Flights to and from Sydney as part of the trans-tasman travel bubble will resume tomorrow.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the move tonight – after the flights were earlier put on ice due to a case in the community detected in Sydney this week.
“New Zealand health officials met today to conduct a further assessment of the public health risk from the recently identified Covid-19 community cases in Sydney. It has been determined that the risk to public health in New Zealand remains low,”Hipkins said.
“Consequently, the Ministry of Health is advising airlines that flights can resume from 11:59pm tomorrow subject to there being no further significant developments.”
“I am pleased with the way the response process has been managed this week. There has been close liaison between the health agencies, and this is reflected in the sound advice our respective Governments have received.”
Hipkins said there was some specific advice for travellers to be aware of. This included:
· Flights from New South Wales to New Zealand to resume at 11:59pm Sunday 9 May – subject to no significant developments in New South Wales.
· Anyone who is in Australia and was at any of the locations of interest at the times specified is asked to follow NSW health advice regarding isolation and testing and must not travel to New Zealand within 14 days from when they were at the location.
· As before, anyone who has arrived in New Zealand and who was at a location of interest at the specified time must self-isolate immediately and call Healthline for information on when they should be tested.
“Our officials remain in close contact with health officials in NSW and will continue to closely monitor the situation.Updates will be provided if there is any change to this latest advice,” Hipkins said.
“We acknowledge that this travel pause has caused disruption to travel plans.
“New Zealand has consistently taken a precautionary approach to keeping Covid-19 out. The Government’s overall public health strategy in respect of the Covid-19 pandemic is elimination. Border controls are a key tool for stopping the introduction and spread of new cases from overseas and remain central to our elimination strategy.”
Hipkins announced on Thursday the decision to pause quarantine-free travel from New South Wales to New Zealand while the source of infection of the two cases announced in Sydney earlier in the week were investigated.
Whole-genome sequencing has linked a case on Wednesday to a recent returnee who arrived in Australia from the United States. A household contact of also tested a positive test.
Since then, New Zealand health officials have considered a range of factors, including whether any new cases had been identified,the results from COVID-19 testing of any contacts identified and from the wider Sydney community, and the results from waste-water surveillance testing.
Following this risk assessment and a review of these factors, they have been reassured that at this stage the two community cases in Sydney are contained and that there is no evidence of widespread undetected community transmission.
Hipkins said on Thursday that health officials had been following the situation in Sydney closely.
A likely source had been identified in a managed isolation facility, he said.
But there didn’t seem to be an “obvious link” indicating a chain of transmission.
“We do acknowledge this has the potential to disrupt people’s travel.
“This isn’t a decision we take lightly.”
Earlier New Zealand health officials were in close contact with their Australian counterparts after a second positive case of Covid-19 in Sydney.
Hipkins said then that decisions on what steps were needed had been discussed earlier in the afternoon prior to the bubble being frozen.
“The advice that I had earlier today was that there could be a likely source of transmission, which again, required further investigation.
“We’re in close contact with Australian health officials.”
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that preparing for “scenarios like these” was all part of having the bubble.
She added she was happy with how quickly New Zealand was informed of the NSW case and the level of engagement with NSW health officials.
“So far, that information sharing has been very good.”
On Friday, Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the decision to pause a travel bubble with Sydney was necessary after two positive Covid cases were confirmed.
Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking asked himwhether authorities here were “trigger-happy” after making the snap decision yesterday.
“I don’t think we’re being trigger-happy at all. We think, on balance, it was the right thing to do.”
He said he and other health officials had put a lot of thought into pausing the New South Wales quarantine-free travel bubble before it was announced publicly.
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