New Zealand has announced that it could open its borders to Australia and the Cook Islands early next year. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today that the Cabinet had agreed in principle to a trans-Tasman bubble beginning in early 2021. This announcement comes just two days after the PM announced that plans were in place to allow travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands by the end of the first quarter in 2021.
Both travel corridors would allow for two-way quarantine-free travel with no requirements to self-isolate when returning home. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said that he welcomed the news coming out of Wellington, describing it to the Australian news outlet ABC as the “second half of the equation.”
Cases of COVID-19 would need to remain low
When making the announcement on Monday, Jacinda Ardern said the travel bubble was contingent on case levels of COVID-19 staying low. It would still need the Federal Government’s approval. When speaking about the travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia, Mr. Hunt told the ABC the following:
“We consciously opened up Australia to people coming from NZ because their case numbers were negligible, and we knew there would come a time when our case numbers would give them confidence,” he said.
“Now this gives the chance for New Zealanders [and] Australians to visit New Zealand … without having to quarantine.
“It’s the first step on a return to international normality.”
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Kiwis could already visit Australia
The decision by New Zealand to welcome Australian travelers back into the country follows on from Queensland’s decision last week to open its border with other Australian states. Other than Queensland, all other Australian states had already opened their borders to New Zealand visitors back in October, although Western Australia still required a 14-day quarantine period. New Zealanders were also required to quarantine for 14-days on their arrival home.
According to the ABC, when speaking about the travel bubble during a press conference on Monday, Ms. Ardern did not give a specific timeframe but did say she thought it would happen sometime during the first quarter of 2021.
“It is our intention to name a date for the commencement of trans-Tasman quarantine free travel in the new year, once remaining details are locked down,” she said.
“But I think, for now, New Zealanders by and large appreciate the approach of the Government to ensure that we are not taking on an unnecessary risk as we’re going into the summer.
“We’ve never been wanting to put specific dates prematurely before we’ve made final decisions because people make plans, people book flights, and people may potentially have quarantine bookings that they could cancel.
“We don’t want anyone to do that prematurely until we have certainty around when it will open.”
Contingencies would need to be in place
Ardern said that the travel bubble would depend largely on Australian case numbers and that it would be contingent on how well the coronavirus is being managed. She said that it was the New Zealand Government’s responsibility to make sure that these contingencies were in place and that they would have to be adhered to for the travel bubble to remain open.
With summer fast approaching down under, plenty of Australians and Kiwis are looking to get away on holiday or visit family and friends. And while much depends upon Australia’s COVID-19 numbers, the sooner it happens, the better!
What do you think about travel bubbles like the one being proposed between New Zealand and Australia? Please tell us what you think in the comments.