The managed isolation and quarantine system is fully booked up for new arrivals until December 15, at which point you’d have to remain in isolation until four days after Christmas, Marc Daalder reports

Overseas New Zealanders hoping to return to the country before Christmas have lost their chance.

A new voucher scheme came into effect on Monday for the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system to help allocate the limited space to returnees. Anyone wishing to board a flight to New Zealander must prove they have a voucher allowing them to arrive in the country on a specific date.

However, all arrivals until December 15 are now fully booked.

“We currently have a short-term spike in arrival numbers from 1 – 12 November, and 23 November – 12 December. The Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS) is now fully booked during this period, which means there is no capacity for additional bookings in managed isolation facilities,” a spokesperson for the MIQ system told Newsroom.

The spokesperson said some 65,000 people have come through the MIQ system and the voucher system will help streamline current processes and avert a scenario where there are more returnees than empty rooms.

It is currently only possible to book an arrival into New Zealand for the period between December 15 and January 15. The spokesperson said dates beyond January 15 will be available but MIQ rooms can only be booked so far ahead.

“The reality is that there is a finite number of rooms available. New Zealanders can still come home but anyone wanting to come home in the lead up to Christmas holiday period needs to make their travel plans early, or they may not be able to come home on their preferred dates,” the spokesperson said.

“Because of Covid, this Christmas is very different to the last. We’re asking people to be flexible and if there are no available places in managed isolation on their preferred date, to check and see if there are any places available on another nearby date.”

Arriving on December 15 would mean someone would have to remain in quarantine until December 29 at the earliest.

Marc Daalder is a senior political reporter based in Wellington who covers climate change, health, energy and violent extremism. Twitter/Bluesky: @marcdaalder

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