Covid 19 coronavirus: Full pause of transtasman bubble on table as Cabinet meets

Cabinet ministers are meeting virtually at 3pm today to discuss the transtasman bubble – with a full pause likely to be discussed.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the meeting had been planned for a couple of days to discuss “travel arrangements with Australia, given the situation there”.

He said there would not be an update today at this stage, with any announcements likely tomorrow.

The meeting is understood to be a full Cabinet meeting, with ministers meeting despite many being on leave – including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

Half of the Australian population is currently in lockdown and NSW today had the most daily cases since the latest Delta outbreak began.

A major safety issue remains with up to half of the arrivals from Australia not being checked for negative pre-departure tests.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday that manually checking every person arriving from Australia would “effectively involve shutting off the e-gates and having them come through the more conventional line”.

Asked if passenger delays were a small price to pay for safety, Hipkins said it was a staffing issue – and more staff would be hired.

He added that digital scanning for pre-departure tests was something that was being explored, which would make the process more timely.

Hipkins said about half of the arrivals were being checked for a pre-departure test, and about 100 people have been caught without one.

He has previously said that being caught and sent to MIQ for two weeks was a disincentive for people trying to fly in without the prerequisite test.

Last week Hipkins’ office saidthe number of checks “varies by airport and by surge workforce”.

“Customs have advised that they have been able to conduct short-term ‘surges’ of up to 50 per cent of arriving passengers depending on staff availability, and flight loadings and scheduling at each airport.”

People travelling from Australia must test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight to New Zealand, as per current travel restrictions.

This did not apply to New South Wales or Victoria, with quarantine-free travel currently paused with those states due to rising case numbers.

Many recent transtasman travellers had contacted the Herald to share their disbelief at how proof of their expensive Covid tests had not be asked for and, in some cases, dismissed.

Whangārei mother Ashley Rochelle returned from Australia to New Zealand on July 11 with her four children, her partner and her mother-in-law.

After paying more than $900 for Covid tests, Rochelle was not asked at any stage to provide evidence of the whānau’s negative tests.

Upon landing in New Zealand, Rochelle asked a Customs official whether he wanted to see proof of her family’s tests and he said no, allegedly saying only 7 per cent of people were being checked.

Before today’s meeting, the Government had intended to update the travel pauses for NSW, South Australia and Victoria on Tuesday, July 27.

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