“More than 22,000 New Zealanders in the MIQ waiting room within hours of it opening have shown why locking down and locking out is unsustainable,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The demand for MIQ is now clear for the first time. Twenty two thousand is 110 times more than daily capacity and it would take months to clear the backlog.

“The Government needs to be more innovative and flexible to clear the MIQ backlog. Why can’t double vaccinated people from low-risk countries self-isolate?

“MBIE did a desktop analysis which showed there were 37 hotels that were suitable for MIQ capacity that aren’t currently being used. Why not?

“With every passing day, New Zealand’s isolation is turning from its great strength to its greatest weakness. As the rest of the world moves on from COVID, we must be prepared to move with them.

“Under ACT’s plan, owners of currently mothballed hotels could seek a licence to operate MIQ according to strict criteria. These criteria would make for safer MIQ than the standards met by the Government. The criteria are:

• Only those with a negative pre-departure test would be eligible
• Only vaccinated travellers could use this MIQ
• Only vaccinated people could be on site, regardless of their employment status
• All people on site would have to be saliva tested every second day
• Providers must be licensed and could lose their licence for breaching these conditions.

“These criteria are much stricter than the Government’s MIQ scheme which takes unvaccinated travellers and tests them only three times in 14 days, and still can’t guarantee that all workers on site are vaccinated or tested.

“The simple question for the Government is: do they want to safely reconnect with the world, or keep us in crisis mode forever?

“This simple and safe model will allow businesses to get back to hiring the people they need to compete and grow. It will mend the heartache of separated families. It is objectively safer than what the Government is doing now. What objection does the Government have that justifies separated families and stalling businesses?”