Covid 19 coronavirus: Closing NZ-Melbourne travel bubble ‘right thing to do’

Closing New Zealand’s travel bubble with Victoria was the “right thing to do”, an expert says, who adds that it should remain shut for as long as needed.

Victorian authorities have been in talks about imposing lockdown measures with an announcement due late this morning after confirmation yesterday Melbourne now had 15 cases of Covid-19 and more than 70 exposure sites.

While all the cases were linked, authorities were “very concerned” by the growing number of cases and exposure sites given the type of venues involved which include nightclubs, bars and the MCG.

Yesterday Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced a pause on New Zealand’s travel bubble with Victoria effective from 7.59pm [NZ time].

The pause is effective for 72 hours initially but would be under constant review.

“While the [new Melbourne community] case announced [yesterday] is not unexpected as a contact of a case announced [Tuesday], New Zealand officials have assessed that the most cautious option is to pause the travel bubble with Victoria as there are still several unknowns with the outbreak.”

Hipkins said the Government understood the disruption this would cause affected passengers but was still the right move given the state of unknown in Melbourne at the moment.

Professor Michael Plank told the Herald today the Government’s pause on the Victorian bubble was “the right thing to do”.

“It buys us some time to see what happens over the next couple of days in terms of the testing and the number of cases that they find.

“The big concern with these outbreaks where there’s a missing link is that there might be a whole lot of cases that they haven’t found yet.

“Obviously the number of cases itself has grown quite quickly and there’s a lot of exposure sites around Melbourne and into rural Victoria and clearly some quite big crowded venues, and so there’s the risk of super spreader events, so it was definitely the right call to hit pause.”

Plank said Kiwis taking up the travel bubble opportunity to Australia were warned of the risks by the Government, and he hoped people affected had contingencies in place.

“This is what the Government has always been clear about, is that this can happen and that people need to have contingency arrangements.

“Hopefully they will be able to get it contained, if not within the next couple of days, but in the next week or so, so we really just have to wait and see.”

The ever-expanding exposure sites had seen not only New Zealand put its bubble on hold but other Australian states.

“With more than 70 exposure sites now, that’s obviously quite a lot. Other states are imposing travel restrictions on Victoria and travelling from Victoria so it’s not just New Zealand but other Australian states.

“Certainly people who have been to those exposure sites, are typically not allowed to travel to some other states.”

Plank said it would be wise for New Zealand to keep the travel bubble closed until the outbreak had been contained.

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