“The saga of Charlotte Bellis should be a turning point for the Government. It should end MIQ today, as there is no justification for waiting another month,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Bellis is far from the only case. The cruelty of MIQ has created many like hers. The absurdity of the Taliban being more humane than the New Zealand Government puts the policy in stark relief though.

“Bellis planned to come to New Zealand, and have her partner follow, according to a schedule of border opening set out last year. The Government announced in November that the border would open to Kiwis in Australia, Kiwis in low-risk countries, and all travellers in January, February, and April respectively.

“In December, every other party panicked and delayed the openings due to Omicron. That was the wrong response. If anything, the openings should have been brought forward.

“Omicron’s infectiousness changed the calculus of COVID in two critical ways. One, it became inevitable that it would slip through MIQ, making the system obsolete. Two, its rapid domestic spread meant that new arrivals self-isolating at home would make little difference to the number of cases in New Zealand.

“We now face the old chestnut of having COVID-positive people allowed to self-isolate, but negative tested travellers required to go through MIQ. As ACT has said throughout the pandemic, the Government’s policies should be risk-proportionate.

“ACT has been proven right. Omicron did escape MIQ and was already circulating in the community before the planned opening date of 17 January. The border opening delay was supposed to ‘keep Omicron out for as long as possible,’ that strategy has failed.

“There is now rapid growth in community cases, and precious little the Government can do about it. That it took seven days to contact trace the Prime Minister while she travelled the country kissing babies shows how futile the Government’s response now is.

“It is futile to continue with MIQ, but it is also costly. MIQ has put enormous strain onto the Defence Force, Police, and medical personnel who are required to operate it. Those people could be better deployed to achieve other goals, not least of all dealing with community cases of Omicron.

“If a policy doesn’t work it should be dumped, especially if it is costly and cruel like MIQ. Airlines already require people to be vaccinated and negative tested for international travel, so there is no need to keep MIQ for unvaccinated travellers.

“The Government was planning to allow Kiwi travellers to come from Australia and home isolate at the end of February. There is no need to delay, and there is no need to limit travel to those coming from Australia. Omicron means there are no longer ‘high-risk’ and ‘low-risk’ countries.

“The humane and rational response of the Government would be to dump MIQ now, it doesn’t work, ties up valuable resources, and is unimaginably cruel.”