Covid 19 coronavirus: NZ-Victoria travel bubble suspension extended after Melbourne lockdown continued

New Zealand’s quarantine-free travel pause with Victoria will be extended another six days, the Government has announced.

But New Zealand citizens and permanent residents – including Australian citizens normally resident in New Zealand – people with humanitarian exemptions and critical workers who are stranded in Victoria will be able to fly to New Zealand from June 9.

Anyone boarding these flights will need to have a negative pre-departure Covid test conducted less than 72 hours before departure, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

But they would not need to isolate once in New Zealand or have a test after landing here.

The commencement of flights recognises that by then, people currently in Victoria will have completed 14 days in lockdown – the same amount of time as an MIQ stay.

Returning travellers will also have to sign a health declaration before departure to confirm they have not been at a location of interest.

But by June 9, New Zealand health officials say the risk to public health of people returning from Melbourne will be low.

Officials are continuing to work on details of how seats will be allocated if demand for these flights exceeds supply. These details will be provided on the Covid-19 website in coming days.

The Government would not be chartering any flights, and fees would be up to the airlines, Hipkins said.

Public health advice said the risk in Melbourne was well contained and all cases linked, Hipkins said.

They were not seeing cases popping up outside the known circle which gave reassurance if people did everything right, and had a pre-departure test, they would okay.

There was no precise figure, but the number of Kiwis in Melbourne wanting to come back was expected to be in the “low thousands”, Hipkins said.

“We don’t track people.”

Anyone who was in Victoria between May 20-25 but is now in another Australian state will also be able to fly to New Zealand, but will need to test negative 72 hours before departure.

This includes people from Victoria who are outside the Greater Melbourne lockdown area. To get on a quarantine-free flight, they will need to travel to another state and test negative less than 72 hours before departure.

Anyone who is currently in any part of Australia, but has been to any of the locations of interest in Victoria or New South Wales at the times specified, cannot travel to New Zealand within 14 days from when they were at the location.

People who have been at a location of interest at the times specified are asked to continue following health advice from Victoria and New South Wales regarding isolation and testing.

Hipkins acknowledged the travel pause extension was a further inconvenience for Kiwis in Australia, but said the decisions were based on the latest public health advice.

It is possible that it would take some time for people to return and they were working with airlines on their capacity, he said.

The fact they were working within the green zone meant it could occur more quickly.

If people had particular needs they could not meet they should contact the New Zealand consulate, Hipkins said.

If anything was to happen after people left Victoria, they collected very good contact information once they arrived in New Zealand, Hipkins said.

He advised people to start booking flights after next Wednesday from Melbourne if they were able.

Melbourne lockdown extended

The announcement comes after the Victoria lockdown was extended for parts of the state after new community cases were confirmed. It was originally set to end at 11.59pm on June 3, but now will be extended for another seven days.

On Wednesday Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said the general Government advice for Kiwis stuck in Melbourne had been a “flyer beware” warning.

“People had to be ready for community transmission and lockdown where they are, and that has happened.”

There were no current arrangements for bringing people back but that would be part of Thursday’s reassessment, she said.

They would also be discussing a form of risk assessment for any New Zealanders who needed to return.

Bloomfield said the Ministry of Health was looking at options for Kiwis travelling from Melbourne even if the lockdown continued, which could include a pre-departure test, a test on arrival, and a stay in MIQ.

Victoria announced three new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the state’s cluster to 63.

This is a drop from the six new infections confirmed on Wednesday.

Melbourne residents have also been warned even if the lockdown is lifted next week, the city will still be forced to live with weeks of tough restrictions until the outbreak is completely under control.

While the five reasons to leave home may be scrapped, rules could be kept in place around mask wearing, strict capacity limits for businesses and venues, limits on how many guests can attend weddings and funerals and household and public gathering limits.New Zealand officials have assessed the current risk as medium for Melbourne but decreasing for the greater Melbourne area.

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