COVID-19: New Zealand to resume Australia ‘travel bubble’ as Sydney virus threat eases

Wellington: New Zealand will lift its partial suspension of a “travel bubble” with Australia from midnight on Sunday as fears of a COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney eased.

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New Zealand had blocked travel to and from New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, on Thursday after a couple in Sydney with no links to high risk professions or people tested positive for COVID-19.

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The cases prompted a reinstatement of some social distancing measures around Sydney, and a campaign to get more people tested, as authorities scrambled to determine the source of infection.

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However, state health officials on Saturday reported a second straight day without a new case, allaying concerns about a wider outbreak in the city.

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New Zealand COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said travel to and from NSW, home to one-third of Australia’s 25 million population, would resume after health officials determined the risk to New Zealand was low.

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“New Zealand has consistently taken a precautionary approach to keeping COVID-19 out,” Hipkins said in a statement.

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Locally-acquired cases

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Australia and New Zealand began allowing quarantine-free travel less than a month ago, after a protracted run of zero locally-acquired cases in the neighbouring countries.

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“Border controls are a key tool for stopping the introduction and spread of new cases from overseas and remain central to our elimination strategy,” Hipkins said.

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Australia has meanwhile barred travel from India due to high infection rates, but it has said it would begin chartering repatriation flights on May 15.

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