Sydney (CNN) — Quarantine-free travel from all Australian states and territories to New Zealand will be suspended, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced on July 23.

The news comes as Australia continues to grapple with a Covid outbreak spreading through multiple states despite lockdowns.

“Given the high level of transmissibility of the Delta variant, and the fact that there are now multiple community clusters, it is the right thing to do to keep Covid-19 out of New Zealand,” Hipkins said.

From 11:59 p.m. Friday (7:59 a.m. EST), Australians will no longer be able to enter New Zealand quarantine-free for at least the next eight weeks.

Ardern said the decision was not taken lightly, but with “multiple outbreaks, and in differing stages of containment” with three Australian states in lockdown, “the health risk to New Zealanders from these cases is increasing.”

The Australian state of New South Wales — home to Sydney — reported 136 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in 24 hours, while Victoria — home of Melbourne — announced 14 new cases over that same period. South Australia reported one new case.

New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would ask the federal government for more Pfizer vaccine doses to be allocated to the state for use in Sydney’s west and southwest, both of which are currently virus hotspots.

The quarantine-free trans-Tasman exchange (usually referred to as a travel bubble) kicked off between the two countries in April.

Roughly half of Australia’s population, some 13 million people, is now under some form of lockdown as the country works to stem the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant amid a slow vaccination rollout.

The ever-changing regulations vary from state to state within Australia. People who violate lockdown rules — including the man who sneaked out of hotel quarantine with a bed sheet and the two naked sunbathers who claimed they were on the run to escape a deer — are subject to fines, arrest and even deportation.

Meanwhile, Australia recently halved its international arrivals cap. As of the week of July 14, about 3,000 people per day are permitted to fly into Australia, down from about 6,000.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, there are some 34,000 Australians who have identified themselves as being stuck in a foreign country and unable to come home.

The growing Melbourne outbreak has prompted New Zealand to close the trans-Tasman bubble to Victoria for four days.

On Thursday afternoon, COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins announced a suspension of quarantine-free travel from Friday.

“We acknowledge the frustration and inconvenience that comes with any interruption to trans-Tasman travel, but given the ongoing level of uncertainty around transmission in Melbourne, this is the right action to take,” he said.

The decision also bars anyone from travelling to New Zealand if they have been in Victoria from Friday.

On Wednesday, after noting growing case numbers, Hipkins warned Kiwis to head home immediately if they wanted to avoid being stranded in Victoria.

NSW CORONAVIRUS COVID19
The trans-Tasman bubble remains operational to Queensland, WA, SA, Tasmania, ACT and NT. Credit: AAP

Jacinda Ardern’s government will review the Victorian pause on Monday.

The trans-Tasman bubble remains operational to Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and the Northern Territory.

Australian travellers from NSW have been banned from travelling to New Zealand during the current NSW outbreak, but the NZ government has allowed Kiwis to return home if they are willing to spend a fortnight in quarantine.

New Zealand announced that its travel bubble with Australia would be paused for three days due in part to a cluster of COVID-19 cases near Sydney.

“There are now multiple cases and outbreaks in Australia in differing stages of containment and the health risk for New Zealand in response to these cases is increasing,” the New Zealand government said in a statement.

The decision came after Australia”s most populous city, Sydney, and the surrounding areas went into a two-week lockdown to control a cluster of COVID-19 cases of the more transmissible Delta variant.

Australian authorities said there were 82 locally acquired cases in the city and surrounding area, which prompted the lockdown.

Australia’s health ministry estimates that there are a total of 223 active cases in the country.

Stricter measures have also been imposed in the city of Wellington, New Zealand after a traveller from Sydney later tested positive for the virus.

Both Australia and New Zealand have used tough public health measures to curb COVID-19 cases acting swiftly to stamp out new outbreaks.

Australia, a country with a population of more than 25 million, has recorded 910 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

The travel bubble began on April 19 after both countries were successful in containing the virus and has previously been suspended with certain Australian states.

Vaccination rollouts have been slower to start in both countries compared to Western and European countries with high rates of virus.

According to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, around 13% of New Zealand’s population has received a first dose and 23% of Australia’s population has received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

AFP


Wellington, New Zealand   ●  
Sat, May 1, 2021

2021-05-01
18:43
3
0920e6703081f028872405a52643a851
2
World
Australia,New-Zealand,COVID-19,travel-bubble
Free

New Zealand’s fledgling quarantine-free travel arrangement with Western Australia faced disruption for the second time in eight days Saturday following fresh community cases of Covid-19 in Perth.

A worker at a managed isolation facility in the city and two people he shares accommodation with have tested positive, authorities said.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said the state would not go into lockdown “at this point”.

But New Zealand health ministry officials said they had conducted a “rapid” assessment and had “determined scheduled direct flights from Western Australia to New Zealand should be immediately paused while a further assessment is carried out.”

A flight scheduled to arrive in Auckland from Perth at 5:50am Sunday (1750 GMT Saturday) has been cancelled, but travel to other Australian states and territories is not affected.

It is the second such disruption since the two countries opened their quarantine-free travel bubble on April 18, almost 400 days after both closed their international borders due to the pandemic.

Flights between New Zealand and Western Australia were suspended less than a week later, when the Perth and Peel regions were sent into a three-day lockdown after recording a case of community transmission on April 23.

The bubble, which followed months of negotiations between the largely coronavirus-free neighbours, was hailed as a major milestone in restarting a global travel industry that has been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

New Zealand’s tourism industry was its biggest export industry before Covid-19, with Australians accounting for about 40 percent of the international visitors.

Issued on: Modified:

Wellington (AFP)

New Zealand’s fledgling quarantine-free travel arrangement with Western Australia faced disruption for the second time in eight days Saturday following fresh community cases of Covid-19 in Perth.

A worker at a managed isolation facility in the city and two people he shares accommodation with have tested positive, authorities said.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said the state would not go into lockdown “at this point”.

But New Zealand health ministry officials said they had conducted a “rapid” assessment and had “determined scheduled direct flights from Western Australia to New Zealand should be immediately paused while a further assessment is carried out.”

A flight scheduled to arrive in Auckland from Perth at 5:50am Sunday (1750 GMT Saturday) has been cancelled, but travel to other Australian states and territories is not affected.

It is the second such disruption since the two countries opened their quarantine-free travel bubble on April 18, almost 400 days after both closed their international borders due to the pandemic.

Flights between New Zealand and Western Australia were suspended less than a week later, when the Perth and Peel regions were sent into a three-day lockdown after recording a case of community transmission on April 23.

The bubble, which followed months of negotiations between the largely coronavirus-free neighbours, was hailed as a major milestone in restarting a global travel industry that has been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

New Zealand’s tourism industry was its biggest export industry before Covid-19, with Australians accounting for about 40 percent of the international visitors.

The launch of a quarantine-free “travel bubble” between Australia and New Zealand could provide a template for elsewhere in the world and pave the way for an airline industry recovery, according to the countries’ leading carriers.

However, cash-strapped Air New Zealand and Qantas Airways have warned that delays in Covid-19 vaccinations in both nations threatened to upend the resumption of international flights to parts of the world that are struggling to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“Getting Australia back up and running for Air New Zealand is a significant boost to us,” said Greg Foran, Air New Zealand’s chief executive, ahead of the launch of the trans-Tasman travel bubble on Monday.

Foran said in an interview with the Financial Times that there was still a lot of work to be done by the governments of New Zealand and Australia to determine how to reopen air routes to the US and other countries where Covid-19 was still prevalent. So-called vaccination passports, which prove that a traveller has been inoculated, might provide a way to resume flights to these destinations by the end of the year, he added.

Qantas warned last week that Australia risked falling behind other countries in its inoculation programme, which the government has conceded will not be completed this year due to a scarcity of vaccines.

Canberra has not provided a date for reopening its international border and suggested last week that travel bubbles with Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam could be its next step.

Flights between New Zealand and Australia accounted for 5 and 20 per cent of pre-pandemic revenues at Qantas and Air New Zealand, respectively, according to research firm Morningstar.

Foran, who left his role as chief executive of Walmart’s US operations to join Air New Zealand shortly before the pandemic struck, said demand for these flights was strong.

“People want an opportunity to get on a plane and go somewhere,” he said, adding that business travel had picked up as companies realised the benefits of face-to-face meetings.

“Our next bubble country I think will be the Cook Islands, which we expect to begin operating in May,” Foransaid.

Morningstar forecasts that Air New Zealand and Qantas will suffer a combined A$15bn ($11.6bn) hit to revenues in 2021. But both airlines are experiencing a strong recovery on their domestic routes due to the countries’ suppression of Covid-19.

Air New Zealand faces big challenges in the months ahead, including a looming NZ$1.5bn $1.1bn) capital raise to repay rescue loans from the government.

There are also concerns about intervention from Wellington, which owns a 52 per cent stake in the airline. The Labour-led administration sent a letter to Air New Zealand’s chair earlier in April saying it expects to be an “active majority shareholder” and have a role in appointing directors.

That prompted the opposition National party to demand an urgent debate in parliament, while critics raised