Coronavirus: 500 managed isolation and quarantine contingency rooms released for returning New South Wales travellers

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 19: QANTAS and Air New Zealand planes that recently flew from Australia are parked at the Auckland Airport terminal on April 19, 2021 in Auckland, New Zealand. The trans-Tasman travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia begins on Monday, with people able to travel between the two countries without needing to quarantine. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty Images

A further 500 rooms in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities have been released to accomodate Kiwis returning from New South Wales (NSW).

The state is in the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak, with 239 new infections and two deaths announced on Thursday.

This outbreak forced the suspension of the quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia until at least late September. Returning New Zealanders are now required to return home on special managed return flights and require proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure.

Travellers don't need to enter MIQ if they're flying from Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, ACT, and Norfolk Island.

The trans-Tasman travel window closes at 11:59pm on Friday, acting Minister for COVID-19 Response Dr Ayesha Verrall says, and any remaining travellers are urged to book a seat immediately. Returnees from Victoria must also isolate at home until a negative test is returned.

"More than 1500 rooms in MIQ have so far been made available from the first two managed return phases - accommodating an estimated 2100 people, including more than 300 urgent and exceptional cases," Dr Verrall says.

The additional 500 rooms have been allocated from a contingency plan and will be available between August 9 and 22.

"To manage and prioritise bookings, a registration of interest process has been established for these rooms, using a form on the Unite Against COVID-19 travel website," she says.

"This registration process will open from 10am tomorrow, Friday 30 July, and close at 2pm Tuesday 3 August, with airlines following up to arrange booking details for flights after 9 August."

Dr Verrall says agencies have been working with airlines and have been told that demand has dropped off in the past couple of days - cancellations are now outweighing new bookings and around 3000 seats are still available.

"Extra flights have been put on where required, for example from Brisbane and Melbourne, and extra capacity has opened up on flights from Perth as people have cancelled their flights. Travellers also have the option to transit via other airports in Australia."

She says it's understood most eligible travellers who want to come back have organised their travel, but those still wanting to return need to act immediately.

NSW has been in lockdown since June 26, and state Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed on Wednesday this has been extended until August 28.

"In the last few days, it would have not been possible for us to get out of lockdown tomorrow or Friday and given also the advice, it would not have been realistic for the NSW government to make a decision in the next two weeks given where we are today," she said.