Canberra, Jan 25 : The Australian government on Monday suspended the quarantine-free travel arrangement for travellers from New Zealand for a minimum of 72 hours in order to reduce the risk of a new Covid-19 variant from entering the community.
While announcing the decision at a press conference here, Greg Hunt, Australia's Minister for Health, said: "The changes come into effect, as I say, immediately," Xinhua news agency reported.
It means all green safe travel zone passengers from New Zealand currently en route to Australia, or with planned travel to Australia in the next 72 hours will be required to enter mandatory hotel quarantine for up to 14 days on arrival or take other action based on the requirements of the relevant state and territory governments.
The New Zealand government on Sunday announced a case of Covid-19 detected in the community, which on Monday morning was confirmed as an infection of the new variant.
Michael Kidd, acting Australian chief medical officer, said in the same press conference on Monday that the person was infected with one of the Covid-19 variants of concern, the B1351 which was first detected in South Africa in October 2020.
"This new variant is more transmissible and presents a heightened level of risk," said Kidd.
In October 2020, the Australian government opened its borders to travellers from New Zealand, allowing New Zealanders who have not been in an area designated as the Covid-19 hotspot in the preceding 14 days to travel quarantine-free to Australia.