New Zealand-Australia quarantine-free routes suspended

A new COVID-19 case in New Zealand prompts Australia to take action.

The Australian government has temporarily closed quarantine-free entry for passengers from New Zealand, citing concerns about a COVID-19 case detected in that country.

On Jan. 25, Australia suspended its one-way travel corridor with New Zealand for at least 72 hours, until more information is discovered about the single COVID case. Any passengers arriving from New Zealand during this period, even those in transit when the rule was announced, must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Air New Zealand said five of its flights to Australia will be affected by the suspension. The carrier operates quarantine-free flights from Auckland (AKL) to the Australian cities of Brisbane (BNE), Melbourne (MEL) and Sydney (SYD). It also operates flights on these routes specifically for passengers who do not qualify for quarantine-free travel. Qantas operates quarantine-free flights from ALK to SYD.

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The COVID-19 case is the first detected in New Zealand for many months. The infected passenger had traveled from Europe and underwent quarantine in a designated hotel in New Zealand, but authorities believe she contracted the coronavirus while in quarantine. The positive test occurred after she left quarantine.

The Australian government said it took drastic steps because the case detected is a COVID strain that spreads more rapidly. The government said its decision was made “out of an abundance of caution to reduce the risk of this variant … entering the Australian community.”

The quarantine-free arrangement was introduced in the fourth quarter of last year, but in one direction only. The Australian government and many of its state governments allowed most travelers from New Zealand to enter without quarantine. However, the New Zealand government has not yet reciprocated, so travelers entering New Zealand from Australia must still quarantine for 14 days. The two governments have been aiming to start a true two-way corridor in the 2021 first quarter.

Photo credit: Air New Zealand