Perth COVID-19 cases puts New Zealand-Australia travel bubble at risk

sbs– New Zealand has announced an immediate pause in direct flights from Western Australia to New Zealand after a hotel quarantine worker in Perth tested positive for COVID-19.

“Ministry officials have conducted a rapid public health assessment for New Zealand, and have determined scheduled direct flights from Western Australia to New Zealand should be immediately paused while a further assessment is carried out, including a further assessment and information from Australian health officials,” New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said.

Three local cases were reported in Perth on Saturday. A hotel quarantine worker in Perth, who had been vaccinated with one dose, tested positive for coronavirus, along with two of his housemates.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said contact tracers are working quickly to identify any other contacts, after the security guard visited a number of venues between April 27 and 30 whilst infectious.

The man in his 20s worked at the Pan Pacific Hotel on April 24, 25 and 26. It is believed he picked up the virus from two overseas returned travellers at the hotel who subsequently returned positive results for coronavirus.

Mr McGowan says health authorities will assess any further infections over the weekend before deciding whether the city returns to lockdown.

A flight scheduled to arrive in Auckland from Perth at 5:50am Sunday (1750 GMT Saturday) has been cancelled, but travel to other Australian states and territories is not affected.

It is the second such disruption since the two countries opened their quarantine-free travel bubble on April 18, almost 400 days after both closed their international borders due to the pandemic.

Flights between New Zealand and Western Australia were suspended less than a week later, when the Perth and Peel regions were sent into a three-day lockdown after recording a case of community transmission on April 23.

The bubble, which followed months of negotiations between the largely coronavirus-free neighbours, was hailed as a major milestone in restarting a global travel industry that has been crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

New Zealand’s tourism industry was its biggest export industry before Covid-19, with Australians accounting for about 40 percent of the international visitors.


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