Jacinda Ardern has given her support to Victorians beginning a tough New Zealand-style lockdown while suggesting it has put off hopes for a trans-Tasman bubble until 2021.
The NZ prime minister said it would be several months until the return of regular travel between Australia and New Zealand following the spread of COVID-19 to Victoria.
“Part of our criteria is anywhere we have quarantine-free travel, they have to be free of community transmission for a period of time, 28 days,” she told network Three.
“That is going to take a long time for Australia … so that will be on the backburner for some time. Their numbers at the moment are very high.”
On Sunday, Premier Dan Andrews declared a state of disaster for Victoria and engaged stage four restrictions, – similar to NZ’s level four lockdown which began in March, with only minor differences.
In NZ, there were more restrictions on business, with many occupations deemed inessential and not allowed to operate.
That included a complete ban on retail – except for supermarkets and pharmacies – and restaurants, unlike Victoria, which allows takeaway and delivery.
In Victoria, a nine-hour curfew from 8pm each evening has been implemented and masks are compulsory, which has never been the case in NZ.
There is also no Kiwi-style “bonk ban”, meaning partners who live apart are allowed to see each other.
Another chief difference is the timing of the lockdown.
New Zealand’s lockdown was largely preventative.
Ms Ardern announced the tough measures on the same day health authorities reported just 36 new cases, saying “the trajectory is clear”.
New Zealand’s daily case numbers peaked at 89.
In contrast, Victoria’s measures are being implemented as a last-chance solution after a full fortnight of daily case numbers in the hundreds, and a doubling of the state’s death toll.
Ms Ardern told 1News it was heartbreaking.
“It’s incredibly difficult to watch to see our cousins over the ditch going through this,” she said.
“It’s also a message to us to continue to maintain our vigilance.”
The Kiwi PM, who attended a meeting of Australia’s national Cabinet in May, said she would be happy to pick up the phone for any advice or required conversations from Australian leaders.
“Dan Andrews and those in Australia that we’ve had contact with certainly know we are available at any point to talk through all lessons learned,” Ms Ardern told Radio NZ.
“We’ve all learnt them and we’re all still learning them.
“I have sympathy for every world leader dealing with COVID right now. It is incredibly difficult,” she told network Three.
“There is a bit of camaraderie amongst leaders because we are all facing the challenges of economic downturn, a global financial crisis and the ongoing effects of managing the health response. It is a very tricky virus.”
While plans for a safe travel zone with Australia this year have been dashed, Ms Ardern confirmed work to link the Cook Islands with NZ continued.
“I imagine I at least will be able to give a set time frame within the next couple of weeks where we can start talking about dates,” she said