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Pause on room releases to end as MIQ rolls out virtual lobby

The pause on the release of managed isolation vouchers will end on 20 September as MIQ rolls out a virtual lobby for the next release of MIQ vouchers.

The release of approximately 3,000 rooms across September – December will take place at 9am NZT on Monday 20 September, in the Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS).

Joint Head of MIQ, Megan Main, says the lobby system is being tried out to make booking more transparent and will create a more level playing field for people trying to access the booking site

“MIQ’s primary job is to keep New Zealand safe during the pandemic. We have done this while enabling more than 170,000 people to enter New Zealand,” she said.

“We operate in a very complex environment and Delta changes everything. We need to balance a lot of competing demands – such as reducing the risk of COVID entering the community, allowing New Zealanders to travel home, and supporting our economy.

“We know that the current environment is difficult, where demand for MIQ rooms is significantly greater than the number of rooms available. I know people spend many hours in front of their computers constantly refreshing in the hopes of securing a voucher. I know this lack of certainty has been really challenging for people. The lobby means we can let people know in advance when room releases are happening.

“The way it works is that people can enter the lobby one hour prior to the room release – so from 8am NZT on 20 September. This is not a first-in, first-served model. It doesn’t matter when people arrive in the lobby in that 1 hour period, everyone has an equal chance of getting through to try to secure a room. Once the room release starts, all of the people in the lobby will be automatically moved into a queue – this will be randomised, removing the need to be the fastest.

“There is no limit on how many people can wait in the lobby and there is no need to keep refreshing the website anymore. People will be able to see their place in the queue. To enter the lobby, people will need to enter a passport number – this must match a passport number of someone who is travelling, which is entered in the Managed Isolation Allocation System website (it must be the same passport number which will be on the MIQ voucher).

“It’s important that people know their preferred flight route and select the correct date for arrival. We don’t want people to just grab any date. Flights from most locations around the world only arrive on particular days so people need to make sure they’re booking an MIQ date that aligns with the arrival date of a flight from their location. People need to look at the flight checker on the website before the lobby opens, and select the appropriate date for arrival.

“For people wanting to travel from Australia, this voucher release will not include flights from Australia, which means you cannot participate this time. However, we’re planning another voucher release in September. We’ll be able to confirm that when a decision is made on the Trans-Tasman Bubble – which the Government expects to be in a position to announce next week.

“Although this new feature should improve user experience, it is not a silver bullet - it will not fix the issue of supply and demand. Unfortunately, in periods of high demand, a lot of people will miss out on securing a room.

“There will still only be a limited number of rooms available during the room release, which means that given the current demand for rooms there will still be people who miss out this time.

“There is not an unlimited number of MIQ rooms, and there’s a good reason for that –we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and we need to keep New Zealand safe. We understand people want to enter MIQ on a date of their choosing, but we have to ensure arrivals in New Zealand occur in a safe, managed way.

“Once all rooms have been taken, the lobby will be closed and anyone in the queue will be informed that they have unfortunately missed out this time. But there will be more rooms coming, there’s still several thousand rooms to be released through to the end of the year. We will continue to announce room releases in advance (at least 24-48 hours before the release) so people will know when to come back.

The lobby will also be used for re-released rooms, as people’s plans change and bookings are cancelled. Previously, these rooms were automatically re-released back into the system for people to book, however MIQ will now hold these and then release them in scheduled releases, with the lobby in place.

“For people overseas who need to travel urgently, they can still apply for an emergency allocation of a voucher. We’ve recently widened the criteria to include people who need to travel home or overseas for time-critical medical treatment and people needing to travel or return to New Zealand due to bereavements of a close family member.

“We’ve increased the eligibility criteria for emergency allocations on at least 3 occasions since the pandemic began. We are increasing the transparency of our room availability by updating our Daily Snapshot and publishing group information”, she said.

“We are constantly looking for ways to improve our systems and processes. Since we implemented the Managed Isolation Allocation System we’ve made about 200 improvements to it.

MIQ will closely monitor how well the lobby system works and whether any further changes are needed.

People are advised to check the MIQ website for instructions about the room release.

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