Covid-19 coronavirus travel bubble: Automated Air NZ message suggests borders about to close to Australia

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Is NZ’s border already closed to Aussie? Air NZ message says it is. Video / NZ Herald

An automated voice message on the Air New Zealand general inquiries phone line suggests the transtasman travel bubble is already closed.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins are expected to announce at 1.30pm today whether New Zealand will completely pause the bubble with Australia.

Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper reported this morning that his calls into the general inquiries line of the national carrier led to an automated voice message that said quarantine-free travel between the countries had been paused.

The automated voice message said: “The New Zealand Government has announced an extended pause on quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand. We are working closely with the Government for people to return home as soon as possible.”

Asked about the message, Air New Zealand general manager of customer Leeanne Langridge said it was recorded and uploaded on 5pm on Wednesday 21 July in response to large increases in call volumes.

“With Quarantine Free Travel paused from a number of Australian states, we found customers were confused about their ability to travel and the team tried to simplify the message. Unfortunately in this case the simplification has led to an incorrect message that the New Zealand Government had announced an extended pause of quarantine-free travel with Australia,” Langridge said.

“This is a rapidly changing environment, and our teams are doing their best to get the most up to date information to customers, we apologise that in this case we may have added to the confusion.”

This comes amid an escalating outbreak of the Delta strain of coronavirus in Australia.

Cabinet ministers met yesterday to discuss the transtasman bubble – with a full pause likely to have been discussed.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said that an update was expected today. No official public statement has been released by the Government so far.

The meeting is understood to be a full Cabinet meeting, with ministers meeting despite many being on leave – including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

Half of the Australian population is currently in lockdown and NSW yesterday had the most daily cases since the latest Delta outbreak began.

A major safety issue remains with up to half of the arrivals from Australia not being checked for negative pre-departure tests.

The move by Air New Zealand indicates the airline has already made the call to shut the border between the two countries.

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