New Zealand Suspends Travel Bubble with Australia

Quarantine-free flights are being halted due to the high risk of letting in the highly infectious Delta variant.

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, in the early morning light. (Photo: Sulthan Auliya)

As Australia attempts to rein in its latest coronavirus outbreak, with nearly 14 million residents and three states in lockdown, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that the trans-Tasman travel bubble will be suspended for at least eight weeks, starting from 11:59 p.m. tonight. The quarantine-free arrangement has already been halted for New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, but those measures will be extended to the rest of the country due to fears over the fast-spreading Delta variant.

“Now is the time for a suspension to ensure New Zealanders aren’t put at undue risk from Covid-19,” Ardern said at a press conference. “Our team of 5 million has worked hard to put us in a strong position — both health-wise and economically — and we will not risk that.”

Ardern added that New Zealand would organize repatriation flights over the next seven days from all Australian states and territories for citizens and residents currently wishing to return home. Those coming from outside New South Wales or Victoria will not need to go into managed isolation upon arrival, and will only have to show proof that they have tested negative for the virus before departure.

Kiwis returning from Sydney must spend 14 days under quarantine in a hotel, while those who have been in Victoria must present a negative result from a pre-departure test and self-isolate at home for three days, after which a second swab test will be conducted. Ardern also said the full suspension of quarantine-free travel would only begin once demand for repatriation flights had been exhausted.

Earlier today, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told journalists, “The numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping.” The state had logged 136 new locally transmitted cases in the 24-hour period until 8 p.m. on Thursday night, the highest daily count recorded in its current outbreak. Victoria, meanwhile, has announced 14 new community infections.

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