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Raise the drawbridge: 'Ring of steel' call for Sydney as NZ bursts travel bubble

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The travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand has been suspended for at least two months amid calls for a “ring of steel” to encircle Greater Sydney as a means of stopping the city’s coronavirus outbreak from spreading across the country.

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews agreed with the NSW chief health officer’s assessment that the Sydney outbreak was national emergency, saying NSW had a “national responsibility” to contain it.

“We will finish up with the whole country locked down if we don’t do this properly,” he told reporters on Friday.

A “ring of steel”, policed by roadblocks and mobile checks, was in place separating Melbourne from regional Victoria during the state’s longest lockdown in 2020.

Andrews also said he doubted vaccine doses destined for Victoria would be sent to NSW, and he had not received any requests to re-distribute the state’s jabs.

Earlier on Friday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Sydney needed extra Pfizer doses for younger people.

“We hardly have any allocated to anyone, so the notion of sending it away from here … We all have need, and they have been allocated fairly,” Andrews said.

The national vaccination program was expected to be discussed at national cabinet on Friday.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the decision to sever travel ties after a cabinet meeting on Friday.

The trans-Tasman bubble will burst at 11.59pm but there will be managed return flights over the next week to allow New Zealanders to get home.

Those outside Victoria and NSW will be able to return without going through quarantine.
Everyone will need to obtain a negative pre-departure test.

“My strong message to every New Zealander in Australia right now who does not want to stay there long term is – come home,” Ms Ardern said.

Australia is grappling with serious coronavirus outbreaks in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, with a local case also recorded in Queensland.

More than 14 million people are in lockdown across the country.

The travel bubble began on April 19 and allowed Australians and New Zealanders to travel between the two countries without the need to quarantine.

More than 300,000 people have taken advantage of the quarantine-free travel arrangements.

However, Ardern said the highly contagious Delta variant had materially changed the risk profile and COVID-19 was now widespread in Australia.

“We’ve always said that our response would evolve as the virus evolved,” she said.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep New Zealanders safe.”

New Zealand officials expect it will take eight weeks to bring the NSW outbreak under control.

The decision could affect upcoming Bledisloe Cup Tests between the All Blacks and Wallabies, with matches slated on both sides of the ditch.

Ardern said the Wallabies could utilise the seven-day window to travel to New Zealand for the Tests after applying for an exemption on economic grounds.

“However, it must be in the seven-day window, we are not making exceptions outside of that. Everyone else has to go into quarantine.”

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