New Zealand pauses travel bubble with NSW as COVID-19 infections rise

New Zealand’s quarantine-free travel bubble with NSW is being paused on the back of the state’s growing coronavirus outbreak.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in NSW stands at 21 after 10 new infections were recorded today.

The cases have predominantly been linked to Sydney’s eastern suburbs and they first emerged after a 60-year-old limousine driver tested positive to the virus on June 16. 

The latest outbreak is known as the Bondi cluster.

Among the new cases today, and of concern to both NSW and New Zealand health authorities, is a Sydney primary school student with no known links to people who have been diagnosed with the virus.

Investigation into how the year three student at St Charles’ Catholic Primary School in Waverley picked up the virus are ongoing.

NSW authorities are also trying to learn how a woman in her 20s who works at Bondi Junction was infected.

New Zealand said it was pausing the travel bubble arrangement while the source of the new cases was investigated.

The pause takes effect from midnight tonight and will be in place for 72 hours at this stage, but that will be reviewed.

New Zealand’s Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the country was taking precautionary steps following a public health assessment of NSW’s evolving situation.

Of particular concern is Westfield Bondi Junction mall, which NZ officials say is popular with Kiwi visitors.

“While the overall risk to public health in New Zealand currently remains low, there are still several unknowns, including a case that was infectious while in the Sydney community and a primary-school-age child with no clear link established at present,” Ms Hipkins said.

The case at St Charles’ Catholic Primary School prompted staff to notify parents to pick up their children. 

The school is not far from Westfield Bondi Junction where several people recently contracted COVID-19. 

NSW residents already in New Zealand who have recently visited Westfield Bondi Junction are urged to get tested and stay at home until they receive negative test result.

Anyone who was at a location of interest at the specified times as listed on the NSW Health website cannot travel to New Zealand within 14 days of the exposure event.

This is not the first time NSW residents have been temporarily prevented from travelling to New Zealand due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Flights were paused in May after cases emerged in Sydney. It came a month after the travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand opened up. 

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