Sydney, Australia, Jan 21 (efe-epa).- Australia has managed this week to bring new local Covid-19 infections in the country to zero, paving the way for the possibility of launching a travel bubble with the Pacific islands, officials said Thursday.
“Today we’ve had the sixth day out of the last seven with zero cases in Australia,” Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters in Melbourne.
This outcome comes after New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state that has remained infection-free for four days, beat back an outbreak that was detected in mid-December in its capital Sydney’s Northern Beaches region, that led to its approximately 250,000 inhabitants being placed under lockdown for at least two weeks.
Victoria state, the epicenter of the second wave in late June during which the some 5 million inhabitants of its capital city of Melbourne were placed under a second lockdown between July and November, has gone 15 days without any cases being recorded after an infection from Sydney.
Queensland has also been infection-free for 10 days following a three-day lockdown of the 2.8 million inhabitants of Brisbane, the country’s third most populous city after Sydney and Melbourne, after a quarantine worker was found to be infected with a new, highly contagious strain of the virus.
Although travel between some states is still prohibited, the restrictions are beginning to be lifted gradually.
However, Australia’s international borders, which have been closed since March with certain exceptions, are likely to remain closed until the end of the year even if most of the population is vaccinated.
This has prompted the authorities to consider the creation of a travel bubble with the Pacific if medical advisers agree.
“Our goal is if the Pacific countries are able to be shown to be at the lowest risk level – and they are doing extraordinarily well – and that we’re able to put in the appropriate protections, then we could well expand that bubble,” Hunt said.
Currently, Australia only has a one-way travel bubble with New Zealand. Since October it has allowed travelers from that country to enter freely without quarantine since October, although they must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on their return to New Zealand.
Hunt’s comments come after New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told the Sydney Morning Herald that “there is no reason why we shouldn’t aim to travel to New Zealand or some of the Pacific Islands well within the next 12 months.”
Australia has recorded around 28,750 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 909 deaths. There are less than 200 active cases in the country. EFE-EPA