Covid 19 coronavirus: Government extends pause on quarantine-free travel with Victoria

The pause in quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Victoria has been extended for a further seven days amid a new outbreak in the Australian state, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has announced.

The extension means the pause will be until at least 7.59pm on Friday June 4. Hipkins said the extension was due to the growing number of cases, more exposure events, and the high-risk nature of some of these events.

Anybody who had been in one of the locations of interest in Victoria couldn’t travel to NZ for at least 14 days after they had been at the location, Hipkins said. People who had visited one of those locations could not travel to New Zealand even if they had a negative Covid-19 test, Hipkins said.

Further restrictions, such as pre-departure testing, were being considered, he said.

Anyone who has travelled to NZ after being in the greater Melbourne area since the 20th was now required to be tested and to isolate, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said. That’s in addition to those who travelled to NZ since May 11.

The risk to New Zealand was still considered low, Bloomfield said, but a precautionary approach was appropriate.

Hipkins said everything would be done to make sure those impacted by today’s legal notification would be notified.

He said the people concerned would be spread across the country and was satisfied that there was good testing capability available.

The travel bubble pause with Victoria would be kept under review, Hipkins said. If the pause was to continue – then the Government would look at other options, such as emergency travel back for Kiwis in Victoria who needed to come back, he said.

If the pause looked like it was going to go on for longer than planned, people could expect to have further guidance mid-way through next week, Hipkins said.

On the wider transtasman bubble, Hipkins said further decisions depended on what happened over the next seven days.

Victoria will go into a seven-day “circuit-breaker” lockdown from midnight until Friday morning next week.

The number of active cases in the state has grown to 34, with 150 exposure sites and “over 10,000” contacts identified so far – a number expected to only increase.

Under the lockdown those in Victoria will only be allowed to leave their homes for five reasons, including to get food and supplies, authorised work, care and caregiving for medical reasons, exercise for up to two hours each day with one other person, and getting vaccinated.

It is the fourth time the Australian state has been placed in a lockdown.

New Zealand health officials were in close contact with counterparts in Victoria following the lockdown announcement today, the Ministry of Health said earlier today.

It was “crucial” that any Kiwi travellers in Victoria since May 11 were checking Victoria Health’s locations of interest.

Because the first case in the Melbourne cluster was identified just over two weeks ago – on May 11 – it is possible that people from the Whittlesea local government area in Melbourne may have been exposed to the virus and are now in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health said.

“The ministry is asking anyone who has been in that area to have a test five days after they were last in Whittlesea and stay in their accommodation until they have a negative test result – even if they do not have symptoms.”

Anyone from the wider Melbourne region who develops symptoms while in New Zealand is also urged to take action immediately by calling Healthline on 0800 358 5453 and arrange to get a Covid test.

The locations of interest connected to the Melbourne cluster are regularly updated on Victoria’s dedicated Covid website.

Meanwhile, New Zealand continues to record no cases of Covid-19 in the community.

Yesterday, no positive cases were detected at the border either – with the Ministry of Health reporting no new cases at any of the managed isolation facilities around the country.

On vaccinations, Hipkins said there had been “good coverage” of groups one and two.

“I’m confident with the vaccines we have available we are best positioned as we can be.”

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