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Covid-19: Kiwis in UK disappointed as Omicron casts doubt on border reopening

Kiwis living in the United Kingdom are feeling nervous and disappointed after news the date for the New Zealand border reopening could be in jeopardy.

The Government had signalled in November those returning from countries other than Australia would be allowed to skip managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) and only have to self-isolate for seven days from February 14.

Minister Chris Hipkins had told travellers the date was “locked in”.

But on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated due to the recent spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the Government would be seeking health advice on whether the re-opening of the border would go ahead.

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The uncertainty has caused anxiety among Kiwis living in London. Many are desperate to return home but are prevented by the MIQ booking system, which offers a slim possibility of securing a spot in the lottery of thousands wanting to return.

Rose Leathem is living in the United Kingdom, but her work visa will expire in late February. She's anxious a change in border reopening dates will leave her stuck in the country without a job or income.

Rose Leathem/Supplied

Rose Leathem is living in the United Kingdom, but her work visa will expire in late February. She’s anxious a change in border reopening dates will leave her stuck in the country without a job or income.

Rose Leathem has lived in the UK for three years. Her visa expires at the end of February.

The border uncertainty is leaving her anxious she’ll be without a job and income before she’s able to escape the country.

“It’s been a thought in the back of my mind for a bit, it’s a much bigger stress now we know the Government is questioning the decision,” she said.

Clint Heine, the director of Kiwis in London, said the uncertainty was disappointing “on so many levels”.

Leon Neal/Getty Images

Clint Heine, the director of Kiwis in London, said the uncertainty was disappointing “on so many levels”.

“Once the visa goes, all the work obviously goes with it. I have no options but to go through the [MIQ] lottery with everybody else, regardless whether you could get left with no job, no income, or nowhere to stay.”

Another Kiwi, Michael Vickers, has been trying to book an MIQ spot for months to see his dying grandmother.

With no luck so far, he faces the prospect of never being able to say farewell in person.

“Most people are trying to get back for casual events. For me personally it’s another month I have to trust my grandmother might live,” Vickers said.

“It’s living with the fact I can’t afford to see her again.”

Kiwis in London director Clint Heine said the uncertainty was disappointing “on so many levels”. Many people had booked flights and given notice at their workplaces in anticipation of the Government’s signposted dates, he said.

“We’re trapped here, the dates sounded very concrete – so for it to be potentially pulled away before Christmas is tough for people.

“Despite what some Kiwis think, not every migrant is ‘living the life’ offshore. A lot of people will be in serious issues if this keeps jumping up and down.”

Ardern said on Monday travellers would have to wait until early January before a decision was made on whether the “locked in” dates remained in place.

“I won’t pre-empt the outcome of that check-in now, but it makes sense to ensure we assess the next move against all the latest information and advice we have, including the relative effectiveness of the vaccine against the Omicron variant,” she said.



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