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'Virtual queue' for MIQ room bookings coming, Hipkins says

A new “virtual queue” and lottery system for MIQ bookings is on the way, the Covid-19 Response Minister says. 

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The Covid-19 Response Minister says a new lottery system will even the playing field. Source: 1 NEWS

It follows months of challenges for Kiwis overseas wanting to return home. 

Securing a voucher under the existing system requires someone to either constantly refresh the MIQ booking website, pay someone to book a room for them, use a tool to automate the booking process, or rely on luck. When vouchers for November were released, they were all snapped up within 90 minutes. 

On Wednesday, Chris Hipkins signalled there would be changes when the current pause amid the Delta outbreak lifts and the next tranche of vouchers are released. 

He said the Government is introducing a virtual lobby system. 

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“The lobby is a virtual queue that will mean people can be selected from the queue randomly.” 

Those who miss out would then be informed. It also meant people no longer needed to rely on being the fastest to click buttons, Hipkins said. 

He said the Government would also “foreshadow” whenever it would release a large number of vouchers. 

MIQ booking system. Source: 1 NEWS

“It will not fix the overall issue of supply and demand, we still have more demand than we have supply available … but this change will make bookings more transparent,” he said. 

“It will create a more level playing field.”

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When asked about whether Kiwis should consider coming home in the summer holidays, Hipkins said: "Now is not a good time to come home for a holiday."

ACT Party leader David Seymour said the announcement was a sign "the Government, as with testing, as with contact tracing in particular, was not prepared for the mathematics of Delta". 

He said the fact that the Government had to pause MIQ bookings as it dealt with the Delta outbreak showed it hadn't done the scenario planning or stress testing recommended in the Simpson-Roche report.

The Government should have taken ACT's suggestion that they use private facilities for MIQ, he said.

Seymour also pushed back on Hipkins' comments about Kiwis coming home for a holiday, saying it neglected the reality many were facing overseas, and the essential workforce that needed to be brought into the country. 

MIQ spots allocated for emergency reasons have not been affected by the current pause.