New Zealand's travel bubble pause with Victoria extended, new restrictions for travellers who've recently returned

New Zealand's travel bubble with Victoria will be paused for a further seven days.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement at a press conference in Parliament on Thursday afternoon.

This comes amid a new community COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne's northern suburbs which continues to grow.  Victorian authorities have announced the state will enter lockdown on Thursday night in an attempt to curb the virus' spread.

The quarantine-free travel bubble between New Zealand and Victoria was paused on Tuesday night for 72 hours, however this has now been extended for a further seven days - to 7:59pm Friday June 4.

"We have been monitoring Melbourne very closely and we have made the decision based on the recent decision by Melbourne to do a lockdown," Hipkins said.

The New Zealand Government is also putting in place further requirements, including that anyone who has been to one of the locations of interest in Victoria cannot travel to New Zealand for 14 days after their visit.

"We are considering whether further restrictions should be put in place. That includes things like pre-departure testing and whether that should apply, and if so to whom. We will be making decisions on that in the next 24 hours."

In addition to the extension, the Ministry of Health has also updated advice for those who have been in Melbourne recently.

Everyone who has returned to New Zealand from Melbourne since May 11 has been contacted by health officials and provided advice on checking locations of interest and the actions required.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is now requiring everyone in New Zealand 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. 

"The reason we have gone back to last Thursday - the 20th - is because that was when the latest cases have come out of Melbourne, the individual that sparked off that group in a workplace was infectious in the workplace and there are now a number of locations of interest that have appeared in the central city where people travelling to New Zealand may well have been. We are applying a precautionary approach," Dr Bloomfield said.

However, he said the Ministry of Health still believes the risk to New Zealand is low.

In a statement, the Ministry said the variant of COVID-19 being found in Melbourne is the B.1.617.1 variant which was first reported in India. It is considered more infectious than the original variant.

The typical symptoms to look out for include:

  • a new or worsening cough
  • fever (at least 38C)
  • shortness of breath
  • a sore throat
  • sneezing and runny nose
  • and temporary loss of smell.

Some people may present with atypical symptoms, with or without typical symptoms. These include new onset of:

  • fever
  • diarrhoea
  • headache
  • myalgia (muscle pain)
  • nausea/vomiting
  • or confusion/irritability.

Before the announcement, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed her message to Kiwis who are in Melbourne.

"To any Kiwis who are in Melbourne, I know that they would have planned ahead and had contingency just in case a scenario like this occurs, and our message continues be, if travel does not resume to New Zealand, follow the guidance from local health authorities."

When asked if she was confident New Zealand health authorities had been able to contact all recent travellers from the area, Ardern told Newshub she believed so.

"I mean we've had previous experience with needing to contact or make sure that people are aware of the advice for them and by and large people have been really good at following and being very heightened around making sure they’re across places of interest," she said.

"We do what we can to promote to those who may have arrived, to be really aware of those places of interest."

Ardern, however, wouldn't say if New Zealand's travel bubble pause would be extended to other Australian states.

"We take the information as it comes and we make decisions based on the evidence we have in front of us. We've been very clear on Melbourne and of course other states will take precautions around travel in between states, which often then will have a positive impact for us. So other states may choose to put up borders between them – that then reduces the risk for anyone coming into New Zealand."