New Zealand Suspends Travel Bubble With Australia as COVID-19 Cases Rise
New Zealand has temporarily paused its quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia as COVID-19 cases begin to rise. The pause will last at least eight weeks, beginning Friday.
"We've always said that our response would evolve as the virus evolved. This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep New Zealanders safe," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters this week, according to Reuters.
New Zealand had already paused travel to and from the Australian states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia due to a growing number of coronavirus cases.
New Zealand residents who are currently in Australia have until July 30 to return home. The temporary pause will remain in effect until at least Sept. 24.
The two-way travel bubble had been open since April 19 and allowed travelers to pass between Australian and New Zealander borders without a COVID-19 test or need for quarantine. But earlier this month, New Zealand introduced a testing requirement for incoming Aussies.
On Friday, New South Wales reported its highest rise in daily numbers of COVID-19 cases this year, mostly attributed to the Delta variant. The increase has been called a "national emergency" and raises the likelihood that stay-at-home orders already in place in Sydney will be extended past their current July 30 end date, according to Reuters.
Both Qantas and Air New Zealand will cancel most services between the two countries beginning July 31. A small number of flights will remain in operation for essential travel and freight. Travelers whose flights have been impacted can reschedule for when the travel bubble reopens, request a flight credit, or cancel their flights.
This current rise in infections began in Australia in mid-June and has since jumped to more than 1,900 cases.