Wellington, New Zealand – New Zealand PM says Australia’s higher tolerance of Covid-19 community transmission ‘problematic’.

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has cast doubt on a travel bubble with Australia by Christmas.

As South Australia experiences a new Covid-19 outbreak, the New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has conceded there is very little chance of an operational trans-Tasman travel bubble by Christmas.

Australia and New Zealand are tackling the pandemic with slightly different strategies, leading to an impasse over a border reopening.

Australia is pursuing a suppression strategy, which involves locking down hotspots where cases reach a certain threshold, but New Zealand’s elimination strategy does not allow for the same risk tolerance.

“What’s happening in South Australia only further reinforces the importance of having a good understanding of how Australia intends to manage their internal borders when there are outbreaks,” Ardern said.

“If they have an outbreak but they are instituting strong border controls, then it’s manageable. But if they have a tolerance level for community transmission that’s higher than ours, then it is problematic.

“What this underscores is why it’s so important that New Zealand has not rushed into this.”

While Kiwis can travel to New South Wales and the Northern Territory without the need to quarantine for a fortnight, no one entering New Zealand escapes the mandatory isolation period.

Ardern said she didn’t “have the necessary protections” to give an assurance about a Christmas reopening.

Still, New Zealand is holding out the prospect of opening up to one destination soon – the Cook Islands.

The semi-autonomous Pacific nation has deep ties to New Zealand and is without a case of coronavirus.

Kiwi officials are currently on the Cooks, surveying the country’s air and maritime borders, with a view to opening a bubble and restoring the tourism-reliant economy.

Ardern said once officials gave the green light to an opening, it would take three weeks to get it up and running.

On Monday, her cabinet also made changes to mask-wearing after another community case scare in Auckland last week.

From Thursday, Aucklanders on public transport and all New Zealanders on planes will have to wear masks, along with taxi and Uber drivers.

“These additional precautions are a small price to pay to maintain the economic and social freedoms we have,” Ardern said.