Australia and New Zealand to launch quarantine-free travel bubble this month

Apr 6, 2021

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Australia and New Zealand are nearly ready to launch their long-awaited travel bubble for quarantine-free journeys between the two countries.

On Tuesday, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the plan to launch a travel bubble with Australia, which is set to launch on 19 April 2021.

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The move later this month will be the first time a quarantine-free travel arrangement will be honoured on both ends. Since October 2020, several Australian states have allowed travellers 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.

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 2,524 cases and 26 deaths, while Australia has seen 29,365 cases and 909 deaths.

“I cannot see or point to any countries in the world that are maintaining a strategy of keeping their countries completed COVID-free, whilst opening up to international travel between each other,” Ardern said. “That means that, in a way, you know, we are world-leading.”

When the travel bubble launches on April 19, passengers travelling from Australia to New Zealand must have spent the previous 14 days in Australia 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.

With Tuesday’s announcement, 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 once the travel bubble launches later this month it would resume 122 flights to New Zealand per week, according to the BBC. Air New Zealand also plans to ramp up frequencies to Australia.

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.

Related: New Zealand says its borders may remain closed through 2021

When the travel bubble launches, it will be one of the first of its kind. The true first sustained travel bubble opened last week between Taiwan and Palau.

Featured photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images.

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