New Zealand suspends non-quarantine travel with Australia as Covid bubble bursts

New Zealand suspends non-quarantine travel with Australia as Covid bubble bursts

SYDNEY – New Zealand will suspend its no-quarantine travel arrangement with Australia for at least eight weeks from Friday evening, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, as Australia battles an outbreak of the highly infectious variant of the Delta.

“We have always said that our response will evolve as the virus evolves. It is not a decision that we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep Neo safe. Zealander, “Ardern told reporters in Auckland.

The pandemic “travel bubble” had already been suspended for travelers to and from New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The Australian state of New South Wales on Friday reported its biggest daily increase in new COVID-19 cases this year, prompting a tighter lockdown in Sydney.Loren Elliott / Reuters file

The bubble was a rare two-way quarantine arrangement in Asia, where countries kept their borders mostly closed during the pandemic. Plans for a Singapore-Hong Kong bubble have been repeatedly delayed.

Demand for flights between Australia and New Zealand has been more subdued than expected since the bubble opened on April 19.

The capacity of scheduled airlines between Australia and New Zealand this month is around 44% of 2019 levels, according to data from aviation analysis firm Cirium, well below initial forecasts by more by 70%.

Air New Zealand Ltd and Qantas Airways Ltd were the only operators on the route, and several breaks in the bubble due to small outbreaks have shaken consumer confidence.

The travel bubble had been launched without testing or quarantine, but New Zealand introduced a testing requirement this month that made the visit more expensive for Australians.

Air New Zealand said the suspension of the travel bubble is expected to have a short-term operational and financial impact on its business.

The New Zealand government has said that for next week there will be return flights for New Zealanders from all Australian states and territories that will require proof of a negative test before departure. Passengers arriving from Sydney will be required to spend two weeks in government-run quarantine.

Qantas and Air New Zealand said that from July 31, most Australia-New Zealand services will be canceled and they will maintain a small number of flights for essential travel and cargo.