A decision on whether to extend the New Zealand travel suspension has been delayed until just hours before it expires, with a number of COVID-19 test results still outstanding across the Tasman.
Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand was suspended for 72-hours from Monday after the country confirmed a case of the highly-contagious South African COVID-19 variant.
The suspension was extended for another 72-hours, until 2pm on Sunday, after further cases were detected.
Acting chief medical officer Michael Kidd said a decision on ending the New Zealand travel suspension will be made on Sunday.
“The authorities in New Zealand are continuing to do an excellent job, following up the contacts of the three people who are diagnosed with a South African variant of COVID-19,” he said on Saturday.
“There are still test results outstanding on a number of people who may have been at risk, so we will be meeting again tomorrow morning with our New Zealand colleagues.
“We will then provide advice to the Australian government.”
A 56-year-old woman tested positive to the strain after completing 14-days in hotel quarantine in Auckland, after testing negative twice while in isolation.
She travelled to around 30 venues while carrying the virus.
The strain, which is 50 per cent more transmissible than previous variants, has caused alarm among Australian authorities amid questions over the effectiveness of vaccines against it.
Health Minister Greg Hunt on Friday expressed optimism about the prospects of lifting the suspension, praising New Zealand for its “tremendous” job in curbing the outbreak.
The suspension “disappointed” NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who warned this week travel bubbles were unviable if they could be abruptly halted.
She conceded the prospect of a country-to-country travel bubble across the Tasman was fading, saying individual arrangements with states were more likely.
Labor home affairs spokesperson Kristina Keneally said that while decisions should be based on medical advice, she understood Ms Ardern’s “extreme frustration”.
“She has to deal individually with state premiers. Where’s the national pointing plan, where’s the national management of our international borders?” she said on Saturday.
A hotel worker in Auckland was fired after being caught in an “inappropriate encounter” with a woman undergoing hotel quarantine.
Both the worker and guest ultimately tested negative to COVID-19.
Australia confirmed its 13th day of no community transmission on Saturday, marking the country’s longest streak without a case since March.