A man in managed isolation faces a 30-day stay because he could not be isolated from his Covid-positive partner.
Facing the prospect of a month-long stay as a close contact, he says it's also been suggested he catch Covid-19 from his partner - in order to be released earlier.
Ry Cleary and his girlfriend arrived in New Zealand and began their period of isolation in Rotorua in MIQ on January 7. Cleary's partner tested positive last week, on day 5, but Cleary continues to test negative.
Although initially advised they would have an option to split into different rooms, upon arriving to the quarantine facility in Auckland, Cleary said they have been forced to share a room.
They were doing their best to keep their distance from one another and follow Ministry of Health advice.
"I've got a Ministry of Health article right in front of me and it says plain as day 'do not share a bed, stay away from each other', but when you're in a room with one bed it's not really possible.
"We're wearing masks but I don't know what else I can really do. It's not a tiny room, but you sleep in the same place and you touch the same things.
"I appreciate rooms are tight and it's a logistical difficulty but they need to provide you a safe space first."
As a positive case, Cleary's girlfriend would need to isolate for an extra 14 days.
Cleary would also need to stay an additional 14 days, but if he continued to test negative he would need to stay an extra ten days beyond this point as a close contact, bringing his total MIQ stint to 30 days.
He believed his stay could even be more than 40 days in a worst-case scenario, if he tested positive on day 28.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson said returnees who tested positive would have their isolation clocks "re-set" for 10 days if fully vaccinated and infected with the Delta variant and 14 days if unvaccinated with the Delta variant.
They would have to stay an additional 14 days if infected with Omicron, irrespective of their vaccination status.
Anyone in the case's bubble is considered a "bubble close contact" and must have their isolation period reset for 10 days since their last exposure to the case.
Decisions on whether to split bubbles are made on a case-by-case basis, said the spokesperson.
"If the bubble close contact(s) remain in the same room as the case, their isolation period will reset from the day the case is deemed recovered.
"It is in these scenarios that some 'bubble close contacts' may have lengthy stays in a MIQF."
They said 20 days is the maximum length of time a person could be kept in managed isolation under the Isolation and Quarantine Order 2020.
"However, Medical Officers of Health retain the ability to require returnees to remain in a MIQF for a further period of time under Section 70 of the Health Act if deemed clinically necessary from a public health perspective."
The ministry acknowledged the inconvenience of extended stays in managed isolation but said it was important every precaution was taken to minimise the spread of Covid, especially the Omicron variant.
Cleary said MIQ officials had also given him the impression his stay would be shorter if he caught Covid.
"I was speaking to staff and was asking 'do you suggest I catch Covid?' and they said 'yeah, if you catch Covid you're out of here sooner'.
"Multiple people from MIQ, the wellbeing team, the nurse team, the facility team, they all said the same thing.
"I'm low risk, thankfully, but it's a disease that still kills people realistically. You can't tell someone they should catch Covid, if you're a nurse or a healthcare professional."
Ry made a formal complaint to MIQ about the length of his stay, the fact they were not given the option to isolate from one another, and the suggestions made that he should catch Covid.
A response from the MIQ resolutions team apologised for comments made by staff members.
It also said facilities did not have the space to isolate positive cases from their bubble contacts.
"With the increasing number of positive Covid-19 cases at the border, we do not have the capacity to provide separate rooms for people from the same bubble," read the response.
Cleary stressed that they were both happy to do their bit in protecting New Zealand from Covid, but he expected to be isolated from a positive Covid case.
"I want to stress we're more than happy to do quarantine – we don't want to give anyone Covid.
"It's very stressful on the mental health and it's unsafe physically. They are required to provide you a safe environment, and the crux of it is, they're not."