From 11.59pm on Tuesday, quarantine-free travel with South Australia will be paused for seven days, but Kiwis in the Covid-hit state will still be able to get home.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement on Tuesday night, shortly before the state entered into a strict snap lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of a new Covid-19 community outbreak.
Special green flights would operate for New Zealanders in the state. Passengers travelling on these “managed return” flights would be required to present a negative pre-departure test taken within 72 hours of leaving.
A completed health declaration and Nau Mai Rā travel declaration would also be required.
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“The pause means people cannot travel to New Zealand from South Australia after 6pm tonight for the duration of the pause unless they are normally resident here and wish to return,” Hipkins explained.
He encouraged those who fit into this category to consider this option available for the next week.
“The pause will run for seven days, to 27 July, to coincide with the timing of the lockdown and will be reviewed on that day.”
Hipkins said this decision was made based on public health advice from New Zealand officials, and followed the state’s decision to enter the lockdown.
He acknowledged the disruption this caused, but said the uncertainty of the situation and the country’s “consistently cautious approach” to prevent the virus entering the country made them confident it was the right decision.
At this stage, there was no change to quarantine-free travel for the state of Queensland.
From 6pm Australian time (8pm NZT), South Australia moved into a seven-day lockdown.
“We hate putting these restrictions in place but we believe we have one chance to get this right,” Premier Steven Marshall said on Tuesday.
“We have no alternative but to impose some fairly heavy and immediate restrictions to come in.”
The restrictions limited movement in the community, with people only allowed to leave home to care for someone, for essential work, to exercise with someone from the same household, to buy essential items, or to get a Covid-19 test or vaccination.
New Zealand officials undertook a risk assessment on Tuesday afternoon after the state’s latest Covid-19 cluster grew. The outbreak was confirmed to be the highly infectious Delta variant.
Five new Covid-19 cases had been linked to an elderly man who travelled from Argentina via New South Wales, where he completed 14 days in managed isolation.
The fifth case was “far more worrying” than existing confirmed cases, Marshall said. This man in his 60s was not a familial connection to the original case and had been to a “celebratory function” at a restaurant with another case.
It was believed the space wasn’t well ventilated and there was potentially singing and loud talking – actions that made it easy for the virus to spread.
Anyone who had been at this restaurant – The Greek on Halifax – was told by chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier to immediately isolate and get tested.
Quarantine-free travel remained paused with neighbouring states Victoria and New South Wales. The Government was planning to review these settings on Wednesday.