ANKARA 

New Zealand on Friday announced a temporary end to travel bubble with Australia over the spread of more severe Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference in Wellington that the quarantine-free travel with Australia “will be suspended from 11:59 p.m. (local time) tonight for at least eight weeks.”

Expressing caution over deteriorating situation due to the Delta variant, Ardern said: “Immigration New Zealand staff are being deployed to Australian ports to check pre-departure tests.”

“Every traveler will be stopped and checked before they can fly,” she said, adding that her government conveyed the decision to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison early this morning.

New Zealand and Australia opened the travel bubble in April and more than 200,000 people have flown between the two countries since then, Arden said.

“The Delta variant has materially changed the risk profile … For New Zealanders in Australia we are absolutely committed to getting you home,” she said.

“There is considerable pressure on our managed isolation facilities at the moment and my strong urging to everyone is do not travel to Australia in the next eight weeks,” the prime minister added.

In Australia, New South Wales declared “national emergency” after the region reported new 136 new cases – the highest since the Delta variant was detected last month — and one more death, ABC News reported.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “The outbreak now had the potential to impact the entire nation as no border was perfect and the virus could seep through.”

“[There is] no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping they would at this stage,” said Berejiklian.

New Zealand has reported 2,855 virus cases, including 26 deaths, while Australia has seen 32,588 cases, including 916 deaths, since the outbreak in December 2019.

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