Australia Australia extends suspension of New Zealand travel bubble
New Zealand looks to secure small batch of vaccines early as pressure mounts
New Zealand looks to secure small batch of vaccines early as pressure mountsA tough lockdown and the geographic advantage of being at the bottom of the world helped New Zealand virtually eliminate the novel coronavirus within its borders.
Australia has extended its suspension of the travel bubble with New Zealand for a further 72 hours after more community cases were reported.
The travel arrangements allowing people to travel from New Zealand to Australia without undertaking quarantine have been suspended until 2pm Sunday after two new cases with the new highly-contagious strain of COVID-19 were detected in Auckland this week. The initial suspension period was due to end at 2pm AEDT on Thursday.
On Sunday, a woman infected with the highly transmissible South African variant tested positive after being released into the community, following her release into the community. She returned two negative tests while in hotel quarantine at the Pullman Hotel.
New Zealand suffers first Covid-19 infection for two months
The more contagious South African mutant strain was discovered in a 56-year-old woman who had flown back from London after visiting Spain and the Netherlands. She tested positive ten days after her mandatory 14-day quarantine ended.New Zealand hasn't had a covid case since mid-November because it has a zero covid strategy of strict border controls. It has recorded just 25 coronavirus deaths.Australia shutdown the country's travel-bubble with New Zealand for at least 72 hours while further contact-tracing is carried out.
Two more people, who stayed at the same Auckland hotel as the woman, tested positive after completing their quarantine period.
He said all of the close contacts of the first case and five of the 11 close contacts of the subsequent two cases have tested negative. The remaining tests are still pending.
Health authorities are now trying to track down nine people who travelled from New Zealand to Australia and may be at risk of having the new strain.
"[We were] advised about a new case of COVID-19 in New Zealand on Sunday," Australia's Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said on Thursday.
"On Monday, following rapid gene sequencing, authorities advised that person was infected with one of the COVID variants of concern, which is more transmissible and presents a heightened level of risk.
NZ tourism frets over Tasman bubble delays
New Zealand tourism operators will be "lucky to hit 10 per cent" of capacity during their busiest months of the year, and want the return of Australians.Hopes for quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand took a hit this week as NZ's first community COVID-19 case in weeks prompted Australia to suspend its one-way arrangement.
"It is 15 per cent more transmissible than previous strains."
People arriving in Australia from New Zealand have had to go into hotel quarantine since Monday, and this new arrangement will now continue until 2pm on Sunday, January 31.
"This allows for the continued protection of the people of Australia while the extent of the situation in New Zealand continues to be clarified," Professor Kidd said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Thursday afternoon that New Zealand authorities told the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee of the new cases.
The AHPPC, the key decision-making committee for federal health emergencies, that all three confirmed COVID-19 cases in the community in New Zealand have been genomically linked to an international traveller in hotel quarantine in Auckland.
Of particular concern to the committee was the fact the fresh New Zealand outbreak is connected to the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant, which health authorities say been shown to have higher transmissibility and therefore presents a heightened level of risk.
Aust-NZ bubble in Q1 still doable: Ardern
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she still wants free movement of people across the Tasman by the end of March."We still hold that ambition," she said in Auckland on Thursday, despite a squabble with Australia over its border arrangements.
The B.1.351 variant is estimated to be 50 per cent more transmissible "based on the available evidence", Mr Hunt said.
The health minister also said the variant has spread to 26 countries, including to people who have arrived in Australia who are in mandatory hotel quarantine.
The federal government accepted the recommendation of the AHPPC and Acting CMO to extend the pause for a further three days.
The government also said quarantine arrangements, which are the responsibility of the states, may have to be reviewed for travellers from New Zealand.
In the meantime, Australian health authorities are trying to track down people who arrived in Australia after having been in quarantine at the Pullman Hotel.
New Zealand-Australia travel bubble suspension extended as guests from Auckland's Pullman Hotel make their way across the Tasman
Australia's trans-Tasman travel bubble with New Zealand will remain shut until Sunday at least, with concerns around a number of Auckland's Pullman Hotel guests who have made their way to Australia. Here's the state of play.The decision made by the Federal Government comes as more cases have been confirmed in New Zealand, with more testing and contact tracing underway across the ditch.
"Twelve people who were in quarantine at the Pullman Hotel have arrived in Sydney, three have travelled on to Honk Kong and health authorities there have been notified," Professor Kidd said.
"Two travelled onto Queensland, and authorities there have been notified.
"The others are all being followed up in NSW and are being tested."
He said anyone who arrived from New Zealand since January 9 is now being asked to get tested and self-isolate until they receive a negative result, particular if they stayed at the Pullman Hotel.
There have been no new cases of community transmission of the virus in Australia for 11 days.
The vaccine rollout
Professor Kidd also said the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations is on track to commence in late February, with 80,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected to be available every week.
Australia is also expecting to receive 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March "subject to approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and final shipping confirmation", he said.
An agreement under which Australia will produce 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine onshore is expected to begin in late March and deliver one million doses every week.
"Because of our onshore manufacturing agreement … we have certainty of vaccine supply in a time of uncertainty," Professor Kidd said.
"There will be daily, sometimes hourly, stories coming from around the world on vaccine rollout. Some of these will affect Australia, most will not."
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