Trans-Tasman travel bubble partially reopens

Australians from three states and the ACT are able to travel to New Zealand quarantine-free again, with the partial reopening of the travel bubble.

A man looks out over a line of Qantas planes at Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport as the Australian flag carrier and national icon Qantas accepted an increased 11.1-billion-dollar (8.7 billion USD) offer, 14 December 2006, from a private equity group, a day after rejecting a lower bid.

Quarantine-free travel to New Zealand has reopened to Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and ACT.
Photo: AFP

As of this morning, those in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and ACT can travel here freely, with evidence of a negative pre-departure test with 72 hours of boarding.

All regions have recently had limited or no community cases of Covid-19.

Otago University epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker considered it safe enough, but said the government must move quickly if cases in these states emerge.

Baker backed the partial reopening, which requires a negative Covid-19 test in order to board the plane.

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker has won the 2020 Prime Minister's Science Communication Prize.

Michael Baker
Photo: University of Otago

The government had proven willing to move quickly and suspend travel if there is an outbreak, he said.

“The other measure of course is pre-travel negative Covid-19 tests, which just adds another layer of protection for New Zealand,” Baker said.

The Sydney case in Wellington was a very close shave, and showed the risks the bubble poses.

“These are low probability events with high consequences. They’re always very hard to manage.

“If there’s any evidence of transmission in a state in Australia, we need a very low bar in terms of rapidly suspending travel from that jurisdiction.”

The suspension of quarantine-free travel was a big blow for the recovering tourism sector, hitting the first week of Australia’s school holidays.

NZ Ski chief executive Paul Anderson said today’s reopening to four regions will make up some lost ground.

“It will make a difference. We’re starting to see a shift in our booking pattern already… We can see a bit of a spike in bookings from Monday and Tuesday, which is fantastic,” Anderson said.

He did expect the bubble to be a bit stop start.

“The timing of the pause… was a real frustration, but understandable from a health perspective. We just hope the Aussies get it back under control and we can get more states travelling over here soon.”

However, two states still off the cards – Queensland and New South Wales – are two of the most important to the business.

Other businesses were relieved the bubble was partially reopening too.

Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Brett O’Riley supported the government’s approach, but said the suspension had knocked businesses’ confidence.

“We’re already aware of some people in Australia who have cancelled future bookings to New Zealand because they’re just so unsure about the situation,” O’Riley said.

Quarantine-free travel is still suspended from Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales until at least the end of tomorrow.

The government here will make a call on whether the freeze for all or some of those states continues.

New South Wales – Sydney in particular – is still recording high numbers of cases.

Yesterday the state reported 16 more cases, including a fifth in a rest home.

The greater Sydney area is still under lockdown until midnight on Friday.

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