New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that the country will enter a travel bubble with Australia early next year.
The proposed travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand could kick off in the first quarter of 2021, according to Reuters. “It is our intention to name a date in the New Year once remaining details are locked down,” Ardern said at a news conference in Wellington.
The travel bubble or “trans-Tasman Covid-safe travel zone” was first proposed in April as New Zealand and Australia began to first emerge from lockdown after reporting dramatic falls in new coronavirus infections. The bubble allows for non-essential travel between the two nations, while borders remain closed to visitors from other countries. However additional outbreaks in Melbourne earlier this year, which prompted Victoria’s state of emergency, pushed the plan down the line.
In October a partial, one-way travel bubble opened that allows New Zealanders to travel to low-risk Australian states and territories including New South Wales and the Northern Territory, provided they have not entered a COVID-19 hotspot within 14 days prior to travel. Under the agreement, those traveling from New Zealand to the two travel bubble states will not have to quarantine. However, returning New Zealanders are required to quarantine when they arrive home. Queensland joined the one-way bubble in December.
Ardern said a number of issues need to be resolved before expanding the travel bubble further, including how to deal with a potential community outbreak if borders shut again, and how to segregate passengers from safe zones and COVID hot spots. The travel bubble was “pending confirmation” from Australian officials, Ms. Ardern said, and will only come into play if there are “no significant changes in the circumstances of either country.”
New Zealand has maintained a strict response to the coronavirus by sealing its borders to all foreign visitors for most of the year. As well as opening its borders to Australians in 2021, New Zealand will launch a travel bubble with the Cook Islands, allowing for quarantine-free travel between the two nations.