New Zealand says it will pause its quarantine-free travel with Victoria for at least 72 hours while it investigates the source of a new COVID-19 cluster in Melbourne which has grown to nine in the last two days.
- Travellers arriving from Victoria will be required to quarantine from 6pm tonight
- New Zealand says the initial three-day pause will be under constant review
- The COVID-19 cluster in Melbourne’s north has grown to nine as the city braces for new restrictions
“New Zealand officials have assessed that the most cautious option is to pause the travel bubble with Victoria as there are still several unknowns with the outbreak,” New Zealand’s Minister for COVID-19 Response, Chris Hipkins, said in a statement on Tuesday.
From 6pm AEDT tonight, travellers will have to quarantine when arriving in New Zealand.
The initial three-day suspension will be “under constant review”.
Mr Hipkins said the decision was “a close call but the correct one given the current unknowns”, and acknowledged that the pause would temporarily disrupt people’s travel arrangements.
Quarantine-free travel to New Zealand from Australia was introduced in April, following the relative success of both countries containing COVID-19.
Earlier this month, New Zealand temporarily closed its border with NSW following two community transmissions. It was reinstated 48 hours later.
New Zealand made the announcement after four COVID-19 cases were reported in Melbourne’s north yesterday and one earlier this morning.
Another four cases, all family contacts of the case recorded this morning, were announced on Tuesday afternoon.
New Zealand Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, said authorities “feel that it’s proportionate and precautionary for New Zealand to put that pause in place now”.
The cluster prompted Victoria to re-introduce coronavirus restrictions across Greater Melbourne, which come into force tonight, limiting the size of gatherings and requiring the use of face coverings indoors.
The restrictions will be in place until at least June 4.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, said he was optimistic that Victoria would overcome the outbreak.
“Victoria’s done it before, Victoria’s done it better than anywhere in the world,” he said.
“Victorians know exactly what to do and are probably more primed to do the right thing than almost any jurisdiction in the world.”
One of the latest COVID cases had a high viral load when he visited some venues, prompting authorities to warn Melbourne’s 5 million residents to brace for more positive cases in the next few days.
The outbreak ends Victoria’s run of zero local cases for nearly three months.