New Zealand extends Australia travel bubble pause as Covid cases drop to 11

New Zealand will delay the reopening of its trans-Tasman travel bubble, as case numbers in Australia rise and numbers in New Zealand continue to drop.

Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson confirmed on Friday that while the pause in quarantine-free travel had been due to expire next week, it would now be extended for at least a further 8 weeks. New South Wales announced 1,284 new cases and 12 deaths, and Victoria announced 510 new cases. New Zealand reported 11 new cases in the country, all based in Auckland.

New Zealand’s coronavirus outbreak has topped more than 1,000 cases, but daily case numbers have been trending steadily down. All of the new cases today are in Auckland, and two are yet to be epidemiologically linked.

“We are closing in around this outbreak, and … we can be cautiously optimistic about the containment of it,” said director of public health Dr Caroline McElnay.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said that “protecting New Zealand from any possible further spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19 is our absolute priority. We have made great progress to contain our current outbreak and are working hard to ease restrictions next week. Reopening quarantine-free travel with Australia at this point could put those gains at risk.”

Robertson said it was “somewhat unlikely that in November we would make a quick decision [to reopen the bubble], but we want to continue to have the ability to assess it.”

New Zealand also hit a new milestone in its vaccine rollout: more than 3 million people have had their first dose – or 69% of the eligible population (12 years old and up). Just over 35% of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated.

Four new locations of interest outside Auckland have been added to the Ministry of Health Covid-19 website, after a truck driver who tested positive for the virus travelled outside the city, which is in a level 4 lockdown, the highest setting. The driver, who is an essential worker and permitted to leave the boundary, was transporting food supplies to supermarkets in Hamilton, Cambridge and Tauranga.

Hipkins, who is also the education minister, announced on Friday that school holidays would not be changed because of the lockdown.

Hipkins had sought advice on bringing forward school holidays, after exhausted parents in Auckland voiced concerns that students had missed out on too much class time due to the strict level 4 lockdown.

However, he said the school holidays would begin on 2 October, in line with the rest of the country.

“Keeping the holidays as they are will avoid disrupting the plans already in place for students, families and educators, including curriculum and activity planning and families planning their holidays, and will reduce anxiety,” he said.

“It also means we don’t have to extend the length of term four, when fatigue among students is at its highest at the end of a school year.”

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