Green zone flights from New Zealand recommence as Australia resumes travel bubble

Australia temporarily paused quarantine-free travel with New Zealand earlier in the week due to cases of the South African variant of COVID-19 being detected there.

Air NZ and Qantas

"Green zone" flights from New Zealand are set to resume on Sunday. Source: AAP

New Zealanders can again travel to Australia after the federal government resumed the trans-Tasman travel bubble from 2pm on Sunday.

The "green zone travel" arrangements allowing people to travel from New Zealand were suspended earlier this week after three initial cases of the South African variant of COVID-19 were detected in Auckland. 

The three cases originated from transmission within one hotel quarantine facility, the Pullman Hotel. 

Acting Chief Medical Officer Michael Kidd on Sunday announced the pause in flights did not need to be extended, after no further COVID-19 cases were reported in the New Zealand community. 

"I've recommended that the Commonwealth not extend the clause to New Zealand beyond 2pm today," he told reporters. "The Commonwealth has accepted the advice and this means that green zone flights from New Zealand will recommence this afternoon." 

Professor Kidd said green zone flights from New Zealand into Australia are now judged to be "sufficiently low risk" given the country's strong public health response. 

He also noted all close contacts of the three initial cases have returned negative test results, and there have been no further cases found to date in casual contacts. 

However, in a slight change to the green zone travel arrangements, Professor Kidd has recommended pre- and post-flight screening be implemented for the next 10 days.

That means anyone coming to Australia from New Zealand must have been in the community for the previous 14 days and not in hotel quarantine. 

"As well as being screened for possible symptoms of COVID-19, this screening will check that travellers have not been identified as close contacts of the infected cases who have not visited any of the contact tracing areas of interest in New Zealand," he said.

"And if they have, that they have been tested and they have received negative test results and clearance as required by the New Zealand authorities."

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee will continue to monitor the situation in New Zealand very closely.

"(It) will receive daily reports from the New Zealand health authorities on the results of the continuing contact tracing related to this outbreak," he said.

Earlier in the week, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern publically rebuked the Australian government for shutting down the travel arrangements, saying the situation in New Zealand was under control and that the suspension risked setting back progress towards a two-way travel bubble. 

Quarantine-free travel at the moment is only one way, with New Zealanders able to enter Australia but not vice versa. 

Previously, the New Zealand government had said it hoped to introduce two-way quarantine free travel by early 2021, but those plans may now be pushed back. 

"If we are to enter into a trans-Tasman bubble we will need to give people confidence that we won't see closures at the border that happen with very short notice over incidents we believe can be well-managed domestically," Ms Ardern said.

"We are continuing to pursue it ... but it does look increasingly difficult at a country-by-country level. We haven't ruled out the possibility of state-by-state."

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction's restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSWVictoriaQueenslandWestern AustraliaSouth AustraliaNorthern TerritoryACTTasmania.


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Published 31 January 2021 at 1:49pm, updated 31 January 2021 at 10:50pm
By Jarni Blakkarly