A Ministry of Health review of previously turned down requests to leave compulsory isolation early on compassionate grounds has come too late for one applicant, after their relative died before authorities could take a second look at the decision.

Under measures to stop the spread of Covid-19, all citizens and residents entering New Zealand - our borders are closed to foreigners - must spend 14 days in Government-controlled isolation.

But some of those arriving applied to the ministry to leave early on compassionate grounds, including to be with dying relatives.

The ministry came under fire this week after it was revealed all 32 applications for exemption from managed isolation on compassionate grounds had been rejected.


Among those turned down was Oliver Christiansen, who successfully challenged the decision in the High Court. He was able to spend 36 hours with his dying father, Anthony Christiansen, after Justice Tracey Walker said the ministry got it wrong.

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Justice Walker's decision sparked widespread condemnation of the ministry's decision-making and the ministry started a review of decisions.

On Friday night, the ministry announced the results of the review. Five rejected applications had been overturned and 14 remained unchanged.

Another two applicants had already finished managed isolation when the review began, while one person had withdrawn their application, the ministry said.

A ministry spokeswoman confirmed one application had been withdrawn because the applicant's relative had died. Details on the case are not known.

The Herald reported this week on Los Angeles-based Kiwi Rachel Henderson, who was urgently seeking an exemption from mandatory isolation to be with her gravely ill father.

Henderson told the Herald on Saturday that her father, Colin, had since died in Christchurch Hospital.

She had not withdrawn her application and still intended to fly to New Zealand to make arrangements for her father, she said.


The ministry spokeswoman also confirmed further details around the five applications which were now approved under the review.

"Three of the applicants were seeking isolation exemptions to attend funerals. Two applicants were seeking an exemption to visit a dying relative.

"The relatives remained alive at the time the exemption was granted."

The ministry were still waiting for further information from 10 people in support of their applications, five of whom are still overseas and yet to travel to New Zealand, the ministry said last night.

Applications were all reviewed by a separate team based in the National Crisis Management Centre, the ministry said.

"We undertook this review following the High Court case last week that overturned one such decision to ensure that the appropriate process had been followed for other similar applications for exemption.

"In parallel, the Ministry of Health updated the exemptions application process and criteria to ensure these are explicit and take into account the findings of the High Court judgement."

They continued to receive a large number of new applications for exemptions and all would be processed according to the new criteria.

"Protecting the border from Covid-19 remains a top priority as part of New Zealand's overall elimination strategy and we will continue to look very carefully at any request for an exemption from managed isolation."

Some of those told they can't leave managed isolation early have shared their stories with media, including mining contractor Bernie Ryan.

Ryan told RNZ on Friday that he left Australia on Sunday after the condition of his wife Christine Taylor, who has terminal lung cancer, worsened and she'd been given hours to live.

Ryan is under managed isolation at a hotel in Auckland, and said despite showing no illness symptoms and a letter of support from his GP, the Ministry of Health had repeatedly refused his request for exemption.

"When I departed [for Australia] to go to work, my wife was unwell but she was making progress ... but things turned for the worst."

His three "distraught" children were yesterday with Taylor in Christchurch but wanted their dad, Ryan told RNZ.

The Ministry of Health said Ryan would have received a letter explaining why his application has been declined and its exemptions team would contact him to explain further.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website