New Zealand will not reciprocate quarantine-free trips across the Tasman as the Australian Capital Territory joins Australia’s travel bubble with the country.
On Friday, Australia’s deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, announced New South Wales and the Northern Territory would allow Kiwis to bypass the compulsory fortnight of quarantine on arrival from 16 October.
On Saturday the ACT joined the scheme.
But on the same day, the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the country would stand strong on its pledge to not open up until Australia, or specific states and territories, recorded a month without community transmission of Covid-19.
“That’s key for us. One of our criteria is 28 days clear,” she said.
“You can see from NSW, they themselves are still warning their population but they’re not at this stage clear as to whether they still have community transmission.”
On Saturday, NSW health authorities announced eight consecutive days without a locally transmitted case, making 23 October the next possible day it could fulfil New Zealand’s requirements.
But, it is unlikely Ardern’s government will move on borders that quickly given other requirements, including assurances on border controls, splitting up airports and flights, as well a looming election likely influencing the cautious approach.
In Australia’s embattled state of Victoria, an angry premier Daniel Andrews has slammed hundreds of “selfish” Melbourne beachgoers filmed ignoring social distancing and not wearing masks for jeopardising the state’s progress as it eyes the end of lockdown.
Vision showed beachgoers kissing a news camera and then Seven news reporter Paul Dowsley on the head several times.
“No one has the right to break the rules and potentially put at risk everything that good, decent law-abiding Victorians have created, have built. All of their sacrifice has to be worth something,” Andrews said on Saturday.
“[It] will just mean that you won’t get to go to the beach for all of summer. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Andrews said such behaviour could lead to more community transmission and jeopardise the state’s path out of lockdown.
A number of people were fined on Friday night with police ramping up enforcement over the weekend, patrolling and questioning those on the esplanade and at local eateries.
Victoria recorded another day of single-figure case numbers, with only eight new infections on Saturday, taking Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average to 12.
Three additional deaths brought the state’s toll to 805.
Despite Saturday’s single-figure results, Andrews said a recent outbreak of Covid-19 linked to Australia’s biggest shopping centre showed why it’s unsafe to ease restrictions now.
A cluster of cases at The Butcher Club inside south-east Melbourne’s Chadstone shopping centre had grown to 17 and included a family. The premier challenged Victorians to consider the potential impact of a cluster in such a large, busy setting.
Meanwhile, the Yorta Yorta woman Sheena Watt is set to become Victorian Labor’s first Indigenous parliamentarian, filling the vacancy left by the former health minister Jenny Mikakos. Watt is expected to be announced in the role after a factional party meeting on Sunday.
Further north, NSW health authorities were trying to track down almost 50 people who shared a flight to Sydney with an infected Victorian traveller.
The passenger travelled on Jetstar flight JQ510, which left Melbourne at 11am last Sunday, and tested positive on their second day in quarantine. They are believed to have been infectious while travelling.
NSW Health said there was no ongoing risk to the public and most of the flight’s passengers were already in mandatory hotel quarantine. Authorities were contacting 47 crew and passengers who travelled with special permits or quarantine exemptions.
“Those deemed close contacts of the case have been advised to immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days and stay isolated for the entire period, even if a negative test result is received,” NSW Health said.
NSW’s only case on Saturday was a returned traveller in hotel quarantine, but despite this eight-day streak of zero community transmission, the NSW border with Queensland won’t reopen until 1 November.
Following months of tension between the states, the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the hard border would lift the day after Queenslanders head to the polls, provided NSW had no mystery cases of Covid-19 in the preceding 28 days.
The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, told reporters she was frustrated to learn the announcement was just a reiteration of the existing policy.
“It is frustrating for me that WA and Queensland keep lumping us in with Victoria,” she said.
“What happened in NSW is not what happened in Victoria. NSW was much closer to what was going on in WA and Queensland.”
Meanwhile, Queensland recorded no new Covid-19 cases, with only six active infections remaining across the state, including five in hospital.
Queenslanders also enjoyed standing in bars while eating and drinking on Friday night for the first time in 10 weeks after restrictions were eased.
The next round of restrictions will ease on 1 November, with the potential opening of the NSW border and 40 people allowed to dance at weddings.
Similar restrictions were relaxed in South Australia with licensed pubs and restaurants allowed to serve drinks to standing patrons, provided they are in an outdoor area from Saturday.
South Australia reported two Covid-19 cases on Friday – the first in more than a week. Both were isolated in hotel quarantine, and were SA’s only active infections.
Western Australia reported one fresh coronavirus case, confirming a positive result from a man who travelled to Perth from Indonesia. The man in his 50s is in hotel quarantine and one of the 20 active cases in the state.
Meanwhile, the premier, Mark McGowan, faced heavy criticism after appearing to use an economic justification for continued border closures.
Asked whether WA would consider a travel bubble with South Australia and the Northern Territory, where case numbers are similarly low, the premier said there was “no benefit” and it would only result in WA losing tourist dollars.
The WA senator and federal finance minister Mathias Cormann on Friday accused McGowan of maintaining closures for the sake of economic protectionism, which he said was “explicitly prohibited in the Australian Constitution”.
McGowan shrugged off the attack, highlighting the federal government’s short-lived intervention in support of businessman Clive Palmer’s legal challenge against WA’s border closures.
“I’m very comfortable our cautious approach has kept the health outcomes good and economic outcomes outstanding within Western Australia,” he said.
WA is the only state with no plans to reopen by Christmas, with McGowan saying he will see how Victoria recovers from the second wave first.