New Zealand-Australia travel bubble bursts

Quarantine-free travel from all Australian states and territories to New Zealand will be suspended, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced on July 23. The news comes as Australia continues to grapple with a Covid outbreak spreading through multiple states despite lockdowns. "Given the high level of transmissibility of the Delta variant, and the fact that there are now multiple community clusters, it is the right thing to do to keep Covid-19 out of New Zealand," Hipkins said.

From 11:59 p.m. Friday (7:59 a.m. EST), Australians will no longer be able to enter New Zealand quarantine-free for at least the next eight weeks. Ardern said the decision was not taken lightly, but with "multiple outbreaks, and in differing stages of containment" with three Australian states in lockdown, "the health risk to New Zealanders from these cases is increasing."

The Australian state of New South Wales -- home to Sydney -- reported 136 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in 24 hours, while Victoria -- home of Melbourne -- announced 14 new cases over that same period. South Australia reported one new case. New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would ask the federal government for more Pfizer vaccine doses to be allocated to the state for use in Sydney's west and southwest, both of which are virus hotspots. The quarantine-free trans-Tasman exchange (usually referred to as a travel bubble) kicked off between the two countries in April. Roughly half of Australia's population, some 13 million people, is now under some form of lockdown as the country works to stem the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant amid a slow vaccination rollout.



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