Travel bubble bursts with lockdown for New Zealand’s largest city

Health authorities have made a late-night decision to stop giving New Zealand travellers easy access to Australia

Feb 15, 2021, updated Feb 15, 2021
Auckland has been placed into lockdown after COVID-19 cases were detected. (Photo: AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Auckland has been placed into lockdown after COVID-19 cases were detected. (Photo: AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

Australia will stop quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders, after three COVID-19 cases were recorded in Auckland.

The trans-Tasman bubble was set up so people could fly from New Zealand to Australia without needing to spend 14 days in a hotel.

However, Australia’s expert medical panel made a decision late on Sunday night to change the system.

It means any New Zealanders that fly into Australia from Monday will have to spend a fortnight in hotel quarantine.

The new rule will remain in place for the next three days before the situation is reassessed.

A statement on the Department of Health website said the pause on quarantine-free travel was decided after a meeting with the Chief Health Officers of Queensland, NSW and Victoria and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly.

“All people arriving on such flights originating within this three-day period will need to go into 14 days of supervised hotel quarantine,” the statement read.

“The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee will consider further updates from New Zealand tomorrow and provide advice.”

Professor Kelly had said earlier on Sunday that travel arrangements with New Zealand would not change.

New Zealand reported three new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in Auckland on Sunday, sending the country’s largest city into a three-day lockdown.

Auckland went into alert level three restrictions from 11:59pm local time on Sunday, with the rest of New Zealand at alert level two.

The new cases were a couple and their daughter in Auckland.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern said the city’s schools would remain open for the children of parents who needed to work, but otherwise students would be asked to stay at home.

Pharmacies and supermarkets will stay open, but other businesses requiring face-to-face interaction will close.

The mother from the infected family works at an airline catering company.

Food and beverage on Air New Zealand flights will be suspended for domestic routes as a precaution.

Ardern, who urged Aucklanders to “stay home”, said alert levels would be reviewed in 24 hours as her Government did more testing.

Health authorities are still working to find out how the family contracted the virus and “whether COVID-19 could be out there in the community … or whether this is the start of what could be a chain of transmission”.

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