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Managed isolation shake-up, voucher system proposed to ease burden of Covid-19 quarantine

A shake-up to the managed isolation system and bringing in a voucher programme could help ease the burden of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Government, a think tank proposes.

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Report author Dr Eric Crampton says the country needs to "scale up" the systems at the border. Source: Breakfast

The New Zealand Initiative, a pro-free market think tank, has published a 21-page report looking at ways the country could scale up activity at the border.

It comes as the Government works on a way to charge some returning travellers for their managed isolation costs, as the pandemic continues to rage around the world.

Currently, only New Zealand citizens or permanent residents are allowed in the country, unless they can get a special exemption from the Immigration Minister.

Under the NZI's proposal, that could change.

"We need to be able to scale up systems at the border," report author Dr Eric Crampton told TVNZ1's Breakfast today.

"In the case that we're making, it would no longer be up for the [Immigration] Minister to decide whose case is most important."

Currently, all arrivals are slotted into managed isolation facilities contracted by the Government, and it's all arranged by the Government.

Dr Crampton says it's "a bit of a shambles" and suggests flipping the system.

Instead, anyone entering the country would need to be booked in at a managed isolation facility before they board their flight.

By doing that, more hotels could be willing to become managed isolation facilities, Dr Crampton says.

Managed isolation facilities weren't brought into force until after the border restrictions, after reports of arrivals not isolating under their own volition as required.

When it comes to charging new arrivals, as is being mulled over by the Government and proposed by the National Party at the moment, Dr Crampton has an alternative idea.

"Instead of charging a fee to those people that the Government thinks should be charged, they could provide a voucher for the value of a stay at a basic facility to returning citizens and residents that the Government thinks should be eligible for some support," he says.

"I think everybody basically agrees that Kiwis who are stuck abroad through no fault of their own in March, when everything turned to fire, they should get some assistance to coming back.

"They shouldn't be bearing those costs. I think a lot of people agree that if I decided to go on an overseas holiday now, the taxpayer shouldn't be covering the cost of my return."

Around a million New Zealanders currently live overseas, many in countries currently being ravaged by Covid-19 like Brazil, UK and the US.

There are now 15.3 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 around the world.