The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the Commonwealth continue to closely monitor the situation in New Zealand. The Commonwealth and AHPPC are receiving daily briefings on the matter.
Based on updated information from New Zealand today, Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd has recommended the Commonwealth not extend the pause in safe travel zone flights from New Zealand beyond 2pm, 31 January 2021. The Commonwealth has accepted this advice, meaning green zone flights will commence this afternoon.
In making this recommendation, the Acting CMO noted there have been no further confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community in New Zealand since the initial three cases originated from transmission within hotel quarantine. The Acting CMO also noted all close contacts of the three New Zealand cases have returned negative test results, and there have been no further cases found to date in the casual contacts, previous residents of the hotel or hotel staff.
The Acting CMO notes flights from New Zealand are sufficiently low risk given New Zealand’s strong public health response to COVID-19. Given there is still a small risk of further associated cases being detected in New Zealand, with an abundance of caution, the Acting CMO has recommended pre and post flight screening be implemented for the safe travel zone flights for the next ten days. The screening will check that travellers have not been identified as close contacts, or have not visited any of the contact tracing areas of interest in New Zealand, and if they have, that they have been tested and have received the negative test results required by the New Zealand authorities.
Currently, to be eligible to fly on a safe travel zone flight, passengers must have been in New Zealand for the previous 14 days. The Acting CMO recommends that time spent in hotel quarantine does not form part of the required 14 days in New Zealand.
The AHPPC will continue to monitor the situation in New Zealand very closely, and will receive daily reports from the New Zealand health authorities on the results of the continuing contact tracing related to this outbreak.