Trans-Tasman bubble: No hope of opening soon, stranded Kiwis warned not to wait

The Government has indicated the trans-Tasman bubble won’t be reopening anytime soon and is advising Kiwis stuck in Australia to come home via managed isolation if they need to travel urgently.

In July, the Government suspended quarantine-free travel from Australia to New Zealand for two months as New South Wales and other states struggled to contain their Delta outbreaks.

It could be a quite a while before New Zealand rolls out the welcoming runway for Australia again.

Mark Tantrum/Getty Images

It could be a quite a while before New Zealand rolls out the welcoming runway for Australia again.

The closure is due to be reviewed at the end of September, but on Wednesday Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins downplayed any chance it could reopen soon, saying it would be “unrealistic to expect that there’ll be speedy decisions in the next few weeks.”

Covid-19 cases continue to balloon in Sydney; on Wednesday authorities reported 1490 new cases and nine deaths. There are now more than 26,000 active cases across the country, with fears Victoria’s outbreak could also worsen.

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The Government had planned a limited number of red-zone flights from Australia, and Hipkins said that’s likely to be the only option for those needing to travel soon. “I think those New Zealanders who are in Australia should be making preparations to secure bookings through MIQ.”

The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment has announced a red flight will depart New South Wales next week, with MIQ emergency allocations.

Those stuck in Sydney will have until 5pm NZT (3pm AEST) on Saturday, September 11, to apply for the flight, and on return will enter managed isolation for 14 days at their own cost.

All travellers on the flight must be eligible to enter New Zealand, confirm they have not been at a location of interest in the previous 14 days, and must have a negative pre-departure test.

In response to New Zealand’s outbreak, all one-way quarantine-free travel to Australia has been on hold, with an extension until September 14 announced yesterday.

While case numbers continue to spiral in Sydney and Victoria, other states such as Tasmania have gone more than a year without a Covid-19 case in the community. In April, a new direct Auckland to Hobart flight was launched with Air New Zealand.

Hipkins said the Government would “not necessarily” rule out opening to individual states like Tasmania, however he added the skyrocketing number of cases in other states “does bring a degree of realism to the timing.”

In August, The Prime Minister indicated travel to New South Wales could be off the cards for the rest of the year.

Hipkins also told parliament on Tuesday night that the Government’s “reopening” plan to allow international travel will have to be completely reworked in the light of the new outbreak.

“It would be fair to say that Delta has actually changed some of the thinking about that even in the last few weeks,” Hipkins said.

Key to the plan was risk-profiling countries, so places with high rates of vaccination and low levels of Covid-19 could be treated differently to places where the virus was rampant.

However, Hipkins now admitted risk-profiling was problematic. “We were looking at a situation where you could stratify countries based on risk, and I think in the Delta environment, we actually have to consider whether, in fact, that’s an appropriate thing to do, recognising that all countries, all people coming into the country at this point, have a degree of risk associated with them.”