Covid-19: Refusal to waive MIQ fees for financially troubled Kiwis could violate Bill of Rights Act – Ombudsman
The Ombudsman is investigating refusals to waive the isolation and quarantine fee managed for returning New Zealanders for whom the cost would cause financial hardship, saying labeling the trip as discretionary could violate the law on rights.
New Zealanders entering the country less than three months, or six months after June 1, are billed for managed isolation, but waivers may be considered for special circumstances such as a funeral or to visit dying relatives. , or if the charges would involve a person undue financial hardship.
But Ombudsman Peter Boshier had “reason to question” the general approach to waivers after several people complained, according to a letter sent to a complainant and seen by Thing . A person’s reason for travel shouldn’t be the only factor in decisions as it could be “inconsistent” with the Bill of Rights Act, he wrote.
Staff from the Ombudsman’s office discussed with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment how the law was applied. The reason for the trip must be weighed against the hardship, according to the letter. But in some cases, the ministry agreed that the fee would cause financial hardship, but declined the request because it believed the trip was discretionary.
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* By the Numbers: A Snapshot of the $ 3.7 Million Outstanding Fees for Managed Isolation and Quarantine
* Covid-19: “ Extra pressure ” in the MIQ if the travel bubble paves the way for more high-risk returnees
Managed isolation and quarantine fees were introduced in August last year. Under this program, one person in a room was charged $ 3,100, with $ 950 for each additional adult and $ 475 for each child sharing the room. A family of four would pay $ 5,000.
It comes days after Dr Michael Ryan, who heads the World Health Organization’s emergency public health program, said rich countries shouldn’t charge their citizens for hotel quarantine.
The principle underlying the International Health Regulations, adopted by member states, is that travelers should not suffer financially from restrictions used to protect the health of the population.
“Because it unfairly places the costs of a public health action on an individual,” Ryan said.
“What the committee was telling governments is that they … should cover the cost,” he said Friday at a virtual press conference from Geneva.
“It is a recommendation of the committee that all states should seriously consider the arrangements they have in place, how those arrangements are put in place, and the fairness of those arrangements to the traveler.”
About 20% of New Zealanders going through isolation and managed quarantine have to pay, said Megan Main, co-director of MIQ. The fees were introduced because “it was not viable for the government and the taxpayers to continue to fund all the costs,” she said.
As of May 9, 13,221 invoices totaling $ 60.8 million had been issued and $ 38.3 million had been paid. Another $ 16.4 million is still within the 90-day limit, leaving $ 6.1 million overdue. Of this amount, nearly $ 1 million has been overdue for more than three months and could be transferred to debt collectors.
However, the government does not monitor the number of people who have returned overseas without paying the bill, but Mr Main said that data would be available in the future. The fee system has been reviewed regularly, Main said.
The Ombudsman declined to comment.