After months of on-again, off-again speculation, New Zealand has confirmed that the quarantine-free Trans-Tasman Bubble will finally become a reality on 19 April.
People travelling from New Zealand have been able to enter selected Australian states without undergoing quarantine since October last year, but until yesterday’s announcement the same arrangements did not apply to people moving in the opposite direction from Australia to New Zealand.
Give NZ’s economic recovery a boost
Speaking at a media conference on Tuesday, Kiwi PM Jacinda Ardern said the country’s Director-General of Health considered the risk of transmission of Covid-19 from Australia to New Zealand to be low. Quarantine-free travel could therefore commence.
“The bubble will give our economic recovery a boost and represents a world-leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel, while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out,” Ardern said.
“We have worked hard to ensure travel is safe and that the necessary public health measures are in place.”
The PM said one sacrifice that had been particularly hard for many people to bear over the past year was the separation from friends and family who live in Australia. For them, the announcement would be a great relief. Around 600,000 New Zealanders live in Australia.
Flights may be disrupted at short notice
But Ardern emphasised that quarantine-free travel will not be what it was pre-Covid. People electing to travel will do so under the guidance of ‘flyer beware’ and will need to plan for the possibility of having their travel disrupted at short notice if there is an outbreak.
“Just as we have our Alert Level settings for managing cases in New Zealand, we will also now have a framework for managing New Zealanders in the event of an outbreak in Australia, which involves three possible scenarios: ‘continue’, ‘pause’ [or] ‘suspend’,” she explained.
The announcement has been widely welcomed in Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said it was “tremendous” that the arrangement would be operational in time for Anzac Day on 25 April.
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“This will mean jobs for Australia. It means more planes in the air; it means more jobs on the ground and in the air as well,” he stated.
Qantas has already announced that it will operate 122 return flights a week to New Zealand. The airline said it expects the pent-up desire to travel internationally will see a return to 83% of pre-Covid operating capacity on the route.
Air New Zealand has confirmed it will fly to nine Australian cities, including a new route to Hobart in Tasmania.