Australia suspended its green zone travel bubble with New Zealand for at least 72 hours from yesterday (Monday 25th January 2021) out of an “abundance of caution” over a highly infectious strain of COVID-19.
25 February 2021
Quarantine free travel from New Zealand to Australia has resumed
All of New Zealand is now at alert level 1. Face coverings are mandatory for all public transport and domestic flights in New Zealand. The Safe Travel Zone allowing quarantine free flights from New Zealand to Australia resumed on 21 February 2021. If you’re travelling on a green zone flight and have been in Auckland in the last 14 days, you’ll need a negative COVID-19 test in the 72 hours prior to departure. These conditions will apply until 1 March 2021.
The federal government received advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee of a “significant case of concern” in New Zealand regarding the South African variant.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said “The possibility that that may lead to a transmission event, and out of an abundance of caution, the AHPPC has recommended to the government … that there should be a suspension,” he told reporters on Monday.
“This will be done out of an abundance of caution whilst more is learnt about the event and the case.” Mr Hunt said the suspension would begin immediately.
“It’s recommended that all passengers from NZ with a green safe travel zone flight scheduled in the next 72 hours, reconsider their need to travel. They will, as a consequence, have to go into hotel quarantine,” he said.
Anyone who arrived from New Zealand on or since January 14 must also isolate and be tested.
“We apologise to those who may be inconvenienced. This has been taken on the basis of strong, clear, immediate medical advice,” Mr Hunt said.
Deputy chief medical officer Michael Kidd said authorities were advised on Sunday about a NZ case of COVID-19 involving a person who had completed hotel quarantine in Auckland and developed symptoms a few days later. But it was only revealed on Monday that the person had contracted the highly contagious South African strain.
“The infected person visited at least 30 locations. This new variant is more transmissible and presents a heightened level of risk.”
Professor Kidd said 72 hours would allow authorities to find out what actually happened in NZ.
“This case, of course, has only been detected over the last two days. People who have been to … those 30-odd venues in NZ are now doing as we would be doing in Australia — they’re isolating at home, they’re arranging to get tested. We are waiting for those test results to come back.”
Professor Kidd said there were two green zone flights from New Zealand that were due to travel to Australia later on Monday. It is not yet clear how many people have arrived from NZ since January 14 2021.
Asked if there were concerns that some variants had a longer incubation period than 14 days, Professor Kidd said the advice coming from NZ authorities was that it was probably an infection that occurred while the person was in quarantine.
“We’re waiting for further advice from the NZ authorities on that. We are concerned about these variants,” he said.
Mr Hunt said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a “very productive and convivial conversation” with his NZ counterpart.
He also described NZ as a global success story and said Australia would not usually suspend travel as a result of one case.
“We have the absolute highest belief in the quality and the ability of NZ to contact trace. It’s just the combination of the transmissibility of the variant and the circumstances of the particular case … which led the AHPPC to give us categorical strong, clear, unanimous advice,” Mr Hunt said.
Anyone who has arrived in Australia from NZ on or since January 14 is asked to isolate and get tested. They should isolate until they get a negative test result.
Hunt has apologised to anyone inconvenienced, but he says this has been taken on the basis of strong, clear, immediate medical advice from health authorities.
“In brief, the Australian Government has received advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee of a significant case of concern in NZ regarding the South African variant,” Hunt said.
There is a “possibility that that may lead to a transmission event,” Hunt continued, “and out of an abundance of caution, the AHPPC has recommended to the government … that there should be a suspension.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had informed her about the move. “I was advised late this afternoon of Australia’s decision by the Prime Minister. I advised him that we have confidence in our systems and processes, but it is Australia’s decision as to how they manage their borders.”
Air New Zealand released a statement acknowledging the travel bubble suspension (https://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/covid19-international-travel).
“Air New Zealand currently operates quarantine-free flights between Auckland and Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and transiting flights through Norfolk Island,” the statement reads.
The travel bubble suspension “will impact 5 services over the next 72-hours including flight NZ149 To Brisbane this evening. Customers booked on these services are being contacted and the airline will reaccommodate customers once further advice has been received from the Australian Government.
“We understand this is disappointing news for customers and we thank them for their patience and understanding.”