Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Travel ban extended as NSW death toll grows

The suspension of quarantine-free travel (QFT) with Australia has been extended, given the current Delta outbreaks, COVID-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins said today.

“When QFT was established with Australia, both our countries had very few recent cases of COVID-19 community transmission, and a very similar elimination strategy. This has changed significantly leading to our decision to suspend QFT for a further eight weeks,” Minister Hipkins said.

“Uncontrolled community transmission is still occurring in Australia, with case numbers continuing to steadily increase in New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory. A small number of cases also continue to appear intermittently in other states and territories. In New Zealand as well, we’re getting on top of an outbreak in Auckland. 

“Protecting New Zealand from any possible further spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 is our absolute priority. We have made great progress to contain our current outbreak and are working hard to ease restrictions next week. Reopening quarantine-free travel with Australia at this point could put those gains at risk.”

The state of New South Wales today recorded 1,284 new locally-acquired cases of COVID-19 and 12 deaths – it is the state’s second day recording a dozen deaths from the virus and the highest daily death rate it has so far recorded during the current outbreak.

“The decision is critical to provide clarity for people in Australia to make informed decisions about their ability to shelter in place in the longer-term or whether to seek return flights and book space in MIQ,” said Mr Hipkins.

“One of the reasons we established QFT with Australia was because our countries share so many close connections, and I acknowledge that this further suspension will be disappointing for many people.

“We’re announcing the decision today so that people in Australia can participate in the MIQ room release on Monday for rooms in October and November. Travellers from Australia need to visit the MIQ website to find out how to participate. There will be a second room release later in the month.

“A third red flight from Australia to New Zealand is also planned for those in emergency situations. This follows the two red flights that returned stranded Kiwis home to New Zealand on 5 and 15 September.”

The costs of flights and MIQ will need to be covered by travellers, and a pre-departure test from an accredited laboratory, also at the traveller’s cost, will be required within 72 hours of travel.

“We will review this decision in mid to late November to give more time for our vaccination rates to climb higher. It will be heavily influenced by the policies we’re working on for the Reconnecting New Zealand strategy.

“This recognises that the QFT was established on the basis that there was little to no community transmission in Australia, and that future settings are likely to change,” Chris Hipkins said.

The start of a maritime QFT system with Australia will be paused and reconsidered in 2022.

QFT from Australia to New Zealand was suspended on Friday 23 July, and the suspension was due to end on 24 September.

Further information is available on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

What you need to do before the 9am MIQ lobby starts is on the MIQ website

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