New Zealand Airport COVID Case Not Likely Linked To Travel Bubble

The much-awaited and anticipated travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand launched on Monday. However, no sooner were the emotional reunions of loved ones a fact than an airport worker in Auckland tested positive for COVID-19. Authorities say the case had nothing to do with the trans-Tasman bubble and that it was highly improbable it would affect movement.

A New Zealand airport worker tested positive for COVID on the same day that the travel bubble opened with Australia. Photo: Getty Images

Cleaning planes from high-risk countries

The worker who tested positive Monday cleans airplanes at Auckland Airport, New Zealand’s largest and busiest airport. However, both the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said that it was highly unlikely the case would affect the newly formed trans-Tasman bubble.

The case is not connected to flights from Australia. Rather the worker had been cleaning aircraft arriving in Auckland from high-risk countries. Some passengers on board those flights were confirmed upon arrival to have COVID-19.

The person in question was fully vaccinated against COVID in one of the earlier rounds of the campaign. Due to the nature of their work, they were part of a routine testing program.

“They were last tested on the 12th and then the 19th, so regular testing. And it was their most recent test in which this case has been picked up,” Ardern told media as reported by ABC News, saying that this showed how the protocols were working as the government had intended.

The worker who tested positive had been cleaning planes arriving from red zone countries which turned out to carry infected passengers. Photo: Getty Images

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.

Does not constitute a ‘leaky border’

According to The Guardian, the New Zealand PM further stated that by no means did it constitute a ‘leaky border’ to have someone who cleans planes carrying infected people test positive.

She also said that both New Zealand and Australia are accepting that isolated new cases of COVID connected to the border were going to be part of their journey together and that this was a kind of scenario where movement between the two countries would be anticipated to continue.

The tail of an Australian Qantas aircraf
About 1,800 Australians flew to New Zealand on the first day of the bubble. Photo: Getty Images

Still ‘green light’ for trans-Tasman travel

The New Zealand government has previously determined a ‘traffic light’ system to decide when the trans-Tasman bubble may need to close again. If a border case is detected in Australia with a clear source, the light will remain ‘green’.

When the origin of the infection cannot be determined, the system would move to ‘orange’, meaning that travel could be suspended for 72 hours. If multiple positive cases with an unknown source were to appear, the bubble could be shut down.

Should the country finds itself back in lockdown, that could mean many people being stranded across the sea. On the first day of the quarantine-free bubble, 1,800 Australians crossed the border into New Zealand on close to 30 flights.

What are your thoughts on the sustainability of the trans-Tasman bubble? Will it remain open or is there a risk it may close? Let us know in the comments.