New Zealand's quarantine-free travel bubble with Victoria paused amid new outbreak

The travel bubble with Melbourne has been paused.
The travel bubble with Melbourne has been paused. Photo credit: Getty Images

New Zealand's quarantine-free travel bubble with Victoria will be paused amid a new outbreak of COVID-19 in the Australian state.

On Monday, local health officials confirmed four people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Melbourne's northern suburbs, ending a 86-day run of no community transmission in the state. A fifth new community case was confirmed on Tuesday morning.

As a result, Victoria put in place further restrictions including limits on the amount of people who can attend private gatherings, and face masks must be worn indoors.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the travel bubble will be paused while the source of infection of the five cases is investigated.

It will come into effect from 7:59pm on Tuesday NZT and will be in place for at least 72 hours. During this time the bubble will be under constant review, Hipkins said.

"New Zealand officials have assessed that the most cautious option is to pause the travel bubble with Victoria as there are still several unknowns with the outbreak. 

"The Government understands the disruption this will temporarily cause affected passengers. It was a close call but the correct one given the current unknowns. The decision follows the travel bubble framework."

Genome sequencing into the new COVID-19 cases in Melbourne has identified they are closely linked to a case which was previously identified in the community on May 11. That case had tested positive after leaving managed isolation in South Australia.

However, an epidemiological link is still to be determined and there is no known link between the new cases and the previously identified exposure sites.

Hipkins is urging anyone in New Zealand who has visited the locations of interest in Melbourne to contact healthline on 0800 358 5453 as soon as possible for advice on isolating and testing. 

Anyone who has visited Melbourne since May 11 should also monitor for symptoms and seek advice from Healthline if any symptoms develop.