3/3 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An Air New Zealand Boeing 777 takes a taxi after landing at Kingsford Smith International Airport in Sydney 2/3
WELLINGTON (Reuters) – Australia suspended non-quarantine travel with neighboring New Zealand after three new community cases of COVID-19 were detected in Auckland over the weekend. New Zealand said on Sunday it was closing its largest city after new cases emerged in the country, which is credited with virtually eliminating the virus within its borders. Australia’s Medical Director Paul Kelly called an urgent meeting Sunday evening and it was decided that all flights originating in New Zealand would be classified as “Red Zone” flights for an initial period of 72 hours at starting Monday. “As a result of this, all people arriving on those flights originating within this three-day period will have to go through 14 days of supervised hotel quarantine,” the Australian Health Department said on its website. The travel bubble was created so that New Zealanders could get to Australia without spending 14 days in a hotel, although quarantine was mandatory for people traveling in the other direction. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that genomic sequencing of the latest community cases of COVID-19 showed them to be the B1.1.7 variant, the most communicable variant first detected in the UK. “We were absolutely right in making the decision to be more cautious because we assumed it was going to be one of the more transferable variants,” Ardern said in a post on Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 Live on Monday. The source of the new cases is still unknown as the results are not directly related to any other positive cases detected in New Zealand to date. Ardern raised restrictions in Auckland to Level 3 until Wednesday, closing public places and banning gatherings outside of homes, except weddings and funerals of up to 10 people. Schools will remain open to the children of essential workers, but others were asked to stay home. The COVID-19 alert for the rest of the country was raised to Level 2, with all meetings limited to 100 people, including in restaurants and cafes.