Australia Suspends “Travel Bubble” with New Zealand Due to a COVID-19 Variant Case

Australia has suspended its travel bubble with New Zealand for three days after it confirmed that its first COVID-19 community case in over two months was a more contagious variant first detected in South Africa.

Passengers coming from New Zealand to Australia will now have to undergo mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine upon arrival.

“Australia has suspended green zone travel arrangements with New Zealand for a minimum of 72 hours while more is learned about the transmission,” Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters on Jan. 25, adding that the suspension comes into force immediately.

“The decision has been taken out of an abundance of caution to reduce the risk of this variant, which has been shown to spread more readily between individuals, entering the Australian community,” Hunt said, referring to the South African variant which the recent case in New Zealand appeared to have, according to officials.

“I advised him that we have confidence in our systems and processes but it is Australia’s decision as to how they manage their borders,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said after saying that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison informed her on the suspension.

New Zealand officials said that the 56-year-old woman, who tested positive last Jan. 23, likely contracted the virus from a fellow returnee in the Pullman Hotel in Auckland while they were both spending the mandatory 14-day quarantine. She previously tested negative for the virus twice before leaving the isolation facility. She later developed mild symptoms that progressively worsened.

New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said that additional testing sites had been set up in Auckland and in the Northland region where the woman visited about 30 locations after leaving the facility.

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