New Zealand paused quarantine-free travel with Australia’s Victoria state over a new coronavirus cluster Tuesday (25 May), the fourth time the so-called trans-Tasman travel bubble has been disrupted since it opened last month. Officials in Wellington said they were suspending the bubble after Melbourne recorded nine locally acquired cases in the past two days.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the suspension would take effect at 8 pm (0800 GMT) Tuesday and remain in place for at least 72 hours. “The government understands the disruption this will temporarily cause affected passengers,” he said. “It was a close call but the correct one given the current unknowns.”
It is the fourth disruption since the two countries opened their quarantine-free travel bubble on 18 April, almost 400 days after both closed their international borders due to the pandemic. When New Zealand announced it was starting quarantine-free travel, it said it was doing so under the guidance of what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called “flyer beware”. In the event of a COVID cluster being discovered, the country will reserve the right to continue, pause or suspend the arrangement.
Earlier Tuesday, Victorian authorities put in place restrictions, which come into force tonight, limiting the size of gatherings and requiring the use of face coverings indoors, following confirmation of a fifth locally acquired case of COVID-19.