Covid 19 coronavirus: Out of MIQ and into travel chaos

Flight cancellations and 10-hour road trips were some of the transport woes facing southern travellers returning from overseas.

Cardrona Distillery founder Desiree Whitaker has returned from a business trip to the UK, and does not know how she will get home after being released from managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) on Tuesday morning.

After being away from home for eight weeks, Whitaker said she just wanted to get home and see her children, but two flights to Christchurch had already been cancelled.

She was now booked on a flight on Wednesday but expected that if Alert Level 4 restrictions were extended, this flight would be cancelled also.

Getting to Christchurch was only part of the puzzle.

With rental cars not available under Alert Level 4 rules, the only way to get back to Wanaka would be for somebody to collect her, a five-hour journey each way.

Christchurch is the only South Island airport receiving domestic flights at present and she said there would be other people in a similar situation to her.

“This is a small group of people who have probably been overlooked or forgotten about … we need to be able to get home.”

She would like the Government to consider allowing regional flights for MIQ returnees to get closer to home for pick-up.

“With a 6-year-old and a 4-year-old, when you’ve got to drive to Christchurch to pick them up, it makes it a big day,” husband Ash Whitaker said.

The Government needed to remember people who had been through MIQ isolation and had “done everything by the book” should be looked after.

Joint head of managed isolation and quarantine Megan Main said that once a period of isolation was complete, MIQ provided transport back to the passenger’s point of disembarkation, which was usually Auckland airport.

Limited flights meant there could be a gap between a returnee’s release and a flight home.

Under Level 4, collecting somebody from the airport was considered essential travel, so a family member or friend picking up a returnee was allowed, she said.

In “exceptional cases” when returnees could not return home on the day they were released from MIQ, they would have accommodation provided for them.

This would be refined while a more sustainable medium-term option was considered.

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