WELLINGTON, Aug 3, 2020, Stuff.co.nz. The community outbreak of COVID-19 in Melbourne has driven the possibility of a trans-Tasman travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia well into the distance, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Before such travel was possible, Australia would need to have 28 continual days with no community transmission, Ardern said, suggesting that could be at least several months away.
Ardern was asked on her Monday morning media rounds about the developing situation in Melbourne where on Sunday there were 760 active cases of COVID-19 with no known source, meaning they were acquired in the community.
It has been 93 days since New Zealand last saw a case of COVID-19 with no known source.
A “state of disaster” has been declared in Victoria, with a curfew imposed on Melbourne and schools shut down. The city’s lockdown is not as strict as New Zealand’s level 4 lockdown at this point, but NZ did not have a curfew.
Speaking to RNZ, Ardern said the outbreak was a “major step back for trans-Tasman travel”.
“Obviously this is going to be some time away now,” Ardern said.
She expanded her comments on The AM Show, saying Australia would need to be free of unknown locally acquired cases – community transmission – for at least 28 days.
“Anywhere where we have COVID-free travel they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time – that will be some time for Australia,” Ardern said.
“It will be on the back burner for several months.”
She said, based on her understanding, Victoria could be some months away from that, but the harsher lockdown could speed that up.
The government earlier mused about the possibility of opening up to Australia state by state, as many states are in a much better position than Victoria.
This would have to be approved by the Australian national cabinet however, and New Zealand would also need to be satisfied that restrictions on interstate travel were very strict. It appears that this strategy has been abandoned for the time being.
Ardern refused to put a timeframe on a travel bubble with the Cook Islands, which is free of the virus.
She said preparing airports so that travellers from the Cook Islands did not interact with other international travellers was the source of the hold-up.