Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand ordered a pause on quarantine-free travel from Australia for at least eight weeks, citing coronavirus surges caused by the Delta variant that have left more than half of Australia under lockdown.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly but it is, we believe, the right one,” Ms. Ardern told reporters at a news conference. “This will mean many people will find themselves for a time once more separated from friends and families in Australia, and I know this announcement will be a disappointment to them.”

The travel bubble was a rarity in Asia, where many countries have closed their borders during the pandemic, and had been largely successful as the two countries enforced strict controls to keep the virus at bay.

The emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant, however, has challenged the “Covid zero” strategy in both countries. And sluggish vaccination programs, which have stalled reopenings in much of the Asia Pacific region, have provoked deep frustration among residents of Australia and New Zealand who have been in and out of lockdowns since the pandemic began.

The Australian state of New South Wales on Friday reported 136 new cases, its highest daily total since the pandemic began, in an outbreak that on Friday was declared a national emergency. Separate outbreaks in the states of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia appear to be contained, according to health officials. New Zealand has not reported any community transmission of the virus for more than three months.

It is the first time that New Zealand has suspended quarantine-free travel from all of Australia since the bubble was introduced in April. The country had previously halted travel from certain Australian states experiencing localized outbreaks.

Travel from New Zealand to Australia will not be affected by the suspension, Ms. Ardern said, adding that the government would arrange return flights for New Zealand citizens and residents currently in Australia.

The announcement comes as both countries’ vaccination campaigns lag behind those in many rich nations. According to New York Times data, 19 percent of people in New Zealand have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 29 percent in Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia apologized on Thursday for the slowness of the vaccine rollout. The country had planned to use a combination of locally produced AstraZeneca shots and imported vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech. But mistrust in the AstraZeneca vaccine, stemming from concerns about the risk of extremely rare blood clots, prompted Australia to buy 20 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, about one-quarter of which are expected to arrive in August.

Later this month, New Zealand is expected to open up vaccinations to anyone over age 18. But limited supply of the Pfizer vaccine, the backbone of New Zealand’s inoculation effort, means that most residents will not receive a first dose until later this year.

Coronavirus is into its second year and has been disastrous for the travel sector. Everyone wants to travel to see new places, interact with others to exchange views and to get acquainted with new cultures. The virus became a stumbling block. Some countries were keen to launch air travel bubbles for the vaccinated people. However, the erratic nature of the disease was a major hurdle. This was because of the virus resurfacing when least expected. Dan Tehan is a Federal Minister of Australia. He is hopeful of opening up travel bubbles once the country reaches the vaccination target set by the government.

In his opinion, people might have to wait until 2022.

News AU quotes Tehan saying: “The next three to four months will be trying for all of us but there is still a strong ray of sunshine.” He hopes that it could happen by Christmas. He realizes the difficulties of the tourism sector. They have struggled for the last 18 months. For many businesses, the assistance packages kept them afloat. In December last year there were possibilities of starting air travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand by 2021. That may not happen.

Reopening of New Zealand travel bubble was on the cards

Dan Tehan admits that right now, tourism is passing through a difficult stage. The economy of many countries depend on tourism.

Outsiders come to a place to relax and enjoy the local cuisine, get acquainted with the culture and take back memories. The businesses do get some relief through the business relief package. However, there are problems. The benefits do not reach areas that are outside of lockdown. That has to be set right. He added that reopening of the New Zealand travel bubble was very much on the cards.

Discuss this news on Eunomia

It seems other countries like the Pacific Islands and Singapore are eager to welcome Australians provided there is a reduction in the number of cases and the vaccination targets are met. News AU adds that Dan Tehan mentioned about the travel bubble with New Zealand, which was a success.

Success of travel bubbles would depend on ability to deal with the virus

Travel has to take off and coronavirus is the obstacle. The Pacific Islands and Singapore would love to have a travel bubble with Australia. Similarly for the United States. These can succeed provided there is a joint effort to deal with the virus. The UK currently has Australia on a “green list.” It has also modified its entry rules for those who arrive from the US or Europe. It has done away with hotel quarantine requirements for the fully vaccinated. News AU quotes the Tourism Minister saying: “We would welcome Chinese tourists back to Australia once we have this pandemic fixed.” He wants Chinese tourism to go back to the pre-pandemic levels.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern talks about travel to New Zealand

According to 7News AU, New Zealand plans to welcome vaccinated travelers from low risk countries from

New Zealand on Friday suspended its quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia for at least eight weeks due to a growing COVID-19 cluster in Sydney.

New Zealand recently imposed quarantine restrictions on travelers from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia states, where lockdowns have been introduced to contain delta variant clusters.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said quarantine-free travel would be suspended from anywhere in Australia from 11:59 p.m. New Zealand time.

New Zealand suspended travel with Australia for at least eight weeks after New South Wales, Australia, reported 136 new infections in Sydney within a 24-hour period

New Zealand suspended travel with Australia for at least eight weeks after New South Wales, Australia, reported 136 new infections in Sydney within a 24-hour period
(iStock)

NEW ZEALAND TO DELAY ELECTION UNTIL OCTOBER, CITING CORONAVIRUS RESURGENCE

Ardern said she hoped to have all New Zealanders who wanted to return flown home from Australia with managed flights within a week.

The travel bubble has existed since April and has provided both countries with their only quarantine-free international flights.

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Both Australia and New Zealand have been among the most successful in the world in containing coronavirus outbreaks. But Sydney is failing to contain a cluster of the highly contagious delta variant, which has spread across the country.

On Friday, New South Wales state declared an emergency over the Sydney outbreak. Authorities reported one fatality and 136 new infections in the latest 24-hour period, the biggest daily jump since the outbreak began in mid-June.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand on Friday suspended its quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia for at least eight weeks due to a growing COVID-19 cluster in Sydney.

New Zealand recently imposed quarantine restrictions on travelers from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia states, where lockdowns have been introduced to contain delta variant clusters.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said quarantine-free travel would be suspended from anywhere in Australia from 11:59 p.m. New Zealand time.

Ardern said she hoped to have all New Zealanders who wanted to return flown home from Australia with managed flights within a week.

The travel bubble has existed since April and has provided both countries with their only quarantine-free international flights.

Both Australia and New Zealand have been among the most successful in the world in containing coronavirus outbreaks. But Sydney is failing to contain a cluster of the highly contagious delta variant, which has spread across the country.

On Friday, New South Wales state declared an emergency over the Sydney outbreak. Authorities reported one fatality and 136 new infections in the latest 24-hour period, the biggest daily jump since the outbreak began in mid-June.

In other news in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam has extended a two-week lockdown with even tighter restrictions as confirmed COVID-19 cases climbed to a new record. Vietnam reported over 6,000 new cases, 4,200 of them from the southern metropolis, in the last 24 hours. The latest directive from the city authority says people in high risk areas are only allowed to go out twice a week for necessities including food and medicine. Only a handful of essential businesses are open, interprovincial public transportation is suspended while a limited number of domestic flights continue to operate from Ho Chi Minh City. Passengers are subjected to a three-week quarantine.

— Philippine officials say they have detected the highly contagious delta variant and announced tighter restrictions in the capital and a weeklong ban on the entry of travelers from hard-hit Malaysia and Thailand. The Health Department said it has been looking into at least 47 delta variant infections, including some in returning Filipino travelers. It said clusters “were seen to be linked to other local cases, therefore, exhibiting local transmission.” The Philippines reported 5,828 new cases and 17 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total confirmed infections to more than 1.5 million and 26,891 deaths. Officials warned provincial and city governments to prepare for the worst by stocking up on medicine, oxygen tanks and critical care equipment. After recently easing lockdowns in Manila and outlying regions, the government announced that the capital region of more than 13 million people, along with four provinces, will be placed back under a general quarantine “with heightened restrictions” from Friday till the end of the month.

— South Korea is extending the toughest distancing rules imposed on the greater Seoul area for another two weeks. South Korea on Friday reported 1,630 new cases, marking a 17th straight day

The much-vaunted two-way travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia has popped. The travel corridor, set up in mid-April, allowed New Zealanders and Australians to move freely between the countries. But following recent fresh waves of COVID in Australia, New Zealand pulled the plug on Friday for at least the next eight weeks.

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New Zealand has suspended the travel bubble with Australia for at least eight weeks. Photo: Getty Images

“There are now multiple outbreaks, and in differing stages of containment, that have forced three states into lockdown. The health risk to New Zealanders from these cases is increasing,” New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.

New Zealand is shutting down the travel corridor at 23.59 (Auckland time) on Friday, July 23.

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Quarantine-free New Zealand-bound flights end tonight

While flights between Australia and New Zealand can continue, quarantine-free flights will not. New Zealand had already paused quarantine-free flights between New South Wales and New Zealand and Victoria and New Zealand. But flights from other Australian states could carry passengers under so-called “green flight” quarantine-free provisions. Australia continues to allow New Zealanders to enter and bypass the 14-day hotel quarantine stay.

“We’ve always said that our response would evolve as the virus evolved,” said Ms Ardern. “Now is the time for a suspension to ensure New Zealanders aren’t put at undue risk from COVID-19 and to ensure we retain our hard-won gains.”

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New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Getty Images

After just three months, the bubble pops

The travel corridor between the two countries was almost a year in the making and subject to constant setbacks. When it got underway in April, airlines in both countries were jubilant, anticipating brisk business between Australia and New Zealand.

Qantas and Air New Zealand, and to a lesser extent, Jetstar, threw planes and capacity onto the sector. There was an initial rush of traffic, mostly Kiwis keen to get out of Australia and people desperate to visit family and friends. After that initial rush, passenger traffic stabilised to lower than expected levels, causing airlines to wind back capacity and trim schedules.

In a lucky break, Virgin Australia decided to refrain from flying to New Zealand and concentrate on their home turf. Today, that decision means Virgin Australia has one less problem to deal with.

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Virgin Australia will be pleased today it choose not to resume New Zealand flights. Photo: Getty Images

Today’s decision bodes badly for Qantas & Air New Zealand

Today’s suspension of the travel corridor is bad news for Air New Zealand and the Qantas Group. Yesterday, Simple Flying reported Air New Zealand was Australia’s top international airline in May on the back of the travel bubble. While Air New Zealand still operates scaled-back international flights elsewhere, New Zealand is now the entirety of Qantas’ scheduled international operations.

Both Qantas and Air New Zealand are yet to release formals statement on today’s news, but both airlines will slash

Passengers arrive from New Zealand after the Trans-Tasman travel bubble opened overnight, following an extended border closure due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at Sydney Airport in Sydney, Australia, October 16, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

  • Suspension to last at least 8 weeks
  • Australia fighting outbreak of Delta variant
  • Demand for flights had been lower than expected

SYDNEY, July 23 (Reuters) – New Zealand will pause its quarantine-free travel arrangement with Australia for at least eight weeks starting Friday night, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, as Australia fights an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta virus variant.

“We’ve always said that our response would evolve as the virus evolved. This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep New Zealanders safe,” Ardern told reporters in Auckland.

The “travel bubble” had already been paused for travellers to and from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The bubble was a rare quarantine-free arrangement in Asia, where countries have kept their borders mostly closed during the pandemic. Plans for a Singapore-Hong Kong bubble have been delayed several times.

Demand for flights between Australia and New Zealand has been more subdued than anticipated since the bubble opened on April 19. read more

Scheduled airline capacity between Australia and New Zealand this month is about 44% of 2019 levels, according to data from aviation analytics firm Cirium, well below initial forecasts of more than 70%. read more

Air New Zealand Ltd (AIR.NZ)and Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX)have been the only operators on the route, and several pauses in the bubble because of small outbreaks dented consumer confidence.

The travel bubble had been launched as test-free as well as quarantine free, but New Zealand this month introduced a testing requirement that made it more costly for Australians to visit.

Air New Zealand said the suspension of the travel bubble was expected to have a short-term operational and financial impact on its business, but it did not provide further details.

Qantas said that starting July 31, the majority of Australia-New Zealand services would be cancelled and that the airline would maintain a small number of flights for essential travel and freight.

The New Zealand government said for the next week there will be managed return flights for New Zealanders from all Australian states and territories that will require proof of a negative pre-departure test. Passengers arriving from Sydney will be required to spend two weeks in government-managed quarantine.

Reporting by Renju Jose and Jamie Freed; Editing by Tom Hogue and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

The travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand has been suspended.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday that “the Delta variant has materially changed the risk profile”. 

From 11:59pm tonight, Australians will be unable to travel to New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight. 

This restriction will be in place for at least the next eight weeks. 

“For New Zealanders in Australia, we are absolutely committed to getting you home,” Ms Ardern said. 

“For the next seven days we will have managed return flights for New Zealanders from all states and territories. 

“Only New Zealand citizens and those ordinarily resident in New Zealand will be able to fly home.” 

Quarantine-free flights from New Zealand to Australia began in October, and from Australia to New Zealand in April this year.

The so-called “green zone flights” allowed travellers to move between the two countries without quarantining at their destination.  

Flights to New Zealand inside the bubble have been paused and restarted as different Australian states have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks. 

The bubble is already closed to travellers flying into New Zealand from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia as those states battle COVID-19 outbreaks. 

New South Wales recorded 136 new cases of community transmission in the 24 hours to 8:00pm Thursday — the highest number of new daily cases since the outbreak began last month.  Victoria recorded 14 new cases in the same period. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the move was a reasonable one. 

“The New Zealand government has been consistent in their policies and we respect their policies and this is a virus that is affecting the world and we should not think that we are any different,” she said. 

More to come.  

Gateway city: In spite of setbacks, Australia is determined to have a Singapore travel agreement by the end of the year. Photo / 123RF

OPINION:

In spite of the current state of the Transtasman bubble, Australia has said it is determined to open its borders to Singapore by the end of the year.

But what does this mean for New Zealand and other countries with adjacent safe travel agreements, such as the Cook Islands?

Speculation that a safe travel bubble with Singapore may be imminent was fuelled last week by Air New Zealand’s international flight scheduling update.

As well as a return to three flights a week for popular US ports – San Francisco, Honolulu and Los Angeles – Singapore saw a huge increase in capacity for Summer.

Auckland is scheduled to gain weekly flights to Changi Airport from October 31. By the end of November Christchurch Airport is set to gain five direct Singapore flights a week.

This huge uptick in capacity led many to believe the national carrier was jumping the gun.

Air New Zealand was quick to dismiss inside knowledge of a potential Singapore Bubble, saying that these flights were part of the extended ‘Maintaining International Air Connectivity’ MIAC programme.

Singapore Airlines say they remain flexible to 'meet the demand'. Photo / Supplied
Singapore Airlines say they remain flexible to ‘meet the demand’. Photo / Supplied

Seats on these routes are being subsidised in part by cargo freight and the Government scheme to keep air links afloat which otherwise would be unviable.

“Nearly 75,000 people have returned to New Zealand on flights supported by the scheme” said Transport Minister Michael Wood, who announced the latest round of the scheme in May.

53 per cent of the total number of people to pass through MIQ facilities have entered the country on these subsidised MIAC air links.

However, this summer schedule anticipates both that the MIAC scheme will be extended ( the current funding ends in October ) and that there will be a dramatic increase in demand for international travel between Singapore and New Zealand.

A spokesperson for Singapore Airlines told the Herald that their own summer schedule had not been released but that the carrier “will remain nimble and flexible in adjusting capacity to meet the demand for air travel.”

There are currently 10 passenger flights a week to Auckland and four passenger flights a week to Christchurch operated by SIA.

Airlines have no certainty when a new travel bubble will be announced, but they can be fairly confident of where it will be.

Australia has been clear that Singapore is next in line for a travel agreement.

Australia’s High Commissioner to Singapore Will Hodgman was firm that a bubble would be in place this year.

“Given the outbreak in Australia, the unpredictability of this virus, it is more likely that travel will be possible towards the end of this calendar year,” Hodgman told Bloomberg news last week.

The growing outbreak of the Delta variant is a spanner in the works.

Even so, it seems that Australia is

New Zealand has resumed its quarantine-free travel arrangement with Queensland after the Australian state recorded another day of no new local Covid-19 infections.

On Monday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk revealed the Sunshine State had not had an infectious case in the community for more than a week, effectively squashing a multi-cluster outbreak.

Queensland health authorities announced it would ease restrictions on mask wearing and social gatherings from Friday, prompting the New Zealand government to resume its travel bubble with the state from 11.59pm on Monday.

The news will be welcomed by thousands of Queenslanders who snapped up discounted ski holiday deals, however New Zealand remains closed off for those who have been in NSW, where the Sydney outbreak continues to soar.

“Travellers from Queensland, along with travellers from other parts of Australia – who haven’t been in NSW on or after 10:30pm (NZT) on 26 June, must meet all immigration and travel requirements including providing evidence of a negative pre-departure test, 72 hours prior to departure,” the New Zealand government announced on Monday.

Health authorities across the Tasman Sea noted the extended period between community cases for the significant reduction of risk.

“A public health risk assessment for Queensland has been carried out by the Ministry of Health, and they have assessed travel with the state as presenting a low public health risk,” it said.

“The last community case was 7 July, 2021. The last time a case was infectious in the community was on 4 July, 2021. There have been no unexpected wastewater detections, and community testing rates have been good. Queensland is also easing restrictions within the state.”

Earlier on Monday, Ms Palaszczuk revealed the mandatory mask wearing policy will be eased from 6am Friday, while aged care and hospital visits will resume and the cap on social gatherings will be increased.

“That is fantastic news,” Ms Palaszczuk announced on Monday morning. “Pubs, clubs and cafes will be able to increase the number of customers from one per four square metres to three per four square metres.”

The Premier warned, however, health authorities were closely monitoring soaring case numbers in Sydney and were considering slamming the border closed to NSW entirely.

“What we have seen is some other states and territories putting in place a hard border closure,” she said.

“At this stage, Queensland is monitoring the situation in Greater Sydney and NSW very closely.

“We have had extensive discussions this morning and we will be having those extensive discussions each and every day.”

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How we travel today has changed so much compared to how it was in 2019 that travelers would be forgiven for forgetting just how easy it used to be. From negative test results to proof of vaccination, mask mandates to insurances policies, post-pandemic travel has introduced travelers to concepts that were once alien to many of us.

Australia-New Zealand Bubble Faces Problems Whilst Singapore Bubble Is Delayed

One such concept is that of travel bubbles. Before Covid-19 digital passports were on the horizon, travel bubbles were viewed as a solution to the safe travel question. Australia’s travel bubble with New Zealand has been successful but now faces more restrictions, whilst Singapore too hopes to get in on the act. Here’s what you need to know about the state of travel bubbles at present.

Travel Bubbles – Information For Travelers

Travel bubbles are typically agreements between countries that have demonstrated success in containing the spread of Covid-19 that allow citizens to move freely between the parties involved, with either no restrictions or a reduction in the number of restrictions that the traveler will face. Due to the controls and the selective nature of the countries involved, they are seen as a safe way to resume travel.

Australian airline Qantas

Often referred to as travel corridors, there are currently several such bubbles in operation around the world, such as the ones between the “third countries” and the EU and one between Australia and New Zealand. However, the Australia-New Zealand travel bubble has been fraught with problems ever since it came into being – and the resumption of the travel bubble is set to face a delay.

New Zealand and Australia Suspend Travel Bubble

Australia-New Zealand Travel Bubble Delay – What Travelers Should Know

The travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand was launched on April 18th, and was seen as a good solution to the issue of travel between the two countries given the close ties that the two countries have with one another. However, the bubble has faced several issues, which led to a pause in the operation of the bubble coming into effect on June 23rd.

Whilst the pause was only scheduled to last for 72 hours, New Zealand has opted to delay the reopening on the bubble with the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), following an increase in restrictions in NSW and a rise in the number of cases. NSW was the only state to face the indefinite delay, with the travel bubble between New Zealand and the Australian states of Victoria, ACT, South Australia and Tasmania relaunching successfully during the week.

sydney opera house australia

Speaking about the decision, New Zealand’s Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said:

“Clearly there is an escalating risk in NSW and no one wants to see Covid-19 coming into New Zealand which is why we’ve made this difficult decision … if the lockdown isn’t working and people aren’t following the rules … then that does add additional risk for us here in New Zealand.”

Despite the issues faced by the bubble, there