Kiwis hoping to travel to Australia are anxiously waiting for a decision today on whether the travel bubble between the two nations will reopen.
- The Australian Government is expected to decide today whether to reopen its New Zealand travel corridor
- Quarantine-free travel to Australia was suspended earlier this week after a COVID-19 case was reported in NZ
- Australian authorities were seeking more information overnight on two new cases
Earlier this week Australia suspended the so-called “green zone” arrangements for at least 72 hours after a woman in New Zealand tested positive for a more transmissible strain of the virus upon leaving hotel quarantine.
That deadline expires at 2:00pm AEDT today, however Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd said Australian authorities were seeking more information overnight about a further two positive cases who had been staying in the same hotel.
“The situation is evolving rapidly,” Professor Kidd said on Wednesday.
“We will be following up the details of both these cases with the New Zealand authorities once further details, including the results of additional testing, are known.”
Caro Richards is desperately hoping to travel to Perth from her home in Tauranga, on New Zealand’s North Island, ahead of the expected arrival of her new grandchild in early March.
She is willing to pay for hotel quarantine in Australia but her flight earlier this week was cancelled after the suspension of the travel bubble was announced.
“My daughter has no family in Australia except for her partner who works in the mines, so he’s in and out,” she said.
“She also has a two-year-old. I’ve literally come out in shingles. I literally haven’t been able to sleep for the last couple of days.
“I just need to get there.”
Two-way travel bubble still ‘manageable’, expert says
Professor Michael Baker from the University of Otago said Australia’s decision to re-impose restrictions was understandable, but he hoped travel would soon be possible again in both directions, rather than just one-way.
“I’d like to see that and I think it’s manageable,” he said.
“What I’d really also like to see is Australia and New Zealand get together and work out a really coordinated way of reducing the number of infected people arriving into our quarantine facilities.
“I think Australia has got the same issue as New Zealand. We recognise this is the weak point in our system.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday she was disappointed by the decision to suspend the bubble after the one case, saying the situation was “well under control”.
She also said she was considering forming a trans-Tasman travel bubble directly with Australian states instead of through a national agreement.
Professor Baker said that approach made sense.
“At one point, New Zealand might start to behave a bit like a state of Australia in the sense that you could have a hotspot in any one of those areas at a certain time and it wouldn’t necessarily shut down travel between other parts of that network if you like,” he said.
“So I think it’s a solvable problem.”