COVID-19: New Zealand extends pause on travel bubble with Victoria for another week

New Zealand's quarantine-free travel bubble with Victoria will remain paused for another week.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed on Thursday that while the risk to New Zealand is considered low, public health officials had recommended the hiatus continue. 

There are now 93 cases associated with the outbreak in greater Melbourne, spread over four clusters. Contact tracing efforts have identified more than 15,000 close contacts.

The cases in Melbourne are genomically linked to overseas but there are at least three cases where a link has not been identified - meaning community transmission in Victoria is possible.

"The Government is taking a precautionary approach in continuing the pause, which will be reviewed again next Wednesday," said Hipkins.

Everyone in Victoria who is eligible can continue to return to New Zealand without isolating upon their return - but they must prove they have tested negative for the virus within three days of their departure.

Quarantine free travel from Queenstown and New South Wales will remain in place - but anyone who has been in a location of interest will not be permitted to enter New Zealand within 14 days of the exposure event.

The locations of interest are the New South Wales towns of Dubbo, Forbes, Gillenbah or Moree between June 1-5, or in Queensland in Toowoomba, Caloundra, Buddina and Baringa between June 5-8. 

Melbourne entered its 12th day of a hard lockdown on Tuesday after officials last week found the Delta virus variant for the first time, which they said was likely to spread more easily than many other strains.

Melbourne has been in lockdown since May 27 in an effort to stop the mutated Delta strain of COVID-19 spreading. This lockdown is set to lift on Thursday at 11.59pm. 

Even when the rules are eased, people will have to remain within 25 kilometres of their homes, officials said.

There will also be a total ban on house gatherings and masks will be mandatory indoors and while schools, cafes and beauty salons can reopen, gyms and nightclubs will have to remain closed for at least another week.