How Melbourne's COVID-19 outbreak impacts Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Queenstown visit

As the Australian state of Victoria goes into its fourth lockdown, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is packing his bags to travel to Queenstown, which comes with a few implications. 

The Greater Melbourne Area is now covered by a public health order issued in New Zealand on Thursday, and while it remains unclear at this stage what it means for Morrison, he may have to return a negative COVID-19 result. 

The Section 70 public health order requires anyone in New Zealand who has been in the Greater Melbourne area to self-isolate until they return a negative test. Morrison did an interview in Melbourne on May 20, meaning he's covered by the order. 

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Australian delegation will be subject to the same rules as others travelling to New Zealand, including the health order, but the Government may move to introduce pre-departure testing. 

"With regard to the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Morrison, we are in close contact with the Australian Government and working through any implications for the visit."

Sunrise reporter Nathan Templeton, speaking to The AM Show on Friday from Melbourne, said it might not be the best look for Morrison to travel to New Zealand when Victoria is in lockdown. 

"At the moment it's only Victorians who are banned from travelling in other states. The number of cases in the rest of Australia is almost non-existent so I guess it should be safe.

"I think, perhaps, it would be a better look for him to stay in Australia, maybe even visit Victoria, although I'm not sure how welcome he will be. 

"I think we consider New Zealand to be almost part of Australia and Australia part of New Zealand, so I don't think it's a terrible look, but perhaps he would be better staying at home just for the next week while we're all in lockdown here."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Photo credit: Getty

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced on Thursday afternoon that the pause on quarantine-free travel with Victoria would be extended until 8pm next Friday, after a growing number of COVID-19 cases were reported in the state. 

Victoria's latest update on Thursday showed 26 cases of COVID-19 related to the outbreak, one patient is in intensive care and at least 10,000 primary and secondary contacts identified.

"This is the fourth lockdown for Victoria and Melbourne had the world's longest one last year so we're sick of it but we're also pretty good at it and people here are generally fairly compliant so hopefully we can just ride out seven days," Templeton told The AM Show. 

"This is a heavy lockdown - it's what we call Stage 4 here, so masks inside and out, you can only go 5km from your home, you can only leave for essentials, schools and businesses are closed down. This is a full lockdown and we're doing it again."

Sunrise reporter Nathan Templeton.
Sunrise reporter Nathan Templeton. Photo credit: The AM Show

In Australia, the 14-day travel restrictions for those who have visited locations of interest means they cannot travel to New Zealand within 14 days from exposure - even with a negative COVID-19 test. 

The Ministry of Health is updating advice for those who have been in Melbourne recently. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is requiring everyone who has visited the Greater Melbourne area since May 20 to isolate at their place of residence until they receive a negative COVID-19 test result. 

Morrison is set to be in Queenstown on Sunday and Monday for the annual Australia-New Zealand Leaders' Meeting his counterpart Ardern. He will be accompanied by his wife, Jenny Morrison.

Morrison's visit to New Zealand will be his first since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The last time the pair shared a podium was in February 2020 in Sydney, where Ardern delivered a stern message to Australia about deportations.   

Morrison said earlier this month he was looking forward to the trip and described it as "fitting" that his first visit overseas was to New Zealand.

"Australia and New Zealand are family - and we share deep historical bonds of friendship, trust and the ANZAC spirit. Both Australia and New Zealand have been world leaders in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this visit is a great illustration of the Trans-Tasman Safe Travel Zone in action.

"We have many shared challenges to discuss. We are key partners in delivering COVID-19 vaccines to our Pacific neighbours, we share common goals and values for the Indo-Pacific region, and we are major trading partners."