A leading epidemiologist says Kiwi journalist Charlotte Bellis' battle to return to New Zealand to give birth highlights the delicate balancing act governments face in a pandemic.
Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker hailed Bellis for her "courageous" reporting in Afghanistan where she asked the Taliban in a globally broadcast press conference whether it would protect women's rights.
He also sympathised with Bellis' plight, saying he also had two sons overseas - one in Australia and one in Canada - who are unable to return home to New Zealand at the moment.
Bellis earlier wrote an open letter in the Weekend Herald saying she had been refused an emergency spot in New Zealand's managed isolation system. Read the column here.
She is currently pregnant in Afghanistan, but not married to her Belgian partner, the New York Times photographer Jim Huylebroek.
That could potentially put her at risk in the strictly religious country, while Kabul's health system is ravaged and its maternity hospital experiencing frequent power outages.
Her plight led pundits and opposition politicians to lash the MIQ system as inhumane and "unimaginably cruel".
Baker said that while emergency cases such as Bellis' needed constant reviewing, he backed the Government's decision to extend the use of MIQ until the end of February.
"Every day counts at the moment with preparation [for Omicron]," he said.
"You don't really want this Omicron circulating until you have the highest possible levels of booster shots in arms and, ideally, vaccinated children."
Most pundits expect Omicron cases to skyrocket in the coming weeks.
The Covid variant has led to record numbers of daily infections across the globe and though typically not as severe as the Delta variant has still put pressure on health systems due to the sheer volume of people being infected.
Booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine will better protect people against serious illness from Omicron and reduce the numbers of infected, thus lessening the overall disruption caused by the virus, Baker said.
He said it would be sensible for the MIQ system to then be relaxed once there are large numbers of Omicron cases in the community, probably around the end of February.
He also pointed out how New Zealand had enjoyed two summers virtually uninterupted by Covid - a situation almost unheard of elsewhere in the world.
Bellis was earlier working for Qatar media outlet Al Jazeera during the Taliban seizure of Afghanistan.
Upon returning to her base in Doha, Qatar, she discovered she was unexpectedly pregnant, despite being earlier told by doctors she would never have children.
However, it is illegal to be pregnant and unmarried in Qatar.
She initially tried to come home to New Zealand by securing a spot in MIQ through the Government's lottery system but was unsuccessful.
Then she and her partner, Huylebroek, flew to his home country of Belgium.
However, New Zealanders can only spend three of every six months in Europe's Schengen zone and Bellis had eaten through half of that by the time January came around.
"We wanted to keep time up our sleeves for an emergency, so decided to rebase," she told the Herald yesterday.
"The problem was the only other place we had visas to live was Afghanistan."
She then called her contacts in the Taliban and nervously asked if she and Huylebroek would be okay spending time in the country despite being pregnant and unmarried.
Her contact assured her she would be safe.
"When the Taliban offers you - a pregnant, unmarried woman - safe haven, you know your situation is messed up," she said yesterday.
Bellis, meanwhile, applied for an emergency spot in MIQ.
However, she was refused because she didn't plan to return to New Zealand within 14 days and because her trip wasn't to attend a "scheduled medical treatment" among other reasons.
Her emergency MIQ application has since been reopened, however, after she contacted a National MP and sought help from a friend who worked in public relations.
Bellis said reopening the case because those speaking out on her behalf had high profiles raised ethical questions.
Opposition politicians and pundits have also been quick to criticise the situation.
National's Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop, himself an expectant father - wife Jenna Raeburn is pregnant with their first child - said he had "huge sympathy" for Bellis and "all New Zealanders caught in these awful situations".
"We need a clear plan from the Government to end the lottery of human misery that is the MIQ system.
"I think most New Zealanders reading the story would say it's a no-brainer for her to be offered a [MIQ spot] ... that's precisely why the emergency [MIQ] allocation exists."
Act leader David Seymour said the situation was another example of how inhumane MIQ is.
"Normally I joke about the New Zealand Government being less humane than the Taliban, but sadly in this case it's true," he said.
Outspoken media pundit Dan Wootton called it "unimaginable cruelty".
New Zealander Wootton is a former executive editor at British paper The Sun, who broke the story that Prince Harry and Megan were moving out of the UK, and has taken frequent pot shots at the Government's managed isolation system.
"The full story is astonishing and very much worth your time," he tweeted.
"This is what New Zealand passport holders are having to endure, even though it is a legal right for us to return. Ardern's Government is clearly breaking the law."
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he asked for Bellis' situation to be reviewed on Wednesday after a "senior National MP" contacted him about it.
It "appeared at first sight to warrant further explanation", he said.
"My office passed this information on to officials to check whether the proper process was followed."