Samoan teen pleads with P.M.

By Talaia Mika 31 July 2020, 8:00PM

A 16--year-old Samoan girl from New Zealand has written an impassioned plea to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern against the costs levied on Samoans returning to New Zealand for their own quarantine. 

Kiwi resident Elizabeth Hastings has already paid for a ticket to Samoa to visit family members she has not seen since the start of 2020 on 6 December.

"Having to go through a 14-day quarantine in both countries already cuts my precious family time short in Samoa by four weeks,” she said in a letter carried by Newshub.

"You are now going to charge me and my family for managed isolation on my return to New Zealand."

Elizabeth was not aware of the hundreds of dollars she will be spending on her mandatory 14-days managed isolation upon her return to New Zealand under recent changes to New Zealand policy.

Previously the Government had covered the costs of all incoming citizens, who must self-quarantine in a hotel.

But it backed down from that plan amid protest. 

Instead, only citizens who leave the country after the new legislation is passed will be billed  NZD$3,100 for the first adult in each hotel room; an additional $950 will be added for each additional adult and $475 for each child sharing the room. 

The Government has said that those who cannot afford the charges can apply for waivers. 

But Elizabeth may yet be charged on both ends of her journey.

Earlier this week the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, said that the Government is considering following overseas nations by requiring overseas visitors to cover the cost of their own quarantine. 

Currently incoming passengers in Samoa must only foot the bill for the cost of their dinner. 

Though her plans are to travel to Samoa alone, Elizabeth will need to return with a chaperone from Samoa which adds an additional $950 to her bill increasing the charges to $4050. Her chaperone will also lose wages throughout the period. 

"Where do I fit into your policy? Will there be an exemption for citizens like me who have already paid for our tickets to COVID-free countries prior to your announcement?" Elizabeth wrote.

Elizabeth said her family has “sacrificed so much” for her and to be hit with extra charges to remain together during the pandemic was enraging. 

"My time with my family is very scarce and the amount of money that is being spent on my school fees, stationery and other living expenses is already a large sum. To be asked to pay $3100 dollars is a lot of money," she wrote.

On Wednesday, the Amendment Bill on COVID-19 Public Health was presented before Parliament providing a legal framework to allow the Government to charge for use of managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

Housing Minister and the minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine, Dr. Megan Woods, is requesting Cabinet approval to charge $3100 per person for their 14-day stay; $950 for each additional adult to a room; and $475 for each additional child.

The legislation will allow the Government to set payment terms, exempt certain groups of people and waive charges in cases of financial hardship. 

The Bill will be passed next week before the House rises for the parliamentary term Dr. Woods said on Wednesday.

Further details of the charging scheme and when it will come into force will be announced soon.

The Government wants to charge any New Zealander who leaves the country after the legislation is enforced. 

Diplomats and official Government representatives, refugees and protected persons are also exempt. 

By Talaia Mika 31 July 2020, 8:00PM

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