A trio of travellers from Melbourne have been put into quarantine after trying to enter New Zealand from Sydney.
New Zealand has a quarantine-free travel bubble arrangement with Australia but paused all travel with Victoria from May 25 due to the outbreak in Melbourne. There are some exemptions for New Zealand residents returning home.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said their mandatory stay in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ), which they must pay for themselves, was a punishment and that the relevant authorities would decide whether to fine them.
She said the case was an example that showed that people looking to enter the country against the rules would be caught and face consequences.
“Anyone considering breaching rules we have in place, in this case the family, has been picked up and they’ve been put into a managed isolation facility,” Ardern told reporters on Wednesday. “So there are consequences, but as for fines, those decisions sit elsewhere.”
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the three were picked up by authorities despite providing “incorrect information.”
The NZ Herald reported that the trio were trying to attend a funeral in New Zealand. They drove from Melbourne to Sydney then boarded a flight across the Tasman Sea last week.
The Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield reported that day-zero test results of the group returned negative and thought the actions of the three were “disappointing.”
Bloomfield added that he also has not looked into the possibility of charges but said the group may face penalties from the Victorian government for breaching Melbourne lockdown rules.
The breach of rules follows another incident in April where a man from Perth travelled to NZ via Sydney despite a pause in the bubble with Perth at the time.
“For somebody who’s intent on getting to their end destination, regardless of the rules, it’s a straightforward option they can take if they’re willing to lie,” Immigration Manager Peter Elms told the NZ Herald in April. “Quarantine-free travel, certainly when it comes to pauses or suspension, it relies heavily on people’s honesty, people’s ability to understand and follow the rules in place.”
Melbourne residents escaping the state’s most recent lockdown have also put other Australian states on high alert, with Queensland recording one case of community transmission in the last 24 hours after an infectious Victorian woman visiting parts of the state.
The woman and her husband left Victoria on June 1, travelled through NSW and crossed into Queensland at Goondiwindi on June 5.
The couple has since travelled to various locations, including the Sunshine Coast.