Citizens of New Zealand who were stranded overseas during the pandemic have won a high court victory over border restrictions that left many of them unable to return home during the coronavirus pandemic.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 policies kept both Covid cases and deaths relatively low compared to many other countries, however the New Zealand High Court ruled that the system used to allocate places in border quarantine facilities infringed on the rights of some citizens to return home.
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Citizens looking to return had to either make emergency requests to the government or secure a spot in state quarantine facilities, called MIQ. Due to demand outstripping hotel rooms, a lottery system was introduced.
This system left tens of thousands of expatriate New Zealanders cut off from families back home. Critics called the system unfair, something that the judgement released Wednesday by High Court Justice Jillian Mallon agreed with.
Mallon said restrictions preventing a person from being able to enter their country for three months couldn’t be justified and evidence indicates at least some New Zealanders experienced unreasonable delays.
“The combination of the virtual lobby and the narrow emergency criteria operated in a way that meant New Zealanders’ right to enter their country could be infringed in some instances,” said Mallon.
Mallon did find that requiring returning New Zealanders to quarantine was not in itself an unjustified infringement, she said in defence of the government.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the government welcomed the determination that requiring returnees to quarantine was lawful and acknowledged the court found the quarantine allocation system may have infringed on some New Zealanders rights. “We are carefully considering the court’s decision,” he said.
New Zealanders and Australians read more can now enter without quarantine and those from visa waiver countries such as the United States and Singapore will be able to enter from 11.59 pm on May 1st.