New Zealand will pause quarantine-free travel from New South Wales from midnight Thursday (NZST), after two community Covid cases were detected in Sydney.
The NZ Covid response minister, Chris Hipkins, told reporters the suspension would initially last 48 hours, while the source of infection in the two Sydney cases was investigated.
Hipkins said the pause would be “under constant review”, and if more information came to light that prompted officials to reopen sooner or to extend the pause, then they would do so.
At this stage, it applies only to New South Wales, not all of Australia, and will not affect those flying from New Zealand to NSW – only those coming in the opposite direction.
Hipkins said the government was aware it would cause disruption for travellers, but was erring on the side of caution. “We’ve weighed this up very carefully,” he said.
“I’m confident we’ll know more in the next 24-48 hours,” he said.
A man in Sydney tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. On Thursday, Australian health officials confirmed that his wife had also tested positive.
Genomic testing has linked those cases to a likely case at the border – but officials have not yet been able to find a clear chain of transmission. That has raised concerns that there could be a “missing link” case between the border and the community cases, which has not yet been identified.
A statement from the minister’s office said that anyone in Australia who has been at one of the exposure sites was subject to the requirements of the NSW government and should not travel to New Zealand. It also directed any New Zealanders who had been at one of the hotspots to isolate, and get tested.
On Thursday, the NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced new restrictions for gatherings for greater Sydney.