Bill passes for managed isolation charges

 Bill passes for managed isolation charges

The Bill allowing the Government to recover some costs for managed isolation and quarantine passed its third reading today, with charges coming into force as soon as regulations are finalised. Putting regulations into force is the next step.

“The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill and its supporting regulations will introduce a new charging system for managed isolation to balance the rights of New Zealanders to return home and help reduce pressure on the system. We want to share the costs in a way that fairly reflects the benefits to the New Zealand public of having such a robust managed isolation and quarantine system, and recovers some of the costs from those who choose to leave and enter the country on holidays or business trips,” Megan Woods said.

“Anyone who needs to come home but cannot afford the charges will still be able to come home. Exemptions and waivers from charges will be possible on a case-by-case basis for undue financial hardship and in special circumstances (such as compassionate grounds).

“New Zealand citizens and residents currently overseas will not be liable for charges if they are returning home permanently. Temporary visa holders who were ordinarily resident in New Zealand before our border was closed on 19 March, will not be liable for a charge on their return if they were out of the country on 19 March (unless they are a critical worker).

“New Zealanders who come home temporarily (for less than 90 days) and those who go overseas after regulations come into force and return at a later date, will be charged for managed isolation and quarantine, unless they are exempt or are granted a waiver from payment.

“The proposed charges will be for less than half of the average total costs for managed isolation and quarantine. For a single person in a room, the proposed charge is $3,100. Additional adults or children sharing that room will be charged $950 and $475 respectively. These charges include GST.

“This charging system makes an important contribution to our public health response to COVID-19. It has been over 90 days since there was a case of community transmission in New Zealand. We are continuing to detect cases at our border. An integral part of our public health response is the requirement that people arriving in the country go into managed isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days.

“The Crown has been meeting all of the costs of managed isolation and quarantine so far. It is only fair to recover some of the costs from people who choose to enter or re-enter the country for short visits. Although we continue to investigate more options for accommodating people, capacity in the facilities is currently limited and it’s important that we use options available, to manage the flow of people into facilities,” Megan Woods said.

The Minister will submit regulations to Executive Council for approval on Monday, 10 August 2020.

It is forecast that more people will be travelling and arriving at the border. The Government has set aside a total of $499 million to pay for the costs of Managed Isolation facilities until the end of the year.

You can find out more information by visiting the COVID website.

Media contact: Liz Banas 021 805 845

Notes to the Editor

People in managed isolation and quarantine

Since March, more than 30,000 people completed their stay at a managed isolation facility or quarantine and have returned to their loved ones and friends.

The Government has covered the costs of accommodation, food, basic laundry and airport transfers with total funding of $499 million (including $20 million in operational funding for MBIE) until the end of year. However current forecasts indicate more money will be required by October.

There are 31 managed isolation facilities currently operating around the country.

Who is proposed to be charged?

·       Any New Zealander who is currently overseas and enters New Zealand after the regulations come into force for less than 90 days will be liable for charges, unless they are exempt or qualify for a waiver.

·       Any New Zealander who leaves New Zealand after the regulations come into force (eg for a holiday or business) will be liable for charges when they return, unless they are exempt or qualify for a waiver.

·       Everyone entering New Zealand on a border exception as a critical worker will have to pay. In many cases, their employers will pay their managed isolation and quarantine costs.

·       Other temporary visa holders are liable for the charges, unless they were ordinarily resident in New Zealand at the time the border closed and departed New Zealand on or before 19 March 2020.

When will charging start?

·       Charging will start soon after the regulations come into force, expected to be mid-August. This will happen after the Bill is given Royal Assent.

·       We will publicise the start date as soon as it is confirmed.

Who will be exempt from charges?

  • The Minister intends for the following exemptions to be in regulations:
    • Partners, dependent children and legal guardians who are isolating or travelling with someone who is exempt from paying charges (unless they are entering under a critical worker border exception)
    • Someone in New Zealand who goes into managed isolation to care for a person who is exempt from charges
    • Anyone travelling to New Zealand to attend the sentencing of the person convicted of the Christchurch mosque attacks
    • Refugees, including claimants, protected persons and applicants under the special immigration category for victims of domestic violence, when they enter New Zealand for the first time
    • Anyone entering New Zealand after a medical air transfer or rescue at sea
    • Patients travelling as part of the Ministry of Health’s High Cost Treatment Pool or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s New Zealand Medical Treatment Scheme
    • New Zealand citizens ordinarily resident in the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau who are travelling to New Zealand for medical treatment
    • New Zealand citizens ordinarily resident in the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau, travelling from a third country through New Zealand (staying less than 90 days) in order to return to the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau (staying at least 90 days)
    • People being deported to New Zealand, defined as “returning offenders” (in the Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act 2015 and any New Zealand citizen deported from Australia.
  • The COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill also provides exemptions for diplomats and consular staff, including their families, and official government representatives.

Proposed waivers for charges

·       Waiver applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

·       It is proposed that waivers will be available in cases of undue financial hardship and other special circumstances. These special circumstances could include:

o   A New Zealander entering managed isolation because they left New Zealand to accompany a vulnerable or disabled person back to New Zealand

o   Someone needing to travel to or from New Zealand to receive medical treatment.

o   Other compassionate grounds, including when a person has travelled to visit a seriously ill or dying close relative or attend a funeral or tangihanga (whether in New Zealand or overseas).

·       People can apply for waivers once the regulations are in force. Information about the process will be available on at that time.

How and when to pay

·       Returnees who need to pay will get an invoice at the end of their stay in managed isolation and will generally have 90 days to pay.

·       Information about how to pay the fee will be provided on the invoice.

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