The New Zealand High Court Wednesday ruled that the COVID-19 rules used to control the borders during the pandemic were unlawful. A previous ruling similarly found COVID-19 restrictions to be unlawful.
New Zealanders’ right to enter the country was delayed and made more difficult due to restrictions in place from April 2020 through February 2022. As a part of New Zealand’s zero-tolerance approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, those entering the country were required to stay in government-managed isolation facilities and submit to medical testing. This was a part of New Zealand’s Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) system. During the time restrictions were in place, demand outpaced facility capacity.
Individuals could apply for a spot in a government-managed isolation facility through an online portal. Individuals with an urgent need to enter New Zealand could also apply for an emergency allocation spot in a facility offline. Even with an emergency allocation, however, individuals were still required to isolate for 14 days.
The applicant Grounded Kiwis, a politically-neutral group of New Zealanders, challenged aspects of the government-managed isolation facilities. Specifically they challenged government decisions surrounding entry to the facilities and the application process.
While the selection process was conducted via a lottery system, Grounded Kiwis claimed the process was disproportionate and failed to consider a number of factors. The government responded to these claims by stating the restrictions were justified as a response to the public health risk presented by COVID-19.
The court found in favor of the Grounded Kiwis. The judge said that the lottery system was unreasonable. The system failed to take into account how long an individual had been waiting abroad and emergency situations. The court said: “[T]he combination of the virtual lobby and the narrow emergency criteria operated in a way that meant New Zealanders’ right to enter their country could be infringed in some instances in a manner that was not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”
The court ordered declaratory relief for Grounded Kiwis.