Australia has shut its border to New Zealand (NZ) for 72 hours after the country recorded three new cases of the UK strain of the CCP virus, for a second time popping the travel bubble that had existed between the two nations.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Paul Kelly convened an urgent meeting with the CMO’s of Australia’s states in the travel bubble and it was decided NZ would be declared a Red Zone for the next three days, Kelly announced on Sunday night.
All travellers from NZ will now need to enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Australia.
“States will determine how to manage people who have already arrived in Australia from New Zealand and who may pose a risk of transmitting the COVID-19 virus,” Kelly said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters on Sunday that state health ministers had also asked for the manifests of all Air New Zealand flights into Australia from the previous days and said the states would then be following up directly with passengers.
Hunt said so far the NZ authorities’ investigations had revealed that a three-person family associated with a facility near Auckland Airport, which does the laundry for the international flight arrivals, had tested positive. The NZ Herald reported that there have been no further cases of COVID-19 recorded as health authorities trace the family’s close contacts.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has ordered the city of Auckland to undergo a stage three hard lockdown—for a second time. NZ enacted a nationwide lockdown for 51 days last year to combat the virus.
The rest of NZ will go to level two restrictions with mandated social distancing, limits on gatherings, and increased mask-wearing.
Impact on Repatriating Aussies
The move to close the bubble with NZ comes as Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said there is room to discuss decreasing the number of arrivals to Australia after Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said he believed the arrival caps should be reduced to only those with compassionate reasons.
“We’d obviously like to get every Australian back as soon as possible, but there are quarantine restrictions, of course. There are limits on those numbers coming back in,” McCormack told ABC News Breakfast on Monday. “There’s only a certain number of planes and Australia has helped that by facilitating paid-for flights to get back into the country.”
Deputy PM @M_McCormackMP says there is room for a discussion on drastically lowering the number of Australians allowed back into the country.
— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) February 14, 2021
McCormack said the repatriation flights were a large logistical exercise and so far the government had brought home 450,000 Australians.
However, the Deputy Opposition Leader, Kristina Keneally, who is shadow minister for Home Affairs, believes the limits on returning Aussies is only a problem because the federal government refuses to take over quarantine from states.
“The problems that exist in hotel quarantine today are because we have not had national leadership to take responsibility here,” Keneally told Sky News.