26 Jul 2021

Jacinda Ardern commits to getting NZers back from Australia within deadline

8:38 am on 26 July 2021

The prime minister is assuring New Zealanders in Australia wanting to get home, they will be able to do so within the seven-day window and avoid managed isolation.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Quarantine-free travel is being paused for at least eight weeks as the Covid-19 Delta variant continues to spread in Australia's communities, with the majority of infections in New South Wales.

Returnees have until Friday to avoid the official start of the suspension, with those from NSW and Victoria facing extra conditions. Travellers from NSW will still have to go into MIQ for 14 days.

Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report it was not known how many of the 21,000 New Zealanders in Australia would want to come home but there would be space for them on return flights.

"We did see we had a bit of capacity on some of the flights over the weekend," she said, adding that the Ministry of Transport would be meeting with airline companies today.

"What we'll be doing is across the course of the week is checking the demand and capacity, then looking before the formal suspension as in no-one is able to come in without quarantine, which is set for Friday, we said two days prior we would check in and see whether we would need to extend that in order to get everyone home.

"Early suggestions seem to suggest we should be able to do it within the week."

She appealed to New Zealanders to get in early.

"We don't want people relying on managed isolation... I implore anyone who is currently in Australia, even if you're plans are uncertain, if there's a likelihood you need to be back in New Zealand, I would encourage you to come back."

Under Cabinet's order, an exemption-based process exists for individuals who are forced to wait behind due to Covid-19 testing or isolation in Australia.

Managed isolation and quarantine spots have been booked through to 6 August for New Zealanders returning from NSW, she said.

The government is now looking to see what capacity there was beyond that, with high demand also being seen in the coming months from those who had pre-booked their spot before leaving the country and others wanting to be home for summer.

"For extra demand, our focus at the moment is if we are bringing on a bit of extra [capacity] it would more than likely be a short-term demand to try and deal with the particular demand we've got coming out of NSW," Ardern said.

"Spaces do continue to be released so not everything that's available right through to December is currently online. Spots are released but they are limited."

Meanwhile, the All Blacks' Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship tests have been also plunged into doubt due to the pause on the travel bubble.

Ardern said she understood there was no final decision yet on whether the Wallabies would be granted an exemption.

"If the wallabies can meet the same deadline and criteria of not having been anywhere of concern, then they will be able to seek an exemption to come in during that week, thereafter same rules [apply to them] as everyone else."

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