MIQ spaces are currently full until the end of October with new spaces still to be released. However, Kiwis trapped abroad have not only to contend with each other for spaces, but also hackers and booking software.
"We are currently experiencing a high demand for vouchers," says Brigadier Rose King, the Joint Head of the MIQ, although she says the trans-Tasman bubble has helped ease competition.
To give New Zealanders the fairest access to spaces in MIQ, she said new spaces are released gradually and in batches to "assist people in different time zones and to help manage the number of users on the site at any one time."
Cancelled or unused spaces would be returned to the website as soon as possible.
However, there continue to be factors that may mean that the MIQ facilities appear unusually full.
These include travel volatility from 'high risk' locations, travellers holding multiple reservations and, even 'bot attacks'.
The booking site has seen malicious software and hackers posing as real travellers, trying to reserve places.
"Thousands of bot attempts have been successfully blocked," said King. An investigation by MIQ confirmed that some bookings appear to have been made by robots rather than human travellers, although King said the number identified were "incredibly small".
These hacking attempts appear to have peaked at the beginning of the year, she said.
What is increasingly common is frustrated travellers turning to high-tech means in order to secure an edge over other bookers and a space in MIQ.
There has been an increase of services crawling the MIQ booking website, alerting travellers when there is available.
"These notification services which are available publicly don't book vouchers on behalf of subscribers," says King. "They still need to register and book themselves."
Since the beginning of the year, she says the booking system has continued to root out bots and computer programmes posing as humans.
MIQ advises people to keep checking the system for available dates.
Unused vouchers and high-risk countries
Travel volatility continues to be a big driver for no-shows at MIQ facilities. The addition of countries including Brazil, India, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea to the 'high risk' countries list has led to "significant date changes".
"We know that for various reasons, such as international travel volatility, not all people who have vouchers will use them. As soon as we are aware that people are not travelling, we are actively cancelling their vouchers," says King.
Another factor filling up MIQ and driving demand was the issue of travellers booking multiple vouchers.
MIQ says it is working with airlines to flag up passengers with multiple vouchers for the same flight or vouchers but no flight booking.
However King acknowledges there are legitimate reasons why travellers may need to book multiple vouchers, or make multiple journeys in and out of New Zealand. However it is the official policy to discourage travellers from booking multiple vouchers in advance.
MBIE is now actively contacting "people who hold more than one voucher to work with them to cancel ones they don't need."
MIQ places can be held for 48 hours without an airfare booking, after which they are returned to the system.
"We want Kiwis to be able to get home, so if there are people with vouchers they won't be using, we ask them to cancel their booking as soon as possible so that someone else can get home."
More than 140,000 returnees have been through Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities since April last year.