**Update: 27/06/21 @ 06:00 UTC – Statement offered by Air New Zealand regarding flight cancelations. Included below.**
Today, the government of New Zealand announced that quarantine-free travel to and from Australia would be paused for 72 hours. The quarantine-free scheme, known as the Trans-Tasman bubble, was put on hold due to multiple cases and outbreaks in Australia “in differing stages of containment.” Let’s take a closer look at this news and how it has impacted travelers thus far.
“This short pause will give us time to get a better understanding of the developing situation and to consider the potential implementation of a range of measures to make the bubble safer, such as the introduction of pre-departure testing for all flights from Australia to New Zealand.” -Government of New Zealand
Quarantine-free travel from Australia paused
Opened in late April, the Trans-Tasman bubble allowed for quarantine-free travel from all Australian states and territories to New Zealand. This was also reciprocal, allowing Kiwis the ability to travel to Australia without needing to isolate for a certain period of time. On Thursday, it was announced that there would be a pause on this scheme with travelers from the Australian state of New South Wales.
However, this will now apply to all of Australia. This hold will come into effect from 22:30 (NZT) on June 26th until at least 23:59 (NZT) on Tuesday, June 29th. The decision follows updated public health advice from New Zealand’s health officials.
“There are now multiple cases and outbreaks in Australia in differing stages of containment and the health risk for New Zealand in response to these cases is increasing.” -Government of New Zealand
The Government says that it will continue to monitor the situation closely, opting to review the decision on Monday.
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Air New Zealand Chief Operational Integrity and Safety Officer Captain David Morgan provided us with a statement that reads as follows (bold formatting added for emphasis):
“Air New Zealand is adjusting its trans-Tasman schedule as a result of the New Zealand Government announcing a 72-hour pause to quarantine-free travel from Australia.
A reduced number of passenger flights will continue to operate to Australia over the next 72 hours, while all flights to New Zealand from Australia will be canceled and operate as cargo-only services.”
Flight cancelations surge
Due to the announcements issued today and Thursday, numerous flights have been canceled, leaving many would-be travelers stranded. Indeed, New Zealand’s move today has made things more challenging.
Stuff.co.nz noted yesterday that the government was working on contingency plans for its citizens stranded in Sydney as a result of the additional restrictions on travelers from New South Wales announced on Thursday.
The recent decisions appear to have overwhelmed the customer service channels of Qantas, which posted to Twitter, acknowledging that they were experiencing high volumes of calls and messages.
We're experiencing high volumes of calls to our call centre & messages via social media. You can change or put your flight into credit using 'Manage booking' on https://t.co/3SnaE5AA13. For information on travel impacted by Coronavirus please visit https://t.co/sLyjT4TcMf pic.twitter.com/A4LGYUYuaM
— Qantas (@Qantas) June 25, 2021
Frustration and inconvenience
New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins issued the following statement further explaining the government’s decision, citing concerns with the recent Delta variant first detected in India.
“I acknowledge the frustration and inconvenience that comes with this pause, but given the high level of transmissibility of what appears to be the Delta variant, and the fact that there are now multiple community clusters, it is the right thing to do to keep COVID-19 out of New Zealand.”
Are you surprised by this most recent move or what it expected after previous recent announcements? Let us know in the comments.