MELBOURNE, Australia — New Zealanders trapped in Victoria due to the Covid-19 lockdown will soon be able to return after completing a fortnight in quarantine-like conditions.
Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins claimed that Kiwis would have completed a fortnight in isolation and would be able to return home from June 9 if they had not been to an exposure site and could produce a recent negative test.
“With a negative test, we can have a good degree of confidence that the risk of them coming home with Covid is very low,” he said.
Following the Victorian Government’s decision to extend their lockdown restrictions, New Zealand’s Quarantine Free Travel pause with Victoria will also be extended for a further six days, with a further review due on June 9, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins claims.
“I acknowledge this extension will cause further inconvenience to those who have already had their travel plans disrupted. I also acknowledge that having been prevented from returning for almost two weeks, New Zealanders will want some certainty around when they can start to plan to come home,” said Hipkins in a statement.
The Government has announced plans for the carefully managed commencement of return ‘green flights’ from Melbourne to New Zealand, from June 8 at 11:59 pm.
Travel on such flights will be limited to New Zealand citizens, Australian citizens normally resident in New Zealand, people with humanitarian exemptions, and critical workers who are stranded in Victoria.
“Officials are continuing to work on details of how seats will be allocated if demand for these flights exceeds supply. These details will be provided on the Covid-19 website in the coming days,” he said.
Many Kiwis found themselves stuck in Victoria after the outbreak prompted the New Zealand government to suspend quarantine-free travel to New Zealand.
The pathway home was a surprise announcement, with many expecting an extension to the quarantine-free travel suspension in line with the extension to Melbourne’s lockdown announced on June 2.
Melbourne will remain locked down until June 11 at the earliest, but Kiwis can take flight two days sooner as that will mark a fortnight in isolation.
“They will have been locked down for 14 days, which as New Zealand are familiar with is the period of time that we would typically use in New Zealand if we were worried that there had been any kind of infection,” Hipkins said.
The exemption will only be possible for New Zealand citizens, Australians who are usually New Zealand residents, humanitarian exemptions, and critical workers.
Hipkins claims that the quarantine-free travel suspension for Victoria would continue to apply to tourists.
The decision is expected to spark a scramble for tickets on flights that will be operated commercially.
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Pallavi Mehra)