The New Zealand government has defended its snap late-night decision to close the trans-Tasman bubble in the wake of new COVID-19 cases in Australia.
On Saturday night, a select group of NZ cabinet ministers met and decided on a 72-hour suspension to quarantine-free travel for all Australian travellers.
Jacinda Ardern’s government had already shut the border to NSW, which on Sunday recorded 30 new cases, a closure that will remain in place until July 7.
Including Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania – states which have had no community transmission for some time – in the bubble pause appears contrary to the NZ government’s public plan.
However, the virus appearing in a fly-in fly-out mining community had spooked the government to act – and fast.
“The feedback that we’ve had is that they’ve spread themselves all across Australia. One of the reasons we need some time is to identify exactly where they have been,” COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said.
“950 people leaving there and spreading themselves across Australia does create additional risk in our minds.
“We will use the 72-hour period to consider whether we can narrow that restriction down.”
The bubble pause means Kiwis will be stuck in every Australian state, unable to get home.
The government is operating a “flyer beware” model, with travellers asked to shelter in place when restrictions change.
“Hold tight for now,” Mr Hipkins told Kiwis unwittingly stuck in Australia.
Mr Hipkins said pre-departure testing for inbound travellers was likely to accompany the resumption of the trans-Tasman bubble.
While cases grow in Australia, New Zealand’s long stretch without community transmission continues.
No new local cases were announced on Sunday, giving increased confidence that Wellington has escaped an outbreak or lockdown of its own.
The government has upped restrictions in the capital after a Sydney traveller visited last weekend, testing positive for COVID-19 on his return.
The man’s partner – who also travelled to New Zealand – has also tested positive, but there has been no further proof of spread.
Both travellers were vaccinated.
Cabinet has extended Wellington’s level two restrictions until Wednesday, and will decide on future settings on Monday.