Covid 19 coronavirus: Update on travel bubble, Wellington alert level

Will Wellington’s Covid alert level change tonight? And what’s the latest with New Zealand’s transtasman travel bubble?

New Zealand director general of health and Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins will provide an update today – at the later-than-usual time of 1.30pm.

You can watch the press conference live here – just refresh your browser from about 1.25pm.

Wellington was moved to alert level 2 on Wednesday at 6pm. That level was originally hoped to be lifted at midnight tonight.

The level change came after a Covid-infected Sydney tourist visited central city Wellington last weekend.

Genome sequencing confirmed the traveller had been afflicted by the more infectious Delta variant.

Locations of interest included Te Papa Tongarewa, a bar and several eateries.

Thousands of people identified as contacts and testing efforts ramped up across the region.

While no community cases were uncovered in New Zealand in the days that followed the scare, the situation in Sydney worsened.

Yesterday, Hipkins announced the transtasman quarantine free travel bubble would be halted for three days starting at 10.30 last night.

The standstill marks the first time the bubble to all Australian states has been paused.

The ban on quarantine-free travel from all Australian states and territories is currently set to lift at 11.59pm (NZT) on Tuesday, June 29.

Before today’s briefing, University of Otago public health expert Professor Michael Baker told Newstalk ZB he was surprised how extreme the ban was.

“I’m surprised this suspension has been extended to all of Australia because some states and territories have done at least as well as New Zealand in terms of sustained elimination.”

Baker said some states had shown an ability to quickly close borders when neighbouring states had outbreaks.

Baker told RNZ today that “we’re not in the clear yet. That will take another few days of no cases.”

“This could have turned into multiple super-spreading events.”

He told RNZ the case of the tourist exposed “major gaps” in the system.

“A major mode of transmission is by aerosol. The virus doesn’t care about the 2-metre rule. We know it only takes fleeting contact indoors to get this infection.”

Baker said counterparts abroad were saying New Zealand needed to upgrade its approach to dealing with Covid-19.

“The virus has changed markedly and our response needs to change with it.”

Travellers with ruined plans after the travel bubble suspension spoke of their anguish and disbelief.

“We haven’t see our elderly parents since September 2019. We have endured the horrendous Melbourne lockdown,” one man told the Herald.

“We have been vaccinated. We have had clear Covid tests. There were no new cases in Melbourne today. We are New Zealanders.”

He said his parents were seriously ill and desperate to see him.

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