Australia – New Zealand Travel Bubble Strains After Positive Test

The teething problems of the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand continue into the weekend. Perth and Peel entered into a three-day lockdown until Tuesday due to new coronavirus cases. As a result, part of the special bubble has been paused less than a week after launching.

Qantas and Air New Zealand Aircraft
The travel bubble began on April 19th. Photo Getty Images

A shaky start

There were already worries on Monday after an airport worker in Auckland tested positive for the virus. However, officials soon affirmed that the case wasn’t related to the newly launched bubble.

Nonetheless, the concerns returned again as new measures have been implemented in the Perth area and Peel region amid an “evolving situation in Western Australia involving two COVID-19 positive cases.” State authorities share that the initial positive case involves a Victorian man who previously returned a negative result and finished 14 days of hotel quarantine in Perth after returning from overseas.

“The Victorian man had completed hotel quarantine at Mercure Hotel, and subsequently visited a number of locations before returning to Victoria,” officials of Western Australia said in a statement.

“A close contact of his, a woman who lives in Perth, has also tested positive to COVID-19.”

The travel bubble allows for quarantine-free travel for most passengers between New Zealand and Australia. Photo: Getty Images

Swift action

In response, the travel bubble between New Zealand and Western Australia has been suspended, pending additional advice from state authorities. New Zealand health officials are communicating with parallel teams across the Tasman Sea and will assess the risks.

“A flight due to leave Perth for New Zealand later tonight will not take off following Western Australia’s decision, and any New Zealanders affected are asked to follow the advice of Western Australian authorities,” the New Zealand government shared yesterday.

“All passengers on an earlier flight from Perth to Melbourne that carried a passenger later found to have COVID-19 have been contact traced and no-one on that flight has travelled on to New Zealand.”

Despite the strong action being taken, the New Zealand government highlights that this is the type of situation that it has planned for with Australia. Overall, it’s not looking to take light steps.

Yesterday, New Zealand also shared that it is introducing additional measures to shore up its borders. The country has introduced a new ‘very high risk country’ category. It hopes that this move is will reduce arrivals with infections amid increasing virus rates in certain parts of the world.

For over a year, Qantas’ international services have been largely suspended amid restrictions, so it would be relying heavily on this bubble. Photo: Getty Images

Mutual respect

Altogether, despite the bubble pause, both New Zealand and Australia are keen on maintaining the historical relationship that they have. This week, New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Nanaia Mahuta and Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, met in the New Zealand capital of Wellington. This meeting marked the first official visit to the country from Australia since the rise of the pandemic last spring.

So, there are undoubtedly strong connections on either side of the Tasman. Therefore, the two nations will be determined to maintain balanced travel to and from each other.

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The likes of Air New Zealand and Qantas will also be eager to keep the bubble open. Notably, between the pair of carriers, up to 55 flights were planned between their two respective nations on the first day of the launch. Policies in the region are significantly stringent about international travel. So, the two flag carriers will be making the most of any sort of opening.

What are your thoughts about Australia and New Zealand’s travel bubble? What do you make of the response so far? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.