New Zealand will restart the trans-Tasman bubble from Australia on 5 July – but will now insist all travellers take a COVID test within 72 hours of departure.
However, the arrangement will initially only include travel from SA, ACT, Tasmania and Victoria, with NSW, Queensland and WA still on pause following state lockdowns.
Quarantine-free travel was suspended to all of Australia on Saturday night for an initial three days after previously only being “paused” to selected states for brief periods.
The introduction of pre-flight testing is a significant change to the arrangement and mirrors similar arrangements introduced in countries such as the UK and EU.
It is not yet known how long the additional restrictions will last, or when the bubble will open up to the remaining states of Australia.
New Zealand’s COVID Response Minister, Chris Hipkins, today also said travellers from SA, ACT, Tasmania or Victoria can only fly if they have not been in NSW since 22 June; or Queensland, the NT or WA from 26 June.
“Cabinet carefully weighed up the evidence this morning and we consider that partially lifting the pause at this point is an appropriate course of action, particularly when bolstered with the introduction of a mandatory pre-departure test,” Minister Hipkins said.
He added the country was working on “contingency plans” to get Kiwis left in Australia home.
Quarantine-free travel between the two countries only started in April, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned the agreement would be temporarily halted in the event of a lockdown.
When New Zealand announced it was starting quarantine-free travel, it said it was doing so under the guidance of what PM Ardern called “flyer beware”. In the event of a COVID cluster, the country will reserve the right to continue, pause or suspend the arrangement.
If a case was found that was clearly linked to a quarantine facility staff member and was well contained, travel will likely continue.
If a case was found that was not clearly linked, and a state responded by a short lockdown to identify more information, New Zealand would likely pause flights from that state in the same way as flights have been paused previously.
But if multiple cases occurred from an unknown origin, flights would likely be suspended for a set period of time. The bubble has previously paused to WA and NSW as well as Victoria.
Currently, Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin and Perth are either in, or will soon be put in, lockdown as cases of the Delta variant spread around the country.
Overnight, there were 25 cases locally acquired nationwide, with the bulk in NSW.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said hotel quarantine is “not the answer”.
“We need a massive reduction in overseas arrivals because the overseas arrivals are bringing in these contagious strains. We need to get on top of this,” she said.
“We should be utilising Howard Springs. I notice Dan Andrews said something about this this morning. I absolutely back that in as well and Dan and I raised at national cabinet the real need to lower the caps to reduce the risk.
“The reason why: We are having lock downs in major cities because the overseas arrivals are bringing the virus here.
“They are going into hotels and all of our staff are having to deal with it. There are so many staff involved. The risk is real and we need to contain the virus. We need to protect Australia.”