Australia and New Zealand will establish a “travel bubble” later this month, allowing people to move between the countries without needing to quarantine.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday that the trans-Tasman travel bubble will begin just before midnight on April 18.
“The director general of health considers the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from Australia to New Zealand to now be low and that quarantine-free travel would be safe to commence,” Ardern said at a news conference.
Both countries enacted strict border closures and lockdowns at the outset of the pandemic and have all but eliminated local transmission of the coronavirus. Ardern said that officials and health teams in both countries are working closely together and New Zealand will now treat Australia as a “region of our own” when it comes to managing outbreaks and implementing restrictions.
To be eligible for quarantine-free travel between the countries, people must not have had a positive COVID-19 test within the previous 14 days and must not be awaiting results of a test.
When travelers in Australia plan to go to New Zealand, they will be booked on a “green zone flight,” which ensures that no other passengers on that flight have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days. The plane crew will also not have flown on any high-risk flights for “a set period of time.”
The passengers will need to provide contact information for their time in New Zealand, complete a pre-departure health declaration and will not be allowed to travel if they have cold or flu-like symptoms. Masks will be required on the plane and passengers will be asked to download and use the mobile app NZ COVID Tracer while in New Zealand.
Travelers will arrive through “green zones” at the airport, allowing them to avoid contact with anyone arriving from other parts of the world. Random temperature checks will also be taken.
Since last year, Australia has allowed travelers from New Zealand to forgo its hotel quarantine requirements. WIth New Zealand’s reciprocity, the two countries have become among the first in the world to establish a travel bubble.
New Zealand’s borders have been closed to international visitors for more than a year and the travel bubble is expected to boost tourism, the economy and allow families that have been separated to reunite.
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“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.
According to New Zealand’s Ministry of Health, 74 cases of the virus are currently active in the country, with 17 new cases reported in the last 48 hours. All active cases have been in people coming into the country and zero cases have been reported in the community.
The last time a domestic case was reported was on Feb. 28.
Australia has 149 active cases, with nine reported in the last 24 hours – all acquired internationally – and five locally-acquired cases have been recorded in the past seven days.
“It is ultimately a change of scene that so many have been looking for,” Ardern said, addressing Australians. “You may not have been in long periods of lockdown, but you haven’t had the option. Now you have the option, come and see us.”