PM defends stretched managed isolation voucher system

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is defending the "stretched" managed isolation voucher system and has asked people no longer planning to return home to give up their vouchers to other travellers.

Ardern said today there have been stories of people not being able to secure a managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility booking before Christmas.

She said it was "completely understandable " that Kiwis want to come home for Christmas, but the Government cannot just turn on new spaces and the MIQ system was already stretched.

Ardern asked that anyone with a MIQ voucher who would not be using it over Christmas to let officials know so that space can be freed up.

She encouraged people overseas who might have missed out to keep checking. "This is a large undertaking."

Once New Zealand was through the busy spell, supply and demand would be more evenly matched.

Ardern said there was not "limitless capacity" in New Zealand. It required police and Defence Force personnel - there are 4000 people working across the system.

"This is a finely balanced system," she said, warning against stretching resources.

That would bring more risk, she said.

New Zealand was well placed compared to other countries, she said.

"New Zealand is a great place to be right now".

Ardern said there was a range of airlines that Kiwis were using to get home and more work was being done to link up officials with these.

Another 100 rooms a day are being made available in managed isolation facilities between December 13 and 23, Managed Isolation and Quarantine head Air Commodore Darryn Webb said late this afternoon.

The vouchers would be released daily into the booking system, on a first in first served basis, and were available now. Webb said the rooms had been set aside to guard against a spike in demand.

Meanwhile, Ardern said talks were progressing on a travel bubble with the Cook Islands, with New Zealand officials to visit the area on November 14.

However, there was no timeframe for an announcement. Officials would need to report back to Cabinet before things got under way and anything that was done would be done so with the safety of New Zealanders in mind, she said.

PM on US election result

On President Donald Trump's reluctance to concede victory to Joe Biden, Ardern said today it was important to respect the democratic institutions of the United States and it was for the people in the race to choose when they conceded.

However, she pointed out that she congratulated Biden and his deputy Kamala Harris on Saturday, as well as acknowledging Trump.

"New Zealand has enjoyed positive and co-operative relations with the United States over the period of the Trump Administration, especially in the Indo-Pacific and Pacific Island regions."

If Biden was to restore America's membership of the Paris Climate agreement, this would be good for international common ground.

Govt help for small businesses

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says 100,000 business have taken up a loan subsidy so far - the average is $17,000 per business.

The Government has made changes to this scheme, he told reporters today.

He said it will support small businesses with access to finance.

The updated scheme has been extended for three years - it was due to expire at the end of this year.

The interest-free period has also been extended, from one year to two years interest-free.

And the Government has broadened what the loan money can be spent on.

Four new cases

There are four new cases of Covid-19 to report today, all imported cases in managed isolation facilities and no more community cases.

A person who was a casual contact of a positive case on a flight from Auckland to Wellington had started feeling unwell and was awaiting tests results. It was reported late this afternoon the person had tested negative.

Ardern said it "should be a given" that quarantine facility workers were wearing a mask while using transport.

These workers' roles was a "thankless task" and she didn't want to be seen to be criticising them.

She said she still wore a mask on planes at alert level 1, and she encouraged other people to do so as well.

There was no order in place, but she was continuing to encourage their use.




More promises, no action from our vapid PM.

Wow! such deep analysis.
Your meaningful insight is absolutely rejected by the majority of NZers who according to all commentators, including the National Party, voted in the recent general election to demonstrate their absolute and overwhelming support for the Covid 19 strategy adopted by the current government.

Don't blame this situation on the NZ Government. The cause for this situation is the criminally incompetent response to Covid 19 by the UK, the USA, the EU, India, Brazil and Russia.
Had these countries conducted themselves in the way the NZ Government did, then the borders would be open and the whole Covid thing would be history.
The most important lesson we can take from looking at this pandemic globally, is the right wing governments are incompetent in a crisis.
Those people missing out on flights home could have returned earlier, when there was space, but because they are so entitled they think that they can live in a Covid petri dish like the UK, and then risk everybody else's health by jumping on a plane home whenever the whim takes them.

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