Overstayers can take Covid-19 test without fear of ‘repercussions’

Overstayers can take Covid-19 test without fear of ‘repercussions’

Minister assures no link to immigration

Venkat Raman
Auckland, August 27, 2020

Health Minister Chris Hipkins (RNZ Photo by Rebekah Parsons-King)

Overstayers have been advised to undergo Covid-19 tests without fear of ‘any repercussions.’

Many of them have been contacting us since the novel Coronavirus entered New Zealand on February 28, 2020, asking us if they would be ‘exposing themselves’ to the authorities.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins encouraged them to go ahead and get themselves tested, promising that none of their details will be used for immigration purposes.

No joining dots

“I want to make it absolutely clear that if people are here on an expired visa, they can go and get a test. We will not join those two dots together. Regardless of your personal circumstances, if you are asked to get a test or you are in that group that is at greater risk, please get the test. We will not use that information to punish you in some other way and I cannot state that enough,” he said during a press briefing on August 26, 2020.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi reiterated that assurance, saying that the government had taken the decision to allay the fears of people.

A health worker conducts a Covid-19 test in a drive through Community Based Assessment Centre in Christchurch (AFP Photo on RNZ)

“We want to encourage people, especially in the Pacific community to go and get a test, because that is the predominant community being affected in Auckland at the moment. So, if there is any fear that Immigration might take any action on them as a result of taking a Covid test, it will not happen. People did not need to have a National Health Index number in order to get a test,” he said.

The plight of overstayers

Most overstayers lead a life of uncertainty and do not move about freely.

The number of overstayers is anyone’s guess but it is understood that people of Indian origin are significantly represented in this segment of New Zealand’s population.

Thousands of people have gained legal status- with work visas later converted to permanent residency and citizenship over the last 25 years.

In most cases, perseverance has paid.

Almost 20 years ago, the Helen Clark government offered amnesty to ‘well-settled overstayers,’ providing them an opportunity to legalise their status.

 

The quarantine process

On a related note, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has given assured people who test positive for Covid-19 are not moved into managed isolation and quarantine facilities immediately.

“The first priority would be to find out who their close contacts were and to isolate and test them. Health officials will then work to move people to quarantine facilities but people are given ample opportunity to get their affairs in order first. There is no suddenly a van arrives at someone’s house and carts people off. That is not how the process works,” he said.

Officials help people to ensure their income or welfare needs are met during their stay in quarantine, as well as sorting care for pets, he added.

Published under a Special Agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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