Wellington’s alert level will be reduced to 1 at midnight tomorrow, and Cabinet has decided in principle to resume travel with several Australian states on Sunday.
Minister for Covid-19 Response Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield have provided 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.
Hipkins confirmed the drop in alert levels by stating that a total of 7250 tests were processed yesterday, all of which had negative findings. There were no new cases discovered in the community, but four new cases were discovered in controlled isolation.
He stated that no Covid-19 was detected in wastewater at any of the locations in Wellington, Hutt Valley, or Porirua.
Cabinet was satisfied that if there had been community instances in New Zealand, proof of them would have been discovered by now, he said.
According to him, the scope of contact tracking has been considerably broader and more extensive than in any prior case, and a lot of active work has been done around the places 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 will also discuss whether New Zealanders caught up in the travel suspension will be permitted to return to New Zealand if the pause is extended further.
The warning level was upgraded when an Australian visitor who visited Wellington’s tourist sites, restaurants, and bars between June 18 and June 21 tested positive for the Delta form of the virus upon returning home.
The man’s spouse, who also visited Wellington, tested positive, indicating that test results from sites visited at the conclusion of the couple’s trip are crucial.
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.
On two contacts in New Zealand of the miner in Western Australia who tested positive, Bloomfield said both had returned negative tests.
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.