Suspension of flights to Australia from New Zealand could end a day early - Australia's Health Minister

Suspension of flights to Australia from New Zealand could end a day early - Australia's Health Minister
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Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt says the country could allow Kiwis to resume Green Zone travel again from Saturday - a day earlier than previously indicated.

On Thursday, the Australian government extended a suspension of its Green Zone travel corridor with New Zealand for 72 hours, amid concerns about a potential community coronavirus outbreak after our first community COVID-19 case in more than two months was detected.

It meant the next flight to Australia from New Zealand would be at 2pm on Sunday at the earliest.

However Hunt has since spoken to Australia's chief medical officer, Professor Michael Kidd, who was in contact with New Zealand health officials and believes we're doing a "tremendous job" testing close contacts and hotel staff.

His endorsement of New Zealand's COVID-19 response means travel across the Tasman could recommence as early as Saturday, Hunt told a press conference on Friday, as Australia is increasingly confident there is no community transmission in New Zealand.

"They're doing a tremendous job in terms of widespread testing of staff relating to the hotel quarantine facility, guests, contacts and the community," Hunt said.

"This provides a basis for them to be reconsidering the current travel pause for the Green Zone on a 24-hour basis - so they'll be considering tomorrow.

"If there are continued excellent results out of New Zealand, which is commensurate with their entire performance over the course of the pandemic, then we hope to be in a position to resume that in the coming days.

"I think that should give hope to anybody looking at friends or family arriving from New Zealand."

Australia's decision to stop flights from New Zealand on Monday came after Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed the new community case had contracted the South African variant of the disease, which is believed to be more transmissible.

Australia's Health Minister said at the time that the decision was made out an "abundance of caution" - but the sudden nature of the announcement irked some travellers, who were caught by surprise just minutes before boarding.

One, who wishes to remain anonymous, spoke to Newshub about her ordeal.

"I decided to continue on. I really had nowhere to go and my father - who is here in Australia - told me to stay on the flight and deal with everything once in Sydney," she said.

However she says all the luggage was removed as it was too difficult to separate it.

"Now I'm here in Sydney and my two suitcases with what's left of Kiwi life are still somewhere in Auckland."

The passenger also told Newshub she wasn't happy being told she'll have to pay the $3000 fee to quarantine in a hotel.

"I personally don't think that is fair as I did everything right, made sure I had a green flight and did all the necessary paperwork. Not happy at all."