Border bubble: New Zealand locks out Australia from quarantine free travel for further eight weeks
New Zealand has extended the suspension of its border bubble with Australia, stopping quarantine-free travel for a further eight weeks.
Under the bubble arrangement, travel had been allowed between the two neighbouring countries without needing to isolate for two weeks.
However it was halted for eight weeks in July.
On Friday the NZ government updated its health advice stating the suspension would be extended again until November 19.
The decision was made due to the uncontrolled spread of the Delta variant circulating in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, as well as an outbreak in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.
Auckland is currently in lockdown after Sydney’s deadly outbreak made its way across the Tasman.
A 54-year-old man tested positive to Covid-19 on August 14, with genomic sequencing linking the case to a ‘red-zone’ flight to Australia. How the virus escaped quarantine is not yet known.
“The government will review this decision in mid-to-late November 2021, to give more time for our vaccination rates to climb higher,” the NZ government website states.
Travellers from Australia who have the right to enter New Zealand can still fly over in October and November, but will need to quarantine for 14 days and return a negative test before departing.
One flight is planned for September 26 for those in an emergency situation.
When the bubble was established, both countries had few cases of community transmission and a similar elimination strategy.
But NZ’s Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that had changed “significantly”.
The minister said the country made “great progress” in containing its most recent outbreak and planned to ease some restrictions next week but reopening to Australia could jeopardise that.
“Protecting New Zealand from any possible further spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 is our absolute priority,” Mr Hipkins said in a statement.
“The decision is critical to provide clarity for people in Australia to make informed decisions about their ability to shelter in place in the longer-term or whether to seek return flights and book space in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ).
“One of the reasons we established quarantine-free travel with Australia was because our countries share so many close connections, and I acknowledge that this further suspension will be disappointing for many people.
“We will review this decision in mid to late November to give more time for our vaccination rates to climb higher.”
Quarantine-free travel between then two countries has been suspended since July 23, while the current ban was due to end on September 24.
There were 11 new Covid-19 cases reported in NZ on Friday while 1825 were recorded across Australia from NSW, Victoria, the ACT and Queensland.
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