Pre-flight testing will ensure the chances of the spread of Covid-19 from Melbourne to New Zealand are low, according to an epidemiologist.
From midnight tonight, New Zealanders will be allowed to return home from Melbourne on special ‘green flights’, despite ongoing closures and community outbreaks in Victoria.
Flights are only available to residents, essential workers and people with humanitarian exemptions and all travelers must test negative for Covid-19 before boarding.
The thefts come as Victoria struggles to trace multiple clusters, including Australia’s first community-based cases of the more infectious Delta variant – which has spread rapidly across India and the UK.
The 11 new community cases reported in Victoria yesterday bring the total for the current outbreak to 81.
The government is due to review the travel break with Victoria tomorrow.
Melbourne-based epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely said that although the situation remains “touch and go” in the city, he is confident it is headed in the right direction.
The number of exposure sites – around 300 – is cause for concern, however, the number of sites under confirmation has slowed considerably.
The risk to New Zealand was low, he said.
“There will always be a risk that someone slips through the cracks.
“But that’s a very small chance. There’s less than a one in a million chance that someone will get on the plane and unintentionally bring it back to New Zealand, especially with the tests that will be necessary… I think that New Zealand’s decision makes sense. “
Professor Blakely said once travelers return they should wear masks for the first week and be tested immediately if symptoms develop.
The Delta variant could be expected to “come out every now and then” as it was the dominant variant in the world and was twice as contagious as the virus that had spread last year.
He said about 20% of the population of Victoria had received at least one dose of the vaccine, which was only enough “to dampen the spread of the epidemic a bit.”
“Increasing our immunization coverage as quickly as possible over the next six weeks, about eight weeks – in both countries – will help us become more resilient.
“If we can get up to 20%, 30% of people vaccinated, it won’t stop the spread of the virus but it will slow it down and it’s probably the most important thing for both countries to do right now as well. than ensuring our quarantine is as tight as possible. “