The travel pause with New South Wales and Queensland remains in effect, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, although people who normally dwell in New Zealand will be permitted to travel subject to conditions.
Watch Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins address media:
According to Ardern, the last week has been the most difficult for the Australian travel bubble so far.
After Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed the government’s schedule on Tuesday last week, quarantine-free travel from Victoria, South Australia, the ACT, and Tasmania resumed overnight.
“Our decision to close the border was about protecting New Zealanders’ health and to protect businesses and the economy … a temporary measure to help us get a better handle on the situation, as well for the Australian health authorities to respond to their various outbreaks.”
She says advice shows Western Australia and Northern Territory have their outbreaks contained, and travel will resume from 11.59pm on 9 July.
The pause remains for NSW and Queensland, but Ardern says those who ordinarily reside in New Zealand will be able to travel subject to requirements.
These requirements are similar to those for people who returned from Victoria during the pause there, and include:
- A declaration that they have not been in a location of interest in the past 14 days
- Not symptomatic
- Not a close contact of a positive case
- Not awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test
This applies to New Zealand citizens and holders of residence-class visas, holders of temporary visas, and Australian citizens who last departed New Zealand after 5 April 2021; holders of current permanent residence visas including a resident return visa issued by Australia last departing New Zealand after 5 April 2021, and family members of these people.
She says the government had been clear about “flyer beware”, and says the decision to allow people back from NSW and Queensland is based on the fact it had been 14 days since the outbreak.
However, pre-departure tests are required, and anyone linked to a person or place of interest is not permitted to travel.
“When it comes to reopening with New South Wales … we have no clear date in mind.”
She says if the restrictions were to lift, it would always be determined based on whether New Zealand is ready.
Ardern says the border system has flexibility based on circumstances built into it.
Vaccines and testing
Ardern says the government is constrained in exact numbers of vaccines it expects to be delivered on which days but the next vaccine delivery is expected to be similar to the 150,000 that arrived over the weekend.
As the vaccine rolls out, the government will continue to provide its latest thinking in terms of restrictions including on travel, she says.
When asked if she would be comfortable with some Covid-19 in the community once the vaccination distribution is complete, Ardern responds, “For the time being, our thinking has been that “Let us proceed on a course that will ensure the survival of as many New Zealanders as possible. Variants do represent a new risk… we’ll keep an eye on things and keep an eye out “..
Hipkins would want to see saliva testing implemented more rapidly.
Some employees have expressed a preference for nose swab testing over saliva testing since saliva testing requires them to refrain from smoking or eating for a “reasonable period” beforehand.
“I would like to see it more widely used and will lean on the team.”
On mandatory QR code scanning and mask use, Ardern says the government has some initial advice but is waiting on more information.
The Cabinet hopes to make announcements about that next week.
Ardern says QR scanning is important as a precaution at alert level 1, but mask use is being thought of as a reaction to a threat rather than a wider precautionary measure, indicating higher mask restrictions would likely be applied at higher alert levels.
Helping Fiji with its Covid-19 crisis
Ardern says Australia is helping with Fiji’s vaccines in the meantime and there is a member of the NZ Defence Force and another medical officer to support work on infection control.
“I actually spoke to the Prime Minister of Fiji last week and that was the second call that we’ve had in recent weeks.
“We have provided Fiji with $40m in aid and support in recent times … we made Fiji aware some time ago around the likely time that we’ll be able to release AstraZeneca doses based on the time it would take Medsafe to approve AstraZeneca in New Zealand.”
Feedback from the Fiji Prime Minister was that any delays to vaccine deliveries because of New Zealand’s approvals would not materially affect the situation, Ardern says.
“Our view is that all individuals, all political parties, we would have encouraged and hoped would be upholding the decisions of the judiciary,”
“We hold great faith in the systems of Samoa – their electoral system, their judicial system, the rulings of the court, and their ability to use those institutions to be able to resolve the impasse that they’ve reached.
“If you look at those rulings they’ve very clearly delivered a path for Samoa.”
She says New Zealand has a close connection with Samoa and is in communication, but she has avoided saying if other countries should intervene.
The government has also welcomed back Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan, who returned to Parliament today after treatment for cervical cancer, roughly three months after being diagnosed.
Ardern expresses her delight at Allan’s homecoming.
“To have her just walk back into Cabinet and take her seat and just resume the position that she had was just a really great moment for everyone.”
It is her intention that the Emergency Management position remains with Kris Faafoi for a couple of weeks. She says Allan inspires her, and did so before her diagnosis as well.
Meanwhile, Labour is experiencing internal pressure when MP Louisa Wall broke ranks to condemn China for what she called the slave labour trade in China, as well as the harvesting of organs from Uyghur and Falun Gong communities.
In May, Parliament overwhelmingly urged for measures to avoid serious human rights violations in Xinjiang’s majority-Uyghur region, but stopped short of labelling it genocide.
Ardern claims that Labour and the government are already committed to doing more to combat modern slavery, and that an advisory committee inside MBIE has been formed to update laws on the subject.
When asked if the effort should be accelerated in light of human rights violations in China, she says the overall context on contemporary slavery must be proper.
According to Ardern, supply chains have an impact and are impacted by them.
“From New Zealand’s perspective, we do not import organs from any country except as part of donor arrangements with Australia, we have raised as a government the issue of organ transplantation with China and we have sought updates on this issue and policy reforms and policy reforms for consent and transparency.”
She claims Wall has “spoken with her IPU hat on” rather than as a government official in this matter.