Evidence of pre-departure tests from passengers, as well as day one testing in MIQ, has helped to reduce the risk, Hipkins said. But the higher the risk of the passenger cohort, the higher the risk overall, he explained. 
Hipkins said it has nothing to do with the quarantine hotels ending their contracts. 
“No not at all. If there is any reduction in hotels, it’s likely to be us making the decision on the basis that the facility might not be suitable,” he said. 
“By and large, there has been a good degree of enthusiasm from the hotel operators to continue to offer those hotels to us.”
Newshub revealed the Government could increase MIQ by about an extra 3000 rooms, making space to reunite families and bring home stranded Kiwis, but it’s choosing not to open them.
The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which is responsible for MIQ, says 55 facilities were originally deemed suitable. Just 32 are currently operating so that means 23 are available.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker has warned that filling vacant spots after a trans-Tasman bubble is in place with people from COVID-19 hotspots is dangerous and that it would almost double the risk of a community outbreak. 
But he says Australia’s risk profile is low enough that the bubble can happen. 
Hipkins said Cabinet is yet to make a final decision. 
“I don’t want to put a particular timeframe on it. It’ll take as long as it takes. We’re working at pace, we want to get it up and running as quickly as we can, but we want to make sure people understand what the risks are,” he said. 
“We’ve shifted our position from trying to negotiate a joint decision-making framework with Australia to something that’s more unilateral, which gives New Zealand and Australia the ability to make their own decisions about when, for example, to suspend safe travel between the two countries. 
“That’s going to create a degree of uncertainty for people who are travelling so we just need to understand that uncertainty so that people who are travelling between New Zealand and Australia know what to expect and they can plan for that.”
A travel bubble would open up quarantine-free travel within New Zealand and Australia, but each country would retain the right to halt such travel as it sees fit. 
Airports would be divided into ‘red zones’ – for travellers from countries where COVID-19 is prevalent – and ‘green zones’ where COVID-19 is more or less under control. Transit passengers would have to catch separate flights.