Fresh COVID-19 case puts New Zealand-Australia travel bubble at risk

Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 03 2021 07:43 AM

Fresh COVID-19 case puts New Zealand-Australia travel bubble at risk 1
A man crosses a street, as people in Greater Brisbane have been ordered into lockdown as authorities try to suppress a growing coronavirus disease cluster in Brisbane, Australia, March 30, 2021. Picture taken March 30, 2021. Darren England, AAP Image via Reuters/file

New Zealand's fledgling quarantine-free travel arrangement with Western Australia faced disruption for the second time in eight days Saturday following fresh community cases of COVID-19 in Perth.

A worker at a managed isolation facility in the city and two people he shares accommodation with have tested positive, authorities said.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said the state would not go into lockdown "at this point".

But New Zealand health ministry officials said they had conducted a "rapid" assessment and had "determined scheduled direct flights from Western Australia to New Zealand should be immediately paused while a further assessment is carried out."

A flight scheduled to arrive in Auckland from Perth at 5:50 a.m. Sunday (1750 GMT Saturday) has been cancelled, but travel to other Australian states and territories is not affected.

It is the second such disruption since the two countries opened their quarantine-free travel bubble on April 18, almost 400 days after both closed their international borders due to the pandemic.

Flights between New Zealand and Western Australia were suspended less than a week later, when the Perth and Peel regions were sent into a three-day lockdown after recording a case of community transmission on April 23.

The bubble, which followed months of negotiations between the largely coronavirus-free neighbors, was hailed as a major milestone in restarting a global travel industry that has been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Zealand's tourism industry was its biggest export industry before COVID-19, with Australians accounting for about 40 percent of the international visitors.

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