On October 16 last year we welcomed the first international flight from New Zealand at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport. Travellers from New Zealand were able to visit New South Wales without having to quarantine under a new one-way trans-Tasman travel agreement.
With the recent discovery of 1 case of the Coronavirus variant in New Zealand, Australia has now paused quarantine-free travel from New Zealand for at least three days.
All it took was one case of a highly transmissible COVID-19 variant in the community for Australia to suspend the travel bubble.
Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to Australia has been put on hold for 72 hours.
People in New Zealand have been asked to reconsider their need to travel to Australia because they will be facing a minimum of 72 hours in hotel quarantine.
And if the pause is extended, you could face up to 14 days in quarantine.
Why did it only take one case in New Zealand?
The community case in New Zealand is the more infectious South African variant of COVID-19.
Rapid generic testing on Monday confirmed the suspicions of New Zealand authorities.
The more transmissible COVID-19 variants are increasingly responsible for outbreaks across the globe.
Therefore, Australia ended so-called “green zone” travel arrangements with New Zealand shortly after the case was confirmed.
This new South African variant is more transmissible and presents a heightened level of risk, it’s been reported so far in at least 13 countries and this had included among 13 people who have been in hotel quarantine in Australia.
So, is that all it takes to call off the travel bubble? Generally, not according to Health Minister Greg Hunt.
Along with the case being a more infectious variant, the amount of time they spent in the community while infectious is also a concern, Mr. Hunt said.
The woman unknowingly visited cafes, bars, and shops in northern New Zealand before testing positive to COVID-19 late on Saturday.
She was returned home from hotel quarantine almost two weeks ago, on January 13.
“It was simply because of the length of period between the infection and the confirmation,” Mr. Hunt said.
What else do we know about the New Zealand case so far?
It’s looking likely that the case spread in hotel quarantine.
The 56-year-old woman who tested positive to COVID-19 probably contracted it from a returned traveller on the same floor as her room in her quarantine hotel.
She returned home after twice testing negative to COVID-19. She later developed symptoms and tested positive.
By that time, she visited about 30 locations in northern New Zealand while unknowingly infectious.
New Zealand authorities say it’s encouraging the woman’s husband and hairdresser have tested negative.
Authorities are confident there is no missing link between the two cases.
Contact tracing is ongoing.
The South African variant was first detected in Australian hotel quarantine on December 29 in a woman who arrived in Australia from South Africa on December 22.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said experts have suggested the UK coronavirus strain “is likely to become the more dominant strain of the virus globally”.