The trans-Tasman bubble will be suspended for eight weeks, starting from 11:59pm Friday 23 July.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today that quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand will be suspended from 11.59pm today. This suspension will be in place for eight weeks, after which it will be reassessed.
This decision comes as the latest Covid outbreak in Australia worsens, prompting Cabinet to hold an urgent meeting yesterday afternoon to discuss the trans-Tasman bubble.
New South Wales has been in lockdown for weeks now, but Covid cases in the state continue to increase. Today, NSW reported 136 new community cases, of which 53 were symptomatic while they were in the community. This is the highest number of new cases in a single day since the outbreak began in mid-June, breaking the previous record yesterday of 124 cases.
This latest outbreak comes from the Delta variant of Covid-19, which Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield explained is “showing itself to be much more transmissible than previous variants.”
Over the next seven days, managed return flights will be organised for New Zealanders who are currently stranded in all states and territories of Australia. If the demand for return flights has not been met in that seven-day period, the government will work with airlines to extend the period for a few more days.
Anyone who has been in New South Wales in the last 14 days will need to go into managed isolation.
People returning to New Zealand from Australia after this planned seven-day period of managed return flights will need to enter the MIQ booking system, where they won’t be guaranteed they can secure a voucher.
The Prime Minister’s message to any New Zealander who is currently in Australia and does not intend to stay there long-term is: “come home.”
The goal remains to reopen the bubble as soon as it is safe to do so, the Prime Minister emphasised. “We do want the bubble to resume. We remain committed to it.”
Auckland-based actor Ryan Dulieu says he would be “gutted” if the travel bubble with Australia was closed permanently.
He has been locked down in Sydney for the last four weeks, after going over on June 21st with two other New Zealand performers for what was supposed to be a four-week tour of a theatre production through Sydney and Adelaide.
“But it’s turned into five weeks in the same suburb and two weeks in MIQ,” he says.
Closing the bubble would stop community transmission for a while, he says, “but we can’t stay shut forever. As a nation we don't function in a vacuum.”
“You cannot close the shutters and wait for this to go away. It's not going to go away, it will come to New Zealand. There will be community cases of the Delta variant in New Zealand, but whether you're prepared for it is up to you. Keep yourselves informed and get vaccinated.”
He is grateful the travel bubble was open, and says it wasn’t stupid for New Zealand to open borders to Australia.
“With the info that we were given at the time, it seemed like it would work as long as everybody was careful and did the right thing.”
He finally has secured a repatriation flight back to Auckland this Sunday, but needs to spend two weeks in managed isolation.
He says there is “absolutely” a strong attitude in New Zealand that if you get stuck it’s your fault for going overseas.
“I'm not in a position to turn this work down, whether or not I feel positive about the bubble I kind of have to do this.”
“New Zealanders need to be a little kinder to their expats, to the New Zealanders overseas trying to get home, and kinder to the idea of having some open borders once it's safer. And to realise that the only way to make it safer is to get vaccinated. It's not to wait, waiting isn't going to fix it any more.”
He says it’s a “generalisation” to close the bubble to the whole of Australia.
“This problem seems particular to New South Wales and Victoria, there are whole states in Australia that have none of these problems. The Northern Territory and Tasmania have been pretty Covid-free this whole time.”
“I think that the energy in this kind of action should be directed into ramping up the vaccinations. New Zealand has such low vaccination rates, and being here and hearing that Australia are ordering a million doses of the Pfizer vaccine every week into the country - part of us wanted to stay here and see if we can get vaccinated here.”
His theatre tour has been rescheduled to September and October, and he’s hopeful the travel bubble will be open by then.
“In the line of work that we’re in, we’re lucky to secure a contract like this. I would take this risk again to do the shows in September and October. To not go back on tour would be like this was all for nothing.”