Sydney (CNN) – On July 23, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hopkins announced that non-quarantine travel from all Australian states and territories to New Zealand would be suspended.
This news comes as Australia continues to grapple with the Covid epidemic that is spreading to multiple states despite the blockade.
“Given the high level of transmissibility of the delta variant and the fact that there are more community groups now, this is the right thing to do to keep Covid-19 out of New Zealand,” Hopkins said.
Starting at 11:59 pm on Friday (7:59 am EST), Australians will not be able to enter New Zealand without quarantine for at least eight weeks.
Ardern said the decision was not taken lightly, but with “repeated outbreaks and various phases of containment” with three Australian states closed, “the health risks to New Zealanders from these cases are increasing.”
The Australian state of New South Wales – the Sydney office – reported 136 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19 within 24 hours, while the Victoria office – Melbourne – reported 14 new cases during the same period. South Australia has reported one new case.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she would ask the federal government to allocate more doses of the state’s Pfizer vaccine for use in western and southwestern Sydney, both of which are hotspots for the virus.
Nearly half of Australia’s population, around 13 million people, are now under some form of lockdown as the country works to stem the spread of the transmissible delta variant amid a slow rollout of vaccines.
Meanwhile, Australia recently halved the maximum number of international arrivals. As of July 14, around 3,000 people a week can travel to Australia, down from about 6,000.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, nearly 34,000 Australians have identified themselves as stuck in a foreign country and unable to return home.
Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly contained international access limit details. The story has been updated with the correct information.
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