People wanting to come to New Zealand have tried using bots, and are resorting to paying freelancers to try to secure spots in managed isolation facilities.
Currently there are no places available on the MIQ booking site. People can only book into MIQ facillities until October, although vouchers for November and December are promised once airlines confirm their schedules, expected to be in late July.
A New Zealander living in Singapore with his family, David Isaacs, is hoping to return for Christmas and is one of thousands of Kiwis trying to book a place in MIQ.
“There’s just a lot of frustration,” Isaacs said.
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“People are saying they’ve got three people each with multiple devices sitting there for hours on end, and just getting nothing out of it.
“There’s no alert system built in, so some people have built bots.”
A private Facebook group for people trying to get MIQ spots has 2900 members.
Isaacs said his family was not in the same position as people with family emergencies who needed to return.
“For us, it’s just a holiday, but it still would be nice to be able to come home.”
Someone claimed success using a freelancer from Bangladesh on the website Fiverr who was offering to manually trawl through the MIQ voucher system to find available spots.
Isaacs said he did not have to resort to that himself, but the system was poorly set up and difficult to use for people who were not in front of a computer much, or were not computer savvy.
“I literally have a portion of my screen dedicated to the MIQ website, so that I can always be up-to-date on whether any new dates are being released. If you’re not in that situation then you can pay someone else to do it for you.
“If you’re going to pay $4000 plus to stay in MIQ, what’s an extra $150 to get someone to book it for you?”
The person offering the service charged $119.39 to find a space manually using Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.
“I have enough time to help you with full confidence,” said the engineer and freelancer.
Megan Main, joint head of Managed Isolation, said thousands of bot attempts had been blocked and an “incredibly small” number of passengers achieved, or tried to achieve, a booking through the direct use of a bot.
A “recaptcha” step to prevent bots from making bookings had been in place since the system went live in October 2020, and further steps to restrict automated booking using bots were also taken, she said.
“It should be noted that there is a difference between bots achieving an actual booking – which we see almost no evidence of – and the kind of scripting which lets people know that a space has become available.
“These notification services which are available publicly don’t book vouchers on behalf of subscribers; they still need to register and book themselves,” Main said.
“Although these individuals might believe they are helping people, they are actually preventing New Zealanders from securing their vouchers who do not utilise these sorts of programmes.”
The system was designed to give users equal opportunity to get a voucher, Main said.
Demand for MIQ vouchers was currently high, but there was generally a significant number of people on the site searching for an available date.
“There are still more rooms to be released for August, September and October. We advise people to keep checking the system for available dates.”
No decisions had been made yet on the best model for the future of MIQ, Main said.
Outside of quarantine-free travel with Australia, people wanting to come to the country need to spend 14 days in a designated managed isolation or quarantine facility. The Government operates a booking system, which requires people to also secure a flight before they can get an MIQ voucher.
— to www.stuff.co.nz