Australian health authorities are “watching New Zealand” but the trans-Tasman bubble is yet to pop from a new community COVID-19 case in Auckland.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health announced the new case on Tuesday afternoon (local time), just a day after New Zealand dropped quarantine requirements for Australian travellers.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the person was a cleaner on “red zone” flights from high-risk countries, and shouldn’t impact trans-Tasman travel arrangements.
“These are the kind of scenarios where we would anticipate movement continuing,” she said.
“Our Minister of Health has kept in touch with his counterpart. They’re directly communicating and so are our officials.”
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said the medical expert panel charged with decision-making around COVID-19 had confidence in NZ’s management of the virus
“The advice I have from the chief medical officer, who had been in a meeting with the … Australian Health Protection Principal Committee today, is that they’re watching New Zealand, but they have high confidence that New Zealand has this in train,” he said.
“We’ve seen them deal with the inevitable outbreaks and there will be other days when there are cases in Australia.
“We know how to deal with this. New Zealand knows how to deal with this.”
Ms Ardern said the worker was a cleaner was fully vaccinated, having received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The worker had undergone weekly routine coronavirus tests at least twice.
The worker’s job involved cleaning planes from high-risk “red zone” countries after passengers – some with the virus – had disembarked.
“This was a border worker who did work in an environment where they were coming into contact with the planes that are used to transport people from red zones,” Ms Ardern said.
She said the border worker was tested on April 12 and April 19. She said protocols of regular testing were followed and contact tracing was underway.
She also said that vaccination did not mean people would not get the virus.
“It is still possible to get COVID, but it won’t make you nearly as sick or likely to experience, potentially, some of the disastrous consequences we have seen overseas,” she said.
Mr Hunt said the world was still learning about the effect of vaccinations on transmission of the virus.
“The lesson from New Zealand is that there’s not 100 per cent prevention of people contracting the disease but the evidence from around the world … is that the vaccines being used in Australia, the figures identified has been 100 per cent prevention against serious illness, hospitalisation and loss of life,” he said.
New Zealand’s vaccination program is reliant on the Pfizer shot, while Australia will use that and AstraZeneca doses.
Kiwi health authorities announced the positive case in a media release earlier on Tuesday.
“The usual protocol of isolating the case, interviewing them, and tracing their contacts and movements is underway,” the statement read.
On Monday, more than 2000 travellers crossed the Tasman Sea and entered New Zealand after the long-awaited end of mandatory quarantine for Australian travellers.
Under the terms of the trans-Tasman bubble agreement, all states, territories and New Zealand can suspend quarantine-free travel with places that have outbreaks.
Ms Ardern said further cases were to be expected.
“When we opened [the border] on both sides we, of course, knew we would continue to have cases connected to our border,” she said.
“In fact, when we announced the date for opening the Trans-Tasman bubble, Queensland was dealing with cases linked to its border.
“We accept that’s going to be part of our journey together. I think Australia accepts that.
“For both sides, we’re always looking for clear connection to the border. In this case there is.”