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New Zealand has delayed the release of places in its quarantine system, effectively blocking Kiwis from returning home.
And COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins has a message for Australian-based Kiwis: don't count on coming home for Christmas.
On Wednesday, Mr Hipkins said mounting cases in the country's current Delta outbreak meant quarantine hotels reserved for international arrivals had to be repurposed for sick Kiwis.
With limited space in New Zealand's "managed isolation and quarantine", or MIQ, system, overseas-based Kiwis have been barred from travelling home.
"It's unavoidable that for now we have to extend the pause on releasing any further MIQ vouchers for a few more weeks to ease pressure on the system," he said.
"I acknowledge that it is not easy for New Zealanders abroad who are looking to come home.
"We do need to be able to isolate current COVID-19 cases ... safely in order to bring the entire of New Zealand back to a greater sense of normality as quickly as possible. That has to be our priority."
The delay will affect any overseas Kiwis - including the estimated 700,000 in Australia - who are looking to travel to New Zealand.
While Australia-based Kiwis did enjoy quarantine-free travel for several months this year under the trans-Tasman bubble, New Zealand officials are applying a harder line on travellers due to the infectious Delta variant.
Mr Hipkins denied MIQ would remain a closed shop for the rest of the year, but that vouchers would be limited.
"We will have further vouchers to release before the end of the year," he said.
"Those who were hoping to have a summer holiday in New Zealand, my request of them, is to leave the vouchers to those who really need to come home and who are coming home for good.
"Now is not a good time to come home for a holiday..
"We do need you to play your part by allowing those vouchers to be available for those and the greatest need."
Mr Hipkins said the government would keep accepting emergency applications for those most in-need.