Halt on NZ's quarantine-free travel bubble with Victoria extended by six days

The pause on the travel bubble between Victoria and New Zealand is being extended for a third time, this time for another six days, while "green light" flights to bring back Kiwis stuck in Melbourne are being planned from June 9. 

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Preparations are underway for green zone flights from Melbourne from Wednesday, however. Source: 1 NEWS

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement today after being briefed by health officials.

He said "green flights" will begin on June 8 at 11.59pm from Melbourne, with only New Zealand citizens allowed to return, Australian citizens that normally resident in New Zealand, people with humanitarian exemptions and critical workers who are stranded in Victoria. 

"Officials are continuing to work on details of how seats will be allocated if demand for these flights exceeds supply. These details will be provided on the Covid-19 website in coming days," Hipkins said. 

"Anyone boarding these flights will need to have a negative pre-departure test taken less than 72 hours before departure."

Health officials regarded the risk of returnees from Melbourne as "low" by June 9, as by then they would have spent 14 days in isolation. 

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But there are plans underway for managed “green flights” for stranded Kiwis to get home. Source: 1 NEWS

"This reflects the equivalent time which might have been spent in managed isolation in New Zealand," Hipkins said. 

"The risk in Melbourne is still quite well contained ... so they're still investigating exactly what some of the links are but they're not seeing cases pop out outside the known circle of cases."

Hipkins said it was possible it could take some time for people to come back from Melbourne, but those details would be worked out over the next 24-48 hours. 

He said New Zealand was not opening up for tourists or visitors from Victoria at this point. 

The next review of the pause will be on June 9. 

It comes as the Australian state extended its own lockdown for another week yesterday, as it grapples with the Covid-19 outbreak in Melbourne. 

The current break in quarantine-free travel was due to lift tomorrow evening. 

New Zealand paused the Victoria bubble last Tuesday for three days before being extended until 8pm tomorrow. 

During yesterday's Covid-19 press conference, prior to Victoria's lockdown extension announcement, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall was asked what measures were in place for Kiwis trapped in Melbourne, should the lockdown be extended. 

"Our message from the very beginning of the trans-Tasman bubble has been flyer beware and that New Zealanders travelling to Australia need to understand that they may need to shelter in place for some time," Verrall said. 

"At this stage, if there is anyone experiencing hardship they should alert us through the Safe Travel website that contacts MFAT."

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was asked yesterday about the Covid-19 risk posed by Kiwis returning from Melbourne and if they would need to go into MIQ facilities. 

He said pre-departure testing, testing upon arrival in New Zealand, how long someone may need to isolate and whether that should be in MIQ or at home were all under consideration.