A Kiwi woman with flights booked for later this month says she feels abandoned by the country she calls home because she can’t book a voucher for managed isolation.
Already in debt and taking out loans to survive, Holly Dale Tasker is facing a winter unemployed in France if she can’t secure a voucher, which would force her to stay put.
The 33-year-old booked a flight from Paris in September for November 28, well before the Government introduced the Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS) in early October.
However, since the Government introduced the system Tasker has been glued to her computer trying to snatch up a free spot.
“I’ve been checking it every day since about October 2,” Tasker says. “For the last few days now I’ve been refreshing the page every three minutes.”
She set an alarm to go on to the website when it first went live, however, the site crashed not long after it went online.
Tasker’s sister tries her luck during the day in New Zealand when Tasker is asleep.
A spot will show up every now and then periodically but it either disappears instantly or whenever she clicks on it, the site fails to load, Tasker says.
The make-up artist has been in France since 2018 but lost her job in March when the European country went into its first lockdown.
Tasker had been teaching English as a backup but the country has gone into a second lockdown, meaning all the work has dried up.
She says her flights cost €3000 ($5135) and she is already in debt and is facing a winter with no money
“I can’t afford to rebook a flight for next year,” Tasker says. “I feel less like a Kiwi, I feel like the door has closed on my face.
“I never in my life thought I would be punished for leaving [New Zealand].
“When you’re abroad, in the back of your head you can always go home. I grew up there, my whole family lives there; New Zealand is home and I want to go back.”
Tasker can’t understand how someone with pre-booked flights before the voucher system went live isn’t prioritised before someone else.
She can understand why people like the Russian mariners and other foreign workers are brought into the country but says she is happy to do anything after she lost her job.
The Government had handled the Covid-19 situation well and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had been amazing but they have really dropped the ball on this occasion, Tasker says.
“I was boasting about how well New Zealand had handled it, everyone was jealous I was going back to a place I didn’t need to wear a mask.
“Now I’m like, what happened? How is it this badly organised? I just don’t understand. I keep reading about all these New Zealand citizens stuck like me.
“I took [working abroad] for granted, how well everything was going and then Covid-19 hit and it’s just chaos. I really don’t know what to do.”
A Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman said the Government would not refund flights where people missed out on vouchers for their travel dates.
Due to Covid-19, flight data could be very changeable, and most airfares were flexible, she said.
Airlines advised them of confirmed flight schedules, which they then loaded into the managed isolation allocation system.
“This will impact on people booking when they are unable to find their flight details in the managed isolation allocation system, because the flight has not been registered or the time has been altered.
“We have been encouraging people to contact their airline to confirm their flights in these situations. We communicated this on the MIAS website in October.”
There are 32 managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities across the country, with capacity for 6261 people at a time.
From October 5 to November 10, 38,483 passengers had used the voucher system.
Initially vouchers could only be booked two months in advance, but MBIE has been adding spaces further ahead as it confirmed airline schedules.
Spaces are currently available between December 22 and February 28, and more can become available on other dates if people change their travel plans and cancel their voucher.
There was no queue if people missed their preferred date, and they needed to continually check to see if any spaces were available, the spokeswoman said.
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