New Zealand stops travel bubble with Australian state


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New Zealand on Tuesday suspended quarantined travel with the Australian state of Victoria due to a new cluster of coronaviruses, the fourth time the trans-Tasmanian travel bubble has been interrupted since it opened last month.

Wellington officials said they were taking a cautious approach after Melbourne recorded nine locally acquired cases in the past two days, which are believed to be related to a leak from a quarantine hotel.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the suspension would take effect at 8:00 pm (08:00 GMT) on Tuesday and would remain in place for at least 72 hours.

“The government understands the disruption that this will temporarily cause to the affected passengers,” he said.

“It was a close call, but the right one considering the current unknowns.”

As it stands, the suspension will be lifted in time for the Otago Highlanders-Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby match in Queenstown, which will be attended by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.

Morrison will be in New Zealand for bilateral diplomatic talks.

It is the fourth interruption since the two countries opened free quarantine bubble on April 18, nearly 400 days after both closed international borders due to the pandemic.

Flights to Western Australia have been suspended twice previously and services to New South Wales were affected earlier this month.

All Australian outbreaks were caused by hotel-related infections that were used to quarantine international travelers.

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© 2021 AFP

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