Finally, the awful MIQ lottery is almost over for most Kiwis trapped overseas.
In just three weeks, double-jabbed Kiwis stuck in Australia will be able to come home and self-isolate. Two weeks later, so will Kiwis stuck anywhere else in the world
This is a good announcement that separated families have waited a long time for. So, it should've been a good moment for the Government. And yet it wasn't.
Instead, the impression is that they've been forced into it by bad polls and bad publicity in the past fortnight.
The world has been fascinated by the Government's ongoing tough approach to Covid. Charlotte Bellis' battle for an MIQ spot in order to have her baby at home drew an uncomfortable level of international attention. Those headlines came only days after a slew of offshore-based Kiwi journalists and commentators publicly criticised Ardern's response to Omicron and continued border closures. It was apparently because UK-based Kiwi journo Dan Wooton's Daily Mail column attacking Jacinda Ardern did so well that the UK paper commissioned another from ACT leader David Seymour.
That perhaps shows the level of international fascination in us and our PM. But that's not necessarily a good sign anymore.
It's become increasingly obvious to NZ voters that the global opinion of our Covid response has shifted. What was once admiration for a competent Prime Minister keeping her country safe from a deadly virus, has - to some commentators at least - morphed into mockery of a scared Prime Minister trying to keep her country locked away from a runny nose and sore throat.
The talk in Australia is that it'll take years to repair the brand damage caused by locked borders and the world's attention on Novak Djokovic's deportation. It's likely Brand New Zealand will take some repairing after our closed borders and the Charlotte Bellis affair.
Brand Jacinda has also suffered. The stories of how border closures have hurt Kiwis have badly undermined her message of kindness. As PM she can obviously not be expected to know of and fix every trapped Kiwi's problem. But there have been too many stories of pensioners sleeping on couches in Brisbane with their pension cut off, or of Kiwis refused entry to MIQ to die at home. Months ago MIQ became an obviously unkind policy, and because she continued to defend it, it will affect her brand.
Her personal popularity has now fallen twice as far as the Labour Party's since the election. According to the TVNZ Kantar poll she is now increasingly polarising, with a net approval rating of only 15 per cent.
This week's border announcement will at least stem the flow of those MIQ stories of unkindness, and also the impact they have on Labour and the PM herself. If MIQ had become death by a thousand cuts for Labour, at least there won't be fresh cuts.
But the existing wounds aren't stemmed. They're still bleeding, because Labour missed the chance to look like it was leading the response through rational decision-making. Instead, it looks like a Government being led by public frustration.
This is becoming a pattern for Labour. They've been behind the 8-ball with public sentiment since Delta hit the community in August. They let public anger in Auckland build before giving Aucklanders what they wanted (which was a lockdown plan rather than weekly Prime Ministerial announcements on where to relieve yourself). They mucked around too long with silly Auckland border ideas before simply dropping the border ahead of summer, like they obviously had to all along. And now they've let negative stories get away on them before making the inevitable border announcement.
Labour needs to try to get ahead of the public mood. They do enough focus groups and polling to pick shifts in sentiment.
The best they can now hope for in reaction to their border announcement is widespread relief. That probably won't help them much in the polls. Had they played this right and generated perhaps gratitude or admiration, the poll story could've been very different.