WELLINGTON: New Zealand will tighten quarantine rules after two cases of the South African COVID-19 variant were confirmed in Auckland, as it awaits an Australian decision on whether it would reopen quarantine-free travel to arrivals from the Pacific nation.
Australia suspended a one-way “travel bubble” with its trans-Tasman neighbour for 72 hours after New Zealand confirmed its first case in months on Monday.
Since then, two people have tested positive to the South African variant of the coronavirus, and all cases are linked to the same quarantine facility in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.
The new infections come as New Zealand was ranked the best performing in an index of almost 100 countries based on their containment of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday she was confident of the measures in place to stop new COVID-19 infections and that she had advised health officials to provide Australia with information to help them make their decision about restrictions on New Zealand arrivals.
“But we absolutely want them to have the confidence that we have in our systems and we can do that by giving them good information,” Ardern told reporters in Auckland.
Australia has to decide on Thursday if it would resume travel and authorities have said they need more information about the new cases. Under the bubble, travellers were able to arrive in Australia from New Zealand without the need to quarantine though movement in the other direction requires 14 days’ quarantine.
Health authorities on Thursday conducted further tests and began contact tracing efforts on the two new cases in Auckland.
Both cases were returned travellers in hotel quarantine who were released after returning negative tests following their 14-day isolation.
They had stayed at the same hotel at the same time as the first case of coronavirus in the country in over two months that was confirmed on Monday.
New Zealand also said it would tighten rules at quarantine facilities and people will not be able to leave their rooms following their day 12 COVID test, until they depart from the facility.
New Zealand has largely avoided the high numbers of infections and deaths from the virus as seen in many other nations.
The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 69. The country has had a total of 1,943 confirmed cases and 25 deaths so far.
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