An Australian father who spent 10 days in MIQ while his son was fighting for his life in intensive care has praised New Zealand's ongoing border control.
Newcastle Professor Kypros Kypri, with his wife and daughter, rushed across the ditch just before New Year, upon learning his son had been diagnosed with a life-threatening autoimmune condition and was in ICU.
As the father and spouse of a New Zealander, Kypri was able to fly to New Zealand on December 30 under an emergency MIQ allocation.
They were released on Sunday evening, when they flew to Christchurch and drove to Dunedin Hospital to be with their 19-year-old son.
Although he describes it as "agony" for the family to wait without any certainty their son would survive, Kypri defends New Zealand's continued use of MIQ - even when they were not granted an exemption to leave early.
As a public health scientist who has been involved in Australia's pandemic response, Kypri said MIQ was in place to protect people like his son.
"I think that was justified, on balance, and it's very hard to say that," he said.
"We wanted nothing more than to be with our son over the past two weeks – it's been agony not to be with him."
"But the threat is quite high in New Zealand.
"And the perverse irony of all this is that if he had been in New South Wales and in hospital, we wouldn't be able to see him, because of Covid.
"So we're better off that he's here in New Zealand where there's not Covid - at least not in the South Island."
Kypri's son has been diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), with an incidence of one case per million per year.
His son's immune functions were "flattened" by the medication he was on, so he was highly susceptible to infection.
The Omicron variant is rampant in the Australian state of New South Wales, with 25,000 new cases reported today – although with no requirement to track positive RAT tests, it is expected the number is much higher.
A record 2186 people are now hospitalised with the virus in NSW, and the strain of the outbreak on the hospital system is disrupting planned treatment, making it more difficult for people to access health care in an emergency.
"My son was in intensive care for over a week, and that's a lot of staff involved in running a bed in an ICU," Kypri said.
"If those staff can't come to work because they're infected, the accountability gets reduced and that's what's happening in New South Wales and other states."
Kypri said they had been impressed by the way they were dealt with by New Zealand border authorities.
"All the people we encountered from the point which we got on the plane to going through the various processes at the airport, was done very efficiently but also with kindness – firmness as necessary, but kind. And likewise in the hotel.
"It would take a lot of planning and thinking for infection control – it's such a tough virus to manage. I was constantly looking at it from that perspective and trying to understand why they were doing things."
Kypri said New Zealand and Australia were given similar advice on how to best protect their populations from Covid, and he supported the way New Zealand continued to manage its pandemic response.
"In New South Wales, the authorities are ignoring or just not following that advice – it's a disaster," he said.
"This is a really tough thing to say for people trying to come back, but unfortunately [MIQ] is better than the alternative."
"The difference between governing well and governing badly is what we're seeing right now between the two countries."