The plan for a Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble allowing quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand has hit another snag with Australia declaring New Zealand a “red zone” after new community transmissions were recorded in its largest city of Auckland.
Auckland was placed into an “alert level 3” three-day hard lockdown overnight after three new community transmissions were recorded – all members of the same family (a couple and their daughter). The rest of New Zealand was placed into alert level 2.
The mother from the infected family works at an airline catering company, and New Zealand authorities are scrambling 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”. Genomic testing is underway to determine if the Auckland family’s infection was linked to any highly infectious variants, like the new UK strain.
In response to the outbreak, Australia’s expert medical panel – comprising the Chief Health Officers of Queensland, NSW and Victoria and Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly – made the decision last night to change the arrival rules for New Zealanders, requiring them to spend a fortnight in hotel quarantine if they arrive into Australia during the lockdown period (Monday to Wednesday).
After that, the travel arrangements will be reviewed.
New Zealand is due to roll out vaccines to its population of five million from 20 February.