Australia New Zealand-Australia travel bubble suspension extended as guests from Auckland's Pullman Hotel make their way across the Tasman
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's travel bubble with New Zealand has been put on hold for another three days, meaning more disruptions for any trans-Tasman travellers.
Thecomes as more cases have been confirmed in New Zealand, with more testing and contact tracing underway across the ditch.
More pressingly, there are fears that cases from the quarantine hotel in Auckland may have already reached Australia.
As a result, mandatory hotel quarantine will remain in place for all New Zealanders travelling to Australia until 2:00pm AEDT on Sunday, January 31.
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.
Here's the current state of affairs between the neighbouring countries.
Have cases from New Zealand reached Australia?
Not that we are aware of yet, but we do know that 12 people who had been staying in the Pullman Hotel in Auckland at the same time as these new COVID cases had travelled to Australia before the bubble was suspended.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said those people are being identified and will be put in isolation and tested.
"All these people are being followed up by the health authorities in the state where they landed," Professor Kidd said.
"We know that 12 people who were in quarantine at the Pullman Hotel have arrived in Sydney. Three of these people have travelled onto Hong Kong and the authorities there have been advised.
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.
"Two of these people travelled onto Queensland and the authorities there have also been advised. The others are all being followed up in New South Wales and are being tested."
What's next for the travel bubble?
Until Sunday afternoon, anybody who arrives in Australia from New Zealand will be forced into 14 days of mandatory hotel quarantine.
Some flights from Auckland have already been cancelled, with more likely to follow.
A decision on the short-term future of the bubble will be made in the coming days, but New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday she still holds the "ambition" of opening a full two-way travel bubble between the countries by the end of March.
How many cases have been linked to the Pullman Hotel?
Three cases have now been confirmed in people who had been in hotel quarantine at the Pullman in Auckland.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee said "all close contacts of the first New Zealand case have returned negative test results, and five of the 11 close contacts of the subsequent two cases have also returned negative results, with the remainder awaiting their results".
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.
Which strand of the virus is New Zealand dealing with?
New Zealand health authorities say the strain detected is the mutant B1351 variant, which was first detected in South Africa.
"This new variant is more transmissible and so presents a heightened level of risk," Professor Kidd said.
"It has been reported in at least 26 countries, including among 13 people who have arrived in Australia and who have been in hotel quarantine.
"This variant is being reported as being 50 per cent more transmissible than previous strains of COVID-19.
What is happening to arrivals from New Zealand?
Anyone who has flown to Australia from New Zealand since Monday, when the suspension of the travel bubble was first introduced, has been placed in 14 days of hotel quarantine.
"I apologise to those people who have had their travel arrangements disrupted," Professor Kidd said.
Professor Kidd also said anyone who has arrived in Australia from New Zealand on or since January 9 should isolate and undertake a COVID test.
"In particular, if you were in hotel quarantine or were a guest or a staff member at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland, between January 9 and January 14, please isolate at your home, arrange to get tested for COVID-19, and follow the advice of the health authorities in your state," he said.
Australia extends suspension of New Zealand travel bubble
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.
What does New Zealand think about Australia's decision?
Ms Ardern expressed her disappointment in the wake of the Australian Government's initial decision, but on Thursday said she does not expect the suspension to be a long one.
"I do know that our officials and high commissioners have been staying in close contact," she said.
"So, as you'd expect, and we are providing information to our counterparts in Australia.
"The decision will ultimately be for them, I've never got the sense it would be a long-term position for them. They are ultimately just waiting for a bit more information."
On Tuesday, Ms Ardern said she had spoken to Australian counterpart Scott Morrison and told him New Zealand had the situation "well under control".
"If we are to enter into a trans-Tasman bubble we will need to give people confidence that we won't see closures at the border that happen with very short notice over incidents we believe can be well-managed domestically."
Claims hotel quarantine security guards in WA are foreign students .
An insider has blasted Western Australia's hotel quarantine system and accused security companies of hiring and exploiting foreign students. The source claimed guards were paid minimum wage in cash and off the books so they could work double the 20 hours allowed under their visa arrangements. It was also alleged that hotel security guards were sharing IDs so they could get away with working a second job such as driving for Uber. The insider told The West the security services in the state were run by a 'bunch of cowboys'.