‘I’d pay thousands to return’: Kiwi lawyer stuck in Britain fails trying for MIQ place

A New Zealand property lawyer living in Britain has been trying for a year to get a managed isolation place and would pay “thousands” for a prized place.

Jacynta Walsh, 31, a Waikato University law graduate living in Shropshire, sat up till the early hours of the morning this week to get into the MIQ lobby, desperate for a short visit to her family.

“I’d pay thousands to return if I could,” said the property specialist, prompted by family illness and death, wanting her mother to meet the first grandchild and many other reasons.

Because she is on maternity leave in the UK, she only wants to return here for a few months but found herself towards the back of the queue this week.

She is a solicitor and specialises in property transactions, particularly residential sales and purchases, remortgages and conveyancing.

This week, just 1190 spots allowing for 1810 people to return from 76 countries left her hopes dashed.

Nearly 11,000 people queued from all around the world online for MIQ spots but most were disappointed. None of those who got the 1250 rooms were from Australia.

The lottery was the busiest since November, as officials grappled with how to address the threat of a Covid-19 Omicron variant outbreak.

Last month, the Government agreed to a suite of precautionary measures to try to keep Omicron out for as long as possible. That meant temporary changes to the MIQ system and accelerating boosters.

“To slow the rapid spread we have seen overseas, we are pushing out the start of non-MIQ travel until the end of February. There is no doubt this is disappointing and will upset many holiday plans, but it is important to set these changes out clearly today so they can have time to consider those plans,” the Government’s Covid-19 site says.

Walsh lives is in Telford and wants to return with her 4-month-old son Axton.

She told of the heartbreak this week.

“I logged in my time at 11pm to get in before midnight. I was around the late 9000s in the queue initially and I was like ‘maybe people will give up’. But I only made it to the early 9000s.”

By then, it was just after 1am and her son would wake during the night so she gave up.

“I think the Government is trampling over people’s rights as citizens. Surely being a New Zealand citizen is like owning a house – you want to go home. This is like someone locking the door to my country. I’m not allowed to come home.”

She has a New Zealand passport and is a permanent resident in England.

“I feel angry about the Government. It’s so bad for my mum. She has had to deal with my grandfather’s death last year and she could do with family support. I would only stay for three to four months to help her and be with my family if I could.

“I have been trying since the beginning of 2021. My father in China has also been trying and for a lot longer than that. He’s suffering mental health issues there. He went there for work and he didn’t have a choice. He thought he would be able to return at least once every year. He’s in a worse situation than I am. He’s absolutely on his own.”

Walsh has never had Covid and is fully vaccinated. She has entered all the lotteries to attempt to return to New Zealand.

“The lottery system – it’s just the luck of the draw. You can’t even pay thousands of pounds to be able to be moved up. I would pay that money if I could. I would pay whatever it costs. Because the emotional fallout, you can’t put a price on that.

“I also want to come back because my sister has been diagnosed with anorexia. She lives in Auckland. I left New Zealand nine years ago, coming here in 2013. Since I’m on maternity leave now, I thought it would be a great time to return.

“It’s also my sister’s wedding which was meant to be this month but she’s moved it to April so I want to get back for that. Also, Axton is my mum’s first grandchild so I want them to meet. We were trying last year to get back due to my grandfather dying.”

Her mum Katrina lives in Auckland.

Walsh’s husband is English and couldn’t get a visa to live and work in New Zealand but she could get a British visa so it made sense for them to make the move.

The lottery attracted three times as much interest as the previous one on December 16.

After it was concluded, acting deputy secretary of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Andrew Milne acknowledged the frustration from those like Walsh who failed to get a place.

Walsh said: “People need to know people’s lives are being harmed by this now, it’s gone on too long. My mum says a lot of New Zealanders think if people chose to leave, they shouldn’t expect to be able to return.

“I would say OK, leave your house, lock up and when you come back, you can’t go in. How are you going to feel? That’s what it feels like to have your right to return to your country denied.”

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