New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Australia’s Trans-Tasman quarantine-free bubble with New Zealand has been suspended for at least the next eight weeks while the country continues to grapple with the current outbreak of COVID-19 affecting three states.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and COVID-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins, said the bubble, which had already been paused for New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, will now be suspended for all of Australia, beginning from 11:59pm on 23 July.

New Zealanders currently in Australia will be able to return home over the next seven days via a number of managed repatriation flights, provided they return a negative COVID-19 test prior to departure. Kiwis who have been in Victoria must self-isolate on return and get a test on their third day back, while any who have been in NSW will need to undertake 14 days hotel quarantine on arrival.

New Zealand will be ready and waiting once Australia tames its current outbreak.

Prime Minister Ardern said the decision to cancel was based on updated health advice due to the growing number of cases and exposure alerts in Australia in recent days and weeks.

“There are now multiple outbreaks, and in differing stages of containment, that have forced three states into lockdown. The health risk to New Zealanders from these cases is increasing,” Ardern said.

“Now is the time for a suspension to ensure New Zealanders aren’t put at undue risk from COVID-19 and to ensure we retain our hard won gains. Our team of five million has worked hard to put us in a strong position both health-wise and economically. We will not risk that.”

The New Zealand Government said it will spend the eight week period monitoring the situation and assess different quarantine-free travel settings while Australia gets a handle on its outbreak.