Sydney, Australia, Sep 17 (EFE).- New Zealand announced Friday that it will extend the suspension of its travel bubble with Australia for at least eight more weeks due to the persistence of Covid-19 cases in the neighboring country, where half of the population is in lockdown.
New Zealand, which closed its borders in March 2020, opened a quarantine-free trans-Tasman flight bubble in April, but suspended it from July 23 to Sep. 24 due to the health crisis in Australia.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the decision will be reviewed in mid-to-late November “to give more time for our vaccination rates to climb higher” and that flights requiring quarantine on arrival will continue in the meantime.
New Zealand, whose government pursues a Covid-19 elimination strategy, has fully vaccinated 37 percent of the eligible population of more than 5 million and plans to reopen its borders in 2022.
The country, which locked down its largest city of Auckland in mid-August due to a Delta outbreak, reported 11 local cases Friday and has accumulated more than 4,000 infections since the beginning of the pandemic, including 27 deaths and almost 500 active cases.
Australia has continued to report more than 2,000 daily community infections for weeks, despite the fact that inhabitants of Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and other rural areas of the country are in lockdown.
According to a national plan announced at the end of July, Australia plans to progressively return to normality when 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, and reopen its international borders, predictably by the end of the year, with 80 percent fully vaccinated.
On Friday, the government of New South Wales announced that it will launch a pilot program at the end of the month so that fully vaccinated international arrivals can quarantine at home for seven days instead of a designated hotel for 14. EFE