Covid 19 coronavirus: Transtasman travel bubble hopes hanging by a thread after two new Covid cases

Hopes of the Transtasman travel bubble reopening look to be hanging by a thread after the discovery of two new community cases in Auckland.

Test results last night confirmed that two people who completed their managed isolation at the Pullman Auckland hotel at the same time as the positive Northland community case were also infected.

The Ministry of Health released a list of 12 locations of interest visited by the pair on the North Shore.

It will now be an anxious wait for the country to determine whether there has been further transmission of the virus.

Australia is likely to keep a close eye on developments on this side of the ditch, following the country’s decision to suspend the quarantine-free travel bubble with New Zealand.

OnJanuary 25, Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the country would suspend the travel bubble for at least 72 hours out of an “abundance of caution” following the discovery of the South African Covid-19 variant in the community.

The changes came into effect on Monday at 2pm Australian time and arrivals to Australia from New Zealand are now required to enter a 14-day quarantine.

Australia’s acting chief medical officer Michael Kidd said the government would wait on further information before deciding whether to extend the suspension on Thursday.

“The situation is evolving rapidly. We will be following up the details of both of these cases with the New Zealand authorities once further details, including the results of additional testing, are known,” he said on Wednesday.

“We need to wait until we hear further details from our colleagues in New Zealand about further tests which are being carried out.

“We do expect that it is likely that both of these people would have had tests carried out during their 14 days in quarantine, but again we need to wait and get those results.”

Meanwhile, Australia has confirmed 10 days without a case of community transmission. The country’s longest stretch without a community transmission infection was 12 days in December.

Australia will want to keep that clean track record and there are now serious question marks of the willingness of Australia to reopen the travel bubble after the end of the 72-hour window.

The Australian government is yet to make an official call on Australia’s plans for the travel bubble, but Hunt’s earlier comments expressed concern about the rate at which the South African strain spreads.

The developments in New Zealand will also make other neighbours nervous about quarantine-free travel.

Earlier this week, the Cook Islands cancelled a flight bound for Rarotonga on January 27.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown said they want to allow more time for tests of the close contacts of the Northland Covid-19 community case to come back.

With the emergence of two new cases, there will more close contacts and need for further testing.

An Air New Zealand spokesperson told the Herald the airline is still awaiting advice from the Australian and Cook Islands Governments at this stage.

“Customers booked on impacted services have been contacted by the airline and will be re-accommodated once further advice has been received from both Governments,” the spokesperson said.

“We understand this is disappointing news for customers and we thank them for their patience and understanding.”

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