New Zealand-Australia travel bubble to start on April 19

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the conditions for starting to open up quarantine-free travel with Australia have been met.
PHOTO: Reuters

SYDNEY - A quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will start on April 19, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday (April 6).

Ardern said the conditions for starting to open up quarantine-free travel with Australia have been met.

“Our team’s success in managing Covid-19 and keeping it out over the past 12 months now opens up the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and resume Trans-Tasman travel,” Ardern said in a news conference.

Ardern earlier told reporters that such travel arrangement could be a world-first: “Our public health approach has meant we are now able to take this next step, and it’s a world-first."

“I don’t know of any other countries in the world who are maintaining an elimination strategy and opening up with another country, so it is a remarkable thing.”

Australia and New Zealand have managed the Covid-19 crisis more successfully than most other developed nations after closing their international borders to non-citizens and permanent residents very early during the pandemic.

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Australia has recorded about 29,400 Covid-19 cases and 909 deaths since the pandemic began, while New Zealand has had just over 2,100 confirmed cases and 26 deaths.

The travel bubble would restrict travellers from certain areas in the event of an outbreak in Australia and is expected to run on a state-by-state basis, local media reported.

Some Australian states have opened their borders to New Zealanders since last October, but it has been a one-way arrangement due to sporadic outbreaks in some Australian cities.

‘Flyer beware’

Flights to and from some Australian states could still be suspended if there were local outbreaks, Ardern warned. She added that travellers must wear masks on flights and undertake New Zealand contact tracing, while the travel bubble did not apply to people transiting via Australia from other countries.

The bubble would operate under a “flyer beware” system, with no new support from the New Zealand government for people stuck in Australia by cancellations at short notice, Ardern said.

Air New Zealand Ltd and Qantas Airways Ltd said they would ramp up flights between Australia and New Zealand to more than 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, reducing the airlines’ cash burn when they are almost wholly reliant on domestic markets for revenue.

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The bubble will allow the Trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition involving five teams from each country to proceed over five weeks from May 14.

The Wellington Phoenix soccer team and New Zealand Warriors rugby league side, which both participate in predominantly Australian leagues, might also be able to host home matches after more than a year of playing their matches in Australia.

The bubble offered an upbeat development for Morrison who faces criticism domestically after falling short of plans to have one-sixth of the population vaccinated by the end of March. The government has blamed the shipping delays on export curbs by the European Union.