A long-awaited and much-lauded ‘travel bubble’ between Australia and New Zealand has partially burst less than a week after quarantine-free travel between the two countries was finally permitted. The partial suspension came after the Western Australian city of Perth went into a three-day lockdown after an international traveller was released from hotel quarantine and went on to infect a friend in the community.
“Both countries have planned for this type of scenario and are following agreed Trans-Tasman bubble protocols,” a spokesperson for the New Zealand government explained on Saturday.
Flights between Western Australia and New Zealand were initially suspended and one flight due to depart Perth for New Zealand on Friday evening was cancelled at the last minute. The flight ban from Western Australia has since been lifted but all arrivals entering New Zealand must go into quarantine.
Officials maintain the risk to New Zealand remains low and that quarantine-free travel from all other parts of Australia can continue as before. Around 1,000 travellers had arrived in New Zealand from Western Australia since the travel bubble was opened on Monday.
The travel bubble had been months in the making and Air New Zealand said its flights from Australia were operating at 97 per cent capacity on Monday. Qantas and its budget subsidiary Jetstar also reported healthy passenger numbers and strong forwards bookings.
The bubble has allowed many Australians to travel internationally for the time since the start of the pandemic and has helped reunite friends and family.
But quarantine-free travel could already be at risk because of Perth’s snap three-day lockdown. WA Premier Mark McGowan ordered the lockdown after an international traveller who had spent 14-days in a quarantine hotel in Perth went on to infect a friend in the community after being released.
The man had tested negative for the virus before being released but investigators believe he was infected by an Indian family staying in a hotel room directly adjacent to his.
India is facing an explosion in COVID-19 cases and health officials in New Zealand have banned all arrivals from the country after it was classified as ‘very high risk’. The ban is expected to reduce the number of potential positive cases coming to New Zealand by an estimated 75 per cent.
The infected traveller visited a number of locations in Perth and Peele, before flying to Melbourne. He has since been placed into quarantine and no further cases of community transmission have so far been identified.
“I’m getting to the end of my tether,” McGowan said of the current quarantine hotel setup, saying that normal hotels in city centre locations were not suitable. McGowan has called for the federal government to take over the international traveller quarantine programme and set up designated facilities.
Photo Credit: Benny Marty / Shutterstock.com
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