Update on COVID-19 Cases of Concern in New Zealand

The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) discussed the COIVD-19 situation in New Zealand and the current 72 hour travel pause on green safe travel zone flights from New Zealand to Australia at its meeting on 28 January 2021. The AHPPC was joined by representatives from the New Zealand Government including the New Zealand Chief Medical Officer.

The AHPPC has been advised that all three confirmed COVID-19 cases in the community in New Zealand have been genomically linked to an international traveller in hotel quarantine in Auckland.

The AHPPC was also advised that all close contacts of the first New Zealand case have returned negative test results, and that five of the 11 close contacts of the subsequent two cases have also returned negative results, with the remainder awaiting their results.

Based on updated information from New Zealand, including that there have been two additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community in New Zealand since the initial case, and involving the variant of concern B.1.351, the AHPPC has recommended to the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer (CMO) that the Commonwealth extend the pause in safe travel zone flights from New Zealand to Australia.

The AHPPC recommendation is to extend for a further three days, to 2pm on Sunday January 31.

The Federal Government has accepted the recommendation of the AHPPC and Acting CMO to extend the pause for a further three days.

The B.1.351 variant of concern has been shown to have higher transmissibility and so presents a heightened level of risk. It has spread to 26 countries, including in people who have arrived in Australia who are in mandatory hotel quarantine.

It is estimated to be 50% more transmissible based on the available evidence. This extension of the pause for a further 72 hours affords continued protection of Australians while the extent of the situation in New Zealand is clarified.

Quarantine arrangements are a matter for each state and territory government. As a result, any recent arrivals from New Zealand during paused green safe travel zone flights from New Zealand to Australia will be advised on any changes to their quarantine arrangements by the relevant jurisdiction.

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