The 19th of April has been earmarked for the quarantine free travel to resume between Australia and New Zealand.
After a couple of false starts it is hoped that New Zealand will allow Australian travellers to enter the country without mandatory hotel quarantine from April 19. This is great news for a beleaguered tourism industry and hopefully this will lead to further travel bubbles with other Pacific and Asian nations that have coped well with the pandemic.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“Cabinet was presented with advice today that conditions for opening up quarantine-free travel with Australia had been met,”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed Ms Ardern’s decision, saying
“We have ensured that both our countries have… not suffered the same types of virus impacts that we have seen in so many other countries. The fact that we can now combine again will mean more jobs, will mean people reunited.”
Ms Ardern added.
“While quarantine-free travel to Australia and vice versa will start in a fortnight, it will not be what it was pre-COVID, we absolutely wish to encourage family and friends to reunite and visitors to come and enjoy the hospitality New Zealand is ready and waiting to offer, those undertaking travel on either side of the ditch will do so under the guidance of flyer beware. People will need to plan for the possibility of travel being disrupted if there is an outbreak”.
Ms Ardern then went on to outline the frame work for managing an outbreak in Australia.
“Once we know about a case in Australia, we will have three possible responses when it comes to flights and access to our border. We’ve captured these with a framework based on continue, pause, or suspend.
“For instance, if a case is found that is quite clearly linked to a border worker in a quarantine facility and is well contained, you’ll likely see travel continue in the same way.
“If, however, a case was found that was not clearly linked to the border, and a state responded by a short lockdown to identify more information, we’d likely pause flights from that state in the same way we would stop travel into and out of a region in New Zealand as if it were going into a full lockdown.”
“If New Zealand saw multiple COVID-19 cases of unknown origin, the country would likely suspend flights for a set period of time”
Most Australian states have already opened there borders to New Zelanders but when they return to New Zealand they must undergo 14 days in hotel quarantine at their own expense. Under the proposed new system if a flight back from Australia did need to go into managed isolation people on board wouldn’t be charged.
Ms Ardern said once the bubble was restarted travellers coming to NZ from an outbreak or previous outbreak area may be asked to do one of these things, “depending on the risk”:
1. monitor symptoms
2. take a test before they leave
3. isolate on arrival
4. go into managed isolation for 14 days, but only in “some situations
Adding, “When Australians make the decision to come to New Zealand they’ll be making a booking on what is called a green zone flight. That means there’ll be no passengers on that flight who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days. They will also be flown from crew who have not flown on any high-risk routes for a set period of time.”
Before the pandemic, about 600,000 Australians would visit their family and friends in New Zealand every year.
Tourism New Zealand General Manager Australia, Andrew Waddell said “Travellers were less concerned about health risks, but were more worried about snap border closures. It’s about how New Zealand and Australia manage those borders, inform travellers and build that trust in travel again,”
“It’s really important we connect friends and family first and foremost. The international visitor spends up to three times what a domestic traveller would, so getting back into that community is really important. Tourism was NZ’s biggest foreign export. It’s been tough for New Zealand across the board.”
Australia’s national carrier Qantas said it would resume 122 return flights to New Zealand per week once the bubble came into operation. This travel bubble is believed to be the second in the world, after one opened up between the islands of Taiwan and Palau last week. Australia and New Zealand have also previously raised the idea of separate travel bubbles with low-risk places like Singapore, Taiwan and several Pacific island nations.
Click here for Scuba Diver ANZ issue 32