The pandemic has wrought many, many hardships, even as New Zealand has done comparatively well in maintaining low case numbers.
Some of the ordeals for those locked out of their right to return to Aotearoa have been heartrending to read.
Such forced estrangements are cruel. The case of nurse Rajdeep Kaur, who was parted from her young son for two years is truly moving. A three-month separation to let a family get established in Christchurch turned into 24 months of anguish, raised and dashed hopes, and ultimately a reunion of happy tears.
There are countless accounts in a similar vein, although not all with such an uplifting outcome. This newspaper has been contacted over and again by the desperate and disconsolate, many who have not wanted their stories made public but simply want someone, anyone, to hear them.
This week it was revealed that an IT glitch had compounded some people's despair. As of last month, Resident 2021 Visa holders and families of essential workers have needed to prove they have a visa before their MIQ booking can be completed.
Effectively, these people completed every step of the process for their arrival only to have the final verification denied due to the system being unable to confirm applicants were authorised to return.
An estimated 187 people are believed to have had their hopes dashed by the glitch. These are the latest, but almost certainly not the last, to be held up by the inhumane balancing act a country must negotiate during a pandemic.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Ensuring MIQ rooms are released only to people who have verified they can return prevents these precious facilities from being wasted.
The lottery style of taking caches of cases into cyber rooms to be selected at random has been criticised for lacking fairness and failing to take into account the extenuating circumstances of some needier cases.
There are almost a dozen "critical purpose" criteria for people to enter New Zealand. For those who fall outside these criteria, it would be time-heavy and likely pointless to try to evaluate and prioritise. To do so might also open up avenues for appeal and further slow what is already an encumbered system.
There have been numerous calls, notably from the Opposition and from organised lobby groups of ex-pats, to relax restrictions on returnees. But to allow less fettered access could undo all the hard work done to keep cases at manageable levels for our health system.
We are duty bound to carry on cautiously within our means, even though this is little comfort to those left out. In this invidious position, it is essential we retain our compassion. Yes, people were warned of the possible consequences of being away from New Zealand but life is not so cut-and-dried.
Our own people have felt hard done-by and are victims of our success as a destination much desired to shelter from the Covid storm.
We sincerely wish for your safe return and look forward to opening our arms again with a hearty: "Haere mai, Kiwi."