Covid-19: Australia extends pause on travel bubble with New Zealand

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Mandatory hotel quarantine will be imposed on New Zealanders travelling to Australia for an extra three days after the Federal Government extended the suspension of the trans-Tasman travel bubble.

A passenger wearing a face mask arrives from New Zealand at Sydney International Airport on October 16, 2020, after Australia’s border rules were relaxed under a new one-way trans-Tasman travel agreement.

A passenger wearing a mask arrives from New Zealand at Sydney International Airport on 16 October, 2020.
Photo: AFP

Green-zone travel arrangements were paused after a Kiwi woman infected with the highly contagious South African variant of Covid-19 travelled to about 30 locations in New Zealand before testing positive.

Australian health authorities had sought information on a further two people who tested positive to Covid-19 in New Zealand.

The initial 72-hour suspension was due to end at 2pm today.

Acting Chief Medical Officer, Professor Michael Kidd, said the suspension would protect Australians while the extent of the situation in New Zealand can be determined.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she retained confidence in the country’s systems and processes.

However, she did acknowledge the decision to extend the freeze was for the Australian government to make.

Pullman Hotel outbreak

The Australian Government announced it was suspending the bubble on Monday afternoon after New Zealand recorded its first case – a woman who recently returned from overseas – in the community in two months.

The 56-year-old woman was found to have contracted the South African strain of coronavirus that is more transmissible, and two more people who were staying in the same hotel as the woman had also tested positive.

Prof Kidd said the government was determined to keep Australians safe from the virus and flagged concerns around an additional group.

“We’ve also been advised a small number of people who were in hotel quarantine in the Pullman Hotel in at the same time as these other cases have since travelled to Australia on ‘green zone’ flights before the pause was introduced on Monday afternoon,” he said.

“All these people are being followed up by the health authorities in the state where they landed.”

Twelve of these people arrived in Sydney, with three travelling onto Hong Kong and two to Queensland.

Earlier in the week, Prof Kidd urged those who have flown to Australia from New Zealand on any flight since 14 January to get tested and go into isolation.

He expanded that advice on Thursday to cover anyone who had flown into Australia from New Zealand since 9 January.

The Northland woman, who tested positive after leaving managed isolation on 13 January, had recently returned from Europe and tested negative twice during her isolation period.

The bubble was formed at the end of 2020, allowing New Zealanders to travel to certain Australian states before later becoming a national agreement.

The Federal Government has repeatedly said it would like to see the arrangement become reciprocal.

-ABC

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