New Zealand has suspended the Trans-Tasman travel bubble with New South Wales, less than a month after it officially commenced in Australia on April 18.
The decision was made to pause on the long-awaited quarantine-free passageway across the ditch after NSW recorded two COVID-19 cases this week. The suspension applies to NSW residents flying to New Zealand only.
As of right now, the suspension will stay firmly in place for 48 hours while authorities work to identify the source of infection for the two positive cases — a man in his 50s and his wife. An unknown “missing link” between infections is what’s most worrying to officials at this point, but contact tracers hope to reach a more comprehensive understanding of how the new cases came to be.
New Zealand COVID response minister, Chris Hipkins, said of the decision, “We’ve weighed this up very carefully. I’m confident we’ll know more in the next 24-48 hours.”
The new cases have flung NSW back into restrictions. From May 6 until May 10, NSW residents must wear masks in indoor venues and on public transport, and no more than 20 are allowed in homes, among a list of other measures.
In addition to vaccine roll-out delays, the new positive cases may also play a part in new predictions around when borders could easily open for international travel. Airlines may have been considered somewhat ambitious to have previously planned for international travel to resume in July, and then later October, but the latest word is that overseas travel beyond New Zealand will not be a possibility until 2022.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham told The Australian this week: “We recognise that if Australians want to be kept safe and secure … and given uncertainties that exist not just in the speed of the vaccine rollout but also the extent of its effectiveness to different variants of COVID, the duration of its longevity and effectiveness, these are all considerations that mean we won’t be seeing borders flung open at the start of next year with great ease.
“The ferocity of recent COVID outbreaks, the uncertainty in many countries around vaccine rollouts, all create an environment in which, although Australia’s enjoying very high levels of business and consumer confidence, there’s a fragility that underpins all of that.”
Word changes quickly when it comes to the reopening of borders. Only a few weeks ago, predictions stated 2024 for the return of international travel. We remain optimistic though, and if domestic travel is all we’re able to do until then, then aren’t we lucky we have such a diverse country to explore?