Are MIQ requirements proportionate to risk of infection or just lengthy detention to appease public opinion.

Questions are starting to appear over the government’s MIQ requirements and whether the requirements are about containing the infection of the disease or about appeasing public opinion and the fear of Covid 19. It seems the MIQ requirements are no longer proportionate to the level of risk to the public but rather to comply with protocols.

According to the government’s Covid 19 dashboard count, there are two active cases in MIQ. However, this number is now being questioned given that since Wednesday last week no one held in MIQ tested positive according to BCN sources.

BCN news reached out to some of these people in MIQ who said that they have been testing daily using the rapid antigen test (RAT) and have returned negative every time. 

The passengers in MIQ remain optimistic and are not arguing to be released early. One of them said that “It was frustrating at first but it’s Niue’s rules”.

BCN News obtained a copy of a letter from the health department to some of these passengers informing them that the two who tested positive on day 7 tests on March 28th will be released next week on April 11. 

While their two immediate contacts will stay in MIQ until the 17th of April even though these contacts have never tested positive since arriving in Niue on March 22nd.

This means that these people who’ve never tested positive and are not infectious, not pose any threat to the public will have been in detention for 27 days. 

BCN News reached out to Dr. Colin Tukuitonga who said that “It’s odd what they are doing. Makes no sense to keep people that long”.

Director-General Gaylene Tasmania explained that the clock for the close contacts starts after the isolation period of the positive cases, which is why the close contacts will be staying longer than the original positive cases.

DG Tasmania said that these are the standard MIQ protocols and were reaffirmed by the PACMAT team last month. 

However, the Director-General has not responded to questions about the consideration of the viral load which will indicate the infectivity of the case, or the fact that all 7 cases identified in MIQ did not have any covid symptoms. 

According to Dr. Colin Tukuitonga that viral load is important in the early stages as a signal of infectivity but is less relevant after a week or so. 

The government has not released any information on the viral load of any of the seven positive cases since the first case was detected in MIQ on March 8th but consistently reveal in press statements that the active cases never displayed covid symptoms.

Before a person is permitted to travel to Niue, they must be fully vaccinated, returned negative covid test 48 hours prior to the flight, and must return a negative RAT test at the airport before they are permitted to board the flight to Niue.

Earlier this year, the government reduced the MIQ days from 13 to 10 because of the incubation period of the omicron variant which is from around 5 to 7 days. 

Last month Premier Tagelagi said that the government will be relaxing MIQ requirements and passengers starting on the first flight in May will self-isolate in their homes for about 5 or 7 days. 

Given all this information, the key question right now is why are people who are not infectious being held in quarantine for no good reason than to follow protocols. 

If these people have not been symptomatic and have tested negative since last week then essentially, they are being detained and not quarantined.

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