Felicity Wilson sat with the laptop open in front of her as she waited for the announcement. Her details had already been filled out on the screen, all she needed to do was hit the “confirm” button.

She watched on the live-stream as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed the press conference. “I can confirm that quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia will commence in just under two weeks’ time, from 11:59pm Sunday, April 18.”

Wilson clicked confirm. Her flight was booked – she was finally going home.

“The announcement of the travel bubble was such a relief,” said Wilson, 71, from Auckland. “I cannot wait to get back to the love of my life. He has been through even more strife over there than I have been through over here.”

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Wilson is speaking from Australia’s Sunshine Coast where she has been for the past 10 weeks.

She and her husband, Verne, 74, among many Kiwis and Aussies who have faced lengthy separationfrom loved ones due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The announcement of a trans-Tasman travel bubble allowing for quarantine-free travel between the two countries means not just that the couple can finally be together.

It also means they can each now fight their cancer battles side by side.

For Wilson it started three years ago with an uncomfortable pain in her chest. A visit to her GP and numerous tests provided no answers, but the pain became so bad she had to go to hospital, where for two weeks doctors struggled to find a diagnosis.

Auckland International Airport has split its international terminal in two to enable safe quarantine-free travel.

X-rays of her shoulder and chest showed nothing, blood tests came back normal. Could it maybe be cancer, she asked – she had fought breast cancer 21 years earlier and survived.

Doctors did not think another such diagnosis was likely, but the nagging thought remained, and the day after being discharged she asked her GP to refer her for a CT scan.

When she walked back into his office the following day and saw his face, she already knew.

“I said to him, ‘It is not good news, is it?’. He said, ‘No. You have cancer. It is in your sternum and it is stage four’.”

Back at the hospital, doctors told her she had between three and five years to live, and that radiation was impossible because of her previous treatment.

“Because I had already gone through this I had a lot of knowledge about cancer, but my husband didn’t. Verne asked the doctor what happens at stage five, and the doctor answered, there is no stage five. I knew what stage four meant. Stage four means the end of the road.”

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid Response minister Chris Hipkins are all smiles as they announce the travel bubble to Australia as opening on April 19.


Prime minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid Response