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Wellington drops to alert level 1 at midnight, Tasman travel pause extended

Jun 29, 2021

Wellington will move back down to alert level 1 from midnight tonight, and Cabinet has agreed in principle to resume travel with some Australian states from Sunday.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield have been giving an update on Covid-19, alert levels, and the trans-Tasman travel bubble.

Alert level 2 for Wellington had been due to end at midnight if there were no further changes.

Confirming the reduction in alert levels, Hipkins said a further 7250 tests were processed yesterday, all with negative test results. There were no new cases detected in the community, and four new cases found in managed isolation.

He said wastewater results continued to show no detection of Covid-19 at any of the sites around Wellington city, Hutt Valley or Porirua.

Cabinet was confident that if there were community cases in New Zealand, evidence of them could be expected to have been seen by now, he said.

The extent of contact tracing has been far wider and more comprehensive than for any other case previously, he said, and a lot of active work had been done around the locations of interest.

The pause on all trans-Tasman travel was also due to expire at the same time, but has been extended to midnight on Sunday 4 July for Victoria, South Australia, ACT and Tasmania.

The travel pause with NSW, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland is set to continue beyond Sunday. Cabinet will review the settings for those states on Monday 5 July, and announce a decision on Tuesday 6 July.

On Monday, Cabinet would also consider whether New Zealanders caught up in the travel pause might be able to return to New Zealand in the event that the pause continued to be extended.

The alert level was raised after an Australian tourist who had visited tourist attractions, restaurants and bars in Wellington between 18 June and 21 June tested positive for the Delta variant of the virus on returning home.

The man's partner who also visited Wellington has also tested positive which means that test results from locations the couple visited towards the end of their stay are critical.

There have been no community cases reported since the couple travelled to New Zealand, and thousands have been tested.

Testing centres would remain open, Hipkins said.

"If you haven't checked a location of interest yet and you're in the region please do that ... the more tests that we do, the more results that we receive the more certain that we'll be that there is no Covid-19 in the region."

There had been nearly 2500 negative test results from close contacts of the Sydney traveller, including repeat negative results from the case's closest contacts, he said.

Hipkins pointed out the November cluster and said officials struggled to identify two of those cases. He said this reinforced the need for all Wellingtonians to remain vigilant.

Bloomfield said over 2000 of the tests yesterday were in the Wellington region. He said since alert level 2 there has been more than 8200 tests in the capital - approaching 2 percent of the population.

"While the job is not done, there's no denying this is a milestone," he said.

He said the roughly 100 potential contacts who have not been tested yet were in the system and were being actively chased.

Travel with Australia

Hipkins said that to be eligible to fly from Australia once travel resumes for the relevant states from Monday, travellers also must not have been in New South Wales on or after 11.59pm on 22 June or in Queensland, the Northern Territory or Western Australia on or after 10.30pm on 26 June 2021.

Those times align with when New Zealand's pauses came into effect, Hipkins said.

People travelling from Victoria, SA, ACT and Tasmania would also be required to return a negative pre-departure test within 72 hours when leaving Australia.

"The health advice is that the spread of Covid-19 in these parts of Australia has been contained at this point," Hipkins said.

"We'll keep a close eye on all of this over the next few days but the decision in principle allows people to plan."

Hipkins says detailed risk assessments had been completed for each state and territory.

"We want to ensure New Zealanders aren't unnecessarily barred from travelling back into New Zealand where there is no risk or very low risk of Covid-19, but we will be monitoring the situation very closely.

New South Wales was regarded as the highest risk state in Australia, he says. Queensland, WA and NT had a higher than normal risk - which was why the travel pause was continuing there, he said.

Those who have been at a location of interest at the relevant time should immediately isolate at their home or accommodation and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on testing.

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