Australia-New Zealand travel bubble popped

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a suspension of the NZ-Australia travel bubble.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a suspension of the NZ-Australia travel bubble.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has popped the trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia and urged Kiwis to come home.

The quarantine-free travel arrangements will be suspended for at least eight weeks from 10pm AEST on Friday.

There will be managed return flights from all Australian states and territories over the next seven days.

"My strong message to every New Zealander in Australia right now who does not want to stay there long term is - come home," Ms Ardern said.

The grace period will be extended for a few days if needed.

Only New Zealand citizens and residents will be allowed onto the flights and passengers must obtain a negative pre-departure test.

Those outside Victoria and NSW will be able to return without going through quarantine.

However, anyone who has been in NSW will need to quarantine for 14 days upon their return, while those coming from Victoria must self-isolate and test negative on day three.

Ms Ardern said the decision was based on public health advice about the growing number of coronavirus cases and community clusters across Australia.

"There are now multiple outbreaks, and in differing stages of containment, that have forced three states into lockdown," Ms Ardern said.

"The health risk to New Zealanders from these cases is increasing."

Australia is grappling with serious coronavirus outbreaks in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, with a locally acquired case also recorded in Queensland.

More than 14 million people are in lockdown across the country.

"We've always said that our response would evolve as the virus evolved," Ms Ardern said.

"This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep New Zealanders safe."

The travel bubble began on April 19 and allowed Australians and New Zealanders to go between the two countries without the need to quarantine.

More than 300,000 people have taken advantage of the quarantine-free travel arrangements.

But Ms Ardern said the highly contagious Delta variant had changed the risk profile and she was determined to keep coronavirus out of New Zealand.

The decision will impact upcoming Bledisloe Cup Tests between the All Blacks and Wallabies, with matches slated on both sides of the ditch.

Ms Ardern said the Wallabies could utilise the seven-day window to travel to New Zealand for the Tests after applying for an exemption on economic grounds.

"However, it must be in the seven-day window, we are not making exceptions outside of that. Everyone else has to go into quarantine."

The travel suspension will be reviewed in September.

"We do want the bubble to resume but it must be safe," Ms Ardern said.

Australian Associated Press