The travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand will remain suspended until at least Nov. 19 because of rising COVID-19 case numbers in both countries, according the New Zealand government.
The quarantine-free travel bubble between the two countries was launched in April, but was subsequently suspended following an outbreak in several Australian states in July.
The countries had been scheduled to lift the suspension on Sept. 24, but the spread of the delta variant has forced the resumption of quarantine-free travel to be delayed for eight more week. Health officials in the two countries will review the policy again in mid to late November.
“When QFT (quarantine-free travel) was established with Australia, both our countries had very few recent cases of COVID-19 community transmission, and a very similar elimination strategy,” New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement. “This has changed significantly leading to our decision to suspend QFT for a further eight weeks.”
According to Hipkins, “Uncontrolled community transmission is still occurring in Australia, with case numbers continuing to steadily increase in New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory. A small number of cases also continue to appear intermittently in other states and territories. In New Zealand as well, we’re getting on top of an outbreak in Auckland.”
Hipkins also confirmed that a third “red flight” from Australia to New Zealand had been planned “for those in emergency situations,” following two similar flights this month allowing stranded Kiwis to return home. Arrivals into New Zealand need to spend 14 days in Managed Isolation and Quarantine accommodation (MIQ) at their own expense.
“We have made great progress to contain our current outbreak and are working hard to ease restrictions next week,” Hipkins said. “Reopening quarantine-free travel with Australia at this point could put those gains at risk.”
Last month the New Zealand government set out its plans “to reconnect New Zealanders to the world,” with borders remaining largely closed until the new year, allowing it “to vaccinate as many New Zealanders as possible and safely conduct a self-isolation trial for vaccinated New Zealanders in order to prepare for a phased resumption of quarantine-free travel,”
Meanwhile, Australia added another three months to “human biosecurity emergency period,” effectively banning outbound overseas travel until mid-December. With certain exceptions, the rules generally forbid “Australian citizens and permanent residents from leaving Australian territory by air or sea as a passenger.” The rules also forbid carriers from transporting Australian citizens to foreign destinations.