In an embarrassing legal bungle, New Zealand’s response to Melbourne’s COVID-19 outbreak has looped in Prime Minister Scott Morrison ahead of a planned visit.
Mr Morrison is scheduled to visit Queenstown this weekend for the annual Australia-New Zealand leaders’ meeting, alongside Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern.
The two governments want Mr Morrison’s trip to go ahead, and they will either clarify or fix the law to ensure the visit takes place.
But on Thursday, the NZ Director of Health issued a legal order that cast doubt over Mr Morrison’s eligibility to enter or travel in New Zealand.
The directive asks anyone who was in Melbourne from May 20-25 to isolate and be tested. Victoria began a seven-day lockdown because of an escalating community outbreak of the virus.
The five-day exposure zone takes in Mr Morrison’s last visit to the Victorian capital.
The Liberal leader visited Aquaterro, a business in Melbourne’s south-east, last Thursday (May 20) as he toured Australia promoting the federal budget.
A New Zealand health official contacted by AAP agreed the order would apply to anyone who was yet to arrive from Australia.
However, a spokesman for Ms Ardern insisted the trip would take place.
“We are in close contact with the Australian government and working through any implications for the visit,” he said.
It is likely the NZ government will ask Mr Morrison to produce a negative test in the next two days before boarding “Shark One”, his official plane, to New Zealand.
The health order requiring people in Melbourne to isolate and test captures about 5000 people who are in New Zealand.
NZ hit pause on quarantine-free travel from Victoria to New Zealand earlier in the week as the Melbourne outbreak emerged. The pause was extended until at least June 4 following the state government’s announcement of the “circuit-breaker” lockdown as the cluster grew to 26 infections on Thursday.
Mr Morrison is due to leave for the trip on Sunday morning, returning on Monday afternoon.
He had been scheduled to join Ms Ardern at a trans-Tasman rugby clash between NZ’s Highlanders and the Melbourne Rebels on Sunday. Amid Victoria’s worsening virus crisis, and the ban on travel to New Zealand from Melbourne, that game has been moved to Sydney’s Leichhardt Oval.