Aus-NZ quarantine-free travel to remain suspended

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Aerial photo taken on April 19, 2021 shows a flight carrying the first batch of passengers from Australia after the opening of quarantine-free travel arriving in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Xinhua/IANS)

The suspension of quarantine-free travel (QFT) between New Zealand and Australia has been extended for another eight weeks, given the current Covid-19 outbreaks fuelled by the Delta variant, a Minister said here on Friday.

“When the QFT was established with Australia, both our countries had very few recent cases of Covid-19 community transmission, and a very similar elimination strategy. This has changed significantly leading to our decision to suspend QFT for a further eight weeks,” Xinhua news agency quoted New Zealand Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins as saying.

Uncontrolled community transmission is still occurring in Australia, with case numbers continuing to steadily increase in Australia’s New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory.

A small number of cases also continued to appear intermittently in other states and territories, he said, adding New Zealand is also “getting on top of” an outbreak in Auckland, the country’s largest city.

Protecting New Zealand from any possible further spread of the Delta variant is an “absolute priority”, the Minister said.

He added that resuming quarantine-free travel with Australia at this point could put those gains at risk.

Hipkins said people coming from Australia should book rooms in New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine facilities in advance, which will be released again on September 20.

The QFT from Australia to New Zealand was suspended on July 23, and it was originally due to end on September 24.

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