Australia and New Zealand have agreed on a quarantine-free ‘travel bubble’ that will go into effect on April 19, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
The neighboring countries, which have closed borders to the rest of the world in efforts to eradicate Covid-19, will allow people to travel from one country to another without mandatory coronavirus testing or enforced quarantine.
While most Australian states have allowed quarantine-free visits from New Zealanders for months, New Zealand has continued the enforced isolation for arrivals from its neighbor, citing concerns about minor COVID-19 outbreaks there.
Flights to and from some Australian states could still be suspended if there were local outbreaks, Ardern warned Tuesday, with New Zealand itself often closing entire cities for days in response to a small number of cases.
The bubble would operate under a ‘flyer beware’ system, without new support from the New Zealand government for people trapped in Australia due to short-term cancellations, Ardern said, meaning travelers could get stuck.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (photo speaking on Tuesday) announced that the trans-Tasman travel bubble will open on April 19. travel from one country to another without mandatory coronavirus testing or forced quarantine
“Those traveling on either side of the ditch will do so accompanied by a flyer pass,” she said during the announcement. ‘People will have to take into account the possibility that their journey will be disrupted if there is an outbreak.’
She added that travelers must wear masks on flights and contact New Zealand, while the travel bubble did not apply to people traveling through Australia from other countries.
The move to enable cross-border travel without mandatory COVID-19 testing is one of the first such agreements since the pandemic prompted countries to block foreign arrivals to stop the spread of the virus.
“The Trans-Tasman travel bubble is the start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery, one that people have been working so hard on,” Ardern told reporters in the New Zealand capital Wellington.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the agreement “the first of many more steps ahead … as we return to a more normal position, not only during this year but also beyond.”
“I really appreciate the arrangement the New Zealand government made today, we welcome them back because Kiwis will indeed welcome Aussies,” he said. ‘That means more planes in the air, more jobs on the ground and in the air for our airlines as well.’
The virus has been effectively eradicated in both countries, with minor outbreaks due to leakage from quarantined returnees.
Australia has recorded about 29,400 virus cases and 909 deaths since the start of the pandemic, while New Zealand has had just over 2,100 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.
Both countries have ceased to be pandemic success stories, with their cases and deaths much lower than countries in Europe and North America, many of which have experienced millions of cases and tens of thousands of deaths.
Jacinda Ardern’s said Kiwis have missed their friends and relatives in Australia in the past year (photo: passengers arriving from NZ at Sydney International Airport)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the agreement ‘the first of many more steps ahead … as we return to a more normal position not only during this year but beyond’
What should I do if a Covid outbreak occurs in New Zealand or Australia?
Despite the good news, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned that the bubble could burst at any time if an outbreak occurs in either country.
“Those who travel either side of the ditch will do, so you were the pilot’s escort, beware,” she warned.
‘People will have to consider the possibility that their travel will be disrupted if there is an outbreak.
In the event of an outbreak, depending on the size and severity of the cluster, a decision will be made to ‘continue, pause or suspend’.
“If a case is found that is very clearly related to a frontier worker in a quarantine facility and is well contained, you will likely see the journey go ahead,” said Ms. Ardern.
But in a drastic scenario, travelers could even be forced into isolation.
However, if a case was found that was not clearly related to the border, and a state responded with a brief lockdown to find out more information, we would likely interrupt flights from that state in the same way we would stop traveling to and from that state. from a region in New Zealand, ”said Mrs. Ardern.
However, the relentless approach to the Australia-New Zealand lockdown in an effort to completely eradicate the coronavirus has also been criticized, with some believing that ‘zero covid’ is an unrealistic target.
According to 2018 figures, about 568,000 New Zealand-born people live in Australia, which is equivalent to 2.3 percent of the Australian population and Australia’s fourth largest migrant community.
Australians made up 1.5 million, or 40 percent, of New Zealand arrivals in 2019, the year before the pandemic closed its borders, and contributed NZ $ 2.7 billion ($ 1.9 billion) to the economy. according to figures from New Zealand. According to Ardern, arrivals are expected to reach 80 percent of that level by early 2022.
Ms. Ardern said the news will be a great relief to many Kiwis who have not been able to see loved ones from across the ditch.
“A sacrifice that has been particularly difficult for many over the past year has been unable to see friends and family living in Australia,” she said.
“Our health response now gives us the opportunity to visit with loved ones again as we embark on a new chapter in our recovery.”
While Ardern acknowledged that the recent Queensland outbreak caused some concern about cross-border travel, the cluster is now ‘under control’. The cabinet is of the opinion that any residual risk is manageable, ‘she said.
Air New Zealand Ltd and Qantas Airways Ltd said they would ramp up flights between Australia and New Zealand to more than 70 percent of the pre-pandemic level, reducing the airlines’ cash burn when they are almost entirely dependent for their revenue of the domestic markets.
“Tourism companies can now take bookings with confidence and expand their workforce,” said Chris Roberts, CEO of New Zealand travel company Tourism Industry Aotearoa.
Air New Zealand (pictured) is already offering some flights between Auckland and Sydney and Melbourne starting Friday, April 9, with the bubble officially entering into force on April 19.
Thanks to the bubble, the Trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, involving five teams from each country, can run for five weeks from May 14.
The Wellington Phoenix football team and the rugby league side of New Zealand Warriors, both of which compete in predominantly Australian competitions, may also be able to host home games after having played their games in Australia for over a year.
The bubble provided a positive development for Morrison, who is facing criticism domestically after failing to meet plans to vaccinate one-sixth of the population by the end of March.
The government has attributed the shipping delays to export restrictions by the European Union.