are immense, decimating whole industries, separating families, and denying business and travel opportunities to the whole country.
The humane and rational response of the Government would be to dump MIQ now, rather than phase it out over the coming eight months. It doesn’t work, ties up valuable resources, and is unimaginably cruel. People are justified in asking why we keep doing it.
Our objective must be to safely reconnect with the world, and allowing people to enter New Zealand with no greater isolation requirements than are needed for domestic cases should be done immediately.