Northern Territory mine case large factor in bubble pause

The mine incident in Australia's Northern Territory was a large influence in the entire trans-Tasman bubble being paused, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told media today. 

Excavator digging in red soil

"The current situation with cases in Australia is the worst it's been since the bubble started, the worst it has been for quite some time," Hipkins said. 

The bubble was fully paused last night after Hipkins and a group of high level ministers met last night, the first time every state has been closed off to New Zealand since its opening. 

"We've been made aware of an incident in a Northern Territory mine," Hipkins said. 

"A case has been deemed infectious for five to six days whilst working at the mine with over 700 close contacts being identified, 100 of those being very close contacts.

"Nine hundred and fifty workers have left the mine during that period and are now scattered across Australia. We are working hard to identify if any of those miners have entered New Zealand."

He said general levels of anxiety had been high recently over the situation in NSW, but a development of a Northern Territory mine worker who tested positive for Covid-19 "raised that anxiety up a bit, quite a bit".

Dr Bloomfield said New Zealand was on daily teleconferences with counterparts across all the states and they were given an early "heads up" over the mine case.

Hipkins said that pre-departure testing would "certainly" be a feature of reopening of the trans-Tasman bubble, but for those stuck overseas - "hold tight". 

"The pause will give us time to look at if we need to impose additional measures and understand the situation in Australia."

On if the pause could be extended in light of additional cases in Australia, Hipkins said it was a possibility.

"The reason we pause is when there's a degree of uncertainty and we're concerned about escalating risk. With Covid-19 it can escalate quite quickly, which is why making these decisions quickly is so important."

Parts of the Northern Territory (NT) will go into a lockdown that will last 48 hours after four new cases of the virus have emerged.

It also comes as Wellington's Alert Level 2 was extended another 48 hours.

It triggers resurgence payments, with businesses facing a 30 per cent or more drop in revenue for a week able to access the fund. 

Jacinda Ardern would want to be careful with travel, though, given some Pacific nations are Covid-19 free.

The Alert Level 2 extension also comes after the partner of the Sydney traveller who visited Wellington while Covid-19 positive tested positive for the virus.

They initially tested negative for Covid, however the recent test result showed the original traveller was able to trasmit the virus.

Dr Bloomfield said it was thought the partner picked up the virus after they returned to Sydney. 

Hipkins asked Wellingtonians to double check they weren't in any locations of interest and for those with cold and flu symptoms to get a test. 

The bubble with the whole of Australia was paused last night for at least three days, as multiple cases in different states were emerging, while the health risk for New Zealand was increased, Hipkins said. 

"This short pause will give us time to get a better understanding of the developing situation and to consider the potential implementation of a range of measures to make the bubble safer, such as the introduction of pre-departure testing for all flights from Australia to New Zealand," Hipkins said last night. 

Millions are in lockdown in NSW as the number of Covid-19 cases grows with 30 more reported today. 

In addition, two new community cases were confirmed in Queensland, a flight attendant who tested positive for Covid-19 flew with passengers to and from Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast, and more than 1600 in three states are isolating after a mine worker tested positive in Northern Territory.

The bubble with NSW was paused last Tuesday evening , prior to the announcement a Covid-positive Sydney traveller had visited Wellington the previous weekend. 

The original three-day pause was extended for an additional 12 days , as cases in the Sydney cluster grew. 

It was the second time the bubble was paused with NSW, the first in May