Coronavirus: Chris Hipkins, Ashley Bloomfield reveal Wellington alert level settings, any changes to trans-Tasman travel

Wellington will move to alert level 1 on Tuesday night, while quarantine-free travel from some Australian states will resume on Sunday night. 

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield made the announcements at their 1pm press conference. 

Quarantine-free travel will be allowed from South Australia, the ACT, Tasmania and Victoria from 11:59pm on Sunday, but pre-depature tests will be required. Cabinet will review the pause with other states and territories next week. 

What you need to know:

  • Wellington will move to alert level 1 at 11:59pm on Tuesday night after no new cases were found in the capital
  • Quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel will resume with South Australia, the ACT, Tasmania and Victoria from Sunday night. The pause on other states and territories will be reviewed early next week.
  • Cabinet has decided in-principle to require pre-departure tests from people coming from Australia for the moment 

Newshub's live updates have now finished.

1:40pm - There are two new community cases of COVID-19 in Queensland, state authorities confirm. South-east Queensland, Townsville, Magnetic Island and Palm Island will go into lockdown from 6pm (local time) for three days.

1:35pm - Hipkins says New Zealand is in a good position, but not a perfect position. We won't be there until the pandemic is largely over. He says people, particularly those in Wellington, need to remain vigilant.

He says it's always better to act quickly rather than delay when there is a large amount of uncertainty. While alert level 2 puts restrictions on businesses, it's less restrictive than higher alert levels that may have been required if the Government hadn't of acted and there were more cases.

1:30pm - Hipkins says the vaccine stock will get very close to zero by next Tuesday. However, New Zealand is also expecting a new delivery then. 

1:25pm - It appears Queensland may be heading into a lockdown. More will be revealed at a press conference soon. Quarantine-free travel with that state won't be resuming on Sunday night.

1:15pm - Bloomfield and Hipkins says those contacts who haven't had results yet will be followed up. The scale of this response has been larger than in other instances, they say.

This was a challenging case due to the extent of the potential exposure, Hipkins says. The tourist visited a large number of locations, including some with a high number of contacts, like Te Papa.

One of the reasons travel with some Australian states isn't opening again until Sunday is to allow for pre-depature testing. If cases or anything that creates risk pop up in those states in the next few days, it would also allow officials time to respond, Hipkins tells reporters.

1:10pm - Hipkins says partially lifting the pause is the appropriate course of action, particularly with the pre-depature testing now required. The pause on travel from other states will be considered next Tuesday.

NSW is currently the highest-risk state, with Queensland, NT and WA a moderate risk. 

Dr Bloomfield says the cases in Australia is a reminder the pandemic continues. More than 2000 tests on Monday were in the Wellington region, up significantly on Sunday. He wants to see scanning numbers remain high and people stick to good hygiene and masking rules. 

New Zealand officials are in regular contact with those in Australia, he says. 

As Hipkins and Dr Bloomfield speak, NSW announces 19 new cases. Two of these aren't currently linked to previous cases, but are under investigation. Read more on that here.

1:05pm - Chris Hipkins confirms there are no new cases in the community. Wastewater results shows no traces of COVID-19 in Wellington. This data, and other information, was considered by Cabinet on Tuesday morning when considering alert level settings. 

Given no positive cases have been found and the testing data, Hipkins says Wellington will shift to alert level 1 from 11:59pm on Tuesday.

A number of testing stations will remain open and the Government wants the region to stay on heightened alert for the next week. Anyone with symptoms should contact Healthline.

Cabinet had decided in-principle that from 11:59pm on Sunday, July 4 New Zealand will allow travel from SA, ACT, Tasmania and Victoria. Travellers will require a pre-departure test within 72 hours of when they are leaving Australia.

To be eligible to fly, travellers can't have been in NSW from June 23 or in Queensland, Northern Territory or Western Australia from 10:30pm on June 26. 

12:55pm - New from the Ministry of Health:

"There are no cases of COVID-19 to report in the community in New Zealand today. There are 4 cases to report related to recent returnees in managed isolation facilities since the Ministry’s update yesterday.

"One previously reported case has now recovered. One of yesterday’s cases has now been reclassified as under investigation – this has been removed from our daily tally.

"The number of active cases in New Zealand is 30. The seven-day rolling average of new cases detected at the border is 3. Since 1 January 2021, there have been 76 historical cases, out of a total of 569 cases.

"Our total number of confirmed cases is 2,385."

The Ministry of Health say 2,608 people have been identified as contacts of the Australian person who visited Wellington between June 19 and 21.

"Of those 2,609 total contacts, 2,416 or 93 percent of people have returned a negative result, 9 additional people have had a swab and are awaiting a result; 11 people have been granted a clinical exemption and 8 have returned overseas, which means their home jurisdiction will be following up with them. The remaining contacts are being followed up by contact tracing teams.

If you live in the Greater Wellington area, or were in the region between June 19 and 21, the ministry urges you to continue to check the Locations of interest which were visited by the Australian traveller to the city.

"People who have been at any of these locations at the relevant time should immediately isolate at their home or accommodation and contact Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on testing.

"There is a Health Act section 70 notice in place that places a legal requirement on all people who were at locations of interest at the relevant times to follow the instructions regarding isolation and testing.

"Yesterday we were advised of two contacts in New Zealand of the positive case who was detected in the Newmont Granite goldmine north-west of Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Both have now returned negative test results.

"Health officials were also advised of 40 people in New Zealand who have been classified as contacts of the air steward in New South Wales, who had tested positive.

"All of these people have been contacted, had their first test and all results are negative. A number of these people are continuing to isolate and will undertake day 5 testing, based on their contact classification."

12:50pm - Newshub will broadcast the 1pm press conference from Chris Hipkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield on and Three. You'll be able to watch that above at 1pm.

12:45pm - New Zealand has been usurped by the United States in Bloomberg's COVID Resilience Ranking - a list of the best and worst countries in the world to be during the coronavirus era.

The ranking looks at how major countries around the world are handling the pandemic, taking into account social and economic disruption, mortality and infection rates, freedom of movement and how the vaccine rollout is going.

A new criterion this month is 'reopening progress' - a measure of each economy's openness to the world - with two metrics introduced to capture the ease of moving in and out of a place and how much air travel has recovered.

Read more here.

12:35pm - It's expected case totals will increase in Australia later on Tuesday. Darwin's lockdown has just been extended until Friday, while Queensland and New South Wales will hold press conferences at 1pm. Newshub will have the latest when it happens. 

12:30pm - Guests at managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility the Novotel Auckland Airport have had their stays extended by health officials.

It comes as they await the results of genome sequencing of two positive day 12 COVID-19 cases at the facility, which were announced on Monday. The two cases arrived on Monday, June 14 - one from Moscow and the other from Dubai.

"It is standard protocol that any cases detected after day three are investigated further, in particular to rule out in-facility transmission," a press release from the Ministry of Health reads.

"Investigations are currently underway by Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS). Whole genome sequencing is also currently underway to establish the strain and if there is a genomic relationship between the cases. Results are expected in the next 48 hours."

Read more here

12:20pm - In the Ministry of Health's update on Monday, it said that of 2597 people identified as potential contacts of the Australian tourist, 2273 had tested negative, with the remainder being followed up or awaiting a test result. Eight have been excluded from testing. 

It was also revealed that two contacts of a positive case - a miner - in Northern Territory had travelled to New Zealand. 

"Both are in isolation and being tested according to the type of contact they had with the case at the mine," the ministry said on Monday. "One has returned a negative test result already, and the result for the other individual is expected tomorrow. They will both undertake around day-five testing."

12:10pm - Hipkins spoke about the Government's decision to shut quarantine-free at a press conference on Sunday.

"The current situation with cases in Australia is the worst that it's been since the bubble started and, in fact, the worst that it’s been for quite some time," he said. "There are now 82 cases in the Sydney cluster. The R value for the outbreak is calculated at 2.89 - so, remember that an R value greater than 1 suggests that the virus is continuing to spread."

12pm - Ahead of the announcement at 1pm, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday morning that there are no new cases of COVID-19 in Wellington. 

"The really important message here for everyone is that despite we have had a record number of individuals who have been identified as being at locations of interest, what it will never be able to necessarily capture are those chance moments," she said.

She noted that people have been infected in fleeting contact.

"My message to everyone is regardless of what happens with alert levels, at any given time, we want everyone to be on alert. Get a test if you have got symptoms."