MIQ squeeze means mother must wait months to claim son's body

A distraught nurse must wait months to return home to claim the body of her dead son, which is rapidly decomposing in a funeral parlour.
Joshua Burney died in February in Christchurch, but slow progress on a trans-Tasman travel bubble and high demand for managed isolation places mean his mother Celia wont arrive until mid-June.

She fears that will be too late as his body is breaking down more quickly than usual because of old skin grafts.

Joshua Burney died in his sleep in Christchurch in late February.

Burney says she feels cheated out of her grief for her son, who was a gentle soul.

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We didnt know he was going to die, this was a sudden event and I have been denied the right to come home and say goodbye to him. Instead, he needs to lie in a giant fridge, she said.

Being a mother you want to you want to fulfil your duties, part of taking care of him is taking responsibility for his body, arranging the funeral and celebrating the life he's had ... saying goodbye to a tin of ashes is not what Id like.

The 46-year-old died unexpectedly in his sleep on February 28, of a suspected undiagnosed heart condition. A forklift truck driver, he was found by police after he failed to turn up for a shift.

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Burney, 67, is working as a nurse in Yass, New South Wales, and was denied an emergency allocation in managed isolation.

She has only been able to secure a voucher for June 11.

Her son underwent skin grafts to his legs after an industrial accident in 2006. The Christchurch funeral directors, where Joshua Burney is currently resting, have told her deterioration means a burial or cremation will have to take place within six weeks.

It will be 15 or 16 weeks before I will be able to sight him. If that is the case he will need to be cremated prior to my arrival in Christchurch, she said.

Joseph Johnson/Stuff
New Zealand Army personnel guarding the perimeter of a managed isolation facility in Christchurch.

The blow was harder to take as overseas film and theatre crew, the Wiggles, and Americas Cup sponsors have been allowed to secure MIQ places while Kiwis wait long periods, desperate to return.

She believes she is extremely low risk: as a nurse she is tested daily and will receive the first vaccination dose next week. The rural area where she works has also reported no Covid-19 cases throughout the pandemic.

Burney said the application process was inhumane, after spending up to 12 hours, three hours a day searching for a place.

Sitting for hours on end mindlessly clicking on traffic lights, crosswalks, bicycles, cars or whatever picture to prove one is not a robot.

I thought afterwards what a very inhumane government, who dont think about people and their needs.

Joan Marcus/Disney
The overseas cast and crew members of Disneys The Lion King were granted 126 spots in managed isolation ahead of the productions June run.

A spokesman for the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment, which oversees MIQ, said: We are deeply sympathetic to the many distressing situations people applying for an emergency allocation are in, and we extend our sincere sympathies to Celia for her loss.

There is a strict set of criteria for approving emergency allocation applications in order to ensure we do not overwhelm the capacity of MIQ. Unfortunately, travel to attend a funeral or memorial service, or to see a deceased person as in this case does not meet the criteria.

He said 1575 emergency allocation applications were approved out of 2957 applications processed between October 30 and March 14.

The MIQ facilities have been operating at well over a 90 per cent occupancy rate, he said.

Managed Isolation and Quarantine sets aside around 250 rooms per fortnight for those who need to travel urgently (within 14 days). When an emergency allocation is granted, it can apply to multiple travellers, which can require more than one room.

In January, Stuff revealed the plight of 46-year-old Trev Ponting, who has terminal brain cancer but was denied an emergency spot when he attempted to travel back from Japan to see his parents.

Officials later reversed the decision, less than 24 hours after Stuff highlighted the fiasco, and the family were reunited last month.


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