Australia halts 'green zone' bubble with New Zealand
Australia's "green zone" bubble with New Zealand will face new restrictions from Monday after Auckland was moved to an Alert Level Three COVID-19 lockdown after three people from one family have tested positive with the source of the infections unknown.
Australia's Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly convened an urgent meeting this evening with Chief Health Officers of states open to New Zealand green zone flights (NSW, Queensland and Victoria) to discuss the three-day lockdown in Auckland.
It was decided that all flights originating in New Zealand will be classified as "red zone" flights for an initial period of 72 hours from 12.01am on February 15, the CMO's office said in a statement.
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"As a result of this, all people arriving on such flights originating within this three-day period will need to go into 14 days of supervised hotel quarantine."
States will determine their own response to anyone who has already arrived in Australia from New Zealand and may pose a risk of transmitting the virus.
As Auckland enters the three-day lockdown, the rest of New Zealand will be placed under heightened restrictions.
This means in Auckland schools can stay open for parents that need to be at work. but otherwise children are asked to stay at home. Supermarkets and pharmacies will continue to stay open but businesses that interact with customers face-to-face will close. Gatherings outside of a person's bubble are prohibited.
New Zealand had successfully stamped out community spread of the virus, although new cases are regularly caught at the border among returning travellers, all of whom are required to spend two weeks in quarantine.
Officials said they’re keeping an open mind on how the Auckland mother, father and daughter caught the disease. They said the mother works at an airline catering company, and officials are investigating whether there is a link to infected passengers.
"I'm asking New Zealanders to continue to be strong and to be kind," Ardern said at a hastily arranged press conference on Sunday evening. "I know we all feel the same way when this happens. We all get that sense of 'Not again.' But remember, we have been here before and that means we know how to get out of this again, and that is together."
Officials said the daughter’s high school will be closed on Monday and Tuesday as a precaution, but so far they have not announced any broader restrictions.
“We are gathering all of the facts as quickly as we can, and the system that served us so well in the past is really gearing up to do so again,” said COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.
He described the cases as new and active. He said scientists are carrying out genome sequencing to see whether the cases are of the more transmissible variants, and also to see whether they match with any infected passengers.
“New Zealand has kept COVID-19 contained better than almost any other country,” Hipkins said. “But as we have kept saying, there is no such thing as no risk.”
New Zealand, with a population of 5 million, has reported a total of just over 2,300 cases and 25 deaths since the pandemic started.
With AP, Stuff