New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed plans for a trans-Tasman bubble have now been “put on the backburner” due to Victoria’s COVID-19 resurgence.
She also indicated that Australia would need to be free of unknown locally acquired cases – so-called community transmission – for at least 28 days before travel could begin.
The comments mark a turnaround from June, when the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, argued flights between the two countries should restart even if some Australian states were closed.
PM Ardern, though, was unequivocal when questioned while doing the rounds on a number of radio breakfast shows on Monday.
She said Victoria’s outbreak was a “major step back for trans-Tasman travel” and that it was “very hard to predict” when it could restart.
“Anywhere where we have COVID-free travel they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time – that will be some time for Australia,” she said.
In June, Deputy PM Peters said the project had run into “the roadblock of federalism” because some Australian states were refusing to open their borders.
“We should not have states being held back by the slowest mover, so to speak, so let’s get going,” he said.
New Zealand now appears to be reaping the benefits from all-but eradicating COVID-19 and halting social distancing.
On Monday, Australian Aviation reported that Air New Zealand flew a record number of passengers during the July school holidays.
The results encouraged the airline to increase its domestic capacity to 70 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels in August.
The airline had targeted running at just 55 per cent but said it was “pleasantly surprised” by demand.
It has been 94 days since New Zealand last saw a case of COVID-19 with no known source.