The Government is poised to halt the transtasman travel bubble for eight weeks, the NZ Herald understands.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will make the announcement at 1.30pm to close the bubble completely for eight weeks as concern mounts about the rising case numbers in Australia. You can watch the press conference live here.
There are 19 new cases – all mariners in isolation – of Covid-19 in MIQ and none in the community.
Last night whole genome sequencing of the crew on the Mattina confirmed they have the Delta variant.
In total there are now 15 positive Covid cases on that ship. All crew who test positive will remain quarantined on-board.
New South Wales has today recorded 136 new Covid community cases- its highest daily total since the latest outbreak began.
Air NZ has announced five flights from NSW between July 28 and August 7 for Kiwis to return home. They will need to go into MIQ for 14 days.
Once travellers book a flight, their MIQ spot is automatically confirmed.
Seat availability will depend on MIQ spaces.
Earlier today Professors Michael Baker and Shaun Hendy said that stopping all quarantine-free travel from Australia might not be necessary, as long as there was confidence in state border control measures.
Yesterday Cabinet held an urgent virtual meeting to discuss the bubble, given the outbreaks across the Tasman including in New South Wales, which yesterday recorded its highest number of new daily cases since the outbreak started.
The bubble is currently paused for NSW, Victoria and South Australia, but remains open for other Australian states and territories, including for Perth and Hobart.
Seats on mercy flights from NSW – from where passengers are sent to MIQ for 14 days – have been swiftly taken by the thousands by Kiwis trying to get home.
Similar flights from South Australia are continuing without the need for an MIQ stay, though passengers are required to have a negative pre-departure test and fill out a travel declaration.
A major safety issue remains with up to half of the arrivals from Australia not being checked for negative pre-departure tests.
Hipkins said on Wednesday that manually checking every person arriving from Australia would “effectively involve shutting off the e-gates and having them come through the more conventional line”.
Asked if passenger delays were a small price to pay for safety, Hipkins said it was a staffing issue – and more staff would be hired.
He added that digital scanning for pre-departure tests was something that was being explored, which would make the process more timely.
Hipkins said about half of the arrivals were being checked for a pre-departure test, and about 100 people have been caught without one.
He has previously said that being caught and sent to MIQ for two weeks was a disincentive for people trying to fly in without the prerequisite test.
Last week Hipkins’ office said the number of checks “varies by airport and by surge workforce”.
“Customs have advised that they have been able to conduct short-term ‘surges’ of up to 50 per cent of arriving passengers depending on staff availability, and flight loadings and scheduling at each airport.”
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