Australia and New Zealand open quarantine-free travel bubble
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.
After more than one year of being disconnected, Australia and New Zealand have finally launched their long-awaited travel bubble for quarantine-free journeys between the two countries.
On Monday, the first passengers traveled from Australia to New Zealand without the need to quarantine on arrival. Scenes from airport arrivals areas around both countries showed tears and elation as friends and relatives were reunited for the first time after months of being apart.
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“It is truly exciting to start quarantine-free travel with Australia,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a joint statement with Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “Be it returning family, friends or holiday-makers, New Zealand says welcome and enjoy yourself.”
Ardern announced the plan to launch a travel bubble with Australia earlier this month. Monday marked the first time a quarantine-free travel arrangement has been honored on both ends. Since October 2020, several Australian states have allowed travelers coming from New Zealand to enter without quarantining. However, New Zealand hasn’t reciprocated the quarantine-free travel arrangement because of some small, isolated outbreaks in Australia — until Monday.
Both New Zealand and Australia have maintained some of the lowest COVID-19 rates in the world. Since the start of the pandemic, both countries effectively shut their borders in an attempt to keep from importing the virus. The move, which has largely been successful, has meant that New Zealand has seen a total of 2,596 cases and 26 deaths, while Australia has seen 29,543 cases and 910 deaths.
Those looking to travel in the bubble must have spent the previous 14 days in Australia or New Zealand only. Additionally, airline crews will be permitted to enter quarantine-free, so long as they have only worked on low-risk routes. All passengers will be required to wear masks and give New Zealand authorities information about where they’ll be staying.
In her announcement earlier this month, Ardern clarified that should there be an outbreak, travel arrangements could change.
“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,” Ardern said.
The national flag carrier of Australia Qantas said that it will resume 122 flights to New Zealand per week, according to the BBC. Air New Zealand has also ramped up frequencies to Australia. Low-cost carrier Jetstar will also fly routes between the two countries.
For those not already within the travel bubble, it may still be some time before New Zealand and Australia open their borders to other tourists. New Zealand has indicated that its borders may remain shut for the duration of 2021, while Australia says its borders will be closed until at least June 2021.
Featured photo by Mark Tantrum/Wellington International Airport via Getty Images.
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