Australia ‘Come home': New Zealand suspends trans-Tasman bubble for two months

07:19  23 july  2021
07:19  23 july  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has suspended the trans-Tasman bubble. © Getty New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has suspended the trans-Tasman bubble.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the trans-Tasman bubble with Australia will be suspended for two months.

The bubble will pause from 11.59pm on Friday night New Zealand time (9.59pm AEST) but there will be managed return flights over the next seven days to allow Kiwi citizens and residents to come home.

Those outside of Victoria and New South Wales will be able to get on these flights and not go through quarantine - but everyone will need a negative pre-departure test.

Those in New South Wales will need to enter hotel quarantine for two weeks while those in Victoria will be able to isolate at home, with similar testing requirements to those in managed isolation.

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"My strong message to every New Zealander in Australia right now who does not want to stay there long term is - come home," Ardern said.

She said after those seven days of return flights, Kiwis would have to obtain a managed isolation spot in hotel quarantine like everyone else and enough space could not be guaranteed.

The suspension of the bubble casts doubt on the Wallabies' plans to play the All Blacks in Bledisloe Cup tests in Perth on August 21 and Wellington on August 28.

However, Ardern said the Wallabies may be able to travel to New Zealand within the next seven days with an "economic impact exemption".

"If there are significant economic issues that are brought up by the closure in that seven-day window that can be resolved than we have a delegated minister to work through any of those issues," Ardern said.

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"However, it must be in the seven-day window, we are not making exceptions outside of that. Everyone else has to go into quarantine."

Video: Trans-Tasman travel bubble paused (Sky News Australia)

The bubble, already shut for many states, was designed to allow New Zealanders and Australians to travel between the countries without staying in mandatory managed isolation hotels.

Both countries had essentially eliminated COVID-19 when the bubble was launched, but border leakages in Australia and subsequent outbreaks have seen flights between New Zealand and various states closed several times.

The large outbreak in New South Wales grew by 136 community cases on Friday, and a national emergency was declared.

Ardern made the announcement after a special virtual Cabinet meeting on Thursday, held while she was planning to be on holiday.

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Trans-tasman flights to New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia had already been suspended. A spot check at New Zealand's airports revealed 100 people trying to get into the country from these states, Ardern said.

"We've acted out of an abundance of caution and will continue to do so," Ardern said.

She said the highly-infectious Delta variant had changed the risk profile significantly. "Covid has changed, so we must."

Asked if she did not trust Australia to manage the latest outbreak, Ardern said: "We don't trust Covid."

"There is no judgement here. We want Australia to succeed because it allows us to keep those arrangements alive."

Ardern passed on some condolences to Australia, saying New Zealand was a "friend" willing the country a "speedy recovery".

New Zealand's Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said he calculated it would take eight weeks for NSW to get on top of their outbreak and bring numbers down to an acceptable level and that was why the travel bubble was going to be suspended for two months.

He added that New Zealand's health officials were preparing for a Delta outbreak, which would require "a swift and forceful response".

Air NZ has already announced five flights from NSW between July 28 and August 7 to allow Kiwis to return home via a stay in hotel quarantine.

Board of Airline Representatives of New Zealand executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers said the effect of the eight-week suspension came at a time when many airline staff had just returned to their jobs.

"It's tough - this could see a lot of people put back on reduced hours and pay, or going into furlough again," Tighe-Umbers said.

Stuff.co.nz, staff reporters

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This is interesting!